SUTHERLAND—Brent Hustedt has seen a thing or two in his 25 years in the landscaping industry.
That’s why his business, Hustedt Landscaping in Sutherland, stays booked and busy throughout the summer, with plenty of new projects each week.
Since opening his business in 2010, he has chosen to keep his company specialized — zooming in on projects like retaining walls, patios and foundation plantings.
“We do the landscaping portion of it really well. So, that’s what we concentrate on,” he said. “We’re busy enough with being specific, saying, ‘This is what we do; this is what we do well.’”
Hustedt said these projects often are most difficult for homeowners to do themselves, creating a need for this specific type of work.
While patios serve more aesthetic purposes, retaining walls often have practical reasons for homeowners. In the Iowa climate, where over two-thirds of the annual rainfall arrives abruptly in the summer, retaining walls prevent flooding, drainage issues and erosion by creating a flat surface on sloped lawns.
But Hustedt said patios are not safe from the effects of weather, either.
When Hustedt first started his business 14 years ago, snowfall and rainfall created problems with paver patio bases, as the moisture trapped in the compacted base could not drain properly. In addition, compacting patio bases was a tedious process. Newer technologies now allow the company to use an open-grade base for paver patios, saving installation time and preventing moisture buildup.
Hustedt said applying new technology to his business requires stepping out of the usual routine, not always easy, but with plenty of payoff in the long run.
“It’s taking the jump from, ‘This is the way we’ve always done things,’ to ‘We’re going to try this,” he said.
The 46-year-old got into the landscaping business after graduating from Iowa Lakes Community College in Estherville in 1997. He knew early on that it was something he loved.
“I liked the effect of creating something,” he said. “Whether it’s a patio, steps or retaining walls. I enjoy that sort of thing. It gives you a sense of accomplishment.”
He started at Del’s Garden Center in Spencer after graduation and then moved to eastern Iowa. When he returned to Sutherland with his wife, Becky, it felt like the right time to open his own business. Hustedt Landscaping was born in the summer of 2010.
Today, the business is a team of two: Hustedt and landscaper Cole Craig, whom he has worked with for eight years. It is a smaller team than in the past, as COVID-19 has made it harder to find extra help. But Hustedt said the size of the team hardly affects the amount of work his business can accomplish. It is temperamental weather that proves to be the biggest adversary.
When living in a land of extremes, with highs of 100 in the summertime to 20 below in the wintertime, landscapers like Hustedt Landscaping have a unique challenge. They not only need to create structures that can endure the elements, but they also need to adjust when severe weather prevents work, pushing projected timelines back.
“It doesn’t seem like there’s a lot that affects you, except for the fact that the rain made your yard muddy, and the one day here and one day there, it all of a sudden turns into a week,” he said.
The weather is unpredictable, so Hustedt instead focuses on what he can predict. He knows what homeowners are looking for and works to make that vision come to life.
Hustedt Landscaping’s slogan is “Making your dream a reality . . . one brick at a time.”
“For me, for doing it as long as I have, it’s easy. You tell me what you’re thinking, I can definitely envision that,” he said.
The first phase of any landscaping project involves meetings with homeowners to go over designs, something Hustedt recommends scheduling many months in advance.
He uses computer-aided design, 3D designs and virtual walk-throughs to help visualize the additions. Installation for projects begins when the weather allows. Usually, Hustedt and Craig work from early April until mid-November.
Hustedt said he enjoys all the phases of his work, but his favorite moments are when the customer is happy with the final product.
“The biggest reward at the end is creating that project,” he said. “That homeowner has a vision of what they would like to see in the yard. When it’s all said and done, they are happy with what we’ve done, and it’s exactly what they want.”