Winter care for school grounds

It’s paramount that green spaces and outdoor surfaces are maintained and that the appropriate maintenance tasks are carried out at the correct time of year, writes Stephen Ensell from the British Association of Landscape Industries

The importance of maintenance cannot be over-emphasised. We maintain our cars, heating systems, machinery, our houses and even our health, because we recognise a regular maintenance schedule prolongs the life of those items and helps reduce the risk of things going wrong and potentially injuring people.

The green spaces and sports surfaces that surround our schools and businesses are no different, especially in terms of safety and prolonging the life and use of these areas. These spaces are often the first thing that people see when they arrive, and we all know the importance of first impressions.
But it’s more than just aesthetic reasons that we need to correctly maintain these areas.
We are very good at making sure these spaces are well looked after through the spring and summer, but often neglect them come the winter months when we are not using them as much. It’s paramount these living spaces and surfaces are maintained and that the appropriate maintenance tasks are carried out at the correct time of year, so if you haven’t already done so a yearly maintenance schedule should be created to help you keep on top of these areas and plan for the maintenance activities that will need to take place at different times of the year.
Plant growth cycles need to be taken into consideration, this will influence when watering, mulching, pruning and plant replacement takes place at the correct time of year.
So, whilst we are entering a dormant period, remember there are still tasks that need to be carried out to keep everything not only looking aesthetically pleasing, but safe for the people that use and travel through these areas.

Tips for winter maintenance

Grass will continue to grow at a minimum temperature of 14 degrees Celsius, so mowing may continue into the months that are unseasonably mild, subject to the weather and areas being dry enough.
Leaves and plant debris will need to be removed from grassed area to prevent lawns from dying and from walkways and hard surfaces to prevent pedestrians slipping and the surfaces becoming stained.
Plant and shrub growth will need to be checked and cut back appropriately if it is overhanging walk ways, cars parks or obscuring lines of sight for vehicles and pedestrians on the property. Rejuvenative pruning can take place through the winter, this presents an opportunity to cut back hard those deciduous shrubs that have become overgrown and give them a chance to produce young new healthy growth, which in turn will produce a healthier shrub with improved flowering.
Evaluate any areas of soil that have been used as a cut through and may have become compacted leading to soil erosion or uneven surfaces, alleviating compaction through cultivation should take place and replanting or grass seeding can then follow in the spring.

Dangers of ice and snow

It’s that time of year when potentially we could have a lot of Ice and snow, last year saw a 52 per cent rise in slips trips and falls during icy and snowy conditions. A close eye should be kept on the weather, checking for warnings concerning potential ice and snow on local weather channels. There are specialty BALI contractors that focus on preventative and reactive gritting and snow clearance services so that outdoor settings don’t pose a hazard when conditions take a turn for the worse.
If you have good sized trees, now is the time to check for dead and diseased branches and have them safely removed by a reputable Arboriculturalist.
Edges are something we take for granted, but we are very reliant on them for guiding us and helping us navigate, whether that be the edge of a path, a road, a grassed area or planted border. When these become overgrown or obscured this increases the chance of injury from slips, trips or falls and damage from vehicles that can’t see where they should be travelling or parking. So, make sure they are well maintained and clearly defined.

Safety checks of playgrounds

Playground equipment and surfacing should be checked on a regular basis, but with these areas perhaps being a little less used at this time of year, it’s an ideal time to carry out a thorough check through visual checks for signs of damage and wear and tear, along with a tactile test. Timber play equipment should be checked for cracks and anything exceeding 8mm should be reported. Moving parts should be checked and lubricated as necessary. Make sure the safety surface areas are clear of debris and trip hazards and check for sign of wear and tear and replace as needed. A professional inspection should take place at least once a year. If serious defects are detected, then equipment should be immobilised and repaired as soon as possible. All play equipment and surfaces should comply with European Standards of Play Equipment (EN1176) and or Surfacing (EN1177).
It’s also a great time to check sport’s surfacing. Continue to keep surfaces free of debris, and in frosty conditions and when snow has settled, keep off artificial grass as walking on the surface can damage the artificial fibres. It is also best to try not to remove snow once its settled but allow it to thaw as removal can again damage the fibres. Avoid applying rock salt or grit as this, once dissolved can cause contamination and damage to the surface. Specialist PDV salts and antifreezes can be applied by contractors to help prevent ice and snow settling, but is not appropriate for all surfaces, so specialist advice should be sort for your type of surface. One of the biggest problem’s artificial surfaces face at this time of the year is the potential to flood, as a build up of contaminates water will be slow to drain, therefore regular brushing and replacement infill materials is essential to keep the areas draining adequately. If flooding and standing water persists, then contractors may need to be contacted to carry out a deep cleaning process and restore the correct drainage properties. If ignored this will only continue to worsen as times goes on.
A BALI registered company that specialises in grounds maintenance will create a bespoke maintenance plan and carry out the maintenance all year round for your green space, search for your local member on

Landscaping careers for pupils

The landscape industry is facing a skills shortage, to this end BALI have set up an initiative that dispels the myths surrounding the industry and promotes landscaping careers to school pupils and career changers, it’s a great time to join the industry, we may have industry ambassadors in your area that are happy to talk to pupils about the exciting world of landscaping, please visit for more information.

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