Mr. Hutcheson

Eco-Friendly Practices

Preparing for Winter

By Ken Hutcheson, President, U.S. Lawns

By following these simple steps you can ensure your hotel will be ready for one of the busiest seasons of the year.

Step 1. Winterizing Irrigation Systems

In order to prevent damages and costly repairs, hoteliers need to winterize their property's irrigation system. For hotels in seasonal and non-seasonal markets alike, winterization is key in ensuring your sprinkler system works properly in the future. Particularly in regions that reach freezing temperatures, the colder climates can freeze and break pipe walls, ruining your irrigation system come spring. But even those in temperate areas need to take certain precautions, as the year-round demands on the irrigation systems will need to be checked and cleaned more often. Your winterization approach will vary depending on where your system is located, but all hoteliers should follow the basic method: turn off the water, shut down the controller, and drain the pipes.

The first step in shutting off the water supply is by turning it off using the main valve. The second step is to turn off the sprinkler's control system. This step can be more complex since there are many different types of sprinkler systems, so if you're working with a landscaping company, it's crucial that they do it correctly.

The third and most important step is removing the water from your system's sprinklers, as it prevents your pipes from freezing, expanding, and bursting. It also ensures that the system's pipes are clean and working efficiently. Draining the pipes is a key step in minimizing damages and optimizing the functionality of the system, but it is also complicated, so professional help is highly recommended.

Step 2. Fall Fertilization

Hoteliers can prepare for the winter months by getting their landscape ready in the fall. Regardless of what region you're located in, strong summer heat and severe weather can leave your landscape looking dull and dreary come September. By nourishing your property in the fall, you will not only improve your existing landscape, but it will be more likely to survive the winter and be ready for spring planting. Fall fertilization replenishes the soil, promotes growth, and keeps your property healthy for all seasons. That means you should be thinking about next year's landscaping now.

Talking to your contractor about 2016 planning is critical as both parties must think about the resources and budget required to maintain a healthy and vibrant property throughout the year. By communicating about the landscape's needs before the next season begins, both the contractor and hotelier will be on the same page about what work needs to be done while setting expectations come springtime.

Step 3. Prevent Diseases

It's important to have a procedure in place to prevent diseases and pests from harming your landscape. This is a more proactive and cost efficient approach than trying to treat for pests and diseases once the damage has already been done. Because your hotel's landscape is vulnerable to pests and diseases year round, it's important for hoteliers to have a proper agronomics plan in place if they want to keep diseases under control and keep their landscapes looking healthy and well manicured. An effective plan requires the application of fertilizer and other pesticides to be applied to your landscape's soil and vegetation four to five times a year. This service should be included in your routine maintenance plan, so once winter hits there isn't a long list of things to be done concerning fertilization. However, in non-seasonal markets, your contractor will want to continue pruning, trimming, and weeding, throughout the winter, which is another important component in preventing diseases and pests. For hoteliers, it's important to choose professionals that are familiar with your property's landscape, as the vegetation, soil, and topography are all important factors to consider when designing a safe and effective treatment plan.

Step 4. Introducing Color Into your Landscape

One of the biggest challenges hoteliers face each winter is keeping their landscapes from looking dull or boring. While the holiday season is typically a time of joy and cheer, it can also bring blasts of cold weather and winter storms that damage landscapes and make them less appealing. Regardless of where your hotel is located, infusing fall and winter colors into your landscape is essential to promoting a festive and spirited environment for the holiday season.

Durable Vegetation

For those located in regions that experience "true" winters, your challenge isn't finding a way to distinguish between the changing of the seasons it's finding vegetation that will survive the winter and keep it from looking dull. Planting durable vegetation like evergreens, lacebark elms, winterberry holly, and snowdrift crabapple (which produce orange-red colorful berries) will help create an aesthetically pleasing landscape during those "darker" winter days.

And for those located in non-seasonal markets, where temperatures have hopefully cooled off a bit, fall is the perfect time to plant vegetation that wouldn't normally survive in hot summer conditions. For example, hoteliers should talk to their contractors about planting various annuals and perennials to give their properties a boost of energy. Another way to symbolize the changing of the seasons for your guests is to plant red and white flowers outside entranceways to create a more festive landscape. In addition to colorful flowers, planting beds or pots filled with poinsettias is a classic holiday accent that will instill the holiday spirit.

Additional Color

There's nothing that says it's the holidays more than putting up Christmas lights around your property. While it may require time and resources, it will instantly create a positive energy and feeling before your guests even walk in the door. If you're not interested in making this a do-it-yourself project (DIY), many landscaping companies offer this service to supplement the slower winter months. And if they don't provide this service, they can definitely recommend you to someone in the area who specializes in Christmas décor.


If you're looking to create some extra holiday spirit, using ornamental accessories such as wreaths and garland can enhance the overall look and feel of the property. Wrapping wreaths and garland around trees, parking lot poles, main entranceway beams, and flagpoles, are all appropriate locations to accessorize. It's important to keep in mind that the accessories you choose to use need to comply with your brand standards. For example, certain banners of Santa Claus or snowmen can make the property look tacky, so it's important to keep the décor tasteful.

Step 5. Snow and Ice Management

Why it's Important

To prevent any potential accidents during what can be considered one of the most dangerous seasons, it's imperative that hoteliers work with their landscaping professionals now to create a snow and ice management plan. From a safety perspective, with winter conditions in full effect, all parking lots, entranceways, and walkways must be kept clear of snow and ice at all times. Even if a storm hasn't occurred, ruminants from a previous storm can often cause snow to freeze or even worse, create black ice. Hoteliers can help decrease the risk of slips and falls by having their property treated routinely. Whether it's having a plow come through to clear parking lots, or consistently shoveling sidewalks, your contractor can work with you to ensure that the job gets done. To help prevent icy areas on the property, you can apply salt before a storm, and then treat the ground after the storm.

From a revenue standpoint, the winter months are the busiest time of year for travelers, and if guests can't safely access your building or don't feel safe on-site there's a strong possibility that they will cancel or leave early. This has a negative impact on the establishment's reputation, as those travelers will be reluctant to book again. All of this can be avoided through proper snow and ice management planning.

Your Checklist

Selecting a qualified snow and ice professional is the first step in creating a successful program. If you're currently looking for a new contractor, it's key to find one that will be able to service all of your properties' needs. For example, if you have a large property, and select a company that only has a few crewmembers, it will take them twice as long to clear walkways, paths, parking lots, etc., which is an issue when you need your property cleared quickly. Selecting a contractor that's fully equipped to service your property is equally as important. If they don't have enough snow blowers, all-terrain vehicles, or plows to service your property effectively-they're not going to be able to meet your expectations or keep your guests safe.

Factoring in where the contractor is travelling from is equally important because if they can't get there, they can't service it! Once a winter storm occurs, if they aren't local, they might not be able to get on-site in a timely manner.

Creating a maintenance plan that establishes how frequently your contractor plans to be on-site is a key indicator of how successful your snow and ice management plan will be. For example, if there's a chance of multi-day storms, or if a storm spans over several days, you then can expect the contractor to be on site after it has stopped snowing or sleeting. Showing your contractor areas on the property that have been known to be high danger zones for guests is important for the pre-treatment and ongoing treatment of your landscape. You can then move on to the other parts of the property.

While it may seem that a majority of winter landscape preparation is carried out during the fall, there's still much work to be done throughout the winter to ensure that your grounds and landscape stay safe and aesthetically pleasing throughout the holiday season.

Ken Hutcheson is President of U.S. Lawns. He joined the company in 1995 and has grown the organization from a regional 18-franchise network to a national network of over 250-franchises in all 48 contiguous states. U.S. Lawns is nourished by the values and passion of family-owned and operated franchise businesses. Mr. Hutcheson champions an entrepreneurial spirit and a teamwork culture. He’s skilled at developing employee, franchisee and customer bases that are anchored on a commitment to long-term relationships. His focus on the company’s Franchise Development and Support is central to the company’s steady national expansion and consistently high rankings on industry lists. Mr. Hutcheson can be contacted at 407-246-1630 or Please visit for more information. Extended Bio... retains the copyright to the articles published in the Hotel Business Review. Articles cannot be republished without prior written consent by

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