Sunday, 30 April 2017

Is Switching to Propane on Your Radar?

Propane tanks

Ever considered switching to propane-fueled mowers? Today, there are more than 135 propane mower model options available. It takes some homework to run the numbers and determine what your savings would be. Contractors can take advantage of fixed prices and incentives to switch their fleet. These LawnSite members share their curiosity about making the leap into propane.

MOturkey: I would never be interested in switching, but after noticing the ads for cash incentives for switching to propane, I’m just wondering if any of you actually run propane-powered mowers, and if so, how are they working out for you? I don’t believe I’ve ever actually seen one in use in my area.

sbrickhouse89: I have a landscape company in eastern North Carolina, and have switched all Hustlers and Wrights to propane and saved between $12,000 and $15,000 in the past year from fuel savings. (Haven’t ran exact numbers.) Plus we have lengthened oil changes from 50 hours to 100 hours. Don’t think we will be going back to dirty gasoline any time soon.

BigDreamsLawn&Landscapes: We run propane in Charlotte, North Carolina. I initially purchased the mower because I got an extremely good deal. I saved a lot on fuel when prices were $3.75 a gallon for gasoline and I was only paying $2.49 a gallon for propane. I can get about one to two more hours per two tanks on propane than I can on a regular gasoline engine. Huge benefit is that it burns so much cleaner. I can easily go 100 hours on an oil change when I normally change with gasoline around 50 hours. The oil still looks very clean at 100 hours. I do not have to worry about ethanol problems either in the mower.

AwilsonCreativeServices: I, too, am very interested in this subject. I am a very small operation (three zero-turn mowers and about 25 mixed accounts) but have also thought of converting my mini-skid to propane, as it is used probably more than the mowers. Plus, I am a supporter of cleaner burning fuel/local and domestic products/being green. A local large mowing outfit that was awarded the big municipal contract runs all propane Exmarks, and I feel certain that it helped them clinch the deal. There is a propane supply company near me that I have spoken with who will supposedly convert my mowers and install a fueling tank for free if I buy either 500 or 1,000 gallons from them a year. Their deal is that they peg the price of propane $1 below regular unleaded gas. When asked about it, the salesman said that landscapers would be burning the fuel in their “offseason,” when it’s cheaper, and they would be able to service more customers more months of the year. I fuel my equipment with non-ethanol 90 octane carried by a local oil company, and it’s about the same price as diesel usually is.

PicturePerfectLawns: Lots of propane companies in Texas. I’m making the switch next year. Original poster, why did you say you would never switch? You get lower, locked-in prices than gasoline, cleaner burning, and every time you see the inside of a propane engine it’s clean as a whistle. No carbon build up, cleaner internal engine parts = longer life span. Savings in fuel expenses. Healthier. And you can mow all year with them.

GoPappy: Two huge advantages of propane are 1.) it lasts forever and doesn’t go bad, and 2.) you can buy and store it in large quantities if you have a large propane tank, and can then transfer it from the large tank to a smaller tank on a truck or trailer.

djagusch: Propane has 28 percent less energy in a gallon vs. gasoline. Propane reps say it’s 1 to 1 ratio, which negates the energy difference. The biggest issue for me is the fuel supply. One poster here nailed the issue. He said they have propane at $1 less then gas? Why? It’s because they are price fixing to make it appear like somewhat of a cost savings while they increase their margins.

PicturePerfectLawns: I see things in a similar way with a twist. If we look at the “retail” numbers, propane in my opinion actually costs more – $2.99 per gallon just as an example. The savings comes when you install a 1,000-gallon propane tank directly outside of your shop. The refill price is locked in annually.

djagusch: I can buy 1,000 gallons at a lower rate than that for my house. Here is the problem: They don’t give away a refueling station. If you lease one (for nothing basically) you’re stuck buying the propane at their rate, which they price fix the dollar less than gas that the other guy mentioned. You could go buy a refueling station, which if I remember right is $7,500 range. You can’t legally just hook up some valves and hoses to refill, according to the propane companies around here.

PicturePerfectLawns: You raised a good point. It’s not as simple as buying a tank and filling. Propane has its advantages and disadvantages. But the way I see it, it was beginning to look like alternative fuel was the future, so I’ve been on the fence.

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Friday, 28 April 2017

Like a Boss: Solving Labor Shortages with Employee Referrals

Taking it a Step at a Time

Like everyone else in the industry, Mark Borst, owner of Borst Landscape & Design in Allendale, New Jersey, says he has struggled with finding labor. But he also says he’s found a solution that has helped. While he still posts ads in the local Spanish newspaper and on Craig’s List as he always has, Borst says the number one solution has been offering a finder’s fee to his existing employees if they bring in someone new. He says to any other business owner who is struggling with finding more labor — you haven’t kissed enough frogs yet.

The idea to involve his existing employees in finding labor was born out of frustration with potential hires not responding to ads, Borst says. He thought there had to be a better way. At first, he began asking employees if they knew friends or family who were interested but Borst says he didn’t get a huge response. Then, about five years ago, he began to offer a finder’s fee and Borst says it has made a big difference.

Of course, it’s a bit of a gamble. That’s because Borst offers a payout right off the bat — with no guarantee that the help will stick around. But he says it’s been a risk worth taking.

“We do a two-fold payout with the finder’s fee,” Borst says. “We’ll give the first reward on the person’s first day. If they stay for three months, the referring employee then gets a second reward.”

Borst says he initially tried the incentive by only offering a reward if the employee stayed but it just wasn’t as compelling. Now the two-fold payout is getting a lot more response.

“Of course, we’ve had people that didn’t stay — but a lot of them do so it ends up being worth the risk,” Borst adds.

Borst says it’s also important to avoid becoming complacent. He says that you can never assume people will stick around forever. That’s why he is continually hiring for all positions and will often have a “bullpen” that is ready to go.

While he interviews and hires often, Borst is also quick to let someone go if there’s a problem. That’s something he says a lot of business owners struggle to do since labor is so hard to find. But he says that’s one risk that’s not worth taking.

“We get rid of people immediately if it’s not working,” he says. “I know business owners like to give people a chance and it’s also hard to let someone go when labor is hard to come by but an unmotivated worker can be like a cancer to your company.  It’s best to lose that one employee than to let them affect others. If you let a problem go, you could ultimately wind up losing a bunch of employees instead of just that one.”

Read more: Taking it a Step at a Time

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Just Another Manic Morning?

Just Another Manic Morning?

Unless you’re a morning person who wakes up full of energy and ready to take on the day like me, mornings can really suck. Whether you’re the type of person who experiments with how many times you can hit snooze on the alarm clock without being late like my husband, or you unwillingly pull yourself out of bed after the first wakeup call, mornings are often a grind.

But they don’t have to be.

I recently had a couple mornings that weren’t like my usual where I bound out of bed, stretch and start following my routine of putting on clothes I’d set out the night before, grabbing breakfast I prepped the night before and heading to the gym before coming home and getting to work. Something was just off … I was groggy. I was tired. I wasn’t motivated to get out of bed. I didn’t prepare the night before. I was in a funk.

I realized I had shifted my usual routine and it put me in a morning slump. Mornings can be one of the best times of day if you use them properly. Your willpower is the strongest since you aren’t exhausted and your focus is targeted because you haven’t faced distractions yet. All of this gives you the ability to determine your day’s outcome and productivity.

Here are a few ways I’ve learned to make mornings work for me.

  1. Have you ever watched your dog or cat get up from a nap? The first thing they do is stretch. It may feel awkward, but stretch before and after you get out of bed. Studies say this increases testosterone levels – the power hormone – and leaves you feeling more confident and ready for the day.
  2. For the first hour of your morning, be a robot. Have a morning routine. Think about it this way: You start your day like a charged battery. Every decision reduces that battery’s life until the end of the day when you need a restart. Eliminate some decision-making by prepping the night before. Set out your clothes, prepare your breakfast and/or lunch depending on your schedule so you just have to grab and go. Wake up at the same time every day and follow the same hierarchy for getting ready. You’ll be amazed at how stress-free your morning is, how quickly you get ready and how much energy you conserve. There is also less chance of forgetting any essentials so your day progresses more smoothly.
  3. Delay caffeine just a little bit. You already wake up fairly alert. Research says your cortisol levels are naturally higher for the first one to two hours after waking up. Save your caffeine fix for when those cortisol levels drop to normal levels.
  4. Absorb some sunshine and get some exercise. Even a small amount of sunlight — 15 minutes — can boost your body’s natural wakeup call. I’m also a big believer in morning exercise: an hour of strength training and intense movement increases my energy, decreases my stress and gives me drive for the rest of the day.

How do you supercharge your mornings? Let us know and we’ll share your tips with readers. Send your ideas to

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Thursday, 27 April 2017

Hustler Turf Enters Utility Vehicle Market: This Week’s Industry News

Hustler Turf

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.

Hustler Turf Enters Utility Vehicle Market with MDV
Hustler Turf Equipment has announced its Maximum Duty Vehicle (MDV) is available for purchase. The MDV signifies the company’s first entry into the utility vehicle or side-by-side category. Designed for heavy-duty applications, the MDV features LeveLift technology, a patented, labor-saving cargo box that allows users to lift up to 750 pounds from the ground and dump material from any point in its arc of motion. It has a Kohler Diesel engine and a 14-gallon fuel tank. It is now available at select independent dealers and will be on sale nationwide by year’s end.

Bayer Releases New Insecticide for Greenhouse Growers
Environmental Science, a business unit of the Crop Science division of Bayer says that Altus insecticide will be available for purchase through authorized agents beginning May 1, 2017. Altus introduces a new insect management solution to greenhouse growers that controls major sucking pests while offering flexibility of applications before, during and after bloom. Flupyradifurone is the new active ingredient Altus insecticide.

Target Specialty Products Unveils New Corporate Brand
Target Specialty Products’ new comprehensive rebranding effort features a refreshed logo and upgraded website. The revamped website will serve as a source of valuable information and education for its customers. The reimagined look reflects the integration of Residex into the Target Specialty Products brand, further its position as a principal distributor of pest management and turf & ornamental solutions and supplies across a growing network; currently 41 branch locations in the United States and Canada.

 Takeuchi Announces New Regional Parts Coordinators
Compact equipment manufacturer Takeuchi-US recently hired one and promoted two team members to the position of regional parts coordinators. Mario Reese was promoted to northwest regional parts coordinator and Mary Towsey, with 15 years of customer service experience, is the company’s new southeast regional parts coordinator.  were both promoted, while Dustin Reed is a new hire. Dustin Reed came to Takeuchi after working for an equipment dealer as parts and sales representative/warehouse manager.

Snowposium Trade Show in Ontario Returns Sept. 28
Landscape Ontario’s Snow and Ice Sector Group and Landscape Trades magazine announced its Snowposium on Sept. 28, 2017. This single-day event will feature a trade show, outdoor demonstrations, speakers, educational sessions, and networking opportunities for professionals responsible to keep our roads, sidewalks and parking lots safe during the winter months. The Snowposium will be held at the Landscape Ontario Milton office, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Explorer, Economist, Environmentalist Featured at OPEI Meeting
The Outdoor Power Equipment Industry annual meeting June 20-22 in Kohler, Wisconsin, features Ben Saunders, world record-breaking polar explorer; Ann Marie Buerkle, Chairman of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission; Mark Halperin, managing editor of Bloomberg Politics and TV host of “With All Due Respect;” Dr. Alan Beaulieu, award-winning economist and author; and Margaret O’Gorman, head of the Wildlife Habitat Council.

Hardscape North America Awards Now Accepting Entries
Hardscape North America is now accepting entries for the 10th Annual HNA Awards to be presented on Thursday, Oct. 19. The 2017 HNA Awards presentation will be held at the Kentucky Exposition Center and is included with registration for HNA 2017. The HNA Awards recognize outstanding hardscape projects in all sizes in residential and commercial applications using a variety of products including concrete pavers, clay pavers and segmental retaining walls.

Consumer Horticulture Contributes $196 Billion to U.S. Economy
Horticulture positively affects people’s lives where they live, work, shop and play, according to a new report from the National Initiative for Consumer Horticulture. Consumer horticulture contributes $196 billion to the U.S. economy and creates more than 2 million jobs. But its benefits go way beyond that, said Casey Sclar, NICH Chair. According to the NICH report, plants benefit society in many ways:

  • Plants in the workplace reduce employee sick time by 14 percent.
  • Well-landscaped homes are more valuable; since homes represent 25 percent of personal wealth, outdoor plants pack a powerful personal finance punch.
  • American’s are growing more of their own food—25 percent of all Americans grow berries, veggies or fruit trees.
  • Shaded roadways save 60 percent of repaving costs.
  • America’s public gardens generate $2.3 billion in tourism spending.

ENP Welcomes John Gruneisen ot Sales Team
Illinois-based specialty fertilizer manufacturer, EnP, announced the addition of John Gruneisen to its sales team. Gruneisen most recently served as territory sales manager at Holganix. In his new role at EnP, Gruneisen will continue to work closely with Holganix, serving as a technical advisor on EnP technologies that are used in Holganix PB1, Holganix PB1-LTO, and other products. Gruneisen graduated from Ohio State University with a degree in turfgrass science and a minor in plant pathology. As a former distributor sales representative and assistant golf course superintendent, John Gruneisen brings a valuable perspective to EnP. John will serve as EnP’s Midwest territory sales representative focusing on the Foliar-Pak line of specialty turf and ornamental fertilizers.

Ditch Witch Organization Gives More Than 300 Customers the Ultimate Orange Iron Experience
Exclusive event draws customers worldwide to test and see latest equipment and technology innovations. Ditch Witch treated more than 300 customers worldwide to an exclusive, VIP experience at the company’s headquarters in Perry, Oklahoma, on March 28 and 29. The annual, two-day Orange Iron Experience included an equipment program that introduced customers to the latest Ditch Witch, Subsite Electronics and Hammerhead products and hands-on equipment demonstrations. Attendees also received a full tour of the Ditch Witch manufacturing facility and campus, an adrenaline-pumping Super Witch show, and a meet-and-greet with the designers and engineers who build the equipment they rely on every day.

2017 NARI National President’s Awards Announced
Every year the NARI National President has the opportunity to recognize key individuals who support him/her in their position. During the 2017 Spring House of Delegates meeting, H. Dale Contant, MCR, CRPM, UDCP, National President, 2016-2017 presented his awards. Dale began the presentation by saying, “I am so proud of my team, about how business runs so smoothly when I’m traveling for NARI. I could not have possibly volunteered my time with NARI and run a business all these years without the assistance and loyalty of my team members.”

Read last week’s industry news: NMSU’s Professor Appointed to Post at Netherland’s University

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Get to Know Brian Labrie

Brian Labrie

Brian Labrie says he had his first plow route when he was just 16 and still in high school. He calls New Hampshire snow work “one of those things that you can’t get away from — even if you wanted to.” Now, as the owner of B.H. Labrie Landscape Co., based in Merrimack, New Hampshire, snow is a third of his business. While he started out with residential work, Labrie says his focus these days is on the commercial side, adding: “the only residential drive I now plow is my own!” While he has a real love of the snow itself, Labrie says after so many years of plowing, he’s looking forward to a future of being able to enjoy the fluffy stuff.

My brain is always going, and driving the plow route is a great time to think. I keep a little notebook in my center console and have learned to jot down my ideas without taking my eyes off the road. I am always brainstorming new inventions or a way to improve something we’re doing.

The idea to invent Plowguard came after a buddy told me had 12 brand-new stainless-steel plows stolen. I figured there had to be a better way to protect your investment. I’ve heard other stories of plows getting snapped right off while the driver was taking a break in a restaurant. Plowguard works by rendering the pins inoperable so that it’s near impossible to detach a plow and steal it. I sell it on eBay but make very little profit on each one. I do it more for the peace of mind it gives me that I contributed in some way to preventing the thievery that goes on every day in this industry.

My wife packs me an amazing lunch box every time we have a big snow event. She’s phenomenal. It always has aspirin and bottles of water and plenty of little snacks. It never has too much sugar so that I don’t crash on those long nights.

Snow plowing is a stressful job. My prescription for that stress is getting on my snowmobile. After a big storm, we’ll load up the trailers and spend some time on the snowmobiles. We’ll eat good food, have some beers, and just chill. That’s the best way to unwind.

For me, plowing is a means to an end. It enables me to keep my landscape contracts. If I didn’t do both snow and landscaping in this region, I’d lose that summer work. But at the end of the day, snow plowing is a young man’s game. It’s tiring. And it’s changed a lot over the years.

My future has snow in it even though I want to eventually get out of plowing. Instead, I will continue to buy cabins in Pittsburg, New Hampshire, fix them up and rent them out. At the end of the day, there’s still that need for winter revenue. I’d like to hang up my plow and focus on my winter rentals instead. It’s still snow related, but it’s a whole lot less taxing on the human body!

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5 Ways to Prep For the Spring Craziness

A Storm is Coming

Every year the same thing happens, and we know it’s going to happen. We don’t even need a crystal ball because we just know it’s going to happen. I’m talking about spring, of course. I view spring as something akin to a hurricane wrapped inside a tornado crescendoing into a giant tsunami of bed edging, mulching, spring cleanups, first cuts, training, not sleeping, rain days, even snow days, and people wanting everything done by yesterday.

What if the same scenario was happening with the weather? Look at the people who live in areas where hurricanes happen — they don’t just sit around with their windows open and say, “Bring it on,” do they? No. They prepare, get the sand bags out, batten down the hatches, board up the windows. They do whatever they can to make sure that their belongings are as safe and secure as they can make them. So let’s get after it: Here are spring storm prep ideas for landscape professionals.

1. Train, train, train.

Train your people. Let them know what the rules are, what you expect and that they will be held accountable for their work. At my company we have a full-day “Training Rodeo.” We go over everything from equipment and truck operation to safety to what we expect when it comes to quality and customer service.

2. Set up for success.

Make sure all of your equipment is in good condition, including trucks and trailers. At my company we are going over every piece of equipment, truck and trailer we own and making sure it is ready to go for the season.

3. Plan for setbacks.

Yes, you will have setbacks. Think about problems you have had in the past and try to plan for the worst scenario. What can you do differently to get a better outcome?

An example would be employee absences or no shows. Whether we like it or not, people get sick or just plain don’t want to work or just don’t show up. To curtail this you may want to hire a few more people than you need in the spring and let them weed themselves out over time. The ones who are left might turn out to be great team members.

4. Make scheduling a priority.

Work on a schedule before the first day of production. We have already scheduled our first week of spring cleanups. Everything is entered in our landscape management software so the crews know how many hours they have to get the jobs done, how much mulch they need, what tasks need to be completed and how many people will be assigned to get the jobs done.

5. Have some fun.

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy! It wont kill you to grab a few pizzas and drop them off for your crews at lunch time or to bring in coffee and donuts for your weekly safety meeting. (You do have those, don’t you?)

Spring is crazy busy every year; the storm is on it’s way. I can feel it in my bones, and it wont be long before we are in the midst of a heavy duty landscape storm. Will you be ready?

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Wednesday, 26 April 2017

3 Keys to Efficient Irrigation

3 Keys to Efficient Irrigation

Even with the new products on the market today, many irrigation experts agree that efficiency is found in more ways than just installing the latest technology.

Jeff Westphal, a product manager at Rain Bird, one of the leading providers of irrigation products and services, has worked in irrigation for 12 years. In all that time, however, his opinions on how to irrigate with the most efficiency have not really changed.

For Westphal it has always been about putting the design before the products. Today’s irrigation market has had such a tight focus on products and innovations in recent years that contractors have had the tendency to overlook the fundamentals of efficient irrigation. And any true expert knows there is no point to irrigation if you don’t do it efficiently.

Efficiency is the key to successfully managing irrigation. It saves you time and resources, protects the environment and helps you retain your client roster. Achieving efficiency, however, is not a one-step process when it comes to irrigation. Westphal, along with a couple other industry irrigation experts, narrowed down the top tips for efficiently irrigating.

1. Always examine the system

As Westphal states, by taking the time to survey the property and study the products, you will be taking a step in the right direction of irrigating efficiently. While efficiency with irrigation is of the utmost importance, all the experts agree that it starts with one key step: understanding the design of the irrigation system. According to Westphal, if you don’t start with the design of system, there is no point in worrying about new products.

“It really starts with the design of the system,” Westphal discusses. “New products are great, but the system rules.”

Carl Eggleston has a very similar process as Westphal when it comes to setting up an efficient irrigation system. Eggleston is a manager at Spartan Irrigation, a Michigan-based company specializing in irrigation installation. Spartan has been working with irrigation since 1980, and since the ’80s, setting the system up properly has always been the first step for ensuring efficiency.

“Efficiency should start at the planning and installation phases, using these basics: The system must be designed using manufacturer’s specs on sprinkler head spacing, the sprinkler heads must have nozzle selections that are match precipitated, never mix fixed spray sprinklers and rotary sprinklers on the same zones, and try to zone sprinklers in like areas,” Eggleston explains.

Above all else, before you move on to step two, be sure the system is “fit for duty,” which, according to Orion Goe, residential and commercial irrigation marketing manager for Toro, means no leaking pipes, no misaligned nozzles or rotors, and no broken spray heads.

2. Know the property

Once you have studied the irrigation system, you need to understand the kind of property with which you are working. Pay attention and check if the area has perennials, mixed plants or lots of trees. Check and see if some parts of the terrain are flat or if you will encounter other sections of the yard that may be rockier.

Also, you simply cannot irrigate efficiently if you are not being wise about your water usage. Having a firm grasp on the types of plants and foliage at the property helps you know exactly where to irrigate, an important factor for efficiency.

“We want to understand what land to irrigate,” Westphal explains. “We don’t want to just throw water into the leaves.”

Once you note the type of land you are dealing with, you can determine the most efficient devices for that particular area. Toro has been in the underground irrigation market since 1962, and Goe noted some of the best products for specific terrain.

“Ensure that the most appropriate emission devices are being used for the landscape. High-efficiency nozzles or gear-driven rotors for turf areas, landscape drip or correctly sized micro-sprays for shrub beds or slopes, and pressure-regulated valves,” Goe explains.

3. Invest in new products… but do so wisely

Unfortunately, a lot of people forget about these first two key steps. When considering how to irrigate more efficiently, many people jump to looking at the newest innovations on the market. Take it from the experts, however, and make that the last step in your path to efficiency.

First of all, if you do not understand the irrigation system or your clients’ properties, these kinds of tools will never work. These types of innovations are impressive and helpful, but only if they work for your customers and their systems. Eggleston has found that if contractors and companies do not ensure that their customers’ systems are compatible with these new products, it results in a complete waste of money with no resulting efficiency.

“The big issue in our industry is that many people and manufacturers are pushing efficient and smart products, but they are being installed on systems that have not been designed or installed to meet the basic efficiency requirements of design,” Eggleston explains. “When this happens the new smart and efficiency products will do nothing to increase efficiency.”

That does not mean to forgo researching or investing in these products, however. Using the right innovative products can help you manage irrigation anywhere, anytime. These products now let you look at irrigation systems from computers, phones and tablets.

Knowing how and when the system is operating will always be helpful in managing irrigation wisely. These devices also help you keep a keen eye on if your device is working on an efficient schedule, one of the keys to efficiency, according to Goe.

And these products do an amazing job of helping you always stay in tune with your irrigation and its efficiency, Westphal says.

“Some of these things we can use to keep in touch with our irrigation systems” he says.

So while Westphal may be a firm believer in the basic essentials for efficiency, he knows the future is also in incorporating these innovative products.

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Story of a Landscape: Bluestone Pavers Update Modern City Streetscape

Bluestone pavers

Landscapers dream of wide open spaces covered with rich soil waiting to be shaped, molded and planted into something artistic.

Clayton Johnson, a designer with the Bloomington, Minnesota-based Yardscapes, Inc., proves you don’t need a blank space, or even much space, to create an award-winning masterpiece.

Johnson, whose renovation of a residential landscape in the Cedar Lake neighborhood earned 2017 honors from the Minnesota Nursery and Landscape Association, says the clients – who found Yardscapes via the internet – were looking for an update and to add curb appeal to their property.

A frontview of the property before the renovation. Photo: Yardscapes, Inc.

A frontview of the property before the renovation. Photo: Yardscapes, Inc.

“The existing landscape was really overgrown and did not offer any curb appeal to the house,” he says. “They wanted to enhance the curb appeal, add a sense of entry and since the home is a bit more modern-looking, they also wanted to try to develop a bit more of a modern theme with the project.”

Before the property renovation. Photo: Yardscapes, Inc.

Before the property renovation. Photo: Yardscapes, Inc.

Despite the small urban setting, the project broke down into three components, which Johnson skillfully tied together. By far the largest and most apparent is work on the overgrown lower terrace. However, the project also included improving the home’s entrance approach and enhancing the rear garage door area.

While removing the existing plant life and the paver terrace it overpowered was a start, Johnson faced an added challenge in that the clients were looking for a place to lounge and entertain adjacent to a relatively busy sidewalk.

“They liked the idea of having a sense of separation between the lower patio area and the sidewalk,” Johnson says. “Yet, they didn’t want so much of a separation that it was completely cut off from the sidewalk.”

Paver installation

The site while in the middle of working on the paver portion of the project. Photo: Yardscapes, Inc.

The answer: a fence made of steel tubing which was powder-coated to coordinate with various aspects of the overall color scheme, most notably the bluestone pavers used for the terrace and the steps leading to the front door.

“The bluestone in our climate is a great natural stone product,” says Johnson. “It stands up to our climate and freeze-thaw cycles. This bluestone is a bluestone select, which is a straight color which, along with complementing the color of the steel posts, also complements the water color from the nearby lake.”

Outdoor seating area

Photo: Yardscapes, Inc.

With a table and benches, the setting gives something of the feel of an outdoor bistro. To further enhance the area, the existing planters were treated with a new coat of stucco, a 15-foot granite countertop was added to the stucco wall under the second story deck to provide a serving area and a custom-built ipe bench painted the same color as the steel tubes adds seating.

As a further modern touch, the house number and street name in stainless steel is mounted near the entrance stairs to the home. Johnson says that was driven by necessity.

“With the front door being tucked at the side of the house, delivery people tended to have difficulties finding the home,” he says. “Quite frankly, people had a hard time deciphering which house it was.”

Proerty staircase entrance

Photo: Yardscapes, Inc.

Stairs leading to the front door, which were an exposed aggregate, were topped with the same bluestone used on the terrace.

“We don’t do it a lot, but in this instance the existing concrete was in good condition,” Johnson says. “There were also some budget constraints we had to work around. By keeping the existing concrete walks in place, and by refurbishing the stucco, we were able to keep the clients’ budget in mind.”

More steel tube fencing and new handrails help tie the entry back to the terrace patio.

The final area of the project — the back garage door area — is entered through a custom steel mesh gate flanked with additional steel tubes, which are also used to mask the air-conditioner. However, Johnson opted to separate that space from the neighbor with a custom cedar screen.

Photo: Yardscapes, Inc.

Photo: Yardscapes, Inc.

Bluestone delineates space for the clients’ outdoor grill, and artificial turf provides an area for the family dog. Johnson says the clients chose to leave the grill in the back because of its proximity to the kitchen, rather than moving it to the street-level terrace.

“We chose to go with artificial turf due to the size of the area,” adds Johnson. “It’s also relatively shady and with the dog doing his business there, natural grass wouldn’t sustain very well.”

The project does come with an irrigation system, however, and an extensive lighting system, primarily up-lighting, helps illuminate the project at night.

“Lighting was a concern,” he says. “It’s a relatively dark area, but it’s also a heavily used sidewalk that leads to the lake, so the lighting offers some safety and security, as well as enhancing the architecture of the home.”

Landscape lighting

Nightlighting was installed as part of the new landscape design. Photo: Yardscapes, Inc.

Another important component of the job is the plant palette, which Johnson changed completely from the old landscape.

“We have Skyrocket Junipers that begin to separate the front walk from the neighbor’s terrace, some Dakota Pinnacle Birch trees that offer vertical height without getting too wide, and some Karl Foerster grasses which offer height and texture without taking up a lot of width,” Johnson explains. “I like to think it’s a nice combination of evergreen material, deciduous material and perennial material offering a year-round complement.”

It’s those combinations of material usages, along with being able to adapt his design to an existing site of which Johnson is most proud.

“It’s just the overall uniqueness and creativity of pulling the different elements together and making them work in conjunction with one another,” he says.

However, there’s one element that particularly shines for the designer.

“The steel post feature is really unique,” Johnson says. “It really stands out in my mind.”

Bluestone pavers

Photo: Yardscapes, Inc.

The overall job took between six and seven weeks, he says, and involved anywhere from three-to-five crew members at any one time. And, Johnson admits the small site was the largest challenge with the job.

“Dealing with the different elevations was part of that,” he says. “But, during the construction process it was a challenge in terms of staging material and then doing the construction in tight spaces. We had to utilize the front boulevard for a lot of it, and we brought in materials on a daily basis.”

However, he says the job has also taught him a valuable lesson: sometimes it’s not necessary to totally clear an existing location.

“From a design standpoint, I’ve found that I shouldn’t feel I need to completely demolish a site,” he concludes. “I can still make a significant change to it.”

And, a prize-winning one at that.

The post Story of a Landscape: Bluestone Pavers Update Modern City Streetscape appeared first on Turf.

from Mix ID 8230377

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Urban Parks Report Finds Students Embrace Eco-Friendly Services

Photo: iStock

Young people – motivated by the heady combination of creativity, talent, perseverance and fearlessness — are continually changing our world. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak founded Apple Computer and sold their first Apple1 when they were, respectively, 21 and 25 years old. Mozart created many masterpieces before the age of 30. Einstein published the Theory of Relativity at the ripe old age of 27. These are obvious examples. There are many others.

Today’s young people, male and female, will also change the green industry, indeed the world. That is as it should be. Clear-eyed, eager and little burdened with the experience of failure they approach adulthood asking of themselves “what if?” and “why not?”

That’s what I thought recently as I read (for the second time) and attempted to gauge the significance of the Urban Parks Report commissioned this past year by the outdoor power equipment manufacturer Husqvarna. The report explores how parks in large cities will look, function, be used and maintained in the year of 2030. Obviously, Husqvarna and the young people contributing to the report feel that parks and green spaces will be essential to the well being of urban areas — regardless of region of the world.

In compiling the report, Husqvarna asked 533 students in landscape architecture in 15 countries how they envision green spaces in large cities in 2030. To participate in the survey, the students must have completed at least one year of studies.

Urban Parks Report key findings

Responders focused on three macro trends that are shaping our future: 1.) urbanization, 2.) the rapid pace of digital and technological advances and 3.) environmental issues challenging our urban environments.

The findings are significant because they offer insights into the green industry as a whole, and not just for parks. That said, let’s get to the survey’s key results:

  • 92 percent of the students say a key purpose of a park is the environmental impact it has on the city where it is located.
  • 64 percent say community volunteers will be involved in park maintenance by 2030.
  • 63 percent of the students would like to include sensors to track the health of green spaces. These will include water sensors and automatic sprinklers (69 percent), automated lawn care (52 percent), sensor-based automatic weed control (52 percent), sensor-based automatic fertilizing (51 percent) and automatic hedge care and shaping (43 percent).
  • 47 percent say robots and drones will be an important part of the maintenance work of the future.
  • 86 percent of the students say one of the most important purposes of parks is to encourage people to live more environmentally sustainable lives.
  • They listed the top things that future parks will do in that regard: reduce air pollution, reduce the effects of heat waves and provide shade and cool spots for people, reduce water pollution, reduce noise levels and increase biodiversity.

The students’ responses to the survey were echoed, in many respects, in another survey conducted by Husqvarna in the summer of 2016. That survey of 1,579 U.S. consumers and 1,530 Canadian consumers revealed that 40 percent of Canadians and 56 percent of U.S. consumers visit a public park at least once per week or more.

It also noted that 78 percent of responders believe public parks should use eco-friendly outdoor power equipment and 65 percent would choose a landscaper that uses eco-friendly equipment over one who doesn’t.

I am encouraged by what the students shared via their responses. They’ve acknowledged the incredible importance of green spaces within societies and, equally important, shared what they feel are key drivers in making them more environmentally friendly. This should encourage all of us.

Taking a cue from other young people who have looked and envisioned a better future — conceiving is the first step to achieving.

The post Urban Parks Report Finds Students Embrace Eco-Friendly Services appeared first on Turf.

from Mix ID 8230377

Major Storms of 2016-2017 and What’s Next

Major Storms and What's Next

Snow and ice professionals will look back on the 2016-17 winter with varied feedback. Some will rank the season among the best across the Pacific Northwest and northern Rockies as cumulative snowfall totals were often two to three times higher than normal. Many snow lovers south of the Great Lakes and Mid-Atlantic states likely have been convinced otherwise as the bulk of the storms have spared their region. Less than 2 inches of total snowfall has fallen to date from Baltimore to Washington, D.C., and much of the Ohio Valley is running 50 to 60 percent below normal.

With that said, most will view the winter as being difficult to manage due to nearly half of the storms producing wide swaths of mixed precipitation and ice.

After a slow start of only two developing winter storms across the continental United States in the latter half of November, the winter season featured a big reversal from mid-December through February with an additional 15 named winter storms by the Weather Channel. Of the 15 storms, two major storms have affected the East Coast with the remainder of them mostly affecting the West, upper Midwest and northern New England with snow and often some variety of ice.

The experienced ENSO neutral to weak La Niña was not the driving force of the weather patterns experienced so far this winter. The main players of the 2016-17 winter can be largely attributed to the unusual persistent trough in the West and the subtropic ridge along the East. This frequent pattern led to the formation of harsh winter storms and higher than normal snowfall across the Pacific Northwest.

These storms often took a similar track into the northern Rockies/upper Midwest and eventually into eastern Canada or the northern New England states where many locations also recorded above-normal snowfall. Unlike most winter seasons, a prolonged cold was hard pressed to find across the northeast and Mid-Atlantic states as cold outbreaks only lasted a few days at a time.

December: Active start in the west

The first half of December was marked by the development of four named storms. The first two (Carly and Decima) followed a similar path during the first half of December from the Pacific Northwest before heading into the Rockies and Midwest. Carly resulted in hundreds to thousands of cancelled flights from Chicago to Detroit and eventually brought the Northeast their first accumulating snow on Dec. 12 before moving out to sea. Winter storm Decima (Dec. 13-18) was well known for the widespread freezing rain, wind and sub-freezing temperatures to the plains states, which resulted in hundreds of accidents and eventually the major tanker explosion pile-up on I-95 in Maryland. Winter storm Europa resulted in more than a foot of snow and blizzard conditions to the Dakotas on Christmas weekend. Finally, a rapidly intensifying storm off Cape Cod (Fortis) closed out the month with heavy snow, gusty winds and power outages to New England from Dec. 28-30.

January: Snow, ice and flooding rains

The common trend of the six January winter storms during the month was the West Coast development and various combinations of heavy snow, sleet and freezing rain each one produced. Winter storm Helena started off the month from Jan. 3-7 and brought over a foot of snow to the Pacific Northwest. It became notorious for the sleet and freezing rain that wreaked havoc on roads and kept schools closed for days from Alabama to Virginia. This storm also produced the first decent accumulation along I-95 from New York City to Boston. Winter storm Jupiter (Jan. 11-19) was the first West to East Coast storm and left behind a record-setting foot of snow in Portland (the first time in 22 years), 3 to 7 feet of measurable snow in four western states and the Sierra Nevada, an inch of ice accretion to the plains states and eventually several inches of snow and ice before losing its punch in upstate New York and northern New England. Two final storms, Kori and Leo, closed out the month of January effectively ending the long-time drought with more than a foot of flooding rains to California, widespread mountain snow and 1 to 2 inches of ice in northern Oregon and parts of Washington.

In January of last year, a Philadelphia Police Department cruiser is seen patrolling snow-covered streets in Philadelphia as snowstorm Jonas dumped up to 2 feet of snow on the region and the East Coast of the United States. Snowfall in the 2016-17 winter proved to be much different.

February: In the Northeast

The West finally shared some of the winter storms with the Northeast in February. The heaviest and most widespread snowstorm of the season occurred across the northeast and I-95 corridor with winter storm Niko from Feb. 8-9. Despite Niko being a rather quick-moving storm, rapid intensification off the eastern seaboard resulted in snowfall rates ranging from 1 to 4 inches per hour from northern New Jersey and New York City into the southern New England states. Boston recorded blizzard conditions for over four hours during the storm. Accumulation of a foot or more of snow was very common with this storm with some amounts up to 2 feet in southern New England. Just days after, winter storm Orson hammered Upstate New York and New England with another foot or more of snow to parts of Upstate New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts from Feb. 10-13. Strong, gusty winds also resulted in widespread power outages along the East Coast.

Spring 2017 Weather Outlook

What’s in Store for the 2017 Spring?

Overall, ENSO neutral conditions are expected to continue for the spring months with neither La Niña nor El Niño affecting the global weather pattern. With that said, WeatherWorks long-range meteorologists expect the persistent trough across the Pacific Northwest to continue for April, which will result in a cool and wet start across the West. This would favor a warm, active pattern from the plains to the Midwest with a higher than normal potential for severe weather outbreaks from April to May just east of these tracking low pressure systems. Although the ridge along the East Coast could fluctuate at times, the overall pattern is favorable for warm, dry conditions in the Southeast and generally near normal temperatures and slightly drier conditions for the Northeast.

6 Unusual Winter Stats (through Feb. 2017):

  1. 8 of the 17 winter storms produced moderate to significant icing spanning multiple states at a time.
  2. Record-setting 3 to 7 feet of snow to the mountains of the Sierra Nevada region from winter storm Jupiter starting Jan. 9.
  3. Chicago has not seen more than 1 inch of snow since Dec. 16-18, 2016 and has recorded only 0.7 inches in 2017. It is the longest snow drought to the area since 1884.
  4. The Baltimore airport (BWI) is currently tied for the least snowy winter (0.7 inches) since the 1949-50 winter season.
  5. Only 20.4 percent of the U.S. is experiencing snow cover on the ground due to the widespread, record-breaking warmth in the second half of February.
  6. Lowest Great Lakes ice cover in 20 years due to the lack of long-term cold.

The post Major Storms of 2016-2017 and What’s Next appeared first on Turf.

from Mix ID 8230377

2017 Product Roundup: Insecticides

spray container insecticide application


TREE-äge insecticide from ArborJet provides emerald ash borer control. Designed for use with tree injection devices, its active ingredient emamectin benzoate is a glycoside and is active against immature and adult stages of arthropods. It is also effective against bagworm, fall webworm, gypsy moth, mimosa webworm, oak worm, pine needle scale and others.

Arbor Systems

Boxer Insecticide-Miticide is available in 120 ml and 1000 ml Quick-Connect Chemical Packs for the control of mature and immature insect and mite pests of deciduous and coniferous trees and palm trees. Boxer containing the active ingredient Emamectin Benzoate, is formulated to translocate in the tree’s vascular system when injected. Place it in active sapwood and actively control pests for up to two years.

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ProScape Lebanon Turf


Quasar 8.5 SL provides control of aphids, leaf-eating beetles, caterpillars, leaf miners, scales, mealy bugs, whiteflies, thrips and more. The active ingredient Acetamiprid works on contact and through ingestion to control target insects at all life stages. Quasar absorbs into the plant tissue and moves via systemic and translaminar activity, providing protection to the entire leaf for up to four weeks. Use it alone or in a tank-mix.


Sevin SL provides effective broad-spectrum control of more than 130 turf and ornamental pests with no resistance problems, the company says. Formulated to bloom in the spray tank, it provides uniform delivery and spread on leaf surfaces. Sevin can be applied to herbaceous and woody plants including roses, flowers, shrubs and evergreens.

Dow AgroSciences

Conserve SC is a specialty insecticide with Spinosad, the active ingredient derived from the fermentation of a naturally occurring organism, combining the efficacy of synthetic insecticides with the benefits of biological pest controls. Both ingestion and contact exposure make this active at low use rates on leafminers, thrips, bagworms, Eastern tent caterpillars, fall webworms and other lepidopterous pests.

Engage Agro USA

Grandevo PTO can be used on cool- and warm-season grasses for control of chinch bugs, sod webworms, cut worms, white grubs and other pests. The active ingredient Achromocil is a broad-spectrum turf, ornamental and greenhouse insecticide. It controls chewing and sucking insects through oral toxicity, repellency and reduced reproduction.


Triple Crown T&O is a triple- action solution for broad-spectrum control of more than 30 above- and below-ground pests, including ants, fire ants, masked chafer grubs (Northern and Southern), European chafer grubs, chinch bugs, annual bluegrass weevils, ticks, mites, billbugs and more. It uses a combination of FMC bifenthrin, FMC zeta-cypermethrin and imidacloprid.


Imicide is used in prevention and eradication programs for Asian and citrus longhorned beetles. It provides preventive and multi-season control treatments for the emerald ash borer as well as other labeled insects. Imicide has second season protection and preventive treatments. It starts controlling infestation one to seven days following application, says the company.


Mallet 0.5G Turf Insecticide protects turf and ornamentals from within, providing broad-spectrum and long-lasting grub and insect control. Mallet will provide control of grubs, billbugs, European crane fly and annual bluegrass weevil. For control of mole crickets, apply prior to or during peak egg hatch period. For suppression of chinchbugs, apply prior to first instar nym hatching.


Zylam Liquid Systemic can provide control of more than 100 insects, including aphids, bagworms, Japanese beetles and scale, plus season-long control of emerald ash borers. It is labeled for use on landscapes, golf courses and school grounds. Zylam translocates through the tree and when applied through bark banding or soil drench can save labor and equipment costs while protecting the tree from insects and drill damage, the company says.

Quest Products Corp.

Safari 20 SG Insecticide can be applied as a foliar or broadcast spray for insect control in ornamental plants in landscapes, greenhouses and nurseries. It is a systemic product taken up by the root system and foliage and translocated through the plant. The product offers locally systemic control of foliar pests.


Acelepryn insecticide features the active ingredient chlorantraniliprole for season-long control of white grubs, billbugs and surface feeders like turf caterpillars. Acelepryn can also be applied to trees, shrubs and ornamentals to help control pests like Japanese beetles, webworms, lace bugs and aphids. It has little-to-no impact on beneficial and nontargeted insects, the company says.

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

The post 2017 Product Roundup: Insecticides appeared first on Turf.

from Mix ID 8230377

Monday, 24 April 2017

11 Things All Irrigation Techs Should Know


The hiring process can be tough to make time for as a busy business owner. Sometimes having some key ways to filter out experienced from inexperienced irrigation technicians makes the process more efficient. In a popular post on LawnSite, member Water Saver asked the question: “What are the top things an irrigation technician should know?” What do you think irrigation technician should be able to explain to you, to prove their competence? There are hundreds or thousands a technician needs to know to be proficient, according to LawnSite member Water Saver. Here are the top answers from other LawnSite members.

1. Understanding the proper and efficient use of each of these three devices: wire tracer, valve locator, fault finder. —NC_Irrigator

2. What a swing pipe is; the proper way to go from PVS to male threads; the proper way to join metal to PVC … explain head layouts and choices to you; demonstrate proper way to make repairs; know the proper way to glue pipe together. —stebs

3. My ex-inventory clerk was a general contractor and his first interview question was to toss a tape measure to the interviewee and ask, “Find me 16 7/8.” Simple and effective. —Srlance31

4. How to glue PVC with blue glue and purple primer without making a mess. —Kawasaki guy

5. Ability to actually talk to people. Not only does a technician need to know their job at hand, you wouldn’t be good if you don’t have actual talking skills. Explain to the customer the situation in a manner they understand while keeping a professional approach. —mitchgo

6. I ask them to pick up a shovel off the ground. If they bend over and pick it up, they’ve never done much irrigation. If they tap the blade with their foot and the handle pops up in their hand, they’re hired. —Phatdaddy

7. In my dreams, I wished for a tech that had a horticultural background, I [found one] and it was helpful as all get out, not only for design and management, but I could go toe-to-toe with the prima donna LAs and “designers.” —Mike Leary

8. Nice question to ask during an interview, especially if you deal with pumps, is head pressure, such as what is a foot of head or how tall does a column of water one inch square need to be for 1 psi? —Srlance31

9. You will need to know how to problem solve and there aren’t always black and white ‘right’ answers. The person I’m looking for is the one who asks follow-up questions when you throw out the generic “What does a reading of 15 ohms indicate?” not just “I don’t know.” —cjohn2000

10. Being proactive is a must! Grab all you need. Quit making five trips to your service vehicle for a repair. —MySprinklerMedic

11. That 12 p.m. doesn’t mean drop everything and go to lunch. —Sprinkus

Read more answers to this question or share your advice on

The post 11 Things All Irrigation Techs Should Know appeared first on Turf.

from Mix ID 8230377

What’s in My Truck: Oasis Turf & Tree

Oasis Turf & Tree

As the service manager for Oasis Turf & Tree, a large lawn care company servicing the Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky areas, Matt Fine is responsible for everything from diagnosing hard-to-spot lawn conditions to training new employees. He’s on the road a lot, and because his responsibilities can vary he’s found it useful to be ready for anything. Fine drives a Freightliner Sprinter van, which he says has great cargo space, is incredibly fuel efficient and basically drives and handles like a car. In fact, Rob Reindl, founder and owner of Oasis, selected Sprinter — specifically the Model 3500 Cargo Van — for some of these exact reasons. The company’s vans start out as that model but are customized for service work with everything from a folding ramp, which allows techs to drive right into the back of the van, to custom hooks, shelves and cubbies for small tools and equipment. While Fine’s van isn’t the same as the technicians’ vans, it’s designed to function as a mobile office.

I always keep a tennis ball in the truck. Most of our customers have dogs, so throughout the day I’ll get random opportunities to play a quick game of fetch. My biggest struggle is getting the ball back from the dog.

All of the vans in our fleet are equipped with Samsung Galaxy Notes. They allow for internet access, a camera and access to Real Green Software, which means we can be of better service to our customers by having all of their account and history information handy.

We have Bluetooth printers on board, which allow us to print custom notes and other information so that customers have helpful print-outs that are easy to read.

Our vans are rolling billboards. They all have matching wraps. I hear from customers all the time that they love our vans. You’ll see kids pointing and smiling as we drive by. They are big, bright and colorful. They let people know who we are, and because our branding is unique it’s also memorable.

Even though we have awesome products, systems, people and training, we know that working with Mother Nature is unpredictable. So we wanted to be sure that our service manager team was equipped to handle any concern for our customers above and beyond what might be expected during one of our scheduled visits. That led us to design a vehicle specifically for a service manager. My vehicle is a mobile tool that can help me take care of our customers, keep our guys on the road and just solve problems in general. So, basically, I’m Batman. Or Matt-man.

The Essentials

I keep all of my essentials in my “man bag,” which I always have handy in my vehicle.

Ray-Ban Sunglasses — These are absolutely vital.

My knife — I feel naked without it on me.

A handful of pens — I always seem to lose them.

A bungee cord — This is surprisingly handy.

Snacks for the day — Usually David brand sunflower seeds in pickle or barbeque flavor and some Nature’s Valley granola bars.

A pack of mint gum — Although you’ll occasionally find a pack of strawberry in there.

The post What’s in My Truck: Oasis Turf & Tree appeared first on Turf.

from Mix ID 8230377

50 Ways to Survive the Busy Season

Busy Calendar

The first 100 days of the busy season — or the “100 Days of Hell,” as you may have not-so-lovingly referred to it — are difficult for any landscape professional. It largely comes down to the age-old problem of having too much to do and not enough time. Coming from the quiet off-season, all of that added pressure can be a bit of a shock to the system. But in this competitive industry there’s really no time to waste. Turf has reached out to landscape professionals across the country to ask them how they gear up and get through the worst of spring. They shared some of their very best tips. From time management to equipment prep to even hiring issues, here’s what they had to say about not only surviving but thriving during the busiest time of the year.

Prepare, prepare, prepare.

  1. “Make sure that your crews are familiar with the customers by name and location before the first day of work. Consider a notebook full of satellite photos of the customers’ properties.” —Joe Flake, owner, Target Lawn Care, Paola, Kansas
  2. “Be proactive when it comes to getting this year’s price lists from your suppliers. Don’t wait for them to get it to you. Ask for it.” —Ken Scherer, owner, Hillsborough Irrigation & Landscape Services, Hillsborough, New Jersey
  3. “Don’t get caught finding and repairing an irrigation mainline leak in the first 100 days of the busy season. Look at your irrigation water meters in advance for those mainline leaks and breaks that are not obvious during the rainy season because the ground is saturated with puddles.” —Chad Sutton, water resource manager, Gachina Landscape Management, Menlo Park, California
  4. “Take a full inventory of remit envelopes, yard signs, marketing materials and other items you might need before the season starts and then order accordingly. You don’t want to run out during the busy season and have to pay a fortune for rush shipping.” —Eric Taylor, manager, Lynch Plant Health Care, Sudbury, Massachusetts
  5. “Manage the chaos. Anything and everything that can be done early has to be. There won’t be time when it gets busy.” —Chris Lee, president, Earthworks Inc., Alvarado, Texas
  6. “Write down on paper all the ideas that are in between your ears during the day — every day.” —Brian H. Labrie, president, B.H. Labrie Landscape Co. Inc., Merrimack, New Hampshire
  7. “We try to have a soft shutdown of all of our operations sometime in the middle of February. Other than a snowstorm event, we try to have everybody take it easy for a week so we can prepare to hit the ground running come busy season.” —Nick Nykorczuk, president, Creative Pavers Inc., Gibbstown, New Jersey

Boost efficiency.

  1. “Keep an old-fashioned list. Whether this is on loose leaf paper, a dry erase board or a smart device, it should be made and updated every day. Goals for tasks need to be completed by day’s end are the priority.” —Michael Pasquarello, landscape architect, Elite Landscaping, Berlin, New Jersey
  2. “Loading and fueling your vehicles and equipment in a staggered fashion at the end of the day avoids the morning circus.” —Rob Reindl, founder and CEO, Oasis Turf & Tree, Loveland, Ohio
  3. “Save training for rainy days. When the weather’s good, you have to go full-steam with production. But there are often lots of things to cover that will keep your team more productive all season long.” —Kevin Denby, chief marketing officer, Oasis Turf & Tree, Loveland, Ohio
  4. “We have a list of all of the businesses and large properties that we service. We put those customers on the schedule early and get them out of the way before the craziness hits.” —Liz DeNinno, co-owner, Pinnacle Irrigation and Nightlighting, Haddon Heights, New Jersey
  5. “Invoice someone for something every single day. Don’t ever fall behind on billing. Keep it fresh. If you fall behind with billing during busy season, which is already time-consuming to begin with, you’re in trouble.” —Brian H. Labrie, president, B.H. Labrie Landscape Co. Inc., Merrimack, New Hampshire
  6. “If you want to reduce hedging time, now is the time to do hard-pruning and lower the height of those hedges. This will make it easier for your crews to maintain. You can also start naturally pruning those and eliminate hedges altogether.” —William Cruz, senior branch manager, Gachina Landscape Management, Menlo Park, California
  7. “We have a facility and yard assistant who loads and washes trucks in the late afternoon/early evenings. Managers are responsible for providing load tickets for the following day. It helps to get the crews, particularly the construction and enhancement crews, out faster in the morning.” —Dean DeSantis, president, DeSantis Landscapes, Portland, Oregon

Equipment and vehicles.

  1. “Using enclosed vehicles allows you to fill your equipment out of the rain so you can continue working even in light rain.” —Rob Reindl, founder and CEO, Oasis Turf & Tree, Loveland, Ohio
  2. “All of our landscaping equipment is washed, cleaned and maintained before being stored for the winter. If it has a motor, the oil and filter are changed. The idea is to be able to put a key in it and start it. Equipment should be ready to go.” —Fred Oskanian, owner, Terra Lawn Specialists, Collegeville, Pennsylvania
  3. “Inspect your vehicles and equipment mid-winter. Don’t wait until spring in case parts have to be ordered. Visit local equipment suppliers and check out what’s new in the industry in case you wind up needing a new piece of equipment.” —Ken Scherer, owner, Hillsborough Irrigation & Landscape Services, Hillsborough, New Jersey
  4. “We’re big on preventive maintenance. During the offseason we keep crew leaders on for a minimum of 20 hours a week in the shop, getting the equipment ready to go for the busy season.” —Tony Szczechowski, general manager/owner, Pro Edge Lawn Care Ltd., Holland, Ohio
  5. “Fuel up all equipment after work so you can start fast in the mornings without any delay.” —Brian H. Labrie, president, B.H. Labrie Landscape Co. Inc., Merrimack, New Hampshire
  6. “Don’t push your equipment to the very edge. It’s better to replace something early than to have it go down in the field.” —Tony Szczechowski, general manager/owner, Pro Edge Lawn Care Ltd., Holland, Ohio
  7. “I’ve hired a mobile fueling company that comes in three days a week in the evening and fuels all of our trucks. They barcode each truck so not only do we save on labor to fuel trucks but we have a good tracking system of how much fuel each vehicle uses.” —Dean DeSantis, president of DeSantis Landscapes, Portland, Oregon
  8. “Have all tools purchased, spray painted/ marked and put in piles for easy spring distribution. Tools should already be sharpened and lubed. We have all vehicles and equipment completely looked over and serviced prior to the start of the season.” —Mike Wheeler, managing partner and operations manager, Boreal Property Management, Jackson, Wyoming
  9. “We used to get so busy that we were hiring out of desperation. Basically if you were breathing, we’d put you to work, whether you were good for the job or not. That wasn’t always good for business. Now, we’ve adopted the mantra of ‘always be a recruiter.’ We are hiring yearround so that we’re never doing it out of desperation.” —Giuseppe Baldi, account manager, Baldi Gardens Inc., Arlington, Texas
  10. “Overhire because 18 percent of our maintenance labor is likely not going to be able to cut it. Do not get stuck in a bind of having to settle for poor workmanship or not having enough employees to service your customers.” —Eric Taylor, manager, Lynch Plant Health Care, Sudbury, Massachusetts
  11. “We’ve learned it’s best to overstaff than to be understaffed. We do a lot of hiring in the slow season and are fine having a few more guys than we really need. That’s always better than a few less than you need. Plus, when you’re overstaffed, if you lose a guy it doesn’t throw a total wrench in the operation. There’s always someone to step up and fill in.” —Giuseppe Baldi, account manager, Baldi Gardens Inc., Arlington, Texas

Improve productivity.

  1. “Work all the time you work. In other words, don’t get hung up doing things that aren’t on your task list for that day.” —Michael Pasquarello, landscape architect, Elite Landscaping, Berlin, New Jersey
  2. “Our team forgoes any vacation time or time off during the months of March and April. By having everyone here, we know we can be at our peak productivity-wise.” —Kevin Denby, chief marketing officer, Oasis Turf & Tree, Loveland, Ohio
  3. “Don’t slow down. Even if you’re running fewer crews/employees and there’s not a natural sense of urgency, create urgency and look for things that can be done before the busy season really kicks in. If you’re not sure, look back at last year’s worst days and you’ll find some tips. Always keep a swift and purposeful pace. If you keep the pace steady, even if the days are shorter, there’s not this huge acclimation process to get everyone back into high gear.” —Chris Lee, president of Earthwork Inc., Alvarado, Texas

Time management.

  1. “Set certain times to check email and respond each day. Continually checking can really bog you down, not allowing sufficient time to complete tasks with your undivided attention.” —Michael Pasquarello, landscape architect, Elite Landscaping, Berlin, New Jersey
  2. “Start to think of ways to limit time that your crews are on each job site. Are you sending the right amount of men to do the job? Do they have the right equipment for the job? Have you trained them to use the equipment most effectively? Have you routed them in the most efficient way? Think about where you can make changes.” —Gerald Boutin, general manager of the maintenance division, Denison Landscaping, Fort Washington, Maryland
  3. “Use production charts throughout the year. As contracts come in, record that in your charts and as you do the work, highlight it in another color so you know it has been done. I typically use yellow as it shows up nicely.” —Gerald Boutin, general manager of the maintenance division, Denison Landscaping, Fort Washington, Maryland

Focus on your employees.

  1. “Keep your team motivated! Don’t take for granted that just because spring is great for the business that it’s all roses and sunshine for your team. Chances are, they’re working their butts off and there’s a fatigue factor that can kick in after a little while. Come in with energy and positivity and it will be infectious to your team. A couple of impromptu happy hours go a long way.” —Kevin Denby, chief marketing officer, Oasis Turf & Tree, Loveland, Ohio
  2. “We have monthly branch BBQs, which helps with team building and also says ‘thanks’ for all the hard work that everyone is putting in.” —Dean DeSantis, president, DeSantis Landscapes, Portland, Oregon
  3. “Reach out to your returning seasonal employees. Meet them with a call early to reaffirm their work date. Don’t be caught short-handed when busy season rolls around.” —Ken Scherer, owner, Hillsborough Irrigation & Landscape Services, Hillsborough, New Jersey
  4. “We spend a lot of time getting ‘associate buy in.’ As an employee- owned company [employees own 79 percent of the stock], employees have everything to gain by being a better company. We reorganized our company to create a board of vice presidents. There is a VP over every type of work we do. The idea has been to open up communication and spend more time with each branch and department. We are listening better to our associates. Our goal is to push most of the decision-making down to the people doing the work.” —Larry Ryan, owner and founder, Ryan Lawn & Tree, Overland Park, Kansas
  5. “Set clear personal and company goals and potential rewards for all employees, regardless of level, before the busy season starts. If your entire workforce is invested in getting the work done as efficiently and promptly as possible, the first couple of months will go much smoother and allow you some flexibility to take on more customers.” —Eric Taylor, manager, Lynch Plant Health Care, Sudbury, Massachusetts
  6. “Since it is required of our crew members to work Saturdays during the busy season, we create our Saturday work schedule ahead of time so they can plan accordingly. All technicians must work Saturdays during April and May.” —Liz DeNinno, co-owner, Pinnacle Irrigation and Nightlighting, Haddon Heights, New Jersey
  7. “Our biggest thing here is transparency. We open our financial plan to everyone on the team in February. Of course we don’t show salaries or personal information, but we show them what our P&L burden is, what our gross profit is, and what our plan is to get there, including how each person is accountable for their piece to reach that goal. This year we’re also implementing a profit sharing plan so they have even more reason to want to be efficient. Instead of just posting numbers and saying ‘hit them,’ we show them why it matters.” —Tony Szczechowski, general manager/owner, Pro Edge Lawn Care Ltd., Holland, Ohio

Customer relations.

  1. “I think customer retention has a lot to do with surviving the busy season. We retain 96 percent of our customers every year, which is high for the industry. I take losing a customer incredibly seriously if it’s for any reason other than moving. Your existing customers should get your attention — business owners often lose sight of that when they become so focused on growing. But customer retention helps with long-term growth. And when you already know your clients so well, it makes life easier, even in the busy season.” —Fred Oskanian, owner, Terra Lawn Specialists, Collegeville, Pennsylvania
  2. “Work with your clients. Communicate and incentivize them to let you do some of the work earlier or later than usual. Help them understand the logistics of the season starting all at once and how they can get ahead by helping you get ahead.” —Chris Lee, president, Earthworks Inc., Alvarado, Texas
  3. “We used to say that every phone call that came in was a great lead but come busy season we would find ourselves flooded with calls and then running around for meetings even though many of the potential customers didn’t end up being the right fit for us. Now we try to spend a good five or 10 minutes on the phone with every lead, finding out what they really want. Are they looking for maintenance throughout the year or a one-time small mulching job? If it’s the latter, and they don’t have any big landscape jobs on the horizon, it’s probably not a good fit for us. Running around for small mulching jobs was a time vacuum. Spending more time on the front end talking to potential customers is helping us use our time efficiently.” —Michael Pickel, president, Pickel Landscape Group, Landenberg, Pennsylvania
  4. “Even though we offer multiple services such as lighting and gutter cleaning on top of our core irrigation services, during those busy months we restrict services to just irrigation. We also do email marketing to encourage customers to turn their systems on early. We will often leave the controllers in the off position but our marketing reads ‘Make sure your irrigation system is ready when you are.’” —Liz DeNinno, co-owner, Pinnacle Irrigation and Nightlighting, Haddon Heights, New Jersey
  5. “Offer an early order program to your customers for plants, hardscape products, mulch, etc. This can help with early season cash flow and also cut down on the amount that the phone rings later.” —Joe Flake, owner, Target Lawn Care, Paola, Kansas
  6. “For new clients, turn your estimates around fast. Get their email address so you can send the estimate electronically. Set their expectations with the initial call. Be honest and tell them when you will really get to their job and how long it will take you to complete it.” —Gerald Boutin, general manager of the maintenance division, Denison Landscaping, Fort Washington, Maryland
  7. “Pre-qualification during that initial phone call is key. Develop a template of questions that can be asked in order to save added time in the long run. These questions should include completion time frame, budgetary range, lead source, email, phone number, address and other information that is pertinent to you. This also makes tracking leads easier in the future.” —Michael Pasquarello, landscape architect, Elite Landscaping, Berlin, New Jersey
  8. “Making the time to meet with everyone who is calling in during the busy season becomes too much to handle so we’ve started staggering our marketing materials. We do a direct mail campaign but will pick and choose how many go out each week during busy season. Staggering the marketing helps us handle more leads.” —Tony Szczechowski, general manager/ owner, Pro Edge Lawn Care Ltd., Holland, Ohio
  9. “Check in with your customers on up-andcoming projects or to be sure they still want the same services as last year. We send out a product service checklist to all our customers before spring. This allows them to check off the services they still want for the new season. It also makes them familiar with all of our services in case there were some they didn’t realize we do.” —Abby Gilbert, gardening division manager, Snow & Sons Tree & Landscaping, Greenfield, Massachusetts

Don’t forget self-care.

  1. “I like to go on a vacation somewhere tropical and remote in order to mentally relax before the season starts.” —Mike Wheeler, managing partner and operations manager, Boreal Property Management, Jackson, Wyoming
  2. “Always remember that summer does come after spring and that’s when we get to breathe again.” —Gerald Boutin, general manager of the maintenance division, Denison Landscaping, Fort Washington, Maryland
  3. “Manage your stress. We all go through it and most of us will indeed live. Don’t fracture relationships with clients or employees in the heat of the moment.” —Chris Lee, president, Earthworks, Alvarado, Texas

The post 50 Ways to Survive the Busy Season appeared first on Turf.

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Sunday, 23 April 2017

3 Ways to Keep Happy Employees

3 Ways to Keep Happy Employees

Your business has grown substantially. In fact, you have succeeded in building a respectable business. You have achieved your ultimate goal, right? Well, according to Dan Ariens, chairman and CEO of Ariens Co., that may not be the case.

“As soon as you think you’ve arrived, you’re dead,” Ariens says.

Dan Ariens has been the CEO of the Ariens Co. since 1998. Besides just his positive reputation within his company for his exceptional leadership, he has become known within the industry for his expertise, impressive leadership and “Five Core Values” technique. But while the Ariens Co. is one of Wisconsin’s most successful businesses, Ariens still treats it as if it is a business with five employees.

Because while Ariens Co. hires as quickly and frequently as any large business does, Ariens knows the importance of expressing the value of each and every employee.

“With every single new person I do a one-on-one meet and greet,” Ariens says, sharing one of his strategies as CEO.

Many big business owners would claim they cannot find the time for such practices, but Ariens strongly suggests making the time. It is small business practices such as these that make employees feel important and more dedicated to their work. This is exactly why Ariens focuses on being a “servant leader.”

Ariens says he does not consider the business his, but he prefers to describe himself as the “caretaker for this business.”

As the caretaker for Ariens Co., meeting with every new employee is not the only small business strategy Ariens has put in place at the company. In the grand scheme of things, you may not think the day of one employee affects your business, but Ariens has found it most certainly does.

At Ariens Co., they have compiled various colored disks that represent feelings such as “bad,” “great” or “OK.” At the end of each day, employees choose colored disks that represent how their days went and put them in a bowl. “Having a pulse on employee morale is integral for monitoring the state of your company, and that is why the leadership at Ariens reviews the bowl of chips at the end of every day,” Ariens says.

Lastly, Ariens knows the importance of engaging every employee, whether you employ 10 people or 100. That is why he takes time out of his busy schedule to meet with them, assess their feelings and, most importantly, keep them updated on the state of Ariens Co.

Keeping information only between senior management makes for apathetic employees, he adds. “The more people who know what’s going on,” Ariens says, “the more engaged they will be.”

The post 3 Ways to Keep Happy Employees appeared first on Turf.

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