be prepared

Presenting a graduation card and enclosed check to my young great-nephew, I was met with a blank stare. In the age of gift cards and pharmacy online shopping, I thought perhaps he wasn’t familiar with what a check was. Which, sadly, was true. But worse, my heart-felt and hand-written message inside the card was undecipherable to him.

As many elementary schools across the United States have dropped cursive instruction, we find even high school students transitioning to college without their own signature. And the act of dotting i’s and crossing t’s is not relevant to them.

I have no desire to get into a QWERTY verses cursive debate (at least not right at this moment), but instead want to focus on that concept ”“dotting i’s and crossing t’s ”“ completing the task, being meticulous, paying attention to detail.

As graduation season approaches, it’s time to do just that on campus. This can be such a fun time. Your focus can be on the spit and polish and finishing touches:

  • Adding fresh flags and banners
  • Seeing to container planters and hanging baskets
  • Erecting tents and organizing seating
  • Touching up paint
  • Shopping for a new bow-tie or scarf (hey, you have to look good too!)

The figurative dotted i’s and crossed t’s.

But the fun ends if you discover that a bulk of hard work also needs to be completed, not just the finishing touches.

Spring time may seem like an odd time to be talking about fall and winter maintenance but it may be the perfect time to help you in years to come. And it is actually the best time to evaluate what is lacking or wanting in your maintenance plans.

What are the things your facilities staff are spending time on now that could have been taken care of in the fall or winter?

  • Cutting back plant material and edging beds
  • Fountain maintenance
  • Walkway repair
  • Umbrellas ”“ taken down, labeled, cleaned, and stored

Here are a few suggestions of seasonal operational tasks that will relieve some of your pre-graduation, campus preparation burden next year.


  • Perform fall turf weed-and-feed conditioning
  • Begin leaf removal throughout campus (can be composted and turned into natural leaf mulch)
  • Plant trees and shrubs that are not fall digging or transplant hazards (examples of hazards include Oaks, Birches, and many evergreens).
  • Re-apply mulch to garden bed edges and winter-sensitive plants as needed
  • Clean up summer perennial foliage as plants go dormant ”“ Hostas, Daylilies, Irises, Daisies, etc.
  • Plant spring-blooming bulbs and seasonal annuals; dig and divide Iris clumps and replant.
  • Perform irrigation system winterization


  • Clean summer pruning tools, shovels, rakes, trowels
  • Clean and service lawn maintenance equipment
  • Begin snow removal tasks ”“ avoid dumping snow directly on top of shrubs, perennials, ornamental grasses
  • Apply snow melt chemicals with care ”“ do not overuse and do not apply directly on top of shrubs, perennials or ornamental grasses
  • Remove broken limbs from trees and shrubs damaged in winter storms
  • If time permits, gently brush snow loads from shrubs and low evergreens (do not attempt to remove ice from limbs ”“ this will cause them to break)
  • During occasional warm periods, check exposed mulch layers and re-plant any perennials, grasses or small shrubs that may have heaved in freeze-thaw cycles
  • Track any larger shrub or tree damage that will need to be addressed in spring
  • Organize and begin to place orders for next year’s seasonal annuals, other plant material
  • Organize and begin to place orders for next year’s tool and equipment needs, work gloves, plant tags, soil amendments, etc.

Let’s all remember the words of Benjamin Franklin (which I’m pretty sure he wrote in cursive):

By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.

be prepared