Selling simplicity

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<![CDATA[At Eagle Creek Nursey in Indianapolis, landscape designer and project estimator Charlie Swartzell says lighting is all about accenting projects.

“We like to accent and add to the hardscapes the outdoor living environments that we create,” Swartzell says. “So it’s putting lighting in for steps or safety or some spotlights on to highlight plantings.”

He says they company always includes lighting in the original design, but it’s always up to the budget of the project, and can often be the first to go.

“We try to keep lighting as more of just an accent and an add on to supplement the outdoor living environment, not to make the lighting the focus,” he says.

Easy all around. Swartzell says when selling a project, they always suggest lighting. It’s an add on to the sale but it also offers a more finished look along with safety elements.

“Even if they don’t want the lighting, we always run the conduit just in case they change their mind, at least so the space is ready,” he says. “Usually we end up coming back and installing the lighting.”

Plus, he always recommends lighting on steps to prevent tripping while someone is out enjoying their patios. About two thirds of Eagle Creek’s projects are design/build, the rest are maintenance based jobs.

Swartzell says they’ve offered many different types of lighting in the past, but they’ve found it’s better to keep the options simple for homeowners.

“It can get a little overwhelming with some of the catalogs. There are just so many options and things are different price points,” he says. So, the company found a six-page catalog of lighting that offers more simple designs. Options are still available for different finishes and designs.

“We can just hand them the six page book and know they’ve got three different options for lights, then a couple of different options for accents, and then different finishes,” he says. “We have a lot of success with it.”

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Ztr or stand-on?

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I'm looking at new mowers for my property. We've got 10 acres – 3.5 in lawn and pasture converting to lawn, and 4.5 in pasture that gets brushhogged occasionally and might get mowed someday, but probably with a finish mower on the tractor. The rest is in woods. There are some hills – 8% slopes.

The mowing can be tough since I can get pulled away due to travel and business, and things grow. I'm in southern Missouri with thick grass and weeds in the pasture areas. Fairly bumpy in places. This…

Ztr or stand-on?

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Amaryllis Has Leaf Scorch – Controlling Red Blotch Of Amaryllis Plants

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One of the most important aspects of amaryllis plants is the bloom. Depending upon the size of the flower bulb, amaryllis plants are known to produce magnificent clusters of large flowers. Amaryllis red blotch is one of the most common causes of failure of the plant to bloom. Find out what to do about it here. What is Amaryllis Red Blotch? Most commonly known for their potted plant culture during the holiday season, amaryllis is a beautiful tropical plant that thrives in warm climate flower beds. While the process of forcing these bulbs indoors in pots is extremely popular, growers living in USDA growing zones 9-11 can enjoy these plants outdoors with little care or maintenance. These flowers are relatively easy to grow; however, there are some issues that cause less than desirable outcomes, like red blotch of amaryllis. Amaryllis red blotch, also known as amaryllis leaf scorch, is a

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Keeping up

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Whether you specialize exclusively in outdoor lighting or provide it as part of a full-service offering, there are plenty of sources where the pros can turn for bright ideas. So, how are contractors staying up to date with the latest landscape lighting trends?

Trade shows and associations.

“There are several outdoor lighting-specific organizations that have helped me tremendously over the years,” says Joel Mayor, owner and lighting designer at Texas Outdoor Lighting. “My team and I try to attend as many lighting and landscape tradeshows as possible throughout the year to see the latest lighting products.”

Trade organizations and events such as the Association of Outdoor Lighting Professionals and the International Landscape Lighting Institute have helped Mayor build a strong network of lighting design peers who share insights into the latest trends and techniques.

Supplier resources.

Faulkner Bell, founder and president of Bell Outdoor LLC in Georgia, relies on reps from his lighting supplier and dealer to keep his team up-to-date.

“(Suppliers) provide a lot of great resources,” he says. “The (manufacturer’s) rep provides us with free fixtures for demo purposes, and keeps us stocked on literature and email marketing updates about products.”

“The manufacturers are definitely a big help with understanding how to use and work all the new technology,” says Ty Rosser, lighting designer at Landscape Lighting Pro of Utah. “I’m never afraid to pick up the phone (to ask them) questions.”

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Ariel water management

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I recently viewed some drone footage of a control burn at the ranch. Damn, my pasture next to the burn looked much better from the drone than from any elevated area I’ve found.

Is anyone else presently monitoring their properties via drone platforms?

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Barley Covered Smut Control: How To Treat Barley Covered Smut Disease

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Smut is one of the fungal diseases that cause damage to crops like barley, oats and rye. One type of smut is called “covered smut” and it is a real problem for those growing barley in this country and around the world. What is barley covered smut? How to treat barley covered smut? Read on for an overview of barley with covered smut, its symptoms, its impact and your options to control it. What is Barley Covered Smut? The fungal disease is actually called “covered smut.” But when it attacks barley, some refer to it as covered smut of barley or barley covered smut. Barley with covered smut is caused by the fungus Ustilago hordei. It has a significantly real and very negative impact on a grain crop. The covered smut fungus can be transferred to a barley crop by spores on the barley seeds, spores blown over in the

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HNA releases conference session speakers and topics

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LOUISVILLE – Hardscape North America has announced its seven conference session speakers and topics to be held during the 2019 Hardscape North America. This year’s sessions cover industry topics including workforce development and attracting talent, focusing on customer experience that includes women as dominant customers, and project estimating skills.

Each conference session lasts an hour and 15 minutes and is approved for Certified Concrete Paver Installer and NCMA SRW Installer continuing education (CE) hours.

The VIP PASS is available again this year and will give contractors access to all seven conference sessions, as well as the six hardscape demonstrations, for a 50 percent discount. The cost for the VIP Pass is $229 or $189 for ICPI/BIA/NCMA members. Individual tickets for the conference sessions are $65 per session.

In addition, an in-depth business management session has been added to the schedule for 2019. In this day-long workshop, industry expert Jerry Gaeta will address the fundamentals of owning and operating a successful hardscape business. It will be held at the Hyatt Regency Downtown, HNA’s host hotel. The early bird fee for this session is $199 until Sept. 5 and $219 thereafter. For ICPI/NCMA/BIA members, it’s $169 until Sept. 5 and $189 thereafter.

“We are thrilled with our schedule of presenters this year,” said Charles McGrath, executive director of the Interlocking Concrete Pavement Institute. “They are definitely the best of the best and the topics are uniquely and directly relevant to our industry. Hardscape contractors will gain so much knowledge from this year’s education sessions.”

Below are the announced sessions, courtesy of HNA:

Conference & Business Management Session Schedule:

Tuesday, Oct. 15

NEW: In-depth business management session

5 Keys to Business Management

9:00 AM – 3:30 PM

Jerry Gaeta

(Not included with VIP Pass)

Are you a new business owner or an established business that’s looking to become more profitable? Learn the fundamentals of owning and operating a successful hardscape business! This session will cover the 5 things every business owner must do to ensure success:

1) developing a business plan

2) financial management

3) estimating

4) project scheduling

5) resource management

Wednesday, Oct. 16

Estimating Hardscape Projects with Confidence

12:00 – 1:15 PM

Jerry Gaeta

You can’t afford NOT to know your cost of doing business! Otherwise, you may be selling your work for less than it costs to perform it. The price that other trades and services charge for their work continually goes up, but have your rates and prices done the same? You can no longer hope to become more profitable by guesswork and luck. Jerry Gaeta will demonstrate the importance of an estimating strategy and show you how to develop and implement the strategy to become profitable and stable – to ensure your company’s survival – no matter the size of the business.

Growing Your Hardscape Company 535% Using Today’s Tech Tools

1:45 – 3:00 PM

Susan Frew

By delighting its customers, Susan Frew’s contracting business is projected to reach $3 million in revenue this year, up from $179,000 in 2012. The company accomplished this growth using a strategic, laser-focused marketing plan and “12 Points of Love” with its customers. Come and learn the “secret sauce” … and how you can apply it in your business today. Susan will give you step-by-step instructions for capturing reviews, delighting your customers and going above and beyond to create RAVING FANS (and higher sales)! Learn the “how to” for achieving this in any company!

Manage, Motivate & Prepare Your Hardscape Crew for Success

5:00 – 6:15 PM

Jerry Gaeta

Today’s hardscape marketplace is very competitive and driven by price. The performance and efficiency of your field production is an advantage for securing contracts and profit. Are you preparing your crews to ensure smooth and profitable projects or are you an industrial babysitter? Are you helping them succeed or setting them up for failure? These answers are critical for the future of your company. Jerry Gaeta will explain the systems and steps that will prepare your crews for success. Learn the information and planning needed for your crew to understand the scope of the work, as well as how to develop a realistic and manageable work schedule; track job progress to achieve the intended estimated objectives; empower, mentor and train your personnel and become a better leader. 

Thursday, Oct. 17

What Women Want: See Your Business Through a Woman’s Eyes

8:00 – 9:15 AM

Anne Obarski

Women account for 85% of all consumer purchases and 92% pass along information about deals or finds to others. This combination of purchasing power and influence is the reason women dominate the consumer economy. What are you doing to attract, satisfy and multiply women customers? Recognizing and listening to your “best customer” will ensure a successful and growing business. Learn to identify what and where she researches before she calls you; develop the communication skills needed to win her business; and define the 4 key experiences that will make a female customer a raving fan.

What You Can Learn from Shark Tank

12:30 – 1:45 PM

Leslie Shiner

Shark Tank is not only a popular TV show, but a great learning opportunity to help you make your business more successful. The questions the sharks ask are important for any business owner to be able to answer. Learn about improving profitability through better understanding of your pricing, including markups and margins. Be sure you are recognizing revenue appropriately so you can truly measure your profitability. Do you know how to make revenue projections? Do you have healthy financial statements? Learn how to make your company successful enough that the sharks would be willing to invest.

Friday, Oct. 18

Finding the Next Generation of Hardscape Installers

8:00 – 9:15 AM

Frank Gandora

Need strategies for finding and attracting the best that Millennials and Gen Z have to offer? We’ll share research from a recent industry study, identifying the key drivers motivating individuals to enter the hardscape industry and the types of messaging most likely to attract the people you want to hire. Plus, you’ll learn about the materials available to help you recruit, hire, and retain new workers.

Customer Service Workshop

10:00 – 11:15 AM

Gary Ross

This workshop looks at all types of customers and how we can serve them better and improve ourselves in the process. Participants will be provided a strong skill set, including in-person and over-the-phone techniques, dealing with difficult customers, generating return business and more

For more information or to register, go to HardscapeNA.com.

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Quality Control Lessons Greenhouse Growers Can Build On

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“Plant factories” have more in common with their manufacturing industry counterparts than you think.

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Teen Hangout Gardens: Tips On Designing Gardens For Teenagers

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There are trends in everything these days, including garden design. One top trend is teen hangout gardens. Creating a backyard for teens gives them a space to hang out with their friends, close to home but away from the adults. If you’ve never heard of teenage garden design, read on. We’ll fill you in on what gardens for teenagers look like and how you can do this yourself. Teenage Garden Design If you’ve been wanting to get your teens in the garden, teenage garden design is a way to accomplish that end. Instead of forcing your teens out into the family garden, you create teen hangout gardens for them to enjoy. Teen hangout gardens are similar to the dens earlier generations made for their adolescents. Like dens, gardens for teenagers are separate from adult areas – built and furnished just for young people, and they are outside where most teenagers

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Tomatoes That Can Well – What Are The Best Canning Tomatoes

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In many areas we’re planning our summer gardens, and that usually means we’ll include tomatoes. Perhaps, you’re planning a big harvest and want extra tomatoes for canning. Preserving tomatoes is a common chore in late summer and one that some of us do regularly. Let’s take a look at some of the best canning tomatoes. Choosing Good Canning Tomato Varieties Tomatoes that can well will have lots of meat, limited juice and, of course, lasting flavor for the best results. Consider, do you want to make sauce or put up the tomatoes whole? Perhaps chopped or sliced will work better. This is good to decide before you choose which tomatoes to grow. Another question you will need to answer at some point is whether you use a pressure cooker or just a hot water bath. As with other fruits you preserve, you’ll want all the jars to seal properly and

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