Thursday, March 7, 2013

Our Approach to Weeding will Save You Money!

When I began my career as a Landscape Gardener in the early 90's the only method which my mentor would allow me to use for eradicating weeds was to get down on all fours and pull, pull, pull. No spraying of herbicides were allowed by him because spraying herbicides, as he explained, would keep me from knowing the plants intimately, above ground and below. He was right. Without knowing the depth of any given weeds root system and how it developed, one could not always eradicate a weed without inadvertantly affecting valuable surrounding plants from also being damaged. Those months and years of hand pulling weeds taught me important skills of identification, meticulousness, persistance and most importantly the satisfaction that comes from the combining of these skills to maintain a well manicured garden. 

  As time went on I began to use my knowledge and skills combined with the latest advances in herbicides to develop gardening techniques that my clients began seeing as effective program methods that cut their maintenance costs to a fraction of what they were historically paying without losing any demonstrable quality and/or effectiveness.

  The introduction of publically available non-systemic herbicides such as Roundup have brought garden maintenance to a place where home owners are able, without permit or handling restrictions to treat invading weeds as effectively as professional gardeners. The modern home owner is now only limited in his mangement of noxious weeds by his/her potential inability to identify weed species or because of time constraints.

 Four years ago I was asked by an estate owner if their property was ever going to be manageable without costing a fortune in garden maintenance services.  They had hired a young lady to work on weed eradication on their 3 acre, heavily landscaped, cottage garden themed estate. The lady's method for weed eradication was to dig up, by the root, every thistle, dandelion, crab grass etc; with a hand trowl and then fill the void with compost. Needless to say, she wasn't staying ahead of the weed game. In a 8-hour period she averaged to clear a 30ft x 30ft area of weeds. Unfortunately for her and the client, the next week when she would return, ten percent of the weeds had returned to that same area and weeds on other parts of the property which went untreated exploded with growth. This was clearly not a sustainable method of weed control.

I then told the client that I could effectively control the entire property using my tried and true methods in the same amount of time that their gardener was there each week. The client agreed to give me a chance to prove it to her. The following is what I proposed as a plan of action on the 3 acres of heavily landscaped estate which, was comprised of 36 individual garden areas averaging 900+ square feet each.

Week One (8 hours)
  1. Spray all weeds on the property with Roundup. (5 hours)
  2. Pull by hand as many woody (tree sapling) invaders as possible. (3 hours)
I was able to harvest about half of the woody invaders that day.

Week Two (8 hours)
  1. Remove all exposed dead foliage from last weeks herbicide treatment. (3 hours)
  2. Pull more woody invaders. (3 hours) 0% woody invaders remaining
  3. Spray any new weeds or weeds that have not taken to first treatment. (2 hours)

Week Three (8 hours)
  1. Remove all exposed dead foliage from last weeks herbicide treatment. (2 hours)
  2. Pull any new woody invaders. (1/2 hour)
  3. Spray any new weeds or weeds that have not taken to former treatments. (1.5 hours)
  4. Dead-headed perennials. (2 hours) ongoing/recurring focus
  5. Hand weeded areas too delicate for spraying. (2 hours)
Week Four (8 hours)
  1. Remove all exposed dead foliage from last weeks herbicide treatment. (1.5 hours)
  2. Spray any new weeds or weeds that have not taken to former treatments. (1.5 hours)
  3. Dead-headed perennials (1.5 hours)
  4. Hand weeded areas too delicate for spraying. (1.5 hours)
  5. Trimmed shrubs that have completed flowering. (1.5 hours)
  6. Signed a 1 year maintenance contract with this client. (1/2 hour)
  Now that I had proven to the client that the property was manageable, we then went on to develop and implement actions to curtail further, the amount of time required to maintain the property on a weekly basis. Those actions included;
  • Mowing techniques training with homeowner to ensure the non-proliferation of noxious weed seeds entering into and contaminating garden beds.
  • Lawn weed identification and treatment planning and scheduling.
  • Mulch installation to suppress weeds.
  • Introduction of spreading perennials to suppress weed growth and lower mulch requirements.
  • A shrub pruning schedule.
  • Elimination of noxious and woodly weed sources.
  • An annual program to divide and transplant existing perennial plants to fill empty garden voids.
  • Establishment of long and short term landscape goals.
Currently, my crew of 4 gardeners spend 2-3 hours each per 10 days on this property for a total of 8-12 hours. The current program breaks down to cover the following tasks each session;

2 hours spraying new weeds.
1 hour removing dead (previously sprayed) foliage.
2 hours dead-heading perennials.
1 hour repairing hardscape projects (chinking walls, repairing edging, re-laying brick, drainage issues, sod repair etc;)
2 hours trimming shrubs and pruning trees.
1-2 hours dividing and transplanting perennial flowers.
0-3 hours installing new plants, garden areas or designing future areas.

 While I understand that very few home owners have a budget such as theirs which, can amount to over $30,000 a year in landscape maintenance costs, smaller property owners can rest assurred that their properties can be well maintained for as few as 1-2 hours per session. Home owners who wish to do their own maintenance can engage our consulting services in order to develop a plan and also be trained to properly implement it.

  Please keep in mind that there are a lot of gardeners and maintenance services out there. In your search for the ideal caretaker of your property, always ask these key questions to make sure that they are knowledgable, well-rounded and multifaceted in all forms of landscape construction and maintenance.

  • Do you have references?
  • Can you guarantee that your program will be effective?
  • Do your employees possess the working knowledge required in order to impliment your ideology?
  • If you damage or kill my plants will you replace them?
  • Can you identify my plants by name? Can your employees?
  • Do you have landscape design experience?
  • Do you have landscape construction and hardscape experience?
  • Do you have turf management experience?
  • Do you have pruning experience?
  • Do you have a contract?
  • Can you work quickly while maintaining quality?
  • Can you match Douglas Larson Gardens guarantee of a low product mark-up of 60% compared to the industry standard of 150%?
  • Are you reliable and professional?
  We here at Douglas Larson Gardens would love an opportunity to work with you as your landscaper or maintenance provider. With Douglas Larson Gardens you get experts in both.

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