Finding a landscape company
Do your homework before making a decision

BY MONICA PILAT - VICTORIA COUNTY MASTER GARDENER EDITED BY CHARLA BORCHERS LEON
October 11, 2007
PHOTO:  VICTORIA COUNTY EXTENSION AGENT, JOE JANAK
Professionally installed and maintained by Four Seasons Garden Center, this HDG Custom Home landscape catches eyes from the busy intersection of Navarro Street and Salem Road in Victoria.
Many of us today are too busy to bother with the upkeep of a well-landscaped yard, and some of us just simply were not blessed with the ever-envied green thumb.

Whatever challenge you face, a flip through your local yellow pages will yield a variety of choices in the landscaping industry to help you create a beautiful landscape. A quick survey of the Greater Victoria phone book produced more than 30 different landscape-oriented businesses available to our area, but how do you go about making the decision on which company will best suit your needs?

WHAT DO YOU WANT
?
The first thing that you need to figure out is exactly what work you want done. Not all landscaping businesses provide the same types of services. There are some companies that specialize in landscape design and installation, but will not be able to provide any maintenance work.

In addition, there are other businesses that provide lawn maintenance services such as mowing and weeding of existing landscapes. This does not mean that you can't find a company that offers all these services to their customers, but the choices usually become much slimmer. Some companies deal only with commercial business, so they would not be of any interest to the homeowner.

CHECK REPUTATION, REFERENCES

A reputable landscape company should have any number of properties that can be provided to potential clients as examples of their work.

Most companies that provide installation services will place signs in their customers' yards to attract new business.

Word of mouth can provide great information when it comes to selecting a landscaper.

By simply asking around, you are bound to get a number of references for businesses that have provided good landscaping service. You might even find out a little information on companies you should avoid.

If you are hiring a landscape designer, ask a few questions about their background. They should have some type of training or experience that qualifies them for the job. Whether it is a horticulture or landscape degree, training through a landscaping organization, or simply many years working in the industry, this will be a good indicator that whoever you hire will have an extensive knowledge of plants and issues associated with landscapes and will be able to provide a well-designed yard that works best for you.

Look for Membership

Another good source for information on landscaping companies is the Texas Nursery and Landscape Association.

This organization has thousands of business members in the green industry that provide landscaping services. All Texas Nursery and Landscape Association (TNLA) members are kept up-to-date on the latest happenings in the green industry, from the hottest new landscape plants to the latest pest and disease problems.

In addition, TNLA members have the opportunity to attend many educational seminars to keep their knowledge current in order to better serve their clientele. If a business is affiliated with an organization such as TNLA, it is a good indicator that they are keeping up with trends.

Check Licenses

For the homeowner interested in adding some irrigation to their landscape, the most important thing to ask is whether or not the company has a licensed irrigator on staff.

According to Texas law, any person who: 1) sells, designs, installs, maintains, alters, repairs or services an irrigation system; 2) provides consulting services relating to an irrigation system; or 3) connects an irrigation system to a private or public, raw or potable water supply system or any water supply must hold an irrigator's license issued by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

This means no company can provide irrigation services to a client without having a licensed professional on staff.

Unlicensed employees can perform installation work as long as a licensed individual oversees them. All license holders are required to complete educational training to keep their licenses current.

A homeowner who intends to have irrigation work done would check with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to make sure that the license number the business operates under is current.

Pesticide application

There also are laws and regulations concerning pesticide usage on the home lawn.

If the company you hire will be spraying any type of pesticides (herbicides, insecticides, fungicides - even organic), they are required to have a pesticide applicator license either with the Texas Department of Agriculture or Texas Structural Pest Control Board.

These laws were put in place to protect our environment and natural resources, and it is your responsibly as a homeowner to make sure that you only choose companies that follow these laws.

The Gardeners' Dirt is written by members of the Victoria County Master Gardener Association, an educational outreach of Texas Cooperative Extension-Victoria County. Mail your questions in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, Texas 77901; or vcmga@vicad.com, or comment on this column at www.VictoriaAdvocate.com.