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How landscaping companies are handling the record-breaking heat

August 3, 2021 -  By

As temperatures climb in many places into the 90s and 100s, landscape companies make adjustments to protect their crew members and plant materials.

Landscaper shading eyes during hot day (Photo: JulieanneBirch/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images)

(Photo: JulieanneBirch/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images)

“In our industry, we’re dealing so many variables,” said Bob Grover, president of Pacific Landscape Management. “We had a snowier February than we normally do. We had a wildfire last fall. We’re having an extended dry spell this year. We just roll with the weather. We do our best to be prepared, and we are constantly watching the weather forecast and monitoring long-term forecasting and trends to make sure we’re prepared and react appropriately

In Portland, Ore., where Pacific Landscape Management is located, Grover said it’s been a record-dry summer so far, with several days of record-high temperatures. At the end of June, temperatures broke an all-time-high record by nine degrees.

“It’s weird to break an all-time high, but to eclipse it by nine degrees … that’s significant,” Grover said. “The old high was 107, and the new high is 116. We get into the 100s once or twice or year, but we’ve never seen the kind of plant damage that we saw this year.”

To protect employees from extreme heat, the company allowed crews to not work during the record-high days. Additionally, in the summer, days start as early as possible.

“On some properties, like at HOAs, we can’t show up at 6 a.m., but we will work earlier shifts to try and get people in when it’s cool in the morning and through the middle of the day and get off before it gets super hot,” Grover said.

Additionally, supervisors take water out to crews, and the company encourages crews to carry their own water.

Art by Nature in Granite Falls, Wash., made similar efforts to keep employees safe from the heat, according to Ryan McMahon, president and owner.

“We climbed up there into the real high 90s and 100s,” McMahon said. “I think it’s been pretty much record heat around here, so this is kind of unchartered territory.”

During days with extreme temperatures, the company held off on installing plantings and sod.

On the two days where it was extremely hot, Art by Nature shut down construction and gave employees the option of working in the company’s nursery from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. or take the day off.

“Working in the nursery, it’s a more controlled environment, and we can set up water stations and evaluate everyone to make sure they’re not overheating,” McMahon said. “If we foresee some hot weather, we usually have crews do an earlier start if it’s not too excessive. There was a stretch where it was so hot that we didn’t even want the guys out there. We didn’t want to see anyone get hurt or get heatstroke.”

The company always ensures crews have a water station with the truck, and on days where it’s just warmer than usual, the company gives employees the option to take breaks whenever they need to, instead of just at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

For other companies dealing with the heat, McMahon suggests listening to feedback from workers.

“Everyone’s driven by the bottom line, but your workforce is your most important asset, and you want to protect them, especially these days when everyone is going crazy with the worker shortage,” McMahon says. “You want to make sure you listen to them. If they’re too hot, take the precautions necessary to keep them comfortable.

Plant problems

As for the plants, Grover said most of them aren’t dead — they’re just damaged and not pretty right now.

“We’ve had a bit of wait-and-see attitude. We’re hoping there’s some energy in the growing season where we can have some plants grow out of that,” Grover said. “Some plants may be damaged to the point of being replaced, but replacing those in the middle of a hot, dry summer is not the time to do it. We will see in the fall if plants have recovered on their own. Some we might just prune back aggressively this fall and winter and let them grow back next spring.”

In the meantime, Grover said his company places a large focus on water conservation efforts.

“We will have no rain in the month of July. We’ll have little to no rain in August,” Grover said. “It’s a dry summer climate, so we’re constantly working on water conservation to help our customers keep their landscapes alive and pretty and not spend any more water than we need to.”

Sarah Webb

About the Author:

Sarah Webb is Landscape Management's managing 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. She can be reached at swebb@northcoastmedia.net.

1 Comment on "How landscaping companies are handling the record-breaking heat"

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  1. Isabel Rountree says:

    I’d love to see the comparison of how the southern landscape companies deal with that kind of heat every day every year.