Monthly Archives

January 2022

Obstruction pruning 101

By | Pruning | No Comments

The one rule

There is one hard rule when it comes to obstruction pruning: don’t wait. Obstruction is usually very annoying for your clients, even if, to you, it seems fine. It’s a huge pain point so it’s good to take care of it as soon as possible.

There’s tons of work in landscape maintenance and crews normally follow a plan. However, when your client wants you to take care of an obstruction at his unit, it’s wise to listen and detour. Don’t be afraid to adjust your day plan.

Driveway example

Let’s look at one example. While we ran to complete lawn care and move on to finesse work, an owner tracked us down. His front tree had low hanging branches and now they were interfering with his car. Now, to me it didn’t look like a big deal but to the gentleman it was a huge deal.

Luckily, we had a new tree guy on site so I delegated this fairly easy task to him. It was a nice break for him from regular lawn care duties and he also appreciated it.

This Redbud (Cercis canadensis) is hanging a bit too low over the driveway. It would definitely interfere with me entering my car. So, we just had to raise it up a bit.

This is much better! It didn’t take very long and the client was extremely happy he caught us. Problem solved and it hardly affected our day plan.

This is just one example. There are, of course, many others but the reaction should be the same: do it as soon as possible.

You might have shrubs growing over windows, walkway plants touch ladies’ skirts after rain storms, tree branches smash against the house on windy days. You get the picture. Take care of it on the same day, if you can. Remove your client’s pain point. He’ll appreciate it.

A new mom’s pivot into container gardening

By | gardening | No Comments


I love kids! My two teenagers mean the world to me. But let’s be open about this, kids and pandemics are harsh on women’s careers. Since it’s usual for the wife to take care of the kids, her own goals and aspirations must be put on hold.

I mention this because a few weeks ago I met a woman who reinvented herself after her maternity leave as a container gardener. I noticed her older Nissan van before I even saw her and her two employees. The van sported neat green graphics and, it turns out, it wasn’t that expensive. Now she was in business and doing well. Aha!

Good news

It’s been hard to find good news during a continuing global pandemic but this qualifies quite nicely. I love seeing people start green businesses and do well. This lady specializes in container gardening.

On this day, she was decorating one unit for Christmas by changing pots and pimping out a staircase. And she was booked solid.


All I know about planting pots comes from a one page article from Landscape Management magazine. And it might be all you need to know.

All pots have three main components:

a) There is something imposing or noticeable in the middle, like the star of a show. That’s the thriller and it should thrill you.

b) Trailing from the pot are plants the spill over the sides, thus we call them spillers.

c) The gaps between the thriller and the spiller plants are filled with, you guessed it, fillers.

Now you know the secret to pot planting: thriller, spiller and filler.


Now, I confess to not having the required imagination for planting design. I could, of course, take a stab at it but I’m not completely sure you’d want to pay my invoice.

People like me stress about pot planting. This happened to me years ago when I worked for the City of Coquitlam parks department. We arrived at a seniors residence late in the day, and the back of the work truck was still full of plants.

So, my city gardener boss sent us out to plant one pot each, freestyle. That would be sweet music for some people but it genuinely frightened me. And, I did it. I stuffed the pot so much, it was dominated by fillers but I doubt anybody noticed. Most of the elderly shuffling unsteadily by only noticed the flowers, not the arrangement.

Hire pros

If you have pots that need some updating, hire a professional like Pamela, the owner of Magnolia Boutique Gardening. Give her a call (778-228-2301) and enjoy a consultation visit with her. She’s extremely nice and patient. The poor woman was trying to get her project completed and I kept on asking her questions.

Visit the company website for more project photos.


Soon we’ll welcome the new year and the pandemic will still be with us. I hope to meet more green professionals like Pamela next year. People who run green businesses successfully. That would cheer me up.

NALP responds to California gas-powered small engine ban

By | Landscape Industry, machines | No Comments

California drops a bomb

This season, news from California surprised many landscape companies, in the state and in the rest of North-America. The state came out with amendments to the small off-road engine regulations, which would ban the sale of all carbon-emitting landscape equipment beginning with model year 2024. Now the California Air Resources Board has approved the amendments. So, all that remains is for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to give their blessings and that could take months.

NALP response

It’s instructive to see how the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP) responded to this proposed ban. (Source: Landscape Management, Dec. 13, 2021)

a) The EPA has to approve everything first.

b) Battery-powered equipment currently on the market isn’t sufficient for high-volume commercial use.

c) 85% of the gas-powered equipment in California is used by residential customers-only 15% is commercial/professional grade.

d) Landscape professionals care deeply about the environment and need equipment that can manage the demands of California’s green spaces.

e) The transition will be very costly for the 55,000 small landscape businesses in the state.

Slow progress

I know a few landscape maintenance companies that use battery-operated edgers here in British Columbia. Unfortunately, the technology still isn’t good enough when it comes to leaf blowers. Battery-operated units don’t push out enough air for proper leaf clean-up. On the other hand, the gas-powered Stihl 800 unit is a beast that pushes out great air volumes at great velocity. Yes, it will pollute your lungs but it’s a dream blower. It will be a while before battery-operated units come close to the 800 model.

Bring it on

I would love to move away from carbon-emitting machines and try new battery-operated units. It would be better for the planet and my lungs. NALP is absolutely correct when they point out that landscape professionals care deeply about the environment.

Landscapers manage invasive-species, storm-water runoff, and fight climate change by caring for the grass, trees and plants that produce oxygen, sequester carbon and cool cities down. Now we just need better battery-powered technology; and a bit more time to transition away from gas-powered machines.

Perhaps California’s new regulations will give the battery-operated technology a nudge. I know the demand is there. Personally, I can’t wait to test a battery-powered leaf blower.

Residential switch easier

If I had a house, I would definitely switch to gentler battery-operated landscape machines. Here’s why: the scale is smaller. I can easily charge batteries for a quick weekly lawn cut at home.

It isn’t that simple for commercial sites. Just take a look at my commercial site’s maximum seasonal leaf drop. It would have taken extra hours and several battery packs to clean this up. Instead, my Stihl 800 beast cleaned it up very quickly; but, I did make lots of noise.

Maximum seasonal leaf drop.

We live in interesting times. In conclusion, I think California is on to something with their new regulations but the NALP correctly points out that the battery-operated technology still isn’t good enough for commercial landscape operators.

The problem with leaf blower bans

By | Landscaping Equipment, machines | No Comments

Margaret wants to kill them all

When the New York Times hires you as an opinion writer, we know you can write. And Margaret Renkl penned an entertaining opinion piece on banning leaf blowers (‘Let’s kill all the leafblowers‘, New York Times, October 26, 2021).

First, let’s go over the bad news and then I will tell you the key point from my commercial scale landscape professional side. I can’t touch Renkl’s writing but I hope I can make this blog post somewhat readable.

Mechanical locusts

Renkl describes gas-powered leaf blowers as ‘mechanical locusts’ and then tells us that her comparison is an insult to the locusts. And, I agree, commercial gas-powered leaf blowers are loud. They’re also heavy. And, yes, they pollute the air.

You can, of course, pay a bit more cash and run the machines with Aspen fuel developed in Sweden. Aspen is 99% cleaner than regular gasoline and therefore gentler on the machine parts. But it’s also pricey.

I also like Renkl’s other points. Like the bit about leaf blowers dislodging insects from their winter hiding spots. I actually did this recently. When I blew a pile of leaves from a corner, I discovered a small frog underneath. Oh! So I left some leaves over top of it. I hope it found the refuge it was looking for.

Landscapers don’t often consider what’s in the dust they’re blowing. I’m sure Renkl is right, the dust definitely contains heavy metals, pollen, mold, animal feces, and chemicals from pesticides and herbicides. This isn’t something landscape company owners cover in their training sessions.

Not a great place to broom.

2021 technology

Soon after Renkl’s opinion piece was published, we got an epic wet fall which caused massive floods in my province of British Columbia. The rain made leaf clean-up extremely difficult and it would have been a nasty, prolonged affair without the help of Stihl’s 800 model leaf blower.

The 800 Stihl gas-powered leaf blower is probably what landscapers in hell are using. It’s a perfect combination of air volume and air speed. It blows away soggy leaves, frogs and garden gnomes. It’s easy to fall in love with it.

The key point!

This is the key to this blog post: the leaf blower technology isn’t there yet for commercial landscape operators. The batteries don’t achieve the required air speed. Yet.

How the batteries get protected from our West Coast rains is another mystery. But, I think we’re getting closer. Since Renkl is only 60, I fully expect her to see the day gas-powered leaf blowers get retired.

Now that California, the world’s fourth largest economy, is banning the use of gas-powered small engines, there might be a bigger push to get battery operated leaf blowers on the market. I would love to test one out in the field and report my findings in this blog.

For now, Margaret and I have to wait for better leaf blower technology to arrive. I highly recommend Renkl’s opinion piece.

Babied plastic turf

By | Lawn Care, Tools | No Comments

Chill pill

Plastic turf is fairly common now and some companies are making a killing installing it. But when I cleaned up ash (Fraxinus) leaves from a few turf lawns this past fall, I wasn’t ready for the aggressive defense. First, let’s take a chill pill.

There she was in her backyard, a lovely mother of a young child, wearing stunning tights and sporting a blond ponytail. She was the kind of resident every single member of my male crew paid attention to; and extremely bad for crew production.

She was out to remind us to use a plastic rake she and her neighbors invested into. Leaf pick up with our regular rakes was too harsh on her turf. Fair enough. If she had told us to jump, we would have all jumped. I laughed to myself and stopped staring at her.

A plastic rake for gentler leaf pick-up.


I totally understand the lady’s concern. After shelling out C$3000 for her small plastic patch, she obviously wants it to last for a long time. This was my first experience with homeowners defending their turf.

Why get turf?

Personally, I hate plastic turf. Not only does it rob me of paid work, it also removes nature from our cities. Plastic turf tends to heat up in summer and, therefore, requires hosing off on hot summer days. And nothing lives in plastic; it’s terrible habitat for insects. Worse still, the soil underneath dies.

On this site, however, plastic turf makes a lot of sense. The lady and her neighbors live under towering Ash trees that shade out any grass plants attempting to form a lawn. We even tried pruning the ash trees to allow more light in but it didn’t make a huge difference.

The lady also owns a dog, which created a distraction every time she took it out to answer nature’s call. Unlike grass, plastic turf can take a lot of dog abuse and still look nice and green. Grass becomes very patchy because it can’t handle so much fertilizer at one time; you’d have to hose off the spots immediately after the dog goes. And who has time for that when there is a toddler inside.

As much as I hate plastic turf, there are instances when it makes sense. Like when you have heavy shade and heavy dog damage. But it will cost you. One small lawn goes for around C$3,000. Many people also switch because they’re tired of lawn damage related to European chafer beetles.

Once the lawn is removed, the company installs crush and runs it over with a compactor. Then comes the plastic, anchored with pins. The actual model depends on the owner.

Considering the cost of plastic turf install, don’t be surprised if the owners defend it. If you’re lucky, the defenders you encounter are super cute.

C$3,000 turf, unaffected by shade and owner’s dog.

Bittersweet max leaf drop

By | landscape maintenance, machines, Seasonal | No Comments


The first time I noticed the word bittersweet used in reference to trees was in Japan. There, the famous cherry blossoms make people delirious; some follow the blossoms from south to north, like junkies craving their next fix.

Why bittersweet? Because like life, the cherry blossoms are beautiful but they don’t last long. Cheery blossoms in Japan are a must-see item for your live it bucket list. Especially if you go to ancient Kyoto in spring.


When it comes to fall leaf clean-up, bittersweet refers to that moment when you get maximum leaf drop and you know you are about to suffer for one more day. It’s also one of those moments when hearing about attempts to ban leaf blowers seems like a cruel joke.

This past fall has been the most difficult of my twenty-plus landscaping career. It rained heavily for months; it was so bad, I don’t even remember blowing any dry leaves. I would call it a suffer-fest.

All at once

When the weather network announced high winds for one of our fall weekends, some of my co-workers lit up the company WhatsApp, excited about all of the leaves falling in one weekend. And they did! Except, it also rained and the resulting Monday morning mess almost broke us.

I had two helpers for mountains of soggy leaves and it was hard. We cleaned-up leaves from 8-6pm and, because my son had soccer practice at 7, I had to leave at 6. Soccer or no, I would have left anyway.

Soggy Katsura leaves covering the entire site after a storm.


Knowing that this was our last big day was little consolation. And we used Stihl’s bad boy 800 model leaf blowers which have high air volume and air pressure. They blow away insects and garden gnomes like nothing but on this day, they too struggled.

And right here is the key point: current battery-operated technology isn’t good enough to handle this kind of leafy mess. It would have taken hours longer and I don’t even know how many battery packs we would have gone through.

The National Association of Landscape Professionals recently made this point to the State of California, which is considering a full ban on gas-powered small engines.

Nasty fall

Leaf clean-up on strata properties is hard work and when the weather turns bad, it can get even harder. For now we use gas-powered leaf blowers because they can handle the load. Once the battery operated technology improves, I will be the first one to test it in the field.

As I write, Christmas is one week away and I’m looking forward to some much-needed down time. It was a long, strange year. When this blog post is published in February, 2022, we’ll be closer to spring. Spring! I can’t wait.

The final blow in landscape maintenance

By | landscape maintenance | No Comments

First a missed tarp

Before we discuss the importance of the final blow in landscape maintenance, we should mention the case of a lonely tarp. One full tarp got left behind and it was left right over top of a drain. Now, normally that wouldn’t be a big deal but at the time, the province of British Columbia was dealing with historic floods and people were on edge.

Leaving a big, fat tarp over top of a drain didn’t help anyone. And since I happened to be nearby, I stopped by and loaded it into the back of my Mazda 3. Just barely.

The final blow

The final blow is landscape maintenance is super important. It’s what we refer to as “courtesy blow”. It’s a clean-up blow at the end of the day; and when it’s done right, you shouldn’t even notice that the landscapers were on site.

Yes, the final blow is noisy but it’s a critical step. When the final blow is done correctly, it’s practically impossible to leave a full tarp behind. Yes, sometimes empty tarps get stuffed into hard to spot spaces but it’s hard to miss full tarps. Assuming you blow the entire site religiously.

The final check

Goal number is site cleanliness. Every time. But there is more. Since it’s not always feasible for a foreman to walk her entire site, the final blow doubles as the final check.

Did you see any piles that were missed? What about full tarps blocking drains? Did you see any tools left behind? Are all gates closed? Did you make all remnant piles disappear? (See my blog post on remnant piles on December 14)


While strata residents only hear the noise of our final blow, I think about the workers doing it and wonder how seriously they’re taking it. Check and blow every corner of the site, unless there wasn’t any work done in a section.

It’s surprisingly difficult to get people switched on. They blow like drones, only thinking about messy spots while ignoring everything else. So keep on training them. That’s the key.

Yes, mistakes will happen. I’m quite confident I will one day soon be called in again to collect a lonely tarp left behind by a crew. But with good training, this problem can be minimized.

The final blow is the final check. Don’t take it lightly.

Foreshore Equipment location opening soon on the North Shore

By | Events, machines | No Comments

There to help you

Here’s some great news for 2022: Foreshore Equipment is opening a new location in North Vancouver soon. That’s great news for professional landscapers, company owners, municipalities and homeowners. Especially homeowners because they’re busy.

Homeowners like Monica, who found me online this past fall. Her lawn desperately needed a final cut but her mower wouldn’t start. Could I help?

Now, I’m always ready to help but when you ask me to help with your machines, it’s clear you don’t know me well. I struggle with small engines which is why it’s great news to have a new sales and service location open in the Lower Mainland.


As it turned out, Monica’s old mower worked fine. The gas was turned off! But, the mower blades were original and, most likely, never sharpened. Dull mower blades is a common problem. Also, her plastic filter cover was missing. There is a reason manufacturers put it on there. One call to Foreshore Equipment and your problem is solved.

Red Seal Vas can tell you why it’s a bad idea to mow for 7 years with the original blades still on but he can’t sharpen them for you. For that you have to visit one of the Foreshore Equipment locations. Sharp blades make clean cuts through your grass blades and force the clippings into the bag nicely. Once the blades get dull, the mower starts to clog up and the shredded grass blades suffer. I would suggest buying brand new blades.

You will need replacement blades. Call Foreshore Equipment.

Why Foreshore Equipment?

So, what’s so special about Foreshore Equipment? Well, the mechanics are top-notch, which means you will get your fixed machines back in great time.

The mechanics are also experts at answering my questions. Like, why won’t my edger start after refueling? Answer: there’s air in the line so just hit the primer a few times.

Pro tip: Recycle the antique mower that came with your house and buy something new. The cost of repair labor makes this a no-brainer.

Professionals also constantly need new parts and tools. That’s why I am personally a happy customer at Foreshore Equipment. Even my small, side-hustle operation needs supplies and tools. It would be hard to succeed without good support from your local, trusted dealer.

Foreshore Equipment offers a great selection of machines and tools; and they will help you get set up. Visit one of their locations and tell them Red Seal Vas sent you.