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Daytona Intern Gains New Perspective On The Landscape Industry!

This is a guest post, written by Anthony, about his intern experience with us this summer.

Working at the Daytona Beach Branch for the past eight weeks has been exciting. I’ve seen and experienced nearly every aspect of the landscape business, from meeting clients to working out in the field with mow crews. At the University of Florida I studied crop production, so landscapes and ornamental plants are new to me.

I’ve learned so much it’s hard to recount. I came in not knowing how to operate a lot of the equipment used for landscape management. I can now effectively use an edger, zero-turn and walk-behind mowers with sulkies and a tractor. I’ve been able to interact and learn from my mentor as well as nearly every member of the Daytona team. Sometimes, it can be a little awkward as the intern, but being at this branch and in this environment has taught me how to work with a wide range of people.

I didn’t notice landscapes much before this internship, but now I notice well managed landscapes and those that need an expert’s help all of the time. I can now assess when something’s been done well, or not. I’ve gained a better perspective of the everyday needs of a landscape that I don’t believe can be gained in a classroom. There’s a distinct difference when you learn how to spray plant protection products in theory, and when you carry 40 pounds of liquid solution on your back in the middle of a highway median. I have spent the last few years doing the former, so to have the opportunity to do the latter is more valuable than words can describe.

Interning with Yellowstone is challenging, there is a lot of work required to be done, but it is also one of the most valuable learning experiences in my career so far. I’ve learned so much about an area of agriculture that I wasn’t familiar with. It’s an experience I highly recommend.

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Atlanta West Intern Sharpens His Management Skills

This is a guest post, written by Mark, about his intern experience with us this summer.

 

As a 2016 summer Intern with Yellowstone Landscape, there are a number of experiences that have influenced me in a positive way, but one in particular has really stood out.

Learning how to operate a zero-turn mower could be compared to pursuing an internship. It is an intimidating task that holds a lot of uncertainty if you have never operated one before. The zero-turn mower is much larger and faster than any landscape equipment that I have used in the past. Likewise, this is the first internship I have done, and Yellowstone is a large, fast-paced company. Both tasks seemed daunting at first, but the more you get the hang of the controls, or familiarize yourself with the people at your branch, everything runs smoothly, like a well-oiled machine.

Learning to maneuver a mower over a curb or rough terrain is comparable to the unexpected challenges that the managers encounter each day in the many facets of the business. For example, one day a crew truck was experiencing issues and required maintenance right away. The manager had to get the truck repaired and then figure out the best way to allocate the crew’s time spent at each property that day.

As a management major, it is important for me to observe and learn from my Mentor when situations like this occur. Figuring out the best solution for an unforeseen mishap is a hands on process that you cannot learn in a classroom. I realize that the company must take many factors into account when making decisions that affect the budget, labor hours and safety. Ultimately, with time and experience, you will become proficient in not only running landscape equipment, but also running the many facets of a landscape management business.

 

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Mississippi State University Intern Builds Her Skillset!

This is a guest post, written by Krystin, about her intern experience with us this summer.

 

This internship has been one for the books! I have had two mentors, which is definitely something to remember, both having helpful tips along the way. I’ve learned that respect between managers and the workers goes a long way. Without that respect, there is a void in communication, and nothing gets accomplished within the time frame that is needed. In order to gain this type of respect, you have to go out and work with the crews, show them that you understand what they are out there doing day to day in the heat. Having the opportunity to be on both sides definitely shows me the managers, or any person higher up than a crew member, truly cares about how everyone is doing. For me, that really means something. It means a lot to me when I’m out working with the service workers, and see my Mentor, or other Account Managers out there breaking a sweat and getting dirty with the crews to help get the work done.

Many of the Crew Leaders, Irrigation Techs, and my Mentors have taught me multiple new skills. I have used plenty of new tools and felt very accomplished when I’ve figured out the technique because I know now I have the skills to do any job. I am capable of trimming trees or finding irrigation breaks or clogs so much easier than I had before. Knowing that there is a specific technique to most everything that is done when taking care of a neighborhood or resort landscape opened my eyes in a whole new way. Being able to spot fungus and identify worms, chinch bugs, or other types of pests on turf or plants, is something I have come to find valuable. I know I can call the fert-chem crew or manager if I spot any type of problem while out in the field, and know that they’ll be there that day to fix the problem. This keeps the client or Property Manager pleased with the way the property looks.

Everything I have learned this summer has helped me so much and I hope with the time I have left in this awesome city of Orlando, that I will continue to learn and make more memories to look back on in the future. I came into this internship thinking I knew so much, only to realize that I had in fact only touched the surface with my previous internship. This being said, I am very pleased that I made the choice to come all the way to Florida, and expereince this hands on opportunity.

 

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Southwest Houston Intern Learns From Unique Experiences!

Accepting an internship with BIO Landscape has definitely been an outstanding decision on my part. I am currently working at the Southwest Houston Branch with some of Yellowstone’s most top notch employees. So far my experience has been one for the books. Once I was acquainted with the team I felt right at home in an enthusiastic and hard-working atmosphere.

I have spent an ample amount of time in the field, whether it is with Account Managers, Business Developers, or Labor Crews.  I started out shadowing my Mentor and the other Account Managers. They showed me their various properties and what is expected of the crews on a routine maintenance visit, what to look for when arriving, and opportunities that could enhance the properties and increase revenue.  While shadowing, I was able to interact with clients and learned how to make wise managerial decisions.

A few times that I worked with the Irrigation/Enhancement Account Manager; we drove to several properties checking irrigation issues.  With a background in irrigation I enjoyed working with him and learning what he had to offer.  One job at the Port of Houston I found very interesting.  It started out as a normal enhancement project, adding a zone to some pre-existing irrigation, followed by creating a bed and adding flowers.  It seemed simple until a sub-contractor had to come out and bore through 6-8 feet of concrete.  The job required us to bore underneath the concrete in order to get irrigation to the bed that had been created and once complete everything would go as planned. Of course the best laid plans never happen.  The bore ended up getting stuck 3-4 feet under the cement where the road bed and cement came together. We tried everything from twisting and pulling the hydraulic hose to get it out but couldn’t make any headway.  We ended up losing the bore and had to make a new one which then worked as planned.  This experience showed me exactly how fast a project, proposed to be done in one day, can turn into a three day job in a matter of minutes.

Most recently I went out with a crew to inspect islands in Galveston Bay.  We reported to the marina at 6:00 AM to meet our ride for the day.  While inspecting these islands we looked for signs of erosion or anything out of the ordinary such as a lot trash or poaching.  The islands are created to store mud that is dredged from the bottom of the shipping channel.  Once dredged, it is pumped into the island (retention pond for mud).  We also pulled drains boards to let any remaining water flow out.  I had never heard of inspecting islands until now, I found the process very interesting.  Once we finished with the inspections the guide took us fishing.  It was the middle of the afternoon and the fish weren’t biting but I did learn something new.  These past few months have been a continuous learning experience.

All in all I have had an outstanding time working out of the Southwest office where I learn something new every day.  I plan to stay in this industry and these experiences will enhance my future career.  I am very appreciative of this opportunity and excited it has been a successful learning experience.

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Atlanta West Intern Learns Landscape Maintenance on a Larger Scale

Working at the Austin Outdoor Atlanta West Branch has been a pleasure from day one.  The people that work here are helpful and very passionate about their work.  Austin Outdoor is the largest landscaping company I have worked for and before this internship, I had never serviced a commercial property.  

My first week was exciting, while riding with my mentor, I saw what managers do and how they handle the crews on a day to day basis.  Learning how the managers worked helped me understand what was expected of them and their crews.  My mentor is very supportive, he answers all my questions and helps me understand my role as an Intern.  

Tom, my Mentor, manages the irrigation work also and I began working on some of these jobs for him in my second week.  The previous summer I worked in Dallas, TX for a company doing residential irrigation repairs and trouble shooting.  This is where I learned skills to benefit Tom as an irrigation helper.  The scope of things I encounter here are larger in size compared to what I have in the past due to the commercial aspect, but for the most part, it all works the same.  During my time with Austin Outdoor I replaced double checks, fixed broken pipes, replaced heads, located valves, replaced controllers, and more.  I have loved every minute of it!

After running the irrigation truck for a while, I was put in charge of driving different maintenance trucks to fill in for various Crew Leaders.  This was a new experience for me. I had never serviced a commercial property before and I had never even been to most of these properties.  I gave it my best shot and each day I learned more and more about what to look for on the sites.  Riding with different crews is beneficial because each crew would let me know how the regular Crew Leader would handle the property. From these experiences I learned the most efficient way to conduct day to day operations.  Juan Carlos is a Crew Leader that sections his properties off in three week rotations.  He does this because it is difficult to prune everything all in one day on a property.  Every week the mowing, blowing, and edging would get done, but each week only a section would get pruned, sprayed, and weeded.  After three weeks, it was time to do that section again.  This system works great for keeping up with the property and not missing any areas.

Working for Austin Outdoor has taught me a lot about maintaining landscapes and I am grateful for the hands on experience I have received.  A career with Austin Outdoor is something to consider if you are interested in landscape management.  If you love working outdoors as much as I do and are looking for an internship or pursuing a career, I highly recommend Austin Outdoor!

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North Branch Intern Enjoys Her Time in the Field!

When I first met the BIO Landscape Recruiters at the Sam Houston State University Ag Career Fair I knew at once that if I was offered an internship this would be the one I take.  I was nervous at the prospect of taking an internship in general and I have not regretted my decision to accept this opportunity with BIO Landscape in any way.  I am now ten weeks in and I am quite sad that this internship is coming to an end. 

Throughout my college career I have taken classes that pertain to the landscape industry and although I have gained a great deal of experience through school, it pales in comparison to what I have learned while here at the North Houston Branch of BIO.  Every day is different but I have spent a great deal of time working with my mentor on one contract in particular that maintains over 120 parks in The Woodlands area. 

Most days are spent visiting parks and communicating face to face with the customer but my favorite days are those that I get to spend in the field.  The days that I spend applying my studies to real world experiences are those that excite me most, including those that I don’t have much knowledge on.  If the tractor is available once the crews have left the yard in the morning I will sometimes attempt my hand at cleaning up the brush pile in the yard.  I am not the greatest at consolidating the brush pile but I do greatly appreciate the opportunity to gain some experience. 

On a weekly basis I ride with different Account Managers learning from each of them and their perspective.  This past week I spent a great deal of time with the Irrigation Specialist.  I have very minimal knowledge of the inner workings of irrigation systems so I was very excited when I was allowed to help with an enhancement to an existing irrigation system at one of the parks we service. 

Seeing how life at the North branch is very busy, I never find myself doing the same thing as the day before.  From working with Dario in Fert/Chem to helping Willie organize things in the garage, I have enjoyed every moment of my internship with BIO Landscape.  

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Construction Intern Hunter Learns the Bidding Process

This past week I took off my safety vest and cozied up to a keyboard and mouse.  I was starting the estimating portion of my internship.  I learned more than I expected during the first phase of my Internship, working with Project Managers and crews in the field.  Estimating is what I am most interested in, since it is an area that I am the least familiar with.

When I first started, my Branch Manager showed me the Excel file for bidding.  I must say it was pretty intimidating.  As a horticulture major with minimal computer courses, Excel has managed to slide right by me for quite some time now.  It seemed so easy to get lost in the maze of rows, columns and numbers.  My branch manager came to the rescue.  He did a fantastic job showing me how to navigate the labyrinth of different pages and how the entire file worked.

During my first week in estimating I attended a pre-bid meeting with my Mentor for a potential project. This opportunity gave me exposure to see how the bidding process starts and how professionals interact with each other within the industry.  After the meeting, I was given the task to contact the firm leading the project, obtain an electronic copy of the plans, and begin taking measurements to produce a bid.

During this process I utilized PlanSwift, the program used to take measurements, which was a great learning experience and a fantastic program to add to my “tool belt”.  Using a new program can sometimes be pretty intimidating.  If I had any doubt, an issue about how to do something, or a question about why something was done a particular way, my Mentor was right there to quickly answer my question.  Although I was able to obtain help when needed I was always left to work independently.  This required me to fine tune my time management skills and get tasks completed on time.  After finishing the measurements, I plugged the collected data into our bid sheet and corrected items no longer relevant to the job.  Trailing the data input, I contacted our purchaser to update all material costs such as irrigation, plant material, and other miscellaneous jobs.  I coordinated with the subcontractors to obtain and incorporate their bid for the job.  After all my data was relevant and up to date, I took the totals from our document, incorporated it into the standardized bid form for the job and turned it back over to my mentor.

The bid is a critical component to winning the job.  I am so grateful to be given this opportunity to expand my knowledge in this area of the landscape industry.  During this bid process I was able to learn and understand the entire progression from start to finish.  I now understand the “whys” and “how’s” of the way things are done throughout the industry and why time management skills, and communicating successfully with other professionals is important.

So far this Internship has been a nonstop educational experience.  Whether I am cozied up to a keyboard or putting that safety vest back on, I cannot wait to see what other lessons are in store for me!

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Atlanta East Intern Excels Under Pressure!

I was always told that you will learn more in an internship than a year of school and now that I am coming to the last few weeks of mine I can confirm that this is true. My Internship with Austin Outdoor has been one of the most educational experiences of my entire life.  I cannot thank the staff of the Atlanta East Branch for all their support.  My Mentor put together a great summer, filled with many challenges and pushing me to step up and be a leader.  I was challenged to find ways to get the properties looking perfect in the time budgeted, sometimes with limited resources.  Before this internship I had little experience working with a company or doing commercial properties.  Most of my past landscape experience was for family and friends.  I took this into account when looking for an internship because I wanted one that was structured in a way that I would get to see all sides of the company. This was my reason for choosing Austin Outdoor and I have not been disappointed!

My first week I shadowed my Mentor, looking at the different properties he serviced and getting a feel for his day-to-day work schedule.  The following week I hit the ground running, fast!  I was put on a crew that serviced the largest contract, a large portion of the city of John’s Creek.  I learned very quickly that you have to find the perfect balance of doing quality work efficiently and be able to finish all the areas that need service before the end of the day.  By the next week I was running a maintenance truck and crew and was servicing properties on my own.  While doing this I learned how to think fast on my feet and deal with changes that happen each day.  Some days I would be short a person or someone would leave early and I would have to account for the shortage in manpower.  Some properties would need more attention than others.  

During my fifth week I worked on my first install job.  The crew and I removed sod and replaced it, added river rock to create a dry riverbed to aid in drainage and removed old gravel from around the house.  My goal this summer was to gain more installation work but learning the maintenance side of the company has worked out well.  The remainder of my time here has been spent in a superintendent role with my Mentor, bouncing around to different properties doing various tasks such as; spraying, weed eating, pruning shrubs, and general clean up.  I have also worked with the irrigation department and the sales team to see what their day-to-day is like.

I am so grateful for this experience, I have learned more in the past two and a half months than I ever expected to this summer.  Everything I have learned throughout my internship will help me every single day of my future career.  I can’t thank the staff at the Atlanta East Branch enough as none of this would have been possible without their help.

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Daytona Intern Looks at Summer Weed Control vs Irrigation

Austin Outdoor has really provided me the diverse internship experience I was looking for and have learned a lot during my time here.  The company and the people are very friendly and knowledgeable, and the field experience I have received this summer will be invaluable as I move forward in my career.

While the internship experience has been great, rather than summarize my time and activities here, I felt it would be more interesting to talk about an issue that affects the company and the industry as a whole, especially during the hot and rainy summer months.

Working in the Daytona Beach Branch these past weeks I have observed two main issues we face from a maintenance and enhancement standpoint; irrigation vs weed control.  With the summer heat comes the summer rains and keeping our sites lush, green and appealing to the customers and public becomes somewhat of a tradeoff.  The more we run irrigation to combat the drying effect of the heat the more time we spend detailing areas to rid them of unappealing weeds.  The two weeds; Hydrocotyle umbellate or Dollar Weed and Panicum repens orTorpedo Grass are prevalent everywhere.  Austin Outdoor currently uses the recommended over the top treatments for both weeds in shrub beds.  Speed Zone is used to control Dollar Weed, however it does not kill very quickly.  It also leaves circular brown weeds as they die off leaving the area unattractive.  Image and Fusilade are used for Torpedo Grass control and work quite effectively; however, the weed grows so quickly by the next week there is new growth popping up right next to the previously sprayed weeds.

Ultimately, we are lead back to mechanical removal as the most effective form of detailing.  I am not saying we should stop hand pulling weeds, it is still very effective at making plant beds look perfect, especially before public events but spending hundreds of labor hours on weed eradication seems a very inefficient use of time.

Finding a solution to this issue is not an easy one.   One solution for weeds in turf areas; is mixing the residual herbicides with the wetting agent applied to turf areas.  In theory this would help the turf hold water and reduce browning from temperature stress while ensuring moisture being held in the soil does not give way to a resurgence of weeds in the turf areas.

I would also recommend a trial garden on location that is populated by plants commonly used on client properties in the surrounding area and test a mixture of products that can provide residual weed control without harming ornamentals in the plant beds. 

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Daytona Intern Builds Design Skills by Creating Visual Enhancements

Austin Outdoor has provided me with the unique opportunity to experience the design side of the company in addition to my time spent in the field learning the logistics of maintenance work.  My time spent in the Palm Coast office has provided a great learning experience and new appreciation for the behind the scenes work that occurs, to obtain the contracts we install and maintain.

My previous experience with design software (Photoshop and AutoCAD) is invaluable to my experience these past weeks.  While my background from the University of Florida’s Landscape Architecture program is useful, there is a lot to remember and more yet to learn when it comes to principles of design and learning Austin Outdoor’s design style.

During my time in the design office we created a variety of visual enhancements; both for existing contracts and new work we hope to win.  The primary tool for creating the visual enhancements is Adobe Photoshop; it lets designers communicate to clients the potential their site has to offer.  The photo enhancements we create aid Business Development Managers and Account Managers when presenting proposals to clients.

Being able to show clients a “before and after” picture can help them see the benefit of enhancing their landscape.

Not all design work is done on the computer; for large jobs, usually community developments, we create a hand drawn map that shows a plan view of the site.  Spending time doing a hand rendering gives an added artistic quality to a presentation.  These maps are also used to create weekly or monthly maintenance schedules which are overlaid and color coded.

Communication is key when working in the design department.  You are constantly collaborating with other designers on work, determining plant pallets, and communicating back and forth with Account Managers and Business Development Managers.  Feedback is very important as there are often changes and alterations that need to me made to ensure a quality final design that reflects the Austin Outdoor style.

The diversity of projects I have worked on during my time in the design department has greatly helped me improve my design skills.  Beyond enhancing my skills with Photoshop and hand rendering I find myself more adaptable and creative as a result.  Austin Outdoor has an excellent design and business development team and I count myself fortunate to learn from them.

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