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February Landscapes – How to, and not to, find your contractor!

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How do you find the right contractor?

Your chances at success are better when you're doing the "finding"

February has arrived and that means Spring is in sight. Early preparations for spring should begin and getting that landscape or hardscape project going is now a priority.

I am often asked by friends or readers from outside our area – how do you find the right contractor? Is it as easy as going to homeadvisor or Angie’s List?

First of all, neither of those services provide any guarantee that you’ll be happy with your project. Several of our projects in the last couple years have been re-do’s or do-overs after contractors found on those two services royally messed up the job. In a recent example, an entire driveway was given a concrete stain by one of the “we find them for you” services. Less than one year later, the stain job is peeling in sheets. The stain was dark brown. The concrete of course is off-white, gray. It was a disaster.

One service reached out to us a few years ago and wanted to include us in their available contractors pool. Despite claims of verification, we were never once asked about any project we’d done to that point. In fact, they never requested information or asked us a single question outside of “are you available on ______ (date) for a project?”

The very thing that those services try to convince you is inadequate – talking to neighbors/friends about contractors they’ve used – is indeed the very best way to find your contractor.

Why is it better to find contractors through friends, neighbors?

1. You get to see a real-time example of the contractor’s work and can visit that work as much as you need to.

2. You can learn about the whole experience from the customer’s point of view with an unlimited opportunity to gain feedback from friends, neighbors. You are able to look at the plans/estimate provided to them, ask as many questions as you like.

3. You are not limited to a few sentences in a written review.

4. You will be able to obtain references from your contractor upon request.

5. None of these things are difficult, no matter how many commercials they throw at you.

Now that you are empowered with knowing you can do this more effectively yourself, drive around your neighborhood or other neighborhoods. When you see something like you, stop and ask the homeowner who did their work. Most folks are more than happy to share information like this.


Here are some do’s and don’ts for finding and using the right contractor:

1. You may want to get bids from three different contractors, unless you feel confident in a relationship you’ve already begun with a contractor.

2. If you’re getting multiple bids, give each company the same bidding information. Let them have the same start. And DO NOT share one’s bid with another.

3. DO NOT go looking for the lowest bid. You’re looking for the right bid and the right contractor. Low bids are often the result of a contractor bidding too low in order to get the business. Once they get the business, they often will spend the project with a focus on trying to stay under their projected number. Nothing dictates attention, or lack thereof, like money. You want your contractor’s focus to instead be on making your project as good as possible.

4. Don’t hesitate to ask questions. You want to hear intelligent answers that illustrate a more than working knowledge of the subject at hand.

5. If you ask for the project to be completed by next week – and the contractor says “no problem,” you’re probably in trouble. Good contractors are booked in advance by weeks and sometimes months. Don’t let this be a deterrent. Be patient and know that waiting on the right thing is well worth it.


After installation care
If you’ve hired a contractor to install a new landscape, especially in Texas, make sure you find out if they provide after-installation care. Many contractors will offer 3-6 months care for new landscaping projects, which helps to make sure any problems that might develop are detected early and responded to in a timely fashion. The most vulnerable time for your landscape is in the first summer season.

After-installation care will include on-site observation of the new plants/trees, checking their root balls and their growth to make sure they are progressing as they should. For those who are good with plants and know how to care for them, this may be a task you want to take on yourself, instead.


As I said in the intro, February is the month where preparations for Spring begin. What do those preparations include?

1. Ornamental grass – This includes the Pampas Grass, Zebra Grass, Maiden Grass, Juncus Grass, and Muhly Grass in addition to others. Trim them straight across or in a short rounded top, short enough that the sun can reach the center of the plant. For example, a Maiden grass at 3 ft height would be trimmed back to 1 ft or shorter. With ornamental grasses, we want to try to prevent the center of the plant from dying. A dead center ruins the look of the grass.

2. The “Monkey Grass” – This includes Lirope, Variegated Liriope, and Mondo Grass. These can be trimmed with a weedeater. Trim the top and sides far back to get the dead growth out. From this, new growth will emerge about the time March arrives.

3. Crape Myrtles – Yes, we trim Crape Myrtles this month. Do not let this task go into March as we want to give the tree time to choose where its new growth will be directed – after the trim. Do NOT hack your Crape Myrtles. We instead will knub them three inches above the knuckles. If you do not know how to trim this way, contact a professional to do it for you. This will eliminate irregular growth patterns that Crape Myrtles will so often get into.

4. Your lawncare equipment – Now is the time to get your lawn care equipment maintenanced and ready for the new season. Mowing normally begins in March, so get the maintenance done now and start the season right. You’ll want to check/replace spark plugs, air filters, oil, oil filters. Get the blades sharpened on the mower. Wipe it all down and make it look new again.

5. For you gardeners – get your onions in the ground now. Check the Farmers Almanac for timing but onions are planted in early February. Potatoes won’t be far behind.

6. Get your sprinkler system checked before the season begins. That way, if there is a problem, nothing will suffer while the system is down.



First challenge of the season – Poa Annua
One of the weeds you may see pop up this month is Poa Annua. It is the small, pom-pom looking weed with a feathery top. And they generally show up in late January and early February.

There are more than 100 different types of Poa Annua and you can have as many as 20-30 different types in the same lawn. There is no weed killer out there that will kill all types of Poa Annua (while not killing the turf). If you spray, some will die and some will not be fazed.

Unfortunately, the only sure way to get rid of them is to pull them. It is best to do this when the soil is wet. The Poa Annua’s roots will pull easier that way. If you leave them in place, they will die when temperatures are consistently above 90 degrees.


If anyone has questions – let'er rip!

(Mark’s column each month is sponsored by Stagecoach Trailers, Inc., of Naples, Texas. Find them at www.stagecoachtrailers.com)


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On ‎2‎/‎2‎/‎2019 at 10:59 PM, Sirhornsalot said:

Unfortunately, the only sure way to get rid of them is to pull them. It is best to do this when the soil is wet. The Poa Annua’s roots will pull easier that way. If you leave them in place, they will die when temperatures are consistently above 90 degrees.

Good to know they will die in the summer cause there seems to be way more in my yard than normal this year and I'm too daym old and/or lazy to pull them all!

BTW, love reading your monthly tips/advice/updates. Thank you Sir!

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22 minutes ago, tejasrulz said:

Good to know they will die in the summer cause there seems to be way more in my yard than normal this year and I'm too daym old and/or lazy to pull them all!

BTW, love reading your monthly tips/advice/updates. Thank you Sir!

If poa annua is a problem weed in your lawn, then you should be using prodiamide as a pre emergent. It works best at preventing the grassy weeds like poa annua.

But until the heat arrives, it can make you pull your hair out. It can grow in the smallest of crevices or cracks in concrete, stone, etc.


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