Hired help for landscaping projects, whether it is professional advice or just a strong pair of hands, will certainly make the job of the busy gardener easier. However, pitfalls can lie ahead for the unwary, so it is best to prepare yourself properly first.

Finding A Landscaper

Whatever type of help you need, a personal recommendation from someone you know and respect counts for a lot. Otherwise, for local help, look out for contractors’ boards outside gardens in your area, or advertisements in garden centres or local papers.Landscaping contractors are one of the most vague and most easily misunderstood contractors in the home improvement industry.

Gardening magazines carry advertisements for people operating mainly on a national basis – especially garden designers – but costs will be high if you have to pay for travelling time.Small, independent contractors might focus on small projects like delivering and spreading mulch, helping out with your spring planting, installing lawn drainage, or a sprinkler system. Larger companies are more commonly referred to as design/build firms, and these professionals will create and implement a comprehensive landscaping design that will transform your yard into head-turning, envy-of-the-neighbors, residential oasis. But most people still refer to them as landscaping contractors.

Once you’ve found someone…

Book Ahead

A good, reliable person, whether a tree surgeon or a general contractor, will be busy for several weeks ahead, so book well in advance. Gardening is seasonal, especially maintenance work, so aim to build up a long-term working relationship with a contractor by drawing up a schedule of work for quieter times. The contractor should then be more willing to fit you in during the busy spells.

Match a Person’s Skills to the Job

Do not give pruning or landscaping work to an unskilled labourer. Even weeding needs someone who can distinguish a weed from an ornamental plant. Do not assume that someone employed by a contractor is trained in horticulture – and expect to pay considerably more for someone who is.

Make Sure that your Instructions are Clear and Unambiguous

With large projects it is important to discuss and agree in advance a programme of work, and how and when you are going to pay. You must also check whether the contractor has third party and public liability insurance, especially if they are using powered tools.

Get a Quote

When asking for a quote, do not necessarily choose the cheapest. Some companies end up by charging a lot more and taking a lot longer than they originally specified in their quote. Check whether the company has completed similar work elsewhere satisfactorily that you can see for yourself. However, be prepared for unforeseen problems, which may mean the quote has to be revised.