Country gardens and immaculate lawns

19/07/2023 - 10:55

Jeroen Myny is a jack of all trades: local politician, active in community life, entrepreneur, but above all a passionate garden lover and landscaper.

Hi Jeroen. Can you briefly outline your background as a garden contractor?

I first did 7 years of horticultural school in Sint-Truiden (Hasp-O Stadsrand, formerly SOLV Campus Horticulture) in Belgium. I did a final paper on golf course construction and maintenance.

After graduating, I started working at Horta garden centres, selling fertilisers and sprays. As I worked 4 days a week, I had 3 days to do something besides that. That's how I started as a sideline gardener.

After 10 years, it became my main job. My knowledge of golf course construction and maintenance is a great asset when it comes to laying lawns.

That's quite a journey you've made. Where did this passion for gardens come from?

As a "little boy" I used to help out on my grandfather's farm in Diepenbeek: digging and planting. That's where it all started actually.

Do you work alone or do you have staff?

We are a permanent team of three. There are also two people who often work as subcontractors for me, who used to be at school with me and are now self-employed.

Where are you active?

Mainly in Limburg, but we also have clients in Alleur, in the province of Liège. I come from and live in Heusden-Zolder, close to the Circuit of Zolder (motorsport race track).

We do about 60% construction and 40% maintenance. We mainly do maintenance for companies.

How did you get to know TerraCottem?

We used to sell TerraCottem at Horta in small packages for the retail market. When I recommended the product to people, I regularly got good feedback, and that's how the ball started rolling.

As we were increasingly struggling with drought in the gardens, we started using it ourselves. We buy our TerraCottem from Disaghor in Munsterbilzen, where Jo Deville is my contact. He recommended it to me for the construction of lawns.

"We used TerraCottem a few times in gardens where we had to lay turf. The difference was obvious. Since then, we continue to use it (laughs)."

What do you mean by "the difference was obvious"?

Mainly because we had to water less. And in summer, those lawns stayed greener, even in fierce droughts.

We also use TerraCottem when planting trees. We then slightly enlarge the plant hole and mix in the soil conditioner well. For trees to establish properly, we practically always use TerraCottem universal.

You just mentioned Jo: is that important for you to have a direct point of contact with your suppliers?

Yes, it is. Because when you are self-employed, you come into contact with a lot of clients. But other than that, you are often "on your own". And yes you do work together with your colleagues, but besides that, your network in your field is quite limited. That’s why it is so important to be able call Jo on his mobile phone when I am facing certain challenges. He's always there to advise and assist me (laughs).

Besides your direct contact with the supplier, where do you get your knowledge about the products you use? How do you keep abreast of innovations?

Often through supplier newsletters and I regularly attend trade shows. Everything is constantly changing, we have to keep up. Additionally, I attend refresher courses for our phyto-licence. This usually includes a section on fertilisers, soil improvement and disease control. We attend these courses with the entire team about four times a year.

Besides TerraCottem, which you get from Disaghor, where do you buy your other materials?

I get my turf from Vossius Agri. Our plants all come from Plantura, a wholesaler and nursery of plants, trees, shrubs, ornamental grasses, where Johan Aerden and his son always help us out. I used to buy our plants from different places, but that’s time consuming. Now we group all our orders at Plantura and they are delivered to us or to the site. This saves me a lot of time: I don't have to drive around to pick up my plants. That way I can spend more time on site.

Can you guide us through your choice of plants? Why do you choose a particular plant and not another?

In many gardens, clients have a landscape architect draw a plan first. We then do the implementation. With smaller gardens, it happens that we draw a sketch ourselves and choose the plants. The choice is then made based on the location and type of soil.

Do you have a preference for certain trees, plants and flowers?

Yes, I love cork oaks. I like to use them as eye-catchers in a garden. Multi-stemmed trees are also very beautiful. I am a big tree lover. Trees and lawns, that's my passion. My own lawn at home is "sacred": no one is allowed to walk on it (laughs).

Do you always do a soil analyses?

Most of the time. We have them done at the Bodemkundige Dienst van België (Soil Service of Belgium). Such an analysis costs about €100 and you often win that back on your fertilisers, of which you would otherwise use too much.

We are on pure sandy soil here, but we also have a few projects on industrial estates in Sint Truiden. These are often on pure clay soil, which is a completely different way of working.

As you often work on pure sandy soil, which is very poor, does it take a lot of effort to convince clients to use a soil improver or to go for certain plant species?

It’s not too hard. I estimate that some 80% of our clients have a reasonably generous budget, so they are easily persuaded about certain "extra costs" that are necessary to achieve the best result. Plus the plants will then naturally do better too.

Are you in charge of maintenance once the garden is completed? For example, what happens if a garden is not doing well after an extremely dry summer?

At the beginning we try to do as much supervision of the new garden as possible. For example, if we lay turf, I always go and have a look on site at the weekend. I then check whether the lawn has sufficient moisture. Because honestly... there are very few people who know how to irrigate properly. Some don't water at all, or others too much. Working in one's own region naturally makes this follow-up much easier.

Climate change is omnipresent. How does it affect your day-to-day work?

Twelve years ago, you still had "real" winters. That was nice. That was a rest period for me, because in summer you often work six days out of seven. But now you notice that there is only one real winter week at most, where you can't work outside. You can now work almost all year round. That's great for business, but it doesn't bring much peace and quiet, so work often gets left at home, which makes my girlfriend unhappy (laughs).

It has also become much drier. As a result, we increasingly have to opt for plants that can withstand the sun better and are more drought resistant. The same goes for grasses.

It is also more difficult to make maintenance contracts. In the past, you could really stipulate in advance: in that and that month we will prune. But now, if you have a very dry summer, you have to postpone it. Or vice versa: during wet periods then it is better to prune earlier.

Do you have a particular "style"?

We do very little modern, straight gardens. I personally prefer the country style. Additionally, we often work on large garden areas, so people are more likely to go for those country gardens. For smaller gardens, people often opt for something a bit tighter.

Installation of espaliers at Heusden - Zolder. This is very poor soil so we are going to fertilise on a regular basis to make the trees grow nicely dense.
Private garden in Hasselt - Laying turf and planting.
Total renovation of a farmhouse in Diest - Natural forms, yet with a modern look.
Construction of Webeco business park at Brustem - Garden Projects Myny also does periodic maintenance.

Maybe one last tip?

Sometimes, people need to be more patient. You cannot expect a new lawn to be completely dense after 3 weeks.

To clients who contact us in March for a new installation of a lawn and have little leeway (because of a communion party in May, for example), we recommend to lay turf. But we usually sow from September/October onwards. Then there is enough time for everything to germinate quietly and no weeds grow in between.

Thanks for the nice conversation, Jeroen. Good luck with your future projects!

More information about Jeroen?

Tuinprojecten Myny
De Slogen 62
3550 Heusden-Zolder

T: 0475 499 334 (Jeroen Myny)

Facebook @tuinprojectenmyny
Instagram #tuinprojectenmyny

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