Lakewood Ranch landscapers face water challenges as rainfall continues

dgraham@bradenton.comJuly 5, 2013 

LAKEWOOD RANCH -- With the torrent of rain in recent days and weeks, landscapers in Manatee's finely planted garden communities have had to change their tactics to keep from losing ground with their lush plants and waterfront properties.

"With the amount of rainfall in June over 12 inches, it's causing all types of issues," said Ryan Heise, operations manager for Lakewood Ranch. "The issues, operationally speaking, are that it is difficult to mow during rain events and we have contractors engaged as soon as the sun comes out."

Thunderstorms make the difference in how much rain falls where, according to meteorologist Rodney Wynn with the National Weather Service. There were only 8.74 inches of rain in June at Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport, while 15.84 inches was recorded at Myakka River State Park.

"It's like growing a tree in a bowl of pudding," said Mike Armstrong, landscape

contractor for Central Park at Lakewood Ranch, Forest Creek and River's Reach, both in Parrish, and other Neal Communities developments. "Newly planted trees start blowing over when the ground gets soft and wet. We get these thunderstorms coming through with 60-mph gales and the wind will knock them right over. The downburst is like a little tornado."

In the country club areas of Lakewood Ranch, Heise said, "Right now our contractors that would typically be focused on spraying for algae in the summer months are having to focus on making sure our outflow structures are cleared out so that we have good storm water conveyance structures."

"When it's raining really heavily there are a lot of laws about not allowing grass clippings to go into drains, so we try to mow one area at a time," said Ronnie Hughes, southwest regional project manager for Down To Earth Landscaping, which serves Lakewood Ranch. "Mowers will sink and ruin the grass, so it depends on whether or not the turf's right."

Employees have to adjust their schedules, working around the rain into the evenings and weekends as well.

"The chemicals we apply wash away with heavy rains like this, so in summertime there's a blackout in Manatee County. We can't really apply fertilizer during the summer. Pest control and weed control has to set on turf during dry conditions to be effective," Hughes said. "It will push it further into the soil, but it won't have any effect on the weeds as it would when it was dry."

Dee Graham, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-748-0411, or tweet @DeeGrahamBH.

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