Use Craig's List, Yes or No?
In the last week or two I've had several people ask my opinion about using Craig's List for help with their gardening projects. In most cases I would say yes, give it a try. However, please proceed with caution.
Like any other resource, Craig's list advertisers (just as those in local yellow pages) should be thoroughly checked out before handing over a deposit for contracted work. My rule of thumb is ask for and CALL at least three references on any contractor you want to hire. Indicate that you want previous customers names not those of their friends or business associates. If the advertiser is willing to send you photos of their work, go for it.
If your gardening project is extensive and entails more than just a single flower bed or a small drip irrigation system, you are much better off hiring a consultant/designer or full-service landscaping contractor to weigh all your options and present you with written plans and bids for a complete job. A professional contractor will have you sign a contract indicating their legal/financial responsibilities and warranty for all work. They handle the permitting process with the city you live in and that alone can cause massive headaches if you don't know the ropes.
Most contractors ask for deposits of up to 50% of the completed job when they start work. Be sure you trust them or have something signed by both of you before you hand over the dough! Several of my clients learned this painful lesson and ended up calling me after the cash was already gone. It would also be wise to have your contractor sign a lien waiver for each check they receive. A lien waiver releases you from liability for materials or labor that should be paid to anyone the contractor hires to complete the work on your property.