NHLA Announces Partnership with Greenius

Providing Members and the Industry With Professional Landscape
Safety and Performance Training

NHLA and Greenius, North America’s leading training for landscapers, have announced a partnership to help connect more landscapers to high-quality landscape training focused on safety and employee development.

Greenius is an online training tool and Learning Management System (LMS) for Landscape workers for equipment operation. The company uses live-action video, online exams, and an app-based Field Checklist. They also incorporate an employee lifecycle tool with performance review capabilities. London, Ontario-based Greenius is an industry leader with a proven track record of delivering exceptional employee development tools for landscape professionals. They offer hundreds of courses in both English and Spanish with new courses added every year. Offered courses cover a variety of topics important to the Green Industry, including but not limited to maintenance, construction, snow, safety, equipment, supervisor training, and more.

This partnership will give New Hampshire Landscape Association members the opportunity to access hundreds of Greenius training courses, tailgate talks, job-site checklists, and employee development tools. Many companies in the industry continue to be challenged by skilled labor shortages.

The Greenius platform provides training courses and tools to help develop the skills of new team members and to help retain employees and foster team member growth within their organizations.

North Point Outdoors has been using Greenius for a few years now. They like the consistent training and accountability. Training can be done anytime, even before the employee steps foot in the field.

As a member of NHLA, you will receive 2-months free ($250+ value) as well as free customized implementation ($349 value)!! Please contact Pam Moreau for your referral code.

NHLA and Greenius will be working closely together in the coming months to provide a higher level of standard for safety and performance training to the landscape industry including lawn care, grounds maintenance, snow and ice management, human resources, and business development training. We are excited!

To learn more about Greenius, visit gogreenius.com/how-greenius-works/


Take Advantage of Winter Education

It’s mid-winter. Time to take a break; spend more time with family and friends and think about how you are going to be more efficient and profitable next season. People have different views on how to achieve this goal but for me it really came down to the two “E’s”: Education and Equipment.

As a former teacher, I always embraced the education end. I go to Hardscape North America in Louisville, KY, in October; the Mid-Atlantic Hardscape Show in Atlantic City in December; and the Northeast Hardscape Show (that is in Springfield, MA, this year) in March. We as an industry must be doing something right to have the three biggest hardscape shows east of the Mississippi. Many of the paver manufacturers will be having their free shows this winter as well. I have already received invites from manufacturers like Genest, Techo-Bloc, Nicolock, and Unilock.
You have heard me say this before, many times, over and over — take advantage of these opportunities. And, it goes without saying, our own NHLA provides opportunities not only in the winter but year-round, covering all aspects of the industry. These are great opportunities to learn something new and network with your fellow professionals. I challenge you! Take home one tidbit of information that you can utilize in your business to make you more efficient. DON’T FORGET, EFFICIENCY EQUALS PROFITS.

On the equipment end, it took some hard lessons and convincing from my son Tom, that good efficient tools are extremely important. At one point in my landscape construction career, I had 12 employees. The last few years that I was in business I had 4 employees. We were often more profitable with 4 than 12. And one of the reasons was having proper tools. Think about your wellbeing and the wellbeing of your employees. Let the tools do the heavy lifting and save your back, knees, and fingers. Let’s face it. In this industry it still comes down to back-breaking work. Try to extend your career and your employees by taking advantage of the latest innovations and labor-saving tools.
I hope to see you and your crew at an educational event this winter!

— by Bill Gardocki, who is a past president of NHLA (1994 & 1995). He is now a hardscape educator.

Tightening Up on Pesticide Use

The City of Portland recently issued its first fine for violating the city’s pesticide ordinance. Approved in 2018, advocates at the time called it “one of the strongest pesticide ordinances in the country.” The ordinance bans the use of synthetic pesticides, though there are some exceptions, including plant and pest control when they threaten people’s health and safety, such as poison ivy.

One of Portland’s largest landscape companies (the name will not be mentioned in this article)was fined the maximum fine of $500 for the application of glyphosate (Roundup) to control Japanese Knotweed at an apartment complex. The application was seen and reported by a resident with an organic vegetable plot. The owner of this complex owns over 100 properties with 2700 affordable and market rate units primarily in Maine, but also in New Hampshire.

The pesticide law has been difficult to enforce because city officials cannot go on people’s private properties, even then a violation can be difficult to enforce without documentation. The violations have to be similar to this one where people are “caught in the act.”

The city originally made a few exceptions, including Hadlock Field, home of the Portland Seadogs baseball team, and the city owned Riverside golf course. At one time these two areas were planned to eventually be totally pesticide free, but it is my understanding the quality of the turf just couldn’t be kept up to the required level without some treatments. Dutch Elm and browntail moth treatments were also put on the exemption list. Since Emerald Ash Borer had yet to be found in Portland, there was no mention of and exemption for its treatment, but I’m sure it is now allowed.

Since Portland’s new pesticide laws were in the planning stages and then actually went into law, I’ve had mixed opinions about the regulations. Most of the run-off of the entire city ends up in the ocean, therefore I feel careful application practices are needed. On a state level, pesticide regulations have tightened up significantly in the past 10-15 years. Should the City have different laws than the State?

Often people I’ve seen on some of these boards or committees are not those I consider knowledgeable enough about pesticides. Here in the Town of Yarmouth a board was set up to “observe” pesticide use, thinking they may want to tighten or set up regulations in the future. From what I could tell, only one person out of the 6 or 8 board members was a licensed pesticide applicator. Seems to me more board members should be from a type of business that is actually applying pesticides or at least working in the Green Industry. Fortunately this was just a committee that was only observing pesticide use, and as of now they have yet to set any new regulations.

The company in Portland was sloppy by not following the regulations. I’m not sure if they were ignorant about the regulations or felt they could get away without getting caught. The point is, if you don’t like playing by Portland’s rules, don’t apply pesticides there. At the same time, some of the Portland officials may need to have their properties overtaken by bittersweet before they realize a minimal amount of control of some invasives is needed.

Time will tell if the whole pesticide application rule process gets changed in the future.

— by Phil Caldwell, a past president of NHLA (1989) who now lives and works in Maine.  

Plan for your Future

I started in this industry 46 years ago at the ripe age of 15. By 16 years old I was a typical young person carting around my tools in the back of my 1971 Ford Maverick. Little did I know I was getting in on the ground floor of an industry that hadn’t been named yet. When I first heard J.C. Henry use the term “hardscape,” I thought he was crazy, but cool!

Gail and I started our business in 1980 after graduating from college. We had a used Bolens tractor and an assortment of hand tools. I recall very well purchasing our first skid steer in 1988. The salesman had to give us a good sales pitch to convince us it would be worth the investment. That one sale opened my mind to just how valuable an investment in the right tools is.

My son, Tom, started working for us when he was 10 years old in 1997. By then we had purchased two more skid steers, a backhoe attachment, a loader, four dump trucks, two pickups, two trailers, a laser plane, compactor, three cut off saws and two computers! By 2019 our job descriptions had not changed a whole lot, but how we worked certainly had. Cell phones for instant communication, social media for marketing, and equipment laden with technology all made our jobs easier and time more productive.

We are fortunate that our son had a keen interest in our line of work. I asked him recently what the pluses and minuses were of working for his parents, you know, the older generation. He noted that we have a harder time adapting to new technology (yes), and we are often stuck in our ways of doing things (what?!). It is not easy to convince us to try something different (he has many times). But growing up in a family owned business, Tom learned all aspects of running a business sitting at the dining room table each night as Gail and I discussed work. He learned from our mistakes. He learned to take responsibility. He learned about planning, organization, perseverance, how to talk to customers, tracking and understanding expenses, and money management. All these tools and skills are just as important as the physical equipment we invested in.

About the time Tom was born we decided we needed help with planning for our goals in life. We knew Tim Riley, a fellow University of New Hampshire alumnus who had started his own financial planning company called Harbor Group in Bedford, NH. Tim examined our situation and has since advised us with our savings, insurance, investments, children’s college savings plans, and retirement plans.

The first order of business was to get disability and life insurance. This is something a lot of young people don’t think about. Look at my case though. Out of nowhere I had a stroke and was out of work for an entire season. Thank goodness I had disability insurance and savings (and a very capable son) that helped us through that time.

Tim had us work on building up an emergency fund after we had our insurance in place. You never know when you may have a slowdown in work or a need to have some money to fall back on. We learned that people should start saving money with their first job no matter how young they are. This is super important. Set a target of putting 10-15% of your income aside. Be disciplined and the process of compounding will reward you.

And start thinking about retirement and how you will pay for it now, if you haven’t already. Most of us contractors are self-employed. We started our retirement savings by taking advantage of the tax-free growth of a Roth IRA. A goal should be to be debt free by retirement. Try to have your mortgage, kid’s school bills, and all your large miscellaneous debts paid off.

Think about your future expenses and plan. Work with a financial planning expert. They can help you plan and calculate needs taking in all aspects of your life and goals. Many of us know how to install hardscapes, not how to invest our hard-earned money. It is important to remember that at some point you will want to retire. The longer you wait to start planning for it, the longer it will be before you can. Save as young as you can and as much as you can. Savings will give you flexibility in your future. As Tim says, “It doesn’t happen by magic”.
There are few people my age who have concentrated on installing hardscapes for their career. We are approaching the first generation of retirees from this field.

The younger generation of installers has grown up with new technology, tools, and installation techniques that make this such a great and competitive industry. I know it’s not easy convincing us older folk to try something different, but I am hopeful that us older folk have convinced you to invest in training, education, the latest technology and techniques in our industry. Just as important though is to invest in yourself. I wish all of you every success for the future. I hope to see you at future industry events!

originally published in August/September 2019 Hardscape Magazine
by Bill Gardocki, Hardscape Educator

I Didn’t Know That! Let’s Get Dirty Workshop a Success

If you didn’t know that only the quarter-inch tip of your mowing blade is really the only thing that needs to be sharp, you missed an opportunity to learn about how to maintain most of your small equipment at the first “Let’s Get Dirty” workshop.

North Point Outdoors in Derry hosted the hands-on event that gave the dozen participants insights into the most common equipment problems – and their solutions.

Chris Baker, fleet manager, and his assistant Andrew “Junior” Giampalo, led the group around the shop examining several pieces of equipment in need of repair or maintenance.

“The biggest villain for most engines in any fleet is ethanol gasoline,” Baker said. “Ethanol separates from the gasoline after 30 days and turns to a solid.” Ethanol also attracts water, therefore keep your equipment entirely filled when is use, then empty the tank entirely at the end of the season. For large equipment, such as mowers, use a fuel stabilizer in a full tank if it will be stored until next season. Then turn off the fuel and run the engine until the fuel line is empty to avoid carburetor problems.

Giampalo took apart several small two-cycle engines, showing the various small filters that need regular scrutiny if the engines falter or fail to operate at the highest levels.

“Every engine needs three things: air, fuel and sparks,” Giampalo said. “If your engine isn’t running, it’s most likely one of those three things. Check your filters and replace them.”

Both mechanics suggested putting together a simple tool kit for road repairs: air and fuel filters, spark plugs, and the tools that come with every piece of equipment.

They said most cutting equipment also needs regular sharpening, especially pruners and mowers. North Point mowing crews sharpen their blades three times a week.

After a few hours in the shop, attendees had pizza, salad, and soft drinks in the North Point office and enjoyed a free-wheeling conversation about maintenance and business practices.

Benjamin Gibbs of TNT Landscaping of Epsom summed up the workshop: “Know the process – and just do it. Every time.”

by Mike Barwell