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Winter lawns and landscaping

Readylawn Managing Director Roger Morgan gives his top tips for getting through winter in one piece, while keeping clients and staff happy

It’s a cool, crisp morning in Christchurch and we’re being treated to a magnificent blue-sky day. My office overlooks the mountains and, although not open, the snow at Porters Ski Field looks inviting.

In a few months, Porters will be busy, but in the turf game, winter is a time to take the foot off the gas, recover from a busy summer and prepare for the next one. Saying that, we still have clients to keep happy and there are certainly challenges through this period.

So, stay with me as I condense 30 years of experience into four ways you can manage jobs through winter.

1. It’s sometimes better not to work

Businesses are often under pressure to carry on working, and having a bunch of staff standing round doing nothing doesn’t pay the bills. At Readylawn, we use our quiet time to tick off training, hold health and safety meetings, gain licences (class 2s are gold!) clean and fix our gear and sweep the sheds. The BBQ often comes out and the team can have short days – all of which helps keep spirits high and acts as a trade-off when they might need to stay late at other times of the year. However, sometimes you just need to carry on if clients need their projects finished and, as landscapers, we’re the last trade in to work on jobs, so we get the blame if deadlines are missed!

Working in the rain can create bigger issues, as anyone who has cleaned a drive and yard after a wet day will know. It can be mud from one end to the other and porridge to work with. It’s hardly inspiring stuff – which is even more reason to keep spirits high during winter.

2. Manage client expectations

Deadlines never seem to go away and client expectations are higher than ever. This week I helped a valued trade client align client expectations with reality. They hydroseeded a new lawn six weeks ago and, with winter weather and some rain, it remains soft underfoot. The weeds are tall, but grass cover is good and overall the lawn is in good shape. Ensuring the client is well informed through the process is important and, in this case, the lawn will be just fine with a bit more time, a weed spray and a mow. I’m not sure the client left pleased with what I told them, but you can’t rush mother nature.

3. Choose your weapons

Drilling grass seed and hydroseeding seasons vary around the country. Up north, you can get a good result all year round, but in the far south there are risks sowing seed past April and before September. Local knowledge is key, so if you don’t |have it, speak to someone who does and remember, there are other options, such as artificial turf. I’m sure the client above would be pleased as punch if the same seed blend was installed as a turf product. We often need to do things we aren’t entirely comfortable with as our turf works year-round. As a result, Readylawn sales are actually higher in winter, as our trade clients use turf over seed to cover the potential liability of a redo in spring.

4. Maintenance

If you do lawn maintenance, spraying or renovations, it’s especially important to understand your local seasons. Doing an aggressive renovation late in the season will leave your client with a terrible looking lawn all winter and perhaps earn you a poor review for your business. Likewise fertilizing late, or doing weed control at the wrong time, can leave poor or undesirable results. There are products that we use in the winter that work really well, such as foliar fertilisers like Lawnlife Adrenaline for a shot of colour, and Rapid Response, a fine granule fertilizer that pokes some nitrogen into the programme.

Winter can be a challenging time for landscapers, but hopefully those tips will help you get through the worst of it!

Roger Morgan is managing director of Readylawn Industries in Christchurch, which provides turf, landscape contracting services, synthetic and sportsfield construction, and maintenance services. The Readylawn system is franchised with farms around New Zealand. For more information visit


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