Landscape Lighting + Irrigation = Perfect Synergy!

Landscape Lighting + Irrigation = Perfect Synergy!

Designing a Cohesive
Irrigation and Lighting System


Whether for convenience, safety, utility, aesthetics, or any combination thereof, irrigation and outdoor lighting work together like a hand-in-glove.

When homeowners understand the synergy between landscape lighting and irrigation, they can transform their outdoor spaces into harmonized havens of beauty and efficiency. As Smart Irrigation Month approaches (see sidebar, “We Are Smart Irrigation”), let’s look at how combining these two essential elements can create a seamless and stunning residential landscape.

Lighting and Irrigation Synergy

“We Are Smart Irrigation”

The Smart Irrigation Month 2024 theme is “We Are Smart Irrigation.”

It’s time for irrigation professionals to raise awareness about how smart irrigation products, technologies, and practices positively impact our communities.

Here’s how you can help:

  • Promote Smart Irrigation Month on social media.
  • Add the Smart Irrigation Month logo to marketing and business materials.
  • Submit a Smart Irrigation Month press release to local media.
  • Petition your city or state government officials to proclaim July as Smart Irrigation Month.

By helping customers understand the importance of water conservation and sustainability, we can make a difference.

A coordinated lighting and irrigation plan can simplify installation and maintenance. Planning and installing these systems concurrently creates a more cohesive design. For example, when lighting is strategically placed to illuminate sprinkler heads, they become a feature rather than an eyesore. Similarly, sprinkler systems can be planned to avoid water damage to lighting fixtures. An integrated approach looks better and extends the longevity of both systems.

When combining lighting and sprinkler systems, aesthetics are as important as practicality. From an aesthetics standpoint, proper lighting can enhance water features such as fountains or ponds, making them the centerpiece of a nighttime landscape. For practical purposes, utilizing weather-resistant or waterproof light fixtures will allow the illumination system to withstand exposure to moisture and changing weather conditions.

You’ll want to create a design that complements the overall aesthetic of the homeowner’s outdoor space while ensuring it’s compatible with the functional requirements of both systems.

The following table identifies the technical similarities between outdoor lighting and irrigation systems:

Source: Brilliance LED

Selling It to the Customer

One of the biggest mistakes a contractor can make is simply dropping off a manufacturer’s catalog and asking the customer to “pick out what you like, and I’ll install it.”

Customers need guidance. In your eagerness to close the sale, don’t forget to ask, “Why?”  Neglecting to ask customers what they hope to accomplish can lead to unacceptable results, regardless of how smooth the installation may be.

Did You Know…

In 2022, Irrigation & Green Industry, the Irrigation Association’s monthly magazine, became Irrigation & Lighting. While irrigation is the IA’s core competency, lighting is a closely aligned industry. Expanding the publication’s focus was a natural evolution.

When you meet with customers, carry a notepad and keep them talking until you clearly understand their lifestyle and how they plan to use their outdoor spaces. This effort alone will set you apart from the competition.

Also, don’t hesitate to consult your irrigation or lighting manufacturer for additional design expertise and product guidance.

System(s) Maintenance

Encourage your customers to schedule regular maintenance for both irrigation and lighting systems. This will help them avoid electrical problems, corroded fixtures, clogged nozzles, and broken pipes while keeping these systems in optimal condition.

Because the outdoor environment is continually changing, periodic adjustments and updates may be necessary to adapt to evolving landscapes and weather patterns. Routine maintenance will help maintain the beauty and functionality of your customer’s outdoor space.

Also, stay abreast of the newest trends and technologies so you can help your customers make informed decisions when updating or installing their lighting and sprinkler systems.

Final Thoughts

Combining landscape lighting and irrigation system design is an intelligent approach to creating an attractive and efficient outdoor space. By understanding and integrating these systems, your customers can enjoy a beautifully illuminated and well-maintained residential landscape that enhances their property value and quality of life.


Sources:
Featured Image: Adobe, License Granted
Brilliance LED
American National Co.
Irrigation Association

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.

–Article Continues Below–

#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.


Sources:
Featured Image: Adobe, License Granted
U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Irrigation & Lighting
PageUp
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

–Article Continues Below–

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.


Sources:
Featured Image: Adobe, License Granted
Plant Delights
WVXU
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

Lanterns

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.

Orbs

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.

Planters

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.

–Article Continues Below–

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.

Sources:
Featured Image: Adobe, License Granted
Warehouse-Lighting.com
The Spruce
NightVision
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:

–Article Continues Below–

  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:


Sources:
Featured Image: Adobe, License Granted
Irrigation & Lighting
G2
Glassdoor
Cloverpop

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.

–Article Continues Below–

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.

Incentivize

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.


Sources:
Featured Image: Adobe, License Granted
USDA
Cleveland.com
Medium

’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.

–Article Continues Below–

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:  Weather.gov, 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.)

Scrapers

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.

Spreaders

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!

Sources:
Featured Image: Adobe, License Granted
Green Industry Pros
Irrigation & Lighting
Big Rentz
Jobber

Gearing Up for Equip Exposition and midwestGREEN

Gearing Up for Equip Exposition and midwestGREEN

Equip Expo: October 17-20, 2023
midwestGREEN: November 6-7, 2023


Ohio irrigation and lighting professionals will want to mark their calendars for two green industry trade shows happening in October and November.

About Equip Expo

This month marks the 40th anniversary of Equip Exposition, the annual green industry exhibition featuring more than 1,000 exhibits that now draws more than 25,000 attendees.

Equip Exposition
Timeline

  • 1984: OPEI launches the International Lawn, Garden & Power Equipment Exposition (EXPO), the industry’s first trade show.
  • 2007: OPEI merges the International Lawn, Garden & Power Equipment Exposition with the Green Industry Expo, creating GIE+EXPO.
  • 2021: OPEI rebrands GIE+EXPO as Equip Exposition and opens a branch office in Louisville, Kentucky.

For more than 20 years the show has been located just over the river at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, making it a popular event for Ohio green industry professionals. Of course, it wasn’t always called Equip Exposition. (See sidebar, “Equip Exposition Timeline.”)

The Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI), expo sponsors, expanded this year’s show to include increased exhibition space, advanced education, additional entertainment, and improved logistics and food options.

Educational Opportunities

In addition to the green industry products on display and Equip Expo’s 30-acre outdoor demonstration yard, there are plenty of educational sessions for irrigation and lighting professionals. (Click on each course title for additional information.)

Basic Irrigation Repairs
Electrical Troubleshooting
Anatomy of an Irrigation System
Basic Controller Operation
Wi-Fi & Connected Device Knowledge for Green Industry Professionals
Expanding Your Business with Landscape Lighting

Also, the Irrigation Association will administer certification exams for all levels of industry professionals on the first day of the expo, Tuesday, October 17, from 12:30 to 5:30.

Equip Exposition is scheduled for October 17 through October 20, at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville.

About midwestGREEN

The 2023 midwestGREEN conference (previously known as MGIX) offers a robust exhibit space, unique networking opportunities, and educational sessions with impactful speakers.

The two-day conference is sponsored by the Ohio Green Industry Association (OGIA), and OGIA members receive a substantial discount. Click here for  the complete Event Guide.

Educational Opportunities

All 48 educational sessions are included in the registration cost. Here are some workshops of particular interest to irrigation and lighting professionals:

Ohio’s Landscape Irrigation Industry Insights
Speaker: Tom Barrett | Ohio Irrigation Association

Over the last four years Ohio’s landscape irrigation industry has experienced some dramatic changes. In this presentation, Tom Barrett will cover current issues for those working in Ohio’s landscape irrigation industry. This presentation includes industry trends, research, best practices, and field implementation techniques.

Fire and Water
Speaker: Nick Berger | Hidden Creek Landscaping

The inclusion of Fire and Water elements within a landscape design can create captivating outdoor spaces with profound effects on the user experience. Blending fire pits, fireplaces, and fire woks with fountains, swimming pools, and spas together in a landscape design entices people to spend more time outdoors, connecting with nature, and enjoying an enriched outdoor living experience.

Innovative Lighting Design Techniques and New Technologies
Speaker: Adam Marette | Wolf Creek Company

Latest in Equipment Trends
Speaker: Chuck Bowen | The Outdoor Power Equipment Institute

OPEI is the voice for the outdoor power equipment industry. As such, OPEI is keenly aware of the trends, challenges and opportunities facing the industry. From expanding software solutions to new equipment technologies like autonomous mowers and more efficient engines, Chuck will share what to have your eye on as we close out 2023 and prepare for 2024 and beyond.

midwestGREEN is scheduled for November 6 and 7, at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio.


Sources:
Featured Images: Equip Exposition and Adobe (Licenses Granted)
Equip Exposition
midwestGREEN

Low-Voltage Wiring Dos and Don’ts

Low-Voltage Wiring Dos and Don’ts

How to Avoid Wiring Problems
When Installing Landscape Lights


Low-voltage landscape lighting offers a pleasant alternative to glaring floodlights.

Artfully placed outdoor lighting can look as beautiful and natural as the landscape, whether strategically positioned to accent plants and other features or safely illuminate steps and pathways.

But any installation missteps with low-voltage wiring will likely lead to a system failure somewhere down the line. Here’s a list of dos and don’ts from lighting professionals to help you avoid problems when working with low-voltage wiring.

Don’t Skimp on Wire Connectors

Less expensive wiring materials are not best for the job. For example, twist-on wire nuts, commonly used in household wiring, are not waterproof and should not be used to splice direct-buried wire. Non-waterproof wire splices can cause current to leak to ground, resulting in the controller and transformer running hot. This significantly reduces the life of the controller.

Moonlighting?

Moonlights are a type of downlighting that mimics the moon’s soft, cool natural light.

When strategically placed high up in trees and angled downward, the light peeks through the branches rather than shining directly into a specific space. Always opt for a cool-temperature white bulb for the most natural effect.

To avoid a sloppy look, plan for wire management before installation so that no cords are readily apparent. Use appropriate tree-friendly screws, spacers, and zip ties when attaching fixture wire.

Source:  Volt Lighting

It’s important to use wire connectors specifically designed for direct burial. These waterproof connectors are usually filled with silicone and provide a reliable underground wire connection. They typically consist of a twist-on cap to join the wires and a silicone gel-filled sleeve to keep moisture from entering the splice.

However, these connectors are not reusable. When repairing a bad splice, you’ll want to use a new wire connector.

Do Check Your Voltage

Even with LED lighting, it’s still important to check your voltage, which should be between 10-15 volts for LED’s. Too little voltage and your lights will be too dim; more than 15 volts could short out your system.

LEDs are not very forgiving above 15 volts, as they can disable your system quickly and without warning.

Don’t Use Frayed Wire Leads

Frayed wires can result in multiple wiring issues. If only a few pairs of your stranded wire are making electrical contact, you’ll notice a voltage drop. You’ll also risk an electrical short and create a fire hazard.

Wires that are clean and straight provide the best possible connection, resulting in fewer potential issues. Some contractors solder the wire leads together to ensure sufficient contact.

Do Use a Hub System

Lighting systems most often fail at a connection point. So fewer connection points mean fewer potential problems. A typical “daisy chain” design system creates two connection points (ergo, two weak spots) at every fixture throughout the landscape.

A hub system is a better design. Having each wire linked to a central transformer eliminates half of the potential points of failure. Troubleshooting a hub system is also much easier since you only need to locate one junction box rather than individual connections.

–Article Continues Below–

Don’t Reuse Wiring

Wiring is usually the least expensive component of any landscape lighting job, but it’s also one of the most important.

Reusing wire when retrofitting or redesigning a lighting system is a temptation contractors should avoid. When you reuse wiring, you’ve taken ownership of it, so future problems become yours.

When installing new wiring, removing the old wire is not always necessary if it’s not in your way. The exception would be if the new wires cross the old wires at any point. In that case, removing the old wiring can avoid confusion down the line.

Do Bury Wires Properly

Burying the wires is your last step. Lay the system out, hook up your lights, test your voltage, and (if possible) view the results at night before burying the lines.

Run the wires along the sides of hardscapes rather than through planting beds to avoid shovel points and other potential hazards. When you do need to cross a landscape, place wiring in a protective conduit or bury it deep enough to avoid the reach of any lawn equipment.


Sources:
Featured Image: Adobe, License Granted
Irrigation & Lighting
Volt Lighting
Family Handyman
The Lighting Zone

Irrigreen Hopes to Reshape the Industry

Irrigreen Hopes to Reshape the Industry

Unique Irrigation System
“Prints” Water With Precision


More than ten years ago, Irrigreen CTO Gary Klinefelter first imagined applying commercial printing technologies to irrigation system design.

Noting that inkjet printers spray just the right amount of ink in carefully controlled patterns, he wondered why irrigation systems couldn’t do the same. As it turns out, they can.

What Is Irrigreen?

Irrigreen is a digital sprinkler system, a type of robotic sprinkler that uses printing technology to create water patterns that conform to the specific outline of any lawn. Water streams do not overlap. As a result, Irrigreen uses about half the water of conventional irrigation systems.

This unique system “prints” and executes a precise watering plan, placing water where and when needed – never on driveways or sidewalks. The system also includes a smart controller to measure weather patterns and adjust the irrigation schedule to further reduce water waste.

Check it out:

 

Last year Irrigreen introduced XP, the third iteration of its product, now including functionality that predicts and adapts to water pressure and flow changes. The company was founded in 2013 by Klinefelter and CEO Shane Dyer and currently holds 35 patents on its product. According to Dyer, most installations are residential, but commercial and municipal projects are on the horizon.

How It Works

Irrigreen employs one centrally placed sprinkler head for each six-to-eight heads needed for a traditional system. Each Irrigreen head has 14 nozzles to spray water at different distances. By rotating 360 degrees, each head covers about 2,000 square feet. So instead of using 40 or more sprinkler heads for the average residential property, Irrigreen needs only five heads to cover the same area.

Want to Know More?

Click the links below for online tutorials regarding  Irrigreen installation, programming, and calibration:

The Irrigreen app allows homeowners and/or irrigation professionals to map out a watering pattern in any shape right from their mobile device. They can see a Google Earth view of the property and “place” digital sprinkler heads in the yard to see how many they need for full coverage. The app can also recall the last three years of rainfall and temperature data to determine how much water Irrigreen will save compared to a conventional mechanical system.

According to Scott Knowles, president of Wolf Creek Company, an Irrigreen distributor, the robotic sprinkler system “brings lawn irrigation forward into the digital age. It’s a good option for contractors who want to get out ahead of the competition by adopting advanced technology.”

Educating the Market

So far, lack of awareness has been the company’s biggest challenge. “People don’t know there is a better way to water their lawns,” Dyer said. So, to educate the market, Irrigreen developed an online tool that helps prospective customers assess the costs and benefits of installing the new technology.

“[With the online tool] we can show how much water they will save with the Irrigreen system and how much a system for their yard will cost,” Dyer explained.

Benefits to Pros

Because it uses only five sprinkler heads, the Irrigreen system streamlines installation. It also uses 80% less trenching and PVC piping – and the valves are located inside the sprinkler head — making installation  about three times faster than a mechanical irrigation system.

About 80% of the company’s current business is retrofits.  Most of the time, the old sprinkler heads can be capped off instead of removed, and existing piping is reused.

What the Critics Say

The Irrigreen system is not without its critics, however. Christopher Null, a technology expert and product reviewer for the online platform TechHive, voiced his concerns in January of this year. While providing an overall positive review (he found mapping the yard with the mobile app to be easy and “kind of fun”), Null stated that Irrigreen is still “a little rough around the edges.”

For instance, Null claims that the Irrigreen system must be installed from scratch and cannot be retrofitted to an existing irrigation system. Since Dyer asserts that most of the company’s current business is retrofits, perhaps Null means that retrofits require an irrigation professional and are not suitable for a DIY project.

Null said the weather-based controller was “a bit confused” during his testing. (It failed to skip the watering during a freak hailstorm and cold snap.)  Also, Null thought the manual controller was disconcertingly unsophisticated, “a bare circuit board mounted inside a plastic box” with three poorly labeled buttons. “Hang on to the (very beta) manual if you ever plan to open the box.”

The online quote tool indicated that Null’s 6,100-square-foot yard required five sprinkler heads totaling $3,280. However, he was confident that his yard would need at least eight heads – still considerably less than the 20 mechanical heads in his existing system.

Null concluded that Irrigreen is promising but still “has some growing to do.”

Most of the comments on Reddit indicate that the company’s technology is excellent, but its customer service is abysmal.

You Be the Judge

Is Irrigreen the wave of the future, or does it still have some hurdles to overcome? As an irrigation professional, you be the judge.


Sources:
Featured Image: Irrigreen
SG Voice
Forbes
Minneapolis Business Journal
PR Newswire
TechHive