Winter care for your green spaces

Amid the summer heat and holiday season, those in charge of grounds care for local authorities begin to think about winter maintenance. The British Association of Landscape Industries write about how green spaces and landscapes can be maintained during the winter months

The importance of grounds maintenance cannot be over emphasised. We maintain our cars, heating systems, machinery, our houses and even our health, because we recognise a regular maintenance schedule prolongs the life of those items and helps reduce the risk of things going wrong and potentially injuring people.

Our green spaces that surround public and commercial sites are no different, especially in terms of the many benefits they provide. These spaces are often the first area that people see when they arrive at a destination, and we all know the importance of first impressions, but it’s more than just aesthetic reasons that we need to correctly maintain green areas like this.

In the UK, members of the British Association of Landscape Industries (BALI), made up of landscapers and grounds maintenance operatives, supervisors and managers, garden designers and suppliers, have mastered the art of ensuring these important spaces are well looked after all year round, even in the winter months when the real challenges emerge in ensuring they are kept regularly maintained with hazardous conditions.

Although the public won’t necessarily use the spaces as often, it’s paramount that these living spaces and the subsequent soft and hard surfaces are maintained and that the appropriate maintenance tasks are carried out. One of the challenges faced by grounds maintenance professionals is a reduction in green space budgets at a local and national level which is forcing contractors to work smarter in ensuring the work carried out is both cost-effective and still delivers the same results expected by the client. Green spaces are vital for our health and well-being and are proven to reduce pressures on the NHS with more people benefiting from leading healthier lifestyles. To lose these spaces would be catastrophic.

To help, members produce yearly maintenance schedules to keep on top of these areas and help plan for the maintenance activities that will need to take place 365 days a year. Plant growth cycles in particular need to be taken into consideration, this will influence when watering, mulching, pruning and plant replacement takes place. Surface treatment, structural upgrades, boundary and fencing repair or replacements and tree care are just some of the task’s members undertake when the temperature starts to fall.

Whilst the industry enters a dormant period, remember, there are still many tasks that need to be carried out to keep everything not only looking shipshape, but safe for the people that use and travel through these areas.

BALI has highlighted just some of the task’s members carry out in the winter:

- Grass will continue to grow at a minimum temperature of 14 degrees Celsius, so mowing may continue into the months that are unseasonably mild, subject to the weather and areas being dry enough.

- Leaves and plant debris will need to be removed from grassed areas to prevent lawns from dying and from walkways and hard surfaces to prevent pedestrians slipping and the surfaces becoming stained.

 -Plant and shrub growth will need to be checked and cut back appropriately if it is overhanging walk ways, cars parks or obscuring lines of sight for vehicles and pedestrians on the property. Rejuvenated pruning can take place through the winter, this presents an opportunity to cut back deciduous shrubs that have become overgrown and give them a chance to produce new growth, which in turn will produce a healthier shrub with improved flowering.

- Evaluate any areas of soil that have been used as a cut through and may have become compacted leading to soil erosion or uneven surfaces, alleviating compaction through cultivation should take place and replanting or grass seeding can then follow in the spring.

- It’s that time of year when potentially we could have a lot of ice and snow, last year saw a 52% rise in slips, trips and falls during icy and snowy conditions. A close eye should be kept on the weather, checking for warnings concerning potential ice and snow on local weather channels. There are specialty BALI landscape contractors that focus on preventative and reactive gritting and snow clearance services so that outdoor settings don’t pose a hazard when conditions take a turn for the worse.

- If you have good sized trees, now is the time to check for dead and diseased branches and have them safely removed by a reputable arboriculturalist.

- Edges are something we take for granted, but we are very reliant on them for guiding us and helping us navigate, whether that be the edge of a path, a road, a grassed area or planted border. When these become overgrown or obscured this increases the chance of injury from slips, trips or falls and damage from vehicles that can’t see where they should be travelling or parking. So, make sure they are well maintained and clearly defined.

- Playground equipment and surfacing should be checked on a regular basis, but with these areas perhaps being a little less used during winter, it’s an ideal time to carry out a thorough check through structural identification for signs of damage and wear and tear, along with a tactile test. Timber play equipment should be checked for cracks and anything exceeding 8mm should be reported. Moving parts should be checked and lubricated as necessary. Make sure the safety surface areas are clear of debris and trip hazards and check for sign of wear and tear and replace as necessary. A professional inspection should take place at least once a year. If serious defects are detected, then equipment should be immobilised and repaired as soon as possible. All play equipment and surfaces should comply with European Standards of Play Equipment (EN1176) and or Surfacing (EN1177).

- It’s also a great time to check sports surfaces. Continue to keep surfaces free of debris, and in frosty conditions and when snow has settled, keep off artificial grass as walking on the surface can damage the artificial fibres. It is also best to try not to remove snow once it’s settled but allow it to thaw as removal can again damage the fibres. Avoid applying rock salt or grit as this, once dissolved, can cause contamination and damage to the surface. Specialist PDV salts and antifreezes can be applied by contractors to help prevent ice and snow settling, but is not appropriate for all surfaces, so specialist advice should be sort for your type of surface. One of the biggest problem’s artificial surfaces face at this time of the year is the potential to flood, with a build-up of contaminates water will be slow to drain, therefore regular brushing and replacement infill materials is essential to keep the areas draining adequately. If flooding and standing water persists, then contractors may need to be contacted to carry out a deep cleaning process and restore the correct drainage properties. If ignored this will only continue to worsen as times goes on.

Unsure on how to create a regimented grounds maintenance plan for this coming winter? If so then BALI Registered companies, who specialise in grounds maintenance, will be able create a bespoke maintenance plan and carry out the maintenance all year round for your green space.

Search for your local contractor member at bali.org.uk. If you require any further assistance please contact BALI, Landscape House, Stoneleigh, Warwickshire, CV8 2LG +44(0)24 7669 0333 or contact@bali.org.uk.

Further Information: 

www.bali.org.uk

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