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Landscaping companies brace for difficult season

Airdrie’s landscaping companies are preparing for a difficult 2020 season, with a considerable drop in clients anticipated due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For thousands of people out of work and looking to reduce spending, lawn maintenance and beautification is one of the first things to be cut from budgets. With that in mind, Scott Wade, owner of Scott’s Sod Sales and Installation Inc., said he’s forecasting a considerable decrease in business this summer.

“Things are looking pretty quiet,” he said. “Normally, at this time of year, we’re getting a lot of emails and requests for quotes and that kind of thing. Last year, we were getting several calls and things were moving, even by February. This year, it’s very quiet. There’s been very little contact and very few emails by comparison.”

The landscaping season typically starts in mid-April or early May, depending on the weather. Airdrie is home to more than a dozen companies that offer seasonal lawn care, weed maintenance, sod installation, tree planting, gardening and other lawn-related services.

Even before the pandemic hit, landscaping was a sector that was facing struggles, according to Wade.

“In previous years, we were in a bit of a recession in Alberta anyway, and things have been quieter than normal,” said Wade, whose business has operated in Airdrie for 14 years. “But this year, it’s been as dead as a doorknob so far.”

While landscaping does not fall under the Alberta government’s list of essential services, the industry has not been ordered to halt operations, and local companies are still preparing for the 2020 season with the expectation they will be able to work.

“I suppose if Alberta decided to shut down everything except essential services, than we’d be in trouble,” Wade said. “So far, that hasn’t happened.”

Wade said he hopes people will still consider hiring landscaping companies this year, if they are able to. 

"Obviously, any company that is local in Airdrie, people should be doing the best they can, given the circumstances, to support local as much as possible," he said. "I’ve certainly done the same myself, ordering takeout at least once per week, and still trying to use services locally. We need to still do everything we can to bolster the Airdrie business community, given the times.”

One piece of positive news, according to Wade, is that it’s possible for landscaping companies to follow public health orders to limit the spread of COVID-19. He said landscaping work is usually done without coming into close contact with clients, and employees are able to keep their distance from each other.

“We can do any job with complete social distancing,” he said. “Someone can call in a request for a quote to me, and I can go out and do all my measurements and do everything with zero contact. Even payment, we can do e-transfer or credit card payment over the phone with zero contact.”

Another local landscaping business that is feeling the brunt of the pandemic is Peats Lawn Care and Snow Clearing. Owner Pat Naylor, who started the business just last year, said he saw a 75 per cent drop in clients for snow removal at the tail end of winter, and is predicting a similar lack of business for his lawn care services, which include grass cutting and fertilization, in the summer.

“So far, I put out one quote for the start of the spring, whereas normally I would have at least four or five calls by now, from people being interested,” he said.

“It’s definitely showing that people are watching what they’re spending money on. Or, if they’re home, they’re going to be doing a lot more [of their landscaping] by themselves.”

Naylor said he is keeping an eye out for announcements from the three levels of government that pertain to the landscaping industry, to see if there any support becomes available.

“I’ve seen a few things offered from banks, but I really haven’t yet had a chance to look into them yet,” he said. “As they come up, hopefully something will be available. If not, we’ll just have to tough through it.

Scott Strasser,
Follow me on Twitter @scottstrasser19