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Daytona Intern Looks at Summer Weed Control vs Irrigation

Austin Outdoor has really provided me the diverse internship experience I was looking for and have learned a lot during my time here.  The company and the people are very friendly and knowledgeable, and the field experience I have received this summer will be invaluable as I move forward in my career.

While the internship experience has been great, rather than summarize my time and activities here, I felt it would be more interesting to talk about an issue that affects the company and the industry as a whole, especially during the hot and rainy summer months.

Working in the Daytona Beach Branch these past weeks I have observed two main issues we face from a maintenance and enhancement standpoint; irrigation vs weed control.  With the summer heat comes the summer rains and keeping our sites lush, green and appealing to the customers and public becomes somewhat of a tradeoff.  The more we run irrigation to combat the drying effect of the heat the more time we spend detailing areas to rid them of unappealing weeds.  The two weeds; Hydrocotyle umbellate or Dollar Weed and Panicum repens orTorpedo Grass are prevalent everywhere.  Austin Outdoor currently uses the recommended over the top treatments for both weeds in shrub beds.  Speed Zone is used to control Dollar Weed, however it does not kill very quickly.  It also leaves circular brown weeds as they die off leaving the area unattractive.  Image and Fusilade are used for Torpedo Grass control and work quite effectively; however, the weed grows so quickly by the next week there is new growth popping up right next to the previously sprayed weeds.

Ultimately, we are lead back to mechanical removal as the most effective form of detailing.  I am not saying we should stop hand pulling weeds, it is still very effective at making plant beds look perfect, especially before public events but spending hundreds of labor hours on weed eradication seems a very inefficient use of time.

Finding a solution to this issue is not an easy one.   One solution for weeds in turf areas; is mixing the residual herbicides with the wetting agent applied to turf areas.  In theory this would help the turf hold water and reduce browning from temperature stress while ensuring moisture being held in the soil does not give way to a resurgence of weeds in the turf areas.

I would also recommend a trial garden on location that is populated by plants commonly used on client properties in the surrounding area and test a mixture of products that can provide residual weed control without harming ornamentals in the plant beds. 

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Daytona Intern Builds Design Skills by Creating Visual Enhancements

Austin Outdoor has provided me with the unique opportunity to experience the design side of the company in addition to my time spent in the field learning the logistics of maintenance work.  My time spent in the Palm Coast office has provided a great learning experience and new appreciation for the behind the scenes work that occurs, to obtain the contracts we install and maintain.

My previous experience with design software (Photoshop and AutoCAD) is invaluable to my experience these past weeks.  While my background from the University of Florida’s Landscape Architecture program is useful, there is a lot to remember and more yet to learn when it comes to principles of design and learning Austin Outdoor’s design style.

During my time in the design office we created a variety of visual enhancements; both for existing contracts and new work we hope to win.  The primary tool for creating the visual enhancements is Adobe Photoshop; it lets designers communicate to clients the potential their site has to offer.  The photo enhancements we create aid Business Development Managers and Account Managers when presenting proposals to clients.

Being able to show clients a “before and after” picture can help them see the benefit of enhancing their landscape.

Not all design work is done on the computer; for large jobs, usually community developments, we create a hand drawn map that shows a plan view of the site.  Spending time doing a hand rendering gives an added artistic quality to a presentation.  These maps are also used to create weekly or monthly maintenance schedules which are overlaid and color coded.

Communication is key when working in the design department.  You are constantly collaborating with other designers on work, determining plant pallets, and communicating back and forth with Account Managers and Business Development Managers.  Feedback is very important as there are often changes and alterations that need to me made to ensure a quality final design that reflects the Austin Outdoor style.

The diversity of projects I have worked on during my time in the design department has greatly helped me improve my design skills.  Beyond enhancing my skills with Photoshop and hand rendering I find myself more adaptable and creative as a result.  Austin Outdoor has an excellent design and business development team and I count myself fortunate to learn from them.

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Intern Melissa Sees Our Safety Program in Action

Unlike most interns at Yellowstone Landscape, I am working towards a B.A. in Engineering with a concentration in Safety Management.  This field is about the exploration and understanding of Health and Safety Management Systems and how they work. When searching for a way to further my “hands on” experience while completing my degree, I explored the possibility of being part of an internship program.  I sought to venture out to other industries outside of construction to expand my knowledge.  While searching, I came across Yellowstone.  I fell in love with the family-atmosphere that was presented to me, as well as ample room for growth of knowledge and understanding.  Within Safety Management, growth only occurs when you jump into what you are studying and getting hands on experience, which Yellowstone has provided for me.

During my time here I have worked under the Health Safety and Environmental (HSE) Officer in the Safety Department, learning all aspects of safety in a company setting.  In the beginning I shadowed my Mentor and several Account Managers observing how they completed their work.  Within the first few weeks I was on the equipment learning as much as I could about their operation and the safety systems set in place by the manufacturer.  I also learned how to address safety infractions and conduct a Safety Audit on my own.  During my third week I traveled to Georgia with my Mentor and observed how to approach a Safety Audit at a new location, as well as how to continue implementing new safety procedures for our existing locations.

Other projects I have been involved with during my time here include updating the HSE Manual and helping with the implementation of new safety procedures and programs.  In the field, I have experienced hands-on how our crews work and utilize PPE (Personal Protective Equipment).  Through this experience and my observations of our crews, I have developed new ideas to further the safety standard.

My time in the field has been interesting and educational; I have spent time with the maintenance department of several of our branches, as well as construction and arbor.  With the aid of our maintenance crew, I now know how to operate mowers, blowers, weeders, edgers, and many other tools.  While with the landscape construction division, I was able to see how the Account Manager sets up a job, implements the job, and how they contact and inform the crews on their next job.  With the Arbor Department I was able to see how the crews utilize some of our more dangerous equipment such as chainsaws and wood chippers.  Within all of these departments I have been able to expand my knowledge of the landscape industry and understand how safety plays an important role in the success of a company.

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Savannah Intern Improves Skills Through Multiple Experiences

It was an early Friday morning in May and the sun had just begun to peer through the pine trees. I was full of anticipation as I prepared to begin my journey from Auburn University to Hardeeville, South Carolina. I was about to embark on a great adventure, traveling to a new, unknown place with only my dog, Beauregard, to keep me company. Most horticulture students interning outside of Auburn over the summer had found apartments, condos, or homes to rent for the next couple of months; some had friends or family that lived in the area where they were working and were staying with them. As for me, I decided to think slightly outside the box. I decided to spend the summer living in my camper at a premier site on beautiful Lake Jasper. Once I arrived at the campground and set up my summer home, I spent the remainder of the weekend relaxing in the tranquility of the area, awaiting the start of my internship with a top green industry company; Austin Outdoor.

As I pulled into the parking lot of the Austin Outdoor Savannah Branch for the first time, I was filled with several emotions; excitement, enthusiasm, nervousness, and a little bit of doubt. I had never had an internship before this summer, nor had I ever worked for a large company like Austin Outdoor. I grew up in a somewhat small town, spending most of my free time helping my father with a residential lawn maintenance business. Although I had an abundance of experience, I was entering unfamiliar territory. When I walked through the front door, I was instantly greeted with a kind smile from the Office Manager, Janelle. She knew exactly who I was, and immediately helped me become acquainted with the office. Whatever doubt I had in the back of my mind quickly disappeared.

My learning experience began the very first day. I met the Business Development Manager and the two of us went out to three different properties to take measurements for maintenance proposals. We returned to the office that afternoon, and he introduced me to the maintenance proposal model used by Austin Outdoor. Using a model like this was completely new to me but he explained it in a way that was very easy to comprehend and walked me through the entire process. I spent the next day with Jeremy, the Estimator and Construction Manager. He taught me how to use the construction-estimating model. Just as the BDM had done the day before, Jeremy walked me through the entire process from the beginning, starting with mapping out a design plan to pricing and ordering plant material to entering it into the model and making the proper adjustments. In just two short days, I had already been exposed to two major components of the business, and I could not wait to see what I would learn next.

Before this summer, most of my experience in the green industry was in residential maintenance. I had completed some small construction and enhancement jobs in the past, but nothing on a large commercial scale and I did not have much field knowledge regarding irrigation systems. Within a few weeks, all of this changed. I spent valuable time with different managers and crews, soaking up every bit of information that I could. I went from hardly knowing a thing about irrigation systems, to installing and programming new clocks, installing and repairing pop-ups and rotors, running new pipe and drip irrigation, and adjusting systems to properly accommodate plant material. I worked with enhancement crews on several projects assisting with everything from tear-out of old material, grading and prepping areas, and installing new plant materials. Although I had a lot of previous maintenance know-how, working with the maintenance crew proved to be a great learning experience. I have worked on some very detail-oriented projects, which have trained my eye to notice small, key details that could determine whether we keep or lose an account.

My experience with Austin Outdoor has been nothing short of extraordinary. I did not necessarily know what to expect when I accepted the internship and moved to South Carolina, but any expectations that I had were completely blown out of the water. My field knowledge has expanded significantly, including maintenance, enhancements, and irrigation systems, and I am confident that I have made tremendous improvements in my managerial skills. I am very grateful for this opportunity and I am certain that the skills I have learned during my time with Austin Outdoor will surely enhance my career.

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Auburn University Singer Takes Apopka Branch by Song!

My experience with the Austin Outdoor internship program has been extremely exciting. I am located at the Apopka Branch and meeting the staff and getting to know them has been one of the most rewarding experiences working with this company. I am very thankful for my Mentor who has pushed me to take charge and attack problems. I am seven weeks into my internship and I have learned so much!

My first week I met the staff, toured the shop and shadowed the Account Managers; observing what they do on a daily basis. We visited their properties and they shared what to look for on a property to make a job look perfect. Shadowing them allowed me to see what happens behind the scenes and the importance of communication between the Property Managers, Owners, and Crews.

I have several passions; horticulture, singing and dancing. At Auburn University I am a member of the AU Singers, a show choir. On any given day the staff will find me singing and dancing around the office or while out in the field. Sometimes I can get our Account Managers and Office Manager to sing with me! I tell them, “The best way to start your day is with a song.”

As the weeks have passed my internship has become more hands on. During my week with the irrigation techs I probably learned more than any other week. Going into this internship I had almost zero knowledge about irrigation systems, their design, and functions. I learned how to preform an inspection and what problems to flag. As the week went on I learned how to install a valve, troubleshoot, and make lateral repairs on my own. This was a lot of fun and a great experience because I learned new things. I also got to know the staff better, which made work even more enjoyable and the number one reason why I had so much fun.

I have learned about fertilizer and chemical programs and I used a Z-sprayer mixing chemicals and applying them to the turf of different properties. I also worked one on one with our branch’s fert/chem expert, Kenny Padgent.

I have also been exposed to the sales side of the business and spent time with the Apopka Business Development Manager. She showed me the ups and downs, and wins and losses which are a part of the job. I enjoyed seeing a different side of the business and how it grows.

Working with the Office Manager I learned the PO system, timesheet inputs, and other back office tasks (and also, how she keeps everyone in line.)

My favorite project was performing a lateral repair for irrigation on my own. I was able to troubleshoot the area and figure out what needed to be done. The repair wasn’t difficult but using the knowledge I had been taught and putting it to use was rewarding. I was able to replace the broken pipes and reroute the water.

My Austin Outdoor Internship has been a rewarding experience so far. I have learned landscape maintenance practices, how to manage people and most importantly not everything goes exactly by plan! By working with different staff members one on one I have been able to get to know them on a more personal level which is extremely rewarding. Working in the different areas of the company has opened my eyes to the landscape business. It makes me excited for the future of our green industry and the future of my career.

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Jennifer's Experience at Our Central Houston Branch

Interning at BIO Landscape has been an incredible experience so far! I am assigned to the Houston Central Branch and have learned a lot. My mentor and the other Account Managers and employees are very knowledgeable and I am fortunate to have the opportunity to learn from them. This internship has provided me with many skill sets, from management to field work, which will be helpful in my future landscape career.

I have spent the majority of my internship at the Cross Creek Ranch property. My Mentor manages this account and I help him with work there. We work closely with the Developers and Property Managers of Cross Creek to maintain a pristine, sustainably landscaped community. If there is a problem or resident complaint, we look at the area and come up with a prompt solution. Communication between BIO Landscape and Cross Creek Ranch is essential to maintain the community and the company’s reputation as a top landscaper.

During a typical week I shadow my mentor by going on client calls and crew checks with him. This helps me, through observation, see how he handles his business relationships and learn effective management styles in different situations. Each week I also work on projects around the community. I use the enhancement model to create job proposals which are sent to the customer. As part of creating a proposal, I choose the kind of materials and the amount needed and then price the job. Sometimes I will create an exhibit to graphically portray what we plan to do on the job. Once approved I order materials by working with our purchaser or if it’s a small order, directly calling the supplier. Once we have the materials then it’s time for installation! Usually I help oversee this process and make sure everything goes in correctly.

In addition to my management experience, I have gained hands on learning. I have worked with irrigation, maintenance, and the enhancement crews and hope to work with the fert/chem crew soon. With irrigation I have learned basic installation of pipes and watering heads and understanding the different parts which works best for each job site. From this experience I plan to gain an irrigation technician license so that I can learn even more about this area of the landscape industry. The highlight of working with maintenance has been learning how to operate the new John Deere tractor. I spent time mowing a large, grassy pipeline area and it was a lot of fun to drive! With enhancements, I have done several jobs including laying sod, planting Asian Jasmine vine (in heavy clay soil, not the easiest job) and replacing annuals. I designed the annuals job and enjoyed the satisfaction of seeing my ideas become a reality!

My internship with BIO Landscape is passing quickly, I have been learning so much and having a good time working here. In this upcoming month I plan to spend time with the Landscape Designer or the Construction Department as part of my in house rotation to gain knowledge from other areas of the company. I know by the end of my time here I will have gained an immense amount of experience that will only help me in a future management position.

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West Palm Beach Intern Jumps In

 

After being accepted as an intern for the West Palm Beach branch I was excited, yet nervous, not knowing what was to come. My first week was mind blowing as I shadowed my Mentor, learning that there is more to landscaping than designing a beautiful greenspace for personal enjoyment. I dove right in with my Mentor doing site safety, helping her finish a berm project, completing work orders, taking plant inventory and importing information into a model to create a proposal. I also jumped in with the mow crew experiencing the different equipment. I quickly realized how important and busy the job of an Account Manager can be and by the end of my first week I came to appreciate the crews for the hard work they do!


So far, during my time at Austin Outdoor, I have been a part of the team, making phone calls to get prices on equipment, filling out requisitions, learning the importance of coding accounts, going over scheduling with crews and prepping the Crew Leader to move quickly and safely.


One of my favorite experiences was spending time with the West Palm Business Development Manager learning the sales side of the landscape business. It was a great experience as we worked on the enhancement model for an upcoming meeting, placing information into the estimator system and creating an AM report to be sent to the Branch Manager for approval.


With time I have shadowed multiple Account Managers and observed their different styles of working with and operating their crews. I am learning how to communicate professionally with HOA members and what residents want in their landscapes. After weeks of site inspections I have come to realize just how much a landscape can change in a week as I observed plants dying in an area that was fine the week before. I learned scale was the culprit and how to treat the infestation. I found this very interesting since I never experienced scale on plants before.


All in all my internship experience has shown me the importance of thinking about the amount of labor and time it will take to maintain a landscape. When considering a landscape design, it is more than just creating something that looks amazing, it must also be sustainable and survive the environment. I must think long term, that’s the key! Most importantly, my Mentor has taught me how important community and relationships are between you and the customer.

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Presenting the 2015 Intern Class

 

These young men and women, located throughout Austin Outdoor, are proving to be energetic, bright and talented.

Check back soon for updates from our Intern Class about their experiences with us this summer.

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A Brief History of the American Lawn

As we approach the Fourth of July, we’ll all take some time to reflect on the great things we love about our country. We’ll celebrate with fireworks, barbeque, apple pie and ice cream.

Many of us will also take advantage of the long weekend to spend a little time working on our lawns.

We may take our lawns for granted today, but the modern American lawn is still a relatively new phenomenon. In fact, lawns have only become a practical and socially acceptable use of land in the last hundred years.

The American lawn’s history begins with some of our country’s most famous founding fathers.

George Washington’s home, Mount Vernon, and Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello, were modeled after the royal estates of England and France. They took their inspiration from Greek architecture and from the palaces of Europe, notably Louis XIV’s Versailles, and filled their sprawling grounds with freshly manicured, lush green grass.

These estates and their beautiful lawns were symbols of early American prosperity and power, but were completely impractical for the average citizen. Most early Americans used their land for crops and gardens, a legacy that would continue through to the late 1800s.

Even if the average early American had aspirations to keep a small patch of green grass look after, the tools to mow it weren’t widely accessible. Wealthy estate owners used servants or flocks of sheep to keep their turf trimmed to an appropriate height. Most Americans of the time couldn’t afford to hire out the maintenance of their lawn - to men or to sheep.

The Industrial Revolution removed two major hurdles to widespread adoption of the American lawn – tools and how we use our land.

In 1870, the first push lawn mower was invented. By 1885, Americans were buying 50,000 of them every year. At the same time, we were moving to cities and leaving our agricultural roots behind. With fewer families relying on their gardens for food, they could now create lawns for entertaining and recreation.

Still, there was a challenge to find the right type of grass for our American lawns. English grasses didn’t take hold in most parts of our New World, and native grasses didn’t lend themselves to the desired trim and tidy appearance.

The US Department of Agriculture and the US Golf Association began importing and testing different varieties of grass in different parts of the country in 1915. They soon discovered the right types of turf grasses to plant in each part of the country, in order to give us the perfect American lawn.

At about the same time, the Garden Club of America was formed, publishing a standard definition for what we now know as the American lawn:

"A plot with a single type of grass with no intruding weeds, kept mown at a height of an inch and a half, uniformly green, and neatly edged."

Today, just 100 years later, the professional landscape industry employs over 1 million people and is expected to generate over $80 billion this year.

While some may question why we care so much about our lawns, the fact is that the American lawn has quickly become a part of our culture.

And we think that’s something to celebrate this Fourth of July.

 

SourceAmerican Lawns

Gardens of Versailles Image courtesy Kimberly Vardeman via Flickr

 

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The Scoop on Mowing Height and 3 Common Turf Diseases

Our most recent edition of The Scoop offers tips from our Landscape Professionals.

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