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Heat dries up work at landscape businesses

08/06/2011 11:26 PM

10/22/2011 6:51 AM

Many greenhouses at the Keller Plant Shed are sitting empty.

The ones that are still full are covered with shade cloths to protect against the scorching Texas sun while sales signs offering 75 percent discounts line the plastic plant containers.

"I can tell you the nursery business is struggling right now," store manager Anthony Kahaly said. "We haven't had heat like this in a long time for this amount of days."

On Saturday, the mercury hit 105 degrees at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport, the 36th consecutive day of triple-digit heat. The same high is expected today, and the National Weather Service predicts that the area's record of 42 straight days of 100-plus temperatures will be broken next Saturday, meteorologist Daniel Huckaby said. No high will be below 104 degrees, he said.

Business isn't blooming at many area nurseries, say landscape companies and sod suppliers, who are frustrated by high temperatures that are destroying inventories and keeping customers away.

"This is pretty much going to have the same effect as winter when all the snow killed a lot of St. Augustine," said James Guthrey, sod landscape sales manager for Servall, a landscape supply company in Plano. "It sounds ridiculous because it's hurting business now, but it will help business in the future."

Until cooler weather prevails, growers, owners and landscapers are doing what they can to survive. Steep discounts on inventory are becoming more common.

Many landscapers are trying to do work that does not require planting flowers, trees and shrubs.

"Nobody's putting in sod unless they have to turn a building and they have to have it," Guthrey said. "This is going to kill a lot of grass."

One of Kahaly's greenhouses registered up to 122 degrees last week, he said. But it can be worse on plants out in the open, where the sun can easily scorch them, he said.

"We've had to double-shade [with cloth] on a couple of [greenhouses] because the plants were getting too sensitive," he said. "It's getting that hot in there."

Plastic covers had been used to cover the greenhouses, he said. No more. Those would fry in a day.

On Saturday at Whiz-Q Stone, a landscape supply store in Fort Worth, a large ice chest with water was kept by the front door to help keep customers hydrated when they loaded up trucks with stone borders, mulch and gravel.

"We're trying to make that as available as possible," said Mike Whisenand, president of Whiz-Q Stone and past regional chairman of the Texas Nursery & Landscape Association.

But landscapers and builders have to earn a living, so the work continues, Whisenand said.

"So many people got to try to pay their bills, and if they have a job to do, they try to get it done," he said.

Many customers are buying materials to build patios, borders and retaining walls and are delaying the planting of flowers, trees and shrubs, he said.

Some are buying small tents to get some shade, he said.

"I've even heard of plumbers and all kinds of people setting those up for a little bit of shade," Whisenand said. "Anything creative to get the job done and not totally pass out."

Yamil Berard, 817-390-7705

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