Penny Wise



"Penny wise, pound foolish." It is human nature, and Maine tradition, to want "a deal". Inexpensive restaurants thrive while gourmet establishments with great food fail. Dollar stores stay in business while those with top quality products do not. But how can you know when something is too good to be true?

Nurseries are generally, by their nature, tied to the community with a large investment in land and a strong need to protect their reputations by dealing fairly with the public. If you have concerns, a call to the Better Business Bureau can alleviate them. At this time of year, sales are common in order to reduce inventory going into winter. Realizing that there is more risk planting this time of year is important. Plants have been above ground for the summer and are stressed by having roots exposed to heat. The best-looking and healthiest specimens have already been sold earlier in the season. You will need to thoroughly saturate the ground and keep your bargain plants well watered until the end of October. An anti-dessicant should be applied to most evergreens to prevent drying of foliage in the winter. Mulching, without covering branches or stems can also help.

Landscape contractors vary widely in services they offer and expertise. References, membership in trade organizations, and a call to the Better Business Bureau are good places to start in choosing a contractor. Getting four quotes is also a good idea. You may be lucky enough to find a knowledgeable landscaper starting a new business that is the lowest bidder, trying to make a name for himself. But, there are no good shortcuts to proper planting. For example, not cutting wire baskets off the rootball can save as much as ten minutes per plant. Usually, there is a reason for the cheapest bid.

Some questions you should ask:

1. How long have the bidders been in the horticultural field?
2. How much material are they using?
3. What is their planting procedure?
4. Do they stake trees? Do they backfill with loam and compost? (Approx. 1 yard for a 3" caliper tree.) Do they fertilize or use any other amendments?
5. Do they have a guarantee?
6. Do they cover the plants during transport?
7. Can you see the plants they will be installing? (Before committing )

With the cost of plants rising due to labor and fuel increases, plants are no longer inexpensive investments. You should expect an average landscaped yard to be 5-10% of the value of a new home, depending on size of walkways, plants, and quality of the lawn. A decent foundation planting may be $3000.

Do not be afraid to ask lots of questions. Take advantage of sales, but don't buy something, or hire someone, just because they are cheap.


© Shaker Hill Nursery
Poland Spring, Maine
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