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In London, Victoria Day marks the unofficial start to the patio season, the time to enjoy your outdoor living space for the next four months before the temperatures start to dip again and the leaves begin to fall again. The winter coats and boots are moved into the storage closet….out come the runners, sandals and flip-flops.

I'm going outside to get the season started. Hmmmm the patio is looking pretty rough. I don't remember those rotten boards last year....Oh yes I do, I painted over them so I would not have to look at the rot. I guess I should have used better paint. The patio looks just like the fence now.

My lawn looks like an abandoned property with bare spots and all those dandelions that are laughing at me since the city banned Weed and Feed! What are those other sprouting things? They were not there last year as I would have remembered if I had planted new trees. Oh, just weeds. Lots to be done, starting with cutting that hedge. Wait a minute, I don’t have a hedge. More weeds.

Time for a rest, I need to think about this outdoor wonderland. Get that plastic wrap off the patio chairs and the table. Look at that, some mice or whatever have nested in the chairs' fabric over the winter. If they were mice, then they were really BIG mice judging by the size of the holes in the cushions. I wonder what time the dump closes.

Time to take charge and tame this jungle. The lawn mower didn't fit in the garage once the snow blower was moved in so it was wrapped in plastic and parked around the side of the house. The side I don't go to unless absolutely necessary. It is now necessary. Not good. The plastic sheet now covers just the right front wheel and the rest is draped over the fence hanging in my neighbours' yard. Hmmm more rust than last year. Hope it starts. First pull. The starter rope breaks and I fall backwards into another spot with no grass but lots of mud. I probably need a new mower.

Some or all of this sound too familiar? Canadians spend just over $4 billion per year on making their outside living space livable. It's a huge business and with our aging population, the number of companies providing seeding, fertilizing, mowing, planting, trimming, edging, irrigation, accent lighting, pruning, deck, fence and shed construction and driveway renovations is growing so rapidly. Maybe you are ready to pass on this work to the pros.

Yes there are literally hundreds of companies in London offering a wide range of services to beautify your outdoor living space. There lays the solution and potential problems. Let's talk landscapers. If you have made the decision to hire a landscaper to do your yard work this summer, here are some tips that could save you time, money and a lot of aggravation.

Just as with any product or service: Buyer Beware.

If it as simple as just basic weekly mowing and year end leaf raking, perhaps there is an enterprising neighbourhood kid that would be a good worker at a fair price.

At the other end of the scale, you may want the perfect lawn, with topiary shrubs and weed-free flowerbeds then a more full-service operation is probably what you need in the way of landscape maintenance.

Also, some of you may have very firm environmental demands. There are landscapers that do use non-gas powered equipment and/ or absolutely no chemicals. You will pay a premium so again, you need to be clear on exactly what you expect.

Some suggestions:

a. Look for a company that has been in business for at least a few years. Yes, we all want to give new businesses an opportunity but landscaping is an art and not something you are great at right away.

b. A reputable company is one that will provide you with several references and please check the references.

c. You may see a company working at a home that you have always noticed their immaculate lawn and gardens. Stop and talk to them and ask them to provide you a quote.

d. If you see a company that has newer looking equipment on a well-organized landscape trailer, this is good indication. If they take care of their own equipment it's a sign of pride.

e. If you know the people that run the local Toro, Stihl, Husqvarna or John Deere dealerships, ask them for their suggestions. They sell the best in professional landscaper equipment so they know who the good ones are.

f. Get written quotes, not just one but three or more. This gives you a good sample of the range of prices. Do not necessarily go with the cheapest service. You can find out if various companies offer to care for your yard for a week at a time to see how each service does. The cheapest may not always be the best deal, but you should hire the best that fits into your landscape budget.

g. Make sure you find out what their policy is on redoing work that does not meet your satisfaction. Make sure that your landscaping maintenance service is willing to fix mistakes and that they are willing to do a little extra pruning if they missed a few branches.

These suggestions apply to finding the right landscaper for your needs but the same suggestions apply for your search for the right people to build your deck, your fence, fix your patio and driveway or install an automatic sprinkler.

Taking the time equals piece of mind.

Enjoy your spring and summer!