As a landscaper, I get asked all the time, “So, what do you do in the winter? Do you do any snow plowing?” I suppose it’s a logical question and people are naturally curious. I’m not always sure exactly why they ask though. Maybe they’re afraid my kids could starve during the slower season, maybe they’re fishing for someone to plow their driveway, or perhaps they’re wondering (enviously) if I vacation in Jamaica for two months. Well, we’ve survived so far through many winters, we don’t plow snow, and I’ve never been to an island...but I wouldn’t rule it out in the future!
It seems like everyone assumes that landscapers and grass cutters just about always plow snow in the winter. Not true, although it is true that many do, especially those serving commercial clients. In fact, in the commercial realm it may be a deal breaker if snow removal and salting are not included in the complete grounds maintenance package. For residential customers, I think it’s different. Most customers don’t necessarily need to have the same guy who mulches their flower beds in the spring, plow their driveway if/when it snows in the winter (although it is convenient). Certainly, a lot of grass cutters already have a 4x4 truck or fleet of trucks, and they already have the established relationships with their customer base, and no one is busy cutting grass in January, so they include snow removal in their service offerings. It’s a very reasonable arrangement. So why do we choose to NOT get in on the snow removal game?
It’s a big financial investment in equipment (plows, spreaders, blowers)
The equipment sits idly in driveways, garages and back yards for maybe 360 days a year
Plus there’s an inventory of ice melt to store and have on hand
It’s a gamble - I’m sure you’ve noticed some years we get almost NO snow at all
It’s a commitment to something that can’t be predicted - to be on call 24/7 for 3 months!
It’s rough on the trucks which are vital to the core business
It’s dangerous, and literally the worst time to be out on the roads
Despite the common connection, snow removal is really an entirely different business
Can it be fun? Sure! Can it give a much needed injection of off-season cash flow? Yes, after a good snow...provided you didn’t wreck a truck or crash through someone’s garage door in the process. It’s risky and cold and often requires long, around-the-clock-hours through a storm, so it should pay well! But for me, I’d rather shovel my own driveway and go back inside for some hot cocoa. More power to the snow plowers, we need them and we love them! As for us, we’re going to stick to being exceptional landscapers and use the winter to do what landscaping can be done or to prepare for the coming season!
The winter is a great opportunity for plenty of important landscaping activities. Our company is primarily engaged in landscaping design and installation, and secondarily we offer landscape maintenance, and as such, we typically stay busy right up until Christmas. By that time we’re ready for a break, which brings me to winter activity / perk number one:
Rest! It’s nice to have a break over the holidays, especially with the kids off school, although we sometimes work a few days between Christmas and New Years if the weather is nice (but no one really expects us to)
Equipment maintenance gets done Dec-Feb when the weather allows for it
It’s a chance to take stock, to reflect on the gains and losses of the previous season
It’s a great time to plan for the upcoming season, make projections and set goals
Training (several of us attended a retaining wall building seminar in January, for example)
There’s time to research industry trends, new products, etc.
Marketing and education content can be developed for use throughout the year
Winter is a great time for recruiting new team members for the coming season
But by far the biggest goal we have is to do whatever winter-time LANDSCAPING we can! In St. Louis, there are often plenty of days suitable to do just about any service we offer: dormant season pruning, planting, grading, sodding, clean ups, mulching, or hardscaping of all kinds.
While some winters are mild, others are not, and there can be long stretches of time when we can’t effectively work. If the ground is frozen solid, or covered in snow, or getting soaked by rain for days and weeks on end, that tends to spoil our fun. In which case, we get even more rest, storing up energy to unleash in the spring - kind of like a dormant plant! Usually by mid-February (right about now!) we’re all anxious for springtime. This is an ideal time to start making your landscaping plans, securing your place on our schedule for mulching or planting, and setting those design appointments. Spring is just a few weeks away, and after a wintry winter like the one we’re having, Spring Fever will be rampant and the rush will be on! We’ll be ready!