As we start a New Year our Grounds Maintenance team are far from hibernating over the winter months. Instead, they’re sharpening tools and wrapping up warm, ready to get a head start on the diverse range of tasks they undertake throughout the year.
So, if you’re wondering what they get up to each month, here’s a run down of what keeps them busy as they deal with the challenges of the weather and natural rhythm of the garden as it changes with the seasons.
Winter’s Slumber (December – February)
As the winter sets in our gardens naturally want to shut down and go to sleep as they rejuvenate themselves for the year ahead. This period of dormancy is important for many plants and trees as it allows them to conserve energy and preserve tender leaves and stems against damage caused by freezing temperatures.
But unlike our slumbering gardens, our garden maintenance team are wide awake and hard at work tackling winter tasks.
Armed with chainsaws, loppers and secateurs our client’s trees and shrubs are given a winter haircut. This annual trim and tidy up is important for several reasons.
- Diseased branches and stems are removed to control or prevent further spread.
- Fruit trees and bushes are encouraged to become more productive.
- Unruly shrubs have their growth curbed so they don’t outgrow their space.
- The framework of plants like roses, wisteria, grapevines and clematis are tamed into pleasing shapes and vigorous new growth encouraged.
- Large and unproductive shrubs are revived and refreshed.
- Hazardous branches are safely removed to prevent accidents.
Equipment care and maintenance
When bad weather hits and you see our team heading to the cover of the shed, it’s not just for a hot cup of tea. This is when the tools that have worked hard for them all year, get some well deserved TLC to keep them in mint condition for the months to come.
- Secateurs and pruning blades are cleaned, oiled and sharpened.
- Spades, forks and trowels are scraped clean of mud, washed and dried to prevent rust.
- Handles are also brushed and cleared of mud, while broken or loose handles are repaired or replaced.
- Mowers are cleaned, serviced and blades sharpened ready for when growth starts again in Spring.
Winter weather can bring anything and everything from mild temperatures, to howling gales or arctic temperatures complete with ice and snow. So when looking after grounds of clients such as hotels, care homes, schools and marinas it’s important that residents and guests can move around them safely. Ensuring paths are repaired and clear from garden debris, snow or ice is part of our team’s regular maintenance routine.
Planning for the year ahead
Winter downtime is also used for the productive endeavour of planning exciting new garden projects for the new year. From building new kitchen gardens to bring hotel catering teams a daily supply of fresh fruit and veg. To creating a sensory garden to stimulate the senses of care home residents. Or simply refreshing the planting schemes to experiment with different colours, patterns and textures that deliver the ‘wow factor’ for visitors.
Spring’s Awakening (March – May)
The welcome arrival of spring brings milder weather and with it fresh colours and a promise of what’s to come. Daffodils and tulips are breaking out of the soil with vivid displays. Delicate blossom is providing a frothy show of pinks and whites. Grass is stretching awake with fresh new growth. While springtime stalwarts of magnolias, camellias, rhododendrons and azaleas are a dazzling spectacle after the quieter winter months.
As the garden gently creeps back to life our grounds maintenance team’s task list also grows with the new season.
Along with the welcome return of spring blooms, we also tackle the arrival of weeds. Wherever possible we adopt an organic, chemical free approach to maintain the delicate and beneficial balance with biodiversity.
Our team get busy with hoeing and hand weeding to deal with annual and perennial weeds. Or digging stubborn dandelions out of cracks in paths with weed knives. Another effective barrier against weeds is to mulch, which is another important springtime task.
Mulching is an essential part of grounds maintenance and is a firm date in our team’s diaries for mid to late Spring. By applying a thick layer of mulch such as composted bark to beds, borders and around the base of specimen plants we can help to:
- Suppress weeds.
- Retain moisture by preventing it evaporating during the summer.
- Improve the soil condition and encourage beneficial soil organisms.
- Protect plant roots from damage or temperature extremes.
- Warm up the soil in spring.
- Give the grounds a nice neat and tidy appearance.
As weather warms up grass just wants to grow – and keep on growing! So, our regime of mowing starts. But not without first giving turf the attention it needs to stand up to the rigours of the year ahead. Sports pitches in particular take some heavy wear and tear, so a spring maintenance regime helps it get ready for what’s to come. You’ll find our team:
- Checking for pests and diseases and applying topical remedies.
- Raking and scarifying to remove dead grass, debris, thatch and moss.
- Aerating to encourage air flow and reduce compaction.
- Verticutting to improve condition and encourage a strong upright growth.
- Top dressing with an appropriate soil mix to improve a lawn’s growing conditions, create a smoother surface and enhance germination when overseeding.
- Overseeding to fill bare and worn areas, reduce weeds and moss, and maintain a healthy, lush lawn.
- Rolling to firm the surface and ensure good contact between new seed and soil.
- Starting a feeding/fertilising regime to replenish lost nutrients.
- Mowing to keep lawns looking neat and in good condition, as well as to eliminate unwanted weeds.
Spring is the perfect time for refreshing plant displays. Whether this is through adding new perennials, sowing annuals, planting summer and autumn flowering bulbs or adding new shrubs and edibles.
As part of the process of weeding and mulching, our team will add new plants to beds and borders. Or create showstopper pots planted to provide vibrant displays at strategic points around client’s grounds.
This aspect is particularly important for venues such as hotels, whose grounds act as a backdrop to weddings and events.
Check and update irrigation systems
Maintaining grounds typically uses large amounts of water. So finding ways to conserve it and make efficient use of water we do use is top of our to do list in spring.
This includes tasks like checking existing systems for leaks. Setting sprinkler systems to run during cooler parts of the day to minimise evaporation. Installing drip irrigation on a timer system to deliver moisture more accurately to roots.
Summer’s Symphony (June – August)
This is the time when all the previous planning and garden preparation pays off. The abundance of summer is when everything hits its growing peak and puts on a fabulous show.
At this time of year our team are busy with maintenance tasks needed to help keep growth in check, weeds under control and plants healthy and productive.
If you take your eye of the ball at this time of year, it’s not long before grounds can look a bit overgrown and unkempt. Which doesn’t make a great first impression for visitors.
So our team set to mowing lawns, weeding flower beds and paths, trimming hedges and edging borders. That way sports pitches are always ready for action, hotel grounds provide a picture perfect backdrop for weddings and schools are set for open days that will impress parents and pupils.
The dazzling displays of summer flowers are what truly make this season so special. With careful deadheading and pruning, flowers such as roses, cosmos, salvias and dahlias our team make sure they put on a repeat show throughout summer and even into Autumn.
Doing this regular round of the grounds to snip off faded and dead blooms we ensure plants in beds, borders and containers are kept looking attractive for longer.
Feeding and watering
With so much hard work going on above the soil it’s important that roots remain nourished. Summer is when our team step up the regime of feeding and watering to make sure plants, trees and lawns have got just what they need to retain their health and vigour.
Preventing pests and disease
Another important summer task is tackling pests and disease that can affect plant productivity. Wherever possible our team work with natural biodiversity to keep a balance between beneficial bugs and less welcome visitors. Or harness sustainable and environmentally friendly practices that help to keep the spread of pests and disease in check by:
- Selecting the right plant for the right place to ensure healthy growth and stronger tolerance to pests and disease.
- Selecting cultivars with known resistance or tolerance to pests and disease.
- Checking new plants for any signs of pests and disease prior to planting out.
- Keeping adequate ventilation in areas such as greenhouses or pruning to improve air flow around shrubs and trees.
- Maintaining good garden hygiene by cleaning and maintaining garden tools and equipment regularly.
- Disposing of diseased garden materials appropriately.
- Rotating crops on vegetable plots to reduce accumulation of soil-borne pests and disease.
- Protecting edible crops with physical barriers to ward off air borne infection and pests such as flies and caterpillars.
Autumn’s Palette (September – November)
After the heat of summer, the gentle temperatures of early autumn are a welcome arrival. During this time the garden is still glowing, and our team remains busy maintaining the vibrancy of displays.
But it’s not long before plants and trees succumb to the prospect of winter, changing their foliage to magnificent show of russets and golds. Before shedding their leaves as the temperatures start to dip.
While fallen leaves create an attractive tapestry of colours on the ground, once wet and slimy they soon turn into a potential slip hazard. Not something you want in grounds of properties such as schools or care homes. Armed with leave blowers and rakes our teams take on the task of clearing leaves from lawns, paths, car parks and drives.
Preparing for storms
With trees clear of their leaves, it’s also a good opportunity to check for any dead, damaged or diseased branches which could pose a risk. Particularly as they have the potential to fall and cause damage to property or people during autumn or winter storms. Safely removing these is a priority for our teams to maintain the safety of commercial grounds.
Fences and other garden structures are also on the checklist to make sure they are in good repair and sufficiently secure to stand up to high winds and heavy rain.
Tucking tiny bulbs into the still warm soil fills the grounds with the promise of soul lifting colours after the dark winter months. From hyacinth, crocus, iris and daffodils to fritillaria, tulips and alliums, our team plant swathes of bulbs to create flushes of early colour and scent for people to enjoy.
Protection from frost
The first of the frosts appear in November, so we protect tender plants and delicate pots and garden features by moving to a greenhouse or storage. If too large to move they receive wrap them snuggly in warm layers of fleece and hessian.
A trim and tidy before winter
As autumn draws to a close, visual interest in the garden over winter comes solely from structural plants, hedges, topiary and the lawn. So our team makes sure these are looking their best by giving beds and borders a general tidy. Herbaceous perennials are cut back to the base. Weeds are removed. Climbers are pruned back and plant supports cleaned and placed in storage.
Lawns are given a final trim and edged to redefine their pristine lines. Shrubs, hedges and topiary trimmed into sharper, more manicured shapes.
As One Circle Closes, Another Begins
As the frosty fronds of winter return, we start the cycle over again. So, the next time you stroll through a park, visit a hotel, or watch a game on a pristine field, remember the unseen hands that help sculpt the landscape around you. The grounds maintenance crew who are the silent guardians of the garden you enjoy.
We hope this blog has given you a glimpse into the world of commercial grounds maintenance, not just as a job, but as a journey of seasons, challenges, and the immense satisfaction of nurturing nature.
If you own a commercial property in the Thames Valley and want help with maintaining welcoming grounds, then please give us a call. We’d be more than happy to provide details of our grounds maintenance service. Call 01628 629720 or email email@example.com.