Some services offered by a general gardening business

Concentrate on tasks that require repeat visits

The key to success here is that initially you concentrate on services that offer a return visit at regular intervals. By doing this you rely less on the need to continually source new clients. Instead you concentrate on servicing a smaller number of clients with the advantage that you spend more time earning and less time trying to introduce new clients to your business.

The obvious service here is everything to do with lawns. During the growing season you want to be selling a regular lawn-cutting service and when that ends in autumn you can then offer your lawn-cutting clients a lawn-care programme which includes scarification, aeration, top dressings, spring feeds and so on. If your clients are particularly unhappy with the state of their lawns during the growing season, you can offer to re-turf it for them either in the autumn or preferably in spring. In our business we undertake new lawn preparations in the autumn and return in early spring to lay the new lawn.

We also concentrate on everything concerning hedges. Whether that is to plant a new hedge, or trim, re-shape or reduce an existing hedge, we offer to do it. The advantage with hedge work is, generally speaking, you will make three visits a year. One cut in spring, a further cut in early summer and the final cut and tidy in the autumn. Most homeowners don't like cutting their own hedges, which makes hedge-cutting an ideal service to offer. To succeed, you must be able to undertake a good hedge cut as opposed to simply cutting it like a lawn.

Start slowly

My own opinion is that anyone contemplating this type of operation should start slowly.

It's best to establish your business by offering a quality service based on what you know now, ie your current expertise, and expand your range of services when your experience and capital allow.

Listed below are the services I offer as part of my business. This isn't a definitive list as we're introducing new services all the time.

  • general garden maintenance
  • overgrown gardens cleared
  • new gardens created
  • existing garden makeovers
  • fencing erected and repaired
  • areas redesigned and replanted
  • tree stump removal
  • hard features created
  • water features created
  • greenhouses erected and repaired
  • herb gardens created
  • turfing
  • lawn care advice and consultancy
  • coaching
  • garden planning/design service. Tree surgery - a cautionary note

The sheer number of general gardening companies that include 'tree surgery' among their list of services never ceases to amaze me.

Arboriculture, the care and maintenance of trees, is a business in itself. This is a specialist area where you must have proper training before you embark on any work.

  • You will find that your general landscape gardening Public Liability Insurance will not cover you for tree work. You can of course, for an additional fee, extend your cover to include tree felling and tree care, but don't be surprised when your insurance company asks for proof of your qualifications.
  • The initial costs of providing this service are also prohibitive as not only will you have to spend a considerable amount on cutting equipment, but you will also have to have some form of tree chipping/shredding unit. These will cost you anything from £8,000 upwards. Plus you'll also have to have a suitable vehicle in which to accommodate the chippings.

Unless you are qualified in this type of work, my advice is that you would do well to steer clear of it. If you would like to work in this field then you will need to apply to your local agricultural college and gain the necessary training to do the job professionally. Begin by offering services that you can easily provide both in terms of:

  • experience/expertise
  • financial outlay.

There are a number of services on this list that can be tackled without having to rely on years of gardening experience. For example, there are many people who need help clearing out an old, overgrown garden prior to them constructing a new one. This sort of work calls for more in the way of physical strength than gardening expertise and for the newcomer this is a relatively safe way to begin. Provided you offer a competitive, reliable service you will find that running your business on this basis alone can be relatively profitable.

Then expand and become more specialised

However, if you are to truly shine and reach your full potential you will undoubtedly at some point in the future wish to expand your business by offering wider services.

Some of the work we now do is quite specialised. Few landscaping companies offer to design and build herb gardens, which is surprising as with the ever-increasing interest in organic and natural gardening, knowledge of herbs and how to create a beautiful garden using these wonderful plants is very much in demand.

Likewise few businesses offer a gardening coaching service, yet how many people as soon as they hear you're a keen gardener or someone who runs their own gardening business will ask you for advice on the most elementary of subjects? Every month of the year thousands of people across the country move into their first homes that have a garden and their quest for knowledge begins. There are books to read, night classes to attend and so on, but nothing comes close to having a knowledgeable, friendly gardener come to your own garden to teach you the ropes.

This business is run in much the same way as driving instruction. You can either offer set lessons, following a pre-agreed syllabus, or simply one-off sessions coaching a certain area.

Successful garden coaching depends on your ability to get on with people and make them feel at ease.

Spending your days working in gardens can be physically exhausting. Therefore you need a sense of balance in your work. This is why I would encourage you, when planning this type of business, to offer either one or preferably a number of services that are not too physically demanding such as gardening coaching, gardening planning, greenhouse erection and so on.

If you feel your knowledge is lacking in a particular area of gardening then you should invest time and money in furthering your education. I love going on short courses. Not only do I find them really useful in terms of learning how to do something, but I also enjoy the social side of meeting people, getting to hear others' views and opinions and making new friends.

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