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Fall cleanup sticker shock

Posted by Khloris z7 LI (My Page) on
Sat, Dec 18, 04 at 17:55

A question for those who have someone doing their "lawn maintenance" (cutting during the season, and either a spring or fall cleanup)

We just got a bill from the fellow who does our place (a half acre, flat, a mixture of evergreen and deciduous trees around 3 of the 4 sides), for the fall cleanup they did about 2 weeks ago. We were charged $300.

This is in addition to the $5 extra for "removing leaves from lawn before cut" that was tacked onto the standard $50/week fee for cutting (removing clippings), edging, and 'blowing clean' the yard, from mid-Oct to early Dec. So we were paying $55 per cut for about six weeks. The crew does not weed, rake, or otherwise touch the planting beds, ever (I don't want them to).

When they did the fall cleanup, they did not rake the beds at all, they just used blowers.

Maybe I'm getting stingy in my semi-golden years, but $300 seems a little steep for an hour's work (if it even was that). My husband and I have back problems so we just assumed it would be easier to have the landscaper take care of the leaves. I did clean up all of the formal beds myself, two or three times during Oct and Nov. So those areas were almost clean before the landscapers came in.

Unfortunately in our neighborhood, the kids/teens don't do manual labor for hire (I suspect not even otherwise!). I'm being serious here; there's no such thing as "pay one of the neighbor's kids to rake the leaves" (or shovel the snow; same situation).

But for $300 I'm starting to question whether those leaves might be better left to just hopefully blow elsewhere on their own, next fall. Or maybe I will just do the planting beds and leave the lawn areas as is, and just have it cut (though I guess we will be charged the extra leaf-removal fee regardless). And I am curious to know what the going rate was, this fall, for a "paid" fall cleanup. Do you think $300 for leaf cleanup on a flat half acre with little or no raking (they also mowed it afterward), fair, or verging on being a rip-off?

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Fall cleanup sticker shock

  • Posted by Donn_ Z 7, seaside,NY (My Page) on
    Sun, Dec 19, 04 at 12:43

When I was still working, I had a lawn crew mow and do spring and fall cleanup, including annual pruning and regular organic ferts. After I retired, 6 years ago, I watched them for a couple of years, and quickly got tired of wasting my money. 3 years ago, I fired them, saving $3200 per year. I spent about half that on good lawn machines, lost 20#, fixed my bad back, and got into better shape than I've been in since my military days. The property looks 1000% better now, too.

RE: Fall cleanup sticker shock

Donn, that's another thing we've been discussing (whether to continue having them do fertilizing). They fertilized 5 times this season (the last being a few days after the fall cleanup, and they also applied lime) and applied pre-emergent weed killer twice I think, plus a chemical grub control (I still have grubs in the planting beds, though not in the lawn). The fertilizers were $50 per application, the lime was $45. I'm not sure what the weed and grub killers were, but I know they were over $100 each time.

So we're seriously considering telling them to just do a weekly cut, plus a pre-emergent in the spring, and a broadleaf weed killer midseason. We can do any fertilizing ourselves (but honestly I have some doubts about whether feeding a lawn is needed if it's otherwise healthy). Also I have doubts about the lime, becuase we do have evergreens and azaleas and rhododendrons as well as some other acid loving plants, which would probably be happier without having lime flung around a few times per season.

I should mention too that when we first moved here we had a lawn service that charged $35/week but they did a terrible job, and used a mulching mower that left big clippings all over (which always got tracked into the house). We switched to this company two years ago, despite the fact that they were more expensive ($40/week). We did shop around and every other company was charging at least $40 for a plain cut/edge with string trimmer/blow driveway clean (no weeding or pruning). Then last year they raised their price to $45/week, then this past year to $50.

Our last house was on a quarter acre and I mowed it myself with a DR Whisperlite mower (rechargeable battery). But in that area we were allowed to bag and dispose of clippings; here on LI that isn't allowed anymore. Also that mower is too small (width) for a half acre; it would take me 2 days to finish! My husband can't use a mower (mobility problems) and we have no room to store a riding mower. I refuse to have gas powered tools of any kind. So unless the cut-service prices get completely out of hand we'll stick with that (plus they do bag and remove the clippings).

I keep saying that eventually the planting beds will be so big that there won't BE a lawn, but hopefully we'll be out of this house before that much time passes! I actually would like a house that has no lawn at all, just planting areas connected by paths and walkways! Someday....

RE: Fall cleanup sticker shock

  • Posted by Donn_ Z 7, seaside,NY (My Page) on
    Sun, Dec 19, 04 at 17:22 my LI town, they still pick up lawn waste (bagged clippings, leaves, etc) but I don't throw anything except dandelions away. Everything else is shredded and used for compost and lasagna beds. I have just under a half-acre, and I've reduced the amount of lawn by 3,000sf in the past 2 years by building new beds.

Liming lawns is pretty common on Long Island. The turf grass benefits from it due to the acid nature of our soil. I still wouldn't do it, but it isn't uncommon. The only thing that goes on my lawn now is sifted compost. I keep it long, and mulch the clippings and leaves a few times a year. I don't even water it any more, and am converting my sprinkler system into drip irrigation for my beds, while abandoning the heads that are in the grass.

RE: Fall cleanup sticker shock

Donn, I am surprised to hear that (picking up lawn clippings allowed). I thought it was a Suffolk County-wide ban, didn't realize it was town by town.

I see from your member page that you're close to the Great South Bay, so I'm surprised to hear that our LI soil tends to be acid. I thought that was only true on the North shore (or at least, anything North of Route 25). Being that the South shore soil tends to be so sandy (glacier washout and all that) or fill (if it's a development built along the bay), I'd think the soil would tend toward alkaline. I know that almost every blue hydrangea cultivar I've ever grown on LI tended more toward pink/mauve than blue flowers unless I remembered to give it a meal of acid fertilizer. That included old reliables such as Nikko Blue, Blue Billow, and Blue Wave. So I just assumed that anything other than North Shore soil would not be that acid.

RE: Fall cleanup sticker shock

  • Posted by Donn_ Z 7, seaside,NY (My Page) on
    Mon, Dec 20, 04 at 6:29

According to the Cornell Cooperative Extension for Suffolk County, our soil tends to be very acid, largely due to the humidity and rainfall leaching chems into it. I'm right on the water, in Amityville, on soil that was trucked in to fill in salt marshes some 75-100 years ago. I've never tested my soil, but judging from the way evergreens and Rhodies and Azaleas thrive here, I'm quite sure it's acid.

The Extension, linked below, has testing facilities, and lots of interesting reading available. They mention acidity in several different articles, especially the one on Tomatos.

Here is a link that might be useful: CCE - Suffolk County

RE: Fall cleanup sticker shock

""This is in addition to the $5 extra for "removing leaves from lawn before cut" that was tacked onto the standard $50/week fee for cutting (removing clippings), edging, and 'blowing clean' the yard, from mid-Oct to early Dec. ""

Khloris, I'm from across the pond, i.e. on another side of LI Sound, in CT and don't know much about your realities, but let me tell you what I do.
I have a 1.5 acres of property surrounded by Maples, Beeches and Oaks. I tell to my lawnmowers to blow leaves from the lawn before cutting it only till Maple's leaves are on a ground. Oak's and Beech's leaves usualy still falling after Maple's are gone. Then I said them to run over the leaves, mulch them and leave that mix somewhere on a property. I use it as a winter mulch, which will fully decompose by mid-Spring.

On a separate note, comparing prices.
I have a contract for 39 weeks (March 15-December 15) which includes Spring and Fall cleanup, once-a-week lawn mowing, 3-times a year edging, ocassional hand-weeding (all beds are cedar-mulched year around), two times a year shape pruning (hedges, knot garden and some other free standing evergreens like hollies, yews etc). No fertilizing or preemergent applications included and done by different people at $50 a pop.
Cost is $3600 + tax.

RE: Fall cleanup sticker shock

thats the going rate.if one guy did it in an hour you were over charged.if 3 guys did it in an hour thats dead on for that type of work.if it was a pro crew and they did a good job. 5 dollars extra for mowing leaves probably is to low considering the stress and extra gas consumption on an 8000 dollar machine.

RE: Fall cleanup sticker shock

  • Posted by Lee1 z7 Long Island (My Page) on
    Mon, Jan 3, 05 at 22:10

Hi all. Just stumbled across this wonderful new forum. I spend most of my time over at the Landscape Design and NY Metro sites so this is a nice plus! Anyway-to answer your question...I have a half acre and I pay $350.00 for the Fall cleanup. Being familiar with the green industry I know that the clean ups, fertilizing,etc. depend on the size of the property, the number of trees/leaves and the amount of time needed and number of crew members that have to be paid. Your rate of $300.00 sounds about right. My husband and I used to spend weekends cleaning up the property but with lack of time and age we found it was well worth getting it done and the property was all ready for Spring with no hassle. As far as the lime in the Fall...the lawn needs to be at the correct pH in order to metabolize /use any nutrients that you apply to it and your soil is naturally on the acidic side. Lawns need a higher pH which is established by using the lime. The lime does not affect your flower beds -it only helps in maintaining a healthy lawn. As far as the clean-up, some folks like to have it done and some like to do the clean up themselves. For what it's worth -it's all about personal taste, time availability and personal budget. Long story short-the cost you were given is in the correct range. Hope this helps you feel a bit better. Happy gardening to you.


RE: Fall cleanup sticker shock

We were opaying $350 in both Spring and Fall for clean-ups. Both DH and I are partially disabled,can't do much heavy work. Well, on the advice of the landscaper himself, we stopped the fall clean-up. He will cut the grass well into October, and blow the excess leaves against the fence. Messy looking but did't seem to do any harm. Plants go dormant in the winter anyway. Then the spring clean-up usually in March or April he rakes everything, bags and removes the stuff, and we have a beautiful clean property to welcome the flowers that come in springtime. And no increase in his fee! We pay $300 for cleanup and $25 a week for grass cutting. Now that's an honest guy!

RE: Fall cleanup sticker shock

i stopped fertilizing and watering my lawn and the native grasses took over ... they hardly grow higher than 2"so it cut my mowing down a lot , and then there is the bonus if small little flowers mixed in

here in CT. we would be thrilled to find someone that would do a clean up for $350.00

RE: Fall cleanup sticker shock

After finding this thread in a web search I was compelled to put together a little cost breakdown. Please keep in mind that these numbers are averages (using 2.5 laborers) that I put together quickly for an example based upon my business. I am sure there are other costs that I have missed because everyone's business is different. There also may be multiple owners who split profits. It is very costly to do business in NY not to mention the admin you have to do for the state (Seasonal employers are constantly being audited by the state and feds).

Even if this example holds true your landscaper most likely only nets $5-$8 per cut all season at your home. If you expect your landscaper to be around next year to service your home than they need to make a decent living; don't forget if their focus is landscaping they may not do much winter work even though the bills never stop coming and they are trying to retain employees year a after year.

Truck - $9.50 /hr
Trailer - $1.00
Loaded Labor - $25-$35 /hr
Fuel (Equipment) - $5 /hr
Tools, Equipment - $8.50 /hr
Overhead - $30 (~10% - Admin, Marketing, Shop, Office, Permits etc.)
Insurance - $15 (5% of gross)
Margin - $70

There is most likely 20-30 min total travel time to and from the job, if half of the travel labor (2.5 men) and truck/ trailer are charged to the job - $37.50 labor - $5.25 Truck/ Trailer - Equipment $8.50 = $51.25. There will also be additional time at the shop for proper disposal.

$51.25 Travel
$75.00 Labor for Fall Cleanup
$9.50 Truck Onsite
$1.00 Trailer Onsite
$5.00 Fuel
$8.50 Equipment
$30.00 OH
$15.00 Ins
$24.00 NYS Sales Tax
$219.25 Subtotal

$80.75 Margin

$300.00 Total

Thanks for reading! - michael

Here is a link that might be useful: North Country Snow and Ice Management

RE: Fall cleanup sticker shock

My current landscaper is a guy who cuts lawns with his 2 teenage sons. His regular fulltime job is as a teacher and baseball coach. He charged me $125 for a spring cleanup and $50 in the fall. Worth every penny. I tried to do the raking in the fall, I just couldn't keep up with the leaves. He got rid of them in one afternoon.

RE: Fall cleanup sticker shock

I have 1.3 AC and lots of trees........ I'm 65 and fall cleanup was becoming a challenge with all the trees.
The local Landscape companies wanted $250 - $300 to pick up the leaves ONCE. It would take 4 - 5 PU to get all the leaves. So two yrs ago, I purchased a LARGE lawn vacuum that I pull behind the tractor. Chops up all the leaves into tinny paces - great for my compost pile. Great Purchase. However, the leaves continue to fall. So this spring I took down two of the larges offenders and trimmed a third up. The several nasty storms took out a few more. So my fall clean-up has been reduced big time, and I'm not paying $1,500 just to pick up my fall leaves..............

RE: Fall cleanup sticker shock

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