Blast from the Past: Adventures in Hiring a Gardener

I have officially reached that point in the year when my garden overwhelms me.

Where to start?

Where to start?

We just moved into our house last fall, so this is the first year I have seen the garden in action.  Up until now I have been diligently watering almost everyday desperately trying to keep things alive in this heat. My husband and I have been learning our new irrigation system, fixing broken sprinklers, and readjusting spray patterns as brown spots appear.  We have taken out a few things that were obviously dead or dying and trimmed up some trees that were in desperate need (More on that in another post!). I have brought home a few plants from the nursery, but I have been trying really hard to wait to make any big plant decisions until I can see a full year in the garden, a very difficult thing when you work at Joy Creek!

IMG_1663

Hill of Weeds

But last week pushed me over the edge. I walked through the backyard, down the hill overgrown with spent flowers, weeds, and a general mish-mash of random plants thrown in over the years, most towering over my head.  I was almost in tears with the immensity of the project ahead.  I came into work the following day and I started reading the old blogs on our website.  I found this gem from Nadine, one of our landscape consultants. It reminded me that it is ok to ask for help, it leaves more energy for the fun part of gardening! I hope you enjoy this little blast from Joy Creek Blogging past as well.

Dana Pricher

Originally published May 30, 2012

“Well, I finally did it. I called for help in my garden. The weeds
finally pushed me over the edge. It is a relief to have made the
decision . So this is how my process went.

My garden is on a large city lot and is complicated. There is a lot
to be done, so I had to prioritize my needs before I called anyone.
As I said earlier, the weeds are my priority. I determined that what
I would ask my would-be gardener to do was weed (most of it by hand)
and spread mulch. I didn’t decide until during the interviews whether
I wanted the bids with mulch delivered or whether I would arrange for
the mulch delivery. I realized that a lot of this process is about
control.

A Garden in Need of Help

When I shop for services like this, I always shop in 3’s. I had been
collecting fliers for years from landscapers who had either put them
in the paper or my door. I picked three that listed the services I
needed and called each one for an appointment. #1 wanted to have an
hour spread during which he would show up. (It turned out at the
latest time.) Numbers 2 and 3 made a specific time commitment.

#1) Showed up with his book and was raring to go. As we walked
around the garden I realized he was not listening to me and was
wrapped up in assessing the property according to what he wanted to do
with it. He even wanted to relocate my blueberries so that he could
put Caseron in the bed! Needless to say, I DON’T DO CASERON. After
10 minutes, he handed me my bid and left.

#2) Showed up promptly. I showed him some of my trouble spots ie: a
clematis that I have growing on the ground with weeds growing up
through it. He understood that there were complications like that all
over. He was very enthusiastic but in a different way from #1. He
was interested in my plants! He was also interested in the way I did
things and why. After 30 minutes he gave me my bid. I really liked
him.

#3) Was a young man with a brief case full of receipts. He seemed
tired. He wanted to put down a large amount of mulch. I could tell
he had done this many times before and he knew what he was talking
about. He said he ran 2 crews in the Portland/Vancouver area. He
gave me his estimate after about 20 minutes.

The first estimate I got took my breath away! Even including the
delivery of the mulch, it seemed extremely high. The amount was about
4 times the amount I budgeted. The other 2 estimates were much more
in my ball-park. One with mulch and the other without. The second 2
offered either payment plans or senior discounts, and one said if you
don’t like my work, you don’t have to pay me.

You might have deduced by this time that I chose to hire #2. He was
competent, interested and he just struck a chord with me. I took 3
references from the last 2 people but confess that I did not contact
them. When I called to tell him, he was very grateful. He will be
doing the job in a couple of weeks. That is when we shall see if my
instincts were right.

So, some tips: Know what you want and stick to it; Talk to neighbors
or friends for their experiences and references; Contact the local
high school or community college if they have a horticulture program;
keep meticulous records of all contacts; Be sure to have a number of
contacts and Do let your instincts instruct you. I’ll let you know
the results in a few weeks. Thanks to the members of my Aging in the
Garden class for many of the suggestions.

Nadine Black

I have to add that Joy Creek has a wonderful maintenance crew.  Nadine didn’t consider them, but I feel like I will get in trouble if I don’t mention it. And I will probably be giving them a call myself!

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2 responses to “Blast from the Past: Adventures in Hiring a Gardener

  1. Great advice Nadine! If we ever need someone extra, it’s nice to have an idea of how to look for the right person.

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  2. I liked the advice.. I am in the same boat so I appreciated this article. My experience with this has been stressful .. You bring up the weed pulling job and they seem to bulk at the tedious job.. my last gardener quit when I was annoyed he charged me 85.00 dollars to weed a small area without warning me of the cost first.. REALLY ?.. I am on a fixed income and I can no longer garden on my own do to a bad back.. and bad is underestimating it. Looking forward on more posts regarding this adventure, Thank You

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