Winter is approaching and with the colder temperatures comes the landscape maintenance challenges brought about by snow and ice. Before the first snowflake falls is the best time to plan and prepare your facility to endure the long winter ahead. The National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP) has expert tips on making sure your facility is winter-ready before the first storm of the season. Whether your landscape team is in-house staff, or you hire a contractor, consider the below to weather the cold season and to emerge in good shape when warmer temperatures arrive.
The below list of tips is contributed by Missy Henriksen, vice president of public affairs for the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP). For more tips and to find a local professional, visit LoveYourLandscape.org.
1. Make a plan before the winter.
Before the first snowfall of the season is the perfect time to prepare, plan, and make accommodations for the snow and ice ahead.
Schedule and plan a walkthrough with a professional in the fall. Walkthroughs are critical for a landscape professional because they help map out your facility before it’s snow covered. Your contractor will identify the best areas for snow placement and mark drainage areas in order to prevent slip hazards when snow freezes. It’s important to keep in mind many landscape professionals are booked to capacity and can’t take on new clients by the time winter starts so plan ahead.
2. Prepare the landscape.
The elements of winter can be rough on trees and plants. However, there are preparations that can be completed now to protect them throughout the winter. Watering trees and plants regularly before the ground freezes will help ensure that they have access to water throughout the winter. Adding mulch to your plants can also help protect them from unpredictable temperatures and icy winds. Two to three inches of mulch is recommended to assure proper tree and plant health.
3. Decide where the snow should go.
The structure of your facility will help determine whether the snow can be collected in designated piles or if it should be hauled away. Snow piles should be placed in remote areas of your facility avoiding drivers’ views or pedestrian walkways.
It is also important to remember that piling snow on grass for long periods of time can damage a healthy lawn. If you choose to pile snow on the property, map out specific locations where it should and should not be placed. Be sure to avoid landscaped areas where shrubs or new trees have been planted. This will assure your facility’s lawns and landscapes will be healthy come spring.
4. Know how snow treatments might affect the plants.
Deicing treatments, such as salt or liquid pre-treatment on roads and walkways, might have a negative effect grass, trees, and shrubs. Talk with your landscape professional to find out what kind of treatments to use and plan to treat plants before and after the winter season ends. Some contracts cover landscape repairs if it is damaged during snow and ice treatments, so speak with your landscape professional to create a post-winter plan.
5. Choose when your contractor will come.
Factors like location and weather patterns can help determine when and how often the snow is removed from the building grounds. Some contracts might define a number of inches of snowfall before services kick in, while others schedule on a regular basis. Take into account removing snow from walkways and parking lots, as well as ice removal. Contracts should also include if you will receive additional service for continuing snowfall.
6. When the snow does fall, take notes.
Make observations of best practices during the winter to help with your snow removal plan for next year. Make sure to take notes of items like drainage, refreezing water, snow piles, locations and how the snow removal impacts client and employee schedules. You can then use this list of observations to discuss a plan with your snow contractor to plan for next year.
Understanding your facility’s landscape, as well as clearly comprehending your snow contract will ensure you are prepared for winter weather.
(Editor’s note: For tips on preparing buildings for winter weather, see this November 2018 article by Western Specialty Contractors in St. Louis, MO.)