In the past years many new products have hit the market. One of the products that has been marketed heavily is “Duration Controlled Release” fertilizers by Agrium. You may have seen the advertisements in trade magazines, usually marketed as “Spread it and forget it” ( a throwback to the ronco oven catch “line set it and forget it”). There is also the more expensive Knox product “One and Done”, targeted for use at golf courses. So with all of the hype does the product actually work? It seems impossible to apply a fert in the spring and still have vigor in the fall. Well I have personally tested the products for three full seasons and can answer all of your questions.
Does a one application lawn fertilizer actually work?
The short answer is yes. The duration CR products provide season long feeding. There are several formulations of the product that indicate how long the fertilizer will feed the lawn for. The formulations go in 30 day or one month increments, so there is a Duration CR 90, 120, 150 and even a 180. This indicates that the product will feed turf grass for either three months, four months, or five months, respectively. I personally have been using the 120 day formulation which has kept my lawns fed from May all the way to September.
The product is, in one word, amazing. Some of these lawns have never looked better. Because it provides a slow consistent feed all season long you avoid the fertility peaks and valleys. The turf stays one consistent lush green all season. The first year I picked one test property because, like most of the people in our industry, I was skeptical. After the fantastic results from the product the following season I treated every property I maintain with Duration Cr (excluding brand new customers).
The full benefits are numerous and include:
- Season long, consistent color
- Less turf disease because of consistent nitrogen, which helps avoid the diseases caused by either excessive nitrogen or low nitrogen like red thread and brown patch.
- Cost savings are slight but still there, which is a nice perk, and the price of “Duration CR” is coming down, dropping almost a full two dollars per bag from last season to this season.
- Frees up your labor in the summer. Rather than pushing fertilizer three to four more times you can focus on real IPM like scouting for weeds or being able to monitor for disease more regularly
Below are some photos of properties I have “one-apped”. In the description I state what month the photo was taken, keep in mind that I applied the product to these lawns in April so a pic from September is five months later.
How to apply one application lawn fertilizer
One application lawn fertilizer is applied no differently than any other granular fertilizer except you are putting down a lot more fertilizer than normal. The 30-0-10 product I use is applied at a rate of 8.5 lbs per thousand square feet. Thats almost double what I would normally apply. You as an applicator must plan an appropriate amount of time to get this product down. It takes longer because you will constantly be re-filling your hopper and you will have to load more product on your vehicle to get through a day. A few key points to consider are:
leave extra time to complete each property, I have found about 11/2 times the normal application speed.
Clean up off non-permeable surfaces is critical because so much product is applied it inevitably makes a mess, bring a backpack blower along
Make sure your truck or trailer can handle the extra weight of more fertilizer, in one day you can use as much as two full pallets or 4000 lbs.
Using a machine like permagreen or Z-Max is almost mandatory because hand pushing this much material is a lot of work, although for some smaller properties and residentials we did push a few this year.
How to build a program around one app that doesn’t result in customers accusing you of billing them for nothing
One of the biggest fears with using one-app is the customers perception. Owners worry what a customer will think if receiving a bill for “round 3” without fertilizer being applied. This can be tough depending on the expectation you have set in the past.
My method is still visiting each property regularly, in some cases more than I normally would in a traditional program because of the time that one app frees up. You still will need to spray weeds, monitor for disease, and make contact with customers. Because I am still on the properties often I have never had a customer question an invoice as a result of one-app. More and more of my customers are even aware of what my one application strategy is and love it, the lawn looks good and I always mention that I am able to apply less pesticide and less granules which inevitably make it into waterways, so we are helping the environment at the same time- my customers love it.
The drawbacks to one-app fertilizer
- It takes longer to apply which can really create a huge amount of pressure on you in the spring when every customer is looking for their first visit and you are up against natures crabgrass germination time table.
- I haven’t encountered it yet but I am sure some customers will not be able to wrap their head around only getting fert once. Because of this I always treat new sales with a traditional program.
- It is harder to apply with a push spreader.
- It is a large upfront cost which you need to make up through the season, if a customer cancels your service you could eat the cost so make sure you are not using one application service on shaky customers.
Despite the negatives I still love this product and will continue to incorporate it into my annual lawn service program. I suggest you start out in a similar way to me by picking one or two test properties your first season. This will help you work out the kinks and in the process make a believer out of you. Here are a few links to both Duration CR’s webpage and Knox “One and Done”- they can point you in the direction of a distributor near you.