GRITIT looks at how FMs can successfully anticipate and plan for this season's landscaping and grounds maintenance challenges. Tomorrow's FM May special feature.
See the May issue
While you don’t need to become an expert horticulturalist, any FM with responsibility for outdoor areas will find it valuable to develop a high level understanding of the seasonal nature of grounds maintenance and the key challenges presented by each season. This will allow you to more effectively plan and manage grounds maintenance, map out activity and milestones for the year and benchmark the activity of in-house GM teams or contractors. Indeed, should you decide to bring external contractors on board, the seasonal nature of grounds maintenance can also determine the best times for reviewing activity or kicking off a tendering process.
Summer is clearly the most intensive period for lawn care and turf management, but activity is also seasonal and should continue right throughout the year. Some of the most beneficial care is carried out in the coldest months to help lawns grow healthily and free of moss during the summer, and this is true for grounds maintenance as a whole: In any given season, the work you’ve done in the preceding period is often the key to success.
Preparing your Grounds for the summer
Ahead of the busy summer months, it is advisable to ensure your grounds maintenance teams have provided you with an outline programme of works and a schedule for the season ahead. This is the time to create an effective set of KPIs to measure quality and pick out standards from your maintenance specification – e.g. grass to be evenly cut and sward length not to exceed 60mm. Always ensure that KPIs are driven by and in line with the wider FM strategy or overall business objectives.
Meet up with your grounds maintenance teams before they mobilise and make sure they understand the specification and KPI criteria. It is important to arrange regular review meetings to discuss and rectify any issues. Finally, update all your compliance folders, including items such as staff training records, risk and COSHH assessments.
Late spring into early summer is the ideal time for activities such as planting bedding plants and hanging baskets. But planning even further ahead of the summer, can also pay dividends and help save time and resource during the summer months. Many organisations reduce grounds maintenance during the winter, but this season should be used effectively to condition the grounds and get a head start for spring. Collect leaves and debris that can build up and destroy lawns. On hard standings too, decaying leaves can form a substrate that allows weeds to germinate and neglecting both areas can result in more weed control and unnecessary chemical treatments being required during the subsequent growing season in the summer.
Summer is the most intensive period of activity during the year, and will be dominated by grass cutting and pruning. But summer is also the time to keep an eye out for reportable invasive species such as Japanese Knotweed or Giant Hogweed and plan control measures into new plans.
During the summer period it is important to continue to engage with grounds maintenance teams to ensure that specifications and quality standards are being managed through frequent KPI monitoring and reporting. Vital as it is, this monitoring process need not be a laborious process as technology is making it possible for concise activity reports and site photos to be made immediately available following a contractor’s visit. This ongoing process can be complemented by scheduled site meetings at strategic intervals throughout the summer. More generally, such meetings can be used to ensure that your GM understands your organisation’s environmental policy, and to discuss workplace wellbeing and efforts towards environmental conservation.
This is a great time to think about site improvements as you can evaluate sites at a time they are being used most. When developing plans, it is a good idea to look for the potential for multi-functional improvements that can really add value to end users or the client. This could involve aesthetic changes that at the same time improve environmental impact or perhaps encourage wildlife. A great example is a wildflower meadow that adds visual interest and also supports pollinators. Whatever you wish to achieve, look at what already works well and what doesn’t to help ensure that changes are appropriate and effective.
Moving into autumn, now is the time to schedule site improvement works such as planting, tree surgery and arboriculture activity.
From a planning perspective, this is the ideal time to review your landscape assets and management and maintenance plans and specifications. Conduct a review of the previous year and consider how next year’s service can be improved. It is worth collaborating with a landscape expert to develop a comprehensive set of output specifications. This should focus on achieving your desired standards and objectives – e.g. environmental objectives, workplace wellbeing – rather than the frequency of visits.
If you are considering a change of contractors over the winter, it is important to review and release PQQ and tender documentation during the autumn – especially when procuring for larger contracts.
Developing your annual plan
Every site is different, but helpfully many of the basics are universal and we’ve developed an infographic that can be used as a good starting point to adapt to your requirements. The Grounds Maintenance Planner can be used to track your teams’ or contractor’s current work and service reports and gives a sense of what to expect now and the coming months. The Soft Landscaping Planner provides an understanding as to the optimum times to make improvements or changes, such as extending beds, creating more naturalistic areas or planting.
While this gives a very high level overview of things to be considering at various times of the year, it also drives home the importance of giving yourself enough time to think of improvements and opportunities to make more of your assets. This applies equally whether you are using you own staff or external contractors.
You may well have an existing set of specifications that you perennially turn to but it is important not to let these become a straight jacket. Provide opportunities for local team members to be more empowered. After all, their input can help to develop more interesting/useful spaces for your staff. Should you decide to use contractors, you can usually expect the same level of engagement and creative input and more consultative suppliers will certainly be able to help you to think more strategically about seasonal planning. Doing so, can help you work more efficiently and avoid wasted investments and also take full advantage of the opportunities each site provides to create more engaging and sustainable green spaces.
GRITIT Grounds Maintenance
GRITIT GM provides Commercial Landscape Maintenance & Management delivered from our strategic hubs across the UK. We can work to your exacting specification or create a solution tailor-made to your requirements.
We work across a variety of sites and locations - from varying multisite property portfolios to stand alone single sites with minimal requirements. We can work to your exacting specification or create a solution tailor-made to your requirements.
We design, develop, plan and maintain all landscape features including hedges, shrub beds, herbaceous borders, tress and lawns and our experienced team is dedicated to creating an environment that will impress you, your staff, customers and visitors.
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