As soon as I hit the publish button last week I realized that I had forgotten one of my most important goals of the 2022 gardening season – to seek out companies that are working hard not only to beautify our environment, but also to protect it. I believe that Embassy Landscape Group, based out of Kansas City, Missouri exemplifies those qualities.
In 1979, Joe Smith began a small company with a focus on high quality, local lawn maintenance. Over the years, Embassy has dramatically changed. Today, Embassy is a multi-state landscape management company offering a wide variety of maintenance services, as well as landscape design and construction. What remains from the original company however, is the belief that the mission of each of their divisions is “to create and maintain evocative, sustainable and beautiful environments that connect people with nature and improve their lives.”
Landscape maintenance is an area of environmental concern. Typically, lawn servicing means frequent mowings and lots of tightly scheduled applications of toxic chemicals in the form of “necessary” pesticides, fungicides, herbicides and fertilizers. After years of repeated use, lawns do become thick and green, but what most companies don’t tell you is that there is a high environmental cost to their process. Over time, the population of beneficial insects in and on the soil declines, the toxic chemicals head straight to the water system, the lawn begins to choke itself from too much dead thatch and the overall soil health is jeopardized.
Some companies, like Embassy, have discovered a much more earth friendly way to maintain grassy areas. For the past five years, Embassy has been using a maintenance program called Biolife Soil Solutions which significantly reduces the need for toxic chemicals. Instead, applications in Embassy’s program add over 800 soil microbes, or probiotics for plants, to build deep, healthy root systems and to help keep the soil food web in balance. As a result of Embassy’s program, root systems become longer, thicker, healthier and more resistant to environmental stressors, recovering notably faster if attacked by insects and diseases. At the same time, the soil itself becomes richer, teaming with life.
With drought looming over much of the country, water management is one of the most critical factors to consider when choosing a landscape firm. Progressive companies like Embassy have taken a proactive, multi-pronged approach to water use. The maintenance division credits its earth-friendly Biolife Soil Solutions program for reducing its customers’ water usage. Deep rooted turf is sustainable, capable of seeking out water and nutrients buried deep in the soil. Since water is used more efficiently, the need for frequent, expensive watering is reduced.
Embassy’s irrigation division plays another huge role in water management. Rather than relying on wasteful, pre-programmed watering schedules, Nick Novak, Irrigation Project Manager/Estimator for Embassy Landscape Group, explained that “Embassy uses only Weathermatic and Rainbird irrigation controllers on all of their properties because they have sensors that measure evapotranspiration, or ET loss, daily. ( Evapotranspiration is the process by which water is transferred from the land to the atmosphere by evaporation from the soil and other surfaces and by transpiration from plants.) At the next watering cycle the controller will automatically adjust watering times to ensure that the same amount of water is put back in the landscape.” The sensors eliminate the wasteful and often damaging issue of overwatering and the stress on turf that results from underwatering.
Unlike the older systems where all areas were timed to receive the same amount of water, these controllers, used in conjunction with flow sensors, monitor flow for irrigation zones. The system alerts technicians to high or low flow issues so they can be quickly addressed and resolved, eliminating the need for frantic phone calls. “Our remote access to the timers,” Nick continued, “ through our connected controllers allow us to proactively turn off irrigation before impending rain or freeze events.”
The type of sprinkler heads installed in the system also are important elements for water management. Instead of spray nozzles, Embassy uses matched precipitation rotary nozzles. They provide a slow application of water that allows the water to seep into the soil, minimizing the risk of run-off. Embassy customers using a connected controller with site specific ET monitoring are seeing up to a 30% water savings compared to non-ET site customers.
The design-build team also plays a part in Embassy’s commitment to water management. Whether it’s installing a permeable paver patio instead of a solid concrete pad or incorporating beds of natives perennials into the plan, Embassy’s talented team of designers strives for a landscape that is beautiful, fulfills the customers dreams and is sustainable for years to come.
In problem areas, instead of fighting against the topography of the land, designers work with it, adding versatile rain gardens and bioswales. They not only allow excess water to naturally evaporate into the air and percolate into the ground, but they also are attractive wildlife habitats. Since they feature native plants that are adapted to local climate conditions, they are easy to maintain, usually requiring virtually no watering or chemical applications of fertilizers or pesticides. While many people think of them as potential eyesores, a well designed rain garden can be a beautiful addition to the yard. Their reliance on native plants evokes a sense of place and a feeling of connection to those who view it, establishing a very personal connection to the land. As an added bonus, rain gardens and bioswales add winter interest to the landscape, giving natural beauty to a normally stark time of year.
In today’s world of changing climate, selecting an environmentally responsible landscape company to work with is crucial. Many firms can provide pleasant aesthetics, but finding one that truly values and consistently uses sound environmental techniques can be difficult. I’m glad that I have Embassy Landscape Group to depend on in my area. If you’re in the Kansas City area, give them a call. For those of you who are away from us, I hope you can find the right company too.