Efficiency Boost. New Fertilizer helps SeaScape tackle its labor challenges.
Efficiency Boost. New Fertilizer helps SeaScape tackle its labor challenges.

Original article: http://www.turf-digital.com/apr2015/Central/#&pageSet=30&contentItem=0

Since 1989, Jim Wilkinson has led SeaScape, Inc. down a profitable path while keeping an eye on the environment. A leader in both the green industry and the community, SeaScape has seen steady growth. Beginning as a lawn care firm, its services now include complete tree care, commercial property landscape management and even holiday decorations

In the very competitive market SeaScape faces in Coventry, Rhode Island, productivity and labor concerns are tied together as major challenges facing the company. “Lawn care is a very physically demanding job, and anything we can do to make it less demanding for our employees is an advantage,” Wilkinson explains. “This is thought of as a young man’s job, and turnover is a problem. We want to keep people here for the long term and want people to think of this as a career.”

To this end, Wilkinson is looking to expand his fleet of ride-on sprayer/spreaders. Plus, if he can reduce applications of fertilizers and pesticides, it frees up employees to do other tasks.“We need to be sure that our employees are as productive as they can be,” Wilkinson says. “Not only does this keep our costs down, but it also allows us to pay our employees more money.”

Wilkinson has found an unexpected ally in his quest to meet these dual challenges. He has been testing DURATION CR fertilizer from Koch Turf & Ornamental, which helps increase productivity while reducing man-hours pushing a spreader.“DURATION CR takes controlled-release fertilizer to another level,” he says. “And it enables us to dial in very precisely how long we want these fertilizer products to last.”

Wilkinson started his trial in 2013 on “a handful of lawns.” Last year, it was used on an entire route consisting of about 500 lawns. “This year, we are expanding its use to 100 percent of our lawns,” he says.“Now we don’t need to put fertilizer down 5 to 6 times a year,” he says. “We can cut back to 2-3 times a year, which obviously takes some of the burden off of our technicians.

“When they are not putting down fertilizer, they can spend more time on issues such as weeds and insects,” Wilkinson continues. “At the same time, they can go through their accounts faster, and take care of more lawns during their day. And, if anything, the lawns have improved in quality.”

On a final note, Wilkinson says that his new fertilization program is also environmentally sound. “We live in a very environmentally sensitive state. Our main resource is Narragansett Bay; regulatory officials are very concerned about nitrogen loading,” Wilkinson says. “With DURATION CR, we’ve been able to reduce our total nitrogen applied on annual basis by 25 percent. It minimizes loss of N due to volatilization, runoff and leaching.” The Rhode Island Department of Environmental management introduced a new certification for Sustainable Turf Management in January, 2015. “SeaScape was one of the first companies to apply,” says Wilkinson. “And one of the main reasons we earned this certification was the fact that we reduced our nitrogen use by 25 percent. From an environmental standpoint, it’s an absolute winner.”