We all want the perfect garden, right? Unfortunately, unless you’ve got an awful lot of time on your hands it’s unlikely that you’re going to get there on your own. In the past lawn services and landscaping has been a luxury of the rich and famous, but with more companies being setup every day, now is the perfect time to find a landscaper.
Just like any other service industry, there is a lot of confusion about the prices that you should be paying and the quality of service you should receive. The nature of the work means that it’s quite hard to determine the best landscaper before you’ve actually hired them. However, there are a few things that you can do to weed out (that was a gardening joke!) the duds and to find the gems. A contract with a landscaper is something that should ideally be long term, this way you can establish a relationship and allow them to provide you with the best service possible.
What actually is a landscaper?
I think that it’s important to get this out of the way first. A landscaper is somebody who is paid to aesthetically arrange earth and water. That’s it. They are essentially artists who’s field of play is the garden. A good landscaper will do far more than trim the grass, leave that to a lawn service, and should deliver a plan of action.
What to look for in a landscaper?
Your garden is your own personal space and it’s definitely not something you want ruined. It’s crucial that you hire a landscaper that actually knows what they are doing and is sure that they can deliver you want you want.
- Planning – When redesigning a garden the planning phase is arguably the most important. Your landscaper is going to be working often whilst you’re not there to supervise, so you want to both be agreed on EXACTLY what you want beforehand. Designing for someone else can be a scary experience, because you want to get it perfect for them. To help them out you should be as vocal and honest about what you want to achieve, the time frame and the price range you can afford. If your landscaper doesn’t talk about planning then move on. This isn’t a step to skip.
- Reviews – Fortunately, we now have access to hundreds of review websites where you can find reviews of service professionals. I would advise that you make sure to search the name of the company beforehand to check out what previous customers have said about them. It’s important that you think critically when reading the reviews as many companies will leave reviews pretending to be a customer. These shouldn’t be too hard to spot if you keep this in mind. It’s also a good idea to ask if you can see some of their previous work. Most landscapers will be more than willing to show off their work if the homeowners allow it. Don’t be shy, if you don’t ask then you won’t get!
- Time – You should make sure to discuss the time frame in which you want the work done. Landscapers are often extremely busy, so if you think you’ll get it all done in a few days then think again! If you need a job done quickly then you should expect to pay a premium rate. The best landscaper for the job isn’t always going to be the quickest, so you should expect to compromise a little.
- Price – Whilst landscaping is nowhere near as expensive as it was in the past, it can still be expensive. It’s not uncommon for landscapers to ask for a deposit upfront so be aware of this. You should definitely not be required to pay upfront and a large proportion should be paid upon completion. If you’re dubious about the pricing contract then make sure to go over it a few times and if you’re still confused then ask a solicitor. Better safe than sorry.
- Experience and Qualifications – It’s becoming easier to check the quality of landscapers at a glance nowadays. Top landscapers are almost always part of the Association of Professional Landscapers, so you can check on their history and also have a board to go to should there be issues with the work.
How much does garden landscaping cost?
This is a hard question to answer because it depends on so many different factors. So, I’ll discuss the different factors and then give some rough guidance.
The first factor is probably the most obvious and that’s size. In general but not always the case, the larger your garden the more it’s going to cost. There are exceptions, such as if you just want a flat grass garden with nothing else, but in general size is proportional to cost.
Secondly, the less grass the more expensive. Again as with all these factors, this is just in general and this isn’t always the case. Having less grass in the same space is going to mean putting other things in – decking, plants, walkways, ponds, pools etc. In comparison, grass is relatively easy and cheap to lay, so you’ll want to take this into consideration.
Different landscapers will charge wildly different prices, so this can affect your overall budget. But like anything, you get what you pay for.
Lastly, one of the biggest factors is your location. If you’re living in Texas then you’re most likely going to pay a completely different price per square foot than someone in Los Angeles.
I promised a general price guide, so here it is. To get a patio or a pathway installed you can expect to pay around $2,500. That factors in labour costs and also materials. For complete landscaping on an average sized garden, without any installations such as patios or decking, you are looking at around $3,500. That’s for laying a lawn, planting flowers and general garden work. The cost can sway hugely depending on which plants and trees you choose, with some going into the thousands each. Finally, for a full decking you should look to spend around $6,000.
What should you know before contacting a landscaper?
Both your time and the landscapers are precious, so it’s vital that you go into the conversation strapped with some information. Ideally, you should have an idea of what you want done in the garden. This doesn’t have to be set in stone, but you should at least have a vague idea for example; “I want the large majority of the garden covered in grass. I’d like some flow beds on the edges, a vegetable plot in the corner and a pathway”. This lets both parties know what’s needed quickly, so that the landscaper can decide if the project is suitable for them and if not recommend you to somebody else.
It’s also great if you can go in there with a budget. Again, this doesn’t mean that you need to know down to the last penny what it’s going to cost, you just need to know what you’re willing to comfortably spend. This way the landscaper can be honest with you and tell you whether your dream is conceivable within the budget. It’s always best to start conservative and then go from there.
If you have a time frame that you want the work done in then this is also information that you should make clear as soon as possible! It’s not fair on you or the landscaper if you let them know the day they start work that you’ll need it done that week. Be honest and forthcoming and you’ll set yourself up for a much better experience.
What is a lawn service?
A lawn service is there to make sure that your lawn is looking pristine, without you having to lift a finger. Contrary to popular belief, they are not there to trim your bushes and tend to your roses as well.
What should you expect from a lawn service?
The best lawn services should do far more than turn up once every few weeks and trim the grass. They should test your soil type, which will allow them to correctly decide what fertilizers and extras your garden needs. There should be no guess work. When the lawn service comes they should be treating the grass not just trimming it. A perfect analogy is going to a cheap hairdresser versus a top salon. If you wanted a trim you’d pay a local kid to do that, when you’re paying a lawn service you should expect a full service treatment and the results that go with that.
Recommended lawn services
There aren’t many lawn services that are nationwide, but the two that most people will have heard of are the following:
- Scotts Lawn Service
- Tru Green
The other option is to go local. In recent years more and more local lawn services have been popping up, each offering a unique twist on the traditional package. If saving money is key then you should definitely check out the top local companies, they are often far cheaper and offer an equal if not superior service. The advantage of local firms is that they are likely to know your lawn much better and hence will be able to offer a better service. It’s also likely that they will take more time and put more effort into your lawn as each client means more to them than to a large company.