4 FM quick reads on grounds care
1. Grounds Management: Eye on Irrigation
Much of the focus on sustainability in institutional and commercial facilities centers on building components and systems and their energy-efficient operations. Often overlooked in such discussions are the landscapes surrounding facilities. While discussions of sustainable landscapes often center on the use of fertilizers and other chemicals, grounds managers also need to consider a range of important areas, including irrigation systems, in their efforts to make landscapes more environmentally friendly.
Irrigation systems are not one-size-fits-all technology, so managers need to ensure their systems are designed to address a property's specific needs. This goal is essential in areas with either limited water supplies or water restrictions.
Sprinkler heads are key components to consider when inspecting an existing irrigation system or when having a new one installed. By specifying the most appropriate type of sprinkler heads and ensuring they are installed in a uniform manner, managers can prevent the unnecessary watering of sidewalks and parking areas.
Proper maintenance of irrigation systems also is essential because a poorly maintained system can prevent a significant amount of water from ever reaching its intended target. Instead, the water is lost to runoff, evaporation and deep watering below the root zone. Ensuring an irrigation system is properly maintained also reduces water waste and pollution from runoff and over-irrigation, while improving the landscape's health by applying the correct amount of water.
Monthly system checks ensure that rain sensors function properly, that moisture sensors are programmed correctly, and that filters have been inspected and cleaned and are free of sediment. Failure to properly maintain these individual pieces of the irrigation system can result in excess water use, increasing operation costs.
2. Bird Control: Spotlight on Geese
Grounds managers need to understand the threats birds pose and the available control options to be able to design effective bird control systems.
Besides making a mess of building facades, birds can contribute to the spread of disease, such as histoplasmosis. The fungal disease exists in soil and bird droppings. Humans can contract it by touching bird droppings or infected soil, and it can be airborne.
The Canada goose can be very destructive and messy. It is estimated geese can eat up to 5 pounds of turf per day and produce up to 1.5 pounds of droppings. Large, continually grazing populations also can compact turf areas and compromise water supplies.
To establish effective bird control systems for geese, a good first step is restoring the native perennial flowers around the ponds, as well as in lawns areas that don't need to be turf.
"When we establish native plant material within our landscapes, geese avoid these areas and opt to populate landscapes dominated by turf grass," says Jack Pizzo, founder of Pizzo & Associates Ltd. Ecological Restoration in Leland, Ill.
Cost is always a factor, Pizzo says. The cost to establish wildflowers is usually lower than the alternative. Where barrier plantings are not an option, Pizzo offers these tactics to reduce geese populations.
- Reduce food sources.
- Decrease the size of lawn areas surrounding water.
- Curtail fertilizer use. Geese prefer lush, succulent, tender grass.
- Reduce or eliminate mowing around the edges of water. In taller grass, geese cannot easily find new, delectable shoots. Taller grass also acts as a barrier to block their line of sight from the water, their main mode of protection from predators.
3. Asphalt Repair Strategies and Tactics
Common asphalt repairs include resealing the surface, sealing cracks, applying cold- and hot-mix patches to potholes, and applying skin patches. A hot patch is more permanent than a cold patch and might be necessary during cold weather to temporarily repair a hole in a road surface.
Workers can make cold-mix patches by sweeping up loose rubble, using compressed air to blow away residual materials, applying a primer, and pouring the cold mix from bags into the hole. The final step is tamping with a hand tamper, air-powered tamper, or gas-powered vibrating tamper. The thicker the patch, the more compaction passes are needed.
Because hot-mix patches are intended to be more permanent than cold-mix patches, they tend to require more preparation work.
First, the worker must dig out the hole with pick and shovel or air-operated pavement breaker to square the sides and bottom to a uniform depth of at least 5 inches. Gravel is replaced to bring the depth to 3 inches and tamped using a hand or power tamper. The hot-mix asphalt fills the top 3 inches. The worker then rakes the patch evenly to 1 inch higher than the adjacent pavement.
The next step is to tamp the asphalt with a hand or powered tamper or roller to a level slightly higher than the adjacent pavement. This allows for further compaction by traffic without creating a depression, which can collect water.
Where alligatoring affects large surface areas or fine cracks cover large areas, one proven remedy is a skin patch. One to three workers can apply a sealer coat to the area after cleaning all loose rubble from the surface. Next, they apply a 1-inch-thick layer of hot-mix asphalt and rake it out evenly with a wide asphalt rake. Next, they tamp the hot-mix surface using a powered roller to ensure good compaction. Skin patches are appropriate only when the base is solid and properly graded for water runoff.
4. Grounds: Preparing for Mowing
Preparing lawn-mowing equipment for the rigorous spring schedule can help ensure an efficient, successful mowing season.
First and foremost, grounds managers should follow the lawn mower maintenance program outlined in each owner's manual. Makes and models of mowers vary, so managers should use the owner's manual for each piece of equipment as the minimum maintenance standards. If mechanics and operators fail to follow the program outlined in the manual, the equipment warranty might not remain effective.
Prior to filling the fuel tank and mowing for the first time, mechanics should thoroughly inspect all equipment, and a mechanic or qualified staff member should complete annual lawn mower maintenance procedures.
Operators must be sure to inspect all safety features to ensure they are in working order. Do not allow operators to override or modify safety devices; safety should never be compromised for efficiency. One accident can quickly negate all the benefits of saving a few minutes each day.
Attention and commitment to routine lawn mower maintenance goes a long way to ensuring operator safety. Worn belts and brakes, loose bolts, faulty wiring, improper tire pressure and even broken seat belts can contribute to injury.
Manufacturers continually improve safety features on mowing equipment and tractors. Automatic shutoffs, ergonomic hand controls, vibration and noise reduction, roll bars, and seat belts are among the safety features included in today's mowing equipment. Deflectors and guards are also more common on mower decks and should remain in place when mowing near streets, parking lots and other places where flying objects thrown by the mower might damage property or injure people.
Some manufactures have equipped new riding mowers with back-over protection devices, which prevent the blade from turning while the mower is in reverse. These back-over protection devices also might include a sensor that stops the engine or the blades or the wheels when it detects a bystander behind the machine.
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