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A clean sweep: Fall cleanup advice

August 17, 2020 -  By
Person performing fall cleanup (Photo: Peco)

Clear them away Too many leaves left on the ground can be bad for turf health, so it’s important to clear away such debris. (Photo: Peco)

Reusable yard bags, lawn vacuums, stand-on and handheld blowers, compact utility tractors, rakes — when it comes to fall cleanups, landscape professionals have a variety of tools at their disposal.

With fall right around the corner, now is the time for landscape pros to be thinking of how to incorporate these services into their daily operations — and how to do so efficiently.

“Efficiency in cleanups is about labor, job size and equipment,” says Brandon King, product manager for Billy Goat. “There are multiple types of equipment and procedures to getting the leaves of a cleanup done and for getting the leaves hauled away and disposed of.”

Landscape Management spoke to King; Joel Hicks, senior product support manager for Kioti; Marc Mataya, CEO of Leaf Burrito; and Peter Cook, president of Peco to get the scoop on the do’s and don’ts of performing fall cleanups.

Do’s

  • “Remove dead leaves and other debris from the land. This saves valuable time later by preventing pests like mice and insects from settling in and becoming a springtime nuisance. Debris buildup also can prevent proper drainage, causing problems down the road once winter passes and snow begins to melt. Remember, you can use your mower to shred fallen leaves so they settle into the fall grass and decompose into a natural fertilizer.” –JH
  • “Empower crew managers to make the sale on the spot to neighbors of the homeowner they’re servicing. Often, they’ll want to approach that crew and ask for a service on the spot, and nothing promotes a business like doing the work right now for someone else.” –BK
  • “Consider ways in which crews can handle material only once versus shuffling it around a process through multiple touchpoints.” –MM
  • “Educate customers on why it’s important to do fall cleanup. Getting the leaves off the ground can keep the lawn healthier in the wintertime, not cause dead spots and, in springtime, help the color.” –BK
  • “Remove any dead trees or shrubs before the ground hardens. Also, continue to address large debris accumulations as needed throughout the course of the winter.” –JH
  • “Consider using a headlight on cleanup equipment. Landscapers want to be able to run as early as they can on commercial sites and, in the evenings, extend the day as it gets darker earlier.” –BK
  • “Remind customers that taking care of their lawns in the fall will save them time, money and work when springtime rolls around. Additionally, consider offering special deals that combine multiple visits or types of fall cleanup services into a single package.” –JH
  • “Buy the equipment for where the business is intended to go, whether landscapers want to only perform a few fall cleanups each year or grow that side of the business. Landscapers don’t want to buy equipment and then have to upgrade everything. Rather, get the best possible value from that initial purchase.” –BK
  • “Consider other revenue streams generated from fall cleanups, such as selling back the mulch generated from dead leaves. There’s also a subset of customers who are going to want that extra level of grooming, like office buildings, that you can charge a premium for hauling off their grass clippings. Look at the bigger picture and see if you can use these opportunities to expand your business year-round.” –PC
  • “Make cleanup routes as dense as possible. Do a majority of jobs in the same neighborhood within one or two days and try to get that all in.” –BK

Don’ts

  • “Don’t stop mowing customers’ grass as long as it’s still growing. Doing so will help prevent burning or freezing of taller grass under the chilly temperatures coming in the months ahead and help the soil dry out faster once spring arrives.” –JH
  • “Don’t drag reusable yard bags across concrete or pavement, as this can brush burn them.” –MM
  • “Don’t be reckless when blowing around landscaping beds. Crews can end up blowing a lot of the mulch or rocks away with the leaves and hauling it away. There are things crews can do to throttle down on larger blowers, such as decreasing the throttle to make sure to not disturb landscape beds.” –BK
  • “Don’t overfill tarps. Using tarps versus reusable bags can be dangerous as crews try to handle giant tarps, and they drag them on the ground and injure themselves. Landscapers can’t afford to lose anyone over injuries while trying to manhandle a tarp that’s too big. Using a reusable bag is more ergonomic because it’s a manageable size.” –MM
  • “Don’t forget about necessary preparations before start of cleanup season. Landscapers know the leaves are going to come off the trees, so they should take care to do preseason maintenance on equipment. Because landscapers have a narrower window to do the cleanups, they should make sure they’ve got spare parts and equipment in good working condition.” –PC
  • “Avoid trying to collect during rain or during snow as dry leaves are much easier to collect than wet leaves.” –BK
  • “Don’t forget to bring extra fuel to the job sites.” –BK
This article is tagged with , , , , and posted in 0820, Mowing+Maintenance
Sarah Webb

About the Author:

Sarah Webb is Landscape Management's associate editor. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Wittenberg University, where she studied journalism and Spanish. Prior to her role at LM, Sarah was an intern for Cleveland Magazine and a writing tutor.

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