The past year saw inflation at some of its highest levels in nearly 40 years. This has put upward pressure on everything from landscaping supplies to the cost of labor, and even though inflation is expected to cool to within normal historical averages, prices will still remain elevated over recent years. Couple this with some areas experiencing unprecedented drought that carries with it its own financial challenges and 2023 is expected to be potentially one of the costliest for landscaping maintenance.
However, there are best practices and strategies that commercial properties can implement to help offset these rising costs. From smart systems to better design, these are three and half practices properties can take to see an impact now to their budgets.
1. Save with a Smart Irrigation System
Rather than using a sprinkler program with pre-set watering days, a smart irrigation system analyzes the soil type and absorption rate to irrigate accordingly. By adopting new processes, companies get one-step closer to irrigating efficiently. However, installing a smart controller isn’t enough to reach desired savings. Companies have to alter the way they distribute water to their lawn as well.
- Monitor Irrigation and Change it: Sprinklers that cover too much of an area or ones that leak into the street are a common source of waste (and in some areas additional municipal fines). When irrigation systems waste water, they waste budgets as well. Irrigation audits can identify problem areas of sprinkler systems, and investigating a sprinkler’s arc, working pressure and gallons per minute can validate the need for a change. For example, combining a smart controller with a rotary nozzle that emits dense streams of water, or a drip irrigation system that delivers water slowly and directly to the soil could save a company 40 percent of water by confining the sprinkler’s coverage and eliminating waste.
- Compare Controller Features: With smart controllers, there are options of weather-based controllers and soil moisture sensor-based controllers. While weather-based controllers gather local weather data and measure the amount of water lost from evaporation and transpiration, soil moisture sensor-based controllers measure the moisture level of the soil. It is important to choose the best controller based on the geographic location, soil type and plants in the landscape to get the best results. For example, a retail location in Florida that has soil with a sand texture will need a different controller than a location in Louisiana that has soil with a clay texture.
2. Adopt Xeriscaping
Xeriscaping grown in popularity due to the minimal maintenance and irrigation it requires. Locations with dry climates like Nevada and Arizona have high irrigation requirements due to the extreme heat and frequent evaporation. Instead of the continual fertilization and landscaping services to keep grass healthy, considering the benefits of xeriscaping might be worth it.
- Reduce Yearly Maintenance with Turf and Lawn: In serious cases, xeriscape can decrease water usage by 70 percent. The replacement of grass with stones and mulch is one of the reasons why xeriscaping is so effective in reducing water consumption and stabilizing budgets. However, xeriscaping tends to be more effective for locations that require a lot of maintenance and irrigation. It would be productive for property managers to seek out data that illustrates the maintenance each location receives per season. This data can help decide which locations would profit from the change.
- Eliminate Costs and Grow Native Plants: Traditional landscapes with perennials, shrubs and grass need constant maintenance to keep a lush appearance due to their shallow roots. However, native plants with deep roots need little irrigation and fertilization. While companies lay out the blueprints for greenery, soil type should play a big part. Soil with a low infiltration rate, meaning it does not absorb water and creates runoff, can be difficult to support plants that are not indigenous to that area. Choosing unnatural options for cosmetic purposes will always result in more maintenance and expenses.
3. Preventing and Protecting
Managing increasing costs is possible through routine maintenance. While this won't do anything to drive down costs, investing in a preventive maintenance program can provide greater budget visibility and planning through a season. This can be done through regular scheduling or by locking in a service contract in the off-season to normalize prices and services. When looking for a landscaping program, address these areas to drive greater returns.
- Keep Plants Insulated and Budgets Protected: Mulch is a hero of the landscaping arena. It is appealing to the eye and easy on the budget. However, it is important to know that mulch serves a much higher purpose as an insulator. Throughout the year, covered roots receive protection from freezing in the winter and drying in the summer. In between time, mulch regulates microclimates that occur with abnormal shade, sunlight, soil type and more. Insulating plants should be just as important to businesses as the insulation in their locations.
- Turn off Irrigation and Face Budget Irritation: Property managers can be unaware that plants need moisture in the cold. By making the mistake of turning a location’s irrigation system off too early, companies risk their plants and next year’s landscaping budget. Plants are like pipes, in order to avoid freezing, there needs to be a little water running. Instead of immediately turning the irrigation system off, companies can steadily decrease application rate and working pressure as temperatures drop.
- Save Money by Staking and Wrapping Trees: Stop trees from splitting, falling over and uprooting during the off-season by taking proper precautions. By wrapping a tree’s smooth bark with plastic, it prevents the sun from burning a crack into the bark. Supporting smaller trees with stakes can prevent the tree from uprooting or snapping in high-winds. Simply taking a few days of preparation can save down the line. The cost of protecting a tree is conveniently lower than replacing a tree.
3 1/2. Ditch the Hedges
Perfect hedges are no longer popular for retailer scenery. However, a natural design that allows plants to bloom to their full potential has become more acceptable. Companies that want a healthy, visually appealing and cost-effective landscape should avoid hedging at all costs. Property managers can calculate their savings by eliminating hedging from their budget.