Commercial Landscapers vs. Independent Gardeners

The Gardenator

If the question of having undocumented workers do your gardening is a moral dilemma, have no fear: Gustavo is here to tell the truth (in Spanish). First off, he explains, “Either way, José will probably do the work.”

Licensed Landscapers = “Esos vatos cobran una feria.” Basically, he says, these dudes are more expensive. If you hire a licensed landscaper, you are working with an established business. They have the equipment, the team, and the know-how to do landscaping, patio construction, fences, and driveways. They will charge about three times more than a gardener off the street, but they will guarantee the work.

An Independent Mexican = “Pues, cuesta pero no te lo garantizan.” They cost less, says Gustavo, but nothing is guaranteed. If you hire José directly, you can save more money than a licensed landscaper, but the work is not guaranteed. You hire at your own risk.

Gustavo says gardening is all about word of mouth and proof of workmanship. It’s a referral-based business, so if you like your friends’ or neighbors’ landscaping, ask who does their gardening.

If you’re concerned that licensed landscapers are hiring illegals, it’s really the business owner’s responsibility to guarantee the legality of their employees, not yours. “Qué es tu problema?” asks Gustavo, which roughly translates to “Are you immigration or what?”

Gustavo Uribe is a fifth-generation agricultural specialist who has worked as a professional gardener in Santa Barbara for more than 30 years. Send your gardening questions to


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