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Into the Garden: Yard work customers, pay up!

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Every once in a while, I get tired of being the nice garden lady. Please know this is very rare. On most days, I'm very happy with all of the questions, I welcome the comments, and I am thrilled to be asked to speak about gardening. But every once in a while ...

Today, I'll give some advice that might not be welcome to some readers. This is not aimed at any one reader in particular, but it comes from comments I've heard from the professionals in the gardening business.

I want to thank all of the people who work in the gardening and landscaping business. This is backbreaking, dirty, often underappreciated work. The summer hours are long and the winter months are lean. If it was work that was delightful to do, more homeowners would do it for themselves, I'm guessing!

Here goes. I'm sure the voicemail, email and mailbox will fill up quickly over this one. I'm ready.

If you want to have your yard landscaped, mulched, mowed or raked, you're gonna have to pay. Some landscapers are not the best of businessmen; they are just hardworking folks who earn a living making our yards look better. Pay up!

A landscaper recently told me that more often than not, he has people ask if they can defer payment for a few months after he's done their work. He puts out a lot of money to buy plants and mulch, to pay his workers, to put gas in his truck. Other landscapers tell me that when they quote a price for a customer, 99 percent of the people balk at the price, haggle for a discount and grumble about the cost.

Do you haggle with the produce manager at Kroger over the cost of cucumbers? We all think the cost of produce is high, but we pay. We have to pay to eat that cucumber.

The summer storms that landed trees across houses and driveways brought out the worst in many people. Homeowners expected tree cutters to come immediately to cut them out of their messes. Yet, when asked for money, many said they would have to wait for their insurance checks to come in before they could pay the landscapers. This cost is not one that the landscaper should incur; the homeowner should cover the cost until their insurance company repays them.

If you want someone to design a landscape for you, the local garden club or master gardeners are not going to do it for you. Again, pay someone. I appreciate that many people don't reserve dollars in the budget for the landscape. But if you wanted your kitchen redesigned using the latest technology and the newest materials, wouldn't you expect to pay for the trained designer's time and efforts?

If you don't water a plant, or if you plant it in the wrong place other than what is indicated on the tag, it will probably die. Don't expect the garden center to replace a plant that you treated poorly. Would you expect a furniture store to replace a sofa because your dog urinated on it or because your child trampled on it? Would it be your doctor's fault if your child got sick because you forgot to give them food and water?

If you hire a grass mowing service, be specific about what you want. One local contractor had a written contract with a homeowner that specified how often he would mow, what areas he would mow and when payment was due. I know his work through several satisfied customers -- it is impeccable. (They sweep the sidewalks, they pull weeds, they even pat the dog.) One person refused to pay because she thought the grass would look like a baseball infield with some sort of diamond pattern. She never asked for this, she just assumed that's what the company would do.

Ahhhh. I'm finished. (For now.) I'm back to being the nice garden lady.

Gardening at Habitat

There are several gardening events planned for the Habitat for Humanity's Homeowner Education and Community Center, 815 Court St.

Fall vegetable gardening: 10 a.m. to noon Sept. 1. Learn how to extend your vegetable gardening with seasonally appropriate veggies. Led by John Porter, West Virginia University/Kanawha County extension agent. Free.

Junior Master Gardener leadership training: 1 to 3 p.m. Sept. 1. JMG leadership training for those interested in starting their own chapter of this international youth gardening program. This class is free but registration is required.

Saving and storing seeds: 10 a.m. to noon Sept. 8. Saving and storing seeds is the most economical way to garden. Learn the do's and don'ts of seed preservation from John Porter, WVU extension agent. Free.

Establishing a lawn: 1 to 3 p.m. Sept. 22. Learn how to winterize your lawn and get it ready for spring with John Porter. Free.

To register for all classes, contact Terry St. Germain at 304-720-8733, ext. 3.

Garden weed workshop

The West Virginia State University Extension Service will launch a garden workshop series focusing on lawn and landscape weeds at West Virginia Pumpkin Park, in Milton, 10 a.m. to noon Aug. 30.

"This information is perfect for any gardener looking to eradicate weeds from his or her garden," says Scott Byars, program leader for agriculture and natural resources with WVSU Extension Service. "We want participants to be able to identify the common weeds they'll find in their lawns and landscapes."

Other classes include:

  • Landscape weeds, Sept. 20
  • Weed identification, Oct. 18
  • WVSU Extension Service began offering workshops at Pumpkin Park last year. Staff members are completing construction of a demonstration garden on the site to be used during future collaborative efforts with the park. Signage will direct participants to workshop locations.

    There is a $10 fee to attend each workshop, and space is limited. To register, contact Brad Cochran at 304-541-3301.

    Reach Sara Busse at sara.busse@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1249.


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