This blog post comes from a fellow lawn care professional. Jack Chapman; despite only being in his 20’s has already bagged a range of turf care experiences from several years of lawns, an Institute of Groundsmanship diploma, and time with the Edgbaston Cricket Ground groundstaff. His business, Kingsbury Lawn Care is based near Tamworth, Staffordshire which also serves homes and sports clubs in and around Sutton Coldfield, Lichfield and Nuneaton. The local climate may be a slightly different to ourselves, but the basics of turf care remain the same.
With ourselves being closely linked with volume of lawns we maintain, there is a fear within many professional maintenance gardeners that their trade is undervalued by the public. It is without a doubt a trade with low barriers to entry, which unfortunately can attract those operating unlawfully. So what does a good gardener cost and what should you be looking out for?
Do your Homework
You know what they say… if it sounds too good to be true… it usually is. Good businesses, even if just made up of a sole individual will take pride in displaying a professional image over the internet and in person. Have a look at their website and social media – check out their previous work – does this meet your expectations? It’s easy to contact the wrong business, their quaility and therefore price point could be too high or too low for what you are looking for. Be sure to check out customer reviews – a business confident in what they offer will be sure to have this facility. Take interest in the overly good and overly bad reviews along with something recent – there is always be two sides to the story. Reviewing platforms are open to abuse from both business and consumer.
A little homework goes a long way, and so do first impressions. A professional would be more than happy to answer questions regarding their spraying certification (herbicide application), public liability insurance and waste carriers licence. These are all required by law and of course adds to business overheads.
So here we are then, the bit you’ve been waiting for. So what is cheaper, a £25 job which happens to take 35 minutes, or a rate of £40 per hour? Which figure sounds the scary one?
There may be other factors at play, but the majority of experienced tree surgeons, landscapers and gardeners will give you fixed figures. With different trades and tasks demanding different overheads and machinery, the number of different hourly rates required would be out of this world! An inexperienced labourer may be content with an hourly rate, an established maintenance gardener will have invested thousands of pounds and thousands of hours (years) into their business.
So what should you be paying for what?
If you’re looking for a gardener who is a gardener by trade for £20 per hour or less, then you’re going to be disappointed unfortunately. By our maths, it would be more appealing to work for someone else without having to invest and reinvest into a business, cover repairs, breakdowns, replacements, and gain access to sick pay, holiday pay, and payment for every hour worked. Working outdoors much downtime can be suffered through substandard weather conditions, hours of light and travel time – all costs to the business.
You may get lucky – gardening is often seen as an attractive ‘retirement job’ and you may be fortunately enough to find someone who’s personal circumstances dictate that they do not need to generate much income. If you drop ‘lucky’ on someone that doesn’t understand what they need to charge, don’t expect them to stay in business for long – you’ll soon be looking for someone else again. They might be a van breakdown or a quiet winter away from disappearing on you.
If a tradesperson does not price by the hour, this shouldn’t be cause for alarm, quite the opposite in fact. Hourly work at an unsustainable rate does not lead to the best work. An exact quote is just that, and shows experience and understanding of the job at hand.
Jack Chapman BSc (Hons)
Owner, Kingsbury Lawn Care