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Aug. 1, 2012

Landscape Your Way to Higher Occupancy

By Ken Hutcheson, U.S. Lawns

As property owners and managers compete for tenants in an unsteady economy, the importance of first impressions cannot be overlooked. Curb appeal is now more important than ever. A property that shows well from the street can not only help lead to higher occupancy, but can also help increase rents, tenant retention rates and asset values.

While a well landscaped and meticulously maintained property may not be the primary reason a tenant signs a lease, it will certainly help a property get noticed. Additionally, maintaining a healthy landscape by adhering to sound landscape management practices will help ensure that your property retains its maximum value and will generate long-run cost savings for owners and investors. Having a heightened awareness and understanding of your landscape and partnering with the right commercial landscape management professional are keys to achieving the desired results.

Irrigation and annual color are two components of a landscape that, if addressed with the proper strategies, will keep properties looking pristine from season to season, provide a high level of curb appeal, and help improve your bottom line.

With the current nationwide trend of saving water, conserving energy, reducing carbon emissions and protecting local ecosystems, responsible water use and planning is essential. While proper hydration is necessary for keeping property landscapes healthy, over-watering vegetation can be not only be harmful to the landscape, but can be an unnecessary expense. Significant developments in irrigation technology allow landscape professionals to design systems that are custom tailored to the needs of your particular property, resulting in lower water usage and reduced ongoing maintenance expenses.

The most technologically advanced development in water conservation on the market today is the “smart” controller. No matter how efficient an irrigation controller’s watering schedule is, it must take into account constantly changing weather conditions—specifically evapotranspiration (ET) and rainfall, to both protect the health of the landscape and gain maximum efficiencies.

ET is the amount of water lost from the soil through evaporation plus the plant’s water loss (known as transpiration), both of which are dramatically affected by weather conditions. A smart controller uses current weather information and ET to water your landscape only when it needs it. These systems work with virtually any controller, converting a conventional irrigation system into a weather-smart one that self-adjusts according to accurate real-time weather data. As the weather changes, your smart controller receives updates automatically every hour and only allows your controller to water when needed. The result: significant water savings and a healthier landscape.

An irrigation system retro-fitted with a smart controller, moisture sensors, drip irrigation and high efficiency heads can provide cost savings that will pay for the initial purchase and installation costs in less than three years.

If you want instant impact and a dramatic change in your property’s curb appeal, use annual color. Annual color can provide simple and pleasing aesthetic changes to a property’s landscape, which will go a long way in making your property stand out from the competition. Color promotes an enjoyable atmosphere, and is an essential element of landscape design.

Your landscape professional can help with a creative design, color and materials that best complement a facility’s grounds and that are most appropriate for the landscape environment. Before installation of color, the proper steps need to be taken to prepare your planting beds so your investment will provide the returns you desire. This includes tilling the soil to the proper depth, adding necessary amendments and updating your irrigation system so the color will receive the moisture it needs to flourish. After installation, the correct maintenance is needed on a consistent basis by a landscape professional to ensure a long period of bloom and health for your annuals.

Not only does maintaining a healthy and attractive landscape create an agreeable, friendly environment, but it will also assist commercial property owners in maximizing the value of their properties. Planning a landscape that will work for every season takes time and consideration, but will result in a property looking its best all year long, season after season, even as the landscape matures.

Ken Hutcheson is president of U.S. Lawns. With over 30 years of experience in the green industry, his insight has helped shaped the commercial landscape franchise industry into what it is today.

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