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The Big One: A community effort

September 13, 2021 -  By
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Company: Ruppert Landscape
Location: Honey Brook, Pa.

Tel Hai, Hebrew for “hill of life,” is a massive retirement community in Pennsylvania Amish country, nestled about halfway between Philadelphia and Lancaster. In addition to managing thousands of shrubs, trees, perennials and 44 acres of turf, Ruppert Landscape’s crew members play key educational roles, working with the active gardeners among the site’s 875 residents to keep the campus green.

“There’s a lot of hands-on education and daily communications with residents and employed staff,” says Brian Windley, Ruppert Landscape’s branch manager for the area that includes Tel Hai.

The size and variety of the account’s landscaping activities — mowing, pruning, mulching, turf management, weeding, pest management for more than 1,500 trees and more — demand specialized equipment and lots of planning, Windley says.

“We do a lot with scripting to break down the job into smaller sections,” Windley says, which eases coordination with the site’s managers and residents. With many individual homes on the campus, Ruppert must provide service windows to residents.

Often, those residents are waiting for crews with questions about the best fertilizers for their flower beds.

Ruppert primarily uses Exmark mowers: 60-inch to 72-inch riders and 48-inch to 60-inch walk-behind models. Some of the site’s larger buildings have central courtyards that are only accessible by going through the buildings. There, crews typically use Husqvarna electric mowers and handheld electric tools to limit noise.

The project earned Ruppert Landscape a Gold Award from the National Association of Landscape Professionals’ Awards of Excellence program.

Landscape project at Tel Hai (Photo: Ruppert Landscape)

Photo: Ruppert Landscape

The Tel Hai retirement community sits on a 124-acre campus that includes more than 1,500 trees, 6,500 perennials and grasses, 8,000 shrubs, more than 650 cubic feet of mulch and 44 acres of turf.

Landscape project at Tel Hai (Photo: Ruppert Landscape)

Photo: Ruppert Landscape

Four miles of walkways traverse the property, requiring up to 48 hours per week to edge paths and nearby beds.

Landscape project at Tel Hai (Photo: Ruppert Landscape)

Photo: Ruppert Landscape

Residents who plant and maintain the site’s community garden often tap Ruppert Landscape maintenance crews for gardening advice, while the adjacent amphitheater presents a mowing challenge with crews using wooden ramps to access different levels.

Landscape project at Tel Hai (Photo: Ruppert Landscape)

Photo: Ruppert Landscape

Two interior courtyards can only be accessed by a hallway through the building, so crews lay down plastic tarps to transport push mowers, edgers and wheelbarrows full of mulch through the building.

Landscape project at Tel Hai (Photo: Ruppert Landscape)

Photo: Ruppert Landscape

Garden club members choose the foliage for signs around the property, but Ruppert Landscape crews maintain those features.

Landscape project at Tel Hai (Photo: Ruppert Landscape)

Photo: Ruppert Landscape

Gathering areas and building entrances are more high profile and receive extra attention during twice-weekly maintenance visits. Crews typically arrive around 7:30 a.m. but do not use machines until after 8 a.m. Most work takes place throughout the morning, and crews are usually there as late as 6 p.m.

Landscape project at Tel Hai (Photo: Ruppert Landscape)

Photo: Ruppert Landscape

The property’s 44 acres of turf require weekly mowing and get five fertilizer and weed control treatments per year. Aerating and overseeding takes place as needed, but the size of the property precludes aerating or overseeding all turf.

Robert Schoenberger

About the Author:

Robert Schoenberger is Landscape Management's senior editor. He holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from University of Houston. He has worked in magazines and newspapers since the late 1990s. Robert can be reached at rschoenberger@northcoastmedia.net.

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