When Choosing a Landscaper, Ask the Right Questions

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Choosing and hiring a landscaper can be an intimidating prospect. Whether you are new to southeastern North Carolina or are a long-term resident, selecting a landscape professional to take care of your lawn or garden is fraught with considerations. Although it can be daunting, there are a few key things to take into account when hiring a landscaper for your lawn or garden.

Do your homework

Before you begin your search, first consider what you want for your yard and determine your expectations. If you only want general yard work and maintenance, many residential lawn care services throughout the Cape Fear are available for hire. Other companies offer more comprehensive services and will do everything from basic landscaping, to turf and irrigation installation, to complete property renovations, while some may offer “organic” lawn care alternatives.

As you begin your search, talk to friends, family, or neighbors whose yard impressed you for recommendations. Most companies also have websites where you can find additional information.

Ask for Credentials

When you have narrowed your choice, an estimate from 3 or 4 landscapers is the best way to give you an accurate idea of cost for the desired jobs. Do not feel pressured to always choose the lowest estimate. Keep in mind that more experienced landscapers or higher quality materials may cost more. Another important consideration when deciding on a landscaper is memberships and certifications. Most companies belong to national, state, or local associations including certified arborists, certified nursery professionals in North Carolina, and irrigation contractors to name a few.

Remember also that any landscaper applying insecticides, herbicides, or fungicides on your lawn must have a certified operator’s license or be operating under some else’s license. Pesticide applicators, by law, must renew their certification every 3-5 years. Most companies will provide a list of services they offer, along with a timeline of when pesticide applications are made. Most landscapers will notify you ahead of time when applications are made, but it is always a good idea to ask. Another good idea is to ask for letters of recommendation and photos of completed jobs from a potential landscaper. Ask references about their overall experience and satisfaction with the job, and if the estimated cost reflected the final cost.

When interviewing a potential landscaper, remember some basic questions to ask:
What is the company’s average size job? Do they have a minimum job size in order to do work? Is there a fee if they do design work? Can they provide a list of references or recent clients? Are there any photos of completed short- and long-term work that you can see? Is there any type of warranty that comes with plant material? Do they have a maintain contact with whom you can be in touch in case something happens? How will you be billed? Probably the biggest priority you have in selecting a landscaper is to trust your intuition. Experienced landscapers will work within reason to ensure that you are satisfied with the completed job and will strive to maintain good working relationships with clients. Remember that this is your yard and that you are in control of what happens.

Be realistic about your expectations

Keep in mind that things happen, and that your plants are ultimately at the mercy of Mother Nature. I have received complaints from homeowners who feel that their landscapers are not meeting their needs or that they are to blame for a particular problem. Remember though, that in even the best of circumstances, things can wrong. I encourage people to talk to their landscapers and ask them questions. I also encourage landscapers to try and maintain open communication with their clients to help educate them about maintaining their yard between scheduled maintenances. Being completely hands off about your lawn is unrealistic and will require some amount of input on your part.

Learn More!

For more information on available landscapers in the Cape Fear region, visit http://ces.ncsu.edu, where you can post your questions via the ‘Ask an Expert’ link, or contact your local Extension office. If you live in Pender County, call 259-1235. In New Hanover County, call 798-7660. In Brunswick County call 253-2610, or search online for “Brunswick County Green Pages” for available landscapers in your area.