Coronavirus lockdowns aim to reduce contact between people. However, many professionals must go to their customers to work to earn a living.
What can they do?
There are three stages in a lockdown. Depending on the local situation, cities apply different sets of rules.
From restraint to total lock-down
Stage 1: take basic precautions & stop community recreation
In the first stage, places where the public gathers for fun cease operations. People still go to work.
Landscaping professionals can still provide their services.
- However, they must follow social distancing for gardening.
- Safety distance of 6 feet or 2 meters.
- Authorities recommend that community gardens close during lockdown.
In the second stage, businesses must take a hard look at the way they work.
Stage 2: work-from-home and landscaping jobs
In this stage, avoid any contact that isn’t crucial to the business’s operations.
With reasonable precautions, professional gardeners can still serve customers.
- Admin staff, customer service, and other support activity start working from home where possible. Meetings happen online or on the phone.
- Mark out zones around business premises. Office staff are not to meet field teams, for example. Dispatchers only talk from afar.
Further precautions must be taken. Companies incorporate these in their daily operations.
- Disinfection of tools, seating and work surfaces. As often as possible: every hour at least.
- Wearing of protective garb (gloves, masks, tunics).
- “Quarantining” items that come from suppliers.
For example, recent studies reveal that covid-19 germs survives for up to three days on plastic and steel.
- When receiving items, organize a “stand-by” period. Deliveries are left untouched long enough for the virus to die.
Stage 3: shelter-in-home, only immediately vital work takes place
Only businesses directly related to survival of the public at large may still operate. Authorities call these “essential activities”. Producing food, medicine, health care, security and communications are a few examples.
Landscaping and gardening aren’t “vital operations”, except in very specific cases. Most professional gardening activity cannot take place.
Only life-protecting tasks may take place.
- cutting dangerous trees
- essential clearing of vegetation around medical centers and hospitals
- closing up potential dangers, such as trenches, holes.
- Stabilizing ditches and securing roadside mounds against landslides may also take place.
Centers that recycle garden waste are inaccessible. This makes it impossible to dispose of yard waste and lawn trimmings.
Landscaping, important but not vital
Landscaping is an important activity. It’s a large chunk of the country’s economy, so gardeners can still work under basic lockdowns. It isn’t vital for the public at large, though.
When only a basic lockdown like stage 1 and 2 (as described above), gardeners can still work.
When a shelter-in-place is active, they can’t.
- As soon as a city declares a “shelter-in-place” lockdown, gardeners cannot travel to their customer’s homes.
- Currently, major cities such San Francisco in California, Venice in Italy and others in Australia, France and England are under such drastic laws. Spain recently declared “shelter-in-place” across the country.
- In these areas, gardening companies must cancel any work that is planned at customer’s houses.
In California, for instance, the Governor issued Executive Order N-33-20 last Sunday 22nd. It does not mention landscaping and private garden support as an “essential activity”. This means pro gardeners aren’t exempt from lockdown. They must stop work.
- Keep in touch with local authorities. They’re the ones who know whether or not you can start working as usual again.
What can landscaping businesses do?
A lockdown should normally last only three weeks. But if people aren’t careful, it may extend for several months.
Delayed garden work means heavier jobs
Spring is usually when most gardening activity takes place. This year, such activity will be spread over summer.
- Make sure heavy equipment is well-maintained.
- When lockdown lifts, simple tasks like mowing the lawn or trimming hedges will call for sturdier, heavy-duty equipment.
Sharing work like never before
Yearly contracts with cities may become moot. Municipal agents in charge of such contracts will appreciate novel solutions.
- Work together with competitors. Suggest ways to collaborate that make it possible for each to avoid bankruptcy.
- Suppliers have the same issues. Talk to them and see what options are available.
Increase online presence
More and more new customers use the internet to find landscapers and gardeners.
- Get in touch with your customers and offer “consultancy” services. Have them walk around the garden and learn how they use it while drawing a quick sketch of it from the video. After that, get back to them with a collection of plants or shrubs they might appreciate. Give a rate upfront before the video call, though, and stick to the time allocated.
- Work on your company website.
- Create social media accounts. These will help spread your name in the communities you usually work for.
Smart tip about professional gardening during lockdown
As a business, coordinate with other companies to help each other out. When lockdown lifts, there will be lots of work to share.
- Some customers may agree to replace canceled one-shot jobs with subscription-based deals.
Coronavirus gardeners during lockdown on social media
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Credits for images shared to Nature & Garden (all edits by Gaspard Lorthiois):
Professional landscaper during lockdown by MET Jeong ★ under Pixabay license
Professionals prepare for heavy duty work by Walter Sturn ★ under Pixabay license
Gardener working during lockdown (on social media) by Nenad Stojkovic under © CC BY 2.0
Gardener gloves set down at lockdown (social media) by Tonhon Najarn under Pixabay license