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.
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.
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.
March signals the return of spring. Crocuses are blooming. Grass is growing. Trees are in bud. If you love nature, you can’t help but love spring.
Which is why we designated March as Customer Appreciation Month here at Plantscapes.
Even though we’ve had a very mild winter this year in the Puget Sound, your landscape is probably ready for a good, old fashioned “spring cleaning.” One of the most important steps you can take in getting your landscape ready for the new growing season is to renovate the mulch.
After a year of weathering, bark can get “worn out.” Some has been blown or tracked away. Weed seeds, litter, and insect egss may be lurking just below the surface. In short, the bark mulch can no longer do the job it is designed for.
A fresh layer of mulch not only re-invigorates the landscape, it adds a fresh, clean look to your beds and trees.
Until March 31, Plantscapes clients will receive 15% Off on any bark order.
This is a great way to kick off spring. If you are interested, just give us a call: 206-623-7100
After a wet, rainy, snowy fall, winter and spring, the Puget Sound region is now experiencing an unusually dry and hot summer.
Unless you have some sort of irrigation, your lawn is probably looking patchy and brown. Plants in containers need more water usual. And even well established perennials and shrubs may be looking droopy.
Plantscapes Commercial exterior Landscape Division has been turning on and adjusting irrigation for months. Many of our clients ask our technicians how they can keep their gardens and lawns at home looking green and healthy without racking up excessive water bills or wasting water.
Here are a few tips that may help:
1) Your lawn only needs 1 inch of water a week (whether from your hose or from rainfall). Don’t water in rainy weather. And don’t water during the hottest part of the day.
2) Group your plants by water requirements to simplify watering. If all plants in one bed need the same amount of water, you can use a drip irrigation system orweeping hose to keep them healthy, without fear of over- or under-watering some plants.
3) Older, established plants – such as mature shrubs and trees – have deep root systems. They can find water deep in the soil. They require much less water than new plants.
4) Use mulch. 2 inches of mulch will keep the soil cool, suppress weeds, and prevent evaporation.
5) Use native plants. Plants naturally adapted to your location are more likely to survive and even thrive in the dry Puget Sound summer and wet winter.