Getting Professional Help for Your Garden Plans

Getting a garden plot ready, especially a large one, isn't easy, and I don't pretend that it is (I have better uses for my creative energy, such as pretending I'm in Hawaii). If starting the process makes your head reel, or if you don't have confidence in your design sense, don't worry. Others can do it for you. They can do everything, in fact, from planning on paper to purchasing to digging the holes and planting the plants. You can confer with or hover over them, or wind them up and let them go. You can even stop them at the point where you want to take over.

Also, be honest with yourself when a project is beyond your ability, unsafe for you, or too time-consuming to undertake on your own. Under such circumstances, go ahead and hire a contractor.

If you decided to get professional landscaping help, be savvy so you get good work and you get what you pay for. Here are some guidelines:

1 Before you check the yellow pages, ask around. Word-of-mouth is an ideal way to get started.

i Find a minimum of three possible contractors. They should be willing to make an initial appointment that involves assessing and estimating only; be sure to ask whether they charge for this step (and whether, if you go with them, the fee can be credited to the job).

i When the professionals arrive, have some copies of your plans to show and, if need be, hand them over.

1 Ask for a bid in writing. Materials and labor estimates. With a clause for addressing unexpected expenses and overruns. To figure out what a reasonable cost would be, ask friends and neighbors what they paid, and get estimates from multiple sources.

i Check references. Also confirm that the contractor is both licensed and insured.

i Pick someone you like and, more importantly, can communicate with.

1 Discuss concerns every step of the way — the more communication, the better. If changes come up, be smart and get the revised plans and charges in writing.

1 Pay in installments — give a deposit, then perhaps pay a second installment or more, and finally pay the last one when all parties agree the work is complete and satisfactory. Such an arrangement gives the contractor security and a commitment from you but also prevents you from being taken for a large fee if something goes awry.

Overall, just be clear with one another. Have a budget. Get written estimates. Get your agreement (plan, expectations, and timetable) in writing. Call or visit references. Check and/or supervise the work.

Start the process of hiring a contractor early if you can. Winter is an ideal time. Good people have full calendars, and spring commitments are booked very early. Finding the right professional, somebody you can afford, or someone nearby may take some time; you may interview several before settling on one.

Homeowners Guide To Landscaping

Homeowners Guide To Landscaping

How would you like to save a ton of money and increase the value of your home by as much as thirty percent! If your homes landscape is designed properly it will be a source of enjoyment for your entire family, it will enhance your community and add to the resale value of your property. Landscape design involves much more than placing trees, shrubs and other plants on the property. It is an art which deals with conscious arrangement or organization of outdoor space for human satisfaction and enjoyment.

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