Maintaining a garden is an everyday operation
Every landscape has a cost attached to its dimensions – whether it be a simple lawn or a combination of entities.
The cost is not static, for as long as the landscape is in existence there will be a cost attached.
The big question is whether the “finished product” equals the initial and ongoing cost, considering it is a 365-day operation.
As for what the cost includes, consider the following: the cost of the land as a part of the total property; preparation of the land – which includes manual labour and machinery; perhaps the purchase of additional soil and other amendments; plant purchases; installation cost; and hiring a professional for the design concept. All in all it amounts to a tidy sum that deserves the total process to be put on paper and adhered to throughout the project.
On new builds it is important to have a contract that protects you from the other contractors’ “errors” as well as receiving the site as stated in the contract.
This makes the project more manageable and allows the landscapers’ work to flow as was programmed; the ideal being the landscape installation being worked “out of the property” from the other end of the property.
Even when carrying out additions or general home maintenance, it is advisable to write a specification into the general contractor’s contract, as it covers any work destroyed or “damaged”.
However, in either of the two scenarios, if part of the garden needs to be kept as an “as is” area, it is advisable to have the area ring-fenced before starting any work. It is also advisable to select a storage area for the contractor, but keep it well away from the preserved garden.
The spillage of toxic chemicals can cause a major problem to living plants and be retained in the soil for a long period of time. With this in mind, store any toxic chemicals that are used on site in large oil drums or similar and remove from the site for disposal.
Do not allow chemicals to be spilt into garden areas because they could kill existing plants via their root systems, which spread widely around the trunk of the tree/shrub/palm etc. It is unfortunate that toxic chemicals that enter the soil will find their own level and any roots in that area will take in the chemical with fatal effects.
It is advisable when buying soil to check the source. Whether it is top or sub soil is difficult to determine when in a pile. However, a sign of a good soil is to check for weed growth. If in abundance, the soil should accommodate relatively good growth; if little or weak growth is seen, do not purchase.
When purchasing plants check the height of the plant vis-à-vis the container size especially when in one-gallon containers. Too much growth in a small container is an indication of the roots being “strangled” ie growing around the outside of the root ball and literally stemming future growth. Such plants often find it difficult “break out” from the root zone and develop a good system to anchor themselves in the soil.
This approach should also be applied to container-grown material. In larger containers, say 25 gallons and up, check not only the height of plant vis-à-vis the container size but also the sturdiness and architectural appearance of the plant. Does it have a good branch system with sturdy branches and is the trunk straight and a good caliper for the size of container?
Starting off with a workable plan and a detailed understanding of the end product should save you financially in the long run, as well as eliminate any “growing pains”. Remember, you do not get a second chance to make a first impression!
• Malcolm Griffiths is a trained horticulturalist and fellow of the Chartered Institute of Horticulture in Britain. He is also past president of the Bermuda Horticultural Society, the Bermuda Orchid Society and the Bermuda Botanical Society