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Q. How much does it cost to landscape and maintain a 20 x 30 foot rear garden?
A. BrickTank landscaping expert Joe Taylor wrote such a great response to this question that we decided to run it with minimal pruning:
If your garden area is blessed with good soil and you're pleased with the structure of it, and your only requirement is sprucing the place up with some shrubbery, perennials and a few annuals, you may be looking at anywhere from $1,000 to $4,000 to landscape.
Unfortunately, back areas often become dumping ground through the decades for every construction crew doing work on the property.
For example, on one job, we discovered when planting a tree that just below a foot down, the whole substructure consisted of used brick and asphalt pavers! More soil had to be brought in that we (or the client) weren't expecting and there was an added expense of removal and disposal.
If you want to overhaul the hardscape (the paving layout and the materials used in it) and planting areas, you're looking at at least $10,000 to $30,000 in work.
It's hard to get landscaping for under $1,000 dollars because of a landscaper's overhead. Just showing up at your door with a few shrubs has it's costs, so understandably, the larger your job the better value you can get.
CHOOSING A LANDSCAPER
The most important thing is that you like the landscaper and feel in your heart of hearts that you can trust them. The landscaping world is unfortunately full of people who will plug plants into your ground with out so much as a thought to whether the plant can actually thrive there.
If you see a friend's garden or a neighbor's garden that you like, ask them for the name of their landscaper. There's no substitute for a recommendation from someone you trust.
One way to ensure a good job is to contact the design program of a local botanical garden or university and offer to use your property as a student project. (In and around the city, you could try the New York Botanical Garden, Columbia University and Rutgers University.) You would have to supply the budget--there aren't any freebies--but you can have final approval and the project will be overseen by an experienced professor.
Also, be sure to keep an open mind about what you want. Often when I go for my first visit, I find that what homeowners have in mind for their properties are out of sync with the conditions they have for planting. One client wanted English style perennial gardens in an area that received only an hour of sun a day. But bright blooming perennials won't survive without a lot of sun.
MAINTAINING YOUR GARDEN
As far as ongoing maintenance, gardeners usually charge by the hour. Gardeners can charge from $30 an hour on up.
Your first season you will want them to visit weekly or bi-weekly just to trouble shoot, making sure the plants are taking to their new home well, and that the irrigation system whether it is automatic or by hand is doing the trick. This shouldn't require more than two hours a week unless a problem has to be worked out.
I would recommend finding gardeners through the MetroHort web site if you live in New York City. Gardeners who have to travel in from Long Island or upstate will cost too much. Find a good local. There are lots of them.
By season two, after the plants are well established, a bi-weekly or monthly visit should be enough for fertilizing and pruning as needed.
Just a small aside about irrigation: Don't be foolish enough to think you can water your garden yourself. I personally won't take a job if the client refuses to install irrigation. This can be as inexpensive as a battery operated timer for the garden spicket for about $40 dollars or less, up to a good drip irrigation system that will run you about $2,500 for a 20 x 30 foot space.
And when you go on vacation, make sure the gardener can check in. One client of mine insisted that all would be fine while away for a month. When they returned they had forgotten that the power had been turned off for a construction project, which stopped the program in the irrigation timer. They lost every major shrub in the garden. It was hard to take for everyone.
Gardens are a wonderful addition to our lives. Just the green in the garden alone will bring a peace and harmony into your house. I've seen many lives transformed for the better because of them.
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