May 2013

Shower Power - Be a Rain Master

Community Landscape

Spring was cold and slow in arriving to the Chicago area this year but now the fun begins. It is time to recognize the importance of landscaping to your community. Your community's landscaping can effect community environment, appearance, health, finances, unit sales and property values. In other words, regardless of the size or complexity of the landscape, it will have a broad and profound effect on the community.

A building and grounds committee is a good way to get a plan developed. The committee can take a landscape survey of the community and get an idea what people would like to see. Landscape architects, arborists, horticulturists, and agronomists can advise you. You may get free access to some of these professionals through schools or county and state agriculture agencies. Maybe your landscaping plan can be created by students as a school project.

Landscape contractors come in two basic categories. They are arboriculture service providers (tree and shrub) or lawn care providers (Soil, turf, grass and planting). Whatever specialized landscape services you need, separate contracts for each service and professional is advised. Take the time to research and establish specifications based on your landscape plan. Include a maintenance calendar in the specifications to avoid any ambiguity in expectations or bid comparisons. Require written reports on a scheduled basis. Professional services quite often are more economical over the long run because they keep plants alive and healthy so replacement is minimized. They also eliminate equipment purchases and buy supplies in bulk at low cost. 


Now that your landscape plan and specifications have been determined, it is time to target landscape contractors that are most appropriate for your community. Here are some things to consider:

  • Rating from the Better Business Bureau along with a credit check.
  • References:
    • How long has the contractor worked with each reference?
    • How many times have they raised prices?
    • Performance with turf management, flower beds, pruning and edging, scheduling and response time.
  • Visit the contractor's office and other facilities and observe the operation.
  • What is the condition of  the contractor's equipment?
  • Is the contractor properly insured? 

Send your Request for Proposal (RFP) to three contractors that pass your research and examination. If they make suggestions regarding additional services outside of your specifications, make sure they bid on these services separately so your bid comparisons are transparent and accurate. You may want to invite each firm to make a presentation before the association Board and community.

Once a contractor is selected, be sure to have the association attorney review the contract regardless of whether the association or the contractor creates it. Keep in mind that legal requirements, cancellation and termination laws, contract-term requirements, severability, exculpation, and other matters of contract law differ between states. One person should be designated as the contractor's key contact with the community association. This will help maintain efficient and effective communications under all circumstances during the term of the contract. The association contact can be a member of the Board or member of the Building and Grounds/Landscape Committee. Following the process described in this article will help assure you get the most benefit for your community's investment in landscaping. Have your Cagan Property Manager give you a helping hand.


For Where the Grass Never Grows 


Try ground up recycled automobile tires. Yep, your community will have the best looking landscape and next to no work.  We are not suggesting you just give up and offer the association lawn as the community junk yard. Rubber mulch looks like regular mulch but is heavier, stays in place, won't wear out, does not discolor (even when pets visit), holds moisture in the ground for trees and bushes , it is decorative and safe for children to run and play on. In fact, it is often used on children's playgrounds. Some municipalities will even allow you to use it on city parkways (get permission first). It also comes in a variety of organic colors that may very well match the brown or red brick building you live in ...which tends to make things look like you know what you are doing (creative, colorful, chic and classy).  Since you don't replace it but rather just replenish small quantities every year, you save time and money in the long run.  It can endure Chicago winters and looks nice year round. The neighbors will never know your lawn is a dump site for retired tires.   
Heavy April Showers May Cause More Problems in 2013
Information provided by the Center for Disease Control

We had an April of wet weather. This may be great for May flowers but a problem may lurk behind the pretty posies... infected mosquitoes. Most often, west Nile virus (WNV) is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. Mosquitoes become infected when they feed on infected birds. Infected mosquitoes can then spread WNV to humans and other animals when they bite.

You may want to coordinate efforts with property managers, building engineers and your general community to undermine breeding grounds by eliminating them:
  • Get rid mosquito breeding sites by emptying standing water from flower pots, buckets and barrels.
  • Replace the water in the bird baths weekly and don't let the fountains stay idle.
  • Drill holes in tire swings so water drains out.
  • Keep children's wading pools empty and on their sides when they aren't being used.
Check local and regional government agencies to be sure your area has been included in a treatment program that controls mosquito populations.  There were 5,387 cases of west Nile virus reported in 2012 in the U.S.A. This was the highest number of west Nile virus disease cases reported to the Center for Disease Control since the second week of December 2003. Eighty percent of the cases were reported from 13 states (Texas, California, Louisiana, Illinois, Mississippi, South Dakota, Michigan, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Colorado, Arizona, Ohio, and New York) and a third of all cases have been reported from Texas. Let's do what we can to get Illinois off this list.
Cagan Spring Leadership Seminar
was Very Valuable

Would you believe we talked about steam boiler systems until after 9PM? Dave Bunnell (The Steam Whisperer) is a one-of-a-kind specialist when it comes to steam heat systems. Therefore, the questions just kept coming and Dave generously stayed to help those that needed his advice. We have been trying desperately to get the word out about huge valuable rebates available through the end of this month for energy efficient maintenance. Pipe insulation is an example. Check with your Cagan Property Manager to confirm your eligibility. Jeff Kramer of Kramer Tree Specialists confirmed how magnificent and valuable large older trees can be to a community. They are members of the community family and deserve tender loving care. Once we establish a date for our fall seminar, we will get the word out. Enjoy the summer.  
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