Any homeowner who is passionate about lawn care recognizes the importance of proper watering and fertilization. But what they may not realize is that over-watering or using a fertilizer that contains too much nitrogen can lead to fungal lawn infections. Even something as common as a period of heavy rain can develop invasive fungi in your lawn, which kills grass and leaves it discolored and dried out. With these simple tips, you will be able to easily recognize the signs of invasive fungus and take the necessary steps to treat it.
First, it is essential that you familiarize yourself with your particular type of grass and how it’s supposed to look when healthy. If your grass is supposed to have a dark green color to it but has lately been looking more yellow or brown, then you might have a fungal infection to take care of. Fungus also tends to take hold in circular patterns, so rings of discolored grass are another red flag. Get in the habit of checking your lawn weekly, and take note if any discoloration seems to be spreading.
Another way to check for invasive fungus is to look at individual blades and examine how exactly they’re discolored. Dust-like layers of white, yellow, or gray indicate fungal mold, as do brown and black spots and even threads between blades. Fungus can also infect roots, making excessively soft and moist root systems, so it’s important to check your soil as well.
If you notice that your lawn has been infected by an invasive fungus, it can be treated by applying fungicide to the discolored areas. However, the best option for the overall health of your lawn is to take preventative measures. At Borst Landscape & Design, we work to combat fungus before it has a chance to form by adding phosphite and hydrationA to our organic fertilizer applications in late spring and summer. Contact Borst today and bring the color back to your yard.
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When baby boomers took their first “real” jobs upon entering the workforce, their demands and expectations were ridiculously low by today’s standards. On their first day on the job, they got an employee handbook that they took home and scanned while eating dinner or watching TV. Company training, if there was any, was minimal.
For the most part, they accepted the idea that it was normal to feel ignorant and unskilled in the first weeks or months on a new job. They expected to “learn the ropes” by making mistakes.
When it came to promotions, most boomers were equally willing to proceed by trial and error. Nobody told them, “Here is just what you need to do to get ahead in our company.”
Was there feedback? Of course there was. There were quarterly, semiannual or yearly job reviews that usually followed the script, “Here’s what you’ve been doing wrong; here’s where you need to improve.”
In short, many baby boomers were happy to toil away in black boxes, learning jobs and building careers in a loose way that would seem absurd to the members of today’s younger millennial workforce.
Millennials have different expectations and demands
Things have changed. Today, most millennial workers would object strenuously to the same kind of conditions that baby boomers (and members of the generation that preceded them) thought were normal. If today’s millennials start new jobs and discover conditions like those in a new workplace, they are going to start looking for new jobs in a matter of hours.
Ample research documents that millennial attitudes are different. One major study from Gallup, “How Millennials Want to Work and Live,” reports these findings:
Training is key to retaining millennials
Findings like these — and you can easily find more — show that millennials are more likely to be engaged and to stay on their jobs if they have opportunities to plan their career paths and learn. Here are the trends:
Training builds millennial productivity
A lot of training focuses on teaching needed skills. It should. But training can accomplish a lot more than that, if you use it to establish some of the following things that many millennials are looking for:
Yes, training is important to millennials. They are the most energized, skilled and capable generation ever to enter the workforce. Train them well and they will become your organization’s brightest future.
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It’s not always easy teaching someone else something that you already know how to do. Something that has become second nature. When hiring new drivers for snow and ice management, what’s your system for teaching them the skills to salt an area correctly? Here’s what some PlowSite.com members had to say.
Jguck25: How do you guys teach new drivers how to salt and how much to salt? I’ve been having a problem with this for a while now. I have two drivers that know how to plow and plow every storm for me, but they have never had to salt because I do all the salting. Short of driving around with them and showing exactly what settings to put the sander on for each place, how do you do it? I just know in my head by looking at what is coming out of the sander how much is needed depending on the snowpack and temps, but how do you guys teach that? The last few years, I have never been able to go on snowmobiling trips in case of the freak salt-only storm (I won’t leave if it’s more than that). How do you tell someone how much salt to apply? Sand is easy because you can see it.
JustJeff: It’s not rocket science. Tell them to salt and sit around for 20 minutes to see how well it worked and what they missed. Can they see the spread from where they sit in the truck?
Iceyman: For the first couple of salt runs, have them complete the route then go back to each place in order to see the progress of their application. They can spot salt from there.
Philbilly2: Funny how what seems so easy to you can be so complex to explain and grasp to others. Let them go and do, as these guys have said. They will figure it out. If nothing else, tell them to over-salt before they under-salt. It may cost you a bit more in salt the first few runs ’til they get it, but that is the life of the business owner.
allagashpm: Have them ride along with you and explain it. Write something up so they can reference it for lots that may require more or less, or specific areas that are higher traffic, etc.
It isn’t rocket science, I agree, but getting them to salt without wasting a ton of product, or increasing your liability by under-salting, will take time. Hand the reins over to them for a couple lots and then go back with them like others have said to see how they did. Experience is the best teacher, and they won’t learn without it.
John_DeereGreen: We’ve got a chart we came up with. Set spinner at X and auger at Y and drive Z mph. It varies based on temperature, snow depth, snow consistency and property. If I were starting from scratch, I would probably figure out a close average. Say auger at 4, spinner at 9 and drive 10 mph or 5 mph. Whatever will give you good results. Salting is something that really takes time in the seat to know how much to apply under given circumstances. We’ve got a couple guys that are good and most of the time will tell the others the settings and speed, and it will be about perfect.
Hysert: Salting is all seat time, watching and knowledge of your sites in my opinion. For example, a site with a lane way that doesn’t get much sun will need to be pounded a lot more than the open areas exposed to sun. And in spots like that, I will pre-wet. Again, all of this is temperature related as well.
rebert: Let them pre-salt a few times and they will be able to see how much material is really coming out on different settings.
On a Call: Pre-salting is the way, I agree. Then they see what they missed, hit it and learn how to do it right.
Brian Young: We just do what John_DeereGreen does, a simple overhead drawing of the property that shows even the direction to drive, make loops, etc., and spinner is set on 6 to 7 and drive just under 10 mph and don’t touch the feed gate! I’m sure we all waste salt here and there, and I understand it’s kind of nerve-racking, but just simply go over the lots and check on them after the first few times out.
Ramairfreak99ss: It is tricky; no one spreader is the same, and no truck is the same. Chain VBX vs. auger drives are vastly different, and spinners are vastly different. I’ve found it best to have guys do a ride-along, explain every detail of what you’re doing, and note the sound of the spreader if possible, do you hear salt pinging off things? If not, widen the spread faster or make sure it’s actually coming out. Usually then I’ll get out and do a sidewalk while I let them do the parking lot themselves while I observe the work outside the truck and determine where I should correct them. More salt up here, less over here, double-pass this area just in case, etc.
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Darlington Designs hasn’t always constructed swimming pools. The design/build firm located in Glassboro, New Jersey, only added them to its repertoire a couple years ago, so to receive national recognition for one of its pool projects is extra special for owner/designer Simon Darlington.
Darlington, who says the pool is one of the most-challenging his company has installed to-date, describes the job for which his firm was recognized by Hardscape North America for use of a combination of hardscape products in a residential project of more than 4,000 square feet, as one of complexities.
“The more complexities in a project, the more we enjoy it,” he says.
Not that the job is done yet. The pool was the focus of the second phase of a master-planned project that also includes an outdoor kitchen, dining area and fire pit. A large octagonal cabana — which should complete the job — will likely be done this summer.
Darlington was originally referred to the clients by one of their neighbors who was familiar with the company’s work. He says after interviewing several firms, they felt his firm was a good fit.
“They were looking at a really involved project and that’s where our sweet-spot is: multi-faceted projects,” he says.
Darlington describes the jobsite as approximately two acres in a new subdivision. Although there was nothing in the backyard, it did offer about a three-foot grade change from the home to about 40 feet out.
While the pool is the centerpiece of the project, Darlington adds that the clients desired to work from the house out. That and budget dictated that the first phase involved the outdoor kitchen and other amenities.
“We created different use areas that played into the grade nicely,” he says. “We created a fire pit area with seating walls. We created an outdoor kitchen area that has a raised bar and several amenities, including a grill, refrigeration, storage and a side burner. On another level we created an outdoor dining area. The first phase is probably about 1,500 square feet of patio space.”
Integral to the phasing of the project was the correct selection of hardscape products. Darlington says the clients were looking to create some color to contrast with the white exterior of the home. They ended up focusing on earth tones with some gray.
“We used a really neat product from EP Henry that allowed us to create the raised patios that fade into the grade against the house,” he says. ” It’s called EP Henry Chiseled Stone. One important piece in selecting this product was picking something they’d be able to add to the following season and not be concerned about it matching. The two phases came together seamlessly; it really looks like it was done as one phase.”
In much the same way, he says the transformer for the outdoor lighting — which was installed during the initial phase – was sized to handle subsequent phases.
Darlington describes the centerpiece of phase two as, “A really custom pool. It’s about a thousand square feet with a raised spa and a natural rock waterfall with boulders.”
Among the custom features are rock shelves, laminar jets that shoot arches of water into the pool, bubblers that shoot it onto the sun shelf, and a host of lighting to create different colors but also uniform illumination. The spa includes custom jet packs and custom-contoured benches.
On a more practical note, the pool also includes two filtration systems, four different pumps, an electric heat pump for the pool itself, and a gas heater for the spa. The pool equipment is carefully hidden.
“We used the grade to our advantage and hid it behind the water feature,” Darlington says. “The landscape was specifically chosen to conceal it all as the plantings mature. We even went the extra mile to do all the pool equipment in black, so it’s very minimal in terms of what people see.”
Of course, the lights, jets and heaters are all controlled via smartphone.
“It’s definitely one of the nicer ones we’ve done,” says Darlington of the pool, adding that it’s also his favorite feature on this job. “One of the reasons we’ve transitioned into doing pools is that by providing the entire pool in-house we can control the project timeline and the results.”
Although Darlington Designs did some planting in the first phase to soften the space around the patio, the second phase incorporated more softscape including both deciduous and evergreen trees, and a mix of flowering plants and annuals.
“It wasn’t just to create focal points around the pool to soften it,” Darlington says. “It also creates some buffering from the neighbors.”
While lighting for the first phase of the project was mainly incorporated hardscape lighting such as wall lights, step lights and under-counter lights, the second phase centered on the pool, along with adding more hardscape and landscape lighting.
The natural slope of the backyard might seem to make drainage an afterthought, but Darlington says it was one of the things he really focused on early in the planning process, and he feels attention to it helps differentiate his company as professionals. With more than 3,000 square feet of pavers in the pool area, he notes there was quite a bit of water to be moved.
“This project needed an extensive amount of drainage from pool deck surface drains to graded swales around structures,” he says. “The downspouts on the home were put underground and diverted to lower elevations. With a footprint of this size, we have to do a lot of surface drains and channel drains.”
Ultimately, he says the first phase of the job took six-to-eight weeks, while the second phase ran eight-to-ten weeks, with anywhere from three to six crew members onsite at any given time.
Asked what he’s most proud of with this project, Darlington cites both the swimming pool component and the complexities the job offered.
“We like being able to provide solutions in the real world that will — in the long-term — make this project a success,” he says.
Not that it was always easy. Because the pool was so custom, Darlington says his biggest challenge was simply dealing with township building officials who weren’t necessarily up-to-date on what he wanted to do.
“The drains we used, and some of the other details created a challenging getting the township to accept those,” he says. “They wanted additional engineering specification. When we did something they weren’t accustomed to seeing every day, it created more questions and dialogue and took more time.”
That, in turn, taught him he needs to be prepared to do more education of officials when those scenarios arise.
“We really needed to anticipate the questions and work them through what we were trying to do,” Darlington says. “For instance, we had to explain custom drains and how they meet code. It was a process of educating township officials. We needed to be proactive so as not to hinder the permitting process.”
To date, Darlington estimates the clients have spent between $350,000 and $400,000 on the site so far, and he says, “we’re optimistic” the cabana will be this summer’s project.
“This was a fun project, and we were certainly excited and honored to get an award for it,” Darlington concludes. “It was a cool opportunity and it reaffirms that we’re doing something good here.”
The post Story Of A Landscape: Master-Planned Project, Custom Pool Earn Industry Kudos appeared first on Turf.
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As the CEO of North Point Outdoors in Windham, New Hampshire, Dave Fairburn says there isn’t a lot of downtime available in his calendar. When he’s not busy managing snow and ice, he’s using winter to work on the “back end of the business.” Fairburn says he uses the landscaping off-season to refine the business by setting goals, creating budgets and finding solutions to issues they experienced during their landscaping season. Despite that, one of the most common questions he gets from friends and family is, “What do you do with your free time?”
“Their perception is that because the hustle and bustle of our landscape crews is stopped that we are on a four-month winter vacation,” he says.
But Fairburn admits he feels busier than ever. The snow business continues to grow, and Fairburn says the fleet is now made up of 22 plow trucks, 12 loaders, eight skid-steers, three SnowRators, five shovel vans and a fleet mechanic. This year, the company will earn approximately $2 million in snow sales over their 15-mile coverage radius from the headquarters. Though Fairburn admits he doesn’t have a ton of opportunities to unwind, we learned how he likes to chill out when he can find the time, as well as why he loves the challenges that the snow business can bring.
To chill out, I try to find a coffee shop in the morning to sit down and have a coffee with my business partner or someone else on the team. It gives us a chance to stay away from the hustle of the office and brainstorm our winter to-do’s as we like to call them.
For fun, I’ll leave early in the afternoon and go snowboarding. Next year, I want to get involved in snowmobiling. Doing a winter sport can help calm the nerves about stress that snow typically brings during the winter. I also try to get out to work on my airplane and take it flying if the weather is really nice.
I like the snow business because it’s a challenge. The amount of preplanning, organization, logistics of both equipment and labor and redundancy planning keeps us on our toes. It takes years of experience to understand the ins and outs of what makes and breaks you during a storm. We go off that mantra that proper planning prevents poor performance. We drill into every little detail to ensure the crews, equipment and staff have the tools they need to succeed in any storm condition.
But the challenges can be big. The biggest challenge with the snow business is the unpredictability. From a business finance, schedule and resource perspective, unpredictability is a word that no one likes. Our seasonal average is 65 inches, but over the past few years we’ve seen 35 inches to 120 inches. That is a serious swing when it comes to budgets, equipment and labor. To hedge ourselves we’ve found ways to write contracts where we are protected on all sides.
Keeping the fleet 100 percent operational is another challenge we must overcome. I have a snow operations manager, six area managers, crew leaders and snow fighters, as we like to call them. They handle the pre-storm prep, plowing operations and post-storm cleanups. It’s a lot of people to have ready to go. Between fixing and preparing equipment, to always be ready they have their hands full before, during and after storms.
Read more: I Am A Landscaper: Dave Fairburn
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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.
Project EverGreen Names Winner Of “Our Winning Green Spaces” Contest
Massey Services Promotes Bill Cohn
OPEAA Announces 2018-2019 Officers and Directors
Members of the OPEAA Board of Directors are: Brett Beddow, Blount International; Mark Errick, D E Errick, Inc.; Donny Desjarlais, RBI Corporation; Kurt Hayes, MTD Products; Walter Rieck, Prime Line; and Chris Roessler, Rotary Corporation.
Ruppert Landscape Promotes Damien Barber and Mike Fleming
New Book From Ed Laflamme Now Available
Robbin Womack Honored As Top Ditch Witch Salesperson Worldwide
3rd Walker Family Reunion To Be Held In July
The post Project EverGreen Names Winner Of “Our Winning Green Spaces” Contest: This Week’s Industry News appeared first on Turf.
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Getting employees motivated to do an excellent job isn’t always a simple feat. A lot of landscape business owners report that their employees are disengaged or simply don’t “care.” Jason Musch, owner and president of Dutch Valley Landscape Contractors, a Chicago-area landscape maintenance company, was faced with the same concerns. He needed a way to get his employees more engaged in working hard and doing a good job. The solution came to him in the most unlikely of places.
“Like so many other landscape companies, we were experiencing issues with our employees being motivated and keeping them engaged,” Musch shares. “I was paying my bill at a restaurant one day and as I was leaving the tip, it hit me. The waitress was motivated to do a great job because her tip relied on it. I took the concept back to my office and with my office manager, began to work on a rewards system.”
Musch says he wanted the program to be simple — just like giving a tip. In other words, “if you do a great job, you get a great tip,” Musch says. He didn’t want something complicated or that seemed difficult to earn.
To reward employees, he implemented a monthly rewards system based on a simple point scale. At the beginning of the month, all employees are given four points. Employees can lose single points for mistakes such as failing to wear their uniform, damaging equipment, or being late to work. They stand to lose as much as three points for a larger mistake such as being a “no call/no show.” Then, on the first Friday of the following month, each point can be turned in for a bean bag. Employees then have the chance to toss bean bags for monetary rewards in the classic bean bag toss game.
“I wanted to make sure that I kept the core purpose of the program being to motivate — not de-motivate employees,” Musch says. “That is why, even if you make a mistake, you are eligible to play with the rest of your bean bags.”
Musch says the rewards system has worked well — purpose even better than he’d hoped — and he has grown it into more of an event.
“We have enlarged the program by making it a team-building event,” Musch explains. “We’ve also added light snacks such as pizza or ice cream to help lengthen the event and make it more of a team experience.”
Our Like a Boss series highlights some common business challenges landscape professionals face and how they conquer them.
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I get asked a lot from people who do landscaping on the side when they should quit their jobs and go full time into landscaping. First, you will never really be ready, so remember that. Otherwise there are many things to consider, way too many for me to cover in just one column. But I could shed a little light on the subject with a story about how my company was started.
My dad was a part-time landscaper all of his life until one day he went to work at his “real” job and they told him his position was being moved to Chicago. He could keep his job if he wanted to go to Chicago or he would have no job. He opted to stay in Cleveland and do what he always wanted to do: start a landscape business. You see, my dad wasn’t really ready to start his business until he was forced to at the age of 49.
My father was definitely a landscape technician; he didn’t want anything to do with paperwork, phone calls, organizing, planning, budgeting or even collecting money. I actually remember customers coming up to me when we first started and being upset because they never received a bill from us. My dad wanted to be a landscaper; he didn’t want to deal with all of that other “stuff.” He wanted to cut grass, plant trees, design beds and trim shrubs.
I started working for my dad almost from the start. After a few years, I was getting sick of everyone complaining about not receiving their bills or getting their phone calls returned, as well as other administrative issues. I wasn’t really planning on being a landscaper anyway, I was just going to help out for a while until the whole rock star thing panned out, then I would travel the world melting people’s faces off with my awesome guitar playing. Of course, that didn’t work out. But I also had another passion: business. I always thought it would be cool to run a company and be an entrepreneur.
One day I went to my dad and told him I wanted to get out of the field and take care of the business end of the company. I would start with one day a week and do all the billing, pay the vendors, set up our accounting software and answer phone calls from customers. I would also set up a budget, organizational chart and work on the company image, logo and website. Someone just had to take over the “business” or there would be no more business.
The bottom line here is that you have to be ready to be both a business person and a landscaper at the same time. Luckily for me and my dad we had each other, but most people have to do it all themselves when they start out. So, among other things you have to be willing to wear a lot of hats and they won’t all say “landscaper.” Now, are you ready?
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The old expression “hope for the best, and prepare for the worst” only partially applies to snow and ice management. In the summer and fall months, and in some cases before the snow stops flying from the previous season, snow management professionals are preparing for everything. They’re preparing for the good (a great snow year with lots of business) and the bad (the truck that goes down, the employees that don’t show up, etc.), and every conceivable situation in between.
Ippolito Snow Services serves the Boston metro area as a snow-only business. “Everyone thinks I’m sitting around in the summer, but I’m not! We’re working hard every day to get ready for the season,” says owner Frankie Ippolito. That process begins when the previous season winds down. The first order of business is to get all equipment back to the company’s shop from the various commercial sites it was operated at and go through everything, both in terms of preventative maintenance as well as fixing anything that might need repairs.
“That leads us into a work stream of what equipment we’re going to keep and what we’re going to divest — what’s seen its better days,” explains Ippolito. “We’re also doing prep work to the equipment, so that when we pull it out in November it doesn’t need a lot of work.”
He says he’s found it helpful to work through all of the equipment right after a season ends, while everything (what works, what needs fixing, etc.) is fresh in the minds of the operators who have been using it. “Realistically, does it happen for every piece of equipment? No. But for the newer stuff, and the things that you want to keep newer, I think it’s important because you’ve got all of your operators there and everyone loves to tell you what doesn’t work, because they want you to buy new equipment!”
At DMC Commercial Snow Management in Philadelphia, owner David McWeeney says mechanics have the time in the summer to breathe a little bit and permanently fix equipment that may have received temporary repairs during the busy season. “And during the summer we like to run the trucks and equipment to make sure it’s not just sitting idle,” he explains. “When you’re dealing with salt, if you don’t look at equipment often, it may freeze up on you and you’ll discover in September that everything is rusted.”
In some cases, new equipment is needed for the coming season. Early in the off-season, McWeeney touches base with the local truck dealers he works with about what his needs for the coming season might be. “Then, over the summer, we focus on exactly what the needs are and try to take ownership around September on any new equipment, just so there’s enough time for it to be outfitted and the advertising decals can be added so that everything is ready to go for October and November,” he explains.
Ippolito makes it a point to attend the Snow and Ice Management Association (SIMA) annual conference in late June in order to keep up on industry trends, and to have a chance to check out new equipment displayed by manufacturers. “We talk to the vendors and see what’s new and what’s coming — and then we come back and put a plan together based on our renewals and the state of our current equipment,” says Ippolito. “For example, we might need one more truck depending on how much business we pick up, or maybe we’ve been having too many problems with our power brooms so we’re going to switch to a new vendor, and we’ll schedule them to come out and show us their equipment.”
At Steel City Landscape in Pittsburgh, president Mark Purcell has to oversee preparations for snow season while the landscape season is still going strong. “We start dealing with snow equipment and ordering salt in mid-September,” he says. “That’s when we start gearing up.” Especially with landscape work still going on, and some of the trucks and equipment still in use, it can take a couple of months to get everything ready for winter. “We try to have everything ready by the beginning of November,” says Purcell.
When building a customer portfolio for the coming season, Purcell says it makes sense to begin by focusing on existing clients. “We try to renew larger contracts during the summer, and we send out other contracts for renewal in August,” he explains.
Time is also spent to analyze the profitability of each account the prior year in order to correctly set pricing, Purcell says. And the priority, when possible, is to renew contracts for multiple years. Sometimes a little personal attention goes a long way. “You want the client to have a face with a name,” he explains. It might be as simple as personally delivering a bottle of wine at the end of the season to help build relationships, Purcell says.
Another tip is to try to capitalize on any early sales opportunities. “Right after the season is over, we get a lot of calls from customers looking for bids because they were unhappy with their previous provider,” McWeeney says.
In addition to following up with these types of inquiries, “we’re always shopping for new clients,” he notes. “We’re active on social media, keeping up with that in order to capture people who are looking for bids.”
In some cases, that means visiting individual sites and meeting with potential clients; in other cases, the information can be prepared electronically. “If it’s just a simple site, where there’s a parking lot and a sidewalk, everything might be able to be done using the internet and Google Maps. If it’s something like a hospital that’s more involved, they will want to point out where the snow needs to go, where it can’t go, high-priority areas, high-risk areas, etc.,” he explains. From this information, he can sit down and prepare bids; this happens mostly in September, October and November, says McWeeney. “That’s our busiest time … At that point, it’s getting colder out and everyone is saying: ‘We need to start looking for a provider.'”
During the summer, Ippolito Snow Services goes down to a skeleton crew, with employees able to take a little time off. But for Ippolito, the summer is a busy time. The company has a booth at a local trade show and he spends the time there making contacts. “We try to generate some early-bird commercial leads,” he explains. In addition to leads from the show, Ippolito really begins to target new business in August. “We’ll ramp up our advertising efforts on Yelp and the Better Business Bureau and really focus during August and September to cast the net to see what is out there,” he says.
McWeeney says one key part of preparing for snow season is recognizing that there’s such a thing as too many customers, and the sales process needs to be curtailed at a certain point.
“We only have so many trucks, and we can only do so much work in a short amount of time,” he emphasizes. With longer lead times, like landing a big new account in May, it may be possible to add crews and equipment, but when clients call in November, with snow on i ts way, it can be too late. “It all comes down to timing,” he says.
As challenging as sales and equipment management is, the next step, says Ippolito, “is where things get more difficult: starting to think ahead about getting seasonal help.” As challenging as it is to deal with equipment and sales and marketing, labor issues are the most daunting, he’s found. “One of the challenges of the snow business is that you don’t need these employees year-round. So it really helps to have a large contingent of folks who come back each year.” To help ensure that this is the case, Ippolito Snow Services has built relationships with those working in alternate-season industries, like commercial fishermen, people working in car washes, roofers, etc., who typically don’t work in the winter.
He says it takes some luck (“being in the right place at the right time”) and a lot of early legwork to find these people and sign them up. “But you can’t start too early,” he cautions. “If you start in August, I’ve learned, by the time November comes around, they’ve either gotten another seasonal job, or it just doesn’t seem to work out. So you need to find a balance — Sept. 15 is about the time we put our feelers out.”
As a contingency, Ippolito has found success the last two years in fostering a relationship with a temp agency. “So if I need to pull the emergency rip cord, and we need shovelers or feet on the street — not drivers — we have someone to go to,” he explains. “I’ve found that if you make that connection in the summer and invite [the temp agency] to your shop, versus calling them the night before a snowstorm, they’re more likely to hook you up.”
Steel City Landscape uses the H-2B program for 22 employees during the landscape season, but that program is designed to be temporary rather than year-round, so the company needs to find employees for its winter snow work. “That’s the biggest challenge,” stresses Purcell. In any given year, about half of the crew is completely new, so there’s a lot of recruiting to do. He says Craigslist ads have proven as successful as anything else he’s tried for this.
McWeeney says that while DMC Commercial Snow Management has a good network of employees who are in opposite industries, such as roofing or concrete, there’s always more recruiting to be done. And because some employees will be new, and the same driver may not work on the same site from one winter to the next, DMC Commercial Snow Management brings employees in around October to talk about the season ahead. “We give them site maps of all the properties, they go out to the properties to walk them and get an idea of speed bumps, curbs, drains, where the snow has to go and what the site looks like, so that their first visit isn’t when everything is snow-covered,” explains McWeeney.
As the season draws closer, McWeeney is busy making contingency plans in the event that something goes wrong. “You need to know what the steps are to split a route, or add a route, or add a property, for example,” McWeeney advises. One way he’s found to gain flexibility is through the use of six or seven supervisor trucks, which are fully outfitted with plows and spreaders. “Their main objective during the season is just to go around and check on sites, but they can also lend a hand during a storm; if a truck goes down they can take over the route,” he explains. “You have to do as much planning as you can when you can, because once the season starts, it’s pretty much like a chicken running around with its head cut off…. Everything needs to be working and up and running and you have to have plans in place.”
This is the phase that Ippolito calls “enablement and operational planning.” For him, it includes setting up routes, figuring out how many employees and teams are needed at particular sites, creating a materials list and ordering supplies, etc. It also involves training operators on the equipment they’ll be using. Ippolito has a background in human resources and says training is particularly challenging in the snow management industry, simply because employees are typically hired to start just before the snow starts. “For those that are hired earlier, we like to have an orientation,” he says, since it’s a chance to talk about their assignment and safety. Then, for those who will be leading crews, it’s an on-site visit to talk about particular locations, answer questions, take “before” photos, and so on.
Ippolito has found a few ways to build in contingencies in the event of equipment problems or shortages during the season. For example, when he adds new equipment, he tries to purchase the same standardized equipment (Fisher-mount plows, for example), and keeps an extra or two in the shop, so that items can be quickly swapped out in the event of a mechanical problem.
He also builds relationships during the off-season with mobile vendors that can handle things like hydraulic hose replacement on-site, if needed. “You shake their hand in the summer to make sure you don’t go to the bottom of the list during a snowstorm. We really use the summer to forge some good relationships,” explains Ippolito.
He plans for the worst by establishing an account with a major equipment rental chain. “So, if in the middle of a storm something goes wrong and I need a Bobcat, my crews can just sign and go. It’s expensive, but it helps make sure that you can deliver if all things go wrong.”
Basically, prepare for everything.
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For many people, having a 3,400-square-foot home backing on a golf course would be a dream come true. However, for one couple on Scott Hinson’s lawn maintenance list, it wasn’t enough.
Fortunately, Hinson, the owner of Low Country Landscaping Inc., in Wilmington, North Carolina, was able to come to their rescue in a big way.
“They were trying to figure out whether they should go ahead and move and build a bigger house with everything they wanted, or stay right where they are, which is a fantastic spot,” he explains.
The problem: the couple has two young children, and nice half-acre site that it is, the backyard soil made the space a muddy and unusable mess whenever it rained. Hinson describes it as a “gumbo clay” and says from time to time he’d been suggesting they consider a pool in the backyard.
Ultimately, the clients made the decision to stay put. At the same time, they told Hinson to go ahead and come up with something for the backyard that would make the kids want to bring their friends over.
Not surprisingly, a pool led the list of amenities Hinson designed. The 38-foot by 18-foot pool, which was built by subcontractor Shoreline Pool Builders of Wilmington, has an 8-foot circular hot tub at one end with what Hinson describes as “one of the neatest spillovers we’ve ever done.”
“It’s not quite 180 degrees,” Hinson says. “But, there’s a lot of spillover and it takes a lot of hydrology to make that thing work.”
For the pool decking, as well as the rest of the project — including the patios and firepit — Hinson opted to use a travertine product because of its ability to stay cool underfoot.
“We love travertine, and as many times as we can, we recommend it,” Hinson says. “This project is a silver 24-inch by 24-inch premium select grade of travertine with minimal pitting. It will get warm, but it never gets too hot to walk on.”
Away from the pool is a fire pit with a built-in curved seating bench, also in travertine. Hinson says the fire pit and particularly the seating, is his favorite feature of the job, for a couple important reasons.
One is the angle of the bench, which is designed to recreate the angle of an Adirondack chair.
“It’s the most comfortable seating arrangement I can imagine,” Hinson says. “You’d think sitting on a stone bench wouldn’t be that comfortable, but you can prop your feet on the fire pit, and it seems to wrap around you.”
And, by veneering it in the same travertine cut to 12-inch by 24-inch tiles, Hinson says it will absorb enough heat during the day to carry its warmth into the chill of the evening.
“There’s almost a therapeutic effect to it,” he says.
The fire pit itself is veneered in 2-inch by 6-inch black marble strips installed vertically. The look is one that Hinson feels makes a particularly nice statement and is carried into the kitchen pavilion where the bar and columns are veneered in the same material.
The kitchen pavilion offers easy access to the hot tub and pool while providing a year-round outdoor room for lounging and dining, complete with a fireplace and large TV screen. The kitchen area features a grill, refrigerator, ice maker and sink.
Hinson says one of the more important aspects of the building is what’s behind the kitchen.
“We have a great little powder room bathroom, a dressing area, storage and an outdoor shower,” he says. “If you’re having people over, you generally don’t want them coming in and tracking water on your hardwood floors.”
The outdoor shower has louvred panels and the travertine is carried into the bathroom and changing area. Hinson believes the bathroom, shower and changing area are critical components to jobs of this nature.
The whole thing ties into the house with an expanded multi-level patio off the back of the house — also in travertine.
“There was a tiny little patio up there and we expanded it in stadium levels so there’s more usable space, as well,” Hinson says. “There used to be room for maybe two or three folks, but we’ve expanded that to where you can easily get 15 people up there mingling without any particular issues.”
Lighting for the project is quite extensive, all of it low-voltage LEDs. Hinson says while the project is impressive by daylight, lit at night, “It’s ten times better; it’s amazing at nighttime.”
Hinson typically uses products from Vista Professional Outdoor Lighting, and this one is no exception. The project utilizes a mix of path lighting and up-lights to accent trees and various aspects of the building, all controlled by the clients’ smartphones.
A combination of grading, drainage for the site and the poor soil quality were the biggest challenges on the project, Hinson says.
“We started construction the first of January, so it was a little rainy and the soil just held the water,” he says. “It was nearly impossible to work. I buried a Bobcat one day up to the bottom of the cab and really wondered how I was going to get it out.”
Removing that material and replacing it with better soils made a tremendous difference, he adds. Still, the project required several drainage channels, including camouflaged drain boxes, and covering and directing every gutter off the back to the house to the street.
“There’s a lot of pipe in there to make sure everything drains properly,” Hinson says. “Those are aspects of a job you can’t overlook, or you can sabotage the whole process.”
The entire project took three-and-a-half months to complete, and Hinson says most of the time he had a crew of 12 on the site.
Not surprisingly, both Hinson and the clients are thrilled at how the project came together.
“It’s just beautiful,” he concludes. “And, the interesting thing is that from the front of the house you would never expect what you’re seeing in the back. If you had never been invited there, you’d never know it was back there.”
The post Story Of A Landscape: Pool, Outdoor Kitchen Replace Muddy Backyard appeared first on Turf.
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