We all know that budgets not spent have a funny way of disappearing from future property management operating budgets. “Use it or lose it,” they say. Now the question is how best to use that available money so you can maximize its impact not so much today, but in the long-term interest of your property or long-term reductions to your operating budgets. The basic assumption here is that your snow budgets and your landscape budgets are closely related, if not combined.
If you have had the benefit of a seasoned and professional landscape contractor, some of these options have likely been reviewed with you at some point. So where do you look to find landscape maintenance investment opportunities? I suggest that you start with either that list of deferred maintenance items or that five-year capital planning list (that I know you all have). Here are some ideas:
- Invest in perennials. Year after year you spend money on annuals that, although providing instant gratification and curb appeal, are planted, then ripped out only to be repeated annually. The upfront cost of planting perennials can be double that of annuals. If you do the math, a perennial installation, which enhances the property year after year, will pay for itself in two to three years.
- Aerate your lawn. This is a process that enhances your turf by helping with air circulation, water absorption, and decompaction of soils. The problem is the service itself gives no instant and visible gratification, so it’s often overlooked and eliminated from budgets. Investing in this landscape maintenance service will pay dividends through improved and more resistant turf for two to three years.
- Make irrigation assessment and upgrades. Most irrigation budgets account for start-ups, shut-downs, and some minor repairs. Investing in an irrigation assessment and upgrades pays dividends in many ways. The obvious way is through grass that is watered consistently, avoiding soggy areas and burned areas in the summer. The less obvious benefit is through reduced water consumption and waste. There are simple strategies of watering at appropriate times, watering for appropriate durations and frequencies for site conditions. There are also more highly advanced strategies including low-volume heads and weather station controllers. Depending on the property or the investment, the savings can range from a few hundred dollars per year to several thousands of dollars per year.
- Repair poorly drained areas. Whether they are low spots in the land or otherwise poorly drained areas, they show themselves year after year through ruts caused by maintenance equipment, areas that cannot be mowed, or in the worst cases, standing water that invites turf-borne diseases and mosquitoes. Investment in a properly designed drainage system can minimize if not eliminate these problem areas and add to the long-term performance of your property.
- Spend it on fun stuff. Depending on the property type, you surely have had your sights set on some form of capital improvement, like hardscapes. A corporate site may benefit from a nice stone entry wall. A residential property might benefit from a barbecue area or a fire pit. A hospital or institutional property might find value in a healing garden or an otherwise quiet secluded garden area. This type of investment yields quite different upside. Besides potentially attracting the best employees or the best residents, it can pay the dividend of having a nice area on your property that you and your tenants or employees can enjoy and take pride in.