For nearly half a century, Kramer Tree Specialists (KTS) has provided arboriculture services to customers in Chicago and the surrounding areas. Ben Deutsch has been the plant health care manager at KTS for the past ten years and is responsible for applying an integrated pest management approach to preventative maintenance, sustainable treatments, mechanical enhancements, and inspections.
As a family business with an established history, KTS has always valued its supplier relationships. Applicator efficiency and customer satisfaction are priorities for Ben when choosing plant health products, which led him to Foliar-Pak in 2016. One of the first Foliar-Pak products Ben incorporated into his program was Colonise Bio LTO.
The introduction of Foliar-Pak products at KTS initially met hesitance because of the familiarity with the fertility products the company had used previously. But the convenience and low cost associated with Foliar-Pak ultimately won over applicators and customers alike. The versatility of Colonise Bio LTO has allowed Ben’s team to use it for both trees and shrubs with more ease than their previous fertility products.
“The other fertilization we were using was more labor-intensive, as far as mixing goes,” Ben said. “Before, it was taking several different jugs and a powder and mixing the amount that you needed. It was just more of a pain. The guys like having just one product on their truck. And so it does cut down on the time that was spent mixing.” The crew is more efficient—and their application rates more precise—now that they can measure one liquid fertilizer into their tank mix.
Convenient products and packaging help KTS serve customers with a range of needs, from urban to suburban areas. “Our original backlog for spring fertilizations was around four to five hundred work orders, and those vary from doing one tree to doing three hundred trees. So we go through a lot,” Ben said. “And eventually we switched over to the drums, which helped keep the price down too.” Colonise Bio LTO now provides a strong foundation for the various services KTS provides its customers.
Because fertilization services produce benefits that are sometimes invisible, they can be hard to sell. “Fertilization is tough. It’s not like the fungicide sprays, that if you don’t do them, you know that you haven’t done them,” Ben said. But with soil testing, KTS has been able to show customers the importance of fertilizer and additive applications.
KTS works with Foliar-Pak to complete soil testing and correct any problems found. “It’s not just fertilization. They have additives that can boost a good product and make it better—we didn’t realize that at the beginning,” Ben said. “And then once they helped us with soil sampling, and you get the readout that shows you where you’re lacking, that definitely has helped. It definitely helps sell the product.”
It was a pleasant surprise to learn that Foliar-Pak offers additives for customized applications. “They usually have a product that can be added to supplement the Colonise, and they’ve been very helpful with us as far as if we have issues or recommendations for different things,” Ben said. And customers have come to appreciate such comprehensive tree care from KTS: “Most of our customers fertilize every year, and I think they are very happy with the product that we’re putting on the ground for their trees.”
While the benefits of fertilization are sometimes hidden, chlorosis treatment produces more visible results for customers to appreciate. Ben shared the success KTS has had using Chloroburst L to treat chlorotic trees: “We’ve been using Chloroburst for quite a few years now. We go through a lot of it to aid with chlorosis treatments—we do a lot of those. And so we mix it in with Colonise. And I do feel that we have turned trees around, especially the ones where we put the potassium or the other additives in with the fertilization.”
KTS has helped return health to chlorotic trees that would have eventually died without treatment. “It doesn’t happen with one application, but the people did notice a difference, and they requested it again the following year,” Ben said. Again, customers are learning the value of regular applications for tree health.
In addition to versatile products, Foliar-Pak has provided KTS with helpful resources to support their work. Ben’s representatives are always available to answer his product questions and help him find solutions to customer problems. John Gruneisen of Foliar-Pak has also helped educate KTS applicators and salespeople about their plant health products. “Whenever we have an issue or question, if he doesn’t know it—which he usually does—he’ll find out for us, and he’ll recommend things. It’s just nice having that resource,” Ben said.
For KTS, Foliar-Pak is a valued partner—not just another supplier. “They’re a good company to work with. They believe in the product,” Ben said. The partnership ultimately helps KTS live up to its name: “Our title is Kramer Tree Specialists, and I think it helps us that we’re trying to be more of a specialist as far as being able to give the customer what they need.”