Getting it right on garden maintenance
Many thousands of dollars are paid out yearly for gardens to be maintained, but what should garden maintenance actually cover?
People with contracts for garden maintenance usually have more visits in the active growing months than in the off-season, which covers the periods April to October and November to March.
Many “contracts” do not give detailed breakouts of what schedules include and will be carried out during the life of the contract, thus creating gaps if it then means “additional” work should be carried out.
I have always been a proponent of the “as and when required” approach to maintenance, simply because it covers from day one all anticipated works throughout the life of the contract and is priced to the proposed extent of work, therefore no surprises and one has open communications all around.
Generally maintenance simply covers the — hopefully — obvious, such as mowing, weed whacking and hacking (no, not pruning), and removal of debris whether it could be composted or not and on occasion perhaps weeding.
Let’s start with the initial meeting of client and company representative, what is said and what should be discussed are in many instances miles apart.
The client should have a list of items to be covered while the company representative should by experience have a list of items which should be given attention during the life of the contract.
It would appear most contracts are time based per visit regardless of the workload at that particular day, which means not every task is covered and thus they are left over until the next visit. This of course is not a satisfactory approach to maintenance as if not careful the effect of tasks not completed increases exponentially. Another problem with time-based maintenance is the understanding to prioritise the tasks to be done. Invariably a truck rolls up to the property three/four workers alight and off load the mower, weed-whacker, blower and machete; there is no walkabout the garden by the foreman to ascertain what should be prioritised, so action is restricted to those tasks of the norm, ie whacking, hacking, mowing and blowing.
On many occasions, these tasks are not called for whereas other more important tasks do require attention.
Look at garden maintenance on a seasonal basis where certain tasks might well be ongoing throughout the year, such as mowing; whereas, fertilising and pruning should be more time specific and timed in with the weather to obtain best results.
There should be an understanding of what tasks need to be tackled on each and every visit; for example, during hot dry summers, why mow brown dusty earth, as the exercise has no benefit to the lawn while creating clouds of dry dust billowing over the surrounding areas. Such an exercise is a total waste of time, when, with a little thought there would be numerous other tasks that could be tackled and completed thus negating further problems with the completed task.
It is basic common sense, and I accept that common sense is not common, but a task left for the next visit or whenever, becomes a bigger task at that time thus taking up more time and labour.
Of course, to complete a task properly requires the need of having the tools and equipment to tackle the job to hand, as well as secondary items such as fertiliser, insecticides, fungicides and herbicides, which should be applied on an as and when required basis, but contingent on weather conditions.
When using chemicals of any kind the adage, “if all else fails read the instructions” becomes paramount.
Next month, I will discuss on a task-by-task basis more detailed information that should be considered in the totality of grounds maintenance.
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