What level of landscape maintenance does it take to get healthy plants, green turf, weed-free beds and a neat appearance? Many facility managers ask this question because they’re working within a budget and must make decisions about where to allocate resources. So, what exactly are the basic landscape maintenance contract specifications?
We understand, while your intention is not to cut corners, it is important to ask about the must-have maintenance requirements—and the nice-to-haves. In fact, knowing what specifications are necessary to make your property look good is a prerequisite to writing an effective landscape RFP for your commercial site.
At Klausing Group, we spend time talking to clients about the value of landscape management that is performed by nationally certified landscape professionals. Beyond curb appeal, quality landscape services can enable your property to do so much more. (This leads into a discussion about green infrastructure and why appearance is just one aspect of landscaping.)
Still, the question stands: What is the minimum you can include in a commercial landscape maintenance contract?
To answer that question, here are the essentials that we feel will ensure quality results.
Mowing Maintenance: In Kentucky, we consider 28 mows to be the minimum annual occurrences for an unirrigated property to look good. That allows for one mow per week from April 1 to June 30. Then in July and August, we can pare down to every 10 to 14 days and still keep the property looking well-kept. During those hot summer months in Kentucky, turf growth slows down.
Mowing services should include edging the sidewalks and curb, string trimming, and blowing off all clippings and debris. Find out if your landscape provider figures these extras into the mowing service. You need edging and cleanup to get the quality results you expect. One thing to keep in mind, an early spring or wet summer could push you over your budgeted mowing occurrences.
Weeding: Without weeding, your ornamental beds will quickly get taken over by the “plants” you don’t want in your landscaping. Weeds instantly makes a property look like it is not cared for properly. We recommend weeding beds every two weeks on a year-round basis. In Kentucky, weeds grow year-round—even in winter.
Lawn Care: With a basic lawn care program, some weeds will crop up during the season. But, turf will thrive and the program will prevent lawn disease and the majority of weeds. (Completely stopping weed growth in turf is challenging and requires regular spot-treatment with herbicides—not a basic service.)
A general lawn care program should include a pre-emergent application to control grassy weeds this is applied in March. Next is a spring broadleaf weed control application that usually goes down in April here in Kentucky. (Sometimes, we stretch this application into the first two weeks of May.)
Next is a summer broadleaf weed control application in June or July. In fall, broadleaf weed control is applied between the end of August and early October, depending on the summer weather. In winter, we apply a fertilizer with pre-emergent to prevent weed growth (as we said, weeds grow here in the cold season). This generally goes down in November through the end of December.
Pruning: Shrubs should be pruned at least twice a year. Two times is the minimum, and this generally happens in June, then again in August or September. Most commercial properties we service do not require pruning beyond this basic landscape maintenance scope.
Tree Care: Annual tree pruning is a service that happens in January or February. One time per year is sufficient for most properties. We address safety concerns first—branches that are blocking sight lines or dangerously hanging over walkways where pedestrians could get injured if limbs fall. We focus on pruning for safety, tree health, and for aesthetics.
Cleanup: Basic fall leaf cleanup includes three visits, depending on when leaves fall. This is different for every property based on the type and number of trees on the grounds. We generally begin leaf removal services at the end of October and continue through the end of the year. With three leaf removal visits, the leaves do not build up and create a more costly job for landscape crews. Also, keeping leaves off the turf is important from a plant health perspective, to prevent disease; and for aesthetic purposes, so the property looks well-maintained.
Spring cleanup involves removing leaves from landscape beds, and cutting back perennials and ornamental grasses that were left in place from fall. (Some property owners like to keep those grasses during winter for added textural interest and some privacy screening. We like to keep them because they provide much needed winter habitat for beneficial insects like Praying Mantis.) This “spring” cleanup generally actually happens in the winter months, toward the end of January into the first part of February.
Mulching: Following spring cleanup, landscape beds are ready for mulch in the middle of February to the end of March. Following this is generally an ornamental pre-emergent application to prevent spring weeds in beds with a follow up application in july to help reduce weeds.
Mulch can also be applied in late summer early fall, for the purpose of protecting plants during winter and improving overall aesthetics . However, because Kentucky winters tend to be mild, we generally recommend waiting on mulch until after spring cleanup so the property looks fresh and ready for summer.
Start With The Minimum Landscape Maintenance Scope—Then Expand Based On Your Goals
The basic landscape maintenance requirements will get you a healthy, attractive property that retains its value because turf, plants and trees are kept in good condition. A landscape maintenance crew will visit your property on a weekly basis during the peak turf growth season in spring, and then bi-weekly throughout the summer. While performing basic maintenance, your landscape provider should look for opportunities to improve the property. And, you should leverage the expertise of your grounds management partner to get more value. That said, getting “more” means paying more, so with a minimum-only budget you can access basic services.
Let’s talk more about what landscape services are necessary to keep your commercial grounds in healthy condition, and how to budget for landscape extras so you can take the property to the next level.
Contact us any time in Louisville at 502.264.0127, or in Lexington at 859.254.0762. Or, fill out this simple contact form and we’ll get in touch with you.