A happy‚ if very wet‚ New Year to all colleagues.
Grass cutting is a nightmare at the moment unless they invent something that can attach a cutting unit to a hovercraft it just can’t be done down here a worry with bulbs well up and winter Grad at the end of the month.
I may be the last to wish you all a Happy New Year‚ and I am glad to see that 2016 has kicked off with a bit of networking!
I was the fish out of water at the conference‚ and take my hat off to all of you horticultural types (heavy on the cultural). Being the only one with a contractor to do all the heavy lifting with regards to ground maintenance I feel I am not best placed to answer any of the questions except for number 4.
We too have 1100 litre wheelie bins for both recycling and general waste‚ which are chipped to record recycling and general waste data‚ which are placed in central locations. We do have one Halls building with waste chutes‚ and although the building is not that old it is just old tech. All of the rooms have recycling bins in them and the kitchens have food caddies. The Halls’ recycling rates are up about 80–90%‚ academic and support buildings are in the 70% area‚ and if you need any more information on how this was achieved‚ then let me know.
With regards to electric mowers‚ at Winchester I purchased a Viking battery powered one due to one particular area where access to grass was down a series of steps. In the past 2 people had to safely carry a petrol mower down. Now because of the reduced weight‚ 1 person can manage. I was told that the battery would give approx. 40 mins operating time‚ which for the job was enough. In reality it is 20 mins. Having initially purchased the quick charging system with 1 battery‚ I subsequently bought another battery so as one is being used the other is charging. This method does work. The cut of the machine is good and its use is favoured by our female members of staff due to weight. It is relatively quite as well‚ with vibration and noise well within the limits. I myself do use it on our sloping areas of grass on occasion. Down side you can’t be too far away from charging point as it could be a long walk! Conclusion I like it for the small areas.
We also run Pellenc machinery (blowers‚ hedge cutters‚ strimmers‚ brushcutter) which the University bought into before my time. Because of the expense I need to stay with it. Overall they work well and the team are happy with them apart from the strimmers (Excellion). Have had issues with the first batch of batteries which were purchased in 2011 they began shutting off prematurely. Upshot was that the first lot of batteries were not man enough to run the blowers and therefore compromised the cells. Our batteries were purchased before the blowers were on the market and were only to be used with the hedge cutters. Of course they were out of warranty etc.‚ etc.‚ etc. Have since added more higher rated batteries to our collection. Stimmers are regarded by the team as useless‚ but the brushcutter works well. Will be trialling the new mower at some point soon.
Hope this helps even though it is a bit long winded.
Cannot really comment on the other points.
Happy New Year everyone
I would just like to say how great it is to see this level of response‚ the replies have been a real help to me as well.
We don’t use any electric machinery so I have been interested to hear your views.
We did use an electric Kubota but due to the topography of our site here in Cornwall it really struggled and was not fit for purpose‚ we now have the petrol version which performs much better and has caused us no problems over the last year even with a trailer attached.
We have a full time waste operative on site‚ the students take their waste to a large wheelie bin in separate bin stores for each of the bocks. They are then collected and towed in a convoy‚ three at a time in his Kubota to a waste compound where it is compacted ready for collection. Compostable material and recycling is removed separately buy an interim sustainability officer and student lead project.
We have basically just gone electric with as much of our equipment as possible‚ we run a whole system now of Stihl battery powered equipment and I have been nothing but impressed‚ the batteries also work with the Viking lawn mowers and having all this equipment running with the same clip in batteries is amazing. Yes battery life with the mowers is limited running time‚ but if you have suitable supply of batteries this is not an issue. It takes seconds to change the batteries and they can carry spares on belts while they are mowing so no real time lost. Also lots or great features on the mower with height adjustment and box emptying‚ they light as to carry about and into difficult places and cut really well. It was the one thing I was unsure of but has been real benefit and I will encourage the team to use them as much as possible this coming season and see how we get on. The Hedgecutters‚ and strimmers are also proved to work really well. The only tool we have yet to fully replace is the back pack blower for large clearance jobs‚ otherwise we run electric for nearly all tasks. To minimise problems with battery recharging we operate a system where only supervisors charge the batteries‚ the operatives just put spent batteries in one box and collect fresh ones from another‚ so far this is working really well.
We have 4 HDK electric buggy’s‚ and they do the job we need. Charge time is overnight about twice a week. We Use them to move about the campus every morning to do our site inspections and the tray is large enough to get a mower on or move strimmers etc about. We easily customised them to carry brooms/rakes etc as well. We did have to retro fit a locking bar under the tray to stop that falling back when open‚ but lister wilder were very helpful with that. They are lightweight but fairly robust‚ couple of broken mudguards and repair to tray flap is only issues we have had. Not much to them so repairs and services so far seem minimal and simple. Only 6 months in but do the job for us‚ lots of other departments are eyeing them up across the university as simple transportation vehicles.
We have second hand Tennant green machine 636‚ when it works the benefits are great‚ but it is a money pit with something always breaking on it. I think new it would be a good machine for its size and was one of the most stable small sweepers we tried.
I am emailing to say hello but really for some help/advice.
Traditionally we have just maintained them‚ strimmed‚ mowed weeded etc. with care. The H&S officer now wants fall arrest and harness training for the team‚ which seems overkill for these areas. Many of these areas are quite small or without a large drop. Some people have recommended inflatable mattresses‚ some boot clamp–ons.
I was hoping for any information‚ recommendations or risk assessments on how you deal with this. Any help would be greatly received. Sorry for the rather garbled message‚ enjoy the summer and hope to see you all next year.
Posted by: Tobias Nenning‚ Head Gardener‚ Falmouth Exeter Plus
If the areas are predominantly grass try using primomax its something we are starting to do on our edges and banks. Its not a cheap but as turf growth retardant this would certainly decrease the number of cuts. On other slopes we used a flail from a digger or the back of tractor‚ others we do once a year and are treated as meadows. Hope that helps.
Posted by: Giles Reynolds‚ Head of Grounds‚ University of Reading
We have also been looking at managing our banks better‚ as Aberystwyth University is built on a hillside. We had a member of staff who mowed most of our banks with a Toro pedestrian mower for years without incident but after he retired we had about three near misses in as many years with staff slipping and mowers coming off the banks. As Giles we invested in a flail arm on the back of our tractor thus eliminating the need to go onto the banks and tried leaving one bank as a meadow but ended up cutting it the week before Graduation to tidy it up as it was in a prominent spot. We have also in the past planted a few banks up with ground cover plants and shrubs and used our climbing ropes and harnesses on the very worst ones for the first few years until they established. But Primo maxx also sounds like a good option that I’ll be looking into.
Posted by: Paul Evans‚ Aberystwyth University
In addition to the useful ideas below‚ there is also the option of a remote control bank mower for grassed areas. I’m not sure how practical that suggestion is given the current economic climate but‚ a few years ago‚ I made a bid for additional funding for one using both slips/trips and NHAVS to build the case. I was lucky enough to win and we haven’t looked back‚ extending its use to things like daffodil patches‚ etc. It has also increased efficiency‚ at least halving the time spent using strimmers‚ etc (although I don’t shout too loudly about that!).
Hope that helps.
Posted by: Dave O–Driscoll‚ Head of Grounds & Gardens‚ University of Birmingham
I missed the conference‚ but great to see such levels of support out there.
I guess the message coming across is eliminate need to cut if you can‚ we have used Euroflor as trials in few places(nothing to steep so far) and these near native meadows were still looking amazing last year well into October‚ only minimal maintenance and prep then required each year. I know they do an impregnated layer you can put onto banks to help the seed get established before it washed off the bank so we might trial that this coming spring. Also planting up a bank with ornamental grasses‚ flax‚ restios etc going for the tussock bank look‚ which eventually will be very minimal maintenance‚ and strengthen the bank‚ once established.
Let us know what you decide to do.
P.S. Gabions are great ideas‚ used them when I worked in NZ and planted them up as green walls with mixed Hebes‚ very effective…..if you can splash the cash!
Posted by: Richard Fluester‚ Grounds Manager‚ University of West of England.
Along with this deluge of ideas‚ I was wondering how your colleagues defined what is a ‘slope’ and/or when they consider a gradient becomes a ‘fall’ (as opposed to a roll)? I assume a risk assessment has been carried out for each of these?
We have previously regraded smaller embankments to reduce the gradient. We have also used gabions to provide a terrace.
Otherwise‚ as others suggest‚ we used side arm flails on the council.
I hope this helps
Posted by: Alan Stealey‚ Head of External Estates‚ University of Bristol
Further to your email below and colleagues ideas below (which I agree with) to add a few more ideas into your melting pot.
I have just inherited some steep banks which we are going to put artificial grass on so there will be a virtually maintenance requirement. With the correct choice of grass they can look attractive. Along with the artificial grass we have also added an element of hard landscaping with the addition of some slate paving. I will add some pockets of slate to give some contrast of materials‚ also add some specimen low maintenance shrubs (eg . Trachycarpus) to add extra interest.
As an alternative then as has been mentioned low ground cover planting could be used and if it ever needs trimming a long handled telescopic hedge cutter could easily be used. I am thinking about planting some other bank areas with wild flower mixes which then could be cut with a flail or again long handled trimmer once per annum.
Hope this is useful to you.
Posted by: Nigel Hodge‚ Horticultural and Landscape Manager‚ University of Surrey