- Posted by hinged
When we had our third child and moved to a bigger house with a bigger yard, my wife convinced me to give up my trusty self-propelled mower and hire a landscaper to cut our grass. Since then I have surrendered all of the landscape chores to the professionals and my back and weekends are much better for it. While this has been a gradual process over the past 15 years, there have been some invaluable lessons learned along the way that can hopefully help save you some of the same frustrations and disappointment.
The first landscaper we tried was the crew who cut our neighbor’s yard. They came highly recommended and also gave us a special price but only managed to last about half the summer. Our mistake was asking them to weed the flowerbeds without a lot of direction. Apparently we did not make it clear which flowers we wanted to keep and which we didn’t. Since the work was being done early in the spring, the crew pulled out everything that was growing, expecting us to redo the entire beds.
The next group did great until they decided to locate our septic tank by driving their truck over our front yard. Some of the other failures over the years were cutting down a neighbor’s tree instead of ours, under fertilizing, over fertilizing, under pruning, over pruning, and some epic fails like ripping out a large section of our lawn for a planting bed we hadn’t asked for and flooding our basement with an incorrectly installed pump for the sprinkler system. Fortunately most of everything grew back and the basement dried out but a lot of these could have been easily avoided.
One memorable spring clean-up led to an epiphany, it’s all about communication. The landscaper showed up on the appointed day to do a spring clean-up with about five guys. Lots of raking and blowing went on and the yard gradually began to look a lot better. Mid afternoon they dropped a small mountain of mulch in the middle of the driveway blocking us in. This was the minivan era and believe it or not they will get stuck in only about 6” of mulch. They pushed us out but the real problem came at about 6:30 that night when trying to get the children ready for bed. Our landscapers were still wheel barrowing mulch around the property and using their blowing equipment, making bedtime an impossibility.
When I went out to beg them to stop, the boss let me know that they were quitting. Not for the night, but for good. We had hoped and they had wanted to be done by five. They thought they were doing us a big favor by continuing to work late and we just wanted to put our kids to bed. In this case, neither of us was happy but the situation could have easily been avoided with better communication.
Some of the lessons we have learned are:
Landscaping is both an art AND a science. Landscaping firms that are good at what they do have loyal customers that will stick with them for decades. In many cases though that relationship took years to develop and lots of communication to make it work well. There are always corners that can be cut with the cost of landscaping but in many instances you do get what you pay for and properly maintaining a beautifully landscaped property is not cheap.
Don’t just point to the trees you want to cut or prune, mark them with ribbon or flagging. By the time the boss tells the foreman who tells the worker which tree to work on, the tree that gets cut down or pruned will be your neighbor’s even if it means climbing over their fence. This really happened and the neighbor was not happy.
When weeding, take a picture of any plants you want to keep especially in flower beds. Print the picture out and circle the keepers with a highlighter. Make sure the person who will be pulling the weeds has the picture.
For fertilizing and lawn treatment we have had the best luck using the pros who specialize and only do this type of work. Trusting the landscapers who cut your grass to know soil science may not always be a good idea unless you’re working with a large, established company that has a deep and knowledgeable staff. All of the landscape companies on the Hinged platform are very strong with fertilizing and lawn treatment as well as standard lawncare.
Make sure that everyone is clear on exactly what is going to be done and the costs before the work starts. Walking around the yard with your contact, pointing at different issues you want attended to without writing anything down is a bad idea. Take the few minutes to properly document what it is you want. If you have any questions regarding price it is best to get all of this ahead of time so that you are not discussing items that were already agreed to and complete.
Telling your contact that your septic is “over there, somewhere” doesn’t mean that the person driving the truck has a clue where it is. They will find the tank the hard way. If they don’t wreck your lawn getting the truck out, the crew that comes in to fix the the tank will.
If you’re picky about what height you want your hedges, make a story pole. Take a rake or shovel and tie a ribbon or draw a line with a sharpie at the desired height. Demonstrate the concept by holding the tool up to the hedge.
Ask! After giving instructions ask to have them repeated back. Even without a language barrier this simple exercise will help you avoid problems. This tip can be helpful not just with landscaping, but with life in general.