serving schedule showing lfertilization and weed control services in a program

How Many Fertilization and Weed Control Services In A Program?

Through the years the number of fertilization and weed control services has continued to go up.  Currently in the South, 7-8 services in a basic program has become the normal number.  Some of the big players have 8 services as a minimum with 8 fertilization and weed control and one pH balancing sulfur or lime as the basic program.  This brings us up to 9 services sold as a basic program.

As a lawn care consultant across the Southwest, I saw the way many lawn care providers set up their services and programs.  I actually consulted with a person that had a 52 service program!  I swear!  She had actually sold a 52 service program to an elderly woman. 

Every week she went over to her house and mostly just checked it out.  It was in California so she would pull the occasional weed and apply some fertilizer now and then. 

My personal opinion was that it was taking advantage of a customer, but the woman seemed to have more money than sense and was fine with the arrangement. 

This business owners normal service program was 12 services, every 4 weeks, for fertilization and weed control combined with a mandatory 2 aerations, spring and fall.  She did not allow partial services to be skipped so the price was high for the average buyer.   This was 14 visits to the lawn per year. 

Case Study

I worked with a company in Texas that sold a 7 service program but had 30% of their customers receiving less than 7 services.  They were OK with getting as many people signed up as possible and working with them and what they could afford. 

They did not do any free call back weed sprays or anything extra for the customers on partial services and the customers expectations were set that their lawn may not look as good as if they bought the entire set of services. 

The Number Should Make Sense

There is not a right and wrong answer, it just depends on how you position your business and the customers in your area.  It also depends on the need for cash flow. 

Then there is the question of number of services vs number of visits to the lawn.  When a Ph balancing service is sold, it is usually done at the same time as a pre-emergent to save a trip.  Usually this double service works well to hold down the cost of the service and very few customers have an issue with two services at once as long as you are doing clearly different things while you are there. 

This brings up the issue of insect services.  Are they included in your 8 basic fertilization and weed control services or sold separately?  Are they done at the same time as the fertilization services or a special trip?  The largest lawn care provider, we will call them TG, includes insecticide in two treatments.  This is included with the fertilizer. 

Once again, customers rarely have an issue with the insecticide treatment being done at the same time as the fertilization service.  Most lawn care software programs make it easy to combine services on to one invoice bringing less notice to the fact that two services were done at one time. 

The common insecticides used for turf insects like bifenthrin and imidichorprid can be combined with most pre-emergents, weed control products, or liquid fertilizers.  It is also possible to buy fertilizer with one or two insecticides embedded on it.  These insecticide embedded fertilizers come in different formulations like 0-0-7 and 24-6-10. 

Pro’s and Con’s To Combined Granular Fertilizer and Insecticide

There are pro’s and con’s to using fertilizer with embedded insecticide.  The main pro is speed.  You are going over the lawn once while doing two services.  Saves time and saves wear and tear on your legs.  The con’s to combined fertilizer and insecticide is first of all initial cost. This also can affect the number of services needed each year.

The cost of the embedded fertilizer is much more than putting down fertilizer and then spraying with liquid insecticide.  However, once you consider the cost of labor for the time spent going over the lawn a second time, the cost difference is very little.  

Another drawback, especially if you have limited space in the vehicle, is that you have to take plain fertilizer for the customers who did not purchase insect services and embedded fertilizer for those that did purchase insect services.  

Another con can be embedded fertilizer limits your choices if you determine that the lawn should not have the fertilizer strength applied  that is needed to provide enough insecticide.  For example, you come to a St. Augustine lawn with brown patch and they bought insect services because they were afraid of chinch bugs.  To apply enough insecticide to protect the lawn from chinch bugs you would need to apply 4 pounds of the product.  

That much Nitrogen could make the Brown Patch worse.  Some of the fertilizer with insecticide require an application rate of 4.7 pounds per 1,000 sq ft.  They also list the maximum amount that can be applied to the lawn per calendar year as 4.7 pounds.  You can use it once, then will need to switch to some other type of application. 

Pro’s and Con’s of Combined Liquid Fertilizer or Weed Control and Insecticide

The con to combining liquid products can be that you may need to put insecticide on lawns that didn’t purchase insecticide or didn’t want insecticide applied to their lawn.  If you have a great setup, you will have multiple tanks and multiple choices of product input on each lawn. 

 If you aren’t blessed with a set up like that, you would be adding insecticide to 200 or 300 or more gallons of weed control.  This would mean that any lawn that gets an insecticide treatment would need to be blanket sprayed.  It may only have 2 weeds, but it would need to be blanket sprayed with weed control anyway so that it is covered with insecticide.

 This is a cheap way to save some labor but can put some unhealthy lawns at risk.  Also you have committed to applying insecticide to any lawn that needs weed control.  

This could be a free bonus to a homeowner but it could also be a liability.  You are assuming the insecticide will not bother a sensitive pet or worse yet, a sensitive customer or someone in their family.  The laws in most states require posting signs letting a homeowner know if insecticide has been applied to their lawn.

 If you have added the insecticide to your tank to save you time walking over the lawn and you don’t post a sign letting the homeowner know that you have applied insecticide, you would be in violation of the law. 

The pro’s to combing liquid fertilizer, weed control, or pre-emergent and insecticide and applying it on lawns is obviously in saving time.  It could save you a special trip to the lawn, saving even more money.  Liquid insecticide is much cheaper than granular insecticide or insecticide embedded on fertilizer so if you are going to spray the lawn, why not just put everything in the tank and spray it one time? 

Back To Deciding on the Number of Services

Back to the original question of the number of fertilization and weed control services being sold in a yearly program.  When I started working as a lawn care consultant in 2007, the normal amount of services was six in most places in the US.  A small percent in the deep South and Florida were doing 7 fertilization and weed control services.  Providers in states like Arkansas were doing 5, in Texas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Georgia, Louisiana, etc were doing 6. 

Today the businesses that were doing 5 are doing 6 and the ones that were doing 6 are doing 7 or 8.  In most cases the fertilizer has remained the same through the years or has improved to last longer on the lawns.  Fast release Urea has been replaced by 50% slow release fertilizer that will last about 6-8 weeks while the number of services has increased.  Why?

Why The Increase In The Number Of Services

While fertilizers and weed control products have improved, some weed varieties have become harder to control and customers have become more demanding. 

Poa Annua, Goosegrass, Rescue grass, and some other weeds have become harder and harder to prevent with pre-emergents.  Staying on top of these weeds that have become resistant in some areas as necessitated more services being done to stay on top of them. 

Some products that used to be available, like MSMA have been taken off the market.  This product was great at controlling problem grassy weeds like Dallis grass.  Controlling Dallis grass with the products available now on the market requires multiple applications.  Getting rid of Bermuda can be the same way. Because the hard-to-kill weeds can now take 2-3 sprays you need to go back more often. 

Customer Expectations

Customers have increasingly high expectations now compared to a few years ago.  Just as attention spans have decreased and people are less and less patient, they expect things like weed control to happen faster and be more exacting.  I have had many customers call my office 2- 4 days after a weed treatment yelling about still having visible weeds and wanting us to return. 

They are not interested in explanations about how weed control works, they want a clean yard instantly.  They also expect their lawn to remain clean of weeds.  Customers don’t realize, or care, that weed seeds continue to germinate.  

The concept of pre-emergent use the fall before doesn’t concern them.  They want a weed-free lawn that is thick and lush and they want it immediately and they want it to stay that way.  Thus, the increase in the number of services. 

Homeowner associations and POA’s have implemented fines for weeds in many areas.  I was in an exclusive neighborhood in Georgia where the fine was $10 per weed in the front lawn.  I have see $50 per week fines in an Alabama neighborhood.  In years past, neighbor peer pressure was sufficient to shame people into taking care of their lawns. 

The neighborhood expected people to keep up with their lawns but a few weeds here and there was expected.  The neighborhood lawns of perfection and fines for the less than perfect is a fairly new event.  If this trend continues, the 9, 10, 11, and 12 service program is right around the corner. Many customers want a lawn like they see on a golf course and are willing to pay to have it.


To summarize, increasing customer expectations has fueled the increase in the number of services in an average fertilization and weed control program.  When more services are done, profit goes up due to the increased revenue and with weeds better under control product use goes down.  Customers acceptance of the increase in services will probably lead to an average program going up to 9 services per year in the next few years especially in the South.  In the far South I predict monthly 12 service programs will be common in the next 5 -10 years with 7-10 in the North and Northeast.

Best wishes.

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