When adding chemical care to your services, be deliberate

U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, California, is among Heaviland Landscape Management’s clients.U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, California, is among Heaviland Landscape Management’s clients.

Among the services routinely offered by sizable landscaping companies, chemical applications may be the area that relatively young, small companies should work into gradually.

Not only is a license required to apply chemicals, you’ll need to be well-informed about what works and what doesn’t when it comes to the fertilizer, herbicide and pesticide applications that are suitable for your clients. And of course, knowledge about the chemicals won’t do you much good without at least a basic understanding of the types of pests and disease you’re fighting.

Remember, too, that careful recordkeeping is imperative no matter what type of chemical you’re using – sometimes to meet regulatory requirements, but more often because those records will help you assess chemicals’ performance and track when repeat applications are necessary.

Finally, there’s the equipment involved. A sprayer may be relatively small and its operation uncomplicated, but you’ll need to know how to make sure it’s calibrated properly. Failure on that front could damage plants and your bank account. After all, the application rate is a key variable in deciding on the most economical choice of chemical to use.

Among professional landscapers with long experience in chemical care, the work is routine on some levels but always requires careful attention.

Oscar HernandezOscar Hernandez

At Heaviland Landscape Management in the greater San Diego, California, area, chemical care is limited to those products that carry a “Caution” label, according to Oscar Hernandez, a Landscape Industry Certified Technician and manager of Heaviland’s South Bay branch.

“Caution” is the most benign of the signal words that pesticides and some other chemicals must carry. The others are “Warning” and “Danger,” with the latter being the most serious.

Hernandez said chemical care performed by Heaviland Landscape Management normally is provided as one of several services included in a contract. Naturally, landscape workers make it their business to keep an eye on the health of the properties they care for, so Heaviland spots anything out of the ordinary quickly.

“Here in San Diego,” Hernandez said, “the weather is pretty consistent, almost year-round. So, the standard pest problems – aphids, white flies, caterpillars – are problems we deal with year-round. We’re constantly using some of these chemicals; but, again, all of ours are ‘Caution’ only.”

Occasionally, a client of Heaviland Landscape Management may need a chemical treatment with a more powerful agent, Hernandez said, and the company brings in trusted subcontractors for those jobs.

“That is needed sometimes, whether because of the pest involved or due to the extraordinary size of the project,” he said.

For example, when the 155-acre U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista needed to be treated for grubs, Heaviland subcontracted that work to another company.

Before long, preparations will be underway for winter fertilizing. On that side of the operation, Hernandez says, Heaviland Landscape Management tends to use calcium nitrate because it reacts well with the soil there.

“In spring and summer,” he said, “we will use a slow-release fertilizer as well.”

One lesson small companies could take from Heaviland is reflected in Hernandez’ observation that the company does a soil analysis at the Olympic training facility twice a year.

Knowing the climate and soil of your service area may be a point of pride, but it’s best not to be too proud to check for changes with regular soil tests.

Asked about using granular vs. liquid fertilizer, Hernandez quickly cited some advantages to be found in each. “My preference tends to be a standard turf fertilizer (granular),” he said, “because it seems you get more bang for the buck, especially since we use a lot of slow-release (products) to keep the landscape nice and lush for a longer period.”

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