25 Questions to ask your landscaper

how to hire a contractor

If you are considering hiring a professional landscape gardener, you may find some of these tips and questions helpful. Before reaching out, consider creating a list of your wants and needs. Decide on a budget, determine your priorities and If you’re trying to save money, consider which parts of the process you will need outside help with and which you are capable of handling yourself.

Establishing your goals on paper should make it easier to stay on track, within budget and help you to convey your job ideas to any prospective contractors.

Here are some of the best questions you may want to consider asking any potential landscape gardener:

What can you do with my space? What is your vision?

A designer should be able to visualise and verbalise a plan that works within the space you have. Ask them to show you drawings or computer graphics demonstrating the shape and form the project will take. This is a great time to request any changes with the design you may have.

Can I see examples of your past work? Do you have an online portfolio? Have you done any public areas that I could visit?

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, when hiring a contractor, it could be worth thousands of pounds. If you are not satisfied with the photos, you probably won’t be satisfied with the job. Ask if they have worked on any public gardens or done landscaping that can be seen without entering private property. This will give you the opportunity to see first-hand if this is the right person for your job.

We love to show off our work, check our social media (links on our website) for new photos!

How long will it take for the plants to start growing? What special care will they need and how much maintenance will be required?

Depending on the type, size and maturity of the plants being used in your design; some plants may “fill in” anywhere from a month to over a year. Make sure you understand this and are prepared to wait for certain plants to bloom, develop and flourish.

Your design should not only look good, but it should fit in your lifestyle and budget. Some plants may require little to no care once established while some others may require regular pruning, watering and feeding to maintain their very best. Don’t bit off more than you can chew, make sure you have the time to invest in the care of your design.

how to hire a contractor

What are some ways we can incorporate the existing features and structures in this project?

Different locations offer a variety of different challenges and advantages limited only by budget and the skill and creativity employed in its design. A professional landscape gardener must take many things into account, including size and shape of location, type of terrain, sun and shade patterns, existing walkways, patios, trees, structures and plants; just to name a few. Make sure your designer is aware if you want to retain these within the new design.

Can we use repurposed, reclaimed or recycled materials in this project?

If you’d like to save money and go green at the same time, consider using cost effective, recycled materials. Everything from sleepers to recycled plastic decking. With a little bit of research, you may be able to find most of your needs can be met with sustainable materials, such as reclaimed flagstones, mulch, even aggregate.

Can you provide me with references that I can contact?

Every professional landscaper should have some happy client testimonials. If they have left their opinion in public forums or social media, don’t be afraid to contact them to ask their opinion. Something as simple as “Hi, I saw you used 123 Landscaping. I’m curious if you are still satisfied with their work and would recommend them?” can go a long way in setting yourself at ease, or warning you of potential problems.

Cowen Landscapes is proud to have many satisfied customers. Please check our Checkatrade for some current verified reviews: www.checkatrade.com/CowenLandscapesandMaintenance

How long will the job take? What hours will you normally be working?

Will the workers be there at 6am or 9am? How many hours a day will they be working? Will they be leaving equipment behind when not working? Will they be cleaning up at the end of each day? Do you have neighbours that might complain about unexpected noise or debris? It might go a long way in preventing stress if you let your neighbours know in advance what to expect and when it should be over. If they seem upset, you can always remind them that property values may go up the more beautiful the neighbourhood is.

What education and certifications do you have?

Certificates may not prove that a landscaper is the best choice for your project, however, If they’ve taken the time (and paid the fees) to acquire certification in certain fields, it certainly is one of the ways a professional can show their seriousness and pride in their job. Remember, not every gardener is a landscaper and not every landscaper is a tree surgery. Credentials are one way to differentiate the skill sets required for the job you need done.

What happens when costs exceed budget?

Find out what happens if materials or labour prices change. Also ask what other situations might cause additional charges. If the job is going to go over the original estimate how will the new cost be calculated, by the hour or by the job?

How much, if any, over the actual cost do you charge for the consumables and products used in the job?

You have every right to ask your contractor what happens to the left over materials after the job has completed.

What type of written warranty do you offer?

What happens after the job is complete? Will you be available to assist with questions or concerns? Do you warranty the materials you use as well as the work you do? How long does your warranty last?

Can you explain it to me?

Remember that this is your project. You are paying for it and you have to live with it. If there’s something you don’t fully understand, ask the contractor to take a moment and explain it to you in a way that you understand.

Obviously each job will be different and some of these questions may be unnecessary or they may be important questions not even mentioned here. Use these as inspiration and assistance when dealing with your contractor. Perhaps print this out and use it as a reference or to jot notes on.

Remember, along with the qualifications of your contractor you need to feel comfortable with them. Discuss your needs and make sure you both understand the job.

Here are a few more questions you may consider asking.

  • How many people will be involved in this project, how many people are in your crew?
  • How long have you been designing landscapes? How long has your company been in business?
  • Will the plants I’d like to use thrive in my area? Do they need to be placed in sunnier or shadier spots?
  • Can you think of any caveats or problems with my landscaping project?
  • Are there any ways to reduce cost?
  • Do you offer flexible payment options or low interest financing?
  • Do you have liability insurance? Does it cover all of your workers?
  • What happens if I’d like to make changes during the job? What happens if the contractor needs to make changes?
  • What would you do different if this was your project?
  • What will you need from me? Is there anything I need to provide?
  • How much maintenance will it take to keep the garden looking good?
  • Are there any important considerations or concerns that you know of or that might come up in the future with this project?
  • Do you take care of any permits, licensing or local compliance paperwork?
  • Are you skilled and familiar with this region and climate?
  • Do you have any questions for me?
If you enjoy your work you never have to work again
"If you enjoy your work you never have to work again"

We are Cowen Landscapes and we’d love to be your Garden Design, Maintenance and Construction Services specialists.

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Give us a call, send us a text message or email us and we can discuss your individual needs and set up a free initial consultation, visit your location, come up with a plan and provide you with an official quote.

Tips for growing healthy, beautiful roses: Plenty of sun

Rose gardening in kent beautiful sunlit roses

When deciding where to plant your roses, keep the sun in mind.

Roses do best in plenty of direct sunlight, at least 5 to 6 hours a day, if possible. The sun in the morning is the most important because it helps prevent diseases by drying the leaves of your roses.

If your roses are not getting enough sun, they may display sub-par blooms, weaken and become more  susceptible to parasites and diseases. Inadequate sun will make it less overwintering less likely.

The more sun, the more flowers. When deciding where to plant, keep in mind that the angle of the sun changes throughout the season. Try and choose an area that offers the most sun the year-round.

How do you know when a job is well done?

When the client is almost in tears because they are so happy with the job you have done for them; you know it’s a job well done, and a bank holiday to enjoy it as well!

On time, on budget and onto the next one on Tuesday! 💪💪💪

Enjoy the last long weekend everyone, I know I will! 👌

Happy clients beautiful patio in Kent

UK gardeners urged to bring back the garden pond as the best way to help wildlife

The Wild About Gardens challenge encourages people to build their own pond

The Wildlife Trust and the Royal Horticultural Society have joined forces to urge people across the UK to bring back the garden pond as the feature that can make the biggest difference to saving wildlife.

As part of their annual Wild About Gardens campaign, it encourages people to get involved by creating a garden pond of their own. Whether it’s a large container or deep sunken pond, any water outside can drastically help reverse the decline in garden wildlife.

Ponds are a brilliant way to attract wildlife through colourful flowers, the sound of water and creating a safe space they can inhabit in peace. It’s great for animals such as hedgehogs to have a place to drink and for frogs, newts and other amphibians to feed and breed.

If you don’t have space for a whole pond, consider creating a ‘pocket pond’ instead.

“It’s such fun to help wildlife with a pocket pond – it needn’t be big,” explains Ellie Brodie, Senior Policy Manager at The Wildlife Trust. “All you need to do is fill an old sink or washing-up bowl with rainwater, plant it up and make sure that wildlife can get in and out – it’s easy! I love watching bright blue damselflies landing on the irises in my pond – they’re so beautiful and it’s great knowing I’m helping local wildlife.”

Helen Bostock, Senior Horticultural Advisor at the RHS also says: “Ponds and other water features are an attractive focal point in any garden and are a real haven for wildlife. Even cheap container ponds made from up-cycled materials will quickly be colonised by a whole host of creatures and help form a living chain of aquatic habitats across the neighbourhood.”

The UK has lost ponds, rivers, streams and wetlands at a rapid rate, with only a small amount of natural ponds remaining. With many ponds left in uninhabitable conditions, 13% of wetland species are at risk of extinction.

Continue reading at: Country Living.

It is best to keep the shape of your pond simple

Getting your garden ready for spring

Getting your garden ready for spring

One of the most joyous times of year is during the first days of spring when you can watch your garden come to life. Fragrance is bursting forth from beautifully coloured beds and the chirping of happy little birds and lush greenery are all around you.

A springtime garden is a real delight, so full of life and potential, however, there’s also a bit of work involved in maintaining a healthy, beautiful garden so here are some great spring gardening tips.

After winter, you may find that your raised beds are now filled with mud, vegetation laying on the ground needs to be cleaned up and your tools may need a thorough cleaning.

RELATED: Do I need to clean my pruning shears? How Do I prevent rust and bacteria from developing on my secateurs?

Take stock and start a list.

Before starting any large tasks, make sure to check your inventory. Figure out what you have on hand make a list of what you need. This is a great time to stock up on supplies as there may be spring gardening sales near you. Creating a list will help keep you on track and prevent over-buying of things you may not need.

Examine and care for your raised beds.

After winter, your beds may need to be repaired or even replaced. Check to see if there’s anything left alive in them and clear out any dead plants and leaves. Make sure to remove all the weeds and prune overgrown shrubs. Early spring is the best time to work on your raised beds to make sure they will be fresh and ready for planting. This is also the time to Divide your perennials if they’re getting to big. Simply dig them up and divide them. If you have extra, you can give them to your friends, family or neighbors. It’s a nice way to share your gardening experience and you just never know what you might get in return.

Planting, sorting and preparing.

Your ground may be too soggy to plant in right now. If that’s the case, use this time to organize. Sort your plants, cuttings and seeds. Decide which you will plant first, maybe even mark the planting locations on paper or actually at each location with a marker. Kudos to you if you already had your seeds sorted into warm and cold weather categories so you don’t need to do it now, in the spring.

Once your soil is dry enough, start planting your spring cool weather plants. There are many choice when it comes to planting in the spring, including kale, lettuce, radish, broccoli, spinach and peas just to name a few. Remember to use your organic compost to add important nutrients to your soil.

RELATED: Which is better for plants, chipped mulch or shredded mulch?

Since seeds are less expensive than plants, you can save some money by planting warm weather plants, indoors and then relocated to the garden once it warms up. These warm weather plants include cucumbers, runner beans, tomatoes, peppers and melons just to name a few.

Repair damage from pests.

Look for mounds of soil which could be indicative of gopher and mole tunnels. Fill in the holes and collapse all the tunnels. Reseed with grass and keep checking to make sure these pests don’t return. Check also for rodents that may have gnawed on your wood, wires, strings and ropes. Also check your bags for chewed holes. Check to make sure pests haven’t moved into your birdhouses.

How are your garden stones structures doing?

After a long winter, take some time to examine your garden stones. Are the stepping stones in your pathway uneven, are there cracks or missing stones in your walls? Do you have tumbling or crooked dry stacked stone walls? Right now is the best time to repair or replace these stone structures.

Take care of your birdhouses.

Spring is a great time of year to clean out your birdhouses. Make sure there’s no mold, mildew or parasites living in them and make sure they are firmly attached and in good condition. If you want to be really helpful, you can leave some piles of nesting material near the birdhouses, which will surely make our feathered friends happy. After you take care of the birdhouses, make sure you don’t neglect the bird feeders and bird baths. These should be scrubbed and carefully examined.

Proper gardening can be a very rewarding, year round endeavor, however here are some ideas for springtime gardening chores:

  • Remove debris from ponds and other water features.
  • Clean gutters to facilitate proper plant to water disbursement.
  • Remove dead wood from trees.
  • Remove suckers from shrubbery and trees.
  • Cut perennials back to almost to ground level.
  • Remove parasites from trees and shrubs.
  • This is the time to move or plant dormant shrubs and trees.
  • Scrub out your pots.
  • Check hoses for leaks, kinks and clogs.

Here are some more simple tips for springtime gardening:

Rotate your crops. This reduces crop specific diseases from building up in the soil and keeps the soil from being depleted of certain nutrients the previous plants thrived on.

Avoid gardening in the rain or walking on wet ground. Doing so can cause the ground to become compacted, ruining the structure of your soil which can cause your roots to suffocate.

When planting rows, run them north to south to allow your crop equal exposure to the sun.

Remember, to use care when digging early in the season as some of your perennials may be slow to appear and difficult to see.

Plant half of your vegetable rows now and the rest a couple of weeks later so you don’t get overwhelmed when it’s time to harvest.

Wondering what UK gardening zone you’re in? Here’s a helpful list of gardening hardiness zones from PlantMaps.com

We are Cowen Landscapes, and landscape gardening and design is our passion. We’d love to speak with you about your garden and landscaping needs in Kent. https://cowenlandscapes.co.uk Please give us a call or send us a message.

01622 320277 The Old Dairy, Court Farm, Thurnham Lane, Maidstone, ME14 3LH