This is a breakdown of TruGreen service as provided to a cool season lawn in Evansville, IN.
The lawn size is notated as 3,999 sq ft and there were 7 fertilizer and weed control apps and 1 grub control (preventative) app for the season. The 8 applications were priced at $39.00 each. These applications were delivered from April until November of 2020.
DIY vs Pro Lawn Care
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TruGreen Cost for a Full Year
I’m going to talk about each invoice in summary, and then at the end give you some of the yearly total pounds on the ground, specifically nitrogen.
Each invoice is linked if you want to read it for yourself. When I reference soil temperature, what I did was go to the Greenecast Tool and input that date and take the 24 hour average for that day. It’s an interesting reference I wanted to include.
April 8, 2020 Soil Temp: 72 Note on this soil temp: This was a very early warm spell. The 10-year average for this date is 58F.
Fertilizer, Post Emergent and Pre Emergent Weed Control
This is what we used to call a “3-way” application. It’s a cocktail of fertilizer, pre-emergent weed control for crabgrass, and post emergent weed control for broadleaf weeds like dandelion and chickweed.
Liquid Lawn Fertilizer 17-0-5
I’m most interested to find out the nitrogen “pounds on the ground” they applied with this one. This also gives us a chance to review how you actually determine the amount of nitrogen in a liquid concentrate fert application.
Amount of Nitrogen in Liquid Fertilizer - Calculation
First off, we need to know the weight of a gallon of this fertilizer mix because we have to convert volume into weight.
This would be listed on the label and I do not have access to that. However, it’s pretty common knowledge that a gallon of liquid N-P-K fert weighs right around 10.5 lbs. So that is the first piece of data we need is the weight of the gallon. We will go with 10.5 lbs / gallon.
1 gallon weighs 10.5 lbs
The analysis of the fert is 17-0-5 (from the invoice) which means 17 % is nitrogen. 10.5 x .17 = 1.79
That means there is a total of 1.79 lbs of nitrogen in a single gallon of the fert they used.
On the invoice you can see the rate they used was .4531 gallons per 1,000 sq ft.
We know that there is 1.79 lbs of total N in a gallon of the fert, so to find out how much went down on each 1,000 sq ft of lawn space, we multiply those.
1.79 x .4531 = .81
That means that TruGreen applied .81 lbs/N/1000 in this application. So, a little more than ¾ lb/N/1000.
In my opinion, that is a good amount of N for an April application in Indiana.
One thing we do not know is if there were any micronutrients included in the mix as they are not listed. My assumption is that if TruGreen were adding iron or other minors to their mixes, they would want the customer to know.
Pre-Emergent for Crabgrass
The pre-emergent they are using is called “Barricade” which is the brand name for the active ingredient Prodiamine. We use this very same active ingredient in our strategies but we have the dry-flowable formulation.
TruGreen is using a liquid concentrate version of prodiamine (4FL) and a quick read over of the invoice tells me they applied .3673 oz/1,000 as their rate. That’s a solid 4 month rate there which is great because as you will see coming up in Round 2, this is only the first of a split application for crabgrass.
Post Emergent for Broadleaf Weeds
The post emergent weed control they are using is brand name “Escalade” and it’s the very same weed control that we used when I worked for TruGreen. It’s a highly effective weed control that does well in cooler temps. It gives a fast visual knockdown which is important for a company like TruGreen because customers expect to see a result on the weeds fast. On the backside, Escalade 2 has good concentrations of auxin herbicides 2-4D and Dicamba.
I don’t recommend Escalade 2 for homeowners since it isn’t available in small quantities, but we do carry this Triad weed control which is similar and also brings excellent results.
5/11/2020 Soil Temp: 54 Note on this soil temp: This is actually a very late cool spell. The 10 year average for this date is 68F.
The Round 2 application came just about a month from the first, and the same fertilizer and rates were used, so we can add on another .81lbs/N/1000 for the season.
Pre-Emergent for Crabgrass
Of note here, they did another application of crabgrass pre-emergent to round out the “split app” and this time they used brand name Dimension which in that product, the active ingredient is the same one we used called “dithiopyr.”
They applied this product via liquid which is good because when utilized as a liquid, it can not only prevent crabgrass moving forward for the next 3-4 months, but if there are any early germinators popping up it does have a little post emergent action as well.
Post Emergent for Broadleaf Weeds
They also changed up the weed control which is pretty standard since Escalade 2 has a limit of 2 broadcast (blanket) applications per season. They already did 1 in the previous round and since Escalade 2 works good in cooler weather, they are saving that second broadcast (blanket) app for the early fall time.
This application came exactly 1 month later. Keep in mind, we are getting very close to summer now. TruGreen knows that too and you can see that the nitrogen levels have been decreased as I would expect.
They are still using the 17-0-5 liquid fertilizer, but this time the rate is .3020 gallons/1,000 sq ft. If we keep with that same math we used above and realize there is 1.79 lbs of total nitrogen in a gallon, then our math works out to:
1.79 x .17 = .30
They have backed down to ⅓ lb/N/1,000 at this point.
They also applied the grub control with this one and the active ingredient there was Imidacloprid. (Merit is the brand name) The timing here is perfect. First half of June is the perfect time to apply grub control. This active ingredient is pretty much the standard for grub control and has been for quite some time. Keep in mind, this is a preventative and must be watered in to work.
If you want to know more about grubs and their yearly cycle, I highly recommend you watch this video because the way your treat for them changes throughout the season:
Post Emergent for Broadleaf Weeds
One interesting thing to note here is that we are on our third application of post emergent weed control, and in looking over the invoices for all 3, they were all blanket applications. What that means is that the entire lawn was treated for weeds. That seems excessive to me.
How do I know it’s a blanket application? Look at the invoice screenshot above under “TruPower 3.” You can see the rate on that weed control is 1.1937 oz / 1,000. You can then see the “applied amount” is 4.7738 oz total.
4.7738 / 1.937 = 3,999 This math reveals that the entire lawn was blanketed with weed control.
3 full blanket applications spaced 4 weeks apart seems like a lot to me. They are using high quality weed controls with active ingredients that I have personally used on lawns and know they work.
On a business note: It’s also VERY expensive for TruGreen to be blanket spraying weed control on every application like that. For us, as DIYers, the expense to blanket spray is literally only a couple of dollars, but imagine doing this to every lawn across 10,000 customers that the branch office is servicing. That adds up very quickly and can make or break a P and L.
However, there is one advantage to blanket spraying with every app and that is that the technician only has to walk the lawn one time because the fertilizer, weed control and the grub preventative are all mixed into the tank together. So he essentially gets 3 applications done by only walking the lawn one time. This can save payroll but I still think there is something a little off with this because again, it’s very unlikely the lawn needed 3 full blanket apps like that. Either way, it’s not a criticism of TruGreen or the branch office one way or the other - it’s just an observation I am making.
This application contained only weed control. There were two products used, Acclaim EXTRA for crabgrass and Vista XRT for Clover. I have not used either one of these before so I can’t comment on their effectiveness.
What I can comment on here is the amount of weed control applied area wise. If we do the math, you can see that half of this lawn was sprayed for crabgrass and/or clover. Once again, this seems excessive.
Crabgrass Pre-Emergent Expectations
When I look back at the timing of the crabgrass pre-emergent applications we are good. Early April and early May are right in the window. However, this does give me an opportunity to talk to those of you who are just starting on a lawn care program. If you have a professional company doing the lawn, or you are doing it yourself, it's important to know that for the first year or two, a good pre and post emergent strategy will be needed.
Now I do not know how bad of a crabgrass problem this home had in the years prior to 2020, but I can look at what the data tells me and that leads me to believe we did indeed have some really bad crabgrass in this lawn prior. And when I say that, I mean seeds.
You see, crabgrass is one of those weeds that when left unchecked, will get worse and worse every year because the more plants there are in the lawn, the more seeds they drop and the next year, more of those seed turn into more plants and the problem compounds.
This is one of my older videos and it shows you the lifecycle of crabgrass if you want to learn more.
On the flipside then, when you do decide to take action, it can take a good 2-3 years of hammering in the pre and post emergents before you get a handle on the problem overall. The good news here is that after about 3 years or so, you will need very little in the way of post emergents and in some cases, you can even stop using pre-emergents all together. This is a goal that you should strive for and it starts with understanding that early on, even the best pre-emergent strategy will need backup in summer from a solid post emergent strategy as well.
Me seeing that a good 50% of this lawn was sprayed post-emergently for crabgrass tells me there was a pretty big issue here in the past and the lawn specialist is working hard to get it and all the other weeds under control.
It could also be that the turf stand itself is thin and so he isn’t getting any help there either.
Looks like the weeds are under control because this next application, which came 4 weeks later is a granular fertilizer application only. In fact, this is the first granular app we have seen this season.
The analysis is a 16-0-4 and the rate is 3lbs / 1,000 sq ft. The “XRT” you see on the label is telling you that 50% of the nitrogen source is slow release. TruGreen is buying their bagged fer from Knox Fertilizer Company in Indiana. “XRT” is their trademarked technology whereby they polymer coat the prills so the release is controlled over time.
Since this is a 16% nitrogen fert, the rate of 3lbs/1,000 is going to yield .48 lbs/N/1,000 :: pretty much ½ lb/N. That’s a good rate for August, especially with 50% being controlled release.
The 6th visit for the season comes 5 weeks later and is once again a granular fertilizer. This time, however, the analysis is a 25-0-5. The rate is 3lbs/1,000 sq ft which is going to yield ¾ lb/N/1,000. We are getting into the fall and it’s time to ramp things up in prep for winter.
This is the final application of the season and it’s a granular fertilizer yielding ¾ lb/N/1,000 once again.
They must have gotten control of all the weeds because we have not seen anymore weed control applications since the summer.
Of note, there was not aeration or overseeding done for this customer, but I can guarantee you TruGreen offered it lol.
TruGreen Yearly Summary
Number of total visits: 7
Total “pounds on the ground” of nitrogen: 3.9 lbs / 1,000 sq ft This is in line with recommendations from Purdue University which states: “In general, mature cool-season lawns may need between 1 and 5 pounds of actual N per 1,000 square feet per year,” source.
Now for those of you who read all the way to the bottom (bottom readers) I want to say, "thank you" and then let you know that next week, I will show you what this lawn looked like before, during and after the treatments.