Finding Good Qualified Help

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Sometimes you have a landscape project that may be just too much labor or too technical for you to tackle on your own. North Carolina has an incredibly strong green industry of landscape professionals who have technical knowledge to help you meet your landscape goals.

The purpose of the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service is to help individuals, families and communities put research-based knowledge to work for economic prosperity, environmental stewardship and an improved quality of life. We are a source of relevant, research-based information and best practices for the industry. The rub comes when folks ask the Office who they would recommend to help them do some of the work it would take to reach these goals.

The N.C. Cooperative Extension Service cannot recommend anyone in particular. What we can do is make sure consumers are informed on the landscape management expectations and relevant certifications green industry professionals could, or should, have; as well as provide technical assistance and training to green industry professionals when they need it.

Before You Think About Hiring Someone

The first question you should ask yourself about anything you do in your landscape is, “Why am I doing this?” The answer should be reasonable, economical, environmentally and scientifically sound, and serve a purpose in the landscape. If you do not know “why” you are doing what you are doing, feel free to reach out to the NC Cooperative Service for information on best practices in your landscape. WeGood Help know by now that “because that is how it always has been done” is not always an acceptable answer. The horticulture and natural resources management fields have learned a lot over the last few decades, and there are “business as usual” practices that are proven to be detrimental to both human and environmental health.

The next step is to clearly define your expectations for the project. A green industry professional cannot give accurate recommendations, develop a good project plan or give you a comprehensive quote unless you are clear on your goals for the project. If you are not sure about what you need for your project, make sure when you are evaluating potential businesses that you choose someone you feel comfortable talking it through with and that you trust them to give you advice. Finally, try to think through the whole process. Make sure to consider the effects of every step of the project and how it will impact your property in the short- and long-term.

Evaluating Companies and Services

It is important to remember that not all landscaping companies are the same. Some specialize in lawn care, some in general maintenance, and some provide design services. Landscape construction and maintenance, otherwise known as gardening, require highly technical knowledge to be successfully and sustainably executed. It is important to evaluate potential landscaping companies before you hire them. You are paying them to complete a project or provide a service, and you have to live with the work they do, good or bad. There are professional certifications that can help consumers know that the professional they are working with has the relevant education and training related to the project you are undertaking.

You need to remember some basic questions to ask: What are their certifications? What professional organizations are they a member of? What are the comprehensive services they offer? What services do they not provide? Can they provide proof of insurance? Can they provide a list of references or recent clients? Are there any photos of completed short- and long-term work that you can see? What is their communication process? How will you be billed? Additionally, if you have ecologically-driven goals for your project, such as pollinator or wildlife gardening, make sure that you ask potential businesses about their pesticide usage and how their practices impact wildlife.

Making a Decision

At the end of the day, the decision on who works on your property is yours. Consider that the lowest bid may not be the best bid. Cutting corners on materials, equipment or training for staff to “get the job done cheap” may come back to haunt you later. Make sure you are satisfied with the answers you received to your interview questions, and that the company has the appropriate certifications for the scope of the project (e.g. they have a pesticide applicator’s license if they are applying chemicals on your property; or an irrigation contractor’s license for installing certain irrigation systems).

The N.C. Cooperative Extension Service is available to provide technical support to and answer questions from consumers and green industry professionals alike. Visit the N.C. Cooperative Extension, Lee County Center’s website to learn more about certifications relevant to the green industry. If you have questions regarding landscape maintenance, please contact the N.C. Cooperative Extension, Lee County Center at 919-775-5624.


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