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The battle to secure and keep lawn care customers never stops. For a contractor there is nothing worse than spending money and time to land a new customer, only to lose others because of employee and/or service problems. Fertigation systems are the perfect employees. They show up every day and always follow your instructions to the letter. You simply supply the fertilizer and other products you want to deliver. This not only saves you labor on each lawn, it also reduces your labor headaches and the risk of losing that customer to poor performance. Fertigation is the process of delivering small amounts of fertilizer each time you water, creating a consistently nutrient-rich root zone. The water carries the nutrients into the ground. It offers several advantages over the traditional practice of applying significant amounts of liquid or granular fertilizer several times a year. The biggest advantage is that it produces healthier plants. Healthier plants are less likely to be stressed by diseases, insects or drought. Fertigation was developed for agriculture in the 1960s and began finding widespread use on golf courses in the 1980s. The nursery industry embraced the technology early in its development and now almost any operation of any significance uses it. Fertigation, more recently, has been gaining increased favor in providing improved turf quality on athletic fields. Lawn care professionals, whose livelihoods depend on caring for residential and smaller commercial properties have, until recently never had an effective and affordable fertigation product available to them. Several manufacturers are now designing products that can provide reliable fertigation to residential properties. There are essentially three types of fertigation systems: electric pumps, hydraulic pumps and Venturi systems. Each has its advantages, although Venturi systems are falling out of favor. All of the systems are fairly inexpensive. They can be installed for the homeowner for a few hundred dollars, and they're fairly easy to install, operate and maintain. The system that we use here on Lake City College's landscapes and athletic fields is the FertiGator system, and my students have installed and monitored several in residential settings. It allows complete control of fertilization by in-ground sprinkler system zone. The results have been excellent. This particular system's controller allows for precise adjustment of the amount of fertilizer delivered to each zone to account for the differing needs of gardens, hillsides, shady areas, newly seeded areas, front yards and back yards. It is excellent for drip systems required for a rose garden, and various versions can even allow different products to be delivered to different areas. It can also skip a zone to miss a misting system or other water feature. It is versatile enough to use any liquid fertilizer, although the company sells organically based fertilizers that work well. Selling fertigation For homeowners who have already bought into the concept of automatic watering, the leap to automatic fertilization is an easy one. There are several benefits of fertigation that justify it to the property owner. A fertigation system delivers healthy plants that resist disease, weeds, insects and other problems naturally. Grass is one of the most aggressive plants in the yard. If the grass is healthy, weeds will not be able to get established. No fluctuations, no burning or streaking, no flush of green that results in hay fields; just nice consistent growth and greenness. Leave those clippings to make the grass even healthier. Fertigation also decreases water use. Deeper root systems reach water throughout the root zone rather than only the top couple of inches. As a result less water is required. Every homeowner that considers a fertilizer injection system has bought into the idea that it is more convenient and productive to automatically water his or her grass. Thus, it is easy to go to the next step of convincing them to automatically feed their lawn. If the lawn care professional is selling the system, he can deliver an improved, more consistent result for their dollar. Today everything is automated, from the garage door to the television to the dishwasher. Fertigation is the next logical step after irrigation. "Once proper backflow prevention valves are installed...automatic injection offertilizers can be simple and efficient," says Dr. Charles M. Burt, P.E., Ph.D., of the Irrigation Training and Research Center at California Polytechnic State University. "With the availability of liquid fertilizers, automatic injection is much easier than applying solid fertilizers. Automatic fertilizer injection through the irrigation system spoon-feeds the plants - a highly recommended practice to improve the efficiency of fertilizer application and to achieve optimum plant growth." For more information about the FertiGator, visit or call 877-FertiGator.

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December 17, 2018, 12:30 am PST

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