4 FM quick reads on grounds care
1. Landscaping Projects: Matching Equipment Options to Project Needs
Selecting the most appropriate light-construction equipment for grounds care projects involves understanding the available features and functions that each different model offers.
For example, a skid loader, also called skid-steer loader or skid steer, is a versatile, powered, four-wheel material handler on a small, rigid frame with dual lift arms that are mounted on the sides of the chassis.
The skid loader can adapt to hold a variety of labor-saving attachments. Examples of labor-saving attachments that mount on the lift arms are: buckets for dirt, gravel, mulch, fertilizer, and snow; forks for transporting bales or skids of stone, bricks, and pavers; concrete breakers; post-hole augers; tree spades; sod layers; and paving tools, such as spreaders and scarifiers.
The wheels on the same side of the loader are mechanically locked in pairs, so turning occurs by operating the wheel pairs at different speeds. Maneuverable in tight places, the skid loader turns in a zero-degree radius by spinning or dragging the wheel pair on one side over the ground while turning the other pair.
Track loaders offer many of the same advantages of multiple attachments as skid steer loaders, but tracks, not wheels, propel it. It can maneuver over turf, sand, gravel or loose dirt, snow or ice. Additional labor- and cost-saving attachments used with track loaders include: brush-clearing saws; bucket loaders; concrete mixers; dozer blades; landscape rakes; push or angle brooms; seeders; and stump grinders.
If a landscaping project requires crews to relocate trees, one effective tool is a tree-spade attachment. The operator controls it from a video display screen in the cab. The attachment inserts multiple blades around and under the tree root ball, separates the root ball from the soil, lifts and transports the tree to the new location with the root ball attached, and plants it.
2. Snow and Ice Management: Focus on Equipment
Equipment, materials, and training are three key components of a comprehensive snow and ice management plan. Buildings and grounds undergo myriad changes during non-winter months, whether it is new construction projects, renovations, or changes to landscapes and hard-surface areas. These changes impact snow and ice operations, so managers need to ensure their plans still provide safe, efficient, and reliable snow and ice removal.
Equipment often is the first place managers start in their review of snow and ice operations. Snow and ice removal is tough work, and it can take its toll on equipment, including plows, skid-steer loaders, utility vehicles, dump trucks, and a range of attachments.
An equipment breakdown during a heavy snowstorm can create a stressful situation in the field. To ensure the equipment can withstand the rigors of snow and ice removal, operators and mechanics should perform preventive maintenance related to the most important areas of the equipment, including:
Hydraulics. Check hydraulic cylinders for stress cracks in the paint, leaking or bent fittings, and damaged hoses. It is important for mechanics to eliminate contaminants from the hydraulic-unit systems because contaminants can turn into rust and sludge while in storage if mechanics leave them in the system.
Electrical components. Mechanics should check and protect motors, wires, solenoids, switches, and connections to ensure they operate correctly when winter arrives. Using a quality rust inhibitor also can protect electrical systems from damage.
Mechanical and structural components. Mechanics should inspect each unit from top to bottom. They should check for cracks, bent pins, broken cutting edges, missing or broken bolts, twisted framework, and other cosmetic damage. Mechanics then need to repair any damage they find.
3. 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.
4. 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.