The slips of paper with scribbled phone numbers are passed from hand to hand surreptitiously at neighborhood gatherings. Phrases like “He’s fast and he’s good.“, “She really knows what she’s doing.” and “I trust them explicitly.” are whispered into attentive ears and a knowing look is exchanged.
Is it a favorite car mechanic, a dependable babysitter or the recently opened gynecological practice that’s being discussed?
Sometimes it’s these topics………but often it is a more mundane subject: landscape maintenance companies.
Managing a landscape seems to take a lot of knowledge and skill. You have to know when to plant, how to spot diseases, how much to fertilize, etc. Just the thought of operating a mower is intimidating to some – not to mention changing the oil and sharpening the blade. With so many skills to master, it’s no wonder that homeowners contemplate turning the job over to experts.
Atlanta has hundreds of landscape companies eager to serve you. They range in size from “three guys and a truck” operations to multi-million dollar corporations. Most are reputable, knowledgeable and capable.
If you are considering hiring a landscape company, how can you make sure to get the one that’s best?
WHAT COMPANY DO YOU NEED? Landscape companies often specialize in one or two aspects of the field. One company may concentrate solely on landscape maintenance. Another may focus on drainage problems, landscape planning or installation. A few restrict their work to a specialized field such as HydroSeeding or spreading pine straw. Before you look for a company, decide what services you really need performed.
CHECK WITH PROFESSIONAL ORGANIZATIONS Some folks are simply not “joiners”. Their company may be too small to afford joining a professional group, or they may feel that a professional group can’t truly represent them. Competent companies may legitimately choose not to belong to a professional organization.
Usually though, a landscape company that is trying to become bigger or better will be a member of a trade group. Three of the largest are the Metro Atlanta Landscape and Turf Association, the Georgia Green Industry Association and the Georgia Turfgrass Association.
These groups encourage their members to engage in honest dealings and to strive to learn more about their profession.
You can visit the MALTA website, www.maltalandscape.com, to search a list of their members by the service they offer.
Besides these, the Professional Land Care Network (PLANET) promotes a high standard of professional knowledge and customer service.
CONTRACTS If you engage a landscape company, a verbal order to “landscape the front of my house” is fraught with opportunities for misinterpretation. A good contract will detail every aspect of the proposed work, the timetable, the price and any penalties for cancellation of an ongoing service contract. If they will be applying pesticides, determine how you will be notified before they come and how you will know what chemicals have been applied.
PESTICIDE LICENSE If a person applies any pesticide (whether insecticide, herbicide or fungicide) to your landscape they are required to have a pesticide license or to be supervised by someone with a license. The Georgia Department of Agriculture administers the program of license testing, which insures that all pesticide applicators have a minimum level of training. License holders are required to attend regular trainings to keep their license current.
CONTRACTORS LICENSE Just because a person holds a pesticide license doesn’t mean they have insurance to cover their liability. The Department of Agriculture specifically requires that all pesticide application companies hold a Pesticide Contractor License, which is only issued upon proof of insurance.
EROSION AND SEDIMENT CONTROL CERTIFICATE After December 2006, anyone who moves dirt on a larger scale than a private homeowner needs a certificate proving they have been trained on erosion control. All landscape contractors, whether they use a shovel or a bulldozer, are required to have this certificate.
BUSINESS LICENSE If a company does business in this state, they must have a business license issued by the municipality in which their business is located. Only one business license is necessary, no matter where the company does its work. The licenses are honored throughout the state as long as the company pays its license fee each year.
INSURANCE Get the name and phone number of the provider of liability and worker’s compensation insurance for your landscape company. Call the insurance carrier before you allow work to begin, just to make sure your landscape company is appropriately insured.
PICTURE WORTH 1000 WORDS Before a job or a service contract begins, photograph your landscape. Take shots of the problem areas you expect to be fixed. Document the weeds that you want eliminated. Show your photo album to your chosen landscape company and invite them to star in a fabulous before-and-after presentation that you can show to your friends and neighbors to generate more business for the company.