Marketing Your Irrigation Business to Prospective Workers

Marketing Your Irrigation Business to Prospective Workers

Tips for Navigating a
Tight Labor Market

What do recruiting and marketing have in common? Just about everything!

In the highly competitive labor market of 2024, recruiting is marketing. More than ever, attracting and hiring the best talent requires marketing expertise, especially in the green industry.

2024 Labor Market Snapshot

According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the statistics are daunting. Right now, there are 9.5 million job openings in the U.S., but only 6.5 million workers available to fill them.

Ohio’s Labor Shortage

As of February 2024, Ohio has 62 available workers for every 100 open jobs. Here’s the data:

Job Openings: 314,000
Unemployed Workers: 195,642
Labor Force Participation Rate: 62.1%
Unemployment Rate: 3.4%
Quit Rate: 2.4%
Hiring Rate (all payroll additions as a percentage of total employment): 3.4%

The number of Ohio workers employed in the landscaping industry dropped nearly ten percent between May 2019 and May 2023.

Source:  U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Even if every unemployed American found a job, there would still be nearly 2.4 million unfilled positions. That’s because the overall share of the U.S. working population has dropped since the pandemic. If our current employment rate was the same as in February 2020, there would be two million more Americans available to fill those open positions.

This data only confirms what employers already know: hiring is a struggle right now. But by applying strategies from the marketer’s playbook your company can still build a successful irrigation and landscaping team.

#1. Know Your Product and Target Audience

Determine exactly what your products are. That is, which jobs are you currently seeking to fill? This is where workforce planning comes in. You must understand the composition of your current workforce and identify any skill gaps. You’ll also want to identify the most high-potential individuals among current staff who may be trained to fill these gaps. Finally, to keep your business growing, you’ll need to determine what kind of workers your company will need in the future.

Your target audience is the pool of job candidates with the required skills. Making your available jobs appealing to them requires intentionality and strategy – just like the marketing of any product.

#2. Craft Your Message

When crafting your message, steer clear from a dry description of duties. Instead, use marketing tactics to create a customized missive that will make your available position stand out.

Your message must directly answer the candidate’s main question: “What’s in it for me?” An enticing proposition will include details about skills that can be learned on the job, interesting projects that would challenge them, a description of the company culture, and expected compensation and benefits.

Enlist the help of your marketing department to create more compelling job postings. Tap current employees for content — such as testimonials, videos, and day-in-the life insights — to further engage job seekers by showcasing what it’s really like to work for your company.

Irrigation and landscaping companies must promote the wide variety of fulfilling careers available in the green industry. Make sure your message includes the fact that creative, logistical, horticultural, and technological skills are in demand right now.

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#3. Use Multiple Channels

You’ll want to promote your job openings via multiple channels. In addition to online advertising and careers sites, leveraging social media is crucial if you want to attract the best talent quickly. Job seekers often peruse Linkedin, Facebook, X (formerly Twitter) and Instagram before applying for employment. Using these platforms to build awareness of your company is critical to converting passive candidates into applicants.

Reach deep into your target audience by suggesting your current staff members share job openings on their personal social media pages.

#4. Provide a Positive Experience

Court prospective candidates by treating them like potential customers. Sell your product by detailing what you can do for them.

You want job candidates to have an authentic and positive experience. Throughout the recruiting process, the candidate/employer relationship is paramount. Instead of just trying to fill an opening, take this opportunity to learn more about the individual and determine if your job is a good fit.

Even if it’s not, have a system in place to capture the candidate’s information so it may available for future opportunities. Companies who provide candidates with a positive are generally rewarded with higher acceptance rates.

Applying these basic marketing principles to your company’s recruiting efforts will enable you to attract, engage, cultivate, and hire the best talent for your irrigation and landscaping jobs.

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U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Irrigation & Lighting
Green Industry Pros

Best Plants for Ohio’s New Hardiness Zones

Best Plants for Ohio’s New Hardiness Zones

Expanding Your Inventory to
Accommodate Warmer Regions

The USDA’s new Plant Hardiness Zone Map (PHZM) indicates that southern environmental conditions are creeping north.

Many Ohioans may now be able to enjoy plants that would not have thrived previously, while still retaining those that require cooler temperatures. Some areas of the state could also start to see an influx in pollinators.

As a green industry contractor, what changes (if any) should you make to your plant inventory to accommodate these zone changes? Let’s examine some of the most popular flora for each of Ohio’s planting zones.

Zone 5b

There is only one remaining patch of Zone 5b across the state. Located in northeastern Knox County, this zone has a minimum average temperature between -4 and -14 degrees Fahrenheit. Popular plants and perennials that thrive in Zone 5 include:

Ohio’s Future Landscape

Long-term climate change models indicate that, by 2030, Ohio summers may become similar to current summer weather conditions in southwestern Kentucky. And Ohio winters will likely mimic current winter conditions in southern Virginia.

By 2095, summer weather in Ohio will be similar to that currently experienced in Arkansas, with winters in Ohio similar to those in southern North Carolina. Depending on the accuracy of these models, the descendants of today’s Ohioans will be cultivating very different plants in their landscapes.

Source:  The Columbus Dispatch

  • Apple trees
  • Lilacs
  • Dogwoods
  • Lilies
  • Hostas
  • Hollyhock
  • Coneflower
  • Lavender
  • Peonies

Zones 6a and 6b

Ohio still falls almost entirely within Zone 6. Most of the central region and areas to the northeast and northwest remain in Zone 6a.

However, Zone 6b is significantly larger now, encompassing much of southern Ohio. Average minimum temperatures in this warmer zone range from -5 to zero.

Zone 6 can be challenging, as it is vulnerable to extremes at both ends of the thermometer. For example, using Zone 5 plants in Zone 6b is not always advisable. While they’ll be exceptionally winter-hardy, they may not survive the summer heat.

Popular Ohio plants for Zones 6a and 6b include:

  • Shasta daisies
  • Sedge
  • Roses
  • Butterfly bush
  • Hydrangea
  • Muhly grass
  • Flowering cherry trees
  • Crape myrtle
  • Japanese maple

Zone 7a

Ohio’s newest plant hardiness region, Zone 7a, includes a narrow swath of Greater Cleveland just inland from Lake Erie and the southernmost tip of the state.

Landscaping companies located within this zone would be wise to offer their customers a variety of flora that will now thrive in the state’s warmest areas. Here are some species you’ll want to consider:

  • White giant and panache calla lily
  • Angels’ earrings cascading fuchsia
  • Basjoo banana tree
  • Spineless prickly pear
  • Jack’s giant, coal miner, and black beauty elephant ear
  • Morning sun and snowcap cast iron plants
  • Blue oak, Teresa’s Texas, Jerusalem, and lipstick Texas sage
  • Hypearl compact red St. John’s wort
  • Eco Easter Japanese evergreen iris
  • White-top star sedge
  • Elizabeth Lawrence butcher’s broom
  • Chusan hardy windmill palm
  • Wright’s Texas firecracker
  • Variegated glorious soapwort
  • Gemmiferous spikemoss

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Beyond Plant Hardiness Zones

Of course, plant hardiness is only one factor to consider when designing a landscape. Microclimate variables, such as drainage and sun exposure, can shift a landscaping area more than half a zone.

It’s also important to remember that the new Plant Hardiness Zone Map is based on the AVERAGE annual minimum winter temperature from 1991 to 2020. Dramatic temperature fluctuations will still occur. Other environmental factors, such as chill hours (number of hours each year below 45 degrees Fahrenheit), also matter.

So, it’s best to regard the new PHZM as a means of assessing future risk—just one instrument in the green industry professional’s toolbox.

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Plant Delights
Cincinnati Enquirer

Outdoor Lighting Ideas for Spring

Outdoor Lighting Ideas for Spring

Shedding Light on
Springtime Landscapes

At last, spring is in the air!

No doubt, your customers are eager to once again enjoy their outdoor living spaces. Landscape lighting can have a tangible impact, elevating any yard into an inviting spot for enjoying spring evenings. Let’s look at some of the hottest outdoor lighting trends for spring.

String Lighting

String lights are an easy way for customers to add a little something extra to their spring landscapes. They’re easy to install around patios and porches and can even be used to cover railings for a fun accent illumination.

Tree trunks and main branches can be covered with string lights to outline the tree’s shape while casting a luminous glow on the landscape below.

Springtime Tasks

Here are three tasks your customers should add to their springtime to-do list:

  • Check existing outdoor fixtures to ensure they cast enough light for guests to see up the driveway and along walkways.
  • Check patio lighting to confirm it provides sufficient illumination once the sun goes down.
  • Check outdoor electrical outlets; consider having additional weatherproof outlets installed.

Problems such as exposed wiring or broken fixtures are best left to the professionals. Offer your customers the option of a complete landscape lighting audit before the busy summer season.

Source:  Wolfers


Portable outdoor lanterns are another great way to incorporate lighting into the landscape. These fixtures are available in various designs and sizes and can accommodate bright LED lights for security or dim candles for a more romantic ambiance.

Hanging electric lanterns are ideal for lining a garden walkway or brightening up support beams on a front porch. Install posts at even intervals, allowing the lanterns to hover above mature foliage or peek out between plantings.


If your customers want a modern look, you can’t go wrong with orb lighting. A spherical alternative to traditional stake lighting, orbs provide visual interest and work particularly well in rock gardens or xeriscapes. They can be hung together over a patio or garden or spaced individually throughout the landscape.

Solar orbs are particularly popular right now, but they have some drawbacks. Because they rely on rechargeable solar batteries, they must be installed in areas with sufficient sunlight. (They won’t perform to their maximum potential during Ohio’s rainy spring days and nights.) Also, a solar fixture’s higher “up-front” cost can deter some customers.


Outdoor planter lighting provides a captivating display, but proper installation and positioning are fundamental to maximizing its impact.

Planters with built-in lighting fixtures offer an elegant and streamlined look while effortlessly illuminating colorful spring flowers and plants. Embedding small lights directly in the soil is another option. Alternatively, mini solar lights can be attached securely to the planters.

The aim is to create balanced illumination that highlights the plants’ beauty without overpowering the surroundings.

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Water Features

Whether moving or still, water is always a prime candidate for outdoor lighting. Uplighting of a waterfall or fountain using a halogen underwater light is one effective option.

Another popular water feature is a recycling urn-shaped fountain in which the water trickles down the sides onto a cobblestone reservoir. By illuminating the trickling stream with a small underwater 20-watt bulb and a frosted lens, you can produce a subtle sparkle for a diffused effect.

Electric Fire Pits

Customers looking for both warmth and ambiance on cool spring evenings should consider an electric fire pit. These fire pits offer all the benefits of the traditional version without the mess and inconvenience. Some designs can also be converted to use natural gas or propane.

Selling It

A lighting demonstration kit can help your customers fully understand the value of a well-designed and properly installed landscape lighting system. (These kits are available from most lighting distributors.) Here are a few more selling tips:

  • Always install the lighting during daylight hours. You can then return in the evening to showcase the setup to your customers.
  • Choose a specific illumination area, highlighting a few focal points.
  • Perform a test run, adjusting the lights before presenting to your customers. Turn off the lights before bringing them outside. Then, turn on all the lights simultaneously for the most dramatic effect.
  • Engage your clients regarding the system’s zoning, dimming, and color capabilities. Then, install the app on their mobile devices, including pre-set themes where appropriate.

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The Spruce
Site One

How Diverse Is Your Workforce?

How Diverse Is Your Workforce?

Companies With Diverse Work Teams
Make More Money

We live and work in a global village where diversity abounds.

As a green industry contractor, if your work team does not include a variety of racial, cultural, and age groups, your profits could suffer. At the very least, your business is missing a key ingredient for growth.

Just the Facts

Consider some statistics. Boston Consulting Group recently found that companies with a diverse workforce make more money than those with staff uniformity. In addition, companies with diverse management teams produce almost 20% more revenue than their homogeneous counterparts.

In the words of global industry analyst Josh Bersin, “Workplace diversity leads to innovation. Inclusive companies are 1.7 times more likely to be innovation leaders in their market.” If your irrigation business struggles with a particular issue, hiring a more diverse leadership team could be your answer.

The Multi-Generational Workforce

The U.S. labor force has become increasingly multi-generational, with 50-year experts working alongside young recruits fresh out of school.

Here are some of the benefits of employing staff from various age groups: 

1. Knowledge Sharing: Older employees offer wisdom and institutional knowledge, while younger staff contribute fresh ideas and technological expertise.

2. Improved Creativity: The unique life experiences of employees from different generations can lead to creative solutions.

3. Adaptability: A multi-generational workforce combines the wisdom of experience with the receptivity to change offered by younger generations, helping companies navigate evolving markets.

4. Better Understanding of Customers: A multi-generational workforce helps businesses better understand their customers’ preferences and needs across various generations, resulting in greater customer satisfaction and loyalty.

5. Employee Engagement and Retention: A multi-generational workforce that fosters a sense of inclusion boosts employee engagement, job satisfaction, and retention.

Source:  The Power of 10

Online decision-making platform Cloverpop revealed in a two-year study that inclusive work teams make better decisions, outperforming individual decision-makers about 87% of the time.

What’s more, your company can attract more job applicants if it reflects diversity in the workplace. According to a 2020 Glassdoor survey, 76% of job seekers believe workplace inclusivity is an important factor to consider when determining employment offers.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is a term business leaders use to encompass all efforts to make their staff feel accepted and supported at work, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, age, or socioeconomic background.

While you can incorporate DEI practices into many aspects of your company, most initiatives are led by Human Resources, supporting current team members and ensuring equity when hiring. For instance, DEI recruiting software is available to help employment managers overcome unconscious biases that could disrupt the hiring process and ensure that job opportunities are open to all qualified candidates.

Where to Begin

Convene a meeting with your entire company. First, introduce the topic, explain why diversity and inclusion are important, and lay the ground rules for the discussion. These may include:

  • Any information shared will remain confidential.
  • Everyone should actively participate in the conversation.
  • Every contribution is significant.
  • Everyone should listen without judgment.

Then, begin brainstorming answers to the following questions:

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  1. How diverse is our overall workforce? Our leadership team?
  2. Can our corporate culture be viewed as biased or exclusive?
  3. What can we do to make our company more diverse and inclusive?
  4. How can we attract potential employees from a more diverse labor pool?
  5. How can we promote our commitment to workplace diversity?
  6. What challenges might we face in our efforts to become more inclusive?

After adequate discussion time and opportunity for input, gather the results of your brainstorming session and outline a clear action plan. You can then appoint a committee or designate an individual team member to serve as diversity officer to follow through on the approved plan.

Need Help?

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) offers many online resources to help facilitate your company’s journey toward workplace diversity. Here are just a few:

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Irrigation & Lighting

2023 Plant Hardiness Map: Impacts to Irrigation

2023 Plant Hardiness Map: Impacts to Irrigation

Using New USDA Zones to
Market Your Business

The USDA’s new plant hardiness zone map (PHZM) places Ohio in warmer sectors. What will that mean for irrigation and landscape contractors?

According to the new map, the average lowest winter temperature across the country is now 2.5 degrees warmer than it was in 2012, the last time such a map was charted. Viewable in an interactive format, the 2023 hardiness zone map was created digitally, relying on detailed and more precise data than before. Map users can zoom in on specific ZIP codes and locate roads within each zone.

Ohio’s New Hardiness Zones

Like the 2012 PHZM, the new version shows Ohio falling almost entirely within Zone 6, with an average lowest winter temperature between minus 10 and zero degrees Fahrenheit. But Zone 6b now encompasses a considerably larger area than it did in the 2012 map.

Much of central Ohio, along with areas to the northeast and northwest, still lies in Zone 6a, which ranges from minus 10 to minus 5 degrees. (According to the 2023 map, the only remaining pocket of Zone 5b is in northeastern Knox County.)

The warmer Zone 6b ranges from minus 5 to zero and now includes much of southern Ohio. But it also includes a section of Northern Ohio west of Toledo and extending to Pennsylvania, which is warmed by the moderating effects of Lake Erie. As a result, Ohio’s Zone 6b is significantly larger than the 2012 map indicated.

Warmer still is Zone 7a, making its first appearance in Ohio. This zone, ranging from zero to 5 degrees, now includes a narrow swath of Greater Cleveland just inland from Lake Erie and the southernmost tip of the state.

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Impact on Irrigation and Landscaping

Regions across the state have warmed, making them suitable for plant species that previously could not have survived there. Here are some of the ways warmer regions can impact landscape and irrigation professionals:

  • Longer growing seasons and the likelihood of increased heat will compel homeowners to consider more efficient water usage and adopt more sustainable irrigation practices.
  • Extended growing seasons require adjusting planting schedules and vigilantly maintaining plants during the longer summers.
  • Homeowners and landscapers may choose from a broader range of plants, allowing for more diversity within a landscape.
  • Landscapers must proactively monitor and manage increased pest and disease challenges caused by warmer temperatures.

Promoting Your Business Through the New PHZM

Evolution of
the PHZM

1927 – Harvard University publishes the first known U.S. map with eight climatic zones in the Manual of Cultivated Trees and Shrubs Hardy in North America.

1928 – USDA publishes a map depicting average annual minimum temperatures in 11 zones across the United States. 

1938 – Harvard University publishes enhanced plant hardiness map using previously unavailable temperature data from the U.S. Weather Bureau.

1948 – Harvard University publishes a revised and updated map, incorporating new weather data.

1960 – USDA develops and publishes the first official Plant Hardiness Zone Map [PHZM], which eventually became the standard for assessing plant hardiness in the United States.

1990 – USDA publishes updated PHZM, utilizing data from about 8,000 weather stations over a 12-year period.

2012 – USDA develops the first digital PHZM, utilizing 30 years of weather data.

2023 – USDA publishes revised digital PHZM, utilizing data from 13,412 weather stations over a 30-year period.

Source:   Medium

You can help your customers understand the ramifications of the new PHZM while also promoting your irrigation business. Here’s how:

Explain the Map

Familiarize customers with the PHZM. Explain to them how the local climate is changing, offering more plant diversity and longer growing seasons, but also likely requiring more efficient irrigation – not necessarily more water. Provide them with a link to the updated interactive map so they can drill down to their local area.

Offer a Variety of Options

Stay current on the newest and most efficient smart controllers and system components, and offer various options for your customers to consider. Maintaining a strong relationship with your local irrigation distributor will go a long way toward ensuring familiarity with the latest products.


Offer rebates or other incentives to encourage action (such as retrofitting inefficient irrigation systems with smart systems). Inform customers of any rebate programs available through WaterSense, their local water utility, or irrigation system manufacturers.

The 2023 PHZM update highlights the impacts of climate change on our local environment, presenting both new opportunities and challenges. Responding proactively to these changes can help ensure sustainable landscapes while also promoting your business as a green industry leader.

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’Sno(w) Problem!

’Sno(w) Problem!

White Stuff Spells Green for
Enterprising Contractors

Irrigation and landscaping contractors in snow-prone Ohio recognize the benefits to be gained from including snow removal in their menu of services.

For instance, homeowners’ associations often seek out four-season maintenance providers. Your business will attract these larger accounts by offering snow and ice removal services. In addition, keeping your crews employed all year will help you retain your best workers.

Here are some things to consider before you branch out:

Essential Equipment

Many landscaping contractors already have access to some of the most expensive equipment needed for snow removal, such as skid steers, track and wheel loaders, and pickup trucks.  But what about irrigation contractors whose services do not include general landscaping? You can still get into snow business by renting the necessary equipment. (See infographic below.)

Some essential snow attachments manufacturers recommend for skid steers and loaders include snow blades, angle or push brooms, snow blowers, snow pushers, scrapers, and buckets.

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Snow Blades

Snow blades work hydraulically to stack snow high and cleanly, even on uneven terrain. An angled or V-shaped blade provides added versatility, since it can be used to angle and direct snow. V-blades work best in open spaces, and are most effective on hard surfaces such as pavement or concrete. But straight blades are the most popular type of blade attachment, and are often more affordable.

Snow Brooms

For lighter snowfalls, angled or push brooms are ideal for sweeping less than six  inches of snow. An added benefit is that these attachments can be used year-round to remove dirt, leaves, gravel, and other debris.

Snow Blowers

A snow blower attachment is used to blow snow into a pile or dump truck with a truck-loading shoot. It can remove large amounts of heavy, wet, or icy snow in a single pass.

Ohio’s First Snowfalls

Below are some compiled statistics for the earliest snowfalls of at least one inch in Ohio’s major cities:

Columbus 1 inch, Oct. 22 (1925)
Cleveland 1.4 inches, Oct. 18 (1972)
Cincinnati 5 inches, Oct. 19 (1989)
Toledo 1 inch, Oct. 20 (1992)
Akron 2.9 inches, Oct. 20 (1952)
Dayton 4.8 inches, Oct. 19 (1989)
Youngstown 2.6 inches, Oct. 30 (1993)

Source:, Extreme Weather Watch

Snow Pushers

As the name implies, snow pushers are designed to push snow straight ahead; they can neither load nor lift. Pushers are ideal for clearing sidewalks, small parking lots, and driveways. Heavy snowfalls may be too much for some pushers, and wider pushers can be challenging to maneuver. Because pushers require a skid steer or loader with a lot of torque and traction, selecting a pusher attachment with the proper size and weight for your equipment and application is essential. (Bigger isn’t always better.)


Use a scraper attachment to remove hard-packed snow and ice. Be sure to get one with a self-sharpening cutting edge that easily slides under ice and stubborn snow.

Snow Buckets

These attachments are used to scoop and transport large volumes of light snow. Because buckets have no electric or hydraulic parts, they require minimal maintenance. During warmer months, they can be used to move wood or mulch.


Spreading salt or other ice-melts is another key component of any snow and ice removal system, as it protects your customers from accidents on their properties. Spreaders attach to the rear of a vehicle and disperse salt or sand at controlled flow rates and high speeds. There are also simple handheld models available for smaller areas.

Contractors can opt for a variety of ice-melts, including sodium chloride (rock salt), calcium chloride, potassium chloride, magnesium chloride, or any combination of these, depending on the outside temperature and application area. (For instance, magnesium chloride is considered the most eco- and pet-friendly.)

Of Plows and Pickups

Snow removal contractors often opt for compact equipment because pickup trucks are too cumbersome to fit into tight spaces.

However, compact equipment is more difficult to transport quickly from job to job since it requires a trailer, which is why some contractors prefer the versatility of a pickup truck with a snowplow. If your business owns a medium-duty truck, you can purchase a snow plow package from your local distributor. The system can be mounted to the frame of your existing trucks and easily removed when not in use.

Final Tips

If you’re just getting started in the snow removal business, here are a few final tips to consider:

  • Use bulk spreaders whenever possible, as ice melts are cheaper when purchased in bulk.
  • Take advantage of a downloadable weather app so you can make educated decisions based on current weather data.
  • Consider joining an association like the Snow and Ice Management Association (SIMA), which offers an extensive library of resources to help you quickly gain the skills needed for success.
  • Make sure your crews enjoy working long hours and at night. Snow removal is not for the faint of heart!

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Green Industry Pros
Irrigation & Lighting
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