Monday, January 20, 2014

Snow Work Process & Best Practice

 At David J. Frank it may seem like there is some down time during the winter, but in reality there is work going on every day to prepare for the next large snowstorm.  Throughout the year our team of professionals spends much time researching and planning to provide the best materials and the best service to our customers when the snow starts falling.  The time spent bringing this information together provides our clients with the best services when the winter weather hits.  Here are a few things that we consider every time it snows to keep our clients properties safe and usable!

 While we don’t have an on staff meteorologist on staff at David J. Frank, we do have the latest technology to update us on the current weather conditions in the winter.  When snow is on its way our management team of snow professionals considers many factors to determine how service will be completed at our sites.  Important things to consider with a storm event are the start of precipitation, type of precipitation, storm intensity, expected storm length, wind conditions, temperature, etc.  All of these factors have to be taken into account to make sure that the right amount of service is provided at the right time on each site.  Some sites may need more service based on the time of day and that also plays a factor in planning how to tackle a storm.  There is a huge amount of planning that takes place to be ready to clean up after a storm and all of the factors noted above are important to consider for all aspects of snow clean-up.

             Today we also plan ahead before a storm hits to prepare our sites and keep them safer ahead of time.  This includes the use of anti-iceing agents. Anti-icing can be a cost-effective strategy that optimizes chemical usage. It is a proactive approach that should be first in a series of strategies for most winter storms. By applying chemical freeze-point-depressant materials before a storm, you can prevent snow and ice from bonding to the pavement.  This can greatly affect how safe a property is during a storm and decrease liability for property owners.

             In addition to anti-iceing, we also pre-treat our salt in many instances to enhance its ability to melt snow and ice. Pre-treating is mixing a liquid into the stockpile of salt or sand before it is applied. Unlike pre-wetting, it does not require equipment changes.  We also use winter sand and other abrasives when temperatures are too cold for deicing chemicals to be effective. But be aware that sand does not melt anything. It provides temporary traction, and only when it is on top. Sand also clogs sewers, ditches, and streams. As a result, avoid sand use as much as possible. A salt/sand mix is generally not recommended. Salt reduces the effectiveness of sand, and sand reduces the effectiveness of salt. However, a salt/sand mix may be helpful in limited situations such as a freezing rain event where the salt is washed away quickly. A 25 to 50 percent sand/salt mix has been documented as effective in increasing friction by sticking the sand to the surface, like sandpaper.

            In the end, the snow professionals at David J. Frank are always preparing for winter.  We know in Wisconsin every winter is different.  With climate change looming who knows what this winter will bring!  When it comes to snow new ideas and new ways to keep our properties usable in the winter in South East Wisconsin is a priority at David J. Frank and we look forward to continue to be a leader in this part of our business for many years to come!

Zach Lieven
Landscape Architect

Monday, January 13, 2014

What is organic?

We have all heard the term “organic” tossed around but what does it really mean and why is it important? According to the online dictionary, organic means “noting or pertaining to a class of chemical compounds that formerly comprised only those existing in or derived from plants or animals, but that now includes all of compounds of carbon.” Basically organic means the plant, product or animal was grown without the use of any synthetic materials, genetically modified organisms, pesticides, antibiotics or growth hormones.

Why is it important? Well, because we all care about our future and the future of our grandchildren. The use of chemicals is forcing nature, including both plants and animals, to mutate around our chemical methods, thus creating hard-to-beat strains of bacteria, super-weeds and an imbalance of insects. We are also ingesting daily low doses of poison with the chemically grown food that we eat. Yes, it is less expensive at the checkout, but in the long run, the expense on our health, the land and the earth is priceless.

What can we do? First we need to change our perspective. We need to respect nature and let it be what it is rather than try to contort or control it. We need to see weeds or an overabundance of damaging insects or disease as a symptom of an imbalance rather than the problem itself. We need not to respond by relying on chemicals alone, but working to re-align that balance and using chemicals only as a tool to help us get there. We need to invest in healthy soil, use integrated pest management when presented with insect challenges, put the right plants in the right places and use a diverse variety of plants making sure to include native varieties. We also need to support the farms that are using organic and sustainable methods of farming, buy local and grow our own food at home.

Organic methods in the garden can be viewed as an investment for the future. They may not always offer an instant response that some chemical controls may present, but they are slowly adding to the health of your garden to have a wealth of balanced soil, flourishing plants, healthy animals, and a safe environment for everyone. Instant gratification can be enchanting while patience can be difficult, but it is important to think beyond the now and understand the effects of our immediate choices.

Why is healthy soil so important? Soil is the magical ingredient. Healthy soil is crucial, just like a good diet is vital for us to be healthy. Soil is the source of nutrients for plants, the breeding ground for micro-organisms that continue to enhance the soil quality and the source for water holding capacity. Without healthy soil, the success of plants is minimal. (I suggest watching “Dirt! The Movie” for further information and inspiration.)
What do we mean by the right plant in the right place? Set plants up for success by planting them where they will flourish rather than insisting that plants perform outside of their natural boundaries. Don’t plant full sun loving plants in part-shade or shade and vice versa and don’t plant monocultures (all of one plant). A diverse variety of plants means a diverse variety of insects which thus assists in creating a balanced environment.

Enough with the monocultures! We all love to play in the grass, but it has its place and its place does not need to be the majority of every home landscape. We tend to see grass as a single unit, but we forget that it consists of thousands of the same plant in a mass planting. Of course we shouldn’t banish our beloved turf, but we should keep it in moderation, designating it to the areas where we can use it and enjoy it and then fill the rest of the landscape with a variety of plants to include natives, vegetables and trees.

After a change in perspective and some habit adjustments, we can create healthier lifestyles for ourselves and our future. Let’s put change in the piggy bank to build toward a greater future filled with abundance and well being!

Erin Brophy
Client Service Rep.
David J. Frank Landscape Contracting, Inc.