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The Makings of a Maintenance Company




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Successful landscape maintenance companies come in all sizes, but no matter their differences, they all have one thing in common: to do well, they must have the proper equipment. Four companies that provide maintenance services (TDH Landscaping, Greenscape, Inc., Gachina Landscape Management, and Canete Landscape) gave us some insight into what equipment they have, how it contributes to their success, how they take care of it, and how they transport it.
Photo: Isuzu Commercial Truck of America Inc.


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In addition to the mini loader shown here, TDH Landscaping of Phoenix, Md., has power shears, chainsaws, zero turn mowers, backpack blowers, aerators and more. They rent chainsaw pruners, power shears and scissor lifts when they have a lot of pruning jobs; otherwise, crew members use the general tools issued to them at the beginning of the season.


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The TDH family of companies includes TDH Leasing and Equipment, which they use to lease equipment to themselves. This is done for accounting purposes. TDH uses about 1,500 gallons of fuel each year, storing 500 gallons of gasoline, 500 gallons of diesel fuel, and 250 gallons of off-road diesel on site. They have a part-time in-house mechanic to service their equipment.


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Greenscape, Inc., located in North Carolina, owns John Deere walk behind and ride-on mowers, as well as weeders, edgers, blowers, pole shears, regular shears, pole saws, chain saws, and walk behind and ride-on mowers from other companies. Shown here is a reciprocating hydro aerator. While their landscaping division sometimes needs to rent equipment, their maintenance division is well supplied and does not rent anything.


The tools of the trade are key to becoming a successful landscape maintenance company. While the specifics vary based on regional needs, company size and other factors, the basics are the same: any landscape maintenance company requires transportation, equipment, fuel, and help with mechanical issues.

LC/DBM turned to four companies who have provided us with featured projects in the past to find out how they handle those requirements.

TDH Landscaping
The design/build/maintain arm of TDH Nurseries in Phoenix, Md., TDH Landscaping offers maintenance services to the tune of mulching, pruning, edging, weeding, plant feeding, general cleanup, grading, seeding, plant removal and more.

Their team is comprised of around 30 members, and each crew has its own specialty. TDH works with the H-2B program to hire crews from Mexico; some have been with the company for 15 years.

Among TDH's equipment assets are power shears, chain saws, zero turn mowers, backpack blowers, chippers, chemical sprayers, and a brush cutter.

They will rent chain saw pruners, power shears, and scissor lifts as needed to supplement the general tools issued to each worker at the beginning of the season; otherwise, they use their own equipment. "If we have a lot of pruning jobs we need to rent sometimes," said Rosalie Taormino, the company's marketing manager.

TDH uses about 1,500 gallons of fuel each year, storing 500 gallons of gasoline, 500 gallons of diesel fuel, and 250 gallons of off-road diesel fuel on site. They have a part-time in-house mechanic to service their equipment.

Unique to TDH is that they operate their own leasing company, which leases equipment only to TDH Landscaping and TDH Nursery. This is done for accounting purposes.


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The trucks that Greenscape owns are scheduled for service every 4,000 miles, which is tracked through GPS. Smaller equipment is serviced weekly with a general checkup, including inspection of the blades and air filters. Hours of use are tracked on the oil filter, and the oil is changed approximately every 100 hours. The company also owns three Weed Man franchises in the state, which allows them to offer different services and create more sales.


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Gachina Landscape Management, located in California's Bay Area, started out with three trucks and trailers; now they have almost 200. Most of them are single cab trucks, and each is outfitted almost the same. The bed of each truck has a tool holder - made by the company - that holds rakes, shovels, picks and the like. The side boxes contain hand tools and chemicals. Each crew has a gas card for fuel. With founder John Gachina's passing last year, the company still strives to maintain the image he created. If something didn't look good, he didn't want it.


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Gachina generally only rents equipment if their own is down - which is infrequent. Each of the company's three locations has at least one full-time mechanic to service equipment as needed. California's emission regulations are blamed for most of the problems with the trucks.


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Canete Landscape in Wayne, N.J. has 47 trucks in their fleet. Their equipment includes zero-turn mowers, stand-on mowers, and walk-behinds. Once in a while they may need to rent a brush cutter. Two full-time mechanics take care of their equipment, plus three others who come in every Saturday to service the mowers. Their landscape maintenance runs about 30 weeks per year.


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In addition to landscape maintenance services, Canete offers snow and ice management. They use snow pushers attached to skid steers and loaders in addition to plow trucks of all sizes, and sidewalk equipment. They offer seasonal and three-year snow contracts.


Greenscape Inc.
Headquartered in Holly Springs, N.C., Greenscape Inc. was founded in 1979 as a spin-off of a garden center. Their 16 maintenance crews offer commercial and residential landscape maintenance, including turf and shrub management, seasonal flower programs, and fertilization, mowing and edging.

Greenscape owns a variety of John Deere mowers, as well as weeders, edgers, blowers, pole shears, regular shears, pole saws, chain saws, and walk behind and ride-on mowers from other companies. While their landscaping division sometimes needs to rent equipment, their maintenance division is well supplied and does not rent anything. Of their two branches, one has fuel tanks on-site while the other sends vehicles to gas stations to pick up fuel. Each branch has one mechanic managed by Jason Buerhing.

Buerhing explained that their trucks are scheduled for service every 4,000 miles as determined by GPS. Their small equipment is serviced weekly. The machines receive a basic checkup of the blades, air filters and more. The hours of usage are marked on the oil filter, and the oil is changed every 100 hours.

Greenscape also owns three Weed Man franchises. The franchises, Buerhing explained, allow them the ease of entering the marketplace by offering different services than Greenscape does, thereby creating more sales.

Gachina Landscape Management
Founded in 1988 by John Gachina, this California Bay Area company has grown from two employees to 350. Rafael Gonzalez, the shop facilities manager, has worked there for 21 of the company's 28 years. In terms of maintenance, Gachina offers landscape, irrigation, drought and water management.

Gachina started out with three trucks and trailers; now they have almost 200. Most of them are single cab trucks, and each is outfitted almost the same. The bed of each truck has a custom tool holder for rakes, shovels, picks and the like. The side boxes hold hand tools and chemicals. Each truck has a trailer, some open and some enclosed, with two blowers, line trimmers, hedge trimmers, an edger, and a 21" walk-behind mower. Each crew has a gas card for fuel.

Gachina only rents equipment when their own equipment is down - which is infrequent.

"Almost everything is running in this company," Gonzalez explained. "I got a pretty good shop team." On that team is one mechanic in the San Jose branch, one in the Fremont branch, and three plus himself in the headquarters in Menlo Park. Their biggest headaches, according to Gonzalez, are caused by California's emission control mandates, which he blames for fuel system problems as soon as 10,000 miles and engines not lasting as long as they should. Recently, one completely failed at 20,000 miles. And it is not just the big engines that have shorter lives.

"Small equipment used to last forever, but now we get two to three years at most," said Gonzalez. Already this year, they have had to replace about 20 carburetors.

With John Gachina's passing last year, the company still strives to maintain the image he created. For example, an employee wanted to put a chemical tank in the front of a trailer, but Gonzalez told him it did not fit Gachina's style: if something didn't look good, John didn't want it. "Even though John is no longer here, we are still his company and we have to keep continuing to do what he would do," Gonzalez said. That includes letting a school in Menlo Park borrow a tractor every year to aerate its campus.

Canete Landscape
For more than 38 years, Tom Canete has provided landscape maintenance and snow & ice management services in addition to landscape design and construction, irrigation, and lighting, out of their garden center in Wayne, N.J.

Canete's landscape maintenance division runs on zero-turn mowers from Walker, stand-on mowers, and walk-behinds. Once in a while they may need to rent a brush cutter, but for the most part, they have spare equipment and are well stocked with what they need.

The maintenance division operates for approximately 30 weeks a year, give or take, and spends around $3,000-$4,000 per week on fuel. This includes gas for their fleet of 47 trucks as well as power equipment. The company stores both on-road and off-road diesel on site in double walled metal aboveground tanks. The tanks are kept confined in a concrete dike in case of spillage: the entire contents of the diesel tank would stay within the concrete area, and not seep into the ground.

Two full-time, in-house mechanics service Canete's equipment - one works during the day and the other at night. Every Saturday, three additional workers come in specifically to work on the company's mowers.

Of the four companies we spoke with, Canete Landscape has the strongest snow management presence. Their snow-specific equipment includes snow pushers that attach onto skid steers and loaders, plow trucks, all kinds of sidewalk equipment and more. They offer three-year seasonal contracts for snow management. Some years will be good years and some will be bad - but they get paid no matter how much snow ends up on the ground. "A bad year is when it snows a lot and you're out there a lot," explained Tom Canete. "If it doesn't snow a lot, with seasonal contracts you're doing good because you're not paying as much out of pocket. It balances out the contract."

From three trucks to two hundred, from landscape to snow, leasing companies and franchises - every company finds their own way to success. But the makings of a maintenance company comes down to the people who move the machines, and the ones who keep the machines moving, above all else.


As seen in LC/DBM magazine, September 2016.








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