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Babied plastic turf

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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.

Investment

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.

Are stake pounders dangerous?

By | Tools, Training, Trees | No Comments

Intimate knowledge

I got to know stake pounders intimately when I went through the Landscape Industry Certified program. Recall that stake pounders are metal pipes with handles, closed at one end. Just pop the end of your wooden stake in and start pounding it in.

One version of a stake pounder.

Station master

I had to do the planting and staking practical station test three times! Years later I can joke about it but at the time, failing meant waiting for six months until the next test day.

Note that the practical exams are now scored from video footage captured by your employer. The twice a year testing days are long gone. Visit the Canadian Landscape Nursery Association for details.

One of my fails resulted from not wearing ear protection. Ouch. I was so nervous and caught up in procedures and time limits, I didn’t even notice the pounding noise. Ear protection during staking is mandatory. It is loud.

The other critical issue is the height of the stake pounder. The rule is that it can’t ever reach over your head. Even if you have a hard hat. But this wasn’t a problem for me until I became a judge.

Vas arrives

When I became a landscape judge, the CNLA got me to judge the same planting and staking station. Sweet! I was ready for it but not for failing people. Some of the candidates went overboard, raising their stake pounders way too high.

I could see my judge-mentor watching and fuming from a distance. And at the time I thought she was a bit anal. I don’t anymore. She was right. I should have raised my red flag and send them packing.

Careful!

Last year I heard a nasty story that changed my mind. An experienced landscape company owner had managed to crack his skull with a stake pounder. He survived but he couldn’t work for a long time and who knows how the accident will affect his brain in the future.

Then today I heard about another landscaper breaking his neck with a stake pounder. Ouch.

If I ever meet my cute landscape judge mentor again, I will quietly apologize. Stake pounders are dangerous metal pipes that should never be raised above your head, even if you have a hard hat on.

The best Christmas gift for landscapers

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Felco all the way

When leaf clean up season is over, we do finesse work to get sites ready for Christmas. This type of finesse work involves bedwork and lots of hand snipping. Think spent perennials and the odd annoying branch. The same goes for home gardeners.

To get ready for the finesse work, I walked into my nearest Lee Valley store and bought brand new Felcos, even though I already own a few pairs. I really wanted a new, sharp pair; and I even got extra springs and a sheath. New Felco 2s, two springs and a sheath set me back C$100.

C$100 well-spent!

As I walked away from the door to my car, I realized that this was by far the best gift you could give for Christmas to a landscaper or a gardener. It’s December 18 as I write this blog post, so there’s still time to get a pair of Felcos.

Not my first plug

Now, this isn’t my first blog post about Felcos and there is no need to type up a disclaimer. I love Felco hand snips and I’m happy to say it; I don’t profit in any way from saying it. One day I hope to!

The red handles last forever and the blades can be changed. Normally I sharpen them before replacing; it’s cheaper. Also, a leather sheath is mandatory for professionals. I keep my snips on my hip at all times because you never know what defects you will find in the landscape. It could be a simple shoot sticking out from the top of a shrub or it could be a broken tree branch. Or perhaps someone missed a perennial during cutback.

With Felco snips on your hip, you’re always ready. And I like to be ready.

Early Christmas

Now, my old pair of Felcos was still fine. I could have kept it as a back-up pair but I did something better. I moved my old snips on to a new foreman-in-training who was still using an inferior and much cheaper model. I won’t name the maker; it wasn’t Felco.

Predictably, the dude was all casual about the loan but I know he’s hoping some of the Red Seal magic rubs off on him. Having my old snips on his hip, reminds him of his brilliant Red Seal manager and allows him to look like a pro. Honestly, it will take a lot of training to turn him into a real pro.

If you’re still looking for a gift for a gardener or a landscaper on your list, get a pair of Felco hand snips. It will set you back about C$80 and it’s worth every dollar. Trust me.

Felco 2s in action

Felco forever!

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Throw away society

When snow last week kept me at home, I turned to blogging. I always have a list of blog post ideas and a folder full of clippings and articles. One of those articles came from the Vancouver Sun newspaper.

The writer commented on our throw away society and I agreed with her hundred percent. I’m as guilty as the next person. Although, I should add, that I’m changing. I signed up for an account at Return-It and ordered free sticker labels. Now all I do is attach one label to a clear garbage bag full of bottles and drop it off. No more sorting filthy bottles.

Return-It itemizes all returned bottles and deposits the money to my account. I can let it accumulate there or redeem it to straight to my chequing account.

The next step for me will be recycling old electronics and cables which are rapidly accumulating in my place as my kids turn into teenagers.

Felco forever

Now back to the Sun article. What struck me was that the writer used Felco snips as an example of a tool designed to last forever. And Felcos really do last forever. The red rubber coated handles will easily outlive me.

I did a little maintenance experiment with my Felco 2s because they are easier to dismantle. They sport just one bolt. So, I popped it, cleaned out the main surfaces and installed a brand new blade.

Then, I replaced the spring. Those are the two components that you will ever have to change. The total retail cost was about C$25 and I’m hoping to submit it as a business expense on my taxes next year.

The difference in cutting quality is noticeable. The snips make nice sharp cuts easily. So easily, I regretted not composing this blog post earlier.

Incidentally, pruning demands sharp tools. Snips, loppers and hand saws. Dull tools make poor cuts and tend to shred plant tissues. Always use sharp tools.

Felco 2s with a brand new blade and spring

Conclusion

Felcos are great so they’re not cheap. But the up-front C$80 cost is justified. The snips will last forever. All you have to do is replace the spring once in a while and sharpen the blade. If you choose to replace the blade, it will only set you back C$25 at your local retailer. And I believe that’s a small price to pay for beautiful pruning cuts in the field.

If you already own Felcos, maintain them well. If you’re considering buying a pair, don’t worry about the cost. The red rubber coated handles will probably outlive you.