With summer upon us and warm temperatures abounding, one of the main concerns of housing cooperatives is how to maintain attractive and affordable lawns. It’s time to weed, fertilize, remove moss, and reseed to create “curb appeal”.

For housing cooperatives, this means that the landscape contractor has also been busy readying the irrigation system, doing drainage corrections, removing and replacing dead plants, sweeping, blowing, and mowing. There is a lot to know about how to properly landscape cooperative grounds, and it is important to recognize the difference between “mow and blow artists” aka “lawnscalpers” and true landscape contract professionals.

The lawnscalper is basically a guy with nominal tools and practice. He typically does an acceptable lawnmowing job but lacks the training or understanding on integrated landscape management of one of a housing cooperative’s most precious resources.

A true landscape expert has an artist’s eye, a horticulturist’s training and a manager’s organization to make certain that your landscaping thrives through good weather and bad. Regardless of the adverse weather conditions, the landscape professional has refined ways to keep it looking its best.

Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind when interviewing landscape contractors:
Determine capabilities. Besides the regular services, some landscape contractors install hardscapes like retaining walls, drainage and irrigation systems which are integral to the overall job.

Check credentials. Potential vendors should have either an education in Ornamental Horticulture or several years of job experience. Look for membership in national or state landscape associations, which indicates a desire for excellence and constant improvement. Ask for a list of references and professional affiliations. Look for licensing, certification and insurance. If state law mandates, the company should be licensed or certified. Licensing offers higher accountability and guarantees the level of aptitude required by state requirements.

Level of maintenance. Do you have a low maintenance landscape or a high impact design with seasonal plants, intricate pruning and shaping, and pest control requirements?

Check insurance. Proof of insurance for workers’ compensation, liability and vehicles should be available to you. Remember to check for limits and policy expiration.

Review the contract. Your landscape maintenance contract should have a detailed yearly timetable to handle every aspect of the job.

Share the work. Some housing cooperatives have members that like to do certain aspects to reduce carrying costs. Discuss with your board what options you may have.