Professional Involvement

Professional Involvement

What does a business and its leaders’ involvement in the industry and community say about itself? It would stand to reason that it demonstrates the level of dedication that said business, and staff, have for the industry and community that they are a part of.

It takes a lot of time and effort for a city and its communities to sustain themselves. The majority of the local organizations that run the community are filled with primarily volunteer positions. The City of Richfield has the following, for example: Chamber of Commerce (www.richfieldmnchamber.org), MIRA, Penn Central, Public Schools Fund, Richfield Foundation, Richfield Lions Club, Richfield Optimists, Richfield Rotary, Richfield Visions, and the Spartan Foundation. These organizations all have different functions and play a key role in the City of Richfield being the community we know it as.

BLC hands out water at the Urban Wildland half marathon.

The Green Industry also has some key organizations. The Minnesota Society of Arboriculture (MSA, www.msa-live.org), The Irrigation Association (IA, www.irrigation.org) and The Minnesota Nursery and Landscape Association (MNLA, www.mnla.biz) are three great examples.

The counterpart to the green industry is of course the snow and ice management industry. There are many businesses in the green industry that do not participate in snow business, but the number who do are many and growing. The Snow & Ice Management Association (SIMA, www.sima.org) is the governing body for this Industry.

Barrett Lawn Care is an active member of the Richfield Chamber of Commerce, SIMA, and the MNLA. Members of the Barrett Lawn Care Management Team are active in Chamber functions, MNLA, including the Government Affairs Committee, SIMA, including Certified Snow Professional (CSP) Designation, and the Hennepin Technical College Landscape and Horticulture Advisory Committee (www.hennepintech.edu).

Our landscape team volunteered at the State Fair Horticulture building to help get the landscape display ready for the fair.

Barrett Lawn Care is dedicated to providing the highest quality service while maintaining integrity and adhering to ethical principles. It is our involvement in the aforementioned organizations that keeps us informed, educated, and on the forefront of the ever changing and advancing industry we participate in. We believe this ensures that our customers are always in the best of hands.

By Derek Tweten, Landscape Manager at Barrett Lawn Care

2016 Plumbing Code Changes

2016 Plumbing Code Changes

                There is a new plumbing code that went into effect January 23rd 2016 that will effect all sprinkler systems in Minnesota. I will go over what the new code says and what steps will now need to be taken to comply with the new rules. The basics are that we now have to test one specific piece of the irrigation system every year, the backflow.

                The backflow is the piece of equipment that prevents water from being taken from the irrigation system and put back into the main water supply. It is attached to the main water supply and from there goes into your irrigation system. On residential systems it is usually outside and looks like a brass version of a gas meter. There are different types and manufacturers for these backflows, but all accomplish the same goal; keeping water from entering the main water supply.

Vacuum Breaker

RPZ Photo

The new code states that all backflows must be tested every year to ensure that they are working properly. These test results must then be submitted to the municipality. The homeowner and tester must also keep records from these tests. The actual new code can be found here: http://www.dli.mn.gov/CCLD/plumbing2015.asp 

The pertinent information is located under “Backflow Prevention”.

                The municipalities that monitor your water will be the ones who will enforce these new codes. If you do not comply with the new codes, based off current municipalities who are enforcing them, you may receive a fine for the first violation, a heavier fine for the second, and finally they may turn the water off to the system if you do not comply a third time. This example is just from one specific city and may not be the same for every city. Your cities website should have information coming soon.

                Luckily, Barrett Lawn Care will be able to perform these tests for you, along with taking care of the necessary paperwork! We will make sure the proper municipality gets their paperwork and that you receive a copy for your personal records.

I hope this information was helpful and we look forward to being able to offer you this new service.

Bob Balgie, Irrigation Technician at Barrett Lawn Care

What is a Fall Clean-Up?

What is a Fall Clean-Up?

I have been asked many times by various individuals about our spring and fall clean-ups. The main question is, “What exactly do you do?”. I will talk about fall clean-ups for this particular blog.

Fall clean-ups are always a daunting task for any lawn care company. The main purpose of a fall clean-up is to remove the leaves from the property. Sounds easy correct? Not necessarily so…

You must first start with a plan for your crews. People wandering around the property by themselves always lead to inefficiency. At Barrett Lawn Care, we always start by blowing out the beds/bushes of all the leaves and blowing them into an area where the lawn mower can pick them up. We then blow around all bases of the trees so that the lawn mowers can pick up the leaves, leaving the base of the tree clean. As we are blowing the leaves around the lawn, the mowers are busying cutting the grass and picking up the leaves. When the mowers are full of leaves, they need to be dumped out.
But then where do those leaves go? In comes the leaf loader truck. The mowers will dump their leaves in a pile in the parking lot and the leaf loader will then suck them up into the truck. When the truck is full, it is sent to the local dumpsite and the process begins all over again.

During fall clean-ups, we also cut back perennials such as hydrangea, daylilies, and ornamental grasses so that when the plant begins growing in the spring it’s not fighting the old growth from the previous year. Once the leaves are picked up, we do a final blowing of the property to make sure everything is perfectly clean.

We use the following equipment during our fall clean-ups:
Lawn Mowers: Exmark Lazer Z
Blowers: Echo PB-770
• Trimmers: Echo SRM225
• Leaf Loaders: Little Wonder & Billy Goat
Leaf Trucks: Chevrolet 3500HD Dump Trucks

As you can see from the list above, fall clean-ups are not simply something you can do and do well if you are not equipped properly.

I have added two videos for everyone to take a look at as well. The first video is a small sample of us blowing leaves out of beds and putting the leaves in a spot where the mowers can pick them up. The second video shows how the leaves get from the huge pile left by the mowers up into the leaf truck.

 

Both videos are also great examples of teamwork. Everyone is sticking together and helping each other to ensure the process is as efficient as possible.

By Mike Fritsche, Lawn Manager at Barrett Lawn Care

Irrigation Winterization

Irrigation Winterization

Sorry to report the bad news….winter is coming! That means it’s time to start thinking about winterizing your sprinkler system. Winterizing your irrigation is very important to prevent damage over the cold, long winter that if forgotten or improperly done could lead to extra money spent on repairs.

Irrigation Winterization

Homeowners have tried to winterize their system using the compressor found in their garage rather than seeking out a professional. At Barrett Lawn Care, we do not advise this as there are significant differences between a home compressor and our commercial grade machine. Most home owners will have a ¼” hose where at Barrett Lawn Care, Inc. we use a ¾” hose for our compressor. Despite your home compressor and our commercial compressor sharing the same amount of pressure, 80 PSI, the volume will be much different. These differences will determine degree of time and potential damage to an improperly blown out system. It would take minimum 8 hours to blow out your system, your whole Saturday, with the smaller hose. With our commercial grade materials we can successfully complete the task in around 30 minutes. Another downside of do-it-yourselfers is there is no guaranteed removal of all the water from the lines, as there is simply not enough air going through the system to force the water out. If water remains it can cause freeze breaks. Winter damage will require Barrett Lawn Care to dig into your beautiful lawn to find and repair issues as a result of improper blow-outs and winterization.

To avoid headaches and time loss, call Barrett Lawn Care to schedule your winter blow-out and ensure a properly functioning system in spring to give your grass a great start to a green year!

By Bob Balgie, Irrigation Technician at Barrett Lawn Care

Mushrooms!

Mushrooms!

Well, let’s talk about mushrooms. Not the psychedelic type, but the edible type. Do we have any people following these blogs that enjoy mushroom hunting? Anyone reading ever been on a mushroom foray? Do we perhaps have any cooks reading this? Mushrooms are sought after by many people and for many different reasons. I particularly enjoy cooking with them! From my perspective the most desirable mushrooms in our area are: Morel, Oyster (there are a few varieties), Shiitake, Chicken of the Woods (Sulfur Shelf), Hen of the Woods (Maitake), Puffball, and Chanterelle.

Shiitake Mushrooms
Shiitake Mushrooms

Attaining edible and desirable mushrooms can be an expensive and/or time consuming task. Any reputable local market will have a respectable selection of mushrooms for sale. However, depending on the variety and the current demand, you could pay in excess of $100/pound for them.

Going out into nature to pick your own is a viable option, too. This has its’ challenges however. The weather plays a major role on how many mushrooms are growing, and when. Mushrooms are very dependent on temperature and moisture. Even when the weather cooperates and a good flush of mushrooms occurs you still have to FIND them. There is obviously a lot of ground to cover in your search! There are a lot of people that are “in the know” as to where and when mushrooms can be found. However, you’ll likely not find anyone that will share that information. Why would they?!
These scenarios lead me to a thought… can I grow my own mushrooms? What’s involved in trying to grow my own? I have found much success in vegetable gardening. Does this mean I can do the same with mushrooms? I hit the books, if you will, and gained enough solid information that I found myself beginning an experiment.

Chicken of the Woods Mushrooms
Chicken of the Woods Mushrooms

After a little reading, and using knowledge gained from hunting mushrooms in the wild, I knew that I did have an area in which mushrooms should be inclined to grow. Now, what are the steps to get mushrooms to grow and reproduce? Mushrooms propagate themselves via the spores that they release. They can release literally millions of microscopic spores at a time. Of course a minuscule percentage of these will have the appropriate conditions to actually germinate and successfully grow. Spores are very fragile and require some specific and sterile conditions to germinate. Spores germinate into a substance called mycelium. Once we get to this stage, things are much more stable and therefore easier to work with. The diehard people that are trying to grow mushrooms will start at the spore level and go from there. Due to the time and conditions required to accomplish this, that method just wasn’t for me. I chose to purchase the product in the mycelium stage instead.

I have previously blogged about the weather destroying an area of my property. That damage left me with a lot of substrates to inoculate with mushroom mycelium. About one year ago I purchased Pearl Oyster, Shiitake, and Chicken of the Woods mycelium. The Shiitake and Oyster are said to be relatively simple to grow, but the Chicken of the Woods a bit more difficult. This established a pretty good baseline for my experiment. After the inoculation is competed it’s really just a waiting game as it takes several months for the mycelium to start growing in the substrate, and potentially produce mushrooms.

Pearl Oyster Mushrooms
Pearl Oyster Mushrooms

After a few months passed, I found a few mushrooms growing in the areas that I had inoculated. Due to this, I kept a daily watch to document the progress, and to determine if they were from what I had inoculated or that of nature. The weather did a great job of cooperating, and a solid flush of mushrooms occurred! I determined that some Oyster and Shiitake mushrooms I inoculated did grow, and some Oysters grew via the work of nature. There have been no Chicken of the Woods yet, but that’s not alarming as they’re known to take a little more time to grow.

This initial sign of success led me to expand my experiment to a second phase. I inoculated some additional substrate with Blue Oyster, more Shiitake, and Hen of the Woods mycelium. There are several other varieties that are feasible to attempt to grow here if you so desired.

My experiment will be in a monitoring and documenting (hopefully some eating) stage for the next 12 months. Please stay tuned for updates! Also feel free to contact me if you have any questions or find interest in exploring this for yourself!

By Derek Tweten, Landscape Manager at Barrett Lawn Care

Irrigation Project: Retrofit Using a Wheel Saw Attachment

Irrigation Project: Retrofit Using a Wheel Saw Attachment

While trying to install a new irrigation pipe on the bluffs of the Mississippi River after a drainage project that removed most of the top soil, a pipe puller was unable to pull pipe through the shale and limestone strata. We had to utilize a Bobcat wheel saw attachment to grind a trench through the strata in order to install irrigation pipe and sprinkler heads. The wheel saw is able to cut through asphalt, concrete, frozen ground, and wire mesh to depths of 24 inches and widths of up to 8 inches wide.

As the video shows, the wheel saw made short work of cutting through the rock and opening up a trench.

By the Barrett Lawn Care team

Aeration of Your Lawn

Aeration of Your Lawn

What is aeration? What are the benefits? Do I really need to aerate?
Aeration is a simple process of removing “cores” or “plugs” of grass from your lawn either with a machine specifically designed for this or manually. Trust me, use the machine, it’s much faster and easier on you! The machine rolls over your lawn removing the plugs which allows for better air and water exchange in your grass. It also helps with compacted soils, i.e. from kiddos playing on the grass everyday. This compacts the soil making it harder for water and nutrients to get to the root system. The plugs will stay on top of lawn and deteriorate naturally. It looks a bit unsightly for a few days, maybe a week, but once they start breaking down and you mow over them, they disappear nicely.

After you have aerated, it’s a good time to put some fertilizer down since some of the prills will actually fall into the holes and get to work right away assisting the root zone. Seeding right after aeration is also a good idea since some of the grass seed will fall into the holes and the seed will germinate faster compared to being on the surface of the lawn.

Photo courtesy of crownaeration.wordpress.com
Photo courtesy of crownaeration.wordpress.com

Do you need to aerate? The simple answer is: it’s up to you. I have listed the benefits above and I believe it is worth the time, effort, and money to have this service done to your lawn yearly. The best time to aerate is right after the Minnesota State Fair. Temps begin to cool down, the grass goes into a natural growing cycle, and the cooler temps also help keep the lawn seed from burning up and not germinating.


Also, check out these two links to the University Of MN Extension Service. Great articles along with other helpful information about your lawn!

http://www.extension.umn.edu/garden/yard-garden/lawns/thatch-control/

http://www.extension.umn.edu/garden/yard-garden/lawns/

 

By Mike Fritsche, Lawn Manager at Barrett Lawn Care

Microclimates

Microclimates

Anyone with even a small working knowledge of gardening is aware of USDA plant hardiness zones. These 13 zones on the map are based on the average lowest winter temperature in that region. In general, these zones run from coldest (lowest number) to warmest (highest number) from north to south. This makes sense doesn’t it? After all– International Falls, Minnesota is obviously going to run much cooler than Key West, Florida. Though this logic is generally the case, there is a little more to it than just the latitude were you live.

US Hardiness Zones

In the Twin Cities, zone 4 is the area we tend to focus on when considering what to plant. Sometimes, however, there is an exception which either occurs naturally or is nudged by human intervention that pushes these “boundaries” of hardiness just a little further apart.

We all know that plants need varying amounts of sunlight in which to thrive. That Black-Eyed Susan is going to be a lot happier in a sunnier location than a Hosta would be. It would only make sense that the area with a lot of sun light is going to be warmer than that spot in the shade. Houses, walls, fences, trees, other plants, and even where you park your car, can affect how much sun an area collects. Logically, the south or south-west side of a stone wall is going to collect more sun during the day, in turn amassing more heat and slowly releasing it at night. If this same wall is protected from wind, this little microclimate can actually be as much as 8 to 10 degrees higher than other spots in your yard!

Temperature is affected by much more than just sunlight. Simple science (the kind we learned back in grade school) tells us that hot air rises. This basic principle can be applied to slopes and valleys. The higher the rise, the warmer the temperature. Down in a valley or below a hill, the thermometer is going to register a slightly cooler reading. The cooler air literally slides down the slope like water and settles at the lowest point. High on a south facing slope is going to get you warmer temps. Just watch out for the drying winds!

In an earlier blog I wrote about the benefit of berms. Even a small berm may have its’ own microclimate. Aside from the factors already discussed, these simple modifications of topography may even alter wind patterns by acting as a buffer.

Water is also a big contributor to dictating the temperature in an area. Water vapor in the air from a pond or lake can trap infrared radiation from the earth like a greenhouse. It’s a form of humidity distribution and can be observed on a large scale all over the world along bodies of water. Just look at how many zones exist in Alaska!

Alaska Hardiness Zones

Soil is often overlooked. The fact is, soil can play large roll when the other factors are taken into account. Soil in a shady location will not only be cooler, but will also hold moisture longer. Likewise, soil in a sunny location can play with the temperature a great deal. Much like concrete and pavers, clay soil can radiate heat and provide a warm island of air. Soil with air pockets can trap heat and increase the risk of frost. This is especially true in cold dips and valleys.

I’ve touched on wind before, but it needs to be addressed further. When wind hits an object like your house, it creates turbulence and higher wind speeds along the wall and around corners as it passes around the building. Just be mindful of this when considering the introduction of plants that can easily get dried out. Evergreens planted in a windy and sunny location are especially at risk since they cannot replace moisture lost through their needles or leaves when the ground is frozen.

As with any landscape project involving plant material, the design must take into account the different site conditions that are present. The amount of light and shade, the type of soil present, topography and drainage, are all obvious characteristics that need to be addressed. Sometimes there are other elements that need to be observed or implemented in order to successfully sustain certain plants.

I invite you to take a closer look at a plant hardiness zone map. You may be surprised at what you see when you really examine it!

http://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov
http://www.extension.umn.edu/garden/landscaping/implement/soil_berms.html
http://www.gardenguides.com/582-combat-zone-envy-make-microclimates.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microclimate
http://www.gardening.cornell.edu/weather/microcli.html

By Chad Bischoff, Landscape Designer at Barrett Lawn Care

Reforestation

Reforestation

Reforestation…? Isn’t that a misuse of term or some other contradiction being as though we’re talking about a property in Saint Paul, MN (1/3 acre to be exact)? Perhaps.

I suppose it’s all a matter of how a person quantifies things.

As we know, the spring season in our State of Minnesota can at times be a bit tumultuous. Ironically, the past two springs in a row, I drew the card of feeling that wrath personally.

June in this case proved to be the common denominator, which I appreciate as I like consistency. In June of 2013 a thunderstorm developed just to the NW of my home. Growing up in the farmland of Northern Minnesota I’m pretty in tune with the weather. I guess you could say I “felt” something coming. When I checked the radar I could tell it was time to stay inside. The wind and the rain whipped to and fro. I watched out the windows as my new landscaping was put through the ringer, and as quickly as it came, it was done. The survey that followed proved that my new landscaping had survived unscathed. The wooded area in the western side of my property was not as fortunate. I had lost three mature trees, and the patio set on my deck was completely destroyed.

June of 2014. The afternoon in question seemed like a bad rerun of a reality television show. The day and ensuing scenario couldn’t be more parallel in fact to that day of destruction in June of 2013. All of the required ingredients again aligned and a proper thunderstorm was headed for my neighborhood. This storm hadn’t much precipitation, but what it lacked in rain, it made up for with wind. After the storm had subsided I found everything unharmed, except again the wooded area on the western side of my property. This fabled area of my property had lost six mature trees this round.

I suppose there was some luck hidden in all the misfortune that had happened to my property. I did have some undesirable trees that the storm had felled. There was the boxelder, for example. I had cut up a few of these from the storms. However, there were some desirable trees that fell to the wind also. I lost black walnut, maple, and American elm trees, too.

A total of nine mature trees lost in two years. That’s a lot of change on a portion of a 1/3 acre parcel of land. When this happens you have no choice but to take the bad with the good. Now there’s an empty canvas that needs filling.

Reforestation… If you consider the number of trees I had lost in the form of a percentage, I think the project I was dealt fits in the reforestation category. Now, how do we fill this blank canvas with something desirable in a short period of time? ALL trees take time to mature, but some are faster than others.

When dealt a hand like this, I recommend you look at the project with a “big picture” state of mind. You shouldn’t get caught up in the speed of which a tree might grow and focus on that exclusively. That could subsequently lead to a bunch of mature boxelder, for example, as a solution. That solution in the long term is not desirable for aesthetics or resale value. If you do some research, or consult a professional, you will find that a lot of desirable trees have a relatively fast rate of growth, too. This will aid in both your long-term happiness with the overall look of this space, and with the resale value of your property, should you look to sell down the road.

I wanted a few key traits in my replacement trees. I needed fast growth, large mature size, physical appeal, concealing foliage, and fall color. Knowing what I wanted as an end result really helped expedite my search for the right group of trees.

After perusing a bit through www.gertens.com, I had narrowed my search. Maples provide me size, appeal, and fall color. The northern catalpa has a fast growth rate and sure is unique and appealing. In the methodology of “an eye for an eye,” an American elm seemed appropriate. For an all around enjoyable and unique offering, the hackberry appeared to be a fun solution. Now, about that concealing foliage that I so desired. I really needed to screen one corner of my property year-around from the neighboring property. The Canadian hemlock, a truly beautiful and stately coniferous tree, should suit my needs. This offering will provide a good growth rate, concealing foliage, and large mature size.

In the end I selected one Autumn Blaze and two Fall Fiesta from the Maple family, one Northern Catalpa, one American Elm, one Hackberry, and two Canadian Hemlock trees. This selection will provide a great year-round horizon to the western area of my property for my family.

Please follow up on this blog for photos of these trees as they mature!

By Derek Tweten, Landscape Manager at Barrett Lawn Care

Specialized Equipment

Specialized Equipment

I often wonder how people accomplished all of the work at hand “back in the old days” before technology provided all of the equipment we have available to us today. They certainly completed everything that needed to be done at the time. In today’s world there seems to literally be a tool for everything. The selection of equipment and tools available to us sure has made life easier, and often provides for a better result at the end of the job. A lot of this equipment is quite expensive, but when used properly it can also be a very valuable asset.

 

“Work smarter not harder,” they say. Touché. Venture Products, Inc. is a prime example of a producer of Specialized Equipment. The product line we are speaking of is Ventrac. This is a line of C.A.T. (Compact Articulating Tractors), and a vast selection of attachments to go with them. Ventrac has really developed a niche in the green industry and is constantly striving to improve what they currently offer while expanding their product offering as well. We own two Ventrac tractors and several of their attachments. We have found the selection we have to be a necessity for the functions they perform within our business. I’ll touch on the Tough Cut Mower attachment here.

 

There are a lot of places that need to be maintained once a month, twice per summer, once in the fall, etcetera, that are not established turf. Some good examples are water holding ponds near our roadways and on our larger commercial properties. Another example would be the areas on the outer edges of developed property that was never graded out and made into turf. All of these spaces need to be occasionally maintained for aesthetics and to help mitigate the spread of undesirable weeds, brush, and trees. Since these areas are rough and comprised of mixed vegetation it’s not possible to maintain these spaces with the same equipment we would use to cut your lawn. There are rocks, weeds, brush, and small trees preventing such equipment from being used. The Ventrac Tractor is very capable on rough surfaces and steep grades, and is friendly to the turf, thus not disturbing it and creating a possible erosion issue. The Tough Cut Mower attachment is designed to quickly cut everything in its path up to a 1” diameter tree. That sure is a breeze in comparison to a crew of people and hand tools to perform the same task! Take a look:

 

By Derek Tweten, Landscape Manager at Barrett Lawn Care