View Full Version : Clean up with a leaf loader

11-02-2006, 09:01 PM
I've ventured into fall leaf cleanup. In the past I only picked up the leaves for my mowing customers. This year I've invested in a leaf loader and done some advertising for fall leaf cleanup.

First call - I get the job. Today I did the job with blowers, tarps, a little raking and the leaf loader. It took me 2 hours longer than I estimated. That is not a big problem - I'm new to this area of maintenance and I expect to spend a great deal of this fall learning the ropes. I didn't loose money, I just didn't make as much as I wanted to.

It was my first time out with a leaf loader. It worked very well.

I need some input though - when bidding on a job here's what I look at:
1. The size of the yard
2. How deep the leaves are
3. How easy will it be to get the leaves to the loader
4. "Guess" a fee from there based on an hourly rate.

What I didn't look at/consider:
1. Did the home owner mow the grass before the leaves fell (long grass)?
2. How long have the leaves been on the ground? (I think that these were down since last year, it was very difficult to dislodge them from the long grass, and alot of them were black in color)
3. Type of trees (I found thousands of acorns under the leaves, I didn't pick them up - yet)
4. Pine needles take a lot longer to move than leaves do

When I first started mowing estimating was my weak point. Now I get it right way more than I get it wrong. I suppose that leaf removal will be the same.

How do you go about making an intelligent bid for leaf clean up? Can you add to my list of do's, don't's and considerations? Extra charge for nuts on the ground? Do you pick them up?

J Hisch
11-02-2006, 09:08 PM
Leaves are like snow removal every snow is different and therefore every storm takes a different amount of time to service. I have found this to be very true of leaf removal every lawn is different and leaves dry out at different times also. You almost have to learn to rope and spend some time doing it to know how long it will take to clean up. Also consider the flower beds, back yards, moving the leaves around a house or through a fence( We charge big time for this) The over all best method on small to medium size lawns with good street acces is to use a wheel blower for heavy covered lawns. The next best way for large or lightly coverd lawns is a bagging mower like a walker, and then dump them at the truck. Good luck, our rate is 135.00 per 2 man crew. No dump fee, we recycle the leaves and use them to make compost, and to heel in trees.

11-02-2006, 09:41 PM
Thank J! There's alot of threads here about leaf cleanup. I guess there's no mathmatical way to figure an estimate.

Larson Lawn Care
11-02-2006, 09:41 PM
Leaf clean ups are very time consuming. Always expect to be there longer than initially expected. I always blow the leaves into a big pile, with my Red Max 7001 bp blower(it is a great machine), then I use my 36" JD mower with a bagger attachment, I run over the leaves mulching them into almost dust, but not emptying the bagger until all the leaves are finely mulched. I empty the bag on a tarp or the back of my truck if it is close...then I continue to bag the dust thats left over. It wont all pick up though, because it is mulched too much. I then blow off the remaining mulched leaves...usually into a garden. If there isn't a garden around, I just blow them evenly across the yard. This method works faster than anything I have ever tried, you can have millions of leaves, but if you mulch them with the bagger attached, and dont stop until everthing is dust, it takes no time. I highly recommend this method!

Larson Lawn Care
11-02-2006, 09:52 PM
Oh yeah, estimating... I like to charge after I am done, but most people don't go for that. So my advice is to charge $30 or more extra for unexpected work. I usually charge $60-$70 an hr. I have found that most people don't want to pay what you want to do their leaves, if they want to pay the neighborhood kid $20 then go for it...but we do a better job.

11-03-2006, 12:07 AM
When you come across acorns, walnuts, etc do you guys pick them up?

11-03-2006, 12:36 AM
When cleaning out landscape beds take note of the plants. Small shrubs with throns (i.e. barberry) will often need to be pulled out by hand.

11-03-2006, 08:21 AM
I didn't think of that either, thanks LB.

11-03-2006, 07:23 PM
Charge hourly its the best

11-03-2006, 09:31 PM
On new jobs or jobs that we can't do at that moment we just give a ball park number of high and low but explain the reasons for a wide difference in prices. Wet leaves, long grass, flowerbeds not cut back before collection, neighbour's leaves blowing onto property, etc. We do a couple of properties that don't even have trees on them, everyone else's blow onto theirs. Some years they are covered other years we don't pick any at all. We tell them we will try to do their leaves when the weather is on our side however we have a list and if it is their day it might cost them extra if the weather or conditions are bad. We have the equipment to do the job so they have to pay for it.
Walker with GHS, back pack blowers, leaf loader and truck with leafbox and hoist. We might make it look easy but it ain't and you guys know it. We also try to put the leaves in a long high pile right infront of the house before we load them so all the neighbours and the owners can see how many leaves there are. This sometimes gets us more work from neighbours.

11-03-2006, 10:22 PM
Smart Cantoo! That is great advice.

Today I had a steady wind to deal with while trying to blow the leaves. What fun!:dizzy: I haven't quite got the leaf box right yet either. I still have an air flow problem. I'm using a blue poly tarp on the top which is not letting the air go thru. I've had to order a mesh tarp, I'm hoping that will help. Do you put louvers/vents on your leaf boxes to help the air get out?

11-03-2006, 10:32 PM
MDLawnman, I'm pretty cheap. I used some old closetmaid shelving for my vent holes. I just cut a square hole a little smaller than the shelving, drilled a couple of holes then zip tied it in place. I have two holes about 16" x 24" a little more wouldn't hurt. It does allow small bits of leaves to blow out but nothing much.
We consider the wind speed and direction when we plan out our route for the day. This can make or break your profit. If the wind is real bad then we just collect with the Walker instead of using back packs.

11-04-2006, 09:07 AM
Cantoo that is not cheap - that (again) is smart. I've always admired the way that members of this site improvise/adapt/over come. If we pooled our resources we could take over the world! Well probably not, but I'd bet there would be a lot of new patented ideas.

Well - I'm going out to check the wind with a wet finger and get to work!

11-04-2006, 09:38 AM
By using a mesh tarp you shouldn't need any more vents. Mesh tarps work great for us.

11-04-2006, 11:32 AM
when mulching leaves to dust with the mower do you where a mask? Does your mowers air filter get plugged up?

11-04-2006, 12:19 PM
when mulching leaves to dust with the mower do you where a mask? Does your mowers air filter get plugged up?

I don't weat a mask but I should. I had broncitus (sp?) a few weeks back. Doc said I should wear a mask. I just can't stand them.

As for my air filters. If its an extra dusty day or lots of leaves we will leave the mowers out until we are done with the backpack blowers and then blow them off. We then take the air filters out and clean/inspect them. If its getting dirty we have a stack of them back in the shop and we know to bring one with us the next day.

This is especially true of my TT cause it has the LC kawi. The mesh screen that is in front of the radiator gets very dirty and collects a lot of debris. We pull the screen off and clean it every few lawns this time of year so the fluid doesn't overheat.