Snow Season-Halftime Analysis

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As we begin February, property managers and facility directors of commercial properties in Westchester and Fairfield counties are beginning to grow a bit weary of the winter of 2013/2014.  This season has been an active one with many storms and near record cold temperatures.  The unseasonably low temperatures have driven up the materials usage needed to deliver clean pavements (see blog Cold, Colder, Coldest).  And, for those in the per storm/per inch contracts, costs are continuing to climb.

There is no crystal ball to predict the long term weather pattern, but with 6-8 weeks of the snow season left, no doubt we are in for a least a few more events.  If the snow continues, what possible avenues can be considered to help hold or reduce cost?

Review your site usage, is there a remote parking area or portion thereof, which can either be closed to parking, or plowed just once at the end of the event?  Could some unused walkways be reduced to end of storm, or emergency exit only treatment?  Is there a side entry plaza or outdoor patio area which is used by a few people which could be downsized in coverage?

After your initial review, schedule a meeting with your snow services provider.  He knows your site throughout all conditions, day and night.  With an active exchange of ideas and recommendations from both parties, perhaps a more budget feasible approach can be developed.

Game Plan – Snow Plan

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The countdown has begun for the big game, the Super Bowl.  Broncos, Seahawks. This is the game which nearly everyone watches or at least participates.  For some it’s the football, others it’s the wings or chili at halftime and for others it’s the commercials.  For most, it’s a great time to get together with family and friends in the middle of winter.

This year’s game brings a unique potential storyline to it-what if it snows? What if it really starts coming down a few hours before the game as all those buses, limos and cars are headed to MetLife Stadium? Not good!  Imagine being one of those individuals or corporations who secured a super box for upwards of a million dollars, in a standstill, somewhere outside the stadium at kick off time.

Just like the offenses and defenses in the game, no doubt, for the snow removal team, extensive planning has taken place.  Every loader, pusher, plow truck and snow shoveler has a coverage zone, where to start, where to finish.  Entries/exits have been prioritized.  Handicap parking has a precedence.  Communication protocols for each zone leader have been dialed in.  De-icing materials (more than enough) have been stockpiled. Contingency plans (what if it’s a significant storm?) have been brainstormed and put in place.

Does your site, facility or campus have a documented snow plan?  What areas are priority one-constant clean?  Is there a slope or hill on your site which can quickly become dangerous?  Are there areas which just need to be safe and passable?  Is there a front door which only a few people use and secondary entry which many use?  What about all those emergency exits?

The best snow service providers work closely with facility directors, property managers and building owners to develop and document a snow plan/game plan.  The plan is critical to how we roll out the equipment, manpower and supervision to accomplish site safety and mitigate your risk in a consistent and cost competitive fashion.

In football and in snow removal, the winning team will be the one who prepares and executes a great plan.

Cold, Colder, Coldest – The Impact on Salt Usage

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Here in Westchester and Fairfield County, we are experiencing an exceptionally cold spell, even for southern New England.  Everyone is adding that extra layer before going outside.  It seems like the car takes forever to warm up and the furnace won’t stop running.  When the news media and meteorologists introduce the term “Polar Vortex”, you know it’s cold!

It’s all about a 30 degree swing.  Which is not so bad when temps go from 80 to 50, but when temps drop from 25-30 (average for us around here) to 0 and below, it changes how property managers, facility directors plan for and operate their facilities, and snow removal service providers change their methods to achieve site safety.

When the temperatures are in the 0 range, it is a real game changer for snow removal.  The snow removal aspect does not change greatly.  Most important, is keeping the manpower warmed and moving through the event.  The big change comes in material usage, especially salt and salt products.

Think back to high school chemistry experiments where heat was an important part of obtaining the results.  In snow removal at these temps, it is the lack of heat and severe cold which impacts the desired reaction — melted snow and ice.  The table below shows how the extreme temperature dips require a multiple of the salt material needed which the average storm consumes to achieve clean, safe pavement conditions.

Pounds of Ice Melted Per Pound of Salt
 Temperature Degrees F One Pound of Sodium Chloride (Salt)
30 46.3 lbs. of ice
25 14.4 lbs. of ice
20 8.6 lbs. of ice
15 6.3 lbs. of ice
10 4.9 lbs. of ice
5 4.1 lbs. of ice
0 3.7 lbs. of ice
-6 3.2 lbs. of ice

While southern New England does not get many snow storms in the 0 degree range, when they do arrive like these past few in late December and early January, you can see why they require nearly four times the material required in a 25 degree event.  ELM utilizes treated salt which does quicken the activation time some; however the severe cold still requires a multiplier of 2-3 times the typical usage rate.

Everyone has welcomed the recent warm-up.  However, when temperatures dive to near zero, informed snow fighters will be adjusting their application rates to ensure timely site safety and mitigate the risk so inherent in snow removal services.

Can I Still Plant Now?

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The horticultural calendar is winding down as December opens.  It’s a time of finalizing leaf cleanups and prepping for winter.  With the somewhat milder weather pattern we have enjoyed all fall, a question we often are asked is “can I still plant now?”

The answer is yes, with one or two qualifiers.  First, this is still an ideal time to plant “woody” materials, i.e. trees and shrubs.  These plants are hardy and in their dormancy.  The key at this time of year especially, is to ensure during the backfilling process, the soil mixture has no air pockets.  The soil acts as an insulator for the tree/shrub ball and its roots.  Air pockets defeat this and place colder temps against the roots.  These air pockets also contribute to dehydration.  When the temps are above the mid 30’s make certain the plants are watered thoroughly.

As to the qualifiers, this is not the time to install “non-woody” plants.  This takes in most ground covers and perennials.  While these plants often are the finishing touch to the landscape, these plantings rarely survive the winter.  With no chance to push out roots and get comfortable before winter’s chill, mortality rates are high.  Mulch these beds for a finished look and schedule these plants for first thing in the spring when they will thrive.

For broadleaf shrubs, azaleas, rhododendrons, mountain laurel; strongly consider an anti-desiccant spray which provides an organic, protective film to these larger leaf shrubs to prevent dehydration damage from strong winter winds.

Is this the time for a planting at your site?  Two yeses, first you will need to act fast.  And, second yes, if executed properly within the horticultural confines above, it looks like the next few weeks will remain just mild enough to complete the planting improvement your site needs.

Dazzling Displays – Holiday Lighting Time Is Now!

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The recent cold snap has interrupted a long, mild and beautiful fall here in lower New England.  A quick check of the thermometer and a look at the calendar leave no doubt, we have arrived at the middle of November.  Thanksgiving and the holidays are right around the corner.

For many commercial and corporate properties throughout Westchester and Fairfield County, it’s time for holiday lighting and decoration.  What a great way to transform your property and its landscape at this festive time of year. Employees, tenants and visitors appreciate when property and facility managers add this seasonal and visually exciting touch to their landscapes.

ELM provides just the right touch for clients’ landscape and building entry façade.  Seasonal holiday lighting displays can vary from open, draping of trees to tightly wrapping branches for a stunning effect.  At night (which comes a lot earlier now), the landscape comes alive in almost different dimension.  The warm twinkle of the lights set your building and landscape off with both pride and seasonal conviviality.

For daytime visual interest, consider seasonal accents like large, structural wreaths and bows, light pole or building column wraps, garland and bow installations, shopping center banners and interior artificial holiday trees.  Inside at lobby and reception areas, poinsettias add their unique colorful and seasonal touch to your high traffic, high visibility areas.

We welcome the opportunity to discuss your commercial site’s lighting, exterior and interior decoration needs.  Now is the time to have a conversation to understand the design, measurement, math and spacing which delivers the outstanding visual highlight you seek for your building and property.  In just a week or two, it’s time to position your building and landscape with a distinctive holiday presentation.

Christmas Wreath

Critical Operations – Fall Irrigation Shutdown

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As November is just around the corner and the first hard frost arrives, this is the time to ensure your property’s irrigation system has been fully blown out and shut down for winter.  Perhaps there is no more important landscape operation at this time of year.  For New York and Connecticut landscapes, if your system has not been shut down and blown out, the time is now.

As air and soil temperatures drop to the low 30’s, the heads in particular as they are at the surface and the irrigation lines which are usually just a few inches under grade, can freeze.  This causes irreparable damage and often, almost a complete rebuild of the system.  Ouch!  This is a lesson no property or facility manager wants to learn the hard way.

It is a relatively simple process in the hands of trained irrigation technicians.  However, if not performed correctly or worst case, not performed at all, repairs and costs will be significant.  After the fall system shutdown for your commercial landscape, this is a great time to review the year’s performance and ensure necessary budget dollars are in place for any repairs or system enhancement for 2014.

No question about it, this is best left to the professionals.  Here at Eastern Land Management, our irrigation team is led by Jose Igartua, who has his CT Irrigation J-3 license and is a Certified Landscape Irrigation Auditor (CLIA).  As your trusted full service landscape maintenance and irrigation provider, you can be sure your irrigation system will be properly shut down for the winter ahead.  Please give us a call quickly if your irrigation system is still active.  We will make certain there is no ouch next spring.

Fall Back, Plant Bulbs, Spring Ahead

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Just around the corner, it will be time to turn the clocks back. The nights are getting much cooler and the leaves are dropping.
This is also the perfect time to install bulbs for next spring’s color display. After a long winter, tulips and daffodils are a welcome signal spring is on its way. With a wide range of colors to select from, bulbs are great way to accent signage, create visual interest near building entries and enliven outdoor employees’ areas in corporate and commercial properties.

Here in the Fairfield and Westchester county area, daffodils and tulips are the go to choice for many property and facility managers. Let’s take a deeper look at what may at first seem to be a narrow choice. Daffodil colors range in white, cream, and yellow and can come with orange highlights. Tulips offer purple, red, pink, yellow, white and orange. Tulips may also be a mix of color within each bloom, for instance yellow with orange highlights or pink with white. Add in a range of heights from 8 to 20 inches, along with bloom variation from early to mid to late spring and the possibilities quickly expand.

How to best move forward? If yours is a suburban landscape, the presence of deer narrows the choice to daffodils unless the plants are sprayed often with deer repellant. For urban landscapes the full range of choice and combinations is yours.

Let Eastern Land Management help you make the best bulb choices for spring color in your landscape. Our experienced area managers will work closely with you to create colorful and functional bulb displays. We are confident the bulbs planted now will bring you vibrant spring color…and compliments. The visual impact of your landscape will certainly spring ahead.

Snow Fall Guess

As we walk our properties with our clients, or meet with property managers at this time of year, a question we hear frequently asked is “what kind of winter are we in for this year?” Well, of course, the only correct answer is no one knows for sure. This being New England though, the conversation rarely stops there.

For years, keen observers of Mother Nature have attempted to make direct and quantifiable correlations from woolly bear caterpillar’s stripes, to the number of acorns on the ground, to spiders spinning over size webs. It makes for fun conversation.

Those more statistically inclined, might interject with a few heavy seasons behind us, we are due for a lighter snow fall this year. Certainly over a range of years, snowfall totals will move towards the average. Those who have lived in New England long enough know in any given year a guess is just that—a roll of the dice.

Accurate and timely forecasts are instrumental to Eastern Land Management’s snow removal operations. We utilize the services of WeatherWorks, Inc. before, during and after storms. It’s a real key to planning for and revising our approach to every storm event. Each year at this time, their meteorologists perform research to provide a scientific answer to the above. They endeavor to match several atmospheric oscillation patterns to past years data to put forth a prediction. This includes the ENSO Neutral Condition, which we have come to know as El Nino/La Nina.

As of late September, WeatherWorks’ preliminary outlook is for an “above normal likelihood for a cold outbreak from late October through mid November…with the potential for a pre-winter event.” They also see a relatively cold winter with coldest runs early and late in the season. Precipitation looks to be active. As we move into early November, they will refine this again.

So, what does it all mean? Sounds like a chilly and active winter. Here in Fairfield and Westchester County, with our proximity to Long Island Sound, a degree or two can be the difference from rain to snow. What kind of winter are we in for…place your bets.

Top 100 Snow Contractors

snow-logoSnow Magazine, the official magazine of the Accredited Snow Contractors Association (ASCA) has published its TOP 100 Snow Contractors. Eastern Land Management (ELM) of Stamford, CT, is listed as # 44. Once again, based on the demand for our snow removal services, ELM has moved up this impressive list.

“Snow removal is an unforgiving and challenging business to be in,” says Bruce Moore, Jr., Vice President of Operations. “ELM has worked hard to develop the processes which deliver timely, effective and most of all safe and reliable snow removal services for our commercial properties.” Moore adds, “we are particularly proud of our experienced team who consistently go the distance to insure our clients and their employees have safe access to their properties during all types of New England winter weather.”

Winter weather has become increasingly more severe over the past 10 years with blizzards and record-setting events in Westchester and Fairfield counties. “We’ve had to up our game,” says Moore. “These large events require a storm specific plan, and often additional resources to insure our clients’ properties remain open during their business critical times.”

ELM’s snow removal services are performed on the commercial, corporate and office park properties we serve with landscape maintenance. This gives ELM a significant advantage in understanding each individual property’s schedules and nuances. Bruce Moore, Sr., President notes “our year around relationship with our clients inherently adds to ELM’s commitment to do everything possible to minimize damage to the landscape assets. Most importantly, each site has a specific snow operations plan, which we develop together with our clients. We stay in touch throughout the storms with property and facility managers with our iPhones to keep them updated.”

Making the accomplishment even more notable is that ASCA and its’ TOP 100 list covers both the United States and Canada.

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Fall Turf Fertilization: Are You Sure My Property Needs This?

The kids are back in school, temperatures are cooling, the leaves are turning and it won’t be too long before we wake up to a morning frost. Yes, the world of plants and grass is slowing down. A number of important landscape operations are performed at this time of year including leaf removal, fall bulb plantings and irrigation system shutdowns. When mid to late November arrives, holiday lights and seasonal decorations will be coming to commercial properties in Fairfield and Westchester counties.

However, a critical operation which may be overlooked at this time of year is fall turf fertilization. Hey, wait a minute…just exactly why is the grass being fertilized now? And, by the way, is this a wise use of precious budget dollars?

Yes, the turf will go dormant in late fall and will no longer be pushing growth. However, as your grass enters dormancy, it’s essential to have nutrients taken up at the root zone level to be stored in the plant. Those nutrients allow your property’s turf to make its way through the severe winter and be readily available for take-up in the spring. Late November and early December days can be chilly, but the soil temperatures are still moderate, allowing the critical nutrient exchange and storage to take place. It’s just exactly the right formula to help the turf overwinter and be ready for green-up as the early spring days get longer and the warmer temperatures return.

Everyone knows that strong foundation is critical to a building’s structural integrity. In many ways, the fall fertilization is the foundation to next season’s spring green-up and turf health. By next March and April, it will be easy spot the properties whose turf has a strong “foundation.”