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Landscape Industry Growth Report Now Available

The Associated Landscape Contractors of America has put together a 190-page comprehensive report and analysis of the trends and buying practices of consumers purchasing landscape contracting services in 2003 and 2004. Harris Interactive Market Research, the online survey division of the Harris Poll, compiled the data for this study.

This resource, ALCA’s Report on Landscape Industry Growth: Trends and Buying Practices in the Consumer Market, 2004, defines the use of landscape services in the U.S. in 2003. It reports what landscaping tasks people did for themselves in 2003, and ascertains the services Americans plan to procure in 2004. The report also examines the resources and criteria that Americans use to hire landscape professionals.

The printing of the report was made possible by a contribution from Caterpillar, Inc.

This resource is available to everyone, but members get a special discount price.

For more information, visit

Calif. Court Says No to Affirmative Action

Judge James Warren upheld the affirmative action stance of Calif. voters.

On July 26, 2004, San Francisco Superior Court Judge James Warren permanently enjoined the city from awarding contracts under its affirmative action policy for public works. The judge said the program violates the 1996 passage of Proposition 209 by the voters of California, which banned discrimination and preferential treatment based on race or sex.

San Francisco’s affirmative action program gives women and minority-owned contracting companies special notice when bids come up and calculates their bids 10% lower than their actual bids.

The plaintiffs are two contracting companies who challenged the legality of affirmative action policy, Santa Rosa-based Schram Construction Co., and Coral Construction Co. of Wilsonville, Ore. The plaintiffs are represented by the Sacramento-based Pacific Legal Foundation.

The precedent for the ruling is a 2000 decision by the state Supreme Court to strike down San Jose’s affirmative action program.

Diazinon Phase Out

The last day that retailers can sell Diazinon is December 31, 2004. The chemical, marketed by Syngenta and Makhteshim, is in the process of being phased out of the non-agricultural marketplace, and they will buy back all remaining inventory from retailers after December 31, 2004. Marketers have agreed to stop selling product as soon as their packaging supplies are depleted, and as of March 2004, they are recalling all obsolete formulator inventories. Knowing this was coming, only 56 percent of retailers sold Diazinon in 2003 compared to 2000; as as a result very little inventory remains in big retailers’ possession. All remaining inventory that has not sold will be incinerated. End-use products in the hands of consumers do not, however, have to be returned to either the dealer or the retailer and can be used up according to the label.

Blade Code Refined

The refined code encourages manufacturers to include data on the material(s) the blade can cut and the types of saws it is recommended for use with. (Pictured, a Makita 4-3/8” wet-cutting saw for tile, masonry, concrete and more.)

The Masonry and Concrete Saw Manufacturers Institute (SMI) has refined its blade application code to ensure that it meets the needs of contractors to select the right blade on the jobsite.

The SMI Blade Application Code provides information on three design factors:

  1. whether the saw blade is intended for wet or dry use;
  2. the general type of material the saw blade is intended to cut;
  3. the types of saws the blade is intended to be used with.

The new code allows manufacturers to include additional data on the material the blade can be used to cut and the types of saws it is recommended for use with.

The code features symbols for six general material applications including: cured concrete; green concrete; asphalt; asphalt over concrete; block; brick or masonry refractories; and tile, ceramic or stone.

The code also provides information on saw types: flat, wall, hand-held, stationary, and masonry or tile saws.

For more information, visit

Regional Cement Shortages Reported

Domestic cement production is not keeping up with demand, and not enough cement is being imported, a function of not enough ships to deliver the product.

Cement shortages have become a national topic, judging by reports from USA Today and The Wall Street Journal on cement shortages.

The Portland Cement Association (PCA), and its chief economist, Ed Sullivan, staff vice president, notes the shortage is a regional problem, not a national one. In areas where there have been strong residential construction, the supply is down. The PCA contends the supply lags because not enough cement is being imported, a function of not enough ships available to deliver the product.

Shortages are limited to the southeast, southwest, and New York/New England regions, according to a recent PCA survey. Twenty seven states report ample supplies; twenty-three states report shortfalls.

Domestic cement production is 85 million tons of cement per year, but cement usage has averaged more than 106 million tons during the past three years.

Chicago Searches for Emerald Ash Borer

The bark fissure is the work of the emerald ash borer (top). A young adult emerald ash borer (above). Photo COURTESY OF James W. Smith & David Cappaert, MSU

Over 35 communities in the Chicago area have agreed to assist the Morton Arboretum’s field survey to determine if the emerald ash borer is present in northeastern Illinois. The arboretum worked with state, local, and federal agencies to release a Emerald Ash Borer Readiness Plan for Illinois in the spring of 2004, and has a grant from the Illinois Department of Agriculture to help conduct the summer survey.

The Emerald ash borer, introduced from China, established itself in Michigan in 2002 and has killed an estimated 16 million ash trees there

The borer has since been found in Ohio, Maryland and Indiana.

Edith Makra, the Morton Arboretum’s community trees advocate, estimates that about one in five trees in the Chicago area are ash. The inspection will target trees in nurseries, garden centers, firewood distributors and campgrounds.

No evidence of beetle activity has been found to date in the Chicago area. “Our hope is to find no trace of the borer, of course,” says Makra. “But if it has already arrived in Illinois, we wish to quickly move to eradicate the pest and contain the spread.”

Landscape industry feeling effects of prolonged drought

Marco Montague with Cutler Landscaping buries an irrigation line in the yard of a customer. Landscapers are educating their customers on the need to save water. Photo courtesy of Chris Richards / Arizona Daily Star

Persistent drought conditions in the western United States are impacting landscape-related businesses, a Colorado State University study reports.

Close to 2,000 landscaping jobs in Colorado were lost between 2002 and 2003. The jobs include landscape architects, landscape contractors, nurseries, garden centers and commercial florists. Total revenue dropped by almost $60 million last year, study author Dawn Thilmany said.

On the other hand, the industry has grown substantially since 1994, adding 11,000 jobs for a total of close to 34,000. Drought-related declines have been limited by landscape-related businesses expanding winter work such as snow removal and Christmas tree sales, the report concludes.

The “green sectors” showing the most growth from 1993 through 2001 “were landscape design and maintenance, public and private golf courses and nursery/garden centers.” Florists and tree and nursery production reported “flatter” sales. Landscape architecture firms “lost sales” in 2003, the report noted.

Rules implemented by the Southern Nevada Water Authority are now limiting landscape options in the Las Vegas area. The agency has banned sod in new residential front yards and limited lawns in back yards to 50 percent of the total area. It is also offering a $1 per square foot incentive for homeowners to remove their front lawns.

Artificial Turf
Increasing Alternative to Natural Grass

A $1.9 million renovation project at Shorty Garcia Park in Union City, Calif. aims to make the six-acre site among the best sports fields in the area. Construction began during midsummer to resurface the existing grass field with synthetic turf, construct initial settings for an outdoor lighting system and upgrade the concession stand. The renovation of the 4-year-old park includes the construction of two full-size soccer fields using FieldTurf, an artificial turf that’s made with ground-up tennis shoes and recycled tires.

Not only is the artificial grass cushioned by a “soil” base of sand and rubber, which reduces maintenance costs and improves field conditions, it also allows 24-hour usage of the park. Proponents of the new turf say it’s more realistic than AstroTurf, safer to play on and easier to take care of than grass.

Low-Voltage Lighting Design Competition

The Ambiance LX.

Riverside, New Jersey--Ambiance(R) Lighting Systems is presenting its first annual design competition to highlight the innovative applications of its low-voltage lighting developed by industry trades people including lighting consultants, designers, contractors and landscape architects. Ambiance is the registered trademark of Sea Gull Lighting Products, Inc.

Award recipients will receive up to $2,500 in cash prize money and be featured in a variety of trade publications and consumer advertising programs. Deadline for entries is October 31, 2004.

For more information, visit

ICPI Conference

The 2006 International Concrete Paving Conference will be held in November in San Francisco. This three-day conference is aimed at design professionals, landscape architects, concrete paver manufacturers, government officials, university professors and industry associations. Concrete block paving, or interlocking concrete pavement, has sold over 400 million square feet last year in the U.S. and Canada. But this is a small fraction of the over 6 billion square feet sold worldwide. Although the industry has been growing at the rate of 15% per year, the United States’ use of concrete pavers is still one of the lowest among developed nations. The conference hopes to educate industry and design professionals on design, specification, construction, and maintenance, thus growing the market in the U.S.

For more information, contact the ICPI., or call 202-712-9036.

ASTM Landscape Committees Meeting

The American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) is meeting this month to address standards that define minimum material requirements and test methods for their evaluation. The landscape products market is growing and ASTM is continuing to review and refine its standards for products in this market. Areas that will be discussed are the C1372-Standard Specification for Segmental Retaining Wall Units, the C1262-Standard Test Method for Evaluation of Freeze Thaw Durability of Concrete Masonry Units. The committee on soil and rock is considering draft standards addressing the design and hydraulic performance of articulating concrete block, and the Geosynthetic Committee is meeting to discuss SRW connection strength and SRW shear strength.

For information on these meetings and any pertinent outcomes, check the ASTM website:

Charley hit Florida Landscape HARD

Houses damaged by Hurricane Charley are seen in this aerial view over Punta Gorda in Charlotte County, Fla.

Hurricane Charley has taken a toll on Florida’s landscape industry, and workers will be busy for months cleaning the mess up, early media reports suggest.

Estimates of total damage are already topping $11 billion for insured homes alone, the state’s worst storm toll since hurricane Andrew’s $20 billion hit in 1992.

Florida’s $1.6 billion nursery and ornamental plant industry was “heavily damaged by Charley because of damage to greenhouses,” the Orlando Sentinel reports. The extent of damage was hard to gauge because “communication is down,” Florida Department of Agriculture spokeswoman Liz Compton told the paper.

Initial estimates from The Florida Nursery, Growers & Landscape Association put damage at close to $100 million. That number was expected to rise, however. Nursery plant and related losses range “from partial to complete” in Charlotte, DeSoto, Hardee, Lee, Polk, Osceola, Orange and Volusia counties, the association reports.

The state’s citrus industry also suffered damage, and juice prices are already rising as a result.

Federal officials are including 25 counties in the disaster area, although the hardest-hit areas are the retirement communities of Punta Gorda and Port Charlotte in Charlotte County.

The property management firm American Land Lease reported “extensive” landscape damage to its Punta Gorda Blue Heron Pines community, including the loss of more than one-half of the golf course’s maintenance equipment.

Landscape workers are scrambling to replant downed trees and prevent further damage. Maintenance workers and property owners should cut jagged tree limbs and seal the exposed ends to prevent fungus and infection, Travis Waters of Westcoast Landscaping and Garden Center told the Naples News. Waters offered to answer emailed landscaping questions at his web site,

AEM Presents Annual Conference

Scott Shuster

The Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) will hold its 2004 annual conference Nov. 7-9, 2004 at the Ritz-Carlton on Amelia Island, Florida. The conference is considered the equipment manufacturing industry’s leading event for senior executives and their management teams. This year’s conference will feature talk-back sessions moderated by Scott Shuster, a longtime ABC News correspondent. Three breakout sessions are also on tap to engage peer-to-peer discussion.

For details and online registration, go to

USGBC to Work With Masonary Trade

The United States Green Building Council (USGBC) is ready to work closely with the masonry industry on the continuing development of LEED criteria for masonry in relation to sustainability. There will be an ongoing sharing of technical information, panels on designing green with masonry, and a program involving sending industry experts to speak to the sustainability issue. In the past, USGBC has not allowed trade associations into their membership, however, that issue is now under discussion and a decision will be reached soon. In the meantime USGBC is committed to a strong alliance with the industry and its associations such as the National Concrete Masonry Association (NCMA) because LEED is definitely here to stay. It is important to recognize that all parts of the industry must work together to ensure that it is the best system possible.

States Plan Tree Trimming to Avoid Another Year of Blackouts

A Chicago state panel has recently developed a 10-year blueprint for making the state’s energy network less susceptible to disasters. The plan suggests adoption of a state tree trimming law that would require utility companies to maintain specific clearances between overhead power lines and vegetation.

Michigan’s investor-owned utilities now must file reports on their tree and vegetation trimming practices around the transmission and distribution lines used to serve their customers. The Michigan Public Service Commission and the U.S./Canada Power System Outage Task Force both reported that the Aug. 2003 blackout partially resulted from power line contacts with trees.

Super Texas Turf is Created by Scientists

LUBBOCK, Texas – Researchers at Texas Tech University have announced the creation of a genetically-modified turf that is remarkably green and soft yet extremely durable. Dubbed “Turffalo,” the grass “has characteristics unmatched by any other lawn grass in the world,” claimed Dick Auld, who chairs the university’s Department of Plant and Soil Sciences.

The grass is now available through a partnership with Frontier Hybrids.

In 2003, the National Turfgrass Evaluation Program ranked the hybrid the No. 1 buffalo grass strain in overall quality for the southwest region.

Turffalo has a deep, green color and is extremely drought-tolerant, its maker claims, with a root system that extends from six to ten feet deep. It also requires less mowing than other types of lawn.

More information: Dick Auld, (806) 742-0775 or

California County Approves Fire Ant Tax

Orange County, Calif. has approved a property tax that is expected to generate close to $2.5 million annually to battle mosquito-borne West Nile virus and lawn-dwelling red imported fire ants. The measure translates to an average levy of $5.42 per single-family home. It was approved Aug. 5.

The funds will resurrect the county’s battle against fire ants, which was halted in February when the state stopped $2 million in annual funds for the program. Fire ants have been on the march in the Southern California county since the late 1990s, when they entered via contaminated soil that was shipped to a local nursery.

The ants spread to irrigated landscape areas that simulate the species’ moist home in South America. The pests infest lawns and cause damage with their mounds. Several pesticides are marketed for their control and eradication under the brand names Amdro, Logic, Award and Ascend.

Professionals use a two-step method to suppress ants. First, a bait product is broadcast to affected landscape areas. Then, several days later, individual mounds are targeted with insecticide or bait. Both methods should be repeated following the manufacturer’s instructions.

ALCA Joins “Bloomin in the Garden” TV Show

ALCA’s logo and a number of statements appear during the show’s credits.

Herndon, Va. – The Associated Landscape Contractors of America (ALCA) has agreed to a contract with the “Bloomin in the Garden” TV program. For 26 weeks (from April through September 2004) the show’s opening credits will show ALCA’s logo and the statement, “Recommended viewing by the Associated Landscape Contractors of America.” The closing billboard will read: “To find a landscape contractor in your area, visit”

“Bloomin in the Garden,” a 30-minute gardening program on cable hosted by George “Bloomin” Newman, covers everything from design to installation, with each episode addressing gardening problems and remedies.

The program reaches more than 77 million households via Comcast New England, Comcast Mid-Atlantic, Good Life Network, Healthy Living Network, Inspiration Network, Fox 56/WB, and the Men’s Channel. ALCA expects the endorsement to add credibility to the show and give ALCA great public exposure.

U.S. Sod is $1 Billion Industry

The 2002 census of agriculture reveals that since the 1997 census, the number of sod farms in the U.S. increased 13.6 percent (to 2,2124) and acres harvested rose 25 percent (to 386,500 acres). Extrapolating from those numbers (multiplying the 2002 acres by the 1997 sales figures), the Turfgrass Producers International (TPI) arrived at a “conservative” sales total for 2002--$1,001,250,000–breaking the billion-dollar barrier for the first time.

The census of agriculture is conducted every five years or so. Congress mandates that all sod farms complete the survey.

Florida, Texas and Alabama lead the states in farms and acreage, as they did in the 1997 census. New York, South Dakota and New Mexico lead the decline in number of farms, with New Mexico, Iowa and Nevada leading the decline in acres harvested.

Learn New Fence Techniques at AFA School

2005 AFA Field Training School February 19 to 26, 2005 University of Georgia, Athens, GA

The American Fence Association’s (AFA) Field Training School puts it all together for foremen, superintendents, sales staff and future leaders. Education topics include innovative installation techniques and new technologies. A combination of classroom and hands-on field instruction are provided in eight critical areas of fencing: PVC fence products; bias cutting; chain-link; farm and ranch; gate operators; welding; wood fence; and ornamental metals.

To register, contact the American Fence Association, at 800-822-4342 or log on to

Louisiana gets irrigation contractor license law

Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco signed legislation in July mandating the licensing of irrigation contractors by the state’s Horticulture Commission. The Louisiana Irrigation Association had pushed for the change in the interest of increased industry standards. The legislation was sponsored by House Speaker Joe Salter (D-Florien) and encountered no real opposition on its way to approval. The governor signed the bill on July 12.

A similar bill has been stalled in New York’s assembly since June. Called A6098, the legislation would require certification of all irrigation contractors in the state.

The bill, sponsored by Assemblyman Thomas DiNapoli, is the product of long years of work by the Irrigation Association of New York.

Georgia water plan would penalize big consumers

Georgia is considering a water conservation plan that would impact big consumers with higher rates. If implemented, water districts would change price structures, start audits to find leaks, begin educating customers about conservation and offer rebates to residents who install low-flow toilets and other efficient hardware.

But the plan, which has not received final approval, is drawing criticism from others who say it will stifle economic development in the state. Farmers, who now get their water for free, also oppose the plan.

But Mary Elfner, the state’s conservation coordinator when the plan was developed, told the Macon (Ga.) Telegraph that she supported the plan.

It should “be taken seriously and be incorporated very strongly in the water-planning process,” Elfner said. “It’s important that conservation be seen as a serious tool for water supply in the state, and be more than kids turning off the water when they brush their teeth.”

Source: the Macon (Ga.) Telegraph.

California water-meter legislation dries up

A California bill that would require landscape irrigation meters for properties of one acre or more is apparently dead, the victim of lukewarm support in Sacramento. Assembly Bill 2298 would have required local water districts to monitor customers’ irrigation, providing an incentive for property owners to limit outdoor water use.

The proposed bill stopped short of taxing customers for overly-thirsty lawns, but would have notified them of spikes in consumption suggesting leaks or waste.

Irrigation accounts for roughly 40 percent of California’s urban, non-agricultural water budget, according to the Washington, D.C.-based Irrigation Association.

Some kind of landscape-based water conservation is needed to head off more stringent rules that might limit turf planting and other landscape options in California, said Larry Rohlfes of the California Landscape Contractors Association. “This would have been a baby-step in the right direction,” he added.

A rule banning residential sod planting is already in place in suburban Las Vegas. Georgia is poised to implement a water plan that would impact heavy irrigators with higher rates. The stalled California legislation stopped short of mandating higher rates for over-quota quantities, as the Irvine Ranch Water District and a handful of others have done. That kind of “water conservation rate structure” would save more water but also encounter more resistance in the state capital.

A spokesman for Assemblyman George Plescia (R-San Diego), who introduced AB 2298, said the assemblyman had not made a decision on reintroducing the bill for the 2005 legislative session.

Florida County is limiting lawn

In an effort to meet Florida’s water conservation goals, Volusia County has become the first in the state to pass an ordinance requiring new homes to have less lawn. The ordinance mandates that at least 25 percent of new yard areas require little or no irrigation.

The ordinance also limits the area allowed to use high volume irrigation at new homes and businesses. Under the ordinance, 50 percent of a new landscape can be irrigated up to one inch of water per week. Alternately, homeowners can have more grass–up to 75 percent of the yard–if the rest of the landscape retains natural vegetation without irrigation. The ordinance went into effect on July 1.

Sources: The Irrigation Association, Volusia County, Fla.

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December 9, 2019, 10:32 am PDT

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