Responsibility for maintaining the cemetery falls to Head Gardener Les Turner: "Appearance is everything here. We owe it to those here to keep the site neat, clean and manicured for the benefit of visiting families."
But achieving that is no simple task. Les has 3,812 headstones in has care and the grass around each one has to be kept neatly trimmed. He calculates that he would need to allocate five men working six hours of mowing with 1' mowers to edge the whole site. Over a 26-week growing season, that's 780 man-hours.
In addition, he would need to schedule three thorough trimming sessions a season, weeding the headstone pits and taking out the long fescues that tend to grow out of the sides of the soil - a task soaking up another 840 man hours.
With a team of 10, this would be a major drain on his resources.
Les has found, however, that Scotts Shortcut can make a significant difference to the problem - freeing up his skilled team for other tasks essential to the aesthetics of the cemetery, such as maintaining the extensive hornbeam hedges.
Scotts Shortcut is an exciting grass growth control agent that can halve the amount of time grounds and green keeping staff need to spend mowing grass, without sacrificing sward vigour and appearance.
Shortcut contains the active ingredient trinexapac-ethyl, which is absorbed by the grass plant in about an hour and moves rapidly to the tillering level. It works by restricting the lengthening of leaves and internodes over a period of four to six weeks. The primary effect of treatment is to reduce mowing requirements by 50 per cent but, crucially, the sward also responds positively to treatment with Shortcut, with enhanced colour, thickening of the sward and improved root development following application.
Les has found that four treatments of Shortcut per year, applied around the bases when the turf is actively growing (ideally from mid March if conditions allow) will eliminate the need for 12 edging sessions with the 1' mowers and one of the three full scale trimmings. This amounts to 640 skilled man hours (nearly half a year) saved for the outlay of 96 hours with a knapsack sprayer and the cost of the Shortcut.
"We were one of the first trial sites for this product, back in 1995/96, and we've consistently enjoyed time saving and improved appearance through its use. We are actually considering extending the application to cover the whole 4 hectares, rather than just around the headstone bases. The benefits of better colour, reduced mowing costs and reduced need for scarification (Shortcut significantly reduces horizontal branch lengthening) may well pay for themselves in the long run."
"This is in addition, of course, to the 'hidden' cost benefits. With half the use, for example, the mowers require less servicing, less fuel and last longer."
Scotts Shortcut is available through the Scotts distributor network, and is sold in 20 x 120g packs - sufficient to treat 1.5ha.
COUNTING THE COSTS
The maintenance regime at the American Cemetery:
|Trimming the headstones||
7 men 5 days @ 8 hours
3 times per year
280 man hours
840 man hours
|Mowing the edges||
5 men 6 hours per week
26 times per year
30 man hours
780 man hours
|Total man-hours to maintain the site without Shortcut||1620 man-hours|
Applied by knapsack
4 times per year
|Full Shortcut season||
Saved 12 edge mowings
Saved 1 trimming session
360 man hours
280 man hours
|Total man-hours to maintain the site with Shortcut||1076 man-hours|