Planning Improves the Value of Landscape Care

How often have you heard yourself or someone else talk about how they’re always “putting out fires”? Many of these “fires” are caused by not being able to get far enough ahead of ourselves to plan properly. Planning grounds and landscape care is too often left until the last possible date before services actually need to begin. There are many good reasons to take the time to think through your needs for next season well in advance and arrange for getting the work done. The further in advance these types of decisions are made, the smoother and more cost-effective your overall program can be. Take a close look at what services you received during the last several seasons, at their effectiveness and their cost in evaluating future needs. Bear in mind that your landscape will be another year older too. As your plantings mature, their maintenance needs change. Your program of care should not remain static, but rather attempt to reflect the current requirements of your property. Equipment, material and labor considerations will also have an impact on your program and its cost. All of these areas require and deserve your careful consideration.


The careful analysis of your property required to prepare a proposal covering both your basic and conditional requirements is not accomplished quickly. Even if you employ an ongoing system of evaluation throughout the season, a thorough review of your program should be done annually to assure the most on-target adjustments to your planned schedule of services. There is a wealth of expert knowledge available for this process. However, waiting until the last few weeks before your old contract or budget expires can deprive you of the chance to tap into this assistance. With the right guidance, you can have a more effective program. Having to make decisions in a hurry means everyone is formulating bids and proposals under pressure, and there’s a good chance that important factors may be overlooked. A generalization often made in specifying maintenance programs is that next year will be the same as last. Although this is sometimes a valid assumption, more often than not, it fails to account for seasonal and organizational changes that have an impact on property maintenance needs. Working ahead gives both you and your contractor time to do the job right. Accounting for probable changes or additions to your program in advance will result in better scheduling, fewer mid-season surprises, and more efficient use of funds.


Before proposing or purchasing grounds care services, take a look at any ways in which the needs of your property are likely to change during the coming year. Here are several questions you may want to answer before making final decisions:

Is there any new construction anticipated or scheduled for the coming year? Building additions or remodeling usually cause unusual damage or disruption of the existing landscape and require some form of repair work. Does the construction project have a landscaping budget? Large projects often have specifications (and budgets) built in, while smaller jobs often deal with landscaping needs as an afterthought. If you’re responsible for this type of new planting, you want to be sure you’ve got all the details in advance or at least note the upcoming projects as contingent expenses for the coming year.

Has the purpose or use of your property changed in ways that will affect your grounds care needs? Will there be more foot or vehicle traffic requiring special attention? More visitors for whom the appearance of the landscape should be especially attractive? Are there any unusual events scheduled (grand opening, open house, special meetings, etc.) that may call for more floral displays, special treatments or additional mowing, trimming or clean-up?

If yours is an older landscape, do you have a systematic plan for rejuvenating a section or area of the property each year? This is an effective way of spreading landscape renewal expenses over several years while “keeping up” with the aging of your plants.

Were there particular problems which developed during this season which should be corrected during the year ahead? Areas to note here might include: irrigation systems; drainage problems; unusual turf loss requiring reseeding or sodding; or a significant change in the use of a neighboring property which necessitates the installation of a landscape screen to block visibility. Each property’s special problems are unique and should be evaluated carefully before determining a final schedule.

If you’ve experienced recurring plant loss in recent years due to winter weather, plant age or other reasons, the causes should be isolated and corrected if possible, and an allowance for plant replacement should be included in the budget.

Finally, look at the “special” services that were necessary over the past few years. If there are items that come up nearly every season but are not included in your basic proposal or contract, consider including them up front. This will optimize your scheduling and avoid delays in completing needed work so often caused while seeking mid-season decisions and approval.


Proper care of your property involves many decisions about materials, labor, equipment and timing. It’s in everyone’s best interest to settle these issues as far in advance as possible. Below is a partial listing of the tasks to consider in planning your maintenance program for the coming season.


What frequency should be planned for the mowing schedule? Should clippings be collected on all areas of the property or only on some? Should concrete walks and drives be knife-edged? If so, how often? Where does line-trimming need to be done? Do walks and drives need to be cleared of clippings by blowing them off after each mowing?


When should clean-up and edging of beds take place? What type of mulch should be used and how much should be applied? How often will ornamentals need to be pruned and shaped? Will weed control be done with spot organic treatments, by hand or both?


When will organic fertilizers and weed controls be applied to your lawn? Is any unusual scheduling necessary? Will special organic insect or disease applications need to be made to your turf, trees and shrubs? Does deep-root feeding need to be scheduled? Should a winter application of anti-desiccant be planned?


• Work needed on an irrigation system

• New landscape installations or replacements

• Seasonal floral displays

• Turf renovation (seeding or sod)

• Traffic control and screening projects

• Aquatic weed and algae control

• Growth retardants for hard-to-maintain areas

Maintaining your property in top form while delivering the best possible value is a complex process requiring careful planning and ongoing cooperation. Working together to prepare a comprehensive plan of care in advance will improve the quality of your program and minimize unforeseen and unwelcome surprises throughout the season.