Story by Emily Schappacher
When it comes to turf management, Leon Humphrey is no stranger to challenges. The manager at Stahlman Landscape and Property Maintenance in Naples, Florida, has spent his entire career working in Florida’s hot, humid climate, which is the perfect breeding ground for pests. The area’s sandy soil and abundance of sensitive St. Augustinegrass turfgrass only makes it more difficult to keep clients’ lawns green and healthy.
“The biggest challenge we face in Florida is our sandy soil, which doesn’t retain nutrition like other types of soils do,” Humphrey says. “The humidity keeps the thatch layer moist and causes disease issues. We also never have complete turfgrass dormancy here, so we have year-round insect populations and fungal problems.”
Humphrey is always on the lookout for products and strategies that better control pests in this difficult environment. Crabgrass is especially hard to manage, as typical herbicides can be too aggressive and cause damage to St. Augustinegrass. While at a tradeshow last year, Humphrey came across Specticle FLO, a product Bayer was marketing specifically for unprecedented weed control in Florida’s delicate St. Augustinegrass. He decided to give it a try.
“A partnership with someone like Leon entails an open line of communication between both parties,” says Todd Lowe, Bayer Technical Service Manager.
“That’s the relationship we’ve built with Bayer as well,” agrees Humphrey.
During their first meeting, Lowe explained how applying preemergence herbicides like Specticle FLO, particularly in Florida, widens the scale of weed control. “If you’re solely relying on a postemergent program, you’re trying to control a pest that has already matured, and it’s much more difficult to control,” Lowe said.
Humphrey said, “The Bayer Green Solutions Team has helped us tremendously in the formulation of a new weed control program through the use of Specticle as a pre-emergent, to gain and maintain control of our weed populations.”
Bayer representatives provided him a precise dosage rate and application timeframe to effectively control troublesome weeds without damaging the St. Augustinegrass. Using a split-application approach with Specticle—the first in March, or early spring, and the second in May, or early summer—provided Humphrey more than six months of weed control.
Stahlman Landscape and Property Maintenance provides 75 percent landscape maintenance and 25 percent other services to a 95 percent residential clientele. Stahlman’s operations now offer Specticle FLO applications as an upsell and promotes it as an improved way to control crabgrass and a long list of other weeds. Humphrey says five homeowners’ associations he services currently receive Specticle treatments—and he is impressed with the results.
“The longevity we get out of this product is remarkable,” Humphrey says. “I have used other preemergents in the past, and I was happy if we got three months’ worth of control. For weed control in St. Augustinegrass, we were out there every 60 days using lower rates of postemergence products.”
By minimizing the weed population in his region’s sandy soils, Humphrey says the turf has a better chance to win the battle for water and nutrients the turf needs to thrive. He stresses the importance of ensuring proper timing and application rates in order to prevent damage and stress to the turf.
“If we went full-rate it could stunt the turf, especially the St. Augustinegrass. And you have to get the timing right before it gets too hot,” Humphrey advises. “But we have found two split-rate applications done two months apart works wonderfully. There is no damage and it gives great control.”
Humphrey says the addition of Specticle FLO has decreased the amount of postemergence products his crews need to use, which frees up money in his budget for other products like fungicides, insecticides and fertilizers. Because of the long-lasting control, crews have to make fewer overall visits to properties, which cuts down on labor. For lawn care operators interested in incorporating Specticle FLO into their lawn care programs, Humphrey recommends following their Bayer representative’s guidelines closely and accurately to ensure the best results.
“Every time we have to revisit a property it costs us more money in labor and product,” Humphrey explains. “Having a product like Specticle FLO that lasts for over six months helps us get ahead of the game.”
The challenge of sandy soil.
In Naples, Florida, the sandy soil doesn’t retain nutrients well, which can leave turf vulnerable to weeds. Stahlman Landscape manager Leon Humphrey keeps troublesome weeds at bay—and clients happy—with Specticle FLO.
St. Augustinegrass solutions.
Leon Humphrey, manager at Stahlman Landscape and Property Maintenance in Naples, Florida (left), and Todd Lowe, Bayer Green Solutions Team Specialist (right) discuss the effects on St. Augustinegrass when using Specticle FLO.