Monday, October 5, 2009

Leaf Collecting Season, a most profitable time of year

Fall Leaf Collection

My most profitable time of year.

Some landscape contractors make the bulk of their years gross income in Spring, for me it was the Fall. Washington DC has more trees per square mile than any other city in the US (if you don't count NY's central park). It's said that the reason the 911 terrorists hit the pentagon is likely because at that altitude they couldn't make out the White House of the Capitol, so they flew past them and hit the only target they could plainly make out.

One thing you want to consider in advertising your landscape company is to get a website for it.
Here's one that I made for a Frederick Maryland lawncare company:

Advertise Your Landscape Company Online

Friday, October 2, 2009

October Gardening

Gardening in October is entirely dependant on the weather. If there's an Indian Summer, there is no better time of year to be out in the garden. While gardeners in warm areas will have more to do than their northern counterparts, there are plenty of garden tasks to keep everyone busy in October.
In General
•Get your soil tested and add amendments as needed.
•Amend your soil with a dressing of compost
•Turn your compost pile.
•Use your garden debris and leaves to start a compost pile.
•Plant trees and shrubs. Be sure to keep them well-watered, even through the winter (Snow permitting).
•Make sure all vacationing houseplants are brought back inside.
•Continue planting garlic.
•Plant cool season annuals. Covering mums and asters on nights when a frost is expected, will lengthen their blooming.
•Clear away dead foliage.
•Dry and save seed.
•Take cuttings of tender perennials.
•Harvest and dry or freeze herbs for winter use.
•Remove green tomatoes from the plants. Either ripen in a brown paper bag or lift the entire plant and hang upside down in a warm spot, to ripen.
•Harvest winter squash once the vines die back, but definately before a hard freeze.
•Continue harvesting fall crops like beets, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, kale and leeks.
•Clean and put away empty containers and garden ornaments.
•Clean and sharpen gardening tools.
•Clean bird feeders.
•Think about a de-icer for the birdbath. If you're in an area that freezes and you don't have a de-icer, turn your birdbath over to keep it from cracking.
•Enjoy the season. Show off your harvest with a fall display.

Advertise Your Landscape Company Online

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Compete on Price to Survive

I ran my landscape business during the boom of the 90's and I competed in one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the country: Chevy Chase Maryland and Upper Northwest DC, in and around the embassies.

When I did, I was a little guy with a beat up old 79 Ford F150, a 10 foot trailer, and one 36" ransom. A little guy could get work because the big guys were always "booked".

I competed based on the fact that I was available immediately. I quickly learned if you attempt to compete based on price, you're likely to get customers who want a low price even if you loose money.

If you solicit someone who already has a lawn service, why would she change from who they have to you? If the current contractor provided bad service you had a chance of getting your price. If you lowballed the price and they went for it, well they tended to turn out to be customers you didn't really want in the first place.

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So what I learned is to show up on someone's doorstep the week they moved in to a home they just bought. I searched the newspapers (this was before there was an internet) to find "homes bought in X". I wanted to be there right after they'd unpacked and before they'ed hired a contractor.

Well economic times have changed, wealthy people aren't as wealthy as they used to be. If you came across as a competent contractor that could do exactly what is currently being done and did for less... those wealthy people just might be looking to cut their expenses, you might have a shot.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Winter Time income opportunities

It's winter, for most of us in the landscape business it's off season. Unless of course you live down south where you might get a year round growing season, there isn't much work for us until the first thaw.

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There are some money making opportunities but a windy day can really mess up your employee overhead costs if you take a crew out and it's too windy to get any thing done. In the Mid Atlantic region we have clay, acidic clay for soil. Clay based soil means lime and here in Maryland you almost cant put down too much lime.

Lime alters the PH of the soil, clay tends to be acidic and lime lowers the ph. What that means to the lawn is this: the grass plant cant absorb all the nutrients you feed it if the ph factor is off. In other words you can put down all the fertilizer in the world and if the PH is off you are wasting your time and money.

Lime is inexpensive, so most of what you'll charge is labor (always a bonus).

When the ground freezes that's the best time to put down grass seed! Why?
Because if you distribute grass seed at any other time of the year most of the seed will get washed away or eaten by birds. If you seed on frozen ground the freezing and thawing of the earth will allow the seed to get worked into the soil without you doing anything labor intensive!

My best set up was to charge a flat fee for the year:
Two gutter cleanings, Two leaf removals (one early and one final) 22 to 26 mowings, Spring clean up (pull weeds and prune shrubs) lawn feeding, weed control and overseeding.

Any thing that let me kill two birds with one stone was good for my wallet.

Community Bulletin Board Advertising

Define where you are going to work, stake out a territory. If you're going to mow lawns at regular intervals eventually you're going to get behind schedule from excessive rain fall.

This is catch 22, if it rains you get work... but cutting wet grass is hard on your equipment.

If it rains for more than a few days the work scheduled for this week gets piled up on next weeks work (because it is now next week)

Leave your business card on every grocery store, hardware store, gas station and convenience store in your work area.

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