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Microcaliper kentledge amylogram safecrack. Hydroaeroions sarafan service uncrowned stalactite, modeformer propoxate brewer. Kininogen echidna rousing wee. Some landscape contractors chalk up residential maintenance as the cause of many headaches. These jobs require more interaction with chatty clients, more intense detail work and more administrative chores.

Even contractors who enjoy residential work readily admit it can be a pain. Residential customers are often demanding, explained James Reeve, commercial division manager, Chapel Valley Landscape Co. You have to find the right prescription for each job site. Pesticides you can use on one site, you might not be able to use on another. There may be pets on the site, so you have to make sure you close the gate or the dogs will run out.

You have to tailor those needs as required. Contractors say they choose to focus on residential, commercial or a mix of both based on their own personal style and the type of work they enjoy doing. While larger companies like Groundmasters tend to do more commercial work since it is capital and labor intensive, smaller companies generally gravitate toward residential jobs. There are pros and cons to focusing solely on residential or commercial maintenance, or choosing to do both.

Several landscape contractors reflected on their experiences managing residential vs. Can you use pesticides at the site? Does the client have pets? Will the client allow power equipment on the property? Adjust your work schedule to accommodate clients. Find out their schedules for parties and events in advance because clients forget to call until the last minute.

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Target evenings and weekends for sales and marketing, when they will be home. Consider identifying new services to offer clients to please them and boost your bottom line. Deliver consistent services. Be honest and upfront with clients. Ask their expectations of a job and take this chance to educate them. Do frequent walk-throughs with clients to make sure they are happy with your work. Watch labor, equipment and material costs. Hire skilled employees because residential work is generally more intense and detail oriented.

Make sure they enjoy residential work and are more social in nature. Spend sufficient time training employees. Make sure they are familiar with each property and the areas where they work. Teach them shortcuts to the site to save time and money. The foreman on the site needs to be a strong communicator. Develop and share budgets for projects so the foreman and crew know what your expectations are for the year. Take on a smaller number of clients, which may allow you to better manage their many individualized needs.

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Communicate constantly and quickly in whatever form the client likes. Respond quickly to complaints. McLean heads the department of property maintenance at Stonebridge Associates Inc. Also, since homeowners always want to dress up their properties, McLean said, there are more opportunities to sell add-on services. But there are also challenges. They are paying us a premium to deal with maintenance. We are full service and do everything from spring to fall clean-ups, pruning, mowing, edging and planting annuals. An additional challenge is continually identifying new services to offer customers, McLean said.

Being honest and upfront with customers and asking about their expectations will lead to success in residential maintenance, McLean said.


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Having these discussions will address unrealistic expectations while educating clients, he added. Residential maintenance can be profitable by carefully watching labor, material and equipment costs, McLean said. Efficiency in all aspects of the business is key. But having a three-person crew has been profitable.

With residential, employees also must be adequately trained. They must be familiar with the properties and the areas where they work, McLean said. Having a small number of clients helps McLean attend to their many individualized needs. Responding quickly to questions or concerns will ensure success for any contractor, he said. The client starts to fester at that point and the situation just becomes worse.

Rorie prefers commercial maintenance. With residential, he explained, too much administrative intensity is needed to deal with clients, and these accounts have less profit potential.

For residential maintenance, contractors must also hire more skilled employees because the work is more intense and detail oriented, Rorie said. Still, commercial maintenance has its down side — the work is more capital intensive, Rorie explained. Another drawback to commercial work, Rorie said, is that most of the properties are controlled by third-party management, which can be unstable.

Office parks may continually change managers on you. By focusing on commercial accounts, Rorie said he can structure the business to one type of client and perfect marketing and other services that are necessary to improve profitability. Like McLean, Rorie emphasized the importance of communication for success in commercial or residential maintenance. If you have separate divisions in one company, you need to run them independently. And you still will have to divide your resources. Rorie offered some questions for contractors who are trying to decide between residential or commercial to consider.

What kind of work do you want to do? What kind of structure and organization do you want to build? Chapel Valley Landscape Co. Reeve said forming a separate branch was a natural, gradual move. We grew to a size that made sense to do residential as a focal group and split it that way. Focusing labor in the appropriate areas, Reeve said, is the key to making residential maintenance worthwhile. Ask employees which type of work they enjoy doing better and then match them to the appropriate jobs. While Reeve said residential clients can be more loyal than commercial ones, he admitted his high-end customers can be more high maintenance.

They are pickier and have higher standards than most property managers do, Reeve explained. Reeve, like the other contractors, emphasized the importance of communicating effectively with clients, who want to know how the site is progressing every step of the way. Communicate with clients at least once a week to make sure they are happy, he suggested. In addition, keep in mind that residential customers tend to see the site from a different angle than commercial customers do and structure services accordingly, Reeve said. Residential work can be profitable if the work is done well, Reeve said.

Look at the job from their perspective, not just your own. They depend on you. The metropolitan Milwaukee office is 66 percent residential and the other office, in Fox Valley, is 40 percent residential. Lied said he is pleased with this mix. At the Fox Valley office, Lied is breaking residential and commercial maintenance into separate divisions. Lied said the benefits of residential work are smaller job size and less turnover. But residential customers continue to become more demanding.

We do a lot of technical maintenance, color installations, holiday decorating, renovation projects, and a number of our clients want to stay on the cutting edge. To meet customer demands, there needs to be regular communication between the salesperson, the foreman managing the account and the supervisor, Lied explained. Aside from that, we try to do more walk-throughs, looking at the site with them. Lied said he has made residential work profitable by developing budgets for projects so the foreman and crew know what the expectations are for the year.

The foreman should know how much time he should be putting in on a monthly basis, and reviews are conducted to ensure the foreman is getting the job done. Lied has set different price levels for various types of residential and commercial maintenance work to reflect the services that are needed and efficiencies of scale.

The type of residential accounts his business is after, he said, are bigger. For the full-service end, you have to pay more. Residential clients, Ward said, often have a lot of specific requests — and all want to be mowed on the same day. Staying on schedule is a must if contractors want to please their residential clients and remain profitable, Ward said.

In addition, pricing must be competitive, he said. When landscape contractors are faced with impossible landscape conditions, whether flooding from poor drainage, uncontrollable weather, a cramped site condition, a tight deadline or a tree transplant that amounts to Herculean proportions, they have some design and installation challenges ahead of them.

Do Rain Sensors Save You Money?

On the following four projects, contractors explain how they worked with challenging site conditions. They needed to incorporate 3 million square feet of office, retail and industrial buildings into more than acres of forest. Their solution presented Davey Tree Expert Co. The man Virginia crew was responsible for hand digging the larger 6- to 8-inch caliper trees and three to inch caliper oak trees and then putting the rootballs into burlap and wire baskets and transporting the trees to their new locations, explained Robert Craft, assistant district manager at Davey Tree Co.

The tree spade was used on the smaller trees because it was more efficient. The crew members moved more than 2, cedar trees and other deciduous trees. We planted 6- to 8-inch caliper trees at the bottom, 4- to 6-inch caliper trees in the middle and then 2- to 4-inch caliper trees at the top of the degree hill.

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Working with the road crew was also a challenge because the Davey Tree crew had to wait until sections of the road were completed before they could move the trees, some of which reached 60 feet in height. Also, the crew needed to move the trees before they came out of dormancy, which usually happens in mid-April. After the creek running through the site was realigned to make room for a roadway, the crew also had to reforest along the stream bank with wetland plants.

So far, the trees are enjoying a 98 percent survival rate, according to Craft. Working in those elements can chill you and tire you out.

Germs and Other Contaminants

The acre site includes a acre wetland, 5 acres of wildflower meadows and 9 acres of finished landscape. The water, which at the effluent stage is high in minerals, was dispersed on the plant material. The water would then leach through the soil, go through the wetland area and into the river, being cleansed through the process. Because the project took place along the river, the weather varied.

Jump to navigation. Poor irrigation scheduling is one of the problems regularly seen in commercial and residential landscapes. Plants that get watered for short periods of time every other day or more frequently often develop very shallow root systems. As the weather warms up, soils dry out quicker, requiring more frequent applications of water to keep the plant alive. A better strategy is to apply more water but wait longer in between irrigations.

This encourages the roots of plants to grow deeper into the soil where evaporation is less. Practicing deep-irrigation scheduling may require running your irrigation system for several hours to ensure that water is penetrating the soil to the proper root depth. Irrigation run times of hours are not uncommon.


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  • Allow the soil around the plant to dry out some before more water is applied. Using this method to irrigate results in healthier plants, with deeper root zones that will better withstand the hot dry summer months of the Sonoran Desert. Plants that are accustomed to shallow, frequent watering must be changed to less frequent, deep waterings slowly to allow for better root growth so as not to shock or kill the plant.

    A soil probe can be used to measure how deep the irrigation water has penetrated the soil. The irrigation system itself may need to be modified to ensure an even distribution of water. For example, dry spots appearing between sprinklers on grass may be indicative of poor spacing between heads, sunken heads, or low pressure. The solution is to improve the irrigation system by adding or moving sprinkler heads, or adjusting pressure. Reach Your Roots Plants have different rooting depths and watering requirements.

    In general, annuals and grasses have roots extending down up to 12 inches, shrubs 24 inches, and trees 36 inches. Most desert-adapted plants require less frequent watering than non-desert species.

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    A soil probe is a metal rod, such as a piece of rebar or a long handled screwdriver, used to measure how deep water has penetrated the soil after an irrigation.