Old Man Winter is knocking on the door, and landscapers in the Greater Lehigh Valley are planting seeds in the minds of commercial property owners to help them create a maintenance checklist for cold weather.
Must-do tasks include trimming shrubs and trees, mowing the grass, fertilizing, pulling summer flowers, pre-seeding for spring, ensuring irrigation systems are shut off and blown out, ponds are heated and leaves and debris are removed from the ground, gutters and roofs. It’s also important to prepare for a good snowfall and to know what to do after a winter weather event.
“This time of year, we recommend that [businesses] pre-seed and do aeration ahead of winter weather, cut back shrubs and do your pruning,” said Nate Halter, owner of Halter Landscaping LLC in Mount Penn.
When snow is forecast, businesses call landscapers to pre-salt and install snow markers to identify sidewalks and curbs. After the snowstorm, general cleanup has to be performed that requires snow removal and salting before the business day begins.
“We encourage businesses to pre-salt their property before the snow … and then, of course, put out your snow markers” Halter said.
Brad Romig, owner of Romig’s Lawn & Landscaping in Bethlehem, agrees about pre-salting.
“Anytime we get 36 degrees or lower, you want to get salt down on the asphalt and put down calcium on the concrete and sidewalks. Rock salt has damaging effects, so we use calcium on concrete surfaces,” Romig said. “We salt everywhere else because calcium is too expensive to really do on all surfaces.”
Mark Rutan, owner of A1 Hardscape and Landscape Design in Hellertown, said he uses salt on blacktops and calcium on sidewalks to protect concrete surfaces.
“You will at least double your cost by putting calcium down on all surfaces. Blacktop gets resurfaced so it can stand the salt,” Rutan said.
KEEP ALIVE THE GREENS
Landscapers have mixed reactions when it comes to caring for grass surfaces before a snowstorm. Some, but not all, recommend using a special fertilizer.
But all agree that grass should be kept at two or three inches high before the first heavy snow. They say it can easily get brown, decay and go dormant in colder months as mold and fungus form between the grass and layer of snow.
Romig, for example, sees fertilizer as a key ingredient that protects the grass from the harsh conditions and limits mold and fungus.
Halter tells commercial clients that aeration, which involves prepping the soil, is important to maintain healthy grass.
HOLDING IN MOISTURE
John Mraz, branch manager at LandCare in Allentown, said deep-root feeding is necessary.
“You want a heavy fall fertilizer and to basically inject fertilizer into the ground for plants to utilize in spring,” Mraz said.
He noted that now is the time to pre-seed and get ready for spring flowers at businesses.
In addition, he sprays evergreen trees and shrubs with anti-desiccant spray to help hold in moisture through winter. And occasionally he is asked to use a dormant oil application on shrubs that may have insect eggs.
HEATING THE POND
Chris Prorok, a maintenance and sales manager at Plantique Landscaping, said the Allentown-based company does not push customers to use fertilizer.
He said Plantique suggests the standard measures for winterization to business customers, including cleanup of leaves, cutting back shrubs, removing summer flowers and hiring someone to blow out irrigation systems.
He said one of his simplest tips is to tell businesses with a pond with fish is to buy a pond heater.
TREAT SMALL SNOWFALLS, TOO
Area landscapers say autumn leaf cleanup has been extended well into December since snow and ice in recent years are not as large of an issue in December and January. Leaves stick to trees a little longer.
Winter weather is arriving a bit later and bringing with it a lot of smaller snowstorms that leave only a trace to a few inches of snow. These small storms still have to be treated since they can lead to some of the worst icing situations.
Mraz said property owners need to ensure leaves are removed from the ground, gutters and roofs. A layer of leaves under the snow increases the chance for a slip and fall.
Rutan also suggested the cleaning of downspouts, along with gutters, to prevent ice accumulation.
24-7 SNOW CLEANUP
Prorok said much of Plantique’s wintertime work consists of preparation for snow and then snow cleanup. Extra trucks and manpower are needed to do the job before the day begins for people who work at commercial properties.
“We have dozens of trucks on the road doing snow removal during a major storm …,” he said. “One of our tips is to make sure snow is cleared so there is access to fire hydrants, entrances and exits.”
Halter said there is not a lot of sleep to be had in the dead of winter, as commercial sites must be checked several times during a snowfall.
“It is a struggle and a balancing act to make sure that all businesses are taken care of before the work day begins,” the landscaper said. “The last thing a business wants is someone falling and hurting themselves.”