March in New England is a month of surprises. Winter throws us last-ditch nor'easters that are followed by spring's sudden thaw. There might be two feet of snow one day, and sunny skies with temperatures in the sixties the next. The only thing that's guaranteed is damage to the landscape caused by ice, snow, sand, salt, and the mighty plow.
About this time of year, associations, owners, and managers must begin to assess the grounds and figure out what must be done to clean up, fix up, and perhaps take some element away and add something new. The big spring landscape cleanup requires professionalsfor both the natural elements and those that are man-made. "Typically, the spring cleanup is included in the RFP [request for proposal] given to landscapers," says Andrew Raynor, president of Shawmut Property Management in North Andover, Massachusetts. This usually includes picking up branches, raking, and sweeping, and it might include tree work.
Step by Step
A good first step is a walk around the complex with a clipboard in hand. "I like to include the association president or a member of the landscaping committee in the walkaround," says Raynor, explaining that these people may have requests that go beyond the contracted work. Make a list of damage you see, noting where it is: broken branches in big trees next to the pool, smashed shrubs alongside garages, torn-up lawn at the edge of the parking area, loose cobblestones on the walkway to building B, and so on. This will help the landscaper or manager prioritize the work.
One of the most visible problems will be damaged trees. This work requires experts, for both human safety and for the protection of this most valuable natural asset. "A licensed arborist is insured to do tree work," explains Stacie Mikol of Distinctive Gardens and Tree Care in South Windsor, Connecticut. "We have the proper equipment, including bucket trucks, and our employees undergo continuous training."
Large fallen branches should be cut up and taken away; and dead and damaged branches remaining on trees should be properly trimmed to ensure the health of the tree. If a tree is split or loses a significant number of branches, a tree expert will be able to advise you whether or not the tree should be cut down.