You may know us as one of the Boston area’s most trusted sourced for landscape design, installation, and maintenance. Or as the nice people who cut your lawn, built your neighbor’s beautiful stone wall, or worked a 10-hour day in the rain to finish your project in time for your daughter’s graduation party. Now, we hope you’ll take time to get to know us as Eastern Massachusetts’ first cooperatively-owned landscaping company. Enjoy the organic gardening advice on the blog, and take a moment to learn about A Yard & A Half Landscaping Cooperative, Inc. here!
A little preparation during the final days of fall can prevent many headaches and chilly emergency repairs. Here are some tips to prepare your yard and landscape for winter:
- Last winter, rapid accumulation of heavy snows damaged many flat roofs. If your house has a flat roof, make sure that you purchase a roof rake ahead of time, or contract with a snow removal company that offers roof clearing services.
- Disconnect and drain any rain barrels to prevent freezing and cracking. The empty barrels can be very lightweight, so make sure that they are secured so they don’t blow away in heavy winds.
- Inspect and clean the gutters and drainage systems. If you have a basement sump pump that drains into a dry well or exterior drainage system, it should have an overflow in case the system freezes up.
- Before the ground freezes, check the grading of soil around house foundations and behind retaining walls. When heavy spring rains come, you want the water to flow away from your house, and not to get trapped in a low point behind a wall.
- Inspect trees for cracked, dead, or broken branches that might damage your house or vehicles.
- Shut off water to outdoor faucets, then open the faucet so that any remaining water can drain out. Drain and store garden hoses and drip tubing. Have irrigation systems drained.
- Stock up on ice melt, selecting one that meets your family’s needs. Salt will damage concrete, so read labels carefully to select the appropriate product. Ice melt with magnesium chloride or magnesium acetate as the active ingredient will damage plants less than salt or calcium chloride, though chloride can accumulate in soils and water supplies, and damage plants over time. Chlorides will also irritate pets’ paws and stomachs.
- Shift seasons for your maintenance equipment. Drain gas from the lawn mower. Fuel up the snow-blower, add oil, and check rotor blades, belts, and spark plug. Put away gardening tools, and have snow shovels at hand.
Our crews are available to help with your winter preparations. Drop us a line to schedule a free estimate.
When you shop locally, 50% more of your money remains in the local economy, creating jobs and increasing wages for your neighbors. Skip the big box stores and national chains on Cyber Monday, and instead go local today for Small Business Saturday.
Here are links to Boston-area cities with LocalFirst initiatives:
- Cambridge / Somerville
- Jamaica Plain
- Newton (free parking in Newton Center today)
Ironically, a large credit card processor has partnered with the Small Business Administration to promote “Shop Small,” even though processing fees an be a real challenge for small businesses trying to keep prices competitive while paying a living wage and providing good benefits to workers. Rather than going for the “Get 10% off when you use your AmEx card” deals, pay cash and participate in the local and independent “Shift Your Shopping for Good” initiative: shop participating local businesses and designate the charity of your choice to receive a percentage of your purchase!
We’re conscious that not everyone has as much to be thankful for today. According to Project Bread, hunger is a daily reality for 16.5% of our state’s children, and more than 1 in 10 Massachusetts households. Winter and the holiday season can be a particularly difficult time for vulnerable populations, including the homeless, elderly, chronically ill, and those facing depression. If you are one of the fortunate who are giving thanks for abundance today, here are a few ways to share:
- Engage your kids in a family service project this holiday season. Many charities are deluged with volunteers on Thanksgiving and Christmas day, so pick a time in between to brighten the day of someone in need.
- Distribute healthy, locally-grown produce to those who need it. Boston-Area Gleaners and local shelters will accept extras from your own garden, or get involved with an area farm through Food for Free.
- Consider the impact of your holiday shopping choices: when you shop locally, 50% more of your money remains in the local economy, creating jobs and increasing wages for your neighbors. Skip the big box stores and national chains on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and instead go local on Small Business Saturday. Here are links to Boston-area cities with LocalFirst initiatives: Arlington, Brookline, Cambridge / Somerville, Jamaica Plain, Needham, and Newton.
- Join or support a cooperative. Coops increase consumer and worker control of business decisions, ensuring fair wages, safe working conditions, and sustainable purchasing. Help A Yard & A Half Landscaping Cooperative earn a #GivingTuesday grant of up to $5,000 from the Razoo Foundation. Make a tax-deductible donation between now and Dec 3rd!
Let us know your favorite ways to give back in the comments, and have a happy Thanksgiving!
It probably goes without saying that if you have a yard, you have a house. We can help make your house safer, cozier, and more energy-efficient in winter from the outside in:
- Keep the house warm in winter, cool in summer - Maximize passive solar energy with planting and pruning.
- Eliminate icy patches by installing drainage systems, rerouting downspouts, and repairing or replacing walkways and driveways where water pools.
- Keep basements dry by regrading soil around foundations. We also partner with interior contractors, so we can address basement wall sealing, sump pump installation, and floor systems at the same time as exterior work, to keep you dry next spring.
- Prevent costly property damage from falling branches by pruning large trees over roofs and parking areas.
- Light entryways on dark evenings and while you’re travelling for the holidays. Energy-saving LED and low-voltage landscape lighting prevents trip and fall injuries, deters break-ins, and enhances curb appeal, without breaking the bank.
You and your family deserve to be safe and happy all winter. Let us know if we can provide exterior solutions, or recommend one of our professional partners for weatherproofing, security monitoring, remodeling, or organizing. Get more homeowner tips from our friends at 4BuyersRE.
Is your lawn looking patchy? Mid-August to mid-September is the optimal time to renovate or establish lawns from seed. Here’s how:
- Shade? Add shade-tolerant seed such as fescue to thin areas under dappled shade.
- Crabgrass? Rip out crabgrass and add a blend of bluegrass and rye seed for heat and sun tolerance.
- Moss or rock-hard dirt? Aerate (poke little holes in the soil), add compost, and seed.
If you’re facing tougher problems like grubs or Japanese Knotweed, have we got the post for you!
In general, any lawn will benefit from core aeration, compost application, and overseeding at this time of year. Adding this treatment you your annual maintenance will improve your soil, thicken turf, and reduce weeds over time.
I started this post a while back under the title, “They’re not the cheapest, but…” which we hear a lot from clients when they are recommending us to do work. A returning client who is considering us for design/build of their new landscape asked me today to explain why our mulching price was so much higher than that of her “lawn guy” at their other house. Here’s my response:
First is a business issue. I don’t know who your lawn service is, and I am sure that they do a fine job for what they do. However, since you’re asking me to compare on price, I have to point out that there is a huge variation in “landscaping” companies. Those that do primarily maintenance have much lower overhead – they need a garage to store a mower and some rakes, no inventory, fewer specialized tasks that require ongoing training or certification, very simple job-costing that a salesperson should be able to do in the field (or even with a Google Earth flyover). Their direct costs tend to be lower, because they can throw a lower-skilled person out there with a mower, and if they get hurt or quit, they have invested little in their training, and can easily replace them. They also have much tighter price competition, because they are usually dealing in volume, trying to hit as many properties as possible in a day. Of companies who stay in business for any length of time, it’s not unusual to have a 3% rate of profit, which is fine for a guy with a truck, but no way to create growth and provide jobs. So, part of the answer is that your lawn company probably has a different business model, different costs, and therefore different pricing.
Second, they probably have a different value proposition. We spend about a week at the beginning of each spring training our crews, reviewing specifications on industry best-practices on everything they do in the field, from pruning trees to building stone walls to mulching. Why would we spend time teaching people to mulch? Too little mulch allows weeds and doesn’t retain sufficient soil moisture. Too much can smother plant roots and invite disease when touching bark. Since we guarantee all of our new plants for 2 years, it’s imperative that we protect that investment with proper planting and mulching. Believe it or not, we’ve been brought onto jobs by designers who fired previous contractors because improper mulching was killing their plants! It does take more time to apply mulch correctly, and it costs a bit more to get natural, undyed mulch.
Third, and probably most important, is how we treat and compensate our employees. Most landscape companies do not give paid holidays or vacation time, because it’s a seasonal business. Many pay low wages because they employ or are competing with companies who employ workers who are paid under the table, with no tax or unemployment burden. Some avoid worker compensation costs by dismissing those same employees if they are injured, knowing that they will not take legal action. We feel like safe, healthy employees who have growth potential in their work can do the best job for our customers, so we pay a living wage, and offer good benefits including continuing education.
We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section: When you think “fair and reasonable pricing”, are you asking, “Fair and reasonable for whom?”