You may be doing your fall lawn applications right about now, the all-important last application of the season. But fall can also bring some extra windy, blustery days. Should you treat when the wind's a-howlin'? What problems can that cause? What can you do to try to avoid any windy app issues? Find out in this episode of Eco Lawn Science.
John Perry is a rockstar of the lawn care industry. If you have anything to do with lawns professionally, you know who John is and you know that he is one of lawn care's top influencers. Considering the fact that lawn care is a $100 billion a year industry and employs over a million people in the US, that's a pretty big deal. Ete, as you may or may not know, owns a lawn care company, so this was a double whammy of excitement for him--a super successful business owner and another person to geek out on lawns with.
When John was 12 years old, his family moved from Houston to Park City. This was when Park City was not yet Park City, back when there were two stop lights in town. John was homeschooled which suited his need for a self-driven, self-paced education.
Apart from his studies, he was also schooled in the practical, real life details of entrepreneurship. John's mom was a serious entrepreneur, and he grew up with a front row seat to what business ownership looks like. His mother started and ran several businesses, from property management, to cell phone dealerships, to owning a car rental company. One of her first business ventures was running a landscaping business. She would bring her kids along to her various jobs, so that even from the beginning, horticulture was a part of John's life.
Very early on, John knew that he wanted to be an entrepreneur. He recognized that "I want to build something that's my own. And I want to make it bigger than the small pond." He learned about different aspects of business from his first jobs onward. He remembers working at ski shops from the time he was 13. There he witnessed first-hand the expansion process of a small business, from one shop, to multiple shops. He also got some experience in managing customers.
He started his first business–a polymer injection company–at 22, and eventually recognized that not having residuals was a big problem. Instead of constantly seeking out new clients, he wanted to sell to an established client base. In 2005 he started Bio Green, a lawn spraying company, which would eventually boast 86 locations around the country. Here he established licensing agreements, and minimum purchase agreements for the fertilizers he was making and selling. In 2014, he started Greene County Fertilizer Company, a large fertilizer manufacturing business which allowed him to white label products and sell them to other companies.
John's success owed just as much to his knowledge of soil and plant science as to his business acumen. Over the years, he had accumulated a vast amount of information about how to grow healthy plants which he wanted to share, so he decided to write a book. He started the blog, Lawncology, as a way to process his thoughts and find inspiration for the book. After a lot of coaxing from his team, he then started a YouTube channel of the same name. Both have been incredibly successful and have vaulted John to a position as one of the top lawn experts and influencers in the country, not only with industry folks, but also with the public at large, anyone with an interest in growing things.
In this episode, John offers some fantastic business advice. He has plenty to say about the difficulties of entrepreneurship. He also discusses the pitfalls that the "two different kinds of people who start businesses" often fall into, how to find a great salesperson, the importance of transparency, and the idea of separating your identity from the business's identity.
Hear some great stories and learn from John Perry in this episode of The Company Next Door.
Ete realizes that having grown up with a gardening mom, and having himself been in the fert business since the age of 14, fertilization has always just been part of life, not something that he's ever really questioned. After a few people recently asked him whether lawns even really need fertilization, he gave it some thought. Today Ete discusses the whys of lawn fertilization.
Hey, Hey, what is up everyone? This is Ete with another episode of Eco Law Science. Today I want to talk about a question that I actually had never thought of because I've been in the lawn care industry since I was 14 years old. I'm 36 now, so I'll let you do the math. And so it's a question I actually never considered. But this is it–and apparently a lot of people are searching for this and want an answer for this–and the question is, do I need to fertilize my lawn? Why is it important to fertilize my lawn?
I guess I'd never thought of it cause I've always been around fertilization. I've always been around plants. My mom was a gardener. She still is. She's got a property back in Jersey that she loves to weed and to grow. And it's really, it's really incredible what she's done there. It's just...people love it. So we always grew up around, you know, things that flourished. And my mom would always fertilize her plants and her beds, you know, with the Holly Tone. I remember as a kid, that stuff smelled so awful. So I never thought about it, but yeah, this question came up a few times recently and I thought, wow, I guess, I guess some people didn't grow up in that and didn't, weren't always around it, and so it wasn't part of their life.
So I think the best analogy for that, I really, I look at the body. I think...you look at the human body, you know, there are things that it needs to survive. It needs obviously a lot of water and needs, you know, minerals. It needs macro/micro nutrients. We need sunlight. We, yes, we do. We need, you know, to keep healthy and for our mental state, we need sunlight. We need exercise and we need to nourish ourselves. So those are, those are just some basics, you know, then we need, you know, there's this whole gut thing with the probiotics. So there's all those different elements and that's a very simplistic description of the most complex thing in the world. But when we look at the lawn, it's not that different. And that's why I use the human body analogy. You need...It's a living, breathing things that are alive and there's biology and it all has to work together. Just like the body. Somehow the blood is pumped from your heart to your brain through the body. You know, it's really incredible, incredible science. But lawns are complex also because it's just basically, it's a, it's an ecosystem of living organisms and things.
And so just like the body, we need macronutrients in a lawn, you know, the N-P-K. We need micro nutrients: we need zinc and copper and calcium just like our bodies do. And so for our bodies, we take, sometimes we take a vitamin pill or we get through our foods. Same thing with the lawn. It needs those nutrients. Lawns don't naturally have everything they need to flourish. You know, and I've talked about this before, if you were to go in a jungle, in a forest, you may see that happening. But there's also no mankind interrupting what's happening. There's no interruption. So in a home...in an area where you're trying to have a healthy lawn, it's just like the body, and just like the body, you need macro/micro nutrients. You need organic matter. You know, as we put in the body's needs, you know, vegetables and plants. And then it also needs, you know, like I said, a probiotic. You take those in your body. There's these millions of little bacteria, same thing with the lawn. And that's where the compost teas come in, to boost the immune system, and the carbon sources.
And so why do you need to a fertilizer lawn? Because just like a body, it needs assistance, it needs, it needs extra help. Lawns naturally fall short on nitrogen. They naturally fall short in some areas of, on iron and other minerals. Some of them, you do soil samples, they will have no, or low, organic matter. So they need, you know, some organic compost built into the soil. And so it's kind of a similar thing that if you were to pull it off, what happens to your body? You get, you usually get sick. You can kind of tell when someone has that look like, ooh, they don't look good. They look, I don't know, maybe they're pale and they don't look healthy, you know. Same thing with a lawn. You can see it when you see a lawn that's not nourished and taken care of, it is yellowish often chlorotic. It's not attractive. It's not thriving. And it's because it's sick. And so the real way to counter that is to feed it properly. And just like the body, you know, you don't want to put 20 Big Macs in a day and say, oh, I overfed myself. You know, like the lawn, you don't want to overfeed in one one nutrient, you don't want to. And the synthetic at that, you know, you want to do balanced meals and it's the same thing for your lawn if you feed it balanced, using the proper micro/macro nutrients and the proper organic soil conditioners and you know, all these other things that we do, you'll have a healthy lawn.
And so, yeah, just like anything else that's living and breathing, it needs to have food. It needs a food source. So I hope that kind of answers the question, why do I need fertilizer? Do I need to fertilize my lawn? And also hope it answers the question or makes you think, how, how do I do that? And just a little bit back to, you know, like I was saying, just, just a balanced, healthy meal is your best win. So anyway, hope that helps. Have a great day.
Look at any bag of fertilizer and you will see three large numbers on the front of the bag: N-P-K. What does it mean? How much to apply? What is in fertilizer? Do I apply slow or quick release? What are micronutrients? Find the answers to these questions and more in this episode.
Hey, hey, what is up, everyone? This is Ete with another episode of EcoLawn Science. Today, we're going to talk about fertilizer on your lawn. So we're going to talk about granular fertilizer, so the little pellets that you apply with a push spreader, a riding spreader, a chest pack spreader, a hand spreader, any kind of spreader. And I want to talk a little bit about what's in that and what's in the bag. So if you've ever seen a bag of fertilizer, you'll notice there's always three numbers on it. It could be 21-3-10. It could be 24-8-10, 32-5-7, 46-0-0, 33-4-7. The combination is endless, and all that means is... it's, the bag is taking...what they're telling you is the macro nutrients.
So because of the way we've installed our lawns, ripped out good topsoil, fertilized, the damage that we cause our lawns, um, they don't naturally take care of themselves. They need a little extra to stay green. Now some might, with good water and a little bit of fertilizing, replenish nutrients. But most people need some additives, some fertilizer.
And so the bag, the first number is an “N.” It's a nitrogen. Nitrogen is your key nutrient in plant growth. So of all the macro and micro lawn nutrients that are in the soil, and then the ones we need to add in, the N, the nitrogen is usually the one most talked about. The nitrogen promotes rapid growth, leaf development, chlorophyll formation, and protein synthesis. So basically, when you put that nitrogen on it, you're looking at, you're really feeding the top half. You're not going below the soil. You're feeding the grass, the blades, and you're causing that thing to shoot high. So if anyone has a lawn they have to mow every three or four days, it's probably because they're over there adding, too much N, too much nitrogen. And that's the nutrient that most people hear about the most.
And so it gets, unfortunately, gets too much attention. There are downsides to overapplying N. Absolutely. You can deplete the soil of microorganisms. You can injure organisms, especially if a lot of the N, or the nutrients are carried to the soil by salt, so you can have too much salt in the soil. You can off-balance the ecosystem in the soil and the root zone. If you cause too much top growth, you can actually throw that whole lawn area off balance, which can lead to fungus and massive insect problems. And we do see that quite a bit in Salt Lake. A lot of the major fungal issues that we're having right now with NRS especially, a lot of that's caused by over-fertilizing with nitrogen. People will just put it down. And that's the problem is because it is so good at greening up things. People just throw down. More nitrogen. More nitrogen. You'll hear it all the time, but whoa, step back, breathe, you know. Take a look at it. Let's look at this from a balanced perspective. It's...too much of anything is not a good thing. So that's nitrogen.
The second letter or the number that you'll find on the bag, it will usually have a “P” on it and that stands for phosphorus. Phosphorus plays a key role in early root growth, so, you know, younger, earlier on in the plant cycle’s life, it hastens maturity, and it stimulates blooming and also helps with seed formation. So when you're establishing a new lawn...Now, some areas in the States, phosphorus is banned. You can't apply it. Some areas you can't apply it all. You have to have a fertilizer that has zero there. So 21-0-5 right, no phosphorous. Or some areas you can have, um, phosphorous can only be applied during certain months. So I know back east, down south, there are some areas you can't put it in after September. And a lot of that has to do with how it stays in the soil and the run-off, especially if you're near lakes, rivers, that type of thing.
And then the third nutrient that we have for our Macros is potassium, which increases the resistance to drought and disease, and it also is a big component in root development. So I love potassium, especially in the fall. It'll help with stress, you know, drought stress, tolerance. Just get those roots, you know, growing deep and growing down.
So that's the three numbers on the front. The other part of the picture that people often...So most people go for the N. That's all they ever care about. More nitrogen equals greener lawn, but they're not finishing the equation because I would say equals, you know, or too much nitrogen equals imbalance, which equals, you know, fungal/insect problems. You know, these types of things.
So there are also micronutrients. Those are the macros. But a lot of times the problem with your lawn or soil, it could have a lack of micros, and a lot of times they get overlooked. People don't pay attention to them. So what are micronutrients? So the ones..there are quite a few. I think it really depends on where you are, what your soil looks like. That's why I recommend getting a test, because a lot of times it just comes down to the...there are more than five, but the main, you know, five or six.
So you're looking at sulphur. Okay, so to produce nitrogen, the plants need the sulfur. It plays a huge role in forming proteins, you know, so that’s sulfur. Then you've got copper, Cu, which is huge for producing chlorophyll and activating enzymes. It's just an overall important part of health, and it can help to like, fortify and build really strong cell walls and thicker. You have Manganese, which can help protect plants from disease. It also can help plants ingest the nitrogen and kind of finish off that photosynthesis process. And so, if you have a deficiency in Manganese, which you’ll have in more like sandy, high peat soils, you will see like a spotted or discoloration on the leaves. So you want to make sure that's dialed in. And there's also magnesium, which helps fortify, again, turfgrass for the winter, plays a huge role in producing chlorophyll and processing nitrogen, phosphates, iron. So there's magnesium. And then, of course, there's iron, which as mentioned, plays a massive role in chlorophyll, and it actually is one of the best ways to green up a lawn without using the nitrogen. Because nitrogen, it'll make that plant, the grass, grow, grow, grow. You're cutting...excessive leaf growth. And now I've already talked about some of the problems with that. Well iron can also get you a nice green lawn without that leaf growth. And so anyway, those are just some of the few micronutrients.
So you've got your macro–It's just like a body, right–you’ve got your macros and you've got your micros and the healthy system is a combination, the right amount of all of those dialed in. So how do you find it? You get a soil sample. You test for your macro and micronutrients, and then you make your adjustments. You make a plan based on what you find.
So as you look at that bag and you see the three main numbers we've talked about, the nitrogen, the N, the N-P-K–nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium. Whatever that number is, so if the number is 32, is the N number, that means that bag is 32% of the fertilizer is nitrogen. You know, if it's 32-3-7, the 3% is the phosphorus, 7% is the potassium of that bag? So what you have to do is you have to understand how much do I put down. How do I figure this out?
And so what you want to do, the first thing you want to do is you want to go to look at your state. So, like in Utah, you go to USU extension, they'll actually tell you, if you have a bluegrass lawn or–because you could have a different type, you could have a fescue lawn and it’s going to be different–but I would...the starting point is with the state. So you go to the state. They may recommend, you know, 4 lbs of N per 1000 per year.
Now in lawn care “per 1000” is kind of the minimum. That's the standard of area that we talk about. All the products are…they're labeled how to apply per 1000. That means 1000 square feet. So that means if you had 100 feet by 10 feet patch, um, you know, and you have a total of 1000 square feet that's what they're talking about. So if you went to the state site and they say they may say–or if you did a soil sample–and it says, hey, I want you to put down 4 lbs of N per 1000 per year, right. What you would do is, let's say you are going to do four applications a year. You would then divide the N needed, which is, um, 4 lbs into four applications. So you have to make sure each of those treatments, you're putting down a pound of nitrogen per 1000 square feet.
There's a little more involved, but that's the overall concept, and I find a lot of people get in trouble because they ignore it. They just say, hey, more nitrogen green. But really, if you overfeed that you're going to cause more issues and it's gonna come back to really bite you. So follow the labels.
Understand how much do I need of this nutrient per 1000 square foot per year. And then how much do I want to give it each time? A pound of N per 1000 per treatment, if you were doing four, that's a lot of fertilizer. People who do six treatments a year they might break it down to 1/2 a pound, so each of those treatments of the six will have 1/2 a pound or whatever the math is, of nitrogen in there. So the next thing to look at is what type, I mean, are we talking? So nitrogen can come in all kinds of forms and it can get real...we're not going to dive too deep into that on this one. That's going to be a whole other episode, but your standards are usually like a urea, an ammonium nitrate, ammonium sulfate, a sulfur-coated urea, things like that. Those are the more standard ones.
And then you need to also understand, is it a slow release or quick release? And the difference there is basically your quick release, if you apply that, it's just going to release right into the soil. So let's say it's 100% quick release. It's going to just go, and it's going to break down immediately, where your slow release or controlled releases, there's different ways they create those. Some are wrapped with a...they’re coated, you know, with a sulfur coat so they break down over time. And some I've seen, they have, like, a triple coating where it takes time, moisture level, ambient temperature, ground temperature to break it down so they could last for 6 weeks. So that means you don't have to come back for another four weeks to do the treatment. So that's a really simplistic approach.
You could go really deep a lot more into the nitrogen sources, where they come from, what benefits the lawn. You could go deep into, well if I put these nutrients on my lawn is my lawn going to be able to utilize them. But for this one, I really wanted to just get you thinking about when you grab that bag of fertilizer, know what those are. Know the macros, know the micros, and then know what you need. Do the soil sample. Check out my podcast on soil samples. I think for 50 or 60 bucks, you could have a soil sample and get real results of a breakdown that will tell you everything about your soil and where to start. You know, don't just randomly start somewhere unless you have a guide, a good path.
And so that's N-P-K. That's macro/micro nutrients. A little bit about nitrogen fertilizer in a nutshell. I hope this was helpful to you. Have a great day and I’ll see you on the next episode.