As a sole proprietor commissioned to work on steep slopes in inherently risky environments, Garden Cycles cannot assume risks of soil slides/movement which could be due to weather, unknowns of soil characteristics, surface and underground water flow, decades of logging/development/tree and plant removal, and the encroachment of weak-rooted invasive or ornamental plants.

As a “restoration practitioner,” we service mostly difficult slope sites or choose 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 (ivy, holly, laurel, Himalayan blackberry, etc.).

We are licensed, bonded, insured, and insured for personal injury with L&I industrial insurance, which can be verified at: https://secure.lni.wa.gov/verify/. Our herbicide licenses can be verified at: https://agr.wa.gov/pestfert/licensinged/search/. However, 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, 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. 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 (http://www.seattle.gov/DPD/Publications/CAM/cam331.pdf, if applicable).

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 commercial 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 some mortality in restoration, and we therefore try to plant densely to create shade that suppresses weed re-infestations, planning to thin trees later as needed, and letting shrubs and groundcovers battle for space in what we hope will be a native thicket, aesthetically different than ornamental landscaping.

To proceed on any slope work or consultation, I need the landowner to respond to my disclaimer by email acknowledging 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 (with herbicide applications – more efficient/cheaper) vs. conservative restoration (incremental removal of invasives, leaving invasive roots alive until supplanted by native plant establishment) considering the greater cost and the exposed period of slope work (vehicle transport, foot traffic, invasive removal, weight of mulching, planting). With or without proper permitting assumed by the landowner, Garden Cycles employs best-management invasive removal practices to protect against surface erosion (with judicious use of herbicide 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 work will be followed by replanting of native plants and weeding maintenance for 3 -5 years as needed, whether by the land owner, Garden Cycles, or another crew.

Most of Garden Cycles’ work is on larger urban forest acreages for municipal clients. We want to share our expertise with individual landowners, but would be unable if we got bogged down in permitting and customer service that many may expect. To avoid overcharging on bids (to account for unknowns), we work only on a Time & Materials & Mileage basis. We do not offer free estimates, and charge for site visits (consultations) at a higher rate to account for setup/administrative time. We can verbally ballpark a rough estimate, but suggest you set a budget in which we will get as much done as possible at T&M, where you can evaluate our effectiveness day by day. We charge $50/labor hour per crew member and mileage at time & $1/mile, a portion of which goes to carbon offset purchases. We charge $75/hour for Project Management site visits/written estimates (site plan, species list, labor detail), for communications/consultations, or for labor on slopes requiring ropes/rappelling/risk situations, or for rush work.

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