If you don't intend to build the garden yourself, you are ready to invite quotations from landscaping contractors.

You should choose at least three contractors who will give you a quote. Make copies of your plan for each of them. Even though you have made a scaled drawing, you should cover yourself with your contractors by advising them to carry out their own survey of your garden. Most contractors will want to do this anyway.

You can choose a landscaper who will handle the complete build, including purchasing the materials. He or she will charge you a small premium for materials handling but it is usually worth it. Alternatively, you can split the work and choose contractors who specialise in different areas - for example, a joiner to build your deck, a turf supplier to lay your lawn. You can also choose to save a little money by supplying all the materials yourself, thus cutting out the middle man. Beware of this route. You will need to be absolutely sure of your calculations because contractors will have a right to charge you for their time if they turn up to do work and the correct materials are not to hand.

How you choose your contractor is up to you but you should not base your decision on price alone. A short conversation with your landscaper will reveal whether or not he has knowledge and experience of similar jobs. You should ask to see a portfolio of their work or, if possible, visit a garden they have built in the past. Don't be afraid to question your contractor's crudentials - a good contractor won't mind you doing this.

Once you have made your choice, you should draw up a simple contract. This will protect both you and your landscaper. Your landscaper should at least sign a copy of the plan and a copy of the specifications.


If you are going to build the garden yourself, you need to do some careful planning before you start.

Start with a plan of works. This is a list of all the jobs you will do, in the order in which you will carry them out. The plan of works will help you to timetable your materials ordering. That way, you won't have materials lying around causing an obstruction for longer than is necessary.

Using the plan of works as your guide, you should try to anticipate what tools you will need for each of the jobs. There's nothing worse than starting a job and discovering you don't have the correct tools. Once you have your list of tools, you can buy, borrow or hire them so that they are available at the correct time.

Lastly, you should draw up a materials list, including quantities. If you are in doubt, you could try taking your plan into your builder's merchants and asking them to advise you. Remember, you don't just need to include the obvious materials such as paving, decking, turf, etc. You also need to include the base materials - sand, cement and possibly ballast for paving; posts, concrete, membrane and screws for decking; and topsoil or sand for turf.

If you need help with any aspect of this course, tutorial support is available for subscribers to Gardenzine only.

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