As a Limited Liability Company, Garden Cycles LLC is able to accept work on steep slopes in inherently risky environments provided that you, the property owner, have an awareness that – having domain over owned land and any workers you hire – that landowners assume the risks of soil slides/movement which could be due to cumulative factors such as weather, climate change, earthquakes, unknowns of soil characteristics, improperly drained roof runoff, surface and underground water flow from adjacent areas or properties, decades of logging/development/tree and plant removal by current or previous landowners, and the encroachment of weak-rooted invasive or ornamental plants.

As a “restoration practitioner,” Garden Cycles LLC services mostly difficult slope sites or chooses to work with clients who want to maximize their ecological contribution to the urban forest, meaning improving stormwater retention (lawn reductions, re-vegetation and soil improvements), habitat value (native plants), and reducing invasive seed sources (removal of ivy, holly, laurel, Himalayan blackberry, etc.).

We are licensed (GARDECL825RM), bonded, insured, and insured for personal injury with Labor and Industries industrial insurance, which can be verified at: https://secure.lni.wa.gov/verify/. For contracts over $1000, L&I asks customers to sign a disclosure statement to inform the customer of rights to a $6000 bond for valid claims against work, and of a potential lien against your property in case of non-payment of a materials-supplier or subcontractor. A signed statement is not necessary on our behalf because we operate on a pay-as-we-go-Time & Materials basis, and ask for deposits before purchasing materials. Here is a link for your information (https://www.lni.wa.gov/Forms/pdf/F625-030-000.pdf).

Choosing Garden Cycles’ plant expertise and steep-slope “vegetation restoration” needs to be a conscious decision by you, the landowner, weighing tradeoffs between vegetative management and geo-technical engineering (retaining walls, pin piles, etc.). Native vegetation enhancements as preventative measures are less expensive, having little soil-binding benefits in the short term, with increasing benefits starting in 3-5 years and improving with age. Even though we chemically treat invasive stems, leaving roots in the ground to slowly decay, it’s important to note that the transition from shallow-rooted invasive plants entails a risk exposure when roots of native plants have yet to establish, when geo-textile fabrics are the main factor to reduce surface erosion. If the landowner is risk-averse, or if a slope appears precarious, we may advise delaying herbicide treatment of any invasive roots, and begin with planting deeper-rooted natives among the invasive infestation. If a slope is in motion and threatens life or property, call 911. Also consult a qualified geo-technical engineer.

Geo-technical engineering has immediate benefits to address slide concerns beyond Garden Cycles’ capabilities, but the price of reports alone, plus conservative recommendations, could be too costly to implement, suggesting a careful comparison on return on investment. Nonetheless, it’s always a good idea to have soil analysis and perspective from qualified geotechs (http://www.seattlegeotech.org/firms.html), and proper permitting intended to limit overzealous clearing and ensure replanting and proper weeding/maintenance (http://www.seattle.gov/DPD/Publications/CAM/cam331.pdf, if applicable). It’s also important, and the responsibility of the landowner, to inform adjacent landowners of your efforts, and have a consensus moving forward.

Often, geotechs recommend vegetative restoration, and Garden Cycles offers the service of invasive removal and native re-vegetation with aesthetic and wildlife benefits, plus soil-binding qualities that can rival geo-engineering over time. This may be verified, with qualifications, in the Dept of Ecology resource, https://fortress.wa.gov/ecy/publications/documents/9331.pdf.

Know that generally, plants can’t stop a moving slope, but are a preventative measure to reduce the rate of slides. Restoration is usually done with smaller plants that are less expensive, that have a greater likelihood of survival, that grow at a faster rate, and establish better root systems than nursery root-bound plants. 100% plant survival is never guaranteed due to various factors such as soil and sun conditions, and budget for mulch and watering. We expect a percentage of plant mortality in restoration, and we therefore try to plant densely to create shade that suppresses weed re-infestations, planning to thin trees or prune later as needed for views and proper spacing, and letting shrubs and groundcovers battle for space in what we hope will be a native thicket, aesthetically different than ornamental landscaping. We rarely remove organic matter from site (unless diseased or a seed source), rather, we use woody debris as cross-slope nurse logs to slow water and erosion and to build “habitat piles.” We may chip brush for mulch to improve soils and reduce kindling loads.

To proceed on any slope work or consultation, I need you, the landowner, to respond to this email that you understand that there are cost/benefit choices with unknowns, and that you agree to accept risks of soil movement for less-expensive-slower-benefits of vegetation restoration. If you do decide on vegetative restoration, you also need to weigh the costs, risks and permitting requirements for aggressive restoration (herbicide applications that are more efficient/cheaper, leaving decaying roots in the ground to temporarily hold and build soil) vs. conservative restoration (pruning of invasives, leaving invasive stems/roots alive until supplanted by native plants) considering the greater cost and the exposed period of organic slope work (foot traffic, maintenance weeding, weight of mulching, excessive commuting).

Garden Cycles is a licensed herbicide applicator which can be verified at: https://agr.wa.gov/pestfert/licensinged/search/). With or without proper permitting assumed by the landowner, Garden Cycles employs best-management practices assuming that invasive removal (usually with judicious use of herbicide) will be followed by the application of erosion control materials (matting blankets, jute, burlap, wood straw, constructed wood/mulch, and coir or straw wattles) and assumes that removal/erosion protection work will be followed by replanting of native plants, plus weeding maintenance for 3 -5 years as needed, whether by the land owner, Garden Cycles, or another crew.

Please note that Garden Cycles cannot accept risks of mishaps from the delivery of woodchips. You may request free or low cost arborists’ woodchips at: https://getchipdrop.com (follow their directions carefully). Quantity and quality varies, and the date of delivery is never guaranteed – it depends on your bid offer that bumps you up the queue, whether tree service crews are in the vicinity, the size of their load (no partial dumps), whether you have a spot clearly marked, free of overhead wires, and open for the duration until the load is delivered, from days to months, sometimes not at all. Garden Cycles may also purchase a woodchip delivery at a price for a more dependable quantity and delivery date.

Most of Garden Cycles’ work is in urban forests, employing large crews for municipal clients. We strive to share our expertise with individual landowners, but must prioritize our large clients in peak seasons. To account for our time managing and communicating with individual clients, and to avoid over-estimating (to account for unknowns and incidental time), we work only on a Time & Materials & Mileage basis. We do not offer free estimates, and charge a minimum 4 hrs for site visits (consultations) at a higher rate to account for setup/administrative time. We can ballpark a rough estimate, but suggest you set a budget that covers Best Practice basics (invasive removal, erosion protection, replanting and plant maintenance), and we will get as much done as possible at T&M, where you can evaluate our effectiveness every invoice, typically sent monthly. We charge $55/labor hour per crew member and mileage at road-time plus $1/mile, a portion of which goes to carbon offset purchases. We charge $75/hour for Consultation site visits/written estimates (site plan, species list, labor detail), for communications/consultations and any time spent on complications, or for labor on slopes requiring ropes/rappelling/risk situations, or for rush work.

Please email gardencycles@hotmail.com with an acknowledgement that affected landowners accept all risks of commissioning our work.

Steven K. Richmond
Sole officer: Garden Cycles LLC

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