Plantscapes is proud to announce that Gary Linden, a Plantscapes customer service representative, will once again be volunteering with Organics 4 Orphans in Africa. During the two months Gary spends in Africa, he will be on leave from Plantscapes. His duties and clients will be managed by Exterior Manager Dustin Madden until Gary’s return. Here’s what Gary has to say about this project:
“Plantscapes has granted me a two month leave of absence to volunteer to again teach sustainable gardening in Africa (i.e. East Africa and southern Africa not Ebola troubled West Africa).
I will be working with the Canadian non-profit, Organics 4 Orphans (O4O.org) in Kitale, KENYA to assist in training twenty some Africans in biointensive agriculture, nutrition and natural medicine.
Following this month I am planning toward flying to southern Africa to launch this program in Mozambique &/or Malawi.
Any communications with Plantscapes regarding my areas of responsibility are being fielded by our Exterior Maintenance Manager, Dustin Madden. He can be reached by phone through Plantscapes main office at 206-623-7100 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org Be assured, whether you email me, Dustin or call our office during my absence, I am confident we will continue to serve your needs.”
Everyone at Plantscapes wished Gary a safe and successful journey. We are very proud of the work he is doing.
“A popular business belief, dating back to the 18th century, is that keeping workspaces free of clutter is a key to productivity. Many offices are thus designed with minimalism in mind. That means no photos, artwork, souvenirs, plants, or other adornments. On the other hand, the philosophy that enriching an environment-notably with plants-can increase happiness and efficiency also has deep roots. Many studies have noted both physical and psychological benefits of “green” workplaces, though the studies have had limitations.
So is it better to go lean or go green?
To find out, researchers did a series of real-world experiments in which employees, from call center workers to consultants, were assigned to either Spartan or plant-bedecked spaces. The study was published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology.
In the first experiment, employees who sat at desks in direct view of at least two plants for three weeks reported improvements in con centration, productivity, and air quality, relative to workers not exposed to plants.
In the second one, job satisfaction went up when plants were added to the office, over both the short term (2 weeks) and long term (3Y2 months), with no changes in the no-plant control group.
The third experiment looked at objective measures of productivity. Employees were assigned to either a lean workstation (desk and chair) or green workstation (addition of plants), where they completed tasks involving information management, information processing, and vigilance. Those in the green group completed the tasks faster, without a rise in errors-boosting productivity by 15 percent.
“A green working environment is consistently more enjoyable for employees, more conducive to concentration, and more productive for business than its lean equivalent, the authors wrote. That’s because plants and green spaces, which reflect the natural World, can have a restorative effect on attention. In addition, enriched office spaces may communicate the message that employers care about their workers, which in turn, increases employee work engagement and satisfaction. Plants can also enhance indoor environments by removing some pollutants.
If your office space is Spartan, you might ask your employer to liven it up with some plants. Or bring in your own, if allowed It’s a relatively inexpensive investment that may go a long way in improving well-being at work a win-win for both employee and employer”
Did the recent freezing temperatures harm your landscape? Here is some excellent advice from the Irrigation & Green Industry Newsletter: The shock of below-freezing temperatures a few days after balmy weather has proven to be fatal to many residential landscapes around the country. Landscape professionals and homeowners were caught off guard by the early November deep freeze. Only time will tell the extent of these damages, but in the meantime, here are some helpful tips on how to decrease harm before and after a freeze.
Choose the Right Location
Protecting plants from freeze can start as early as planting. Finding the right microclimate is very important. Different areas of the landscape may have different environmental conditions, such as temperature and sun exposure. Brick and rock walls are wonderful at absorbing the sun’s rays during the day and provide a little extra protection during cool winter nights.
Most landscapes only receive a makeover come spring. But a mulch makeover is equally important in the fall. Freshly applied mulch lessens the likelihood of frost penetration. It keeps the water within the soil from freezing and becoming unavailable to plants. Remember to leave a few inches between trunks and mulch.
Continue to Water
Winter weather tends to dry out the soil. Water acts as an insulator, capturing warmth for extra protection during the freezing night temperatures. Moist soil holds heat better than drier soil. Watering landscapes well before a freeze is an easy way to reduce damage. If you’re unsure if the soil is dry, penetrate an old screwdriver six to eight inches into the soil. If force is needed, the soil is dry. Pay special attention to new plants or plants exposed to lots of sun and wind.
Pruning stimulates new growth, leaving plants very tender and more susceptible to freeze damage. Be sure to prune plants at the appropriate time.
Sunscald can occur on cold, sunny, winter days. The quick drop in temperature kills the tree’s active tissue. To prevent sunscald, wrap the trunk with commercial tree wrap, plastic tree guards, or use white latex paint to reflect the sun and keep the bark at a more constant temperature. Leaving tree wrap on year-round is not recommended as it provides a good location for certain trunk boring insects to hide and cause damage.
Plantscapes congratulates Azure Allender and Gary Linden who recently became Certified Professional Horticulturists through the Washington State Nursery & Landscape Association. This certification demonstrates the highest level of professional excellence
A properly functioning irrigation system is crucial to maintaining an outstanding landscape.
Plantscapes’ irrigation department is moving into full swing with the beginning of spring. You’ll find our crews all over the Puget Sound area, turning on irrigation systems, repairing damage caused by the winter cold snap, and setting clocks and sprinkler heads for the most effective and efficient use of your water.
Irrigation systems need to be adjusted for proper coverage, seasonal changes and normal wear and tear. Something as simple as a broken sprinkler head can damage your landscape. If you aren’t a regular maintenance client, you can still contact Plantscapes to have your irrigation system maintained and turned on and to have your backflow regulator inspected. Call us at 206-623-7100 for an appointment.
As we talk with our clients each spring, we frequently hear questions about the best way to care for and water landscapes. We also hear some irrigation myths repeated by many people. Here are the Top 5 misconceptions about landscape irrigation:
Myth #1 Watering during a hot, sunny day can “burn” the leaves of your plants
This is simply untrue. Water droplets do not act like little magnifying glasses, focusing the sun’s rays until your a plants’ leaves become scorched. If this myth were true, plants would never survive a rainstorm. You not only can, but should, water your landscape during hot weather. Your plants need water to thrive.
Myth #2 Never water at night – it causes fungus.
Fungus is caused by lack of air circulation, high humidity, or over-watering – not by moisture per se. The best time to irrigate your landscape is usually right after dawn or right before sunset. Little water will be lost to evaporation during these times, making your irrigation that much more efficient. In addition, your city’s water department may offer financial incentives to water during non-peak hours.
Myth #3 You don’t need to turn on your irrigation system if it has rained recently.
In fact, the soil may not absorb most of the water from a rain shower. Whether or not you need to continue to run your irrigation system will depend on the types of plants in your landscape, the amount of rain, and the duration of the storm. Much rainwater is lost to run off and evaporation. If you use a rain sensor and allow your sprinkler system to run on its regular schedule, it can distribute the water slowly and efficiently.
Myth #4 Watering every day encourages shallow roots.
More than anything else, shallow roots are caused by soil compaction. In healthy soil, the roots will spread outward and downward to find the nutrients they need. The best way to grow a deep-rooted lawn is to aerate it regularly each year, adding compost and organic matter as necessary.
Myth #5 Rain sensors are a waste of money and don’t work anyway
You may hear this one from people who have seen irrigation systems running in the rain. But as we’ve already seen, rain showers alone do not decrease your landscapes’ need for regular watering. Many other factors, such as time and intensity, come into play. A well regulated and maintained rain sensor or controller will turn off your sprinklers after a pre-determined amount of rain. Your irrigation specialist will program this amount taking the size and requirements of your property into account.
It is time for your annual irrigation system backflow prevention test.
Backflow is potentially contaminated water that flows from a source such as an irrigation system back into a home’s drinking water or a city’s water supply.
In Washington state, all irrigation systems are required to have a backflow preventer and to have the backflow preventer inspected annually for proper operation.
Backflow preventers are used in cross connections in irrigation systems. A cross connection is a point in a plumbing system where the drinking water supply is connected, or can be connected, to a non-drinking water source.
A one-way valve is integrated into the plumbing to keep contaminated water from entering your drinking water or the city’s water supply.
The one-way check valve assemblies allow the water to only move forward into the system, not backwards into the water supply pipes that supply fresh water to homes and businesses. This is how backflow assemblies protect our water supply.
Annual testing of your irrigation backflow system is required by Washington State Code WAC 246-290-490 to assure that it is in perfect working order.
Even the best backflow assembly can fail because of freezing, debris, improper installation and unapproved plumbing connections. That’s why state law requires that backflow assemblies be tested every year.
If your backflow system fails the test, repairs must be performed immediately. A backflow assembly that has failed will not protect our water supply. Plantscapes Inc. will be able to assist you in bringing your system back to good working order.
Upon successful completion of the test, we will provide you with all the necessary paperwork required by your local utility.
Call Plantscapes at 206.623.7100 to schedule a certified backflow test.
When Terry Posner, owner and president of Plantscapes in Seattle first heard that The Highridge Corporation was open for acquisition, he knew this was an opportunity he needed to seriously consider. Highridge has existed since 1985 as a staple in the Seattle area of premier landscape design, construction and maintenance. Plantscape’s roots go back to 1961 but officially began in 1988. They specialize in indoor and outdoor landscape maintenance and installation, seasonal color and holiday displays. The hope of bringing the strengths of these companies together was made reality on June 1st 2012.
Plantscapes purchased from the Highridge Corporation the reoccurring maintenance accounts along with the needed supporting assets. As for the name, it was reregistered as a DBA of Plantscapes Inc. With the majority of Highridge employees moving to Plantscapes with this acquisition the transition for customers has been made as smooth as possible. In addition, Plantscapes is keeping the structure the same for 90 days with an assessment at that point to determine improvements that could be made.
It should be noted that the synergies of these companies is very different. Highridge has worked in a more suburban setting with a main office in Issaquah and a yard close by whereas Plantscapes operates the majority of their business out of an urban area in Seattle with a satellite yard in Everett. This merge was made possible and efficient because Plantscapes was able to move all the administration to their office and adjust crew operation between the Seattle and Everett facilities. This has allowed them to reduce a majority of the overhead while conducting the same operation that Highridge had maintained.
As you can imagine however, bringing together two landscape companies of this magnitude is not an easy task. There are many issues that must be handled carefully and items that must be seamlessly merged. The integration of technologies, account data bases, accounting methods, and phone systems are a few examples. Many of these operational differences revolve around the two operating systems that each company used as Highridge was Macintosh based and Plantscapes is PC/Android based. This affected not only the computers each office used but the method of storing and transferring data and how managers were able to market and create bids.
The overarching goal for Highridge in switching their operating system to Mac was to have managers be completely mobile. This opened up several opportunities for the company. The Macintosh devises Highridge managers used were MacBook’s, iPads and iPhones. Macbooks would generally stay in the office and iPads would be used to write bids in the field and market projects though photos, renderings and designs. One of the main advantages of using these Mac devises was having the ability to store the majority of company documents within the free Apple storage platform called the iCloud. Documents created in the field could then be immediately uploaded and available for everyone to see.
Plantscapes uses a PC/Android based system with traditional server based data storage. They have not yet utilized the Android tablet, the iPad equivalent; however, with the new Highridge employees coming on board with Plantscapes they are testing this possibility. Time will determine which company’s estimating and marketing model and technique makes more sense. The question will be whether account managers will need to access the database and create proposals in the field or if this task can be more efficiently done in the office.
Additionally, the phone system used at Highridge was in line with their model of keeping managers completely mobile. While there was still an office administrator answering phones, these calls were forwarded directly to cell phones instead of desk phones. So whether a manager was in the office, out in the field, or at home, they could still answer.
It has not only been office operations and staff that have had to adjust. Crews have had to learn a new routine of working out of an urban landscape facility where there is less space than the landscape yard that Highridge operated out of in Issaquah. Trucks and trailers are now parked inside of two warehouses where the timing of crews leaving and returning needs to be more precise and phased to keep operations smooth.
While both companies have slightly contrasting landscape backgrounds, because of their mutual focus on maintenance the management structures of these two companies are similar. Generally, in a larger landscape company, the operating model looks something like this: At the top is a business developer who is responsible for selling and generating new accounts for the company. Signed maintenance contracts are in turn handed off to the account managers who are responsible for overseeing a set of accounts and ensuring each client is satisfied. They accomplish this by communicating necessary items to the crew foreman. Because both Highridge and Plantscapes have used variations of this structure this part of the transition has been fairly smooth.
Outside of the systems and operations of both office and field is the transfer of actual physical assets. This has been one of the most involved aspects of this merge. Plantscapes has had to assess and purchase the trucks and machinery they deemed necessary for the merged business to continue to operate. Once it was decided what should be brought over, this process involved a variety of miscellaneous items such as transferring titles, emissions tests and repairs. It also involved reworking the Plantscapes facility to accommodate the new trucks and equipment.
Without a doubt this move has been successful thus far. Management teams are working well together to retain maintenance accounts and acquire new work in the way of maintenance enhancements, residential design build contracts and larger commercial jobs. In addition, crews are learning their new surroundings and routines while still being able to work on many of the same sites they have learned to maintain. The goal of Plantscapes with this merge is to enhance the “Plantscapes” brand throughout the Puget Sound region as a trusted leader in indoor and outdoor landscape design, installation and maintenance.
King County has honored Plantscapes as a Leader in Hazardous Waste Reduction and Sustainable Business Practices with a 2011 Green Globe Award.
The text of the award reads:
“Providing services throughout Seattle for over 40 years, Plantscapes offers interior and exterior landscape management. Plantscapes works primarily with commercial properties, homeowner associations, and multi-family properties.
“They have earned the highest 5-Star certification from the EnviroStars Program by choosing the least toxic, most environmentally sensitive options available for every job, and spreading best practices through Green Gardening workshops and the Washington Association of Landscape Professionals.”
Plantscapes has long been a leader in environmentally friendly landscape practices. Our employees have adopted traffic circles – weeding, planting, and beautifying the neighborhood. They join community organizations like Master Gardeners, Master Composters, Plant Amnesty, the Association of Women in Landscaping, and Seattle Tilth. Plantscapes employees are passionate about gardening and the environment – so we are particularly proud to receive this recognition.
Congratulations to Azure Allender and Kathie Madsen who have spearheaded so many of our environmental efforts in the past year.
As the weather warms up, more people head outside to catch every moment of sun. In the Northwest, that means sitting on the grass during lunch, on coffee breaks – whenever you can catch a few minutes to enjoy the new flowers and the change of season. While March remains a little dreary and overcast, it is the perfect time to renew your turf.
Keeping grass lush, green and inviting isn’t that difficult – especially in the spring when rain still supplies plenty of water. There are a few essential steps, however:
(1) Aerate your turf. This simple process involves pulling plugs from the ground to break up compact soil and to allow air to circulate freely. It can be done mechanically on large areas or with manual equipment in small spaces.
(2) Fertilize. A good quality fertilizer will send roots deep into the earth – insuring that top growth is strong and thick. A rough rule of thumb says the roots of your grass should be at least as deep as the grass is tall. Which means – don’t mow the grass so that it is golf course short. One to two inch tall grass still looks neat on top of the soil, while the invisible roots hold moisture and fertilizer to keep the blades green and growing.
(3) Add lime as needed. Northwest soils tend to be more acidic – so it is generally a good idea to test the pH and add lime to your fertilizer mix. A pH of 6.5 is ideal.
(4) Thatch. Thatching can make your turf look chopped up and messy – so it is best to do it when the grass will fill back in quickly (right about now is a good time!) Thatching pulls out old, dead grass and allows room for new growth to take root and thrive.
(5) Overseed. Fill in bare patches before weeds do – overseed with a good quality lawn seed. Use seed suited to your area and climate. In the Puget Sound area, fescues do well in shady areas and rye grass mixes do well in full sun. Rye grass is also hardy and can take a fair amount of trampling – so it is good for heavily trafficked areas. In general, bluegrass, although pretty, grows poorly in the northwest. If you use a seed mix with bluegrass seed, keep the percentage of bluegrass below 20%.
(6) Mulch flower beds. Remove your old bark mulch, where weed seeds and disease may be hiding, and add fresh mulch for the spring. It looks and smells great, and it keeps weeds from sprouting. A thick layer of mulch is one of the best investments you can make it your landscape. It will reduce labor, save water, and suppress weeds – and all you have to do is replenish it annually.
GREEN GRASS IS “GREEN,” TOO
Sometimes, when we talk to clients about turf, we get questions about the “bad” effects grass can have on the environment: fertilizer run off, wasted water, constant mowing etc. But consider – each of these problems is actually caused by poorly cared for turf. A well managed lawn enhances the environment in important ways:
Well-cared-for lawns can significantly increase your property values.
A healthy lawn is of utmost importance to our environment. A 50-foot by 50-foot lawn produces enough oxygen for a family of four.
Lawns cool the atmosphere. Eight healthy front lawns have the cooling effect of 70 tons of air conditioning, which is enough for 16 average homes.
Grass converts carbon dioxide to oxygen, a process that helps clear the air.
Dense, healthy grass slows water runoff, removing contaminants and trapping soil. Fresh, filtered water returns to the underground water supply.
If you haven’t yet subscribed to Plantscapes’ Spring Turf program, give your customer service rep a call.