Beauty or Beast? Common Landscaping Considerations for Food Facilities

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In an effort to make his facility more attractive, a maintenance engineer planted several Spirea shrubs near the plant entrance. That spring, when the Spirea buds were in full bloom, the engineer was very happy with his choice. However, inside the plant was a different story. Every day, more and more adult Dermestidae beetles, commonly known as warehouse beetles, were found. After conducting several facility self-inspections, the food safety team determined the cause. The pollen from the Spirea blooms had attracted the beetles. 

This problem is not uncommon. Facilities throughout the world make similar mistakes. Often, without realizing it, pest problems are a result of the choices made in selecting landscape plants around the facility. Unfortunately, the plants that are appropriate for food facilities depend on several variables such as region, climate, and other environmental concerns. Since there is no standard regulation applicable to facilities worldwide, most people learn which landscaping material not to plant around or near a food facility by trial and error. 

Steer Clear of These Mistakes

There are common landscaping mistakes recognized in the food industry. For example, most maintenance engineers know that plants with fruits, nuts, berries, seeds, or blossoms will attract many species of insects, rodents, and birds, as well as other wildlife. For that reason, you will rarely see a tree or shrub of that type in close proximity to a food plant. Most engineers are also aware that planting thick ground cover around the perimeter of a facility provides excellent harborages for rodents.

Learning about common landscape mistakes that other facilities have made is a great way to prevent your facility from making similar errors. When selecting plants and shrubs for outside grounds, keep these considerations in mind.

Avoid planting trees close to buildings. As they grow, branches may overlap the roof of the building and provide easy access for pests such as mice, rats and carpenter ants. If you notice that tree branches are growing too close to buildings, trim and maintain them to prevent pest infestations.

Trees that produce fruit not only contribute to bird problems, but they are also a source of insect infestations. For example, crab apple trees may be visually pleasing, but when the apples fall to the ground and rot, they attract various insects including flies and yellow jackets. Furthermore, these types of trees also require a large amount of maintenance. When the fruit begins to fall, daily removal is necessary to prevent infestations. 

Yew shrubs and other low evergreen shrubs should not be planted close to the building. As the branches sag, harborage gaps that can attract various pests are formed. Also, food wrappers and debris get trapped underneath these shrubs, providing rodent nesting material. If these types of shrubs are planted near your facility, either remove them or make sure that the branches are trimmed to remove harborages and make cleaning easier.

Certain trees attract various insect species, depending on the region. For example, in Kansas and Kentucky, various maple tree species are classified as having no serious diseases or insects. However, in Oklahoma and Iowa, horticulturalists strongly advise against planting these near a food facility, as they are known to attract boxelder bugs. Other variations occur between states. A certain type of plant may be highly recommended in one region, yet in another part of the country that same plant may be known to attract an invasive pest. In order to realize the most appropriate and pest-free trees, shrubs, and plants to use, it is very beneficial to hire a consultant in the nursery, horticultural, or entomological industry.

Other Considerations

When choosing landscape material, the type of plant is not the only factor to take into account. There are several other considerations to keep in mind during the selection process:

  • What is the aesthetic value desired from the plant?
  • How much maintenance and upkeep is required?
  • How much money and time will the facility have to budget for care?
  • What plant species does the facility’s soil type support?
  • How long is the growing season?
  • What temperature is needed for the species to thrive?
  • Does the climate support the tree, shrub or plant you are considering?

In general, there are some guidelines that are applicable to every type of food facility worldwide. 

Each building should have a perimeter of medium sized pebbled rock surrounding it. Large rocks are not advised because they can become hiding places for rodents. It is also a good idea to place roofing paper or 3-5 mil polyethylene sheets underneath the rocks in order to control weed growth.

Regular maintenance is necessary. All trash, including food wrappers, cigarette butts, and food, should be immediately disposed of. Rodents will use these types of materials to hide in or for nesting material. Also, trees and shrubs must be maintained. Any limbs that are too close to the ground or building should be trimmed.

If possible, only plant grass and a minimal amount of shrubs and trees around your facility. For added color, flowering annuals or perennials can be placed in portable planters and placed away from the facility to add color. Contact a consultant with specific regional nursery, horticultural, or entomological experience for advice.

Managing Pests at Your Facility

Spring is quickly approaching. As the weather warms, springtime invaders can become a headache. Is your integrated pest management program ready to handle an increase in pest activity? AIB’s GMP/Sanitation Workshop has more than 4 hours of pest management sessions built in to the course to help you effectively and efficiently manage these pest issues. Enroll today!

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