How landscaping companies are handling the record-breaking heat
As temperatures rise in many places into the 90s and 100s, landscapers make adjustments to protect their crew members and plant materials.
“We deal with so many variables in our industry,” said Bob Grover, president of Pacific landscape management. “We had a snowier February than usual. We had wildfire last autumn. We have had a longer dry spell this year. We just roll with the weather. We do our best to be prepared, and we constantly monitor the weather forecast and monitor long-term forecasts and trends to make sure we are prepared and respond appropriately
In Portland, Oregon, where Pacific Landscape Management is located, Grover said it had been a record dry summer so far, with several days of record temperatures. At the end of June, temperatures hit an all-time high of nine degrees.
“It’s weird to break an all-time high but darken it nine degrees … that’s significant,” said Grover. “The old high was 107 and the new high was 116. We get into the 100s once or twice or a year, but we’ve never seen any type of crop damage that we’ve seen this year.”
To protect employees from extreme heat, the company allowed crews not to work during the record days. In addition, the days in summer start as early as possible.
“On some properties, like HOAs, we can’t show up at 6am, but we’ll be working earlier shifts to try to get people in the cool in the morning and in the middle of the day and get out before that time super hot, ”said Grover.
In addition, supervisors bring water to the crews and the company encourages the crews to carry their own water.
Art from nature Granite Falls, Wash., was making similar efforts to protect its employees from the heat, said Ryan McMahon, president and owner.
“We climbed into the really high 90s and 100s there,” said McMahon. “I think it was pretty much a record heat here, so this is kind of uncharted territory.”
On days with extreme temperatures, the company held back from installing plantings and lawns.
On the two extremely hot days, Art by Nature stopped construction and gave employees the opportunity to work in the company’s nursery from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. or to take time off.
“It’s a more controlled environment when you work at the nursery, and we can set up water stations and rate each one to make sure they don’t overheat,” said McMahon. “When we foresee hot weather, we usually let the crews start earlier if it’s not too excessive. There was one track where it was so hot that we didn’t even want the guys out there. We didn’t want anyone to get injured or get heat stroke. “
The company ensures that the crews always have a water station with the truck, and on days when it is just warmer than usual, the company offers employees the opportunity to take breaks if necessary, instead of just at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
For other companies dealing with the heat, McMahon suggests listening to worker feedback.
“Everyone is driven by the bottom line, but your people are your greatest asset and you want to protect them, especially in these days when everyone is going crazy about the labor shortage,” says McMahon. “You want to make sure you’re listening to them. If they are too hot, take the necessary precautions to make them comfortable.
As for the plants, Grover said most of them aren’t dead – they’re just damaged and not beautiful at the moment.
“We had a wait-and-see attitude. We hope there will be some energy in the growing season for some plants to grow from, ”said Grover. “Some plants can be damaged enough to be replaced, but replacing them in the middle of a hot, dry summer is not the time. We’ll see in the fall if the plants have recovered on their own. We could just prune back some of them aggressively this fall and winter and let them grow back next spring. “
Meanwhile, Grover said his company is putting a lot of emphasis on water conservation efforts.
“We won’t have any rain in July. We’ll have little to no rain in August, ”said Grover. “It’s a dry summer climate, so we are constantly working on water protection to help our customers keep their landscapes alive and beautiful and not to spend more water than we need.”