Professional landscapers can make a difference

Landscaping adds value to your home. It shows others that you have pride in your home and community. But not everyone has the time, expertise or talent to landscape their yard.

Landscaping adds value to your home. It shows others that you have pride in your home and community.

But not everyone has the time, expertise or talent to landscape their yard.

This is where the professional landscapers come in.

A good landscaper will listen to the customer’s ideas, learn about their tastes, needs, wants and budget, then come back with a workable plan that suits the homeowners’ needs and budget.

Choosing a landscaper can be a challenge as not all are equal.

Start by compiling a list of different contractors by talking to people at work, friends, neighbours and local greenhouses. Peruse newspaper ads, the Internet and yellow pages, reading all the ads. Compile a list of landscape contractors and give them a call.

Ask the companies the same questions:

• When could they do the work?

• How many jobs do they usually have on the go at once?

• How many different crews do they have working at once?

• What education and experience do the owner and foremen have?

• Are the foremen on site all the time?

• How many years has the company been in business?

• Is there a warranty? If so what does it cover and for what length of time?

• Is the company a member of the Landscape Alberta Trades Association (LATNA)?

• Will they come and give you a written estimate?

• Can you have a number of references from current and past customers?

Being a member of LATNA is good as the company is governed by an organization with a code of ethics. If things go wrong, there might be some recourse.

When the contractor arrives to give an estimate, make sure everything they are to supply is listed from the depth of soil to the size of plants provided. This includes retaining walls, pathways, decks and arbors.

If it isn’t on the paper, chances are it will cost extra.

There should be a clear diagram of the yard as well as clear sketches of any hard landscaping provided. Sketches give both parties a clear understanding of what the other person is thinking.

Once a project is finished or underway, it is harder to make changes.

Ask to see the landscaper’s municipal licence, which is required by most municipalities.

If the company does not have a licence, it is already cutting corners and its long-term plans do not include your neighbourhood. Warranties are null and void if you can’t locate the company that provided it.

Ask for a copy of the certificate of insurance.

The minimum amount for liability and property damage should be $1 million.

Self-employed contractors do not need to have workers compensation but they must cover all their staff. Ask for a clearance letter, which can be emailed to the homeowner without any cost being incurred.

If the company can or will not answer these questions, eliminate them from the list.

Once the list has been culled, call all the references and ask to see their yards. Be sure that they were happy with the work and the length of time it took to complete it.

Take time to examine each yard. Is the stone work straight? How thick is the mulch?

Did they use landscape fabric? Did all the plants make it through the winter?

What things would they improve?

When making the final choice, look at the basis of gardening the soil. The more top soil that is added to the garden, the better the plants grow. Grass will survive with four inches (10 cm) of soil but it will thrive in 10 inches (25 cm).

Likewise perennials need 12 inches (30 cm) but will flourish in 18 to 20 inches (45 cm).

Taking the time to choose competent landscaper will make a difference in the final outcome. A landscape that is constructed properly is much easier to maintain.

And remember: Do not pay until the project is completed to your satisfaction.

Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturalist that lives near Red Deer. She can be reached at www.igardencanada.com or your_garden@hotmail.com.

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