Hotel Gardening: Tips to Keep the Green in Your Lawn and Wallet

By Ken Hutcheson President, U.S. Lawns | May 12, 2013

In today’s economy, staying within budget while keeping a landscape looking beautiful can seem impossible. But a healthy, attractive landscape does not have to break the bank. Making smart choices, such as conserving water through efficient irrigation systems and tailoring a scope of work specific to the needs of a hotel property can help cut costs in the long term. Also, taking easy, extra steps to maintain the health of plants will lessen the likelihood that landscape renovation will be necessary. By utilizing the tips below, a hotel owner or manager can help preserve a healthy landscape that retains its maximum value while generating cost savings over the long-run. Keys to achieving a desired result rely in having an acute sense of awareness and understanding of the needs of a landscape and partnering with the right commercial landscape management professional.

Water Conservation

Wasted water is wasted money. With water demands rising and frequent droughts threatening supply, responsible water use is a smart business practice and an essential component of environmentalism. Irrigation audits are one way to ensure that a hotel property is realizing the maximum benefits of its irrigation system. After assessing a hotel’s current irrigation system and identifying any inefficient components, a landscape professional will consider the area size, local climate, sun exposure and specific plant varieties in determining the most appropriate and cost-effective irrigation program for a property. Tailored systems cut annual water costs significantly and some systems even qualify for tax credits. Investment in an irrigation audit and implementation of the proper system are effective ways to maintain a beautiful landscape without draining unnecessary natural and fiscal resources.

Sufficient hydration is key to maintaining the health and appearance of a property’s landscape. There have been significant developments in irrigation technology, which allows landscape professionals to design customized systems. Because these systems are based on a particular property’s needs, they will produce not only reduced water usage, but lower ongoing maintenance expenses.

The “smart” controller is the most technologically advanced development in water conservation on the market today. Regardless of how efficient an irrigation controller’s watering schedule is, it must respond to the always-changing weather conditions—specifically rainfall and evapotranspiration (ET)—to protect the health of the landscape and gain maximum efficiencies. ET is the amount of water lost from the soil through evaporation plus the plant’s water loss (known as transpiration); both are dramatically affected by weather conditions. A smart controller uses current weather and ET information to water a landscape only when needed. Smart controller systems work with virtually any controller, converting a conventional irrigation system into one that is weather-smart and self-adjusts according to accurate real-time weather data. As the weather changes, a smart controller receives automatic hourly updates and prevents the controller from watering unless needed. This results in significant water savings and a healthier landscape.

For those who want to stay on the cutting edge of water conservation technology, the answer may be investing in moisture sensors. Moisture sensors are designed to detect the moisture levels in the soil, making it the most efficient method of watering. Moisture sensors will continuously measure soil and only allow a watering cycle when the moisture drops below a certain, customized, threshold. So while a “smart” controller that measures rainfall may still allow a watering cycle the day of or the day after a rain storm, regardless of rainfall amounts, a moisture sensor will accurately read the moisture level in the soil and will keep the watering system turned off until the excess moisture has dissipated. The biggest detractor of these moisture sensors are the initial purchase and installation costs; however, due to their extremely efficient ability to determine how much moisture is in the soil and how often watering is needed to maintain a beautiful landscape, they pay for themselves, saving precious dollars on water bills.

Coming up in February 2018...

Social Media: Engagement is Key

There are currently 2.3 billion active users of social media networks and savvy hotel operators have incorporated social media into their marketing mix. There are a few Goliath channels on which one must have a presence (Facebook & Twitter) but there are also several newer upstart channels (Instagram, Snapchat &WeChat, for example) that merit consideration. With its 1.86 billion users, Facebook is a dominant platform where operators can drive brand awareness, facilitate bookings, offer incentives and collect sought-after reviews. Twitter's 284 million users generate 500 million tweets per day, and operators can use its platform for lead generation, building loyalty, and guest interaction. Instagram was originally a small photo-sharing site but it has blown up into a massive photo and video channel. The site can be used to post photos of the hotel property, as well as creating Instagram Stories - personal videos that disappear from the channel after 24 hours. In this regard, Instagram and Snapchat are now in direct competition. WeChat is a Chinese company whose aim is to be the App for Everything - instant messaging, social media, shopping and payment services - all in a single platform. In addition to these channels, blogging continues to be a popular method to establish leadership, enhance reputations, and engage with customers in a direct and personal way. The key to effective use of all social media is to find out where your customers are and then, to the fullest extent possible, engage with them on a personal level. This engagement is what creates a personal connection and sustains brand loyalty. The February Hotel Business Review will explore these issues and examine how some hotels are successfully integrating social media into their operations.