Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Complexities Of Forecasting The Upcoming Winter

Major Storms and What's Next

If making an accurate 10-day forecast has become more difficult, think of the complexities of forecasting how the entire winter season might play out, months in advance. But this type of long-range forecasting — which doesn’t try to predict the dates of specific storms, but looks more at general weather patterns — is essential when it comes to planning and budgeting for winter snow and ice management operations.

“We ordinarily start thinking about snow in the last week of July,” says Ken Elliott, meteorologist and IT coordinator with WeatherWorks, a Hackettstown, New Jersey-based meteorological firm that provides services to clients in the snow and ice management industry. It usually takes that long to reach the point when until El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) weather patterns are established enough to have a sense of how the winter might play out in different parts of the country.

This type of long-range forecast is based on which pattern is developing (either warming with El Niño, cooling with La Niña, or neutral), where the forecasters think things will go and historical data for the winter weather that has resulted when these patterns were present in prior years.

Elliott says that a preliminary weather-pattern analysis, performed by James Sullivan and Cody Hewitt at WeatherWorks in early July, indicates a neutral phase of ENSO this winter — neither El Niño or La Niña.

“It more than likely will be what we call a ‘warm neutral’ season,” he explains. “Since El Niño is represented by warm waters in the equatorial Pacific Ocean, it’s likely that the waters will be a bit warmer than average, but not enough so to be classified as an El Niño.”

From a long-range forecasting perspective, a neutral pattern like this is the most difficult scenario, Elliott says; things are a little easier to predict when there’s a pronounced El Niño or La Niña pattern. “Unfortunately, this overall neutrality means other forecast factors, which are harder to forecast at long lead times, will probably have greater-than-normal influences this winter,” he says.

Still, the WeatherWorks team analyzed data from six prior years that had this same scenario and was able to identify some patterns in how the winters played out in those years. “Some are obviously better fits than others, but it’s a starting point,” Elliott says. Some of the trends from those past winters are:

  • The eastern U.S. was seasonable to mild early on, with a much colder pattern for February and March.
  • The central U.S. experienced conditions similar to the eastern U.S., but the transition to colder/snowier weather seems to have occurred a bit sooner.
  • The western U.S. was more changeable, with occasional cold periods, especially during December, January and March.
  • Despite some variability (one or two of these six years saw lean snowfall), the overall pattern was for average to above-normal snowfall distribution for a good portion of the country.

And just as a fun, shot-in-the-dark prediction, WeatherWorks says there is a small — but not insignificant — chance that the Southern Plains region could be in for a snowy winter.

With such generalized patterns, it’s impossible to say exactly how much snow any given area will receive this winter. “A single winter storm can throw off the entire winter’s forecast,” Elliott warns. That having been said, Brian Clavier and the team at WeatherWorks assembled data from 15 cities across the U.S. and determined their average snowfalls in the six seasons that seem comparable to our current weather patterns.

“We took that a bit further and created a weighted average, giving a bit more credence to the winters we felt had the best chance to look like 2017/18,” Elliott explains.

In general, Elliott says average snowfalls in the U.S. have been ticking up, and that is a trend that he expects to continue. In many cases, that is due to larger storm events and other anomalies (such as storms in places that don’t often get snow, for example). It’s just another challenge for weather forecasters to contend with.

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Fall Fertilization: One Size Does Not Fit All

Fertilizer

Like politics, all lawn care in America is local — well, let’s make that regional. But you get the point. Consider the differences in turfgrass growing conditions from Cleveland to Miami to Oklahoma City. Each region is markedly different in seasonal temperatures, precipitation levels, soil types and the dominant turfgrass species most suited to their unique conditions.

In other words, when it comes to fall fertilization, one size does not fit all. Lawn fertility regimes that benefit turfgrass in one region are wasteful and may even harm lawns in another. Also, soils in different regions of the country (even soils within a single region or market) may differ in terms of soil pH and plant-available nutrients such as phosphorus and potassium.

Don’t guess. If you don’t know what’s in the soil, how can you accurately prescribe a fertility program that’s most beneficial to the turfgrass it supports? When in doubt rely on soil tests to show you the way, especially for new or struggling properties coming under your care. Personnel at your county extension office can help you with advice and soil tests. In many cases their services are free.

Read more: Understanding a Soil Test Analysis Report

Now’s the time to fertilize

Let’s start with the birthplace of modern lawn care, the Northeast and Midwest where cool-season grasses such as Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass and tall fescue dominate residential and commercial properties.

If you can only fertilize these cool-season grasses once a year, do it in September. Turfgrass is recovering from July and August’s high soil temperatures and it’s beginning to store carbohydrate reserves, which help it to resist winter injury and disease, and serve as a source of energy for root and shoot growth the following spring.

Many professional application companies offer two late-season fertilizations. They apply one pound of quick-release nitrogen in late summer or early September and another application of N in late October or November. The mid- to late-fall application delivers better winter color, enhances spring green up and increases plant rooting.

Research at The Ohio State University has shown that root growth of cool-season turfgrass species occurs during the fall after shoot growth has slowed or ceased. This is because roots grow quite well when soil temperatures are between 40 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit, while shoot growth favors temperatures in the 60-75 F degree range. Some root growth will continue as long as the soil remains unfrozen, that research showed.

Look before you treat

Heed the following caveats when making fall applications of fertilizers. If the turfgrass is obviously not growing and likely dead, don’t waste your fall fertilizer. It’s not going to bring the grass back to health. Reseed or sod instead.

Also, don’t apply fertilizer just before you are expecting heavy rains or when the ground is frozen (either in the winter or early spring). Again, you will be wasting money. While most fertilizers require water to infiltrate the soil, a heavy rain can wash away the fertilizer before it enters the soil. When the ground is frozen, granular or liquid fertilizers cannot permeate the soil. Fertilizer will find its way into storm drains or other waterways adding nitrogen and potassium to the water. This can lead to algae blooms and have other negative affects.

Finally, you may encounter lawns with large shady areas where one of several varieties of fine fescue predominates. There are many different cultivars of fescues. You can cut back on the amount of nitrogen fescues receive to perhaps half of what you use on Kentucky bluegrass. Applying no more than 0.50 pound of nitrogen in mid fall is recommended for fine fescues.

Transition zone blues

Maintaining green, lush lawns in the so-called transition zone is a bigger challenge than it is in climates farther north and south. The zone extends through the central part of the country – from northern Maryland westward through the Ohio Valley to Kansas and the Texas Panhandle with its southern boundary dissecting Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina. This region of the country is cold enough in the winter to make it difficult to maintain warm-season species and warm enough in the summer to severely stress cool-season species. No one species is well adapted in this region.

Cool-season species such as bluegrass, fescues and ryegrasses are common in the northern half of the zone, so you can, making adjustments for local conditions, fertilize these lawns as previously suggested.

Tall fescue in particular is common on any residential and commercial properties in the transition zone. Fescues require a medium-level of nitrogen fertility per growing month, but generally respond well to applications of one pound of nitrogen in both September and again in November.

Fertilize only during growth

Warm-season grasses such as bermudagrass, buffalograss and zoysiagrass are found in the more southerly parts of this region.

Bermudagrass is the most common lawn grass in many regions of the Mid-South. It is popular because it is durable and recovers rapidly from wear. Fertilize bermudagrass when it is actively growing from May through August, although applying no more than 0.50 pound N per 1,000 square feet in September four to six months before the first expected frost is beneficial, as well, suggests University of Arkansas extension.

Zoysiagrass grows by both stolons and rhizomes. It goes dormant with the first frost. Do not apply nitrogen to zoysiagrass after the end of August, advises Clemson cooperative extension. By contrast, zoysias.com says that while fertilizer requirements are generally lower for zoysia than many other lawn grasses, they do benefit from a fall application.

Fertilize buffalograss in summer when it is actively growing, one to two pounds annually, suggests Kansas State University. Do not fertilize it in the fall or spring when it is dormant. The grass will not respond and you will be wasting fertilizer.

Centipedegrass is another warm-season grass found on lawns in the South. Like buffalograss it does not require very much fertilizer — one to two pounds N annually while it is actively growing, starting with a half-pound in the spring, reports Clemson extension.

Timing always matters

We come to Florida and the warm coastal regions of the Southeast and Texas where St. Augustine lawns grace residential and commercial properties. Fall fertilization gets tricky depending upon where the St. Augustine lawns are.  Winters in north Florida and other more northerly regions where the grass grows are much colder than south Florida and coastal far southeast Texas that typically have near-tropical winters. Consequently, timing the last fertilization of the season while the grass is still actively growing and before it goes dormant depends on local conditions.

Finally, Florida law prohibits applying more than one pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet for any application. Also, many local and regional jurisdictions in the state have strict rules about when and how much fertilizer can be applied to turfgrass. Follow the rules.

America is a land of incredible diversity in terms of geography and climate. Consequently, many different species of turfgrass, each adapted to a particular region, require our care. When it comes to lawn fertilization, and fall fertilization in particular, one size does not fit all.

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Monday, 25 September 2017

5 Landscape Trends For Fall 2017

Fall landscaping

Fall is officially in full swing – regardless of what the weather feels like. This fall season has been warmer than usual for most parts of the country meaning that homeowners will be spending more time outside enjoying their landscapes. Looking to extend their summer entertaining season, homeowners will look for an adaptable landscape no matter the weather. The National Association of Landscape Professionals says your clients will be interested in the following trends this fall.

1. Fire Features

Hardscape Fireplace and Pizza Oven, Colorado

PHOTO: Lindgren Landscape & Irrigation Inc.

Fall is the most popular time for clients to request fire features, like outdoor fire pits, fireplaces and fire tables, according to the NALP. Many current fire features can be controlled remotely by smartphones, or programmed to turn on or off at specific times. They help bring ambience and warmth to your client’s outdoor living area.

2. Fall Plants

Falling for Color

PHOTO: JOHNSON’S NURSERY

Chrysanthemums, boxwood and maples are hallmarks of fall landscapes, according to the NALP. Some of those classic plants have been engineered to be more hardy, longer lasting and require less water. This fall, try arranging the classic fall and winter plants in a modern style with contemporary groupings, clean lines and simple sophistication.

3. Landscape Lighting

Fireplace lighting

Photo: Brian Larsen, County Wide Landscapeing

More landscape designs are incorporating lighting so the outdoor areas can be enjoyed safely at any time of day. “Proper landscape lighting is especially important during the shorter fall and winter days, ensuring outdoor play areas are well-lit and walkways are easily accessible through the evening and nighttime hours,” the NALP says.

4. Unique Hardscape Materials

porcelain pavers

Photo: Belgard

More durable, low-maintenance materials, such as porcelain tiles for patios, decks and walkways, are rising in popularity. They mimic the look of real wood and natural stone, but have less maintenance, don’t cause splinters and are less likely to wear out over time or be damaged from weather. Also on trend: faux finishes and materials on outdoor furniture, such as synthetics that look like real leather.

5. Interiorscapes

Living wall

Photo: iStock

Indoor landscapes, known as interiorscapes, become more popular in the fall and winter as temperatures drop and homeowners begin to spend more time indoors. Living walls and container gardens help bring the outdoors in and can even create dramatic focal points as living decorations.

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2017 Product Roundup: Aeration And Overseeding Equipment

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Billy Goat
OS 901
The OS 901 self-propelled hydrostatic overseeder features forward and reverse operator controls. The blade design reduces thatch and improves blade life due to its sharpened leading edge, attack angle and height adjustment for more blade depth. The unit is 22 inches wide with an 11-blade slicing reel and comes standard with a 30-pound seed box.
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Graham Spray Equipment
GSE Trident
Our coring-type hand aerator is constructed from rugged steel and includes a foam handle for extra comfort. The GSE Trident aerator gets into those tight spots where a full-sized aerator can’t go. Its three prongs penetrate even dense, heavily compacted soil, removing 3- to 4-inch plugs and letting air, water and nutrients travel deep down to the roots.

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Jacobsen
GA-24
The GA-24 aerator features a 9-horsepower Briggs & Stratton Vanguard engine. The unit has four tine sizes for varying soil conditions. The light weight and maneuverability allows for tight turns without causing turf damage. It creates a 2-inch-by-2-inch aeration pattern.
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LT Rich Products
Z-Plug
The redesigned Z-Plug stand-on, zero-turn aerator has improved ergonomics and a shorter wheelbase designed to provide better maneuverability. The commercial V-Twin engine now has easier access to its components for maintenance and repair. The machine has a maximum ground speed of 8 mph and can aerate over 100,000 square feet per hour.

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Redexim
1275
The 1275 overseeder from Redexim buries the seed up to 0.78 inches into the ground. The close spacing results in a quicker fill time and eliminates waste with the accurate seeding system. The machine can be pulled with a utility vehicle.
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RYAN Turf
Lawnaire ZTS
The new Lawnaire ZTS stand-on aerator can cover 2.25 acres per hours at speeds up to 7 mph. The machine features a shock-absorbing platform, a rapid hydraulic tine lift, an automatic chain-tensioning system and hassle-free access panels. It produces consistent aeration depth from 2 to 5 inches in half-inch increments.

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Toro
Aerator
The 30-inch stand-on aerator from Toro features ground speeds up to 7.5 mph and the ability to adjust plug length on the go. The floating operator platform isolates vibrations, reducing operator fatigue, according to the company.
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Turfco
TurnAer XT8
The new TurnAer XT8 stand-on aerator has speeds up to 7 mph and can cover 92,000 square feet per hour. The unit has raised ground clearance and zero-turn agility. The patent-pending Auto-Depth Control allows operators to set a tine depth for consistency.

 

 

Have a new product? Submit entries using our Product Form for Turf, Turf Design Build and PLOW, a supplement to Turf.

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Acoustics Of Red Rocks Park

Red Rocks Park

Red Rocks Park with its very large red sandstone outcrops, has been an inspiration in Colorado since the early 1900s.

This mountain park in Jefferson County, Colorado, is owned and maintained by the city of Denver as part of the Denver Mountain Parks system. The red sandstone found throughout Red Rocks Park is geologically identified as belonging to the Fountain Formation, which means these rocks are considered to be between 290 and 296 million years old. The rock formations at Red Rocks even have names — from the mushroom-shaped Seat of Pluto to the inclined Cave of the Seven Ladders to the most visited rocks around the amphitheater, which are Creation Rock to the north, Ship Rock to the south and State Rock to the east.

Within the park boundaries is the Red Rocks Amphitheater, a world famous and award-winning venue for hosting concerts and events that’s a favorite among many performers because of its near-perfect acoustic surroundings. In fact, after being awarded Pollstar magazine’s Best Small Outdoor Venue 11 years in a row, the magazine named the award after the venue, taking it out of the running.

PHOTO: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

And, this year, the park and amphitheater are adding to their status after being named a national historic landmark, along with Mount Morrison Civilian Conservation Corps Camp, the spot where workers stayed while they built the park’s famed amphitheater in the 1930s.

“The outstanding architecture and landscape architecture of Red Rocks Park and Mount Morrison Civilian Conservation Corps Camp illustrate the principles and practices of New Deal-era naturalistic park design and master planning in a metropolitan park, as well as the use of Civilian Conservation Corps labor to develop such a park,” the National Park Service said in a news release.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper agrees. Red Rocks is “renowned as the only naturally occurring, acoustically perfect amphitheater in the world, and the diverse landscape attracts thousands of outdoor enthusiasts and even dinosaur fans,” he says. “The Mount Morrison CCC camp is another historical treasure in the park, and one of the few surviving camps in the nation.”

Red Rocks is the 25th national historic landmark in Colorado.

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in September 2015.

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Green Spaces Make Memorable Cities

New York Central Park

Have you visited New York City? What about this bustling city stands out to you? What about Washington, D.C.? What’s the No. 1 thing that comes to mind when you think about your visit to the nation’s capitol? How about San Francisco? What is your fondest memory of this West Coast hub?

I’m going to bet that some of your most memorable and meaningful experiences in these iconic major metropolitan areas revolve around the outdoors. Think Central Park in New York City, Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, or the cherry blossoms blooming in Washington, D.C.

Studies consistently show people tend to live healthier and happier lives in areas where they have access to nature, particularly urban areas that dedicate land to green spaces.

And the more space devoted to nature a city has, the more memorable that place becomes for residents and visitors.

Washington, D.C., devotes one-fifth of its land to parks. Green spaces account for almost 18 percent of San Francisco. In fact, the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department spends $140 per each of its more than 800,000 residents on the park system. The money certainly goes to good use with nearly all of the residents being within a 10-minute walk to a park. And New York City boasts more than 38,000 square acres of park, which accounts for almost 20 percent of the city area.

I’ve been to all three of these major metropolitan cities more than once. And I can tell you I have very clear memories of strolling through Central Park, watching the fog hang low over the Golden Gate Bridge and enjoying the gorgeous cherry blossoms blooming around the Tidal Basin and welcoming spring in D.C.

Recent high-profile projects like Millennium Park have captured public attention for the landscape architects designing them. Since outdoor spaces are some of the least expensive to create, paying some of the highest returns on investment, and more people are returning to urban areas, continuing to invest in these green spaces makes sense.

“Landscape architects understand the natural environment, the built environment and the interface between them,” explains Kirt Martin, vice president of design and marketing at Landscape Forms. “And they are ideally prepared to take leadership in shaping outdoor spaces and framing public awareness about them.”

But buildings and their interiors continue to receive much more attention and financial support than their exteriors. “We have not made a strong business case for designed outdoor spaces,” Martin says. “I believe the design and innovation in public and privately owned outdoor spaces is lagging• — and the first step to address that challenge is to better leverage the skills and talents of landscape architects, the professionals best prepared to design them.”

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in September 2015.

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Friday, 22 September 2017

Like A Boss: Filling A Valuable Niche

Bioretention rain garden

Chris Darnell, business development and marketing manager for Bluegrass Landscaping & Maintenance

Chris Darnell, business development and marketing manager for Bluegrass Landscaping & Maintenance

When bioretention first came to the St. Louis area four or five years ago, Bluegrass Landscaping & Maintenance, headquartered in Bridgeton, Missouri, took the bull by the horns. They made an effort to learn as much about servicing those areas as they could. While other companies have dragged their feet a bit, Bluegrass sent someone to get certified. They have also put effort into training crews to better understand storm water management and they’re investing in educating clients with blogs and even a webpage that is dedicated to the service. That effort is paying off.

Chris Darnell, the company’s business development and marketing manager, says Bluegrass initially pursued bioretention because St. Louis’ Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) had put regulations on new building to be installed with bioretention rain gardens when displacing land or green space. Darnell says it was initially slow to the market but is now hitting full stride with MSD checking the conditions and enforcing standards. Darnell says the sewer system in St. Louis already struggles under the pressure of storm water and bioretention is addressing that.

“Bioretention areas help slow the water entering the sewer system, filter pollutants and trash, and allow water to be absorbed,” Darnell explains.

Since it’s still relatively new to those in the area, Darnell says that their effort to learn as much about it and to keep up with the changes has been valuable. It’s not uncommon for them to be chosen by clients largely because of their ability to manage bioretention areas when others cannot. As a result, they’ve been able to sell their other services as well.

Darnell says the company has learned a lot in a short amount of time. While bioretention was initially sold as “low maintenance” (due to the use of sustainable plants) people are learning this is not necessarily true. Typically, the contractor site plans include some recommended maintenance — and that’s where Bluegrass can step up. Those services include trash removal, weeding and plant/tree trimming, mulch replacement, soil aeration, and plant replacement when necessary. These are all areas where crews should be trained, Darnell adds.

“Make sure your team is trained on the differences between weeds and native plants,” he advises. “They look very similar. We have taken over several accounts where other contractors have pulled all of the plants, thinking they were all weeds.”

Our Like a Boss series highlights some common business challenges landscape professionals face and how they conquer them. Discuss your biggest business challenges on LawnSite’s Business Management forum.

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Best-Run Companies: Pacific Landscape Management

What does it take to make best-run company? Follow along as we uncover the secrets of a well-run landscape company through a series of company profiles and best practices.

Having worked as a regional manager for the Northwest for TruGreen (after they purchased Northwest Landscape Industries) for a couple of years, overseeing 500 employees, Bob Grover certainly knew what it took to manage people and build a positive culture. When he went on to form Pacific Landscape Management, a Hillsboro, Oregon-based commercial maintenance and renovation company, he put those management skills to work. But Grover says in addition to his inward focus on company culture, it’s also been a commitment to the customer that has really helped him succeed.

Bob Grover

In fact, he recently presented on a topic with his coined catch phrase: “Just don’t suck at the landscaping part.” Grover says that good customer relationships have more to do with communication and follow-through than it does producing an outstanding landscape. A lot of people can do a good job at the landscaping part, but it’s the communication with the client where all the difference is made. Grover says if you do a fantastic landscape job but don’t talk to your customer about it, you don’t get the credit for it. Conversely, when you screw up — and you don’t tell the customer about it — the impact is 10 times worse.

“I tell my people, if you make a mistake, tell the customer about it and let them know how you are going to fix it,” Grover says. “It’s human nature to want to just fix it and hope they won’t notice, but the truth is — while I would never advocate anyone screwing up on purpose — you get a ton of mileage out of the recovery phase. People love honesty. And they come to really trust you when you’re willing to admit you messed up and then you go fix it.”

Grover says that the two most vital pieces to a successful business are the relationship with the customer and the relationship with the employees. He says that “both have to be your partners.” And if you abuse either side, it will hurt your business. Still, that’s not to say that you shouldn’t keep pushing forward. After all, without pushing forward, you’ll never grow. Grover says that building strong relationships — both with employees and clients — allows you to be able to successfully do just that.

“We drive our people really hard and have very high expectations for them, but we do so in an appreciative manner,” Grover says. “If we didn’t have that strong relationship with our employees, we couldn’t do that. In the same way, we push the envelope when it comes to charging for our work. We aren’t the low bid. We charge a lot without ever making our customers feel taken advantage of or disrespected and that’s also because of our strong relationship with them. They know we are charging more so we can do more. And they see the value in it.”

While even the best companies will admit they “always have room for growth,” there are definitely some businesses in the green industry that are already employing many of the practices industry professionals say epitomize a best-run company. Follow along as we uncover the secrets of a well-run landscape company through a series of company profiles and best practices.

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Thursday, 21 September 2017

Snowiest States Provide Contractors Big Opportunities

United States map

It’s the kind of list you want to be on if you’re a skier, a snowmobiler or a snow-management pro. For everyone else, having your home state on this list is a dubious honor. We set out to identify the snowiest states in the U.S. — the places where, year-in and year-out, the snow keeps piling up and plows keep pushing it back.

Trying to assemble a list of the snowiest states is trickier than you might think. It’s easy to single out the specific places that get the most snow. The top of Mt. Washington in New Hampshire, the highest peak in the Northeast, gets an average of 282 inches of snow each year. However, the only people there are meteorological researchers living in a reinforced concrete bunker.

Out West, Mt. Rainier is usually the snow king, with an average of 645 inches annually. But we were interested in determining the snowiest states overall, not the snowiest locations within a state. Besides, we’re looking at this from a snow and ice management perspective, so we didn’t want to look at snowfall atop mountains. We wanted to look at the places where people live and snow services are required.

The criteria we used

We started with a list of the five most populous cities in each state, recorded the average annual snowfall for each of those cities, then calculated the average of those figures. The hope was that, by working with the five largest cities in each state, we’d be incorporating some geographic diversity, and get a sense of just how snowy the state is overall — at least in populated areas.

Of course, that left out states like California. The northern Sierra Nevada mountain range gets absurd amounts of snow (751 inches, or nearly 63 feet, in 2016-17 alone), but the state’s population is mainly in southern cities like Los Angeles and San Diego, where snow is practically unheard of. Ditto for Oregon, where the snow piles up in the Cascades, but the average for the five most populous cities (Portland, Salem, Eugene, Gresham and Hillsboro) is just 3.82 inches a year.

Then there’s Pennsylvania. Erie, which has the state’s fourth-highest population, is one of the snowiest cities in the country, averaging 101.2 inches annually. But when you factor in Philadelphia (22.4), Pittsburgh (41.9), Allentown (32.9) and Reading (44), you end up with an average of 48.48 inches for the state. Michigan was close behind with 46.4 inches. That’s nearly 4 feet of snow annually — impressive, but not enough to crack the top 10 on our list.

In fact, all of our top 10 snow states came in with more than 50 inches annually (honorable mention goes to Utah, which just missed the cut with a tally of 50.12 inches). A wide swath of the country is represented, from far-west Alaska to far-east Maine, from Colorado in the Rockies to Minnesota in the upper Midwest.

Ultimately, the winner — by a fairly comfortable margin — was tiny Vermont. What it lacks in size, it makes up for in snowfall. And, because it’s so small, every part of the state is snowy, so there are no warmer-weather cities to drag down the average.

The silver medal goes to New York. If the competition had been focused on just one portion of the state, it may well have taken the top spot. Western New York, thanks to copious amounts of lake-effect snow from the Great Lakes, is one of the snowiest places in the country. In fact, Syracuse, with 123.8 inches annually, was the snowiest city on our list.

Why the snow goes where it goes

Assembling this list was a fun exercise, and certainly there are bragging rights on the line, but we wanted to dig a little deeper to find out why some of these states get so much more snow than others do. Obviously, all of the states on the list get plenty of cold weather in the winter, but there’s more to it than that, explains Roger Hill, a meteorologist who provides weather services to a variety of clients, from radio stations and utility companies to municipal road crews in — fittingly — Worcester, Vermont, where he resides.

“It’s a combination of things,” he says. “Obviously it takes cold air to produce snow. But the Dakotas are super cold, and eastern Montana is cold, but it’s not that snowy there, really.” Moisture is also required. “So you have sources of moisture, like the Great Lakes, and downwind of the lakes, you get these plumes that really unload tremendous amounts of snow. That’s why you hear of places like Buffalo and Syracuse and Rochester in New York getting so much.”

In Vermont and other New England states, snow often piles up thanks to nor’easters — storms that draw moisture from the Atlantic Ocean and then dump it inland. “That’s what pushes the snow totals up for us,” Hill says. “But not all of our snow is from nor’easters; it’s also frontal systems and Alberta Clipper systems and little, frequent snowfalls that add up over time.”

Hill says that in recent years, the Northeast has been getting more snow. “What’s happening is that all precipitation, whether it’s rain or snow, is increasing in the Northeastern U.S.,” he explains. Part of that is just plain physics. As the temperature rises, it holds more moisture – but there’s another factor in the mix. “The jet stream is slowing, and when the jet stream slows, you get these waves, and the troughs and ridges are much more amplified. The pattern defaults and locks into a trough in the East and a ridge out West, so for a period of time, you’ll have many storms going over the same area. The Northeast lines up like that better than most places do.”

So there might be fewer storms, but more snow from each storm in certain regions. “When it does snow, it snows more,” Hill says. “The key words are ‘erratic’ and ‘variable.’ It’s all produced by climate change, and that’s all related to the loss of the ice up in the pole. It’s only going to get worse.”

The increased variability means that weather these days is “less calendar-like,” Hill says. “It used to be that, when it got to Thanksgiving in New England, we knew it was going start being snowy, with slight variations. Now, it’s highly variable. It could be January and all of a sudden it’s up to 65 degrees and the snow melts … and then we have a rain event, with just a tiny bit of snow at the end.

“And what this increasing variability means is that there’s more ice than there ever has been.” That means road maintenance crews require bigger budgets for materials to treat that ice.

Hill says that in his profession, the variability makes it more difficult to forecast individual storm events. Even the modeling algorithms, which use historical climatology, are confused by the changing climate and weather patterns. And that’s planet-wide, not just in certain parts of the U.S., he points out. “Past about five or six days out, the model verification falls off dramatically,” he explains. “So if you hear a seven- or 10-day forecast, treat it with a grain of salt. Or a little bit of sand!”

Visit PlowSite.com for more forums on equipment, business management and technical information. Join the conversation in the largest community of snow and ice business professionals.

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CASE Begins Heavy Equipment Operations for Hurricane Harvey Recovery: This Week’s Industry News

CASE Hurricane Relief

Want to keep up with the latest news in lawn care and landscaping? Check back every Thursday for a quick recap of recent happenings in the green industry.

CASE Teams Up With Team Rubicon To Provide Hurricane Relief
CASE kicked off heavy equipment operations in the Rockport, Texas area, in partnership with Team Rubicon, this past Thursday, September 14. Initial heavy equipment operations included debris removal and home demolition near Rockport and Aransas Pass, Texas, where the eye of Hurricane Harvey made landfall in August. Sonsray Machinery, Inc. of California also shipped compact track loaders in for the operation, and Michelin North America, Inc. donated sets of its Tweel airless radial tires to outfit skid steers working in demolition applications. Since Hurricane Harvey made landfall, Team Rubicon has deployed 768 volunteers to Texas in support of the ongoing relief efforts with debris removal, damage assessments, muck outs, expedient home repair and chainsaw operations.

Arborjet Launches New Mn-jet Fe Liquid Micronutrient Solution
Arborjet Inc. has announced Mn-jet Fe, its new liquid micronutrient solution for trees, palms, shrubs and groundcovers. Fast and effective, Mn-jet Fe alleviates interveinal chlorosis caused by micronutrient deficiencies. Interveinal chlorosis in plants is result of micronutrient deficiencies, specifically iron and manganese. The foliage on chlorotic trees turns a pale green to yellow hue while the veins remain dark green; necrosis and twig dieback occurs in severe cases. When left untreated, chlorotic trees decline over several years and become more susceptible to insects and disease. This is a common condition throughout the United States that affects a number of species including oak, sweetgum, birch, pine, maple, and azaleas. Chlorosis is especially prevalent in the west and midwest regions of the U.S. where soils tend to be alkaline. Arborjet will be offering a free educational Mn-jet Fe webinar on Tuesday, October 3, 2017 at 3:30 p.m. CDT.

Deadline for IA Pitcher’s Mound ideas extended to Sept. 27
Do you have an irrigation product idea that could change the landscape of the industry? The Irrigation Association invites you to debut your idea and get valuable feedback from industry leaders at the IA Pitcher’s Mound during the Irrigation Show. The 2017 IA Pitcher’s Mound will include a special guest appearance from former “Shark Tank” success story and creator of the infamous tree T-PEE, Johnny Georges. Georges will speak about his experiences on the show and how pitching his product idea changed his life.

Toro Awarded National Contract by The National Joint Powers Alliance
The Toro Company has officially been awarded a national cooperative contract by The National Joint Powers Alliance for commercial turf maintenance equipment, commercial and residential irrigation solutions, residential and landscape contractor products and BOSS snow and ice management products. The new contract is valid for use in both the United States and Canada.

Daimler launches first all-electric truck in series production
Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus Corporation, part of Daimler Trucks announced the global launch of the FUSO eCanter in New York City. The FUSO eCanter is the first series-produced all-electric light-duty truck and will be delivered to customers starting this year in the US, Europe and Japan. MFTBC is planning to deliver 500 units of this generation to customers within the next two years. Larger scale production is intended to start in 2019.

Brookside Agra Hires Mary Doerschuck as Product Registration & Compliance Manager
Brookside Agra has hired Mary Doerschuck of Okawville, Illinois as Product Registration & Compliance Manager. In this role, Doerschuck will coordinate product registrations, trademarks and renewals, as well as handle Brookside’s tonnage reports, export documentation and accounts payable and receivable. She will also provide sales, customer service and administrative support. Doerschuck comes to Brookside Agra with more than 10 years of combined customer service, and account management experience, with a focus on contract administration, global trade compliance and export regulatory compliance.

Bobcat Donates Over $325,000 in Equipment to Assist with Hurricane Relief Efforts
Doosan Bobcat is donating over $325,000 worth of Bobcat equipment and Doosan Portable Power light towers and generators to assist with Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma relief efforts. The company is also providing financial assistance to affected Doosan Bobcat North America dealership employees and their families, and Doosan Bobcat North America employees will direct annual charitable drives toward assisting those impacted by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

Florida-Based Toro Dealer Expands to Alabama and Mississippi
Southern Drill Supply Inc., a trusted Toro equipment dealer, announces a new location in Biloxi, Mississippi, which will provide sales and service primarily to the Florida panhandle, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. Southern Drill Supply was founded in 2009 in Pensacola, Florida, and previously served the utility construction markets in Florida and Georgia. Southern Drill Supply and Toro have been working together since early 2016. Southern Drill Supply offers sales, rental, parts and service for Toro’s entire portfolio of underground products including directional drills, trenchers, vibratory plows, compact utility loaders, tree care and compaction product lines.

Grigg Brothers Re-brands As GRIGG
Grigg Brothers, a turf nutrition brand, is being re-branded as simply GRIGG. BRANDT, who bought Grigg Brothers in 2014, is a leading manufacturer of specialty products for the turf and ornamental market. The rebrand effort celebrates GRIGG’s commitment to science-based products, turf research and proven agronomic principles and embraces the research-driven approach that the Grigg family has created. The rebranding includes a new website and a revamped social media presence on Facebook and on Twitter using the handle @GRIGGco.

Toro Announces 2018 Super Bowl Sports Turf Training Program
The Toro Company is pleased to announce the 16th annual Toro Super Bowl Sports Turf Training Program. In January 2018, one lucky turfgrass science student will travel to Minneapolis, Minnesota, to help the grounds crew prepare the field for the biggest game in football. Starting with the inaugural World Championship in 1967, the NFL grounds crew has relied on Toro for its expertise and equipment in preparing the game field and multiple practice facilities. In 2002, the organizations partnered to establish the Toro Super Bowl Sports Turf Training Program. This year’s recipient will work alongside NFL field director, Ed Mangan, George Toma, and the Super Bowl grounds crew at U.S. Bank Stadium on synthetic turf maintenance, logo painting, field preparation for media day, halftime preparation and field clean-up. Beginning on January 27, 2018, the winner will be on hand at U.S. Bank Stadium preparing the field leading up to the game on February 4, 2018.

Brandt Partners With SiteOne
Brandt, a manufacturer of specialty products for the turf, agriculture and lawn and garden markets, signed a distribution agreement with SiteOne Landscape Supply. With this agreement, all Brandt and Brandt iHammer turf and ornamental products are available at all SiteOne locations. This is Brandt’s first national distribution agreement that covers the U.S. and Canada.

Vandalia Rental to Open Doors in Sharonville on October 2nd
Vandalia Rental has announced that they will officially open on Monday, October 2, at their new facility in Sharonville, Ohio. The third generation family owned and operated business is known for its diverse fleet mix and honest sales approach that began when it was founded in 1961. With this latest expansion to Sharonville, the rental company will now service the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky area in response to the increasing demand from the contractors requesting their presence. This expansion in Sharonville will be the third rental facility for the Ohio based company.

Read last week’s industry news roundup: ECHO Expands Illinois Headquarters

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Best-Run Companies: Ruppert Landscape

The Science of Success

Craig Ruppert

What does it take to make best-run company? Follow along as we uncover the secrets of a well-run landscape company through a series of company profiles and best practices. 

Started in 1976 and having grown to a nationally recognized name, Ruppert Landscape now has branches between Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Atlanta, Georgia, and has continued to thrive. CEO Craig Ruppert says that having a well-run company often comes down to clear communication, particularly when you grow larger.

“We have an openbook company,” Ruppert says. “That means we first share and then encourage our teams to learn what is important to our company’s success. This includes our financial performance [what the score is], our key goals and how we measure our success, and our plans for the future.”

Ruppert says he has found that the more one feels included and informed, the more likely they are to feel like an important part of the team and to feel empowered and committed to the company’s success.

“This higher level of commitment to our people results in a higher level of service to the customer,” he adds.

All companies, as they grow, will ultimately hit a plateau, Ruppert continues. When this occurs, Ruppert says the owner and key management have the choice to continue to grow or to maintain their business at a size that matches their personal comfort level.

“If a business continues to grow, then expansion of control systems is required along with an increased level of delegation,” Ruppert says. “Both usually require the addition of talented people. The ability to attract and retain good people is dependent on a leader’s ability to develop systems that streamline processes and communication and their willingness to trust others at a high level.”

While even the best companies will admit they “always have room for growth,” there are definitely some businesses in the green industry that are already employing many of the practices industry professionals say epitomize a best-run company. Follow along as we uncover the secrets of a well-run landscape company through a series of company profiles and best practices.

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Wednesday, 20 September 2017

When is the Best Time to Plant Grass Seed in Minnesota?

Whether you are planting a new lawn for the first-time, or reseeding a small area, a lush green yard is what you are after. But obtaining one is more than throwing down grass seed and adding sun and water.

 A beautiful yard is the result of many factors: high-quality grass seed, proper watering techniques,When is the Best Time to Plant Grass Seed in Minnesota? fertilizer, aeration, and good timing. A well-timed and well-informed decision on when to plant grass seed may make the difference between a pristine lawn, and a blemished one. Let’s take a look at some considerations before the project begins to determine the best time to plant grass seed in Minnesota.

Before You Begin
First, why are you reseeding? For example, is the grass underneath your favorite oak tree thinning? Has the oak tree’s canopy expanded so that sunlight cannot protrude it? Is it likely that your favorite oak tree grows it is taking more water and nutrients to survive, and leaving less water and nutrients for the grass nearby? If this sounds familiar, or if your case is completely different, look to make changes (e.g. watering, pruning, etc) so you don’t find yourself in another reseeding project soon.

Best Time
When is the Best Time to Plant Grass Seed in Minnesota?In cool weather states like Minnesota, the best time to plant grass seed is late summer to early fall. This time frame gives the cool weather grass seeds (e.g. Kentucky bluegrass, fine fescues, perennial ryegrass, etc.) the best chance for survival. This time frame is also past any extreme heat from the summer months. Established grasses will be going dormant at winter approaches, giving the growing seeds a better chance of grabbing essential nutrients. Lawns seeded in late summer and early fall are more likely to fill in completely for winter and produce a thicker turf appearance the following spring. And with the onset of fall, the nights are growing longer and cooler which will help any new grass stay moist and not dry out.

Weather Considerations
During the growing season, grass can grow at almost any time but there are a couple of considerations to keep in mind. If you have an opportunity to select the time you plant, wait until the day before or the day of a rain shower to plant your grass seed. A gentle watering will help the seeds germinate. However, if a thunderstorm or significant rainfall is in the forecast, you may want to delay your plans. Too much rain on virgin or prepared soil will cause the seeds to runoff towards nearby storm drains. Causing you to literally watch your seeds go down the drain. On the other hand, if you plant seeds during a drought it will be very difficult to keep them irrigated enough to help them establish roots.

When is the Best Time to Plant Grass Seed in Minnesota?

Lastly, avoid planting during an extreme heat wave or cold snap. Such extremes can occur in late summer and early fall, but these abnormal temperature swings will make it even more difficult for the seeds to germinate.

How Long Before Results
If you plant your grass seeds and they germinate, you should see new sprouts in about two weeks. If two weeks have passed and there are no grass sprouts, then reseed and be sure to water properly. The most important factor when planting grass seed is the proper amount of water. Frequent and timely irrigation to ensure that the soil is moist during germination is best. Too much irrigation will turn your yard into a lake and cause the grass seed to wash away.

How To

  • Seeding should be spread a half rate in perpendicular directions across the area that needs to be seeded.
  • Follow up with a light raking, but allow 10-15% of the seed to show.
  • Use a roller or cultipacker over the area will ensure good seed-to-soil contact.
  • Follow a frequent watering program by applying light irrigation up to three to four times a day.When is the Best Time to Plant Grass Seed in Minnesota?
  • After germination, reduce watering frequency as roots grow into the soil.

Where to Start
If you want it done right, you need to start with high-quality grass seed. Fra-Dor Landscape Supplies has grass seed, and other quality materials for all of your landscaping needs. For competitive pricing on all of your residential and commercial projects, contact Fra-dor for a quote today.

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Story Of A Landscape: A Japanese Import Earns Turf Replacement Honors

bocce ball court

Sometimes in business, it pays to be a little bold and to take a risk or two. Or maybe it’s not risky at all.

Just ask Allen Landscape, Inc. The Oceanside, California-based design/build firm earned not one, but two first place beautification awards from the California Landscape Contractors Association San Diego chapter for a project whose largest component is a product they’d never used before.

Probably the best explanation of the scope of the job comes from the fact that the firm was honored for a small renovation and a large turf conversion. Both, however, were done to help the clients reach their goal of water reduction at their home in the upscale Rancho Pacifica neighborhood.

Container plants

Photo: Allen Landscape Inc.

Allen Landscape’s Jason Dobbie explains that the project was designed by Greg Hebert Landscape Architect. Allen Landscape was hired to do the installation based mainly on their stellar reputation in the neighborhood.

“It’s a large property, and they were looking to use a lot less water by eliminating 80 percent of the turf and putting in some play areas,” Dobbie says. “Although we put in a 90-foot by 12-foot bocce court to fill some of that space, to eliminate a lot of the lawn we used a product called kurapia.”

Kurapia with crushed rock

Photo: Allen Landscape Inc.

He explains that kurapia was developed in Japan to replace lawns. Rather than acting like sod, it’s planted 18 inches on center and creeps outward, filling in the space around it. Among its other attributes are that it only grows to a height of about 1 inch and it requires less water than a cool season turf grass.

“The only real downside with it is it has little clover-like flowers that attract bees,” says Dobbie. “For that reason, it probably isn’t recommended for families with young children. And, you do want to have some bender board or something similar to keep it within its space.”

Kurapia

Photo: Allen Landscape Inc.

However, the kurapia is the centerpiece of a project that involved removing turf from both the front and back yards of the predominantly flat property. The remainder of the landscaping involved ornamental grasses and some large areas of plants to give the project a Mediterranean look.

Dobbie says at the request of the clients he did change out some of the plantings from what the landscape architect had proposed. He also helped the clients pick out some large pots that were custom planted.

bocce ball court

Photo: Allen Landscape Inc.

“We also updated all the irrigation in those areas that had been lawn,” he says. “Depending on the area, we put in new drip or MP rotor spray systems for the kurapia. Drainage was already there, and underground.”

The one exception to that was the bocce court, which is the largest hardscape component of the job.

“We did the whole nine yards on that,” says Dobbie. “There’s a wooden border, layers of base material and decomposed granite, with a layer of oyster shells on top. That’s the proper top layer of a bocce court.”

Drought and shade tolerant plants

Photo: Allen Landscape Inc.

He adds that good drainage for the bocce court was important, and it, too, ties in with the existing underground system that flows to the street.

Because the clients already had a pool, patio and walkways, the only other hardscape installed was some deteriorating granite pathways, including one to the bocce court.

“This was just a facelift to bring the property up with the current time,” he says. “The home was built about 2000, and everybody has been doing drought-tolerant landscapes. There were some rebates involved for talking out the lawn.”

Poolside design

Photo: Allen Landscape Inc.

A simple facelift or not, Dobbie says the crew at Allen Landscape is proud of the job – which took about six weeks – mainly because the clients are completely satisfied with it.

“That’s always the most rewarding thing,” Dobbie says. “We do a lot of beautiful work and I can look at it and say it’s amazing, but we don’t really do that unless the client enjoys it and we can make it all work. It’s a happy client and that’s what we’re proud of.”

Dymondia groundcover

Photo: Allen Landscape Inc.

Not that there weren’t a couple challenges along the way, though. Dobbie says he felt comfortable using the kurapia because he’d been introduced to it on a CLCA nursery tour. However, the job did require a bit more than had been anticipated, and because of availability, it also cost a little more.

“It was nothing extremely major,” he says, adding it offered a learning experience.

Drought tolerant plants

Photo: Allen Landscape Inc.

Perhaps a bigger surprise, given the job’s location, is that after completing it late in the year, the site ran into some frost.

“We had to replace a few plants,” he acknowledges. “Hopefully, this year they’ve acclimated a little better and can handle a bit of cold. That’s the kind of thing that comes up that you don’t ever see until you’re done.”

In the meantime, Allen Landscape is expanding its use of kurapia. Not only has the company used it in other jobs, but company owner Matthew Allen has used it to replace his own lawn.

Liriope

Photo: Allen Landscape Inc.

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Irrigation Planning Must Consider Water Conservation

Irrigation

As we speak, auto manufacturers are spending tens of millions of dollars to design and construct vehicles that maximize every drop of fuel. They’re doing this for a combination of environmental, financial and regulatory reasons. And those same motivations are playing out in the landscape irrigation industry, where new technologies, combined with a thoughtful approach — and, in some cases, regulations — are resulting in irrigation installations that use less water and make the most of the water that is used.

James Martin, owner of Gulfside Landscaping in Pensacola, Florida, says that in order to truly conserve water, “The person designing the landscape must also design the irrigation system.” Unfortunately, in many cases, that doesn’t happen, he points out.

For example, on commercial projects a civil engineer might design the irrigation system for a site, but not take into account factors like the specific soil conditions present. “They’re sitting in an office two states away … and it’s not that their plan isn’t wonderful, it just isn’t consistent with the soil composition or the water,” Martin says.

Or it could be that a specialized irrigation contractor might be brought in to do the install. “The irrigation contractors that I have encountered generally do not want anything to do with landscape plant materials or turfgrass science or anything like that,” Martin says. “So you plant these trees and this plant material and everything ends up dying because it’s getting either too much water or not enough.”

Having the same contractor — who is knowledgeable not only in irrigation but also in the water needs of different turf, trees and plant materials — is the only way to ensure that the right amount of water (no more and no less) is applied only to the right places, he reiterates. Along the same lines, Martin says in cases where a new landscape is being installed, the existing irrigation system must be retrofitted to accommodate it.

Tech tools

Helping in the quest to conserve irrigation water is an array of new technologies. Mark Howell, irrigation manager with Ideal Landscape Group, a full-service landscape contractor in St. Louis, is often called in to improve the efficiency of an existing irrigation system. This often involves changing over to pressure-regulated sprinklers and other equipment swap-outs.

“Toro has come out with a line of Precision series nozzles that almost reduce the water use by half,” cites Howell of one example. “That’s been one of the biggest innovations to come along in irrigation as far as water efficiency in a long time.”

One recent new irrigation system install that Ideal Landscape Group was involved with was particularly water efficient, Howell says. For starters, a flow meter was installed along with a master valve; as each zone is run, the smart system “learns” how much water each zone should require. The system can also be programmed with how much water is available. If these limits are exceeded, the system shuts down and tries to determine if there’s a main line leak or a valve stuck on somewhere, etc. “The controller also sends you an alert on your phone,” Howell says. Catching a major leak right away has the potential to save tremendous amounts of water, he notes.

“Also, pressure-regulator heads were used throughout, and the central control system utilizes moisture sensors that we buried at four different locations on the site. So based on the ground temperature and the moisture level at each one of those locations, the controller can be manipulated to water accordingly,” Howell explains.

When weather stations first came out, they were satellite-based and were simply working from general weather conditions in an area, unable to take into account the microclimates that exist even on individual properties. Newer-generation weather stations that can be installed on-site have improved accuracy levels. And now soil moisture sensors can monitor what’s actually happening 2 to 3 inches into the soil, where the roots are growing. If the plant doesn’t need water, none is applied.

Howell says that these types of technologies (including smart controllers on the residential side) are inspired by the technologies once used only on golf courses and are helping not only to reduce water use but also ensuring that water is applied when and where it’s needed.

Conservation check

But it takes more than technology to ensure that water is not wasted. Even on commercial construction projects, like those that Ideal Landscape Group works on where the installer is often at the mercy of a project designer, Howell says there are things that can be done on-site to reduce water use and improve efficiency.

Beyond going through the system and checking its operation and performance in the spring, Ideal Landscape Group also conducts system checks during the season (from two to eight times a year, depending on client preferences).

“When we do a system check, we’re looking for things that are broken — perhaps got run over by a vehicle — and then making adjustments. We also make recommendations to the client because landscapes change,” Howell explains. “A lot of times, when the irrigation system went in the whole landscape went in new. Well, six or eight years later, the plants are all mature and things are getting blocked, or they’re not getting covered … a 3-foot-wide bed now has a plant that’s 8 feet wide with sprinklers in the middle of it.”

In these cases, moving a head or trimming a bush can help ensure that water is applied where it’s needed without being wasted. This sort of water conservation requires human eyes on the site; it can’t be done from a design office.

For companies that maintain the whole grounds in addition to irrigation work, Howell says that it helps to have mowing and gardening crews who are there at least weekly keep an eye out for instances where water may be wasted. “Our mowing crews report to us situations where it’s too wet, and they think something might be wrong,” he notes.

Martin at Gulfside Landscaping is also a big believer in performing irrigation system checks. “You have people going over the property with mowers, you have people walking through the landscape beds pulling weeds and trimming shrubs,” he states. In the process, the irrigation components can be damaged. His company offers a package service that involves monthly checks of the irrigation system to be sure that heads haven’t been damaged, that the rain gauge is working, that heads are rotating properly and have not been knocked into the ground at an angle, that nozzles are not clogged, and so on. “While this is not the most significant way to conserve water, it certainly is a component,” Martin says.

Sometimes changes need to be made to the actual design of the system to make it more water efficient. Martin sees irrigation installers make some common mistakes, particularly on residential properties: “They’ll put a rotor in and they’ll try to cover the grass and the plants at the same time. But that’s two completely different perception-rate requirements,” he explains.

Other mistakes may include not taking shifting shade and sun patterns into consideration. Or systems are built with too few zones to handle elaborate and diverse landscape plantings. Many times, the result of all these problems is general over-watering in a misguided effort to be sure that all plantings are getting enough – not only wasting water but also harming the health of some plants and introducing fungus problems.

Conversely, if the irrigation system is properly designed to take in factors such as the water needs of different plants, the amount of sun, the soil, etc., then water can be minimized to only the amount needed to keep each part of the landscape growing healthfully.

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Best-Run Companies: O’Connell Landscape Maintenance

Optimize Your Team’s Results

What does it take to make best-run company? Follow along as we uncover the secrets of a well-run landscape company through a series of company profiles and best practices. 

Starting with just $60 and a borrowed truck, George O’Connell and his brother Michael launched O’Connell Landscape Maintenance in 1971. Now in its second generation of ownership with hundreds of employees at 20 different locations throughout Southern California, the business is thriving. Kevin O’Connell, director of sales and marketing and co-owner of the company, says that delegation has been a key to success.

“You can never be afraid to hire people who are smarter than you,” O’Connell says. “You don’t always have to be the smartest person in the room.”

Kevin O’Connell

Still, O’Connell says there is a difference between delegating and delegating to the right people. He says that ahead of delegation comes hiring good people. If you hire the wrong people and delegate important work to them, it’s not going to get done right.

One way the company has attracted good people is by building a positive culture. O’Connell says that management is constantly looking at ways they can take better care of their people, not only with competitive pay but also paid time off, ongoing training and giving increasing responsibility to employees who deserve it.

“I think paying really close attention to your people is important,” O’Connell says. “You get a sense of who is really committed to the company and who can handle more responsibility. Giving your employees opportunities for growth — and showing them you believe in them — is really important.”

In addition, O’Connell says the company has made an effort to utilize technology in order to help run things more efficiently. He says that getting everything off on internal servers and implementing iPhones and iPads with a Dropbox and other mobile capabilities has made collaboration so much easier.

“It’s now easier than ever to access information on-the-go,” O’Connell says. “That means less time in the office and more time out in the field focusing on customers and their needs. Today’s customer wants that ‘Amazon Prime style of service,’ where everything is instantaneous. By employing technology we’re able to be more successful at offering that kind of quick and toplevel customer service while also being more efficient for our own needs.”

While even the best companies will admit they “always have room for growth,” there are definitely some businesses in the green industry that are already employing many of the practices industry professionals say epitomize a best-run company. Follow along as we uncover the secrets of a well-run landscape company through a series of company profiles and best practices.

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