If so, how much do you pay them per hour? I have a business acquaintance who has offered to help me on an hourly basis and I want to make sure I am paying him appropriately.
I hired a *great* gardener last year for $35 per hour. He was a legitimate businessman, insured, as well as a hard worker and plant expert, and had a very good eye besides. He's now moved on to work for a very well known local LD (or LA, can't recall) team, so he's not available (to me) any more.
That's probably the high end for garden help, at least here on Cape Cod; I'm sure that there are lots of skilled people who work for less - maybe $25/hour?
I live in Mystic, CT & $25/hr. is about right for here also (if you can find somebody qualified). Even the "mow & blow" guys come in to my neighbor's, two guys spend 20 minutes & they're gone, & charge $60. Now, they do have to take into account equipment cost, wear/tear on vehicles, & gas which is getting to be a major consideration. Even so, I couldn't find a helper for less than $25/hr. with a 4 hour minimum.
I think it depends on what you are looking for. If you are looking for design and high-level plant knowledge, you will pay more. If you are looking for someone to help you dig holes, pull weeds, and water, it will be less. I have a friend who used to go to (I think) the local girls and boys club, or maybe the local rec center, and there you can post job ads. She went through a few teens who weren't such great helpers, but then found a boy who she loved and who did a very conscientious job. I don't know how much she paid but I think it was under $10/hour about seven years ago.
My aunt used a woman who helped her pull weeds and water and she only asked for $10/hour (again, about 5 years ago).
I think it depends on the level of help and experience you are looking for.
I am talking about the moving mulch, digging holes, MAYBE weeding kind of help. Thanks for your responses, they were very helpful. I think I will pay between 12 and 15 per hour.
It seems down my end of the cape..unskilled and skilled can be very expensive..my neighbor, NO experience or education set up a "landscaping" business..gets over $60.00/h. I don't think he knows a peony from a poppy..but he gets hired..
It seems to me, that here..if a person looses there job or suffers some sort of work issue..grabs a rake and sets themselves up as a landscaper..I have no problem with that..and good for them for getting out there and working..I have problems when they they advertise as if they are educated and they are not...
There is a very big "tree" service in town and unless you ask..you would think he was an arborist..he's not..he's a guy with a chain saw...
I have never had the xtra money to hire anybody.. that's why I had kids but if I did I need someone to come cull out some of the scrub pine that are now crowding out other lovely pines
> I have never had the xtra money to hire anybody.. that's why I had kids
LOL! Too funny, malorn. My kids occasionally mow the lawn, and my husband will do that or lay bricks sometimes.
My mother pays about $20/hour to her cleaning lady, who is also now a friend; she helps with weeding, and that works out very well. It would not work too well for some people, since she's lost more perennials than I can list here when her pal didn't know what they were - and I'm talking about mums and geraniums, not anything terribly exotic.
Paying a single individual probably works better than paying a mow and blow or landscaping company, because you never know who they'll send over. A friend lives on a posh estate and ond day in November found one of the landscaper's workers painstakingly trimming a row of dill plants that hadn't succumbed to the frost. The worker had been sent to cut back roses.
i am blessed with an 12-year-old neighbor who comes with his own riding mower, cart, chain saw, weed whacker, and boundless enthusiasm. for just about any job, big or small, he'll ask for "ummm ... how about ten bucks?" and then when he's done, i just give him whatever's in my wallet. yeah, we're both pretty hopeless in the money-sense department. bottom line is he's a great kid & a joy to have around & happy to do whatever yard work needs doing, so he's well worth whatever the heck i pay him. and it's not just me who has a soft spot for our neighborhood's budding little entrepreneur ... the 86-year-old lady next door routinely pays him $80 a pop to mow her smallish yard (takes him about 1/2-hour). my advice is: if they're willing to work, spoil the neighbor kids rotten. it's fun!
The Wonderful Spouse and I do all our own work. But sometimes the neighbor's kid will come over and pitch just for something to do (can't beat a 10 year old country kid that thinks yard work is better than GameBoy!). He will help plant or mulch, but I won't let him do anything hard like building rock walls or "popping" rocks out of the yard. I give him anywhere between 3 and 5 dollars, without his asking or expecting anything (and his dad protesting the whole time).
I envy you your neighborhood "helpers." I have tried that route. Unfortunately, I live in a mostly "suburban" area which means that kids under 17 generally sleep until noon and get whatever money they want from their parents. Okay, I am exaggerating a bit, but I have asked my friends if their children would like to make a few bucks helping in the garden and they either turn me down, or come once and then not again. I think they think the work is too hard. I have paid a 13-year-old $30.00 for a few hours of work and have never had her take me up on my offers since.
When I was a kid, I would have LOVED to make that kind of money (converting the amount for those days of course) for being outside on a nice day!
Anyway, this man I am gong to hire is my house cleaner and could use more hours, especially on weekends when people don't want someone cleaning their house. He knows next to nothing about gardening, but can help me spare my back a bit and can really use the money. I'd rather give him money for his family than a 15-year-old for an Ipod anyway. LOL!!!
I have a high school boy down the street, a friend's son, who will pinch hit when I need some heavy work done. He's slow, but diligent. I learned to pay him by the job, not the hour. When my tree stump and roots were ground out and I had a 10'x4' pile of heavy mulchy soil to move, I called him and offered 40 bucks if he came and did it right then. He jumped at it. Much cheaper than the $150 the tree company wanted for the same job!
Motivating my own DS is a different story. He does not have the physical strength yet for the big jobs, and he's not super motivated. It's much easier to pay a neighbor kid than argue with my own. :-)
I've been thinking along the lines of hiring myself out when I eventually get downsized in an industry moving to India (next month or next year or the one after..its in the cards). But I am not exactly thinking about the heavy lifting,digging or drudgery work. More along the lines of tutorial, guidance, horticultural assistance, with some light-duty regular maintenance (deadheading, dividing, transplanting, planting, pruning, shopping, watering) for those too busy or not inclined to do it themselves. THose are my favorite things to do.
I would like to fill the gap between the landscaper blow-and-mow guy and the clueless, busy homeowner who wants the look but can't get there. I'm thinking in the $35-50/hr range. Not sure if there is a market or if it will pay the bills, but its in my head.
Wow, I envy you guys with the enterprising young neighbors! I can't even bribe my own kids to help me out!
The boy across the street used to accompany me on my morning tour of the garden every day while waiting for the bus (the bus stop was at my house), and I had high hopes that not only would he become a gardener, but that he might help me out in my garden to boot. Then, sadly, he became a teenager and it was no longer cool to be seen hanging out with a neighborhood mom in her garden. Oh well.
wendyb, i have a friend -- she has an engineering degree from MIT and knows more about plants than anybody i've ever met -- who does just what you're describing. she has a few clients in a wealthy town and she does all the fun stuff -- selects, plants, and tends. landscapers do the heavy stuff and maintain grass. i want to be her when i grow up.
MarieofR, does she earn a living from that or is it supplemental income?
I have a couple gardens I work in. I also do the fun stuff like select and buy plants, design, deadhead, and divide. And the not-so-fun stuff like weed, dig new beds in rocky soil, dig in truckloads of compost, spread yards of mulch, manage insect pests, prune shrubs, edge beds, etc.
For me, the lawn is left to the lawn service; I don't touch the lawns other than to pull creeping grass out of the garden beds. I don't do trees either.
I charge $25/hr. It is very rewarding to do what you love for $, but at the same time it can be hard work working in someone else's garden. I want them to know they're getting their money's worth, so I hustle much more at their gardens than I do in mine. In my own garden I take frequent breaks and stop often to contemplate. In client's garden, there's no time for that.
As far as the grunt work such as digging holes or new beds, there are times I wish I could "subcontract" that part and pay someone else to do it! But for someone who has reasonable knowledge about gardens and plants and knows what they're doing, $20/hr is the bare minimum I think.
And the exercise is great!
wendyb, in winter she works a conventional job (CJ) full-time and during gardening seasons she still works the CJ part-time so she can maintain health insurance for herself and her husband. she's hoping she'll be able to eliminate the CJ completely during the summers now that the mass. health care reform laws may make health insurance a bit more obtainable for them.
best of luck.
> I have never had the xtra money to hire anybody.. that's why I had kids ..
Hummm-this is why I CAN'T hire anyone! I do all of my own work because I don't want my yard wrecked by someone who doesn't know peonies from poppies. My DH tends to mow anything green and my son requires too much effort to get outside. I did have a lawn care service for one year. They applied fertilizer on the hottest day of the year, on the day that we couldn't water due to the schedule set up by the town. They also would send by a crew to 'evaluate' the trees and shrubs for additional care and leave you a note with recommendations. So one day they come by to check for bug damamge. They left a note saying my japanese maples needed to be treated for bugs. They helpfully left a sample leaf to show me said damage to maples. However, the leaf in the bag came from a red perilla from my herb garden next to the front door, which I don't use any bug control on at all. That was the final straw-if they can't tell a tree from a culinary herb, then out they go.
Perhaps off topic-I have a friend recently moved to Plymouth and now needs to put in foundation plantings for condo. She tried calling bricklayer, who in the Fall told her to wait until now, and now he says "Lady you should have called months ago!"
She is beside her self. Any recommendations? Thanks in advance.
It was fun and very educational reading everyone's responses to this most interesting of questions. Normally, in my gardens my lovely DH will be my hole digger, compost bringer, pile raker and dandelion remover.
Yesterday I attended the Pepperell Garden Club plant sale and one of the raffle items was a team of four gardeners to come to your home and for two hours would do your bidding! Anything you wanted; if you didn't know what you wanted, they would make suggestions and then do them. They had a before and after photo from the prior year's work teams and you could see in the photo that quite a lot of work can be accomplished in that time. I bought FIVE chances on that raffle -- dang it, I guess I didn't win! But, it made me realize that I would indeed like to have that service -- especially by experienced gardeners.... My DH said that he would have liked it if I would have won that raffle too! LOL
ps - If I would have seen my landscaper trimming my half-dead dill plants (when they were supposed to be cutting back my roses) I think I would have been speechless!
Thanks for the post, Whitegarden,
I've been trying to find a way to get myself started here in CT as a semi-pro landscaper (my other job is college professor), and I have been struggling with the issue of what's a reasonable charge. For someone who does know a peony from a poppy, I thought that folks around here (Hartford, CT area) should be willing to pay on the order of $20-25 per hour. I know a fair bit about hardscaping, I have been told that I have a good eye for design, and I love to do the physical work associated with creating something new. I'm not really into mowing lawns (I'd rather turn them into flower beds, personally - and yours are awesome, BTW) but doing the physical work of digging, replanting, etc., is something that I actually enjoy after spending too much of my late summer to late spring setting exams and grading papers. At this point, I'm chafing at the bit to get away from the desk and into people's gardens!
The real question from my point of view seems to be what to charge people who don't know the first thing about gardening, or design... those who know next to nothing are the least willing to pay for the services of a landscaper. It seems that typically people want a beautiful garden, but they want it to be installed cheaply, and then to be relatively low-maintenance. Trying to explain that a garden takes continual work is anathema. Trying to explain that the act of maintaining a garden is why you have a garden in the first place is often just plain heresy. Working with an experienced gardener would be a real joy... I wish I were closer to your area!
terry, that is the problem. Hiring someone who knows NOTHING about your garden is such a risk. That being said, I don't want someone to make the decisions and shop for me. I need someone to do maintenance and I wish that could include weeding and stuff, but I am afraid of losing plants that way!
debra, we have identical marriages. My husband is happy to dig holes, pick up the piles (although he has started complaining about that - "why can't you just bring the trug with you and put the cuttings inside it? He doesn't get that trimming and weeding is a kinetic process that involves just throwing the detritus anywhere without looking or you lose the "flow"), haul mulch and the like. He does what I ask, but sometimes I would just like to pay someone who could get to know my garden and take it from there. On that note. . .
moleman, I wish you lived closer too! I would pay $25.00/hr for someone who knows what they are doing, doesn't mind the drudgery stuff and would stay around long enough to get to know my garden!
Moleman, there should be a *great* market for your services in the Hartford area. In any case, it's a good idea to stay away from customers who don't know anything about gardening and don't want to pay for a talented gardener, and work for people who want a lovely garden and are willing to pay for it. Anyone who wants to hire a kid or a mow-blow guy certainly has that option, you can set yourself apart from those services, and weed out those customers, by keeping your price at the right level for skilled work.
My husband is a former social worker who now runs a "high end" painting company - he hated social work. There are plenty of teenagers and large painting contracting companies in town who charge much less than his hourly rate. Yet Chris is always booked a few years in advance, with loyal customers who want a first rate job. (Sorry, this is not an ad!). Those guys hire unskilled workers, immigrants of questionable documentation, and people who you don't want in your home; their turn-over rate is phenomenal while Chris has a small crew of people who have worked for him for years.
You will build a clientele by word of mouth, it's just a matter of getting those first few customers. Chris would tell you to put your name on your truck and start visiting high end nurseries on weekends, just to browse. Good luck with this endeavor - hope it works out well.
Thanks, diggintghedirt.. much appreciated! I'll just have to work on those first few customers... it's just a matter of getting the endeavor off the ground. Thanks for the encouragement - we'll see how it works out. Glad to hear that your husband found a better gig... as Ken Blanchard said: "what would you do if you weren't afraid"? :-)
>moleman, I wish you lived closer too! I would pay $25.00/hr for someone who knows what they are doing, doesn't mind the drudgery stuff and would stay around long enough to get to know my garden!
Whitegarden... with your garden, I'd almost want to do it for free!!! I'd love to see it in person sometime!
'Can we talk?'
I live in West Hartford and in April got the shock of my life that my cervical spine was so unstable that I needed surgery ASAP (which I did April 30th.)and am not to do anything that will hamper the multilevel fusion.
Fortunately I did start with a lawn care locally owned company last year and they responded graciously to my need to have them add a full Spring clean-up and mowing to my contract for this year. I'd always done my own mowing but my John Deere old riding mower does jerk me around so didn't want to harm my new neck :) They are doing a great job.
But it is the pruning, weeding, need for mulch spreading, spraying deer off on my Clethra, etc., and even need for more soil put in one area of the upper wetlands that with the stream flooding (near Fern Park) has exposed the roots of my Heritage Birch.
I've tried unsuccessfully to find any local people (kids or adults) willing to be hired. Just wondered if this large deep yard (75 x 300) might be something you would be interested in. You're welcome to stop by and look it over.....
I live in Mystic. I would love the services of somebody like yourself. I'm handicapped & have a terrible time with all of spring's clean-up, transplanting, pruning, etc. My husband loves to garden but we are a commuting family (NY to Mystic) so he's only here on the weekends. There's never enough time. I would gladly pay you $25/hr. for some help. Please contact me if you would drive to Mystic.
Treeskate - sorry to hear about your back problems. Not good at all.
I'd love to take a look! This is probably not the most appropriate forum to discuss details, though... Please feel free to send me an email (email@example.com), and we can work on finding a good time!
I feel a little like I'm skating on thin ice here with respect to GardenWeb's policies on advertising... I didn't mean to do it, I was just asking a question!!! But I'd love to talk to you - please send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org), and let's talk. Mystic would be a good drive, so we'd have to be talking a good day's work, but still...
You might find some additional advise and links on this previous post helpful. kt
Here is a link that might be useful: Garden Consultants
Only in recent years have I hired help. We did absolutely everything for almost 25 years. It's ok but not without many problems. Example from yesterday:
The day before yesterday, I planted five more Phlox subulata 'Emerald Blue' to extend a line of existing specimens along a stone path. The effect is truly lovely this time of year. Yesterday, the lawn crew arrived and weed-whacked the new plants out of existence less than 24 hours after planting. I guess I should be glad they weren't some rare and expensive plant.
"Help" is definitely a mixed blessing.
Very helpful indeed, kt - thank you very much!!!
Wow, reading this post makes me feel even more ripped off than I already did. I recently hired someone who professed to do garden design (which she farmed out to a large and $$$ landscape company) as well as gardening. She came in for 4 hours and did very little beyond major pruning of my shrubs/vines. (She basically hacked everything back to stubs -- in some cases other landscapers have challenged what she did. UGH!) She did NO weeding (which is what I really needed) and could/would not help with some transplants that I would like done. She charged me $50 an hour and a fee to dispose of the little that she did rake up and take away.
I was very disappointed. My advice: hire wisely. I'd never use this lady again.
Here is another article on garden coaches, this certainly seems to be a fast growing profession.
Here is a link that might be useful: Times Garden Coaches
I know a few people who do gardening on the side for some extra cash. All are knowledgeble but not 'professional' gardeners. They all charge around $15-20 an hour for garden maintainence (not really heavy stuff). I think location is a big factor in price though too. We're in western Massachusetts.
I would love to find someone in my area to help with the mulching, pruning, dump runs, etc. Landscape maintenance companies in my area are busy, and often are not interested in small jobs. They also prefer the mow, blow, and go jobs, which are pretty much no-brainers.
I always get behind on the heavy work.
I don't, but wish I did this year as my mother was quite ill and passed away last Friday. She lived 300 miles away and now my sisters and I are involved in going through things to move out of her senior community.
I think help with the spring clean up would be most helpful. Of course, now I could use help with weeding. (My mulch this year is the leaves I haven't raked yet. Surprisingly, it doesn't seem to make much difference and the greenery seems to hide the leaves. They aren't shredded, so I do plan to get them out.) With so little time I put in the garden this year, it is amazing how well it looks.
" Fees are generally $65 to $100 an hour."
Wow! When I'll grow up I want to be a Garden Coach too.
Or maybe The Garden Coach! LOL.
FWIW, I'm holding my yearly maintanace contract in front of me.
Here are excerpts from it,
'Contract starts at 03/15/2007 and ends on 12/15/07 and includes:
-Spring Clean Up (definition blah-blah-blah will be done on a week of March 15),
-Fine Lawns (mowing, trimming and bagging on a weekly basis),
-Residue (paper and debris removal from the beds, walkways and driveway on a weekly basis),
-Pruning (pruning of all shrubs and small trees will be done two times a year to maintain neat and manicured appearance with the use of mechanical trimmers. If hand pruning is required or requested it will be done at additional cost [I love this job and do it myself with a pleasure]),
-Edging (will be done two times per year),
-Weed control (all FOUNDATION beds [only] shall be kept free of weeds by use of cultivation),
-Cutters (cleaning of all gutters will be done once in a late fall),
-Fall Clean Up (definition blah-blah-blah...Leaves removal on a weekly basis. Leaves will be put in the woods. Final fall clean up will be done in December),
-Extra costs (This contract does not include any materials unless specified. Any other work not described in this contract will be an additional cost. Labor charges for additional work are $35/hr per man. For fwork of more than 6 hrs, day rates will apply: $350 per day per man),
-Cost (Cost per month: $400 plus tax for nine months)'
Considering the size of my property and number of beds need to be edged, weeded and otherwise tended, I think I have a fairly good deal.
The same crew of 3 man (all workers, no boss) coming to the property every Tuesday and spend between 50 to 55 minutes to perform all contractual tasks. From time to time, for the small cash fee they also do some things which is not in the contract such as moving some shrubs or rolling few rocks from one place to another etc.
Of course, mulch itself and spreading it is an extra.
All in all my yearly spending on maintanance amounts to about $5300-5500 if I not skeep on mulch.
$5500! Holy cow Batman! Now I definately know why I do it myself. What I'd like to have is the service of a GOOD landscape designer to help me with a master plan for my back yard that I could do on my own in multi-year stages. I have a fairly steep wooded hillside (about an acre) that I don't exactly know what to do with.
I actually like taking card of my yard myself with one major exception-I HATE to run the weed wacker. It hurts my back, makes my arms and hands vibrate for hours afterwards and drives my allergies crazy. I also would like to farm that out, but that is one task that is easy to botch, as Ginny knows. But after a quick look at my bank account, it's out to the tool shed for me.
Moleman-I'd make one suggestion. Get a pro to letter your vehicle. You can get someone to do a good graphic for you for a few hundred dollars and it will boost your credibility ten-fold. I've seen some of the blow and go guys with their phone numbers painted on with spray paint and they lose all pretense of professionalism as soon as their truck shows up. Of course, I have a bit of a vested interest in that my DH has a vehicle lettering/wrap business. But I've seen what a good marketing tool a great vehicle graphic can be.
Terry - I'll second the truck lettering suggestion, based on my husband's business experience. A well-done sign with your phone number is the best investment you can make if you're starting a "service" business.
Also, Terry, you might look up Gordon Hayward or check another thread here - can't recall the title of it, but we've been discussing his services. If you like his books, as I do, you might find him available to help with "just" a plan.
Thanks Dee-I'll look him up. I like the look of a natural woodland garden but I'm not sure how to do a transition from a small backyard with a very small deck to a wooded hillside garden. It was part of my "10 year plan" to get the entire property done, but I'm thinking it may now be a "20 year" plan!
Great thread!!! It would be interesting with the down slide in the economy to re-visit this thread spring 2009. kt