It does not need any argument that school grounds have to be maintained to an acceptable level.
Scruffy buildings, paths and grounds will have a depressing effects on everyone, and at worst, could be an accident hazard. Students and parents first impression of a school is its appearance.
While more financially fortunate schools will just charge the work up to the parents, others know all too well that many families are struggling financially anyway. While much of the work will have to be done professionally, much of the expertise and many of the skills needed are likely to be on-tap with school and community volunteers.
What is more, it may achieve far more than just keeping the grounds tidy. Who knows, until you ask, what abilities are at hand to take your school’s appearance to a new level? Proceed on the assumption that everyone has a valuable skill to contribute, but they will have to be shown how their skills can be put to good use.
Right from the start, the students can be given the role of finding out just what areas of expertise might be available for the project. That could well be far more than what is needed for basic tasks such as mowing lawns, spraying weeds and sweeping paths. The skills and enthusiasm might well exist among parents and the community to not only take the grounds to a whole new level of creativity but make it fun and educational for the students as well.
For instance, enthusiastic gardeners might suggest a flower or vegetable garden the pupils could help maintain and learn life skills from; biologists could share their knowledge about wildlife in the school grounds; bird-watchers could help raise enthusiasm for bird life; botanists could do the same about plants; composting experts could demonstrate what happens to organic waste; conservationists’ knowledge and enthusiasm could be put to good use; stonemasons could fashion walls and ponds; designers could help the students redesign their grounds and perhaps use the work of a sculptor to help create beauty as well as tidiness.
That list is by no means exhaustive. Places could also be found for: ecologists, entomologists, horticulturalists, farmers, herbalists, carpenters, stonemasons, and even accountants, among many others. Part of the fun is working out how people’s abilities can be harnessed to the vision. The outcome might well be something everyone will be proud of.
However, much of the work in grounds maintenance will be routine and best handled by the school caretaker, using efficient, cost-effective and safe equipment. There are a number of companies happy to provide advice and the latest technology.
Husqvarna is a world leader in outdoor power equipment and has professional servicing dealers throughout New Zealand. Business development manager Margot Dell says a recent garden survey showed the top five most wanted items as a wish list for caretakers and gardeners alike were:
• In ground irrigation system
• Zero-turn mower
• Tiller (cultivator)
• Robotic lawnmower
For lawn maintenance, she recommends a dethatcher as the best tool for efficient care of the surface layer of a lawn and for sowing. “For restoration of grassed areas, use a sod cutter. An aerator ensures the air, water and nutrients reach the roots.”
For lawn-mowing, Ms Dell said zero-turn mowers are engineered for the effective mowing of large areas. “They are generally robust, compact and provide high-speed ride-on performance – just sit comfortably, take hold of the sticks, face the right direction and start mowing.”
When it comes to hedge trimming, obtaining beautiful results takes time and care. “Perfect hedge trimming can be both monotonous and strenuous if you don’t use the right kind of tools. No matter whether the hedge is high or wide, the hedge trimmer needs to be a powerful extension of your arms to do the job well.”
And she says blowers are capable of doing far more than just blowing leaves about. They can also be used for moving: straw, grass, dust, cobwebs, sand and even gravel. “In fact they are less of a leaf blower and more of a tidying tool.”
STIHL Ltd is located in Auckland’s in East Tamaki and distributes through a network of more than 100 specialist dealers in both rural and metropolitan markets. They also carry spare parts and accessories, and have workshop staff trained by STIHL technicians. The product portfolio includes: brushcutters, linetrimmers, blowers, hedgecutters, cut-off machines and safety clothing. Stihl dealers stock Masport’s wide range of President lawnmowers and ride-on mowers.
When it comes to mowing large areas of lawn, Andrew Peacocke at Dixon (ZTR Mowers) Ltd in Tauranga, advocates the Dixon ZTR range of ride-on mowers as “manoeuvrable, fast and flexible.
“All Dixon mowers have a zero turning radius. They will mow large or tight areas quickly, leaving more time for other jobs. The solid construction and easy maintenance suits mowing applications where the machine must last the distance.
“The Dixon brand is heavier duty than a standard domestic ride-on, yet not as expensive as larger, full commercial ride-on mowers. This suits anyone with a hefty area to cut but no time or money to waste,” Mr Peacocke said.
ZTR Mowers also distributes the Grasshopper range of commercial mowers, adding the flexibility of front-mounted decks to ZTR Mowers range.