Sooner or later, many gardeners have to hire a helper. I think Idaho law requires people operating power equipment be at least 16 years old. In this day it’s very difficult to find helpers over 16 who are willing to venture outdoors (without skateboards) or who know a fly from a bumblebee. But if you can find one, here are some guidelines for him or her:
1. Arrive on the agreed-upon day and time. If you can’t make it then, let the gardener know.
2. Listen to the gardener’s instructions. If you’ve heard of a different way of doing the same task, tell the gardener. If the gardener still wants to do it his/her own way, do it that way. He/she may not want to go into detail about why they want it done that way, but just do it, provided it’s safe for you to do.
3. If a lawnmower gets clogged, NEVER put your fingers near the blade to unclog it, even if it’s turned off and the spark plug is unplugged. It’s just waiting for unclogging to complete its cycle and remove your fingers.
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4. Never mow areas you were not told to mow. It may look weedy, but those weeds may be harboring special insects or disease organisms that will benefit the gardener’s yard.
5. Do not bang mower against trees, and do not use weed whackers around trees.
6. Do not kill insects, spiders or other creatures unless the gardener asks you to.
7. No gardener should ask a helper to spray toxic chemicals such as Roundup or 2,4-D, but if he/she does ask you, politely decline and go look for another job.
8. If you get a tool out of a tool shed, please shut the door instead of letting the heavy door hang on hinges. Once you’re finished with that tool, put it back where you got it from.
9. Do not use hand pruners on thick woody limbs, and never wiggle hand pruners to force a cut. Ask instead for loppers or a pruning saw if you must remove wood that’s too thick for hand pruners, such as a half-inch thick or more.
10. Never remove lower limbs of shrub or tree, especially fruit trees, without first getting permission.
11. When transplanting, put water in hole before planting, and make sure it’s draining. Water new transplants to make sure there’s no air pocket next to the roots. If roots are encircling inside the pot tease them apart or cut the roots vertically in two or three places, then tease roots outward before transplanting. Do not waste water, especially if gardener is on metered service.
11. Be sure ID tag stays with plant.
12. Be respectful of plantings and equipment. That means do not sacrifice one flower to save another, do not step on raised beds or ground level planted densely, and do not destroy hoses with mower. If you accidentally cut a hose, tell the gardener and apologize.
13. Be aware that a shovel works to sever roots when thrust laterally. You don’t have to dig up all plants, but annual plants die if they’re separated from their roots.
14. If you’re going to distribute something such as compost from a pile, don’t start by taking shovelfuls from the top of the pile. Instead, thrust the shovel into the bottom of the pile and let the weight of the pile fill the shovel. This way you’re more apt to remove the entire pile than to raise the surface level of your land.
Send garden questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or Gardening, The Statesman, P.O. Box 40, Boise, ID 83707.