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Old 20.02.2013, 12:14
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Getting a gardening firm for earthworks: advice

My husband and I have bought our dream house, and have a budget to landscape the garden into a paradise for geese (rather than the somewhat overbuilt, overgrown-with-uninteresting-vegetation wasteland it is at the moment). It's a big garden and we expect to pay around CHF 100k for the work we want done, which includes structural improvements to the terrace and the slope and removal of foundations for random buildings which don't have planning permission.

We're considering two local gardening firms who say they could do the work in the next five months. One is a young guy who came round in wellies and overalls, looked round the garden in detail, asked relevant questions, took away the rough measurements we've made and came back with a detailed cost proposal. It is quite high (CHF 136k) but includes a number of things we don't need done, carefully itemised, so we think we can get it down to near budget and have got back to him asking if that would be possible.

The other seems to be a slightly bigger firm, and we had a salesman round today. Shiny shoes, suit, didn't actually go into the garden. He seems reasonably knowledgeable and had some good ideas about what we could do, but wants CHF 2.5k for detailed measurements before he will actually give a quote. His firm could do the work a bit sooner (which would be good) but the measurements and proposal would take a month, by which time the other guy is likely to have filled his calendar.

Which would you go for? I don't necessarily mind paying CHF 2.5k for detailed planning work before hearing a quote and I understand that is fairly normal for Switzerland, but I'd rather work with a smaller firm employing fewer middlemen, and I'd rather not pay CHF 2.5k to hear a ridiculously high quote.
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Old 20.02.2013, 12:24
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Re: Getting a gardening firm for earthworks: advice

Which firm is registered and operated out of the gemeinde??

You will get lots of local respect if you opt for the local guy (taking out the bits you don't need) - and if you intend to stay for a long time that might be worth more than saving a few CHF
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Old 20.02.2013, 12:50
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Re: Getting a gardening firm for earthworks: advice

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Which firm is registered and operated out of the gemeinde??

You will get lots of local respect if you opt for the local guy (taking out the bits you don't need) - and if you intend to stay for a long time that might be worth more than saving a few CHF
Neither - the gemeinde firms took one look at our garden and said 'that is too big and your plans are not pretty enough for us'.
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Old 20.02.2013, 12:53
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Re: Getting a gardening firm for earthworks: advice

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Neither - the gemeinde firms took one look at our garden and said 'that is too big and your plans are not pretty enough for us'.
Think long and hard about it then!

This is Switzerland - every village is "local". They like keeping it that way. If the village you are in is relatively small - and you expect to hang around - you may want to sit down with them and work out WHAT they suggest - and how that fits with your ideas/plans.

I know this sounds daft BUT when we bought our house we made damn sure we got the nosy biddy next door on side (and also the (now dead) old guy across the road). They were village stalwarts - and made sure when we needed stuff/help it was sorted without hassle.
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Old 20.02.2013, 13:16
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Re: Getting a gardening firm for earthworks: advice

Pavanne, is your property in the Landwirtschaftszone?

If so, you also need to check cantonal regulations. LWZ is generally regulated at the cantonal level, and regs often far exceed Gemeinde restrictions. Gardening in the LWZ can be tricky, as you have soil and drainage issues, certain types of plantings might not not allowed, certain species might be restricted, some might need the agreement of neighboring farmers, etc. Additional permits might be needed. Any garden design or work outside the scope of agricultural use (i.e., grazing) would need to keep LWZ rules as they apply to your property in mind.

So... if you are in the LWZ, then go with the firm that is on good terms with the cantonal office. As well as the Gemeinde. (If you are not in the LWZ, then ignore the above.)

But that aside - I'd go with the first firm.

I instinctively distrust any salesman in shiny shoes - let alone one selling gardening services. A true plantsman has dirt under his fingernails. Go with the guy in wellies.

That the guy from the second firm didn't really go into the garden would worry me - regardless of how good his ideas were, you need a garden plan that fits the property - ideas must be adapted to the lay of the land - which requires a fair bit of traipsing around.

Also - I like that the first guy came up with a decent quote without charging you for the Offerte. So in my book he wins on two points of principle.
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Old 20.02.2013, 13:21
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Re: Getting a gardening firm for earthworks: advice

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Which would you go for? I don't necessarily mind paying CHF 2.5k for detailed planning work before hearing a quote and I understand that is fairly normal for Switzerland, but I'd rather work with a smaller firm employing fewer middlemen, and I'd rather not pay CHF 2.5k to hear a ridiculously high quote.
Have you seen websites and/or photos of their previous work?

Have a look and that may help you decide. If the gardens they have worked on are visible then go and have a look at those too.

If they don't have any examples that they can show you then I'd be concerned.
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Old 20.02.2013, 13:23
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Re: Getting a gardening firm for earthworks: advice

I would also be *extremely* cautious that you have the full approval from the Gemeinde, and you stage your work over time and have a clear 'exit' point if things are not working out the way you wanted...

100K is a lot of money to later discover that you've not followed the right protocols, and now have to re-do it because it's not quite the way it should be...
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Old 20.02.2013, 13:54
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Re: Getting a gardening firm for earthworks: advice

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Pavanne, is your property in the Landwirtschaftszone?
No. Bauland and Uferschutzone. We've done a preliminary check with the Bauamt and it should be fine in principle.
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Old 20.02.2013, 13:56
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Re: Getting a gardening firm for earthworks: advice

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Think long and hard about it then!

This is Switzerland - every village is "local". They like keeping it that way. If the village you are in is relatively small - and you expect to hang around - you may want to sit down with them and work out WHAT they suggest - and how that fits with your ideas/plans.

I know this sounds daft BUT when we bought our house we made damn sure we got the nosy biddy next door on side (and also the (now dead) old guy across the road). They were village stalwarts - and made sure when we needed stuff/help it was sorted without hassle.
Oh, I don't think it was 'this is not suitable for this village', it was 'we are not the sort of gardening firm that does this sort of work'. One of them suggested one of the other firms we are now speaking with instead.

And yes, we're working very hard to stay on good terms with the neighbours, because the only reason we're living in the arse end of nowhere is so we can keep geese.
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Old 20.02.2013, 21:40
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Re: Getting a gardening firm for earthworks: advice

For the amount that you are planning on spending, I would be tempted to pay for some professionally drawn up plans which you could to obtain quotations from various contractors. This would also help to avoid any possible dispute later because everything would be clear. If the document you get for 2500 Fr. is to be a neutral and complete specification of the proposed works, then I would seriously consider getting that as the first step.
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Old 20.02.2013, 21:58
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Re: Getting a gardening firm for earthworks: advice

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My husband and I have bought our dream house, and have a budget to landscape the garden into a paradise for geese (rather than the somewhat overbuilt, overgrown-with-uninteresting-vegetation wasteland it is at the moment). It's a big garden and we expect to pay around CHF 100k for the work we want done, which includes structural improvements to the terrace and the slope and removal of foundations for random buildings which don't have planning permission.
Aside from planning permission, you would be well advised to check with the local Tierschutz about the rules regarding the keeping of geese. You may require special fencing and there may be rules about how many you can keep, how much space they need, etc.

The last thing you want to find out after having spent a great deal of money is that something doesn't meet their approval.

Having looked into building an aviary, one thing I have learned is nothing here is ever simple.

I agree with others about using local tradespeople whenever possible. You will quickly earn respect and acceptance in the community by showing you support the local businesses.

Good luck with your project. I hope you will post some pics when it is completed.
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Old 20.02.2013, 22:02
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Re: Getting a gardening firm for earthworks: advice

Geese are very noisy - our neighbour in the UK used to keep gueese- lovely but VERY noisy - so I can imagine you may come up with a lot of resistance in a residential area.
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Old 21.02.2013, 10:57
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Re: Getting a gardening firm for earthworks: advice

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Aside from planning permission, you would be well advised to check with the local Tierschutz about the rules regarding the keeping of geese. You may require special fencing and there may be rules about how many you can keep, how much space they need, etc.
Have checked with the national ones (before embarking on this project) and the Geflügelzuchtverein, and hopefully the local Tierschutz won't have very different rules. You don't actually need special fencing by law, but we want foxproof fencing anyway as we're not going to be able to put them to bed by dusk every night. You need 300 square metres of good grazing per pair (we have 1900 square metres and plan to have two pairs and breed a small batch each summer) and water of at least 60cm depth. You are not allowed to keep a single goose (which is good, because that is a tragedy). Basically, it's common sense if you have kept geese before (which I have).

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The last thing you want to find out after having spent a great deal of money is that something doesn't meet their approval.
To be honest, it's too late for that... we already bought the house. These are going to be effectively the most expensive geese ever, I know (and they have practically no monetary value).

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Having looked into building an aviary, one thing I have learned is nothing here is ever simple.
Ironically, we have an aviary - about 6 metres long by 3 metres wide by 2 metres high, concrete foundations - which we're going to demolish to make more grazing and because the former owner didn't have planning permission for it.

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I agree with others about using local tradespeople whenever possible. You will quickly earn respect and acceptance in the community by showing you support the local businesses.
One thing I have't got my head round is what is 'local'. Both these firms come from villages less than 10km away. In a small Swiss village, it seems like that is like bringing in people from the Far East to do the work. But we did ask the village firms first, they just seem to be more 'we decorate your garden' firms than 'we do major earthworks and create a field' firms.


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Good luck with your project. I hope you will post some pics when it is completed.
Will do, thanks
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Old 21.02.2013, 11:00
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Re: Getting a gardening firm for earthworks: advice

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Geese are very noisy - our neighbour in the UK used to keep gueese- lovely but VERY noisy - so I can imagine you may come up with a lot of resistance in a residential area.
It took us a long time to find a house where all the neighbours have noise-making animals, too, but we managed it. It's not really a residential area, so the noise regulations are more lax.

We made a point of holding an apero to get to know the neighbours so at least there should be nothing they can't talk about with us. They're not bothered by the local roosters, dogs or church bells (which are VERY loud from our garden). So I think they're OK.
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Old 21.02.2013, 11:02
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Re: Getting a gardening firm for earthworks: advice

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Have you seen websites and/or photos of their previous work?

Have a look and that may help you decide. If the gardens they have worked on are visible then go and have a look at those too.

If they don't have any examples that they can show you then I'd be concerned.
I think 'websites' and 'local firms' here are a contradiction.
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Old 21.02.2013, 11:30
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Re: Getting a gardening firm for earthworks: advice

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I think 'websites' and 'local firms' here are a contradiction.

Agreed, but it's getting better. One local firm we used for some garden supplies - a really nice family business, was amazed about how much extra business had been generated from their recently updated website.
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