As a gardener, often the first question that I get asked by a potential customer is “what is your hourly rate?” Whilst I understand that cost is a factor, there are more items to think about when looking for a gardener
Things you should consider when looking for a gardener
- Care taken
- Membership of trade body
- Work (quality, speed, safety and who)
- Your needs
The list is purely in alphabetic order. You alone must decide which of these apply to you and their relative ranking in terms of importance.
I’ve purposely left out recommendations, reviews or testimonials from the list, as I believe unless these are from someone you personally know and trust they could well be unreliable.
Whilst most of these you can and should check before selecting the gardener there are a couple which you will only find out once they start:
Things you will only find out once the gardener starts work
- Care taken
- Work (quality, speed, safety and who)
To give you some help I’ll expand on each item in the list. You can print and use this to probe and ask questions when you first meet the gardener prior to hiring them: Yes you must meet them before agreeing to any start!
Does the gardener offer advice on an ongoing basis. Will they make recommendations for what work needs doing or will they take the lead from you. Consider this in terms of your own gardening and plant knowledge, if you know little about gardening or don’t have the time to take the lead, then think carefully before engaging someone with little gardening or plant knowledge.
This is a tricky one to find out before they start work. But you want someone who respects your garden and property and isn’t going to do more damage than good.
How can you contact the gardener and how will they contact you. Will this by phone or email. Will they confirm when they are turning up, rather than just showing up and will they contact you should their schedule change. Also what is like when meet them face to face for the first time.
What sort of company are you dealing with? are they registered as self-employed (sole trader) or limited company, or are they simply moon-lighting on the side of their other job or benefits. How big is the company in terms of how many people are employed. How many customers do they have. How long have they been trading. Many gardeners are self-employed and this may be perfect for you, as you get that personal attention from the business owner, others may prefer dealing with a larger company who may provide more assurance on someone turning up, although it may be someone different each time.
I won’t say too much on this at the moment as I intend to cover this in a future blog. But how do they charge – is it based on time (hourly rate) or fixed price (either per visit or say monthly contract). What I would say is always think more about the value of the service provided (of all these factors listed in this article) rather than just the cost.
Ask about the tools they use, particularly the power tools. Ask what make they use: if they mention Honda and Stihl or similar brands then they are using professional machinery. Ask how often the tools are maintained and serviced, as this not only means it works well but also it is safe.
Do they have a smart and tidy image. What is their personal appearance like. Do they wear a uniform perhaps with company name & logo on a polo shirt. What vehicle do they use, is it clean and tidy and does it give a professional image. Do they have a van which is sign-written or do they operate out the back of an estate and have cheap magnetic signs. Do they have a website or social media presence – look at them and does it portray a professional gardener.
What insurances do they have. Do they have public liability insurance and what is the value of the cover. Likewise do they have pollution liability insurance – particularly if they are going to be using chemicals such as weed killer. Ask to see a copy of the insurance certificate.
Whilst your own gardening knowledge may vary (some of my customers have little gardening knowledge whereas others are extremely good amateur gardeners themselves) you can still get a feel for how knowledgeable the gardener is. I recommend that you walk round your garden with the gardener and you’ll see and hear what they know and possibly what they don’t know or worse still, if they try to bluff through gaps in their knowledge. Ask them about the plants, do they know the names of the plants, if you have some plants with problems then ask the gardener what caused it and can it be treated
Do they have any licences. If so what are they for and ask to see them. Typically this may include licences for green waste (waste carrier licence), weed killer (pesticide licence PA1 & PA6a) and perhaps a chainsaw licence (0020/01, 0020/02).
Membership of trade body
Do they belong to a professional trade body such as The Gardeners Guild. This may point to the gardeners commitment to their business and personal development.
Quite simply – how do you both get on. There’s no point taking on a gardener if you don’t get along with each other. You’ll need to judge this quickly at either the first meeting or soon after they start. Hiring a gardener can be a long term relationship so it’s important to get this right.
Do they turn up when they say they will. Do they do the work they say they will. Can only be checked once they start and monitored over time.
What services does the gardener offer and how does this relate to your needs. You may not need all of them initially but it’s useful to know what else the gardener can do.
This ties into what services they offer, the knowledge and licences they have. Some of this can be checked by asking what qualifications or certificates they have. Typical certificates may cover horticultural training, health and safety or first aid training, which show a commitment to their profession. Ask to see copies if in doubt.
Work (quality, speed, safety and who)
This can’t be fully checked until they start, and whilst I don’t advocate that you watch the gardeners every move in your garden. Soon after they start you should get an appreciation for how they work. What is the quality of their work: how good is it and how tidy do they leave the garden once finished. Do they work in a safe manner or look like an accident waiting to happen. Does the gardener do all the work or would they send someone else in their place.
What gardening jobs are you expecting the gardener to do and how often you want them to visit. Do you want the gardener to look after all jobs in the garden or do you only want the gardener to do a few specific jobs around the garden.
As you can see cost is only one factor when looking for a new gardener. I hope this article helps you find a suitable gardener and if you already have a gardener did you take some of these into account ?
If there are any factors that you think I’m may have missed then please send me an email