Keeping weeds out of sight is a constant battle. You don’t need to tell Pierre Bridger that. Bridger is the director of operations for Vibrant Outdoors in Whitestown, Indiana. The company covers both residential and commercial markets, but the bulk of its operation is in commercial maintenance, including condo associations, business parks, municipal parks and even traffic islands.
“Commercial lawn care is so different from residential because management companies and board members aren’t focused on having a specific program. First and foremost, they just don’t want to see any weeds,” Bridger said.
As many lawn care operators (LCO) know, not seeing any weeds can be a challenge to accomplish. It requires diligence and re-evaluation of current application programs to deliver the best results. Bridger has a variety of products in his arsenal to fight weeds across a commercial property. Weed control in ornamental beds is a key concern for his customers. “We combine Gallery SC and Dimension 2EW for bed maintenance,” Bridger said. “New and existing customers will receive Gallery and Dimension for their preemergence application as a part of their mulch bed maintenance program.” The combination provides broad-spectrum preemergence control of broadleaf and grassy weeds. Gallery® SC specialty herbicide is a preemergence herbicide that provides control of broadleaf weeds and vastly reduces the need for hand-weeding. Dimension® 2EW specialty herbicide takes care of crabgrass and 47 other grassy and broadleaf weeds.
“We converted to Gallery and Dimension for all of our properties because it allows us to get applications down earlier and have better control. Although, we still use Snapshot on areas like traffic islands,” Bridger says.
Prior to the converting to the liquid combination of Gallery SC and Dimension 2EW, Bridger applied the granular Snapshot® specialty herbicide for those properties.
Whether Vibrant Outdoors’ LCOs are applying Gallery SC and Dimension 2EW or Snapshot, they’re still able to get out earlier to make first applications. Although a second application is typically not needed, high-maintenance areas like traffic islands often get a second application around July.
“Every application program is client-specific, based on wants and needs,” Bridger explains. “The key is to get out earlier, if you really want to make money and provide superior results on a bed maintenance program. You need to do it early before it becomes an afterthought, and by doing so, it reduces your labor cost almost immediately.”
Application programs are constantly changing based on a variety of factors, including, but not limited to, the weather, turf species, weed type or the product. For example, when treating ornamental beds, Bridger has found success with combining preemergence and postemergence herbicides during early applications. As a postemergence, Defendor® specialty herbicide is effective when applied early in the season before dandelion and clover bloom. Defendor, with the active ingredient florasulam, is often mixed with Dimension 2EW and can be used on cool- and warm-season turfgrasses.
“For early spring applications, we use Defendor and Dimension 2EW, with applications that are typically six weeks apart,” Bridger says. “We cover 150 to 175 acres in the fall with Defendor and see outstanding weed control, which allows for more freedom in the spring.”
Combining two products, such as Gallery and Dimension or Defendor and Dimension, is an innovative solution that provides control of tough weeds while maintaining a flexible application program.
“I’ve never been as excited about any product since we first tried Defendor plus Dimension in 2015,” Bridger said. “It allows us to treat more acres with the same manpower, get out earlier and extend the window of control.”
When it comes to the customer, commercial properties are a much tougher market to get into and retain.
“The loyalty factor is very difficult with commercial properties, especially with homeowner or condo owner associations because you’re not just dealing with a management company, but with board members,” Bridger says. “It is important to ensure you have a voice with the people who actually make the decisions.”
Frequent board turnover is another challenge that commercial LCOs face, as well as the challenge of having to bid on the turf maintenance of the property. “All bids are different, and what is helpful is to let them know that we are using premium products for extended control,” Bridger says.
While the commercial property market can be more difficult to break into, determining the right application program and combination of products can benefit your business for the long haul and with customer retention. “You know, getting a complaint or a callback is one of the first things that will get you fired,” Bridger says. “We don’t get service calls on turf anymore and have renewed more than 92 percent of our business in 2017.”
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