In landscape care, surprises are never welcome. When a landscaper or contractor finishes their job on your property, your immediate response shouldn’t be, “What on earth were they thinking?”
You have ideas, and they have ideas. All stakeholders need to align before the first hose gets turned on and the first lawn mower is fired up. It’s up to you to create an actionable landscape management and maintenance plan.
Here are 10 categories for inclusion on your plan. Aim to detail specific products and practices that you’d like implemented.
- Your Landscaping History
A landscape maintenance company should know where you’re coming from. Every property has nuances and quirks. So detail your property’s history. Include any blueprints or historical documents you may have. No need to write a novel, but outline things like:
- What have your landscape maintenance practices looked like in the past?
- What quirks of the property have given you trouble?
- Where have you seen landscaping successes?
- Any recent renovations, upgrades, or new technologies to know about?
- What are your conservation / budget / aesthetic goals?
- An Overview of Soil
A soils map will ensure that your landscaper doesn’t skip over any soil requiring attention. What are your soil testing and fertility practices? How do you integrate mulch? What are the features and the topography of the landscape? Where do you reuse topsoil? Your soil is the foundation of everything else, so an in-depth overview is key.
- Tree, Shrub, and Flower Implementation and Care
Since this section will be a substantial one, try to group plants by water need. Work with your landscape maintenance provider to select plants that need less water, have few pests, and thrive in your climate. When you minimize chemicals, mowing, and pruning, you maximize your efficiency.
- Safety Requirements and Codes
Although your landscaper has probably worked in your region, no two properties are alike. In addition to federal and regional compliance mandates, what are your organizational safety practices? What are your rules around mowing, pavement-to-soil ratios, weeding, watering, fertilizing, and use of native plant species? If you have any community-wide standards for your property, include these in your plans.
- Landscape Hazards
Your landscapers will eventually find stumbling blocks through trial and error. But you can do them a huge favor if you outline those stumbling blocks in advance. What hazards should they avoid? Where does debris tend to collect and cause trouble? What needs frequent repairing? What seasonal challenges present themselves? Where possible, your landscapers and contractors may help you to eliminate these hazards.
- Irrigation Ins and Outs
Water is central to nearly everything your landscaper does. The best-laid plans will provide room for improved efficiency. What irrigation methods are you currently using, and how do you plan to cut water use and reduce waste? How do you monitor leaks and water flows? Which parts of your water system are managed remotely? What is your plan for irrigation system inspection and maintenance? Consider water-saving factors like:
- Rain shut-off devices
- Flow sensors
- Automatic irrigation systems
- Low-flow emitters like drip and soaker systems
- Evapotranspiration-based controllers
- Low-water-use or drought-tolerant plants
- The management and re-use of storm water
- Recycling and Composting
You want your landscaping management company to create as little impact as possible. Where can they dispose of waste and debris? What can they re-use or compost? If your property has advanced recycling practices already, make sure to incorporate your landscapers into these plans.
- Establishment Period Special Needs
As you’re getting your landscape up-to-speed, what needs extra oversite? New landscapes need extra care and oversight. First, your landscapers will need to replace unhealthy plants or plants that don’t fit site conditions. What troubleshooting is required for plants, drainage, and public landscape use? Plants that haven’t had time to develop deep roots will require extra watering, weeding, and mulching. This establishment period can take anywhere from two to five years, but if it’s done well, the payoff will last for decades.
- Pest, Disease, and Weed Management
It’s easier to prevent than to correct. That’s why your landscapers should work with you to plant robust, pest-resistant plant communities. Crowd out weeds with healthier plant groups. Outline the pest and weed life-cycle directly in your plan. How frequently and through what methods do you monitor for pests, diseases and weeds? Have your landscaper keep a log of control methods and results. Understand that there will be some damage from pests and weeds, so set your tolerance thresholds plan your recourse once those thresholds are exceeded.
- Sustainability Goals
The ideal landscape management provider will be your partner in sustainability. Overwatering or underwatering is a common cause of plant diseases and problems. How can your landscaper help you to make every drop of water count? And how can you work together to make room for nature? If you leave room for “wilder” areas toward the perimeter of your property, you’ll bring your costs and water use down. Can you gradually reduce hardscaping and create softer engineering throughout your property? Set assertive sustainability goals, and check in periodically on their progress.
Your best plan will be concise and organized, so any end users can pick it up right away. A standard spreadsheet or a checklist will do the trick.