When Quality Counts
Toggle Bar

1-888-285-5355

Chapel Valley Blog

Chapel Valley Landscape Company has performed an extensive array of landscaping services throughout regions of Maryland, Virginia and Georgia. Very few companies throughout the nation have been honored to complete the magnitude of commercial and residential services with which Chapel Valley has performed.

By treating every client as their highest priority, Chapel Valley ensures that their first impression will never be their last impression.

Skilled Irrigation Technicians are Needed in Areas of Nation as Demand Rises

May 2017 -  By Emily Schappacher

handling landscape irrigation for your propertyA lack of skilled technicians is taking its toll on the irrigation industry.

The struggle to find quality workers is hitting irrigation harder than almost anywhere in the green industry. Experts say companies are struggling to keep up with seasonal demands due to a significant shortage of skilled irrigation technicians.

“Labor is available,” says Scott King, owner of Preferred Building Systems, a water auditing and consulting company in Cape Coral, Fla., and president of the Florida Irrigation Society. “Skilled labor is what is very difficult to find.”

One reason for the shortage of skilled irrigation techs is the necessary level of expertise can take years learn, says John Butters, irrigation manager for Timberline Landscaping in Colorado Springs, Colo., and member of the Irrigation Association’s (IA) certification board. Most of Timberline’s technicians, whose ages average 41, started as laborers on installation crews and learned their expertise by working in the field for many years.

“It takes time and experience to become a good irrigation tech; it’s difficult to teach in a single season,” Butters says. “It also requires above-average smarts and pretty good math skills at times. You’re usually out there by yourself and are expected to be able to diagnose and repair any problem. It’s not for everyone.”

Additionally, many people entering the workforce don’t see the irrigation industry as a desirable field to enter, says David Hartzell, general manager of New Jersey Best Lawns, Sprinklers & Fencing. They also don’t realize how much money they can make. The full-service landscape firm in Lakewood, N.J., pays technicians between $35,000 to $75,000 annually. Hartzell adds that the winter weather keeps his techs out of the field from Dec. 1 to March 15 each year. The company needs 10 to 15 fully trained service technicians to operate each year, and losing even one causes delays in service and startups.

“There seems to be very little interest in the industry as a whole,” Hartzell says.

Another reason for the shortage of skilled technicians, sources say, is a decline in companies that focus exclusively on irrigation. Many companies now offer irrigation as one of their many services, and may assign the work to basic laborers they already have on staff instead of hiring and investing in skilled irrigation technicians.

“Thirty or 40 years ago, there were a lot of companies that just handled irrigation,” he says. “Now, you have large landscape maintenance companies that have absorbed irrigation into their work.”

Spread too thin

The shortage of skilled irrigation technicians is having a negative impact on the industry as a whole, experts say. Without knowledgeable technicians, systems are more likely to be installed and maintained improperly, resulting in water waste. Many drought-stricken areas of the country face severe water restrictions. Some places, like Florida, don’t have mandatory water use standards, which de-emphasizes conservative water use, King says.

“The irrigation contractor gets a bad rap these days because, quite frankly, most are not required to conserve water,” King says. “If your feet were held to the fire when it came to how efficiently you used water, then it would be more important to have skilled technicians. Until some standards are established, there is no incentive to improve what is going on.”

The lack of qualified labor has forced some companies to change the way they operate. For example, New Jersey Best has raised prices for new installations by 8 to 10 percent and now faces a 30- to 45-day lead time for new installs. Hartzell says the company has switched to Wi-Fi-based controllers to decrease the number of basic service calls and has begun to use flow sensors to detect leaks so systems can be shut down remotely.

Butters says his technicians not only do service calls but have property assignments as part of annual maintenance contracts. They are responsible for winterizing, spring startups, weekly equipment checks, repairs, the initial programming of the irrigation schedule and adjustments to that schedule throughout the season.

“(Our technicians) have a lot to do, and there is almost always a sense of being spread a little too thin,” he says. “I think our techs do a great job, but it always seems like we could use a couple more. You can’t just go hire another one because they aren’t there.”

Educational efforts

Industry organizations, manufacturers and distributors are trying to offset the technician shortage by providing education and training.

For example, the IA offers a certified irrigation technician (CIT) exam so field employees can gain more knowledge. The IA’s Irrigation Foundation supports technicians through its scholarship program. It also has worked with the IA’s professional development department to offer college students an academic track for the CIT exam and the certified landscape irrigation auditor designations.

Additionally, each year the Foundation hosts the Irrigation E3 Program during the Irrigation Show & Education Conference. The program provides education and experience to irrigation students and faculty members. The Foundation also holds Faculty Academy each summer, a train-the-trainer program designed for agriculture and landscape irrigation educators to learn and take their knowledge back to the classroom.

According to IA data, 123 irrigation professionals passed the CIT exam, and 23 students and three faculty members participated in the Foundation’s E3 program in 2016. The IA also notes that 99 percent of its members say certifying irrigation professionals is important for the irrigation industry, and 94 percent say their company recognizes the value of hiring IA-certified professionals.

“We feel there is room for growth in all of our certification and education programs,” says John Farner, IA government and public affairs director. “We need to ensure that our workforce is educated and trained to not only meet the needs of the market, but also to ensure there is enough water for irrigation for future generations.”

Groups are making efforts on the local level, too. Through the Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado’s Landscape Career Pathways Program, Timberline Landscaping has partnered with a local high school to teach students skills that will allow them to be job-ready upon graduation. The curriculum at Falcon High School in Peyton, Colo., is expected to begin during the 2017-2018 school year. It aims to connect 15 to 20 high school students with the landscape irrigation industry through work/study programs and internships. While programs like these are steps in the right direction, Butters isn’t convinced they are enough to produce the number of skilled technicians needed.

“It’s not happening quick enough,” he says. “We need to force the issue a little more and devote more time and resources when we recognize ability in an individual. It’s hard to substitute or duplicate years of experience, but maybe we can do a better job of taking advantage of training and educational opportunities to speed up the process.”

Like Butters, many professionals believe that the future of labor in the irrigation industry is all about training, and needs to start with individual companies investing in their current employees. By making training a priority, companies may entice their irrigation techs to gain the knowledge and know-how to be valuable assets for the long term.

“I think every company has to do the best they can and figure out where they are going to get the training,” King says. “If a trained irrigation tech knocks on your door and wants to work for you, take advantage of it. They’re in high demand right now.”

Schedule a consultation today!

spring showers yield summer flowers
*Water Management is a practice that involves a lot of criteria.  Collection methods can have tainted water, but systems are used to collect pure rainwater that can be used to benefit your landscape.

    April is a bountiful month that brings out the rubber boots, rain showers and seasonal blooms.  It’s also a great time to have a conversation about rain water collection.

   There are many states that regulate how, where, when and why residents may harvest rainwater. Virginia is one of them, Maryland is not. So, at Chapel Valley Landscaping Company, our water management & commercial irrigation team takes into account those differences when performing work for clients in those respective areas.

    For example, in Virginia, there are strict guidelines on which catchment surfaces may be utilized in rainwater harvesting systems. The guidelines were established to address the natural acidity and man-made impurities that often find their way into the state’s rainwater.

   As such, rooftop capture systems generally do not include asphalt shingles and toxic tars. Instead, they traditionally rely on slate or metal. Slate and metal roofs have several things going for them in terms of water management utilization.

    They are non-porous, non-toxic, flat materials that facilitate water flow with minimal loss and zero leaching. Thus, the rainwater that lands into the collection system will be fairly pure but not pristine. After all, there are many things in the natural environment that may potentially foul rainwater too. That’s why some water management systems also employ what’s known as pretreatment devices (e.g. first flush diverters). Of course removing natural impurities will not alter the water’s acidity.

    Scientists widely put the acidic level of rainwater at around 5.0 or slightly less. So it is not harmful but will obviously help alter the pH level of some other materials it comes into contact with (e.g. potting soil). Understandably, that will need to be taken into account when deciding what to do with the harvested rainwater. To learn more about rainwater collection and the finer points of water management systems available in our area, please contact us at Chapel Valley Landscaping Company today.


*Water management can be complicated with aws affecting the collection methods.  However, it is good practice when done correctly.  Always follow the rules in your area because essentially, those rules are actually for the benefit of your landscape.

Schedule a consultation today!

bio swales and their place in your water management system

Have you found stagnant puddles breeding bugs on the grounds of your business? Does your parking lot empty its stormwater runoff directly in to a storm sewer that backs up and dumps oily water right back on your customers? Or maybe you bought property for your new commercial establishment and want to start your water management system out right? You will find that you have many ways of dealing with stormwater runoff, but not all of them are right for your property. Bio-swales, however, just might be a good choice.

What Is A Bio-Swale?

A 'swale' can have four meanings, but they all have to do with depressions in the ground that catch water. The type of swale we're talking about here is shallow ditch that is made to carry stormwater runoff and snow melt away from places like parking lots. A bio-swale (sometimes called a vegetated swale) has sides that slope gently and plants, compost and/or rocks filling it. It catches pollutants from the water and either neutralizes them or holds them out of the sewage system. This protects the local watershed and mimics the natural filtering actions of the environment, which is why it is considered a low-impact development.

Benefits

We are big fans of bio-swales. They improve the local water, give natural habitats to wildlife, and stabilize stream flows from runoff. You can also find them beneficial to your business.

1. They're pretty. Whether you are running a hotel, a housing community or a store, your customers will appreciate the vision of natural beauty on your grounds. It makes parks, resorts and hotels welcoming, and encourages shoppers to slow down and enjoy your goods.

2. Reduces money spent on infrastructure. If you run a park or similar enterprise, you will appreciate that bio-swales cost less than underground pipes. They reduce the cost of grading and clearing your land, and they cut down on the erosion that stormwater causes. We can make them out of existing drainage ditches, and they are easy to install from scratch.

3. They are incredibly easy to maintain. They need no fertilizer, only seasonal trimming and very little watering. You should check the soil infiltration yearly, but the really important act as far as maintenance goes is monitoring the amount of debris and silt that the bio-swale is catching. We can clean it out for you, and you will find it easy to clean out yourself.

Designing Your Bio-Swale

When we put in bio-swales, we have quite a few things to consider in order to make it really fit with your property. The most important are:

1. Slope. The National Resource Conservation Department recommends a side slope no steeper than 3:1, or less than 5 percent. This keeps the water flowing at a reasonably slow rate that won't uproot the filling in the swale and encourages the water to filter through the soil at more than one-half inch per hour.

2. Size. A bio-swale's biggest contribution to cleaning runoff is its ability to deal with all the little rains throughout the year, but it needs to be able to deal with big storms, too. You have to make sure it is big enough to handle 4.3 inches in a day.

3. Filling. Generally, native plants are hardy enough to suck up pollutants such as fertilizer runoff, pathogens, and lead. Thick, heavy grasses are particularly good for filtering. This doesn't dismiss the beauty and utility of gravel and compost fillers, mind. It's just that deep-rooted native plants are the preferred way to go.

4. Shape and Placement. The swale will ultimately empty out somewhere. We want to make sure it starts in the right spot in the treatment train and ends somewhere far away from your buildings.

We would also need to take into account the soil type, groundwater table, and the dimensions of your property. Bio-swales don't work well where the groundwater table is high since the soil won't absorb the stormwater, and they really work best in areas that are less than 10 acres. If you have a really large property, we can put in more than one.

Chapel Valley Landscape Company prides itself on its holistic approach to water management, and we would love to see if a bio-swale is right for your property. If your think your business could use one, let us know and we'll come out to check for you.

Schedule a consultation today!

is a rain garden right for your commercial establishment woodbine md chapel valley

Water management for a commercial establishment requires a holistic approach. You want it to do more than introduce water where it is needed and take it out of places where it isn't. It should give your business a classy look and save you from dealing with stormwater runoff.

A commercial irrigation technique we like to use for dealing with stormwater runoff is creating a rain garden. It's catching on in urban areas as a means of preventing flooding and giving businesses a lush, relaxed look. It adds water to local aquifers, too, and that aids everyone. If you are interested in adding one to your business landscape, read on.

What Is A Rain Garden?

Rain gardens are planted depressions that are designed to absorb rainfall and stormwater runoff, along with the excess nutrients that come with them. In the US, the EPA calls them a 'low impact development,' and encourages them as a good way to deal with runoff. An entire yard can act as a rain garden if you have it made with water runoff in mind. Landscapers plant them with perennials and native plants that can withstand extra moisture and will act as natural filters for all the water it collects.

Planning Basics

We have done quite a few rain gardens, and we know each business has different requirements. Some of the commercial irrigation basics we will be considering are:

1. Location, location, location. Just as with real estate, picking the right spot for your rain garden can make or break a landscape. You need to place it in a sunny spot where it will catch the most runoff, but not too close to foot traffic or your building. You will want to place your garden away from utilities, building foundations, and septic systems.

The biggest factor in all this is how well the soil on your property drains. If your yard doesn't have anywhere with good, permeable soil, some of it will need replacing with a mix of compost, topsoil and sand.

Another point about location is its placement on a slope and the drainability of the soil. Slope affects how well a place drains and the direction the water, not to mention how it looks.

2. Size. You will frequently see rain gardens with a surface size about 5 to 10 percent of the impervious surface that is generating the runoff. This is just a guideline, though. Each landscape has its own demands when it comes to size, and we would want to survey your whole property before deciding on your sizing needs.

3. Depth. Most rain gardens need to be about 4 to 8 inches deep in order to deal with the storms we get in Virginia. The depth really depends on the surface area, though. The idea is to get rain water to spread out in a thin layer so that the ground absorbs the water evenly.

What Plants Will Go In The Garden?

Any variety of native and perennial plant that can handle moisture extremes will go in your rain garden. The grasses and flowers will give your lawn a dazzling beauty mark if you pick them right. Some good suggestions made by the National Resources Conservation Service:

  • Columbine
  • Canada goldenrod
  • Bluewestern goldenrod
  • Nodding onion

Will It Require Maintenance?

You have a business to run, so you probably don't want to spend hours taking care of a rain garden. We can do the heavy lifting for you, and they don't really require much work anyway. After the first year, the plants won't need any watering, and the only addition to the garden anyone needs to make is shredded wood mulch to keep out weeds and retain moisture.

If a rain garden sounds like a good addition to your commercial property, contact us. We have a highly-trained staff that will answer any questions about rain gardens and their impacts on water management.

commercial irrigation alexandria va

Water management is more than just the installation of an irrigation system; it is a holistic assessment of your site to determine watering needs and drainage requirements, slope, exposure, plant needs, and soil type. Our certified commercial landscape irrigation designers and auditors can design, install and service an irrigation system that is custom to your site. This system helps reduce plant stress and loss, lower utility costs, boost chemical performance, and improve turf renovation.

Our storm water services include:

  • Culverts and bio-swales
  • Collection facilities
  • Vertical drainage
  • Rain gardens
  • Permeable paving

Commercial properties we serve:

  • Corporate and Commercial
  • Education
  • Healthcare
  • Hotels & Resorts
  • Housing Communities
  • Retail
  • Parks

Old Town Alexandria is a bustling center of history, entertainment, dining, shopping, waterfront, and even dog and eco-friendly activities. Situated conveniently a mere 7 miles from Washington, DC, it is still far enough away to have created its own unique epicenter of life. As the place that George Washington called 'home' Old Town is positioned between the George Washington Masonic Memorial on the west and by the Potomac River on the east, providing an all access gateway to the best things in life- according to those who know!

What's in a name? Founded in 1749 by Philip Alexander II and his cousin Captain John Alexander, the city was first named Belhaven after the Scottish patriot John Hamilton, 2nd Lord Belhaven and Stenton. There were many changes for the region, including the changing of the name to Alexandria, its inclusion in the District of Columbia in 1791 through ceding, surrender to the British Fleet in the War of 1812, retroceding to Virginia in 1846, military occupation during the American Civil War, and the 1930 annexation to the town of Potomac. These many transitions and acclimations built the foundation for what is now a city that draws both residents and tourists to its cobblestone streets and red brick sidewalks.