As the full brunt of winter edges ever closer, we at E.P.M. are making sure all of our equipment is in working order so we can work quickly and safely to remove snow from parking lots, walkways, loading areas, and more. In doing so, we thought it would be a good idea to share some snow plowing tips for those who opt to handle it themselves.
1. Transporting Your Plow
When you are taking your plow from one location to another, you should keep the blade angled toward the curb. Doing so greatly reduces the odds of your plow accidentally snagging a snowbank or curb, which can pull your truck right into it. Further, don’t use the plow when going from one location to another. In fact, it’s a better idea to just keep the plow control turned off all together when going from one location to the next. This helps prevent any accidents with plow operation.
One last note on transporting your snow plow. Make sure your blade is positioned in such a way that it doesn’t block your vision or the plow headlights. Since it can get dark early (and quickly) in winter, it’s best to get into the habit of doing this regardless of what time of day you are driving.
2. Watch Your Speed
Don’t go faster than 15 mph when snow plowing. Don’t go faster than 40 mph when transporting your snow plow.
3. Watch You Temperature Gauge
When using or transporting your snowplow, keep a close eye on your temperature gauge. Blowing an engine because it got too hot can lead to an ugly repair bill. If your truck does overheat, stop right away and do whatever you can to fix the problem (if possible). If you are starting to overheat while transporting the plow, stop and reset the position of the blade to allow greater airflow to pass through the grill and to the radiator.
4. Check for Obstacles
Prior to the snowfall, take a look at the area you will be plowing and note any obstacles that can be covered up when there is snow on the ground. This can include sidewalk edges, water drains, landscaping elements, fences, and even the curbline. Once you have identified potential obstacles, mark them so that they can be seen when the snow falls.
5. Buckle Up
Always, always, always wear your seatbelt when operating a motor vehicle. Further, never plow with your head hanging out the window. If visibility is an issue, stop and correct the issue.
6. Look Twice
Mirrors have blind spots. When you are backing up, check your mirrors first, then turn around and look to see where your are going.
7. Different Surfaces Require Different Plowing Tactics
Dirt and gravel surfaces require you to lower your plow shoes. This raises the blade so you aren’t piling up that dirt and gravel. Concrete and asphalt is a different bag of burritos. In these instances, you’ll want to remove (or simply raise) the shoes. This ensures you can scrape as close to the surface of the ground as possible.
8.Be Kind to Your Hydraulics
After you are done plowing, lower the blade so that it is resting on the ground or a wooden block. Then turn off the plow control. Not only will this take the load off the hydraulics, it’s also a good safety move.
Hopefully, some of these tips will help ensure you a safe, snow-free season this winter. If you, or someone you know, are in need of commercial snow plowing services, feel free to contact E.P.M. online or give us a call at (517) 990-0110 today!
In Michigan, we are very fortunate to have some of the most beautiful autumns of anywhere in the world. As the leaves turn from green to a panorama of yellows, oranges, browns, and reds, it’s almost as if nature turns your yard into a living work of art. This beautiful change is short lived, however, and when the leaves start to fall, it’s time to get to work in order to keep your lawn healthy and looking great for spring. We have assembled leaf cleanup tips to take some of the guesswork and backwork out of leaf cleanup.
When to Start Leaf Cleanup
A handful of leaves won’t cause harm to your lawn. In fact, a few splashes of color on your lawn are one of the most pleasing elements of autumn. When they start to pile up, though, it’s time to remove them. Too many leaves can cover your lawn, which blocks necessary sunlight and compromises the air circulation your grass needs. This is a recipe for a variety of turf diseases. In fact, the sheer weight of the leaves is enough to prevent your grass from growing correctly. A layer of leaves across your yard keep the soil below it moist. This persistent moisture can lead to root rot if not properly addressed. To sum up, if you like your grass and want to have it back in the spring, you simply have to clean up your leaves in the fall.
There are two basic guidelines as to when your leaf cleanup should begin: 1) when leaves cover more than 1/3 of your lawn, or: 2) when you can no longer see the top half of your lawn’s grass blades. Sometimes, we get an unpredictable cold snap that forces many leaves to drop over the course of a few days. In these cases, you can wait until the entire lawn has a single leaf layer of cover. At that point, though, you need to get right to the cleanup. You don’t want to leave your lawn in that condition for more than a few days.
You’ll want to get to start your cleanup the next rainfall. Whether your modus operandi is to rake the leaves or mow them, both become much more difficult when the leaves are wet. Wet leaves clog up rakes, leaf vacuums, and lawn mowers alike.
Can I Mow My Leaves Instead of Raking Them?
In short: yes, you can mow your leaves instead of raking them. There are several ways to go about this, so let’s go over them. If you are a composter, mowing your leaves chops them up into smaller pieces, which speeds up the decomposition process in your compost pile. It should go without saying, but you’ll want to use a leaf catcher for this; otherwise, you’ll have to rake up the leaf bits, which just creates more work than raking whole leaves would have.
If you are not a composter, you can still let the little chopped up leaves decompose right on the lawn. You’ll want to make sure that your mower is throwing out leaf pieces that are about the size of a dime or little less. If you have particularly large leaves and/or a relatively thick layer of leaves, you may have to mow over them more than once to ensure you have chopped the pieces small enough. When you are done mowing, you want to see about 50% of your grass through the chopped up leaf pieces. The more grass you can see, the more quickly your leaf pieces will decompose.
When those chopped up bits of leaves finally settle down into the grass, microbes commence the decomposition process. This decomposition process unleashes nitrogen, which is much like that found in fall-time fertilizer. So, mowing over your leaves and allowing them to naturally decompose on the lawn will enrich the soil under your lawn, leading to a healthy, lush lawn come spring.
If you have leaves that leathery and thick, you should rake those up or collect them in a grass catching bag when you mow. They don’t decompose as quickly as needed when left on the lawn, but will still do just fine in a compost pile.
Gather Leaves for Community Pick Up
Many communities have leaf pickup programs wherein they will pick up your bagged leaves for disposal. The thing is, you can fill a LOT of bags with what seems like relatively few leaves. You can downsize that leaf pile by using a leaf blower/vacuum with a built in shredder.
If you are looking for a leaf blower/vacuum with a shredder, you’ll want to check out the reduction ratio. For instance, if the reduction ratio is 10:1, the shredder will reduce 10 bags of leaves down to 1 bag. Just think of how much effort that will take off your back! If you have a smallish yard, a handheld leaf vacuum is a great option. If your lawn is larger, you may want to stick with a mower and grass catching bag to do the leaf reduction for you.
We hope you can put a few of these pointers to work for you this season. And remember, for commercial grounds maintenance services, feel free to contact E.P.M. online or give us a call at (517) 990-0110 today
In our last post about snow removal tips, we discussed using alternatives to traditional rock salt for de-cing driveways and walkways. In this post, we are going to dig a little deeper into the different types of de-icers available, as well as the pros and cons that go along with each of them.
When you know what makes various de-icers different from each other, you are in a better position to choose the one that works best for your particular needs / environment. As we have stated before, rock salt is the most popular de-icing option, but it is far from being the only option. There are others that can be much more effective in certain situations.
The first thing you should consider when looking for the right de-icer is your climate. One significant difference among de-icers is their working temperatures. And, yes, when you live in Michigan, you know it’s going to be a cold winter, but a Detroit winter and a Marquette winter can be very different; so keep that in mind. Another consideration is whether a particular de-icer will cause peripheral damage to things like your carpet, pets, concrete, or other landscaping features. Finally, we would be remiss if we didn’t mention that environmental impact of some de-icers. They can certainly vary in the degree to which they can harm the environment.
It’s important to note that not one de-icer will meet every need. There are pros and cons to each. Any time you introduce a new chemical agent into your environment, there will be side effects beyond just melting ice. To that end, we are going to take a closer look at each different de-icing agent, so you can be sure you have the right one for your needs.
Pros: Sodium Chloride (NaCl) is also know by the more common name of “rock salt.” It is, by far, the most common de-icer, with up to 14 million tons of it used each year in the United States and Canada. One of the reasons it is so often used is because it is more affordable than other de-icers. You can usually pick some up in stores for about $10 per 50-pound bag. In addition, its range of effectiveness is down to 15 degrees Fahrenheit, which is usually satisfactory for most winter days.
Cons: Rock salt can do a real number on your environment. It can damage stone, brick, asphalt, and concrete. In fact, if you have concrete that is less than one year old, you shouldn’t bring rock salt anywhere near it. In addition, rock salt can also seep into the soil that lines sidewalks and driveways, changing the pH balance of the soil and ruining your lawn and plants. Finally, it can contaminate your ground water and even kill your pets.
Pros: Calcium Chloride (CaCl) actually gives off heat as it melts ice, which makes it work faster than any of the other de-icers on the list. It’s also effective down to -10 degrees Fahrenheit. You can buy it in three different forms: liquid, pellets, or flakes. Some users like this flexibility for application purposes. Finally, it has a less of an impact on the environment than some other de-icers do.
Cons: Calcium Chloride can wreak havoc on the flooring in your house, including tiles and carpets. So you’ll want to remove any shoes or boots you were wearing during application. It can also corrode metal. While it is less harmful than other de-icers, if you over-apply it, you can still do harm.
Pros: Potassium Chloride (KCl), like potassium-based fertilizers, are heralded as actually being good for plants and lawns, which is a striking contrast to some of the other de-icers. As a result, it is simply more environmentally-friendly and safer for your four-legged friends; one notable exception is pets with kidney diseases.
Cons: Its working temperature only goes down to a (relatively balmy) 25 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s also costlier than rock salt at about $20+ for a 50-pound bag. Furthermore, Potassium Chloride isn’t easy to find as a stand-alone product. Most often, it is found as component of de-icing blends.
Pros: Magnesium Chloride (MgCl) is effective at temperatures as low as -13 degrees Fahrenheit. It is also less damaging to the environment than other options. It’s more effective than rock salt, because it acts very quickly.
Cons: While it is less damaging to the environment, applying too much can still damage plants. It can corrode metal. It can also pull moisture from the air. In some cases, it can pull too much moisture from the air, leaving pavement wet.
Calcium Magnesium Acetate
Pros: Calcium Magnesium Acetate (CMA) is extremely effective for areas with a lot of concrete that can absolutely not take on any damages—think parking ramps. Less corrosive than its chloride-based counterparts, CMA is harmless for the environment when used in small amounts. It is also biodegradable.
Cons: Calcium Magnesium Acetate is not cheap. In fact, it can cost up to 30 times more than rock salt. Since you buy CMA in a solid form and liquefy it before you apply it, there is the potential for it to refreeze, causing slipperiness on pavement.
Pros: Urea is as affordable as rock salt and, since it is nitrogen-based, is much kinder to grass and plants than rock salt. Beyond that, it is safer for pets and also non-corrosive, allowing it to be used near structures. In fact, gardeners often prefer this as their de-icer of choice.
Cons: In some places, Urea is not legal to use from de-icing. There is concern because of the effects that can come with runoff that flows into water sources.
Pros: Potassium Acetate is a very high-level de-icer with a freeze point of -76 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s non-corrosive and biodegradable. Because it is non-corrosive, it is often preferred for areas that use a lot of steel and/or have numerous structures, such as airports.
Cons: Two main cons stick out for Potassium Acetate. First, it can lower oxygen levels in water. Second, it’s expensive; often costing as much as CMA.
Pros: Sand is not a de-icer, per se, but it is often used to help combat slipperiness on roads, walkways, and in parking lots. It is very cheap and also non-corrosive.
Cons: The biggest issues with sand come towards the end of winter and start of spring, as it can accumulate and block storm drains. This can lead to flooding problems when snow is melting and/or rain is falling. Beyond that, sand can also gather in bodies of water and carry contaminants with it that is has picked up over the coarse of the winter.
Brine / Beet Juice
Pros: Some swear by beet juice or pickle brine, touting that is quicker for de-icing on roads, while also being less toxic than rock salt. Because it it less toxic and comprised of natural materials, its impact on the environment is minimal. Finally, it can bring down the melting point of water to -20 degrees Fahrenheit.
Cons: The big drawback to beet juice as a de-icer is that is can work its way into streams and rivers, where the inherent sugars attract certain germs that feed on the oxygen in the water. This lowers overall oxygen levels in the water and can be very harmful to fish and other animals that need the oxygen for survival.
Hopefully you have found some answers to your questions here. If you need help with commercial snow removal, you can contact E.P.M. online or call us today at (517) 990-0110!