Monthly Archives

August 2016

How to easily score education credits (CEUs)

By | Education, Events, Landscape Industry, Resources | No Comments

Hunting for education credits (CEUs) is one of my favorite activities. The idea is to force you to upgrade your skills by continually learning through reading, attending seminars, symposiums and taking quizzes. ISA (International Society of Arboriculture) requires me to collect 30 CEUs in one three year re-certification period. The re-certification renews on the date of your certification. June in my case.

The Landscape Industry Certified program in North America requires 24 CEUs every two years. Certification expires on December 31, every two years. In Canada, the CNLA will send a friendly reminder. There is a form to fill out and mail back.

To re-certify:

a) will cost you money but it’s cash well-spent. If you ask your employer nicely, it won’t cost you anything. The cost of not re-certifying is much higher. Re-certify!

b) normally one hour spent in class or reading equals one credit. By completing my eleven hour audiobook “Lab girl”, I will be eligible to claim eleven hours; a one-page book report is required.

So what does a West Coast landscape pro do to stay certified and up-to-date? Take a look at the picture for clues.




Arborist News

Arborist News magazine is published bi-monthly by the ISA and every issue has one CEU article for you to complete. You can fill in your answers and mail the form in or complete it online. The ISA will automatically add the credits to your file.

The magazine also advertises various books and manuals you can complete for CEUs. Get whatever interests you or where your knowledge is the weakest. There are tons of choices.

Can-West Hort Show

This is the premier horticulture show in British Columbia. I will attend the Urban Forester’s Symposium. Five hours of lectures equals five ISA CEUs. Lunch is included. ISA sign up form will be provided. Bring your certification number.

The CNLA will also credit me with five CEUs for this symposium. Then I have two more seminars on the following day. 1.5 hours x 2= 3 CEUs for a total of 8 towards my CLT.

The best part of this event is the plant ID contest booth. No CEUs are given here but you can win a prize and outscore your friends.

Also, it’s a great event for creating new contacts and maintaining existing ones. Some people I will only see once a year at this horticulture show!


As mentioned above, the CNLA will credit you for every hour spent reading green industry related books. Trees: their natural history by Peter A. Thomas was the one tree book recommended by Dr. Hope Jahren in her book “Lab girl”.I can’t think of a better way to collect CEUs.

Collecting CEUs for re-certification is not a pain. It’s a fun investment of your time and money. Stay current in your field and deliver great value to your company and clients.



“Lab girl” book review

By | Arborist Insights, Books, Reviews, Species | No Comments

LAB GIRL” by Dr. Hope Jahren is a fantastic book! That is, if you like plants, science or you are considering a career in academia. I purchased the audio version and listened to the book during my weekend work sessions. Dr. Jahren’s Ph.D. dissertation was about a tree. Her work focuses on plants and their longevity. Paleobiology.

The chapters nicely alternate between personal life and science. I openly confess to enjoying the science chapters more. It seemed like there were too many lab set-up references. But this connects to Dr. Jahren’s constant side-kick, lab researcher Bill. The two are inseparable. After finishing the book you might feel the urge to visit with Bill. He is a pretty interesting character.

Key idea 1: If you want to make it in academia as a female Ph.D., get ready for a bumpy ride. Male professors have doubts, funding and grants are a constant headache. This book should be required reading for any female considering a career in US academia.

Key idea 2: Plants, especially trees, are incredibly fascinating. I already knew that. You will, too, after reading “Lab girl”. Consider the case of resurrection plants. They are so brown and dry, we would consider them dead, and toss them. But wait. A bit of moisture brings them back to life. This can repeat many, many times, until eventually they do die. These are the only plants that have figured out how to grow without being green!

Seeds are also amazing. Alive, they can wait for hundreds of years before taking a chance and emerging. Their one chance. What exactly triggers it?

Key idea 3: The book closes with a personal request from the author to plant a tree at your home. If you can. The planet is losing green cover every year. This small act of planting a tree or two will help.

Key idea 4: To learn more about trees, Dr. Jahren recommends Peter A. Thomas’ “Trees: Their Natural History“, about $50 from By the time this blog post is published, I expect to have it finished. In paperback form.

The book has a happy ending. Hope marries, has a child and the family settles in Hawaii. So does Bill. Of course. I love plants so I give it 5 stars out of 5.




Common landscape maintenance mistakes, vol. 2

By | Education, Landscape Industry, Landscaping, Tips | No Comments

To Continue with our examination of common landscape maintenance mistakes we consider volume 2. Learning from other people’s mistakes is much better than on your own. The hard way. It’s time to work like pros.


A) Lawn hazards

Check your assigned mow areas for hazards like rocks, garbage and toys. Collisions with foreign objects can cause damage and injury. Get familiar with lawns you are about to cut for the first time. It’s time well spent.




B) Don’t mow around piles

I know this is a pain. Owner-generated piles on our lawns delay our progress but it’s horrible to ignore them. Don’t mow around them. Stop the mower and tarp the piles. Then continue. The owner will be happy and the grass will thank you for it.




C) No tree stubs

ISA certification is optional but good cuts are not. Never leave stubs. The tree can’t cover up the wound, the stub dies and could serve as an entry point for diseases. Look for the branch collar and make a nice cut. Don’t cut into the collar. That’s where protective cells live.








D) Tree bondage

Discourage tree owners from hanging things on their trees. Wires and ropes are forgotten until it’s too late. The ropes get embedded in the tree and can’t be extracted. Two problems: 1)  girdling eventually starves the upper portion of water and nutrients and leads to death; and 2) breakage occurs at the point of constriction.



A good illustration: everything above the point of constriction is dead, deprived of water and nutrients; life below the point of constriction; This tree owner loves bird feeders.



Clearly there is life below the constriction point; death above it



A dead Pinus contorta, strangled with arbor tie; this was clearly an attempt at staking a leaning tree

Keep these points in mind as you maintain your landscapes. Your boss and clients will thank you for it.

Garden freestyle

By | Education, Events, gardening | No Comments

As reported in the CNLA Newsbrief  (spring 2016, vol.25 issue 2, page 4) Garden Days are Canada’s Annual Celebration of Gardens and Gardening. It all starts with National Garden Day, always the Friday before Father’s Day. June 17-19 this year. That’s easy to remember for fathers.

This is basically a three-day freestyle celebration of gardens. People can visit their favourite gardens, work in their own gardens or stop by a garden centre for some inspiration. Some businesses organize barbecues, fundraisers, festivals or special sales. Lovers can enjoy a walk through botanical gardens.

This is what I did with my kids.

  1. We watered and checked our patio plants, a mix of annuals, perennials and plants that are being “parked” for the time being. The most interesting pot is a mix of wildflowers I received as a gift from my kids. I simply dumped the seeds out into a new pot and waited.
  2. When my son showed me his Minecraft house creation, I helped him improve the landscaping by adding more flowers. Virtual gardening. I said this was freestyle.
  3. On the way to soccer we walked by the Port Moody recreation centre and identified local trees, like cottonwoods which have a tendency to self-prune by dropping branches.
  4. Instead of my usual “fake” bedtime story, I told the kids about my audiobook “Lab girl” by Dr. Hope Jahren. In it she mentions resurrection plants; plants so brown and dead it’s hard to believe that with moisture they come back to life. They are the only plants that have figured out how to grow without being green!



Wildflower mix, a gift from my kids.



Extras from work: Begonias and Geraniums



A salvaged Bergenia



I always wanted to have my own Rudbeckias



We added more flowers to my son’s Minecraft creation


Did you get a chance to celebrate Garden Days?


Common landscape maintenance mistakes, vol. 1

By | Landscaping, Lawn Care, Strata Maintenance, Tips | No Comments

There are many mistakes made in landscape maintenance. I’m hoping that by publishing the common ones, new landscapers can learn from other people’s mistakes. Not the hard way. Here we go.

A) Damage

Line trimmers, blade edgers and mowers have spinning parts and can cause a lot of damage. Get familiar with your work areas and identify any potential hazards. Companies have to pay for damages. Don’t be surprised if your boss has a go-to window guy on speed dial. It happens, so be careful.



Don’t assume these covers are tightened when you mow



line trimmer damage; one little corner full of pebbles, first time line edging here


B) Scalping

This is the biggest lawn care sin. Why? Because grass regenerates from meristems located about a third of the way up a blade of grass. Not from roots. When you scalp the lawn you get a bald spot. Even worse is scalping in November when the grass doesn’t grow much anymore. Don’t scalp. Remember to stay away from edges; the line trimmer is coming by to cover the edges. Your mow should be easy and stress-free. The same goes for line edging.



the mower was too close to the edge and slipped off



extremely harsh line edging


C) Line crossing

Yes, I know, speed is critical to your success in mowing. But when you finish putting in your laser lines don’t ruin your presentation. No line crossing. Take the long way if you have to or follow existing lines. Always. This is especially noticeable around towers where residents look down on their lawns.



Don’t cross over your lines! Use existing lines or take the long way out.


D) Don’t mow through tree wells  

This is my favorite example because we get to review. 1) the space is too narrow for the mower deck, which leads to 2) scalping (brown spot), 3) soil compaction in the root zone (wheel marks) and 4) it crushes our deep edges. Let the line edger take care of the narrow spot. Mowers don’t belong in tree wells.




Learn from other people’s landscape maintenance mistakes and work like a pro. Good luck!

When landscape machines go missing.

By | Landscape Industry, Landscaping Equipment, Security | No Comments

Worst landscape day ever

So I got my lawn care done on a recent Saturday in Burnaby and it was time to blow. I opened up my truck storage compartment and….only the mower was there. Then it hit me. F***. Only steps from a place of worship, I had been robbed. Really robbed. Two backpack blowers and two line edgers. It easily became my worst day ever as a landscaper. I’m used to delivering value and increasing profits. Losing four machines is the very opposite. I hope my anger wears off soon.

All four (4!) machines were well-used. Soon they will most likely show up at a flea market somewhere. The seller will score enough cash to support some nasty habit he or she shouldn’t have formed in the first place.

What kind of degenerate steals a man’s trade tools? I work six and sometimes seven day weeks when it’s busy. It would never occur me to exchange my weekend landscaping work for theft. I feel sorry for these people.

It happens a lot

This actually happens a lot. Landscapers in the Lower Mainland do what they can to protect their equipment. Still, machines go missing. What do you do? Unless there are clear witnesses, the police can’t do much. A few months ago I got to view a security tape. Two guys in a pick-up truck, one landscaper far away from the truck, and a blower goes missing in broad daylight with cameras on. Easy score.

My friend who runs a successful North Shore operation also had huge problems. He went on local news. His security camera videos are on Facebook. There are many degenerates living among us. Instead of stealing trade tools, they should learn how to use them. Sad, sad slaves to their bad habits.

What about insurance? Considering the depreciation on landscape machines it does not make sense to make a claim. You will end up paying more in premiums next year. That hurts.

Clearly, I will have to review my on-site parking arrangement and keep everything locked and closed between tasks. I wonder how many days it will take for the anger to wear off.

Keep your equipment safe!



Tactics: a new Stihl blower spray painted to look unattractive

Nematodes vs. European chafer beetles

By | gardening, Landscaping, Lawn Care, Tips | No Comments

One of my clients on the Westwood Plateau in Coquitlam loves his lawn. When his lawn got ripped up by animals searching for European chafer grubs, he was shocked. He installed an irrigation system and hired me so his lawn could receive good, consistent care.



Damaged lawn by animals looking for tasty grubs



Repaired lawn


Once I repaired the damaged lawn, my client decided to try a nematode application. He pre-ordered the nematodes in June. $80 cost plus my labour.

June is a busy month for the European chafer beetles. As they mature, they emerge out of the lawn and fly off to nearby trees to mate. Then they look for new lawns to lay their eggs in. If you’re lucky, they pick your neighbour’s lawn. Cutting your lawn higher means it’s more difficult for the beetles to stick their back ends in to lay their eggs.



Europen chafer beetles ( the bottom 3 are playing dead!)


The recommended nematode application window is from the third week of July. This is what we did once the nematodes arrived. They were kept cool in a fridge.

A) Cut your lawn short and water it really well prior to nematode application. The microscopic nematodes require water to penetrate into soil. There they seek out the grubs. Important: get a municipal water permit.

B) Because the nematodes  are photo-sensitive we waited until there was no direct sunlight hitting both the front and back lawn areas.

C) We prepared a 4L bucket of water. The we opened the package and soaked the sponges in the water. Also soak the plastic bag holding the sponges.  Carefully squeeze each sponge ten times. Then stir the solution well. Discard bags and sponges.

D) Carefully fill up your hose end sprayer. We used a funnel. Don’t forget to stir the solution before every re-fill.

E) Turn on water and spray methodically. Use sticks, tools or tape if it makes it easier for you to keep track of where you’ve sprayed. We soaked the worst damaged spot.

F) Water your lawn after application.




Pre-order nematodes in June (NemasysG “seekers are best)



Hose end tank and 4L bucket for nematode solution; funnel and stir stick



Soak the nematodes in your bucket, squeeze several times, also wash the plastic cover just in case



Hose end applicator $17 tax included


If everything goes well, the chafer larvae will get eliminated by the nematodes. Two problems with nematodes is that they might have to be applied annually and they eliminate all grubs they find in the soil. In the meantime, the lawn will receive better care.