Words of Advice from G&G Landscaping

As we welcome the early days of New England spring, many of us will turn our sights to our yards. While we begin to think about plans for spring cleanup or larger scale projects to boost curb appeal and increase outdoor entertainment value during the warmer months, it’s important to keep in mind that DIY is not the best approach for every person or every project.


If you want a quality project that is going to last, it needs to be done by someone with the right knowledge and experience,” explains Brian Gagnon, co-founder and owner of G&G Landscape. “For proper installation, it’s imperative to understand the importance of each step to not only create something that is beautiful, but also something that is going to last.”


The DIY Boom

The COVID-19 pandemic changed the way consumers were making purchases, and landscaping products received a huge boost from the ensuing DIY boom. A 2021 study, conducted by the American Society for Horticulture Science, indicates that Millennials and younger consumers who did not garden prior to the pandemic became the largest growing demographic in 2020 and after. With less money being spent on travel or outside-of-the-home activities, consumers instead opted for the safer alternative of entertaining in home outdoor spaces.

The study states: “Homeowners invested in improving both the aesthetics and functionality of outdoor spaces—adding hardscaping to expand the amount of usable space, garden beds, and pots to grow food, and outdoor structures and decorative products like water features to optimize the ‘staycation’ experience.”

With newfound time on our hands, home and garden shows escalating in TV ratings, and the scenery of home becoming a constant sight, DIY seemed to be the solution that checked all the boxes of the time. However, home improvement projects can often appear simple enough – until you dive into the details.

“The biggest thing with DIY, especially what is shown on TV, is people aren’t taking into consideration that we have a different climate in Maine than what they are seeing or reading about,”  says Gagnon. “They don’t realize how much work is involved with doing it right.”


A seasonal approach

Living in a region that experiences all four seasons presents a challenge for anyone attempting a landscaping project. Accounting for year-round weather with wide-ranging temperature highs and lows—especially the lows—is one of the biggest hurdles.

“From a hardscaping standpoint, freezing temps are the most difficult obstacle,” Gagnon shares. “Accounting for movement while building a walkway or patio is one of the greatest challenges, especially while maintaining competitive pricing and product in an area with multiple freeze and thaw cycles.”

Climate considerations, as well as underground utilities such as septic systems, greatly impact the amount of material and level of work required to complete an outdoor project.

“In our climate, we need to dig a minimum of 12 inches to accommodate a pedestrian walkway or patio—that includes eight inches for gravel, one inch for sand or bedding, and the rest for the paving surface, not something most people want to do by hand,” Gagnon explains.  “Even the new material going back in will need to be graded properly to allow water to drain and for proper compaction.”


Knowledge is power

Perhaps one of the greatest factors to consider when embarking upon an outdoor project in our region of Maine is the subsoil, again due to compaction. For Gagnon and other professional landscapers, the most significant source of repair projects is failed DIY attempts, as homeowners do not know the differences and importance of compaction and stabilization in the soils being used.

Even from a planting perspective, a good amount of knowledge is required for a DIY project to be successful. Just like people, every plant is different. Some like shade, while others don’t. Some need more or less sunlight and water. Certain plants can withstand wind, while others won’t survive, and for some, tolerance for salt in the air or from the road is an important consideration.

“A lot of times, homeowners will buy small plants, things that look good now, but a few years down the road, the bed is overgrown and difficult to maintain,” Gagnon shares. “Without accounting for growth and spacing needs, the plants are placed too close together or in a manner that won’t make sense once the plants have matured.”


Hardscaping or landscaping?

So, what exactly is hardscaping versus landscaping?  Though many people have at least a basic understanding of their property’s exterior needs or an idea of the aesthetics they’d like to achieve, the terms landscaping and hardscaping are sometimes used interchangeably. While a property’s landscape refers to care for lawns and gardens such as mulching, leveling ground, and installing plants, the hardscape consists of driveways, walkways, patios, and wherever construction occurs.

Although a hardscaper typically works under a landscaper, not all professionals take the same approach. With variations in what is considered common practice, differences in opinion on what is aesthetically pleasing, and different areas of expertise, it’s important to have an open, introductory discussion with a company to make sure your vision and goals are aligned.

“I typically look to get feedback on what the owner likes for plants and incorporate those into what I think is the best design,” Gagnon shares. “A lot of landscapers don’t have plant knowledge and their focus may be on maintenance versus installation. In those cases, it’s important to rely on the nursery to provide guidance on the best product.”


Full-service menu

As with many trades, not all landscapers specialize in each facet of the profession. Many customers are surprised to learn that G&G Landscape offers fertilization and pest control services.

“These services tend to be provided by companies focused on those alone,” explains Gagnon. “We are not the majority here—many landscapers are not licensed to do fertilizers and pest control, so we do a fair amount of contracting for those services.”

Thinking outside of the box when it comes to services offered is part of what keeps G&G Landscape a year-round business. Pest and some levels of rodent control are provided throughout the year, as well as winter landscape services that include snow and ice management.

“Our pest technicians conduct five visits to homes throughout the year,” Gagnon explains. “Each visit is timed specifically with different products for different pests: weeds, grubs, etcetera. It’s all planned throughout the season.”


Striking balance

While these smaller services keep G&G Landscape busy through the winter months, the majority of services offered are seasonal.

“We typically begin right around April first for spring cleanup— cleaning debris off lawns and out of plant beds, adding new mulch, and cleaning sand out of parking lots,” says Gagnon.

Spring cleanup usually concludes the first week of June with mowing season kicking off in early May and continuing through mid-October. The months of July and August are dedicated to pruning shrubs and trees. Overseeding and aerating—a process of perforating the soil with small holes to allow air, water, and nutrients to penetrate the grass roots, alleviating soil compaction and resulting in a stronger lawn —follows. Fall cleanup begins with cutting back flowers and picking up leaves until the winter season begins and pest services continue.

“Our workloads are very imbalanced from season to season,” Gagnon explains. “Sometimes in the spring, we barely have a moment to stop and breathe because it’s so busy. In the winter, where we only plow or salt every four or five days, we find ourselves paying employees to clean and paint equipment just to get them the hours they need to stay with us.”



Hardscape Patio -Shutterstock
Maine Hardscapes G&G Landscaping - Stock Photo
Hardscaping and landscaping - Shutterstock

25 years and counting

Today, G&G Landscape is a well-oiled machine with a year-round plan, but the company didn’t begin that way. In 1998, Gagnon, with the help of just one other employee, started his business predominantly performing lawn-mowing services along with some spring and fall cleanup mixed in. A few years later, Gagnon completed the company’s first installation project: a small planting on an embankment.

“It was around that time that my older brother joined me, and a customer asked if we could repair a paver walkway,” shares Gagnon. “Over time, we really started to enjoy designing, and then creating different hardscape and landscape projects—everything from basic walkways to outdoor kitchens and pool patios—and then those projects really became our focus.”

For the next decade, the Gagnon brothers focused primarily on hardscape and landscape installations while landscape maintenance, still a provided service, took a backseat.

“My brother and I were very hands-on with installations, so any managerial duties were tended to in the evenings so we could spend our days in the field,” Gagnon states. “As the company grew, it became increasingly more difficult for us to run the business and continue installing ourselves.”


Necessary evil to service success

Finding someone to lead installation duties with the same attention to detail as the owners proved to be a challenge. In 2018, G&G Landscape made the decision to cease installing hardscapes and return to the company’s original model of landscape management with a growing focus on what had previously been a smaller component of the business: snow and ice control.

“Snow and ice management had always been a service we provided, but it was somewhat of a necessary evil, if you will,” shares Gagnon. “We started selling ice melt products to a few other contractors in 2015, and by 2018, it had grown to the point where it was difficult for us to manage our plowing and salting while servicing our ice melt customers.”

In 2019, G&G Landscape, with the guidance of fabricators and other experts, designed, built, and installed a self-service ice melt dispensing system as a solution to alleviate some of the manpower previously required to provide their ice melt service. The innovation was successful—today, 50% of the company’s revenue is comprised of winter sales and services.


Improvements – from technology to perception

Innovations in the sector are not exclusive to G&G Landscape —advancements in equipment and technology have drastically evolved over the last decade, especially with improvements in efficiency. GPS devices in salt spreaders can now control salt usage by more precisely dialing into the correct amount of salt required for the conditions, and software specific to the service market can now better track labor and scheduling needs.

Despite these advancements, landscaping services have sometimes been valued differently than other professions.

“Landscape was always perceived by most as a basic service—the knowledge and experience just haven’t been viewed the same as it would for an electrician or HVAC technician,” Gagnon explains. “What often seems to be overlooked is the amount of equipment needed to perform some of these services, as well as the expertise to perform them properly and efficiently—although over the last few years, people are really starting to recognize the value in hiring a professional.”


Finding the one

So, what would be the first step in hiring a landscaping service? According to Gagnon, the best approach is the same as with hiring any professional—ask for references. For someone looking for plant installations, the best place to start would be a local nursery. For hardscaping needs, the supply house would be able to provide recommendations on who they would use.

The final piece of advice for choosing a landscape and hardscape company—make sure the company has the right certifications in line for the work you are seeking, and if the certified person will be on-site daily.

For Gagnon and G&G Landscape, the progression of the business side and consumer side of landscaping has moved in parallel.

“Our business has certainly evolved over the years,” he shares, adding, “it continues to grow in that direction—more than ever, people are really starting to recognize the value in hiring a professional to bring their landscaping projects to life.”


G&G Landscaping

Lewiston |