Estimates, Bids, and Time and Materials (T&M)

Estimates, bids, and time and materials (T&M). I often hear people in the community using these words interchangeably, but in truth these words mean quite different things to the business person who is contracting for services to the public.

Estimates: These are usually given if the potential client wants a price very quickly—just to see if it is within their ball park budget. It is just that, an estimate, and a contractor does not expect to have the client hold them to this price or to the price range. Often, we will give a low and high number as a range to the estimate. This is particularly done if there are a number of unknown challenges or risks involved to implement the task. An example of a common unknown challenge is when one has a break or multiple breaks in an irrigation system due to an accident or severe freezing. We do not have X-ray vision to know how many breaks there are and how many pipes or heads must be dug up and replaced to get the system to work successfully again.

T&M (Time and Materials): Occasionally, after giving an estimate to a client, the client wants to go ahead and have work accomplished. We try to make the client aware of what is included in a T&M job. Normally this does not include a contract. The first step is to sleuth out what needs to be done on site. This time is billed to the job. There may be some cleanup needed with removals involved, this will include labor for a trip to and from the recycle or dump site which is also billed. If a challenge is encountered during the job which needs special tools or equipment, there will be time to travel to purchase the equipment or to return to the shop to fetch it, if we own it, and this time is billed as well. Often, clients will not understand this situation because they want to pay only for the time that they see our employees on their site.

Bid: Most often we offer a bid for a job. This involves a contract which states what is included in the bid. We do our best to include the removals, the trips to and from the dump, the shop, the store and how many days and hours of labor it will require. If something is encountered during the job which is entirely outside of the contract, we will need to stop and give the client a bed price to perform the “additional to contract” work.

In a T&M job, the client takes on the risks of what might happen on the job. In a Bid job, the contractor takes on the risks of what might happen on the job and charges for it. Often it is less expensive for the client to work as a T&M job unless there is something unearthed which is unusually expensive. Most clients prefer a bid for their work as they then have a firm price to expect at the end of the job and they might feel that they do not know the contractor well enough to trust him/her, so they would rather take the risk of paying more for the product, rather than trusting the unknown or unfamiliar business person.

Phil‘s Garden Tips and Tricks for October

It is now the waning days of Summer. The kids are back in school and your commutes have changed as a result. Take a moment as you drive and enjoy the slow change of the seasons. The rainy season will be with us by the end of October! September and October are my two favorite months of the year, for dry but cooler weather and generally sunny skies.

September Gardening Tasks:

  • Slack off on watering in the beds, but water some if your soil is dry. Less water now hardens plants off for winter.
  • Weed. Yes, still.
  • This month and next month are the best months to plant or renovate lawns, particularly as the air gets cooler and before it gets completely cloudy and cold.
  • Bait for slugs.
  • You can begin trimming off the tops of those perennials that have finished blooming and have turned brown to clear up the clutter.
  • Now is a good time to take rhododendron cuttings to start new ones if you are so inclined.
  • September through March are the best months of the year to transplant or plant. The very best month is November.
  • Prepare compost piles for recycling vegetation from garden and deciduous trees this fall. For a more detailed look at what makes good compost, read this blog post on composting.
  • Pick and store winter squash, if ready. This is usually late in September.
  • Use a copper spray for peach and cherry trees during dry periods.
  • Spray for bacterial canker of blueberries, leaf cane spot and juniper twig blight (after pruning away dead and infected twigs) during dry periods.
  • Bring houseplants indoors after cleaning and re-potting if nights get too cool. If possible, keep them out through October.
  • Pick tomatoes and potatoes.
  • September was the last month to plant your winter vegetable garden west of the Cascades. Examples are winter hardy kale, Brussels sprouts, different Italian greens, broccoli, raab, turnips, cabbage, kohlrabi and more.
  • September was also the final month for regular lawn fertilizer application (use a special Fall/Winter mix later in November).

How to Over Seed Your Lawn

The best time for over seeding (filling in bare spots) or just seeding in general is September/October/November or March/April/ May.

  1. Scratch/rough up the bare areas in the lawn with a leaf rake or a hard rake if necessary.
  2. Sprinkle some seed over the bare areas. Cover it about ¼” deep with a grass seed mulch.
  3. Wait about a month to see what happens. If green tiny shoots, like dog hair, begin appearing, you are doing well.
  4. If no green appears—or not enough to create happiness—repeat the performance every three weeks until you have grass.
  5. Keep the bag of grass seed in a cool place (like a garage) over the winter. In the summer put it in a refrigerator. (Watch out for rodents, they love the stuff!)

Phil’s Garden Tips and Tricks for August

It is high summer, and the dry season is at its peak! We have only had one significant rain event since April, making ground moisture very low. Many plants are stressed if they have not had some additional water. Even the native plants do not look their best this year. The forests and meadows are tinder dry, so please be vigilant!

To do this month:

  • Weed. Weeds should be few and far between now that the hot weather is upon us and it has been a long time since it has rained. Do not let weeds go to seed in your yard!
  • Mow regularly.
  • Don’t forget to water. The best time to water is in the early morning using approximately one inch a week on the lawn. Use more if it has been hot and dry. Beds need half that much.
  • Control caterpillars on leafy vegetables, Geraniums and Petunias, as needed, with Bacillus Thuringiensis (BT). It is a natural product.
  • Use mulch to protect ornamentals and garden plants from hot weather damage. For spider mite control on susceptible ornamentals, hose off foliage once a day for three days, once a month in July, August and September. Arborvitae hedges are the most susceptible.
  • This time of the year fleas can inhabit dusty dry areas where suburban wild creatures such as Raccoons, Skunks and Opossums lurk. Fleas that were left from those animals can very easily jump onto your pets or you. Sometimes just watering these areas can drown the fleas, or, sprinkling some food grade Diatomaceous Earth can cause disruptions in their life cycle.

Ask Phil – Spotted Spurge

This month’s “Ask Phil” question comes from J.W. –

Q: I’ve repeatedly picked out low-lying, flat tiny-leafed weeds I believe are called Spurge. They are tenacious, coming back and spreading rapidly. Any ways to combat them?

A: Hi J.W., it is good to hear from you. Spotted Spurge is a difficult weed to control. It is almost impossible to eradicate as the seeds are very tiny and can last several seasons in the soil, waiting to sprout. Here are some suggestions:

  • If you are into non-herbicide weeding, I suggest regular use of the Hula Hoe or similar method on a dry sunny day, before they set seed. That way you can leave them lying there and they will dry up. They set seed when they are bigger, and it is hotter. It is hard to tell if they are setting seed unless you get down and look at them up closely. If they are setting seed, then carefully pull them up and place them in your garbage container and do NOT place them on the ground to dry up.
  • This is a warm-season weed. If you are into herbicide spraying I would suggest using a lawn weed spray with a little Dawn soap in the mix to coat the foliage better. That should kill them, but it must be done repeatedly and do not do this around vegetables or fruits that you will eat. If they are seeding, then it will do NO good, because the seeds are still viable, and will all sprout this summer and next season.
  • Lastly, Spotted Spurge only gets about 2″ tall at most, so it cannot cover up plants that you want. They are just annoying flat to the ground weeds.

What is the name of that plant?

One of the most challenging things that we do as humans is communicate. It is difficult enough to get an idea across to a partner, mate, spouse or family member but it can be impossible to communicate with someone of a different language.

Surprisingly, when it comes to plants, we have a very clear way of communicating with anyone in the world! If someone of a different tongue points to a plant and appears to be asking what its name is, it is easy to tell them—if you know the botanical name. The reason it is easy is that the botanical name is the same in every language of the world.

For example, Coreopsis verticillata ‘Moonbeam’ might be called by many different common names in English; golden daisy or plain’s daisy are two such names. Who knows what the common name for that plant is in Spanish, French or Russian?  However, if we use the Botanical name it is the same in Spanish, French or Russian. Botanical names are always binomial, meaning they have two parts. The first is the Genus—in this case, Coreopsisand is always capitalized. The second name is the Species—verticillataand is never capitalized. The variety that people like to plant here in the Willamette Valley is called ‘Moonbeam’ because it is pale yellow and is not too vigorous. A variety is always capitalized and is enclosed with apostrophes. Most people just call it Coreopsis ‘Moonbeam’. Coreopsis verticillata ‘Moonbeam’ is an herbaceous perennial. That means that it disappears in the winter and comes back every spring.

Helleborus orientalis is an evergreen perennial. That means that it is ever-green, having green leaves all year long. However, it is not woody like a tree or shrub and does not die out or go dormant every year.

If a plant is a hybrid cross—that means two different species have been used to pollinate the plant—it is shown by an X. Rhododendron X ‘Jean Marie de Montague’ is a beautiful slower-growing Rhododendron which came to us as a cross—shown by the cross—of several Rhododendrons. It is always cloned and not propagated by seed. The clone is named ‘Jean Marie de Montague’. It is an evergreen broadleaf shrub. That means it is green all year round and it is shrub-like in growth.

Pseudotsuga menziesii is known commonly as a Douglas fir tree. It is an evergreen coniferous tree, meaning that it is a tree which produces cones and is green all year.

Quercus garrayana is known as Oregon White Oak and is a deciduous broadleaf tree. That means that it loses its leaves in the wintertime.

A plant may have many common names, but each essentially has only one botanical name. Everyone in the world has the capacity to learn it and then use it to communicate with anyone else in the world.

Phil’s Garden Tips & Tricks for July

Summer came more softly this year, it seemed. The days in the 70s and 80s with low humidity and the warmer nights have seemed just perfect for enjoying one’s yard and garden. 

Here are some things to do around your garden this month…

  • Prune shrubs only after they have bloomed unless you are on a rejuvenation project.
  • If the weed is not seeding, you may just leave the up rooted plant right there, most days, and it will dry up and turn into mulch!
  • This is the month that we fertilize lawns with an organic/natural fertilizer.
  • Check for root weevil adult damage on the leaves of rhododendrons and azaleas and decide whether you should use nematodes for their larvae or sticky traps for the adults.
  • Mulch, if you have not already, to conserve soil moisture. This is best done with one of the bark products, or compost.
  • Watch for signs of spider mites on arborvitae hedges (dusty looking foliage, loss of color, presence of tiny mites). These pests can kill a whole hedge. Here is a simple non-chemical method – pick a block of time when you can spray water on the foliage of the plants once a day for three days in a row. Repeat this same practice each month during the dry season. In other words, act like a heavy summer rain and wash them off the foliage!
  • You may cut off the foliage of the Spring bulbs when the tops have browned. If overcrowded, dig, divide and store to replant this fall.
  • Lawns probably need one inch of water per week this month. Beds need ½ inch per week.
  • Stake tall growing annuals or perennials if needed. Dahlias need it!
  • Check for scale insects on camellias, holly, and maple trees.
  • Encourage beneficial insects by planting members of the sunflower family – including zinnias, marigolds, Jerusalem artichokes and others.
  • Stake tomatoes, watch for blight, prune for air circulation, pick off affected leaves.
  • Cover blueberry bushes with netting to keep the robins off.
  • Check leafy vegetables for caterpillar attack.
  • This is the time to begin mid-summer plantings of beets, bush beans, carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, lettuce, kale.
  • End of month: prune the spent fruiting stems of raspberries, boysenberries and other cane berries after harvest.

Use Human Psychology – Expensive vs. Cheap

Spring is the busiest time of the year for anyone in the Horticulture or Landscape Community.

We received a phone call in May from someone who wanted a cleanup because their yard was overgrown and full of weeds. It had been many years since any work had been done.

They said emphatically that they did not want work that was expensive. That was a difficult statement for this landscape company owner to swallow because of course the opposite of expensive is…cheap.  Did they want a “cheap job” done to their yard in the prime time of the year?

We at Winterbloom had an overwhelming amount of work, it being springtime, and would not be able to get to the project until July.  They wanted someone who could do the work pronto. I suggested they call one of the many local landscape trucks in their area.  They had done that, but all of the landscapers were busy.  At that moment, they exclaimed, “Why doesn’t anyone want to help me with my job?!” and hung up!

That caused me to ponder about using the aid of psychology to be supportive in one’s search for help in one’s landscape.

1. If one must call in the Spring for help, say something like, “I will pay EXTRA to get the work done now!”

2. If one really wants a financial deal, wait and call for the work to be accomplished during December through February. That’s when Landscapers are hungry for business, and may be more inclined to charge less.

Phil’s Garden Tips & Tricks for June

Summer starts around the 21st of this month, which means that the sunshine is most effective. Sunshine is the food of photosynthesizing plants! On the 21st the sun is close to vertical in the sky during the day, giving the most food possible to the plants. After the 21st it slowly drops from vertical every day. Always remember that no matter what the TV advertisers say, fertilizer is not, and has never been, food for plants.

  • This is the best month to plant the warm season annuals—flowers or vegetables:  Petunias, Impatiens, Eggplants, Tomatoes, Peppers, Corn, Basil, Cucumbers, etc.
  • Mow regularly: set your lawn mower at the highest setting for the rest of the summer until October. The longer grass helps to shade the roots and keeps the grass greener and healthier.
  • Keep on top of the weeds. The rainy season is over, and it will soon be less work. You can toss the weeds out in the sunny part of the bed (but only those not going to seed!) and they will dry up by the end of the day and not reroot, like they might in the rainy season.
  • Water as needed: one inch per week at least on the lawn, and about half an inch on the shrubs, is a standard rule of thumb.
  • Slug bait is still important. Try to use pet-safe bait.
  • If it is needed, prune flowering shrubs or perennials after they bloom.
  • Check the Rhodies and Azaleas to see if you need to do any weevil control such as nematodes or insect tape. Also, check to see if you have lace bug damage on the leaves. It usually shows up later in the summer.  They suck the Chlorophyll out of the leaf cells and make the leaves look hideous.  They can be somewhat controlled by a predator called Green or Brown Lace Wings, which may be purchased locally.
  • If you want to make your Rhodies bloom more and look neater, it is time to dead head them.
  • Check for Aphids and cabbage worms and act, if needed, on veggies or roses.

Phil’s Garden Tips and Tricks for May

May is the month that has inspired so many poets and song writers over hundreds of years, mostly because here in the Northern Hemisphere it is when many of the deciduous plants put out their foliage and many of the evergreens like Rhododendrons and Camellias put out their blooms. There are many perennials such as Peonies, Campanulas and Dianthus which begin blooming this month. Most of the bulbs of March and April are now finished and the warmer days have returned.

Those who are not so aware of the seasons might think that now is the best time to plant everything. But that is not true. It is the time to plant the vegetable garden, the lettuces, cucumbers and so on. However, the tomatoes and peppers should wait ’till June to really do well, that is when the real, regular warmer weather shows up.

The time to plant shrubs and trees is best done in the latter half of October through March when it is cooler and the rainy season descends. For now, if one plants shrubs and trees, they will need to be babied through this first summer or they will die because we are going into the dry season of our year. As a business we plant all year long because we have jobs all year long, but we have found that planting is the most successful if done in October through March.

The time to plant lawns by seed is April/May and September/October, but these seeds also need to be babied to get rooted and grow. July/August is often very hot and difficult (if not impossible), to get lawns to grow from seed, and the months of November through March are often too cold and wet and the seeds just rot. Often the best alternative is the more expensive but quicker method, laying down sod. Sod can be placed almost anytime of the year in our climate.

There is a cycle to the seasons and a best time for each gardening activity. May is the month for incredible growth of both weeds, (unwanted plants) and wanted plants! Therefore, it is the month to be diligent, but do not allow yourself to get overwhelmed. Simply make sure that the weeds which are preparing to set seed now, are the first to be pulled, and those who are still just thinking about it can be left for next week. Those plants which are going to seed should be put in the debris container. Never throw them on the ground! They will simply place your weed seeds there. The other weeds, which are just green growth and not going to seed, may be placed back in the bed behind some of your plants which you want, as long as the air is dry and they can shrivel. They will then just turn into mulch! If you allow yourself the luxury of NOT pulling the weeds going to seed and play a video game instead, you will be preparing for an even BIGGER onslaught of weeds next year.

Here is the list of Phil’s garden tasks for May…

    • Buy tender annuals and plant outside in your pots or flower beds if you are going to have blooming flowers such as Petunias and Impatiens. When a plant just lives through the growing season it is called an annual.
    • Begin moderate watering of lawns and beds. They begin drying out much more quickly this time of the year. Soak once every two weeks, more often if dry.
    • Fertilize lawn with a natural fertilizer (non-petrochemical).
    • Mow regularly. Set your lawn mower one more setting higher.
    • Thatch and renovate lawn only if you actually need it. If you use totally natural fertilizer, and not petroleum derivatives, you probably will never need to do this step as the earthworms will take care of your thatch and keep your ground, free-draining.
    • Weed.
    • If you have notches in your Rhodie and Azalea leaves you can Begin root weevil control. Safe alternatives are the use nematodes, DE (diatomaceous earth) or sticky traps on trunks of plants.
    • This is the time of the year to fertilize rhododendrons, azaleas and all shrubs that actually need it. If they look good and green and you mulch them they may not need any additional fertilizer. If you are into the neat and tidy look then it is the time to remove spent blossoms on shrubs like Rhodies, which have finished blooming.
    • Prune plants that need it after they flower this month, such as a Rhododendron, if it actually needs it.
    • Plant chrysanthemums now for perennial fall color.
    • Control aphids by washing foliage with soap suds, removing by hand, by pesticides, or by promoting natural predators, such as Ladybugs.
    • Tiny holes in foliage and the appearance of shiny, black beetles on cabbage, and potatoes indicate flea beetle attack or possibly cabbage butterflies. Treat the ground around the stems with DE, spray with BT (bacillus Thuringensis), soapy water; pick them off if you can find them, or all of the above.
    • Control slugs with bait, salt, or by smashing.
    • Begin liquid fertilizing of your new annuals. annuals. Natural organic fertilizer is best. Every two weeks is optimal right after you water.
    • Later in the month, plant these warm season vegetables: tomatoes, peppers, egg plants, snap and lima beans, Brussels sprouts, slicing and pickling cucumbers, dill, kale, pumpkins, summer and winter squash, onions, potatoes.
    • Spray fruit, nut, and shade trees for tent caterpillars, if present.

Be fearless, oh real estate/property owner! Tackle your land and bring it under control. Doing so can easily take the place of paying a gym to work out and it is right there at your finger-tips!

An Invasive Violet for Western Oregon

It is not uncommon for people to ask me about violets which seem to be taking over their yard.

Violets come up in planting beds and lawns in the early spring, with purplish-blue flowers and purple leaves in the sun but darker-green leaves in the shade. They can grow here in Western OR, even in gravely, dry soil where not much else will grow. They are not fragrant.

European Dog Violet
European Dog Violet

This is the European Dog Violet or technically, Viola riviniana ‘Purpurea Group’.  Sometimes V. riviniana plants are sold as Viola labradorica purpurea and sometimes even Viola hederacea, but I am told that those plants are not generally sold or even found growing in the NW.  Buyer beware!

V. riviniana can spread from its running fleshy roots which can plunge rather deeply, making this plant quite drought tolerant.

These plants can out compete smaller plants such as Mentha requenni  and can mar the look of a stand of slightly taller plants such as Ophiopogon p. ‘nigrescens’.  However bigger plants can comingle with no problems.  For instance, the currently invasive common exotic ivy, Hedera helix, can easily quash this violet but then who wants a groundcover of ivy?

V. riviniana can spread easily by seed as they shoot their seeds explosively, up to 8’ away when they are brown and ripe. Therefore, once established, they can become very numerous. On top of that fact, the seeds may stay viable for up to 5 years in the ground.

Some suggested methods of removal are:

  • Covering a densely growing area, where they are to be removed, with cardboard and 2” of bark mulch. Anything that dares to come up from far flung seeds, immediately remove with your handy Hori-Hori! This may take more than one year.
  • Hori Hori
    Phil’s trusty Hori-Hori

    I personally have removed all of my V. riviniana with only a hoe over the past 15 years. If I see one riding piggy back in the potting soil around a plant from a nursery, I immediately dispose of that violet in the garbage, not the compost pile! I wait to plant it in the ground, watching the potted plant and digging out any other unwanted Violets over the course of a year. I have seen several come up around a piggy-backed plant from a nursery!

  • There was a location in my garden, after the 10th year, where violets repeatedly came up from seed or old roots around the base of my largest old Azalea. Ultimately, I crawled on my hands and knees and surgically removed them with my Hori-Hori. They have not returned since.

Plants from the Genus Viola that you may want to cultivate in Western Oregon.   

viola sempervirens
Viola Sempervirens

We have some lovely native violets here in the Pacific NW, but many are robust growing as well. Try them where they will not cover smaller plants and you will be fine. You may find different species on-line. I have grown (and particularly like) a yellow one that is local and evergreen, Viola sempervirens. It is cheery in the spring. It spreads by stolons as well as seeds.

There are plenty of other lovely exotic violets that are not invasive. These Violas include the plants which we commonly call Violas and Pansies  in the nurseries. They have been bred to have large blooms and are available in many colors.

From what I have read, the most fragrant form of this plant is Viola odorata ‘Rosea’,  which is a bright pink form.

Final thoughts:

Clearing a property of Viola riviniana is not a task for the faint of heart.  It requires persistence and boldness and a ready willingness to dig in the rainy season, because that is when it is easiest to pull/dig out of the ground.  In the dry season of summer, it can be almost impossible to extract this Viola from the concrete-like dry ground. Your Hori-Hori is your best friend if you would like to rid yourself of these invasive plants.