Landscape Education

“Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.” -Warren Buffett

Southwest Landscape provide clients with the best valued design and installation available for the money. We find it gratifying to provide information to better inform folks about quality workmanship, as we provide.

The first phase of a landscape project is a detailed plan.
This plan can be just an inexpensive concept plan showing only an above view of all the hardscape and plantings. Added to this could be a drainage plan, an irrigation plan, a lighting plan and other sheets that may pertain to this project. However the more detailed and elaborate you make these plans the more expensive they will get. If you are hiring a long time professional as myself or others that take pride in their work, it is a waste of money to pay for additional plan sheets as we already know how to install the drainage, irrigation and lighting etc. A contractor has no business being a contractor if he or she do not already know the proper installation methods for these phases.

Another factor in design is incorporating elevation changes in both hardscape such as boulders, elevated patios and or decks, seating areas and patio structures, etc as well as elevation in plantscape with varying heights of the shrub planting areas.

We believe that all landscapes deserve three main features to achieve a quality look: 1) Elevation changes of Hardscape and plantscape; 2) water feature to have the sound of the relaxing movement of running water; 3) landscape lighting provides beautiful lit up landscape in the evenings, and added safety and security.

We at Southwest Landscape don’t cut corners, we grow customer service illustrated by providing extra work at no cost.  Founder Mark is hand-on every project to ensure outstanding craftsmanship and dedication.  Conversely, we’ve seen evidence throughout San Diego county of how bargain landscape companies do cut corners, in ways outlined below.



  • Poorly sloped forming
  • Rough broomed finish
  • Concrete splattered on house
  • Curvy joints and edges, and no reinforcement.


  • Form concrete with minimal fall so to appear level
  • Grade and compact with machine
  • Lay wire mesh in the center for reinforcement so not to have concrete lift and/or separate
  • Pump concrete in from the street
  • Have necessary crew on hand for job
  • Plastic put up on house prior to pour so no concrete splashed on side of house
  • Straightedges and relief joints
  • Expansion materials used as needed
  • Finish on concrete as to contract
  • Sealed if contracted to do so.

Outdoor Barbecues


  • Poor design with no drainage
  • Steel framed base
  • Low end cheap stainless steel inserts
    *Electrical and/ or gas not run to code specsPoor design with no drainage


  • Blockwall base filled with concrete
  • Reinforced concrete base for countertop or granite
  • Lower part of interior storage to be sealed to prevent unwanted water

Patios & Patio Covers


  • No permit or proper size footings and materials
  • Smooth lumber
  • 1 coat of paint
  • Thin top slats, nailed together


  • All permitted and built to city specifications or better
  • All resawn douglas fir D/F lumber used Timbers to be #1 or better free of heart center
  • One coat of prime/sealer and one coat minimum of high quality paint
  • Minimum 2″ x 3″ top slats
  • All bolted and screwed construction
  • Post base brackets are covered
  • Beams and joists to have corbels

Decks & Balconies


  • No permit or proper size footings and materials
  • Standard lumber sub-frame
  • Construction grade redwood
  • Sealed with some cheap water based sealer
  • Poorly constructed railing which is nailed together


  • All permitted and built as to city specification
  • Treated sub-frame lumber optional cost to paint for secondary protection
  • Minimum “B” grade redwood deck boards screwed down with 3″ galvanized deck screws, although recommend all composite type decks
  • Sealed with best sealer available, and constructed using screws and bolts



  • Poor quality materials purchased at discount chain stores
  • Poor valve and controller installation
  • Poor design of system
  • Poor wiring of valves and controller


  • Professional series products
  • Install valves and controller with all wires coiled & optional smartphone control ability
  • Designed to properly water all zones



  • Poor quality materials purchased at discount chain stores
  • Poor choice of fittings and pipe
  • Poor design


  • Professional pipe and fittings capable of truly being glued together
  • Fittings are sanitary type that allow water to flow through easily and helps when cleaning out system
  • Our design is the best way to remove unwanted water to the front yard



  • Poor quality of plants
  • Poor planting methods
  • No guarantee on plants


  • Plants purchased at a quality wholesale nursery
  • Warranty is 90-days for full plant replacement & one year labor only
  • Plants planted in amended soil along with necessary amounts of timed released fertilizer tablets

Additional Resources

California Landscape Contractors Association article about “How To Hire A Landscape Contractor” click here.

For landscape guidelines, water-wise landscaping and more click here.

Wise advice from SWL Founder

When choosing a landscape contractor there are several important things to keep in mind.   As a service to you, I’ve listed them below.   

1) Make sure you select a reputable and qualified contractor with a proper license, bond, liability and workman’s compensation insurance’s. We highly recommend you visually see these documents as anyone can say YES to having them. Someone who does not have them has nothing to loose by lying.

Regarding licensing, Southwest Landscape has CA.Lic.  #690504.   Not all businesses whom you may obtain cheaper bids will be.  I highly advise calling the Contractors State License Board at 800-321-2572 or visit their web site to verify licensure. All licensed contractors are given cards to carry in their wallet for proof. Also know it is against the law for a person to use another persons license. Moreover, many will not be members of the California Landscape Contractors Association.  SWL is a CLCA member for decades now and recevied many awards from them. Click here to read this association’s points on the “Benefits of hiring a Landscape Industry Certified Technician”.

Check references and go see their work and/or awards, because having beautiful photos of a company’s website doesn’t mean they did the work.  We at SWL can readily provide landscape references.

2) Negotiate a clear contract. This contract should state exactly everything you are expecting to be performed on your property. (i.e. square feet, linear feet, quantity, quality, size, location, color, type, manufacturer, etc.) All verbal additions should be written into the contract. For a drainage system bid, we at SWL would provide, and you should receive from others details like this:

Install 340 linear ft. of rigid 3″ drain pipe with (9) 6″ catch basins in lawn areas, (5) down spout connectors, (4) 4″ brass concrete area drains, and (28) 3″ planter atriums.

Drainpipe to be laid so that the water flows properly toward the (2) cored curbs at the street.

Approximately 2 days to complete Equipment, Materials, & Labor for a total cost of $2,920.00

A poor example of a bid would be something like this: Drain for front & back yard – $1585. which tell absolutely nothing except you are paying $1,585.00 for some so-called drain system. That maybe you will have 180 linear ft. of some cheap flex drain line with two 6″ catch basins in the rear yard, two 6″ catch basins in the front yard, and two cored curbs. Oh, lets not forget how long this might take to complete AND did this cover labor also?

A professional bid should be typed up on a company letter head, not written on a piece of lined paper. I can’t stress this enough – “In this business you get what you pay for!”. Southwest Landscape has been around for many years. We have clean vehicles with all equipment needed to perform our jobs for each day, company shirts, 2 way radio/cell phones, Bobcat tractors with many attachments and we use all our own machinery to complete our jobs. Not like some so-called contractors that throw a tool box and a wheel barrel on the back of their oil leaking pick up truck and carry their own pager.

3) The only way to come up with an apples to apples comparison from 3 or 4 different contractors, is if you have a detailed set of plans that every contractor bids without any changes. As you may have found out by now, every contractor you have had come to estimate your job has probably given you some of his own ideas which are completely different from the contractor before him. This will now change what the cost of the job will be from the first contractor.   Remember this insight from multi-billionaire Warren Buffett:  “Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.”

We at SWL do not recommend you go with the cheapest bidder, but if you do, you should let all contractors bidding this job know, so that they can compensate. If you have four bids for pretty much the same plan, ranging from $29,650.00 to $16,990.00, a big RED LIGHT should flash about the $16,990.00 mark. How could this guy be bidding this so cheap, when the other bids were $29,650.00, $27,975.00, and 25,880.00. I tell you – The next place I would find that bid, would be in the trash can. There are many variables in material costs, contractors buying cheap products, and non-payment for proper insurance, etc. Again we do not recommend the lowest bidder, sometimes a higher bid may be worth it if the materials to be used are of higher quality and/or the work more extensive and professionally installed.

4) Throughout the years in this business I have found that most of the people that contract with me, it has not been because my price was the lowest, but what I was able to offer them in a clean, fast and professional manner. A lot of times when we are on a job, we will come to a stage that by adding something extra in now, it will create a better product in the end. We will go ahead and do it without charging anything more where some contractors are continually cutting corners to make a buck here and there.

5) After the contract has been signed and the work has started, if there are changes to the original contract, make sure you and the contractor sign a change order form for these changes. Also, the law requires a contractor to give you written notice of your right to cancel a contract within 3 business days of signing.