LM 2019 Industry Pulse: Weather report

January 17, 2020 -  By

Weather warriors

Landscape professionals have to contend with the weather Mother Nature brings — good or bad

A wet spring in many parts of the country hindered some landscape companies. (Photo: Willowpix/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images)

A wet spring in many parts of the country hindered some landscape companies. (Photo: Willowpix/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images)

Due to the nature of working in the elements, landscape professionals battle the weather every day.

“As landscapers, we are prepared for just about any work conditions,” says Peter Wood, project manager and turf care specialist with Hyde Park Landscape.

Although not all landscape companies saw the impact of weather on their businesses, some survey respondents found that the weather in 2019 brought on unique obstacles. Some even said the most challenging aspect of their business this year was the weather.

A loss in production and a negative effect on sales are just some of the reported outcomes of the extreme weather conditions in 2019.

One Midwestern landscape company noted that weather was the biggest factor in not making its revenue goal. A late April snowstorm and many rainy days caused the company to fall behind and prevented it from taking on extra work.

Peter Wood

Peter Wood

Hyde Park Landscape, headquartered in Norwich, Conn., experienced problems due to a lack of snow at the end of winter.

Wood says plants typically receive protection from the snow cover during the winter. “The reduction in snow cover increased the quantity of new plant materials that were under warranty and needed to be replaced,” he says.

A lack of snow also made it difficult to provide a winter income for the crew. “We needed to scramble at times to find winter work for good employees that we didn’t want to lose,” he says. The crew kept busy during the winter by pruning ornamentals and working on hardscape projects and other indoor and outdoor tasks.

“There is always work to be done — the trick is trying to load up on billable-hour projects during winter,” Wood says.

Water: Too much or not enough

Weather extremes, such as flooding or drought, caused trouble for landscape companies in 2019.

In some cases, higher rain and humidity levels led to more instances of disease in plants and turf. (Photo: tab1962/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images)

In some cases, higher rain and humidity levels led to more instances of disease in plants and turf. (Photo: tab1962/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images)

Spring 2019 was the sixth wettest spring on record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Wood says above-average levels of rain and humidity created obstacles for Hyde Park crews. “(Rain) led to some sites being muddy and difficult to work at, coupled with high levels of fungus on plants and in turf,” he says.

Lou Palazzi Jr., CEO at Palazzi Landscape Gardening, says the rain delayed lawn installations for over a year. His northeastern Pennsylvania company made some schedule changes to get work done despite the rain.

“We ended up working a lot on Saturdays, and even a few Sundays, to make up for the lost time when it was raining,” Palazzi says. “When we did have good days, we tried to work maybe two hours extra, and that worked out pretty good, too.”

He says getting dry topsoil was the biggest challenge, but fortunately, customers were willing to wait. “I had one customer — he was very understanding about it — but he waited almost two years for me to put his lawn in because it was so wet here,” Palazzi says.

Jesus Cera

Jesus Cera

Overall, Palazzi says business has been good despite setbacks from the rain. “We had a very good year in terms of business, but it would have been much better if we could have gotten ahead on these lawn jobs. But we just couldn’t; the ground was too saturated,” he says.

While the Midwest and eastern part of the U.S. experienced record rainfall, some parts of the country had the opposite problem.

“This year, we experienced one of the driest years we have seen in Arizona,” says Jesus Cera, head of strategic initiatives at Tempe, Ariz.-based DBL Landscaping. “I have lived here my entire life, and by far, this has been one of the lowest amounts of rain I have seen.”

DBL, which only services commercial properties, had to replace plant installations under warranty, due to the unusually dry weather.

“Warranty work is materials and hours that we have to cover on our own, so we do not bill customers for this work,” Cera explains.

Landscape companies that took a hit because of weather can look on the sunny side — 2020 weather will be just as unpredictable. As Palazzi says, “We make up for it in the following year. It always evens out.”

Photo: CatLane/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

Photo: CatLane/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

How has weather affected your business this year?

Here’s how some Industry Pulse survey respondents answered:

  • “Spring of ’19 hurt, and getting snow with cold temperatures in early November is not good.”
  • “The wet season didn’t really hamper us too badly. We are a maintenance company and never got behind schedule.”
  • “We were able to complete all work despite a very wet year.”
  • “Some offices experienced a wet irrigation season, which slightly impacted overall revenue at those locations.”
  • “We have sold more disease control jobs this year than any other year.”
  • “Weather was terrible. Lost a lot of work due to not enough time to complete and not dry enough conditions.”
  • “It has made getting jobs done more challenging.”
  • “We have had a lot of rain, and things have been slower in the spring than normal. The cold weather has driven sales down as well.”
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Danielle Pesta

About the Author:

Danielle Pesta is the senior digital media manager at Landscape Management's parent company, North Coast Media. She started writing for the green industry in 2014 and has won multiple awards from the Turf & Ornamental Communicators Association (TOCA). She can be reached at dpesta@northcoastmedia.net.

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