Spring into action: How to start the season strong

February 19, 2021 -  By

Details matter

Bed edging is a big component of spring cleanups for The Yard Works, Haney says. Crews run a Turf Teq Power Edger to detail the edges on cleaned and prepped beds.

“It goes through, and it puts a nice, deep edge on all of our beds,” he says. “We clean around the edges to make sure it’s a nice, defined edge. That’s there before we lay down the mulch. Once we get the beds cleaned and prepped, we apply a preemergent into the beds as well. It helps to prevent and limit some of the weed growth during the season.”

Haney estimates The Yard Works crews lay about 4,000 yards of mulch a year. He prefers the look of hand-dropped mulch. Crews use Mulch Mules to help speed up the process.

“We like the idea of hand dropping it because it gives it a nice clean appearance,” he says. “I think the customers like the look of hand dropping mulch. We use a color-enhanced mulch like a brown or a black, and it really lays on the bed nice and gives that nice aesthetic.”

Don’t neglect plants

While it’s easy to focus on cleaning out beds and mulching, pruning is a major component of spring cleanups for Azevedo’s team at Duke University. Azevedo manages seven grounds equipment operators and two horticulture specialists. They are in charge of about 27 acres of turf and 27 acres of beds and all the hardscapes and parking lots for the west section of campus.

“When you cut that plant back, it sets out new leaves, and then you have leaves all year,” Azevedo says of the liriope that is all over campus, noting that the crew also uses plant growth regulators (PGRs) to control vigor. “If we’re going to use PGRs, we’ve got to get them trimmed to the right height first.”

Herndon says it’s important to prune first and mulch later.

“You never want to mulch or apply pine straw before you prune,” he says. “If you put down fresh mulch or pine straw and then prune, you’ll be raking the mulch or blowing the mulch to clean it out.”

Azevedo says it’s also easier to target preemergent herbicide sprays as crews are working in the beds before the final application of mulch.

The team at Duke University uses 5-foot Leaf Burritos, reusable leaf debris bags to help with spring cleanups. The fluid nature of campus activities means they may have to leave a site at any moment.

“We don’t get into situations where we can bite off more than we can chew,” Azevedo says. “Being in a university setting, you never know if you could get called off a site at any time, and we never want to leave a mess behind.”

Crews use the Leaf Burritos as both a tarp and a bucket; they fill the Leaf Burritos with material from cleanups, roll it up and tote it, being sure to never drag it.

“It’s better to work in teams,” Remington says. “That way, you can stuff them and maximize their capacity.

It’s easy to carry with two people because there are two straps on each side. Once they’re filled up, you can grab both straps with two people, and it’s easy.”

Set the tone for crews

Desmangles says he also uses spring as a chance to reinforce his company’s mission with his crew. Before COVID-19, he would have breakfast with his crew in the spring to share successes or places for improvement with the team. He also uses the meals as an opportunity to focus on professional development.

“We really try to catch up with them and try to understand what their goals are,” he says. “It’s another opportunity to share our goals and refresh everyone’s memory of our mission and make sure we’re on the same page so we can move forward together.”

The Yard Works also hosts a spring meeting. Haney says in past spring meetings, crews broke into smaller groups so newer crew members could learn how to use different pieces of equipment. This approach could help eliminate downtime on a job.

“They could be backups,” Haney says. “They know how to use every piece of machinery.”

Christina Herrick

About the Author:

Christina Herrick is the editor of Landscape Management magazine. Known for her immersive approach to travel from coast to coast in her previous stint as senior editor of American Fruit Grower Magazine, she uses social media (Twitter/Instagram @EditorHerrick) to share her experiences on the road with her audience. Herrick has a degree in journalism from Ohio Northern University. She can be reached at cherrick@northcoastmedia.net.

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