Weather experienced across the United States this winter may lead to damaged turf for homeowners and commercial properties. Many areas have seen freeze-thaw cycles without significant snow cover. Widespread use of de-icers can contribute to turf damage along roadways, driveways and sidewalks.
For lawn care pros, this presents an opportunity to help existing customers or gain new ones by offering add-on services to spring mowing and maintenance plans. Three services in particular are easily incorporated: aeration, overseeding and fertilizer or weed treatment.
Aerating after a tough winter can help revive turf by encouraging movement of oxygen, water and nutrients to root systems. This is especially true for winters with intermittent snow cover and with frequent cycles of freezing and thawing, said Scott Kinkead, executive vice president of Turfco Manufacturing.
“Aeration is a service you should offer to your customers regardless, but it’s especially important in a year with turf loss,” said Kinkead. “This is a year we’ve already seen the freeze-thaw-freeze cycle, and a lack of snow cover, which will definitely lead to turf damage, and this may be an opportunity to show customers the importance of aeration if it’s not a part of their current maintenance program.”
Kinkead recommends using a steerable rolling tine or riding core aerator, which can pull a good core, but also has a better shattering effect on the soil.
Overseeding damaged areas of lawns can also help break up thatch and allow nutrients to reach injured grass roots. It’s also a versatile service that can be used to spot treat damaged areas or to improve the growing medium of an entire yard.
Chris Brown, co-founder of Teed & Brown Lawn Care in Norwalk, Conn., said he gauges how much of a yard to overseed based on the severity of damage. If a yard is mostly thin or crusted, it may just need a quick rake and a dose of fertilizer, he said. For yards with only a few areas of damaged turf, spot treatment with a slit-seeder is efficient.
Brown also makes predictions on how the lawn might look later in the year. Seeding areas with heavy shade early in the spring before leaves grow in can encourage better cover throughout the growing season and create fewer areas where grass may be more exposed to winter damage.
Kinkead said combining aerating with broadcast seeding, instead of using a slit seeder, can also help turf bounce back from light damages.
“For professionals without a slit overseeder, broadcasting seed after aerating can be effective without incurring much expense,” said Kinkead.
Fertilizer and Weed Treatment
An effective program with fertilizer or weed preventatives can encourage the overall health of the turf, and can help sustain turf during winter. For a lawn with winter damage, having fertilizer and weed control combined with seeding and aeration, it’s critical for it to bounce back.
Kinkead said treatment with fertilizer and weed control will help give customers a lush lawn before summer, which is something that lawn care professionals can easily communicate to customers who don’t already use it as part of a maintenance program.
Depending on the type of damage, Brown even recommended starting with weed treatments for lawn care professionals treating lawns by aerating and seeding.
“Part of the reason why you wouldn’t want to go straight to aerate or seed is then the lawn is opened up to crabgrass,” Brown said. “You want to put weed treatment down first to prevent it.”
Treating a lawn for weeds after seeding will likely end up killing the new grass along with undesirable growth.
Both Kinkead and Brown recommended speaking with customers about additional services as early as possible.
“You can talk to customers now about what might happen to their lawns and that these are ways to get in front of it,” Kinkead said.
For Brown, explaining the benefits of the three services to customers in March can help his company get into the field earlier and be able to reach more of the yards they maintain. Even if the weather is too cold to see any effect when Teed & Brown crews begin working, customers will see results as weather warms up.
Article contributed by Turfco Manufacturing. Scott Kinkead and Turfco Manufacturing are based in Minneapolis. To contact Turfco with more questions about treating winter damages, call 763-785-1000 or e-mail Turfco through the contact form at www.turfcodirect.com/company/contact. For more information about Turfco products, visit www.turfco.com.
Teed & Brown Lawn Care was founded by Chris Brown and Peter Teed in 1994. Along with years of experience in lawn care from Teed, the company bases its lawn maintenance programs on the turf science learned by Brown at Penn State University. To learn more about their company, visit teedandbrown.com.