Tips for Driving Safely with Snowplows

Winter is just around the corner. Municipalities, cities, DOTs, and others are gearing up for the winter by preparing their snowplow crews and equipment. We can all learn valuable lessons from these agencies by preparing our vehicles and ourselves for the upcoming season.

Snowplows serve to make the community and roads passable during the worst winter weather. Snowplows are fitted with heavy, wide plows on the front of the truck to clear as much snow and ice from the road as possible – this means sometimes they may cross the center line, shoulder of the road or make other moves in their effort to provide a driving surface the general public can navigate. If you encounter a plow, slow down and give them the space they need to perform their task. Your best chance to arrive at your destination safely is to stay behind the plow as the worst of the conditions are in front of the plow. It’s important that everyone, from individual drivers to plow operators, stay safe on the road to get home safely so here are some tips.

Prepare your vehicle

It is good practice to maintain your vehicle year round, however it is especially important to winterize your vehicle to avoid the dangers of frigid winter weather.

Check the following before snow begins to fall:

  • Wiper blades and windshield washer fluid
  • Battery
  • Ignition system
  • Antifreeze
  • Brakes
  • Electrical system
  • Tires
  • Heater and defrost system

Additionally, it’s recommended to carry blankets, booster cable, a flashlight and extra batteries, snow scraper and shovel.

When driving:

  • Give snowplows room to do their job. It’s best practice to not tailgate or try to pass a snowplow while it’s in working.
  • As a general rule, stay at least 200 feet behind a snowplow.
  • Plows pushing snow can create a cloud which can blind drivers who are following too closely.
  • These are large, heavy vehicles and the drivers are intent on their task at hand, don’t be another distraction to the plow driver. They cannot stop in a short distance.
  • There may be spreaders on trucks to distribute salt or sand on the road, these can cause damage to cars if driving too close, stay back to protect your car and you.
  • Always turn on your headlights, and have plenty of fuel and wiper fluid (carrying an extra gallon is a good idea) and have appropriate tires for winter driving conditions.
  • Don’t over estimate your braking capabilities, many 4 X 4 vehicles are heavier than normal, thus the braking distance is greater. Your traction is determined by weight and tire tread. Sand or cat litter in your trunk will add weight and can be used if you do need help with traction.
  • Leave extra space between you and the vehicles in front and behind you.
  • Bridge decks freeze first so take extra caution when driving on these.
  • Remember to always buckle up!
  • Ignore the phone and email until you get to your destination. There are other people on the road that deserve your attention.
  • Most importantly, SLOW DOWN!
It is not too late to get help with your snow removal needs. Send us a note or give us a call, we’ll get back to you with a proposal and estimate for how we can help you.

What the Farmer’s Almanac predicts for this Winter

It’s almost time to say goodbye to fall, are you ready? By doing the research for your region’s weather predictions now, you will be able to adjust and prepare for any potential surprises that could be heading towards your commercial landscape property. For these forecasts we chose to use The Farmer’s Almanac. The Farmer’s Almanac has been around for about 200 years. It also claims that the forecasts it provides are 80 to 85 percent accurate.

Colorado:

cc winter branches by Shandi-lee CoxColorado’s winter weather predictions state that it will be a cold winter with moderate amounts of snowfall. However, the winter will not be as harsh as usual. On top of that, The Farmer’s Almanac states that “our forecasts are pointing to a return to more normal winter conditions in regard to both temperatures and precipitation.” That’s not to say there won’t be the sporadic heavy winter storm coming in from the Pacific or pushing south from western Canada. These storms should be “balanced out by spells of dry and mild weather,” the forecast says.

Northern California:

The Farmer’s Almanac predicts that Northern California will be cooler than normal with rainfall above normal. The coldest periods for Northern California will take place in late November into early December and as well as early February.

Southern California:

For Southern California, The Farmer’s Almanac states that it will be a very average winter for the area. The Farmer’s Almanac states that it will be mild and that you shouldn’t expect anything out of the ordinary for the area. Additionally, Southern California should anticipate average precipitation throughout the winter months.

Texas:

According to The Farmer’s Almanac, Texas will have a winter that is colder than normal. The region should also expect above- normal precipitation.  The coldest parts of the winter season will be from late November into early December, from late December into early January, and in early February. Snowfall in Texas’ region will be near to above normal. Most snow will come in late December and early to mid-February.

 

It is not too late to get help with your snow removal needs. Send us a note or give us a call, we’ll get back to you with a proposal and estimate for how we can help you.

Scary bugs- or are they?

Most commercial landscape property owners are concerned about the effects that insects and other pests might have on the plants and trees on your property. Web worms in your trees, chinch bugs in your St. Augustine grass, and other insects can cause severe damage. But not all insects are detrimental to your landscaping. There are several “good bugs” that beneficial to the plants and trees on your property.

Scary Bugs

To understand why some bugs are beneficial to have on your commercial landscape property, you must first learn which bugs are harmful.

Aphids: This small insect, with its piercing and sucking mouth, is a common pest to many species of roses. Aphids suck the sap from plants, causing dried and damaged leaves. You will most often find aphids on roses, crepe myrtles, and pecan trees.

Chinch bugs: Another type of sucking insects that feed on turf grass, especially St. Augustine. They inject the grass with their toxic saliva, which causes the turf grass to wilt and die.

Caterpillars: Caterpillars also include hornworm and spring cankerworm. While they are not considered to be harmful to most plants, their feeding on the leaves and flowers of your plants will mar the look of your landscaping.

Grub worms: These fat white worms are most prevalent in hot summer months. They feed on the roots of turf grass. Dead patches in your St. Augustine, Bermuda, zoysia, or buffalo grass might be evidence of the presence of grub worms.

Good Bugs

There is an army of insects in the soil and flying around your property that can help with the control of harmful pests. By feeding on harmful pests like aphids, caterpillars, grubs, and soft-bodied insects, these bugs are nature’s own pest control system.

How are some insects beneficial? Honeybees and other insects are a vital part of the pollination of many species of flowers and plants. Predatory insects like lady bugs and soldier bugs feed on many species of harmful pests. Parasitic insects like spiders lay their eggs inside or on top of pests, including insects and grubs, using them as food for their larvae.

Ladybugs: Adults ladybug beetles and their larvae love aphids, especially the aphids that often infest roses. They also feed on the scale insects, mealy bugs, mites and powdery mildew that can damage your plants.

Lacewings: Also known as aphid lions, these tiny insects with delicate wings feed on aphids, mealy bugs, scale and mites. Just one lacewing larva can eat more than 100 insects in a single day.

Braconid wasps: These non-stinging wasps feed on web worms, horn worms, caterpillars and other grubs.

Spiders: It may be hard to believe, but most of the 3,000 species of North American spiders are actually helpful to your landscape. Spiders are predatory insects and feed on aphids, other spiders, beetles, mites and even fire ants.

Contact Terracare Associates to find out how to control harmful landscape pests on your property.

The Quick, Easy Guide to Build a Bat House

When bats are brought up in conversation, most people’s immediate thought is Halloween. The spooky holiday may give these creatures a scary rap when actually they are very beneficial to your commercial landscape property. These furry, flying, nocturnal animals are not only known for being pollinators, they also are great for pest management.

The United States has over 40 species of bats and every one of those is helpful to your property. Bats are amazing for pollination; in fact, they pollinate over 500 species of flowers. In addition to that, they are some of nature’s best form of pest control. Bats are known to consume anywhere from 100 to 600 bugs per hour, which can lead to a decrease in pesticide use and save you money.

To attract these bats to your commercial landscape property one of the best ways is to build a bat house. A bat house simulates their natural habit and encourages a bat to roost on your property. Below are the materials and steps to take to construct a bat house as recommended by hobbyfarms.com:

Materials
  • 26½- by 24-inch piece 1/2-inch AC, BC or T1-11 outdoor-grade plywood (backboard)
  • 5- by 24-inch piece 1/2-inch AC, BC or T1-11 outdoor-grade plywood (landing area)
  • 16½- by 24-inch piece 1/2-inch AC, BC or T1-11 outdoor-grade plywood (front board)
  • 1-pint dark, water-based stain, exterior grade
  • 1 1×2 pine furring strip in 24-inch length
  • 2 1×2 pine furring strips in 20½-inch lengths
  • 1 tube of paintable latex caulk
  • 20 to 30 1-inch exterior-grade screws
  • 1-pint water-based primer, exterior grade
  • 1 quart flat, water-based paint or stain, exterior grade
  • 1×4 board in 28-inch length (optional, but highly recommended for roof)
  • black asphalt shingles or galvanized metal (optional)
  • 6 to 10 7/8-inch roofing nails (if using shingles or metal roofing)
Steps
  1. Roughen inside of backboard and landing area by cutting horizontal grooves with a sharp object or saw. Space grooves 1⁄4 inch to 1⁄2 inch apart, cutting 1⁄32 inch to 1⁄16 inch deep.
  2. Apply two coats of dark, water-based stain to interior surfaces. Do not use paint, as it will fill grooves.
  3. Attach furring strips to inside of backboard using 1-inch screws, caulking first. Start with 24-inch piece at top and space each additional strip at 3/4-inch intervals. This will be the roost chamber.
  4. Starting with the top furring strip, attach front board to furring strips using 1-inch screws (caulk first). Leave 1⁄2-inch vent space between top and bottom front pieces.
  5. Caulk all outside joints to further seal roost chamber.
  6. Attach roof (optional, but highly recommended) with 1-inch screws.
  7. Apply three coats of flat stain or paint to the exterior. Use primer for first coat.
  8. Cover roof with shingles or galvanized metal (optional) using roofing nails.
  9. Mount on building or other structure. South or east sides usually work best.

Fall Tree Pruning and Planting

Fall is a great time to plant and prune your trees. The months of cool fall and winter temperatures give newly planted trees and shrubs time to establish their roots before the hot summer weather returns.

Fall Tree Pruning

The goal of fall tree pruning is to improve the growing conditions for the next year’s growing season. After the spring and summer growing seasons, overgrown branches and limbs can cause damage to your property. Removing damaged or diseased limbs will not only contribute to the overall health of the tree, it will also help prevent falling tree limbs. Trees should be pruned to allow “room” for sunlight and breezes to naturally flow through. When done properly, pruning allows more light to shine through the branches and reduces the need for pesticides.

Fall Tree Planting

Did you know that tree roots will grow when the temperature is above 40 degrees? That means tree roots can continue growing during the milder fall and winter weather. This gives them the time to gain the strength they need to deal with hot summers.

Choosing the Right Tree for Your Property

Consult with a professional landscaper before deciding which trees and shrubs to plant. A knowledgeable landscape professional can help you select the right plants for your property by helping you answer these questions:

  • What type of tree do you want or need?

  • Do you want an ornamental tree with colorful flowers and foliage or would a shade tree be a better fit for your property?

  • What size tree will fit in the desired area? Consider the mature height and width of the tree and if it will work in your landscape.

  • Pay specific attention to the soil conditions, light and water requirements of the tree or shrub.

Terracare Associates specializes in landscape maintenance for commercial properties throughout the western United States. We manage the landscapes of hundreds of retail sites, homeowner associations, multi-family complexes, industrial projects, hotels, municipalities and commercial office campuses.

Snow season is coming, we’re preparing

At Terracare Associates, we like to prepare. As fall weather settles in and gives way to cooler temperatures, we are preparing our company, teams and equipment to handle colder, nastier weather conditions. This weather can include freezing rain, blizzards and ice storms in the communities we operate in. Preparation now is essential; it allows us to perform timely, accurate and thorough work when winter conditions and weather hits quickly. Here is what we are currently doing to prepare our teams and clients for the upcoming winter season:

Hiring Staff

These team members are essential to keeping the communities we operate in safe and their roads clear. Staff is typically on-call from October through mid-May. While you stay warm at home, these dedicated team members are in trucks, on ATVs, even out shoveling. This allows the community has access to as safe of conditions as possible. (Looking for extra work? Check out our careers page and apply!)

Training

Training is an on-going process at Terracare Associates. Once staff is hired on, we do conduct an “All Staff” orientation in early October. This orientation includes video training, necessary paperwork, equipment training and a driving test with a snow plow. Depending on our contracts with clients, we create curriculum and training around individual routes so our drivers are familiar with the routes before they are deployed to these routes during bad weather conditions.

Setting expectations

Our managers have thorough discussions with property managers and owners, and municipality staff to clarify the expectations of service delivery expected for each snow event. We work with property managers to plan and prepare for a variety of conditions and weather. This can include managing tree and property damage from early season storms, huge storms that may disable an area for a while and more.

Preparing vehicles

Currently, our full-time personnel have started the process of changing over our vehicles from summer work to the winter outfitting of snow plows and sanders. They are running through safety and equipment checklists that include examining and checking tires and conducting preventive maintenance.

De-icing materials

Our team is in the process of gathering, cataloging and preparing materials to combat snowy and icy conditions on the roads. We’ve placed orders on ice melt material orders for most of our municipal contracts. We will soon be ordering those same materials for the properties we currently partner with and serve.

If you have not made arrangements for snow removal this season, give us a call or send us a request for proposal and a manager will be in touch to address your needs.

Drive safely and stay warm.

Quick Landscape Enhancement Projects to do this Fall

Part 5

During the month of August, we will provide you a 5 part series on how to easily create your 2018 budget, with the help of your commercial landscape company. Below are the links to the previous blog posts in this series:

Many enhancement projects to a commercial landscape property are not only a quick and easy way to add curb appeal, but are also a great way to add value to a commercial landscape property. Enhancements serve as a reinvestment in the property’s existing features, upgrading sections of your landscape to improve the overall appeal. This autumn is the perfect time to complete these enhancements and have the property in pristine condition. Here are four great recommendations of enhancements projects to start this Fall:

Mulch

Mulch is any type of material – usually natural – serving as a cover and is spread over the soil. It can take many forms including bark, compost, grass clippings, shredded leaves, and straw. Mulch creates insulation helping reduce water from evaporating off soil thus reducing the need to water plants frequently. In addition, when thoroughly applied to an area, mulch is very effective in minimizing the growth of weeds.  Mulch also adds a sensational pop to the property.

Sustainable landscaping

Xeriscape

Xeriscape is a set of water-wise landscaping and water conservation principles. It’s the idea of maintaining both an appealing landscape through introducing low-water-use plants. With the increase of droughts and water scarcity, xeriscaping has become a very popular enhancement. In fact, in a recent report some xeriscape conversations reduce outdoor water use by as much as 70%.  There’s no better time than the Fall to have a landscape provider identify small areas that can benefit by water-wise planting.

Xeriscape

Planting Perennials

A perennial is a plant that grows for many seasons, unlike an annual which only lasts one season. This enhancement is growing in popularity not only because it’s good for the environment, it also saves money on water costs and requires less time needed for replanting. A great place to incorporate perennials are paths and walkways to ensure that guests enjoy their beauty. Interested in finding out more about perennials options? Click below:

Planting Perennials

Shade Trees

Choosing trees that are known for providing shade and planting them strategically around a property near buildings can save you up to 30% on your heating and cooling costs. In addition, these shade trees can increase the overall attractiveness of the property and allow for an increase foot traffic. To learn more about your shade tree options, click below:

Shade Trees

Last Minute Checklist for your Landscape Maintenance Services

Part 4

During the month of August, we will provide you a 5 part series on how to easily create your 2018 budget, with the help of your commercial landscape company. Below are the links to the other blog posts in this series:

It seems everyone makes a list of some sort.  Whether you keep it in your head or write it down, a checklist is a way to help prioritize the “do’s” and helps to keep track of your next action item.   While you are planning the budgets for the new year, this is a good time to determine what is important to your property landscape maintenance.  Having a simple checklist will keep everyone on the same page and give you a landscape that will attract tenants (and keep owners happy), worry free.

Establishing a comprehensive landscape program is one of the best ways to increase curb appeal and property value.  Take our 6-minute landscape qualifier assessment to determine the best landscape provider for your property.

This three-part qualifier checklist will assist you with finding the right landscape contractor to help design the best landscape maintenance plan for 2018.  Don’t cut corners, let us help you build a landscape program that best serves your needs and budget.  This last minute budget qualifier includes tips and checklist on:

  • Commercial landscape company qualification
  • Build your commercial Landscape program
  • How to build a Commercial Landscape Budget to get what you want (and need)

Qualifier Check List

Our three previous posts can help you with every step of the process, or simply contact a Terracare Associates account manager.

How can we help?

Evaluate and Prioritize your Landscape Projects

Part 2

During the month of August, we will provide you a 5 part series on how to easily create your 2018 budget, with the help of your commercial landscape company. Below are the links to the other blog posts in this series:

Where to Start

Now that you have considered the SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) of your property, this is a great time to decide where your projects fit into your budget. In addition, phasing and scheduling out when each project will occur will help ease and relax your budgeting season.  Most importantly, you have a plan for all of your property’s landscape needs.

Determining Your Costs

As a property manager or owner, you almost certainly are assessing costs, but how do you identify projects, prioritize and offer continual improvements to the surrounding landscape?  To simplify, let’s break it down into two distinct budgets.

Why is this important?  Because some property managers and owners may think adding one installation or simply performing monthly maintenance is enough.  In reality, it is a combination of regular maintenance and planned upgrades that keep your property in pristine condition.  It’s not in the best interest for your property to just submit the same budget as last year.  In the end, carefully reviewing the operating and capital budget with your landscape service company will minimize urgent repairs, protect precious resources and be cost effective.

3-Year Plan

Think long term. We recognize budgets are limited and most properties have multiple goals for improvements.  It can be over-whelming and sometimes seem impossible to get all of the projects complete in one year.  Here is where you can get the advice from your commercial landscape maintenance provider on phasing and scheduling out projects:

 

  • This year – what are some quick fixes you have money to support this year? Is it mulch to spruce up an entrance, fall flowers to plant in planters or additional lawn care for healthy turf.  Consider starting some improvement projects now.
  • The first year is geared toward general maintenance improvements. Improvements may include additional lawn care treatments, plant health care needs, comprehensive pruning and trimming beyond monthly maintenance requirements. This year may be a good time to begin large multi-year projects with phases.
  • The second year is focused on enhancements and major repairs or upgrades.  This may include, irrigation repairs, plant and tree replacement, and drainage upgrades.
  • The third year is focused on multi- year project completions and may include, water conservation strategies or drought tolerant plantings.

Whether you are clear about the commercial property landscape goals or you need help to define a plan, take a moment, and schedule a consultation with your Account Manager at Terracare.  It’s worth the time!

 

Need more budget help?.

Four Smart Tips to Start a Commercial Landscape Budget – It’s SWOT

Part 1

Studies show a beautiful commercial landscape can raise your property value and attractiveness by as much as 20%.  Simply, through careful planning, a well-maintained property can transform into a place people will enjoy year round. This all starts with a budget.

During the month of August, we will provide you a 5 part series on how to easily create your 2018 budget, with the help of your commercial landscape company. Below are the links to the other blog posts in this series:
Commercial Landscape Budget

It’s SWOT

Start with a walk through with your landscape provider. This opens the discussion on four key areas:

  • Strengths
  • Weaknesses
  • Opportunities
  • Threats or challenges

 

A SWOT analysis breaks down the property’s features into good or challenging areas and evaluates the property as a whole. Even better, it builds a dialog between you, the property manager, and your landscape account manager on expectations and priorities. Discuss with your Terracare representative the following as you walk the property.

 

 

Strengths

Weaknesses

• What do you like about the property?

• Are the property entrances a focal point and well kept?

• Are there shade trees throughout the property?

• Do you have enough color?

• Do you have irrigation issues?

• Are there quick fixes like mulch you can take care of today to improve quickly?

• Are there any menacing pests that will harm trees or plants?

• Does your turf need more luster?

Opportunities

Threats or challenges

• Think long term.


• What projects would you like to do, if costs were not part of the equations?

• Consider upgrading your irrigation system to be eco-friendly and conserve water usage significantly.

• Plant replacement or converting turf area to more sustainable plants.

• Ask your landscape provider how to help build a 3-year landscape plan and start in stages.

• What limitations do you have on the property?


• Will there be more growth?

• Will foot or car traffic increase in the future?

• Look at areas that are more vulnerable, and if left untreated this might have a costly outcome.

•Do you have defined outdoor areas for future visitors or workforce?

 

What’s next? –  start now, schedule your property walk through with a SWOT in your hand and simplify the decision with this assessment tool.  It’s a smart way to begin your budget process.  See part 2 next week on how to prioritize your landscape projects.

 

Schedule an Appointment.