Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Story of a Landscape: Retirement, Wedding Cause Prompt Backyard Renovation

Photo: Landscape Design Services, Inc.

There’s nothing nicer than having a long-time customer come in and say he wants to do a little upgrading of his backyard. That is unless the little upgrade turns in to the addition of a pool and outdoor kitchen.

However, larger project or not, Landscape Design Services, Inc. faced one looming problem when it took on a project later dubbed “Miller Park”: a mid-September family wedding for which the job had to be completed.

Kelly Karp, the project’s designer, says the company has been working with the Millers for at least a decade, and had previously done work both at their business and then in the front of the home in Holland, Michigan.

“The backyard was kind of the end of the house project,” he says. “They hadn’t done much with it. It was pretty much natural and they just left it that way. Then, when Mr. Miller retired, he decided he wanted to make a little something in the backyard.”

During the renovation Photo: Landscape Design Services, Inc.

During the renovation Photo: Landscape Design Services, Inc.

The two men started working on what was originally planned as a small patio and upgrade to the lawn in October. However, as the client began looking through magazines and the internet, Karp says he began compiling ideas.

“That was when he came to me and said, ‘We’re going to up this a little bit,’” says Karp. “We worked on it over the winter and came up with a new plan which was quite a bit of change. Fortunately, it was helpful to see the photos he had and then just bring the ideas together.”

Just how much change was involved? Well, consider a free-form pool fed by a recirculating water feature, a new outdoor kitchen, a fire pit and a replacement deck off the main floor of the house overlooking the backyard are all key parts of the finished project.

“The scale of the project needed to be large enough to entertain large groups, but intimate enough for individuals, as well,” says Karp. “This was accomplished by using a free-form design that created ‘rooms’ with specific uses.”

During the renovation Photo: Landscape Design Services, Inc.

During the renovation Photo: Landscape Design Services, Inc.

Perhaps the most impressive feature is the pool, which the owner visualized as a western mountain-style scene. Once the two men had the concept idea, they worked closely with Blue Water Pools of Grand Rapids, Inc., on the details and construction of the pool.

“He wanted that dark black water, and he liked the free-flow feel of the pool shape,” says Karp. “We had talked several years ago about installing a waterfall from the front of the house to the back, and when this project came together, we made the waterfall a part of the pool itself.”

He explains that a grade change allows for a “raised” pool at the basement walk-out level. A six-foot boulder wall was used to transition the grade. The grade change also allowed the pool fence to be installed at the bottom of the wall, leaving an unobstructed view of the natural area at the rear of the property.

Because of its free-form shape, it was possible to create spaces for a beach entry, in-water bar stools, a deep-end activity area, as well as the stream feature.

Installing the pool Photo: Landscape Design Services, Inc.

Installing the pool Photo: Landscape Design Services, Inc.

Karp says the wall is all natural Michigan boulders, just as the material for the stream and waterfall are natural river rock. The jump rock is a Cedar Falls ledgestone, while the project’s pavers are a Unilock product called Yorkstone.

Because of the significant amount of grading done to install the pool, including the addition of some 300 yards of sand to the site, Karp says compaction was an issue. To further secure the area against settling, concrete was poured around the entire pool, an inch of sand was laid as a base and then the pavers were dry-set on that sand bed.

Another challenge to the job was the placement of the pool equipment. The Millers chose to install a new second floor Trex composite deck with a steel cable railing and move its access staircase from the center of the home to the end. The area below the deck and behind the outdoor kitchen created a space where the equipment wouldn’t be visible and remain close to the pool.

“I said, ‘Why not build a little room there and put the pool equipment inside?’” Karp says. “It really worked out well because we could keep it ventilated, it’s out of the way, and it has lent itself to some storage, as well.”

Photo: Landscape Design Services, Inc.

Photo: Landscape Design Services, Inc.

The room is also equipped with a rain channel ceiling and gutter that drains out through the underground drainage system.

With the use of Trex for the new deck, it only made sense to also incorporate that into the kitchen pergola, as well, Karp says.

“We really wanted something that was no maintenance,” he says. “It’s got that same composite style to it. We had talked about doing cedar at first, or white painted wood, but those require maintenance. This worked out much better and ties in with the decking.”

And, he says the pergola also has a shade cloth that can be rolled out to provide additional cover on hot days.

The kitchen itself includes a two-level bar, grill and warming drawer, an outdoor TV and sound system. The stone used to face those features is the same that was put on the front of the house when it was built 15 years ago.

“That’s really what this whole place is about,” Karp says. “They’re very people-friendly and they have a lot of family parties and activities through their church. The kitchen was a big piece of the project and we wanted to make sure it was usable to a lot of people.”

Photo: Landscape Design Services, Inc.

Photo: Landscape Design Services, Inc.

Lighting for the project includes path lighting around the patio, and selected up-lighting on some of the trees, particularly at the rear of the property.

“There are some significant trees back there, and by using some big up-lights it really brightens the background at night,” says Karp. “We used an Alliance Outdoor Lighting USA system and including an astronomical timer that automatically adjusts as the days and nights change.”

Plantings for the project put an emphasis on color, Karp adds.

“We used boxwoods in there to create some evergreen spaces,” he says. “It also frames the color around the pool. We also used a combination of plant materials to get flower color at different times. Color was a big thing to them, so it pops throughout the season.”

Photo: Landscape Design Services, Inc.

Photo: Landscape Design Services, Inc.

Work began on the actual construction in March, and met the mid-September wedding deadline, although Karp says as the deadline approached there were as many as 30 subs and Landscape Design Services employees on the site.

“There wasn’t a lot of parking on the road for awhile,” Karp says with a laugh.

Nor was that the only challenge the job presented. Access to the backyard was through a space between the garage and some existing trees that was only wide enough to accommodate a pickup.

“We couldn’t get large equipment back there,” he says. “And, our access was where the stairs for the deck came down, so one of the last things we did was take out the access to the back and build the steps. Everything had to happen for this to take place.”

Photo: Landscape Design Services, Inc.

Photo: Landscape Design Services, Inc.

The project was also a learning experience for Karp. With subs providing the pool installation, electrical, mechanical, plumbing, masonry, irrigation, fencing and deck/pergola portions of the job, he says scheduling and management also required a great deal of thought.

And, then there was the gas meter, which also had to be re-sized.

“The gas meter was just sized for the house, so it was about 250,000 BTUs (British Thermal Units),” he says. “But, when you put in a pool and a heater, you really have to upsize things. Then, there was the gas fire pit, as well. The one we have out there now is 600,000 BTUs, but we definitely had to take that into consideration.”

Photo: Landscape Design Services, Inc.

Photo: Landscape Design Services, Inc.

Not surprisingly, Karp is very proud of his work for the Millers, which earned him and his company the award for Best Residential Landscape Design and Installation of more than $60,000 from the Michigan Nursery and Landscape Association.

“I really enjoyed this entire project,” he concludes. “The thing I’m most happy about is how much enjoyment everybody gets out of it. It has a lot of neat elements to it, but what really brings a smile to my face is seeing people out there using it and having fun.”

The post Story of a Landscape: Retirement, Wedding Cause Prompt Backyard Renovation appeared first on Turf.

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How One Landscape Professional Puts Drones to Use

Photo: Tom Gardocki

Tom Gardocki, who is known as The Dirt Ninja on YouTube, uses drones for his father’s Interstate Landscape Co. for two main purposes: marketing and surveying projects.

“You can use it to take before pictures, because when you’re doing a design, you do the design from directly overhead to do the layout and dimensions,” he says. “So these pictures from straight up above you can’t even get from a ladder. Then the designer can use that to create the design.”

Gardocki says that sometimes even using the drone just 30 to 50 feet up can give a project a different perspective. Any higher than that and you can lose some detail about the topography. “You lose the pitches and grades; everything looks flat as you get higher,” he says. Even when you’re up 100 feet, you lose depth perceptions so you can’t really tell what’s going on — like retaining walls or a fire pit, you can’t really tell what it is.”

Photo: Tom Gardocki

Photo: Tom Gardocki

Undoubtedly, the most popular use for drones is marketing because showing clients pictures and videos from the drone gives them a different perspective they can’t get otherwise.

“I find going less than 50 feet to get that little different perspective, that little bit higher, different angle — you can tell that it’s only 30 feet in the air, but it gives you that little different perspective of the job site.”

He adds that while Interstate Landscape is a hardscape company and doesn’t do maintenance work, he can see where drones could be useful for surveying potential problems in large lawns or inspecting the tops of trees more carefully. Gardocki has used the drone to look at gutters and inspect roofs — it’s much safer than using ladders.

Photo: Tom Gardocki

Photo: Tom Gardocki

And the safety aspect of drone use is something to consider. Gardocki provides these helpful tips:

  1. If your drone weighs more than a half pound, even if it’s just for hobby use, register it with the FAA. He said the cost is only $5, but if you don’t register it and you crash it and are held responsible, the fine may be as much as $27,000.
  2. Gardocki uses the DJI Phantom 3+ Professional and recommends buying a drone with an integrated camera mounted on a gimbal. “It keeps the camera steady and level, so if the drone is tilted forward, it automatically levels the camera and keeps a steady shot.” This style drone may run about $1,000, but it’s worth the investment to have the camera held steady, he says.
  3. Finally, always get permission from your client before using the drone. “You’ve got to be smart about it,” Gardocki says. “I always get permission from the customer to fly on the property before I do it, and I won’t fly it far away — I’ll stay within their property bounds.

“There are a lot of people who don’t like them — drones are really vilified in the news, so people can be really apprehensive of them, but I’ve never had anyone tell me no, as long as I ask.”

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Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Industry to USCIS: Immediate Action Needed on H-2B Visa Limit

Capital Hill

We seem to be living in two different worlds — the one in Washington, D.C., where “political posturing” reigns and the other, which is “the real world.”

So said one of the many business owners calling in to a special U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services listening session to urge immediate action on the H-2B nonimmigrant visa program.  The purpose of the teleconference was to seek feedback on the impact that any potential increase in the number of H-2B workers may have on U.S. workers.

This past April, Congress reached a deal to fund the federal government through Sept. 30, the end of the current fiscal year. The language in the budget bill agreed upon by congressional negotiators gives the Secretaries of Labor and Homeland Security authority to raise the H-2B visa limit of 66,000 if they determine that there is a need. So far, they’ve not taken action.

What they would have heard if they had been a part of the listening session is that the impact of the H-2B workers on the economy (and by extension, U.S. workers) is overwhelmingly positive. By providing relief to the H-2B program and implementing the returning worker exemption — essentially doubling the 66,000 statutory limit of seasonal guest workers visas — business owners can grow their companies and provide more job opportunities for U.S. workers.

But, not everyone on the teleconference agreed.

Representatives speaking for the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Friends of Farmworkers and the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) opposed the need for additional H-2B visas. Speaking for the EPI, one caller said H-2B “puts downward pressure on American worker wages” and offers few labor or employment protections for seasonal guest workers. Another industry critic likened H-2B workers to “indentured servants.”

Not surprisingly, business owners participating on the call ­­vehemently disagreed with these callers. Several owners sharply pointed out that their H-2B workers willingly return to work each season and, when new positions open up, recommend their friends or relatives for jobs, as well. As for wages, several other callers pointed out that H-2B workers are paid government-established prevailing wages, and in many cases even higher wages.

Indeed, the issue isn’t so much one of wages, but of the availability of workers, caller after caller emphasized. There just aren’t enough willing U.S. workers to fill the many seasonal jobs available within the U.S. economy.

Twenty six of the people commenting during the listening session say they need the workers that the expansion of the visa program via the returning worker exemption would allow. They also said immediate resumption of H-2B visa processing is critical since they still need the workers for this season. Speaking on behalf of the H-2B program were landscape company owners, seafood processors, construction contractors, amusement/carnival operators and hotel and restaurant owners.

While it’s not clear just what impact the comments offered during the 90-minute listening session will have, the feedback received by the three USCIS folks was overwhelmingly pro H-2B. The message couldn’t have been clearer ­— seasonal businesses need H-2B workers and they need them immediately given that the 2017 season is already underway.

Washington, D.C., are you listening?

The post Industry to USCIS: Immediate Action Needed on H-2B Visa Limit appeared first on Turf.

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The Biggest Liability in the Snow Industry? Lack of Education

Liability: Major Pitfalls that Can Ruin Your Business

Every snow contracting business owner should, from time to time, take an introspective look at how they are doing business. One of the things that can keep you up at night is: “What can sink my business?” All owners think of this on occasion. It’s the same for small contractors and those who have been around for decades and measure their revenues in tens of millions of dollars.

So, what can go wrong? Unfortunately many things. Top of the list is cash flow. It’s not a lack of profit that sends companies to bankruptcy or closure — it is a lack of cash. When you run out of cash and cannot pay the bills, it’s over before you know it. It actually sneaks up on you and startles you when it occurs.

We talk about liability issues all the time. And snow contractors often fear the inherent liability that comes with being in the snow business. However, it’s much easier to protect the company from liability than it is from cash flow problems. Proper and diligent documentation is a great hedge against the inevitable lawsuit that plagues our industry.

But the best hedge against your business tanking is — wait for it — education. Education is so readily available to everyone in our business that there is no excuse for being ignorant about business issues, be they financial, liability or managerial. There is a very poignant colloquialism that says: “You can’t fix stupid.” That might be true, however, most who venture into the snow business are not stupid. They may be ignorant as to what it takes to run a business. The definition if ignorance is “lack of knowledge or information.” The good news is we can fix ignorance.

There are many avenues to combat ignorance: Trade associations are dedicated to educating snow contractors (and their staff) about business, insurance, documentation, technology, equipment — the list is almost endless.

I have spoken to snow business owners who have told me, “I’m too busy to go to an educational session.” On the flip side, I have a client who, in the span of four years, grew their snow business revenues from $300,000 a year to $3 million a year. Profits grew 100 fold. This contractor has over $1 million in the bank, purchased a $1.5-million facility, has profit sharing with the long-term employees and paid off all the company’s outstanding debt. This contractor makes no bones about it — success came from education.

Attending snow industry trade shows, becoming members of both snow trade associations, going through the ISO SN9001 certification process and attending four to six educational events per year at Snowfighters Institute made all the difference. Of course, applying what one learns is paramount. Trusting those who provide such education helps, too.

In my humble opinion, the largest and most dangerous liability issue facing snow contractors (large and small) is ignorance. And, it can be overcome. Seek out knowledge. And apply what you learn. Rub elbows with successful contractors. Don’t be afraid to take chances, and do not fear failure.

My favorite quote from Michael Jordon is: “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

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

The post The Biggest Liability in the Snow Industry? Lack of Education appeared first on Turf.

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Monday, 29 May 2017

6 Good Reads for Productive Landscape Company Leaders

Photo: iStock

Many top landscape executives are avid readers. Here are a few top titles for improving productivity in your business and personally.

1. “Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World,” by Cal Newport. A quick read, this book explores the concept of mental focus and distraction-free concentration, and offers a four-step regimen for training your mind to excel at performing concentrated mental tasks.

Deep Work

2. “The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It,” by Michael Gerber. This revised edition of Gerber’s productivity classic examines the role of the business owner and clarifies the primary mindset and operations shifts that are the hallmarks of a smoothly running company.

E-Myth revisted

3. “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less,” by Greg McKeown. Prioritizing is a key element of productivity. This self-help book helps the reader avoid the multitasking trap and learn to identify and pursue what is truly important to achieve their goals and vision.


4. “Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck — Why Some Thrive Despite Them All,” by Jim Collins. A research-backed exploration of why some companies attain great performance over the long run and others do not.Great by Choice

5. “Green Side Up: Straight Talk on Growing & Operating A Profitable Landscape Business,” by Ed Laflamme. Chock full of practical, actionable tips on improving productivity and profitability in your landscape business, this essential resource draws on the author’s more than 30 years experience in the industry as both a landscape business owner and consultant.Green Side Up

6. “The Way of the SEAL: Think Like An Elite Warrior to Lead and Succeed,” by Mark Devine. Retired Navy SEAL commander Devine reveals eight powerful principles for success and effective leadership used by military traditions.

The Way of the Seal

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Sunday, 28 May 2017

Offer These 6 Edible Container Plants


Introducing a garden into a client’s yard can be a risky suggestion, especially since, according to, many people are seeking low-maintenance landscaping. But container gardening, especially with edibles, can fulfill the desire to eat healthfully and cultivate their own plants without a full-fledged garden. Here are a few edibles that do well in containers.

1. Lettuce

Lettuce is easy to grow and the variation in foliage texture is a highlight. Planting a variety of types promises varied color and texture, and an expanded season of harvest, according to American Nurseryman. It’s impressive when tucked in among flowering perennials in mixed container arrangements.

2. Tomato

Better Homes & Gardens suggests the Beefsteak, Cherry Elite, Cherry Express, Cherry Gold and Sweet Chelsea varieties. Prune to a single stem and train it up a stake, the magazine says. Pinch out new shoots that arise in the notch where a leaf meets the main stem.

3. Swiss chard

Swiss chard (Beta vulgaris subsp. cicla) holds much of its attraction in its colorful stems, ranging from purple to red and pink, yellow and orange. Both the stalks and leaves of Swiss chard are edible and will do well in containers, American Nurseryman says.

4. Onion

According to Better Homes and Gardens, onion (Allium cepa) varieties Burpee Sweet Spanish, Egyptian Walking, New York Early, Red Baron and Walla Walla Sweet are good choices. Onion flowers can be attractive, but produce inferior harvests, the magazine says.

5. Cabbage

Cabbage (Brassica oleracea var. capitate) is a cool-season veggie that’s grown as an annual, according to American Nurseryman. The plants form beautiful, rose-like foliage clusters that stand out in decorative containers.

6. Chives

Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) are a good choice for containers, but also consider green (or bunching) onions, Better Homes & Gardens says, which produce small bulbs, edible leaves and a less intense onion flavor.

The post Offer These 6 Edible Container Plants appeared first on Turf.

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Saturday, 27 May 2017

Like a Boss: Proving to Clients Your Company is Worth the Cost


Joshua Malik, Joshua Tree

Photo: Joshua Malik, Joshua Tree

At Joshua Tree, a professional tree and lawn care company in Stockertown, Pennsylvania, owner Joshua Malik says they “don’t want to be the least expensive option” in their marketplace. Still, being the mid- to upper-level choice for lawn care requires some extra effort to convince the customer of the value they’re receiving for that investment. From higher quality products to top-of-the-line equipment and also ongoing training, Joshua Tree certainly has validation to charge higher prices, but the key is to get the client to see it that way.

Since its inception, Joshua Tree has had to do very little advertising in the community to keep the company growing. A strong reputation and word of mouth has really gone far to carry the business. Even when the company first added lawn care as a primary service five years ago, their tree clients helped them spread the word quickly.

While they haven’t done a lot of advertising, Malik has been investing in inbound marketing through Landscape Leadership in order to produce content and help continue to grow the business and its reputation. Already positioned as a leader in the local marketplace, Malik wants to continue to uphold that standing. All of that has been important in preventing customers from getting scared away by the cost.

“We provide a superior service which is why we can charge what we do,” Malik says. “But we have to continue to be sure the customer recognizes that value. We constantly update equipment, train our people, and use premium product. That equates to better service and better results for the customer — but it’s important that they recognize it in order for them to see the value they’re getting for their investment.”

Premium content on Joshua Tree’s website as well as continual conversations with the client are helping Malik to keep that value at the forefront of his clients’ minds.

“We really get to know our customers and that goes a long way,” Malik says. “Whereas the average relationship between a lawn care company and a customer is typically three years, our goal is to double that—or more. We’re building long-term relationships in which we really get to know the people we’re working for on a regular basis. That adds to the value factor and is another reason we can charge more. The better we get to know our customers and their properties, the better service we can provide them.”

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I am a Landscaper: Nick Nykorczuk

Nick Nykorczuk

Nick Nykorczuk, president of Creative Pavers Inc., a design/build firm in Gibbstown, New Jersey, says his plan of working on artificial heart valves and knee replacements as a biomechanical engineer went by the wayside as his love for the landscape industry grew. Nykorczuk did landscape side jobs to help him through college and realized he “found great joy in creating outdoor spaces.” He still ended up graduating with a degree in biomechanical engineering, but by then his landscape business had taken off. In fact, even after thousands of projects, Nykorczuk says it is “still incredibly gratifying” to be part of the green industry.

Most of my free time is spent with my wife and three young kids — ages 4, 2 and 2. We love taking day trips and always try to plan out our weekends to involve some sort of activity. It may be going to the park for a picnic or visiting a local zoo or aquarium.

One of my biggest hobbies is home improvement projects. Over the past year alone, I built a fence with stained wood post accents and top rails with custom moldings to enclose my garden from deer; I installed a couple of stone accent walls in some of the interior rooms of my house; and I recently built an outdoor pizza oven with a live edge wood top bar. Pizza nights at our house just got a whole lot more fun.

I like to get out and meet with as many people as possible in and around our industry. That’s how you continue to learn and grow. Every time I have been in front of a classroom or an auditorium full of industry people, I am literally looking at hundreds if not thousands of collective years of experience staring right back at me, and I make it a point to benefit from that knowledge.

My business philosophy is best summarized by the slogan I have hanging in my office: “It’s not what you deserve, it’s what you earn.” Building and running a business is so demanding, especially early on, that you can get trapped into feeling like you should get something because you worked hard and you deserve it. But I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter what you feel you deserve. If you don’t actually earn it — and succeed at the task at hand — it just doesn’t happen.

I am fairly adventurous with trying new foods, especially different types of protein. You can’t beat a well-cooked steak on the grill but I have also had every type of meat you can imagine: alligator, rabbit, frog legs, snake, squirrel and many others.

I am passionate about living life and giving myself goals to shoot for. I like having a long-term plan and working to make it happen. It’s so gratifying along the way when you can hit milestones and keep pushing yourself forward to reach that end goal.

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Thursday, 25 May 2017

Akehurst Landscape Equips Local K-9 Unit with Lawn Gear: This Week’s Industry News

Photo: Akehurst Landscape

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.

MTD Subsidiary Announces Pending Merger with Robomow Maker
A subsidiary of MTD Products Inc. is set to merge with F. Robotics Acquistions, makers of the Robomow, robotic residential lawn mowers sold mainly in Europe. The merger is expected to close around July 2, 2017, pending governmental and other approvals, says a release from MTD. Following the merger, Robomow’s operations will remain headquartered in Pardesiya, Israel, and its present management team will continue to lead the company with support from MTD’s European, North American and Asia-Pacific divisions.

Makita USA Opens New Distribution/Training Facility in Texas
Makita USA’s new distribution and training center is located in the City of Wilmer just outside Dallas, Texas. The new facility is located on nearly 25 acres of land with 227,230 square feet of warehouse space with operational capabilities. It is an expansion of Makita’s current warehouse chain, which includes operations in Mt. Prospect, Illinois, and Buford, Georgia, as well as the Makita USA home office in La Mirada, California. The Buford facility includes a manufacturing and assembly plant, one of ten Makita manufacturing plants active around the world.

Toro, Virginia Tech Partner for GPS Sprayer Technology Research
Toro is partnering with Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech), Blacksburg, Virginia, to aid in GPS sprayer technology research efforts. Full access to a new Toro Multi Pro 5800 with GeoLink has been provided to the university to support the project. The unit was put in use at the recent Virginia Turfgrass Research Classic at The Country Club of Virginia. The event includes a golf tournament to raise funds for turfgrass research, as well as a field day where guests are encouraged to visit turfgrass plots setup by Virginia Tech researchers on which the new Toro Multi Pro 5800 with GeoLink will be on display.
Virginia Tech and Toro’s Center for Advanced Turf Technology (CATT) will share in the research findings at the end of the research period of approximately two years.

Akehurst Landscape, Vendors Equip K-9 Unit with Lawn Gear
Akehurst Landscape Service, Inc., based in Joppa, Maryland, presented the Harford County Sheriff’s Department K-9 Unit with lawn care equipment. Akehurst presented the H.C.S.O. K-9 Unit a Wright Stander mower along with some Echo hand held power tools to maintain their dog training campus and shooting range in Northern Harford County.

Kawaski Engines Names Dave Sugden R&D Director
The Engines Division of Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S.A. recently named Dave Sugden as the director of research and development.  An experienced industry executive, Sugden has had product development responsibilities for 27 years, most recently as director of product design and improvement at Scag Power Equipment. Sugden will manage the growing R&D function at Kawasaki that has recently seen its staffing increase significantly, with new additions in technology, calibration, electrical, and testing, as well as supporting administrative personnel. Also, Troy Smith, moves up from applications engineering supervisor to become manager of R&D testing, applications and EFI, and JJ Zeilstra who becomes manager of new development and government relations.

Altoz Mower Manufacturer Cited as 2017 Great Place to Work
For the second year in a row, the Greenbush, Minnesota-based manufacturer of Altoz zero-turn mowers and Central Boiler outdoor furnaces has been named one of “2017 100 Best Companies to Work For” by Minnesota Business Magazine. “This award belongs to all our employees, who are committed to making this company the best it can be on a daily basis,” commented Dennis Brazier CEO/Owner of Central Boiler and Altoz.

Florida Landscape Company Announces $1,000 Scholarship
Westcoast Landscape and Lawns, a leading Florida commercial landscaper, has created the Landscaping and Horticultural Science Scholarship, available to students across the country. The company is offering the $1,000 scholarship once a year, to one U.S. undergraduate student studying landscape architecture, landscape design, or horticultural sciences. Information and submissions guidelines can be found online.

TurfMutt Named an Official Education Partner of the U.S. Green Building Council
The U.S. Green Building Council has named TurfMutt, the environmental stewardship and education program for students in grades K-5, an official education partner. Educational activities for grades K-5 developed for TurfMutt by Scholastic, the global children’s publishing, education and media company, will be featured on Learning Lab, USGBC’s online platform for K-12 curriculum.

Second Location Added to NALP Renewal & Remembrance
The National Association of Landscape Professionals will hold its annual Renewal & Remembrance and Legislative Days on the Hill events, July 16-18, in Washington, D.C. and Northern Virginia. This year a second location has been added at the United States Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Home National Cemetery, more commonly known as the Soldiers’ Home, which is one of the country’s oldest national cemeteries. A small team of volunteers will do liming and aeration at the Soldiers’ Home in addition to the larger annual project at Arlington National Cemetery.

Rutgers Extension Offers Organic Land Care Manual
A new 27-page Organic Land Care Best Management Practices Manual from the Rutgers Cooperative Extension is available for a free download. While the manual, co-authored by Amy Rowe and Michele Bakacs, provides recommendations to landscape contractors and land managers on how to conduct organic land care in New Jersey, the information is pertinent to other regions of the United States, as well.

Read last week’s industry news: Grand Opening for Brillion Power Equipment Concept Store

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Managing Subcontractors Leads to Quality Service

Managing Subcontractors Leads to Quality Service

Jerry Schill hit on the best way to grow his snow removal business without investing in a boatload of capital. He is president/CEO of Cleveland, Ohio-based Schill Grounds Management, one of the top commercial snow contractors in the nation. Schill specializes in contracting with large retail facilities, or what are called supercenters, as well as HOAs managing condominium complexes.

Schill uses one of the more common methods of growing a snow removal business — that of hiring subcontractors to perform the work. But, he is also well aware of the risks involved and the necessity of putting significant oversight in place when using this method.

“We call all of our subcontractors ‘partners.’ These people are a direct reflection on our organization whether they wear our uniform or not,” Schiller says.

After conducting a phone interview and reveiwing their social media and internet history (including Yelp or Angie’s List), Jerry Schill also conducts site observations and equipment reviews — oftentimes taking pictures for documentation.

Schill goes through an extreme vetting process in finding his subcontractors representing a variety of business disciplines depending on the type of contract he set up with a variety of his clients. Because Schill’s clients are diverse in their service needs, he finds it extremely important to find partners that are a good fit for performing these services.

“For example, when we are looking to staff a large retail or industrial facility, we typically look for subcontractors who specialize in construction services that have large equipment and highly-skilled operators,” he says.

When staffing small commercial facilities, condominiums or apartment complexes, he will look for subcontractors such as plumbers, masons and other trades who own and operate their own smaller skid loaders or pickup trucks.

Schill finds the process of finding the right subcontractors for his properties like a dating ritual. “Once we find our subcontractors, we qualify them over the phone and review their social media and internet history (which could include customer review sites like Yelp or Angie’s List). We then go out and meet them, conduct site observations and hold discussions and interviews.”

At these personal meetings, Schill ensures that his prospective subcontractors have a solid business background and they share his company’s values and understands the relationship. He also inspects and reviews all of the subcontractors’ equipment, even taking pictures for documentation.

Ed LaFlamme advises his snow removal clients who hire subcontractors to meet them at the site to go over every piece of the work. LaFlamme is currently a landscape business consultant for the Harvest Group and formerly owned several landscape companies with snow removal services.

Like Schill, he stresses the importance of regular one-on-ones with subcontractors beyond the initial interview and hiring process. “It’s good to provide on-site supervision whenever you can,” he says. When LaFlamme operated his own snow management company, he always had one of his company’s vehicles on the job or close to the job where subcontractors were used. This way he could keep a constant eye on them. “Work right along with them to ensure the quality remains high,” he says. “Conduct in-progress meetings and stop in on them often. Keep asking them how it’s going.”

LaFlamme also advocates for taking the pulse of the customer when the job is complete. “Get in the habit of calling your customers,” he says. “Ask them about how they perceived the job to be by the subcontractor and how it could be improved. Not only will this impress the customer, but it’s also a good check and balance on the subcontractor.”

Once Schill’s subcontractors have been on the job for a while, he uses a list of criteria that must be followed. Reasons for dismissing subcontractors may include: two-times no-call, no-show; violation of his company’s core values; excessive property damage; failure to provide the proper insurance; and not turning in the necessary paperwork immediately after a storm incident.

“We don’t expect our partners to be perfect, but we do expect them to honor our commitment to deliver an extraordinary experience to the client,” he says. “That means every issue is logged, tracked and addressed, within 24 hours.”

LaFlamme advises that final progress payment should be tied to the quality of the work performed. “Make sure your subs understand the importance of quality and what’s expected of them at all times,” he says.

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2017 Product Roundup: Handheld Equipment & String Trimmers

Using a string trimmer is the most efficient way to knock down the grass growing onto these rocks. A better solution, long term, would be to remove the grass around the rocks and apply mulch there. Photo: STIHL.

SABER Professional Synthetic Two-Stroke Oil
SABER Professional Synthetic Two-Stroke Oil
SABER Professional Synthetic Two-Stroke Oil is designed for pre-mix applications as lean as 100:1 ratios or richer. According to the company, performance emphasis is on hand-held power equipment such as chainsaws and lawn/utility equipment with improved throttle response and lowered or eliminated smoke. The oil minimizes deposit formation and lowers emissions, the company says.
CS Trading LLC
CS Trading LLC
The Trulute has a reversible levelling grid with different profiles for use on turf, shale and gravel surfaces, according to the company. One side has smooth edges for spreading topdressing and levelling, while the other side has sharp edges for working in top dressing and cutting back high spots.

14-ft Tree Pruner
The 14-foot compound action tree pruner from Corona features a high-strength zinc alloy pruning head. It has a heavy-duty drive chain and compound-action pulley system. It has a Powerglide rope pull system and a curved 13-inch Razor Tooth Saw.
Dewalt DCHT895
DCHT895 Pole Hedge Trimmer
The DCHT895 Pole Hedge Trimmer from Dewalt is designed to cut through a variety of landscape overgrowth including medium and tall hedges as well as large bushes. The 22-inch dual-reciprocating, laser cut blades offer sharp sheering with a feed capacity of up to 1 inch. The trimmer features a telescoping shaft for trimming in compact spaces or hard-to-reach areas when fully extended. There are eight different positions, adjusted by 15-degree increments with a runtime of over three hours when paired with a 7.5Ah 40V MAX battery pack.

SRM-2620 Trimmer
The SRM-2620 trimmer from ECHO features a Speed-Feed 400 cutting head that reloads without disassembly. The unit had a 21-fluid-ounce fuel tank and a two-stage air filtration system. The straight shaft is 59 inches and has a cutting swath of 17 inches.
efco pole pruner
PTX 2710 Pole Pruner
The professional PTX 2710 pole pruner from efco was developed for pruning and thinning trees. The unit has a 2-stroke engine that delivers 1.3 horsepower. The PTX 2710 features a five-position-adjustable pruning head and a telescoping pole that extends up to 12.5 feet. The clutch housing is made with aluminum, and there is a wide discharge chute on the pruner head.

FLUID FILM is a penetrant and lubricant also used for corrosion prevention. It is a nontoxic, thixotropic liquid that is formulated from specially processed wool-wax, highly refined petroleum oil. It contains no solvents, will not dry out and will penetrate to the base of all metals.
80-Volt Cordless Pole Saw
The 80-volt cordless pole saw from Greenworks has a 10-inch bar with an extended pole saw of up to 9 feet. The unit weighs almost 9 pounds and has a quarter-inch chain pitch. Its brushless motor also has a safety switch. The battery and charger are included.

Trident Aerator
Graham Spray Equipment
Trident Aerator
The Trident Aerator from Graham Spray Equipment is a coring-type hand aerator constructed from steel with a foam handle. The Trident aerator is designed for tight locations. 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.
HHT35SLTA String Trimmer
The HHT35SLTA Honda string trimmer is equipped with a standard loop handle designed to handle commercial applications for heavy-duty trimming and brush removal and a quiet, fuel-efficient Honda Mini-4-stroke with a Quick Start system

Husqvarna 500 Series
Husqvarna introduces new trimmers and edgers to its 500 Series of products featuring heavy-duty construction for durability; well-balanced, ergonomic designs to limit fatigue during long-term use; and powerful X-Torq engines that reduce fuel consumption and emissions. The 525ES edger features a steel drive shaft, while the 525ECS edger features a curved shaft with flex drive. The all-new 522L trimmer is a simplified, semiprofessional unit with a steel shaft. The 525LK trimmer has a detachable shaft that offers landscapers a cost-effective and versatile option to complete many jobs with one tool and several attachments.
Mean Green
The commercial grade cordless electric hand-held equipment from Mean Green includes backpack blowers, string trimmers, hedge trimmers and pruning saws. The lithium batteries last for 1.5k cycles, charges in three to five hours and provides low noise and low emissions, according to the company.

Gator SpeedLoad Cutting System
Oregon Products
Gator SpeedLoad Cutting System
The new Oregon Gator SpeedLoad Cutting System changes the replacement trimmer line process. The durable, pre-wound line disk allows you to replace trimmer line without winding, spooling or cutting of lines. The company says it is its most durable trimmer line. The head has no loose springs, spools or screws; replacement line is compact and convenient to carry; fits most gas trimmers.
Seago International
Seago International
Hover Trimmer
A cushion of air allows the Hover Trimmer to glide with hovering technology. The unit becomes almost weightless, doesn’t require blade replacing and mulches the clippings into small particles. It fits most gas-powered string trimmer shafts, but the Pro Series requires at least a 25 cc engine to perform well. The company says the machine can be used for slopes, water banks, walkways, gravel pathways, high-grass and thickweeded areas, shrubbery, reeds, small bamboo and thick brush.

C262 Brushcutter
The C262 brushcutter from Shindaiwa features a steel shaft for a lighter weight and has a 2-in-1 shield for changeover between trimmer and blade shields. It is powered with a 25.4 cc professional-grade, 2-stroke engine and has a cutting swath is 20 inches.
FB 131 Bed Redefiner
The new FB 131 bed redefiner from STIHL has a large 710 cc fuel tank and low-emission engine. It has an open designed deflector to minimize clogging, a line of sight indicator for precision control and an adjustable depthwheel for desired cutting depth. It has a replaceable heavy-duty skid plate and the ability to detect load changes and adjust engine speed.

TMC Power Equipment Inc.
TMC Power Equipment Inc.
The KPW2750V has a two-cycle, 1-horsepower, 26.3 cc Kawasaki engine with dual-ringed pistons and a chrome-plated four-bolt cylinder meets CARB Tier III and EPA Phase 2 standards and provides over 25 percent greater fuel efficiency over previous models, according to the company.
TL20 Handheld Sprayer
TurfEx’s TL20 handheld sprayer is designed for application of liquid chemicals, including fertilizers, herbicides, insecticides and pesticides. It has a 2-gallon tank with a high-efficiency pump. The pressure relief valve and a 3-in-1 accessory serve as a funnel, a filter and a spray shield. The sprayer includes a spray wand with adjustable and flat-fan nozzles.

Rotary offers a selection of commercial strength trimmer line, trimmer parts and accessories. A special trimmer section includes photos and descriptions of diamond-cut, quad-tex, premium quad, pre-cut and durable vortex trimmer line, which produces less noise and requires less operating power. Rotary also has a variety of loading trimmer heads, replacement spools, covers, housing and cam assemblies plus popular bump-n-feed trimmer heads.
W.E. Chaps
W.E. Chaps
Trimmer Cover
The trimmer cover from W.E. Chaps is designed to individually fit and protect all weed trimmers, brush cutters, stick edgers and some hedge trimmer engines including the gas tanks. It can keep out weather and excessive dust and dirt. The cover is waterproof, abrasion and tear resistant with different liner options.

W.W. Manufacturing
The Accu-Tamper from W.W. Manufacturing Co., Inc. is a slide hammer tamper with a patented 8- by 8-inch rubber-face base. It has a 3-inch chisel with the ability to get into tight corners. The unit is also available with an optional steel base.

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from Mix ID 8230377