Tackling spring cleanups, busy season prep

Photo: Stihl
RETRAIN It can be beneficial for crew members to relearn how to safely operate equipment. Photo: Stihl
Photo: Stihl
It can be beneficial for crew members to relearn how to safely operate equipment. Photo: Stihl

Switching gears for spring season cleanups after a long winter of snow removal or other services can be a welcome change for lawn and landscape companies. Many have processes in place weeks before the temperature changes in an attempt to hit the ground running.

Anne Campbell, owner and operations manager of Colorado Stoneworks Landscaping (CSL) in Colorado Springs, Colo., says the company’s typical cleanup involves removing leaves, needles and debris, flipping and fluffing any cascade cedar mulch and pruning mainly decorative grasses, since shrubs and perennials are usually pruned during the fall cleanup for recurring customers.

The company’s crews carry backpack blowers (the company favors RedMax blowers), hedge trimmers, loppers, hand shears and hard and soft rakes. For jobs with more debris, the field crews tote a leaf vacuum.

Anne Campbell
Anne Campbell

CSL provides 60 percent lawn care and maintenance, 30 percent design/build and 10 percent irrigation services to an 80 percent residential and 20 percent commercial clientele. The company has a revenue of $1.4 million and employs 23 staff members.

The company has a few full-time, year-round employees, but most of the company’s workers are seasonal and laid off in the winter, returning in mid- to late March. They are eligible for job-attached unemployment, and as a condition of that unemployment, they must be available when work picks back up in the spring.

CSL begins its season at a strong pace, aiming to complete spring cleanups for all its clients by the end of April — in time to start aerations, sprinkler turn-ons and mowing in May.

Training is the main thing CSL focuses on in the late winter and early spring, according to Campbell. The company’s training materials are modeled after the Landscape Industry Certified Technician test.

“This was the first year we did more hands-on testing for things like equipment maintenance, how to handle blowing off a property when there’s a building or cars, things like that,” she says. “It’s a refresher of proper education so (field staff) can provide better service if customers have questions. The training will have more impact if people know the why behind it.”

Beth Hammonds
Beth Hammonds

Beth Hammonds, landscape maintenance account manager for Exscape Designs in Novelty, Ohio, says spring cleanups typically involve two- to three-person crews cleaning the beds and the lawn; edging beds; clearing leaves, branches and debris; pruning back ornamental grasses and putting down a preemergent herbicide and fertilizer in the beds.

“People think spring cleanups are very straightforward and simple, but our Ohio weather is very harsh,” Hammonds says. “You have a lot of mulch that’s blown around and shifted into the lawns, we’re hand raking a lot and we’re using trucks to haul away debris if that’s the client’s preference.”

The company, which has an annual revenue of about $8.1 million, staffs up for the spring at the end of March and reviews any operational changes and goals for the upcoming season. The company has about 60 returning seasonal employees, some of which are H-2B workers.

About a third of Exscape’s business is lawn care and maintenance. Its clients are 88 percent residential and 12 percent commercial.

Both Exscape and CSL outline cleanup packages for spring and fall in detail on their annual maintenance contracts and say that’s the best way for them to communicate their services clearly to their clients.

Hammonds stresses that as you’re ramping up for spring season, preparation is key. “You want to make sure that you’re ready as soon as the weather allows,” she says, adding that it’s also important to “set expectations with your crew and the quality of work they’re performing.”

Abby Hart

Abby Hart

Abby Hart is the former senior editor of Landscape Management. A native Clevelander, she spent 10 years in Chicago, where she was operations manager of a global hospitality consultancy. She also worked as managing editor of Illumine, a health and wellness magazine; and a marketing specialist for B2B publications. Abby has a degree in journalism from Boston University’s College of Communication.

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