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Your lawn, trees and plants on your lot add to (or detract from) the value of your house. ¬†Keeping the grounds tidy, lawns mowed, trees pruned and plants healthy can be a lot of work, and if you don’t enjoy it or don’t have time you may decide to hire others to do it if you can afford to do so. This is the time of year when many people hire a crew to undertake the big job of post-winter cleanup. If you prefer hiring someone to do your garden maintenance read on.

I think that when most of us hire someone for landscaping or yard maintenance we are usually looking for the least expensive worker. The biggest priority is getting the most work for the money. Money matters, but it also matters whether or not the person who does the work actually knows what they were doing when they prune the camellia Рthat is if you want to keep it alive and healthy. Many homeowners have had the experience of losing a shrub or tree due to the ignorance of the person who hacked it. It turns out that it may cost less in the long run, and add more value to your home if you hire someone who has some horticultural knowledge.

And now my rant about the high cost of cheap garden maintenance.

Tree Toppled by Turf Project

A few weeks ago I noticed some new landscaping work going on at a house in my neighborhood. Next to the street was a row of 4 mature trees that were all the same size and type of tree. Those trees would have had to be there at least 50 years and had been well pruned. The landscapers were diligently removing the topsoil from under the tree in preparation for putting down new turf. I could see that they were actually removing the soil well below the point where the tree trunks met the soil. There were exposed grafts near the base of the trunk on at least two of the trees. I wasn’t able to watch the entire project, but when I saw the roots of the toppled tree later I realized that they had been cut. The root ball was significantly small for the size of the canopy.

Apparently the diligent landscape workers didn’t understand that the roots for that type of tree do not go down deep, but extend more horizontally in the soil, and they cut many of the roots (even big ones) to facilitate the turf project. They left the site neat and tidy. That turf is perfectly level, and level with the sidewalk. The level of the soil before the project was significantly higher.

Note visible graft and leaning tree in background.

It was just a matter of time until the next rainstorm came, followed by some really strong winds, and the most exposed of the trees fell over, exposing its cut root ball. I had a chance to talk to the tree maintenance guy who came to remove the toppled tree and he also could tell that the roots had been cut. I heard him explaining this to the homeowner and hours later saw the same landscapers who had cut the tree roots staking up the three remaining trees. One of those trees was already leaning significantly. Somebody call Plant Amnesty!

Pointing Out Cut Roots

If the homeowners are lucky, the trees that are still there will recover, but I will be surprised if they do. In addition to the roots being cut, too much topsoil was removed exposing quite a bit of trunk that was under the earth before. This spring and summer weather will play a big part in what happens next. The biggest problem (to my mind) is the loss of property value as well as the fact that they won’t be able to match the other three trees.


The High Cost of Cheap Yard Maintenance — 7 Comments

  1. It is a loss to the neighborhood for sure If you need someone to haul
    stuff around or mulch go cheap, but if you are going to work on or
    near a tree I’d consult a professional. Thanks for the comment!

  2. Some Tibetan Buddhist teachers I have known say that trees do have
    consciousness and they understand that their time is limited here.
    It’s an interesting idea.

  3. VERY well said! I’m a Certified Professional Horticulturist and am constantly trying to get through to people–you get what you pay for! (Not to mention that when homeowners go cheap on hiring landscape maintenance crews, there’s a good possibility they’re not getting legally documented and paid workers, either. Makes it hard for the above-board landscape companies to compete. Aargh! Grrr!)

  4. Thanks, Irene! I’ll be ranting more about some other yard maintenance
    atrocities so I hope you will visit again.

  5. All living things have a spirit and and purpose and we should keep that in mind when we take action. Mistakes are made but we should recognize them and learn from them and do better the next time. Hopefully the landscapers learned from this and will do better in the future.