Good start to leaf season! + more of my ramblings on methods

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by FrankenScagMachines, Oct 22, 2004.

  1. FrankenScagMachines

    FrankenScagMachines LawnSite Platinum Member
    from IN
    Posts: 4,739

    I had a guy working today and we got pretty good at it with the new equipment working as a team. He'd take the Echo 650 and go around the border and around things and then i'd follow with the Billy Goat push and make huge piles, then we'd tarp the piles to the curb and he'd start vac'ing them into the truck while i mowed and bagged cleaning everything up, and I'd do a final blowing of the drive and stuff as he put the vac hose up and cleaned up at the curb. Worked out real slick. Even though the BG is smallest model, it does a good job and saves lots of labor with a backpack on some places, and the Echo 650 saves lots of labor on the smaller Kaw b/p too. And, the Ferris and Fast-Vac is just super! It's really great. I love that thing! Really happy with this years setup, and it's far from what i want to have lol... i guess i mean things are working just fine even if they're not peak effeciency, we're making good time and things are working without troubles. thats effeciency to me!

    On the downside, I have been trying to quote jobs per the job instead of per hour. I THOUGHT i could get a better rate this way and avoid some hassle. Well I either forgot how much time leaves can take or I was overconfident of the new equipment, or both. But I have done a couple jobs without clearing alot of profit i guess you could say :-/ well live and learn... some people respond really bad when they hear what you'd charge for a cleanup. They don't seem to understand the extra equipment and time involved. It's like they think it should be the same price as a mow or just $5 more :dizzy:
    But everyone is happy with the finished product and thats all that counts in my book (money matters aside, just talking business practices and ethics here). I found that alot of jobs will take the same time using the blow and tarp then mow and bag method as opposed to just mow and bag (dumping very frequently), or slightly longer for the first method, but the first method has a bit lower cost as the equipment doesn't cost as much ($500 blowers or $9600 mower and bagger). I don't like dumping a bagger constantly and sometimes it's just easier to blow into piles and haul the piles.
    Occasionally I mulch then bag, but for the conditions i have to work in (less than ideal sometimes) thats just too messy. Either the lawns are too small and you get corn flakes all over the flower beds and stuff or too wet and they make a sticky mess that won't suck up into the mower, or whatever it is, never works out right for me but sometimes i get away with it. I do alot of one time cleanup jobs, or my regular customers go 2 weeks between cleanings, or just get alot in one week. Mulching isn't an option for me, end of subject!

    But, thats just my opinion.
     
  2. rookiemower

    rookiemower LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 766

    its nice to hear the new setup is working for you Eric. I also am happy with my blower, i dont know how i lived without it. i can do cleanups pretty fast by myself with my blower and mower :waving:
     
  3. MOW ED

    MOW ED LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 5,028

    I have just started here Eric but I work solo or sometimes my wife helps. Yes she has leaf experience over the last 3 years but this year I am trying to work solo more as she has an opportunity to work inside at our daughters school for a few months.
    I understand your concerns about mulching. I am not gonna tell you or anyone how to do your cleans. Mulching can be very messy and I can get away with it on some lawns but others I have to bag. I use a Walker and have the 52 with doubles ( mulch plate on for fall) and I also have the 42 collection deck. I have heard of and tried many methods also. I have never tarped them as I usually am fighting a stiff wind in the opposite direction of where I have to go.
    Eric, you have to get more comfortable with explaining the reasons for your rate to the customer. You can't be doing it for nothing. Eventually you will become bitter and your work will suffer because you aren't getting paid enough for it. Think of it this way, a homeowner can pay you your rate or they can pick up the rake and do it themselves. Sure you may lose jobs to scrubs but the scrub can only do so much with a crapsman.
    You have to work within the hourly rate structure for your area so if Mrs Tightpockets calls AAA Lawn and Leaf they will tell her a leaf clean is $XX.XX per man hour, thats take it or (sorry) leaf it. :p
    Seriously though, you are an intelligent guy and you have to use your personality to sell your service. That equipment takes an beating in the fall and unless you have a money tree that drops dollars instead of leaves, you better figure on replacement cost in your rate.
    So yous see it happens to everyone, you just have to know your costs and get what you need. I have turned people away because they want me to do a leaf job for 20 bucks more than they pay per week. Can't do it, won't do it.

    Well enough of my ramblings for now I have to go and watch the rain. First rain in about 2 months, the clay soil is finally closing up. Good luck with the rest of the season.
     
    65hoss likes this.
  4. Runner

    Runner LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 13,494

    Blast them with a mower first. This does two things: First, it shuffles them all up to the top for easy movement. Second, it shreds them a bit, making it easier to get more on the tarp and pack them quicker. This is especially imporatant if you're hauling them off. Sometimes, we would gather them up into large rough piles, then go around and shred each pile before taroing them to the truck. Also, I always just rig up a loop setup to quickly attach the tarp to the back of the mower. This gets the tarps to the truck or street (or field) much quicker.
     
  5. ed2hess

    ed2hess LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 13,314

    Maybe leaves are different to deal with in Texas but our goal is NOT to haul any trash away. We mulch leaves as they set in grass then blow out of beds. We mulch them over and over with blower guy pushing them together so we don't have to run over entire yard. Worst case we use commerical honda/Scag Cougar to clean up the end if there is a lot of debris. In 35 years I have never took more than one 45 gal bag away on truck. We charge about 20% over mow price if customer is on contract.
     
    DLCS likes this.
  6. Kelly's Landscaping

    Kelly's Landscaping LawnSite Platinum Member
    Posts: 4,411


    Yea you could say it's a bit different my worse account has 400 cubic yards of leaves before we vac it up and that fills our 16 yard box twice after its been shredded there is no way we can leave that behind or hide it in the lawn. As for price it’s a 30-dollar lawn cut it’s nearly a 700-dollar fall clean up so we are not talking about the same thing here.

    That's not my highest fall clean up price its just got the most leaves.
     
  7. Kelly's Landscaping

    Kelly's Landscaping LawnSite Platinum Member
    Posts: 4,411

    Yea Eric I have eaten it on a few clean up prices I count hours as myself and my crew can not keep up or I count out the time perfect right up to the wind storm or the rain storm and then the times go to hell. Or the leaves really didn’t look this deep on the edge when I gave the price.

    I had a job last year one time clean up nothing else it was a wooded property no idea how much land they owned but the developed part was a nightmare. Packasandra and ivy and old growth shrubs. The real horror show was a crater with a stream running through it 80-100 feet across 20 feet deep pure packasandra with a complete oak canopy and barberries through out as if the leaves needed something else to get stuck in. all told it had probably 25000 sq ft of ground cover so I count out my hours I figure 21 hours of pure back pack work. Well I am beating my time by 6 man-hours all looks good then the unforecast rain comes ended up eating my 6-hour surplus and going 21 hours after all. And I end up very very wet and pissed off with my shoulder thrown out from pack backing for 7 hours straight.

    Some times you will beat your times other times you won't something you could add to your set up Eric that really speeds things up is a leaf plow no bs that saves me any where from and hour to 20 hours per clean up beats tarping your never look back.
     
  8. gogetter

    gogetter Banned
    Posts: 3,256

    This is how I do them too. The only difference this year will be instead of tarping and dragging to the curb, I bought a JRCO leaf plow.
    I won't start leaves for a couple/few weeks yet, so we'll have to wait to see how it goes. But I do know that I hated dragging heavy tarps to the truck!. That would wear me out more then anything.

    I'll try to get pics as we go.
     
  9. FrankenScagMachines

    FrankenScagMachines LawnSite Platinum Member
    from IN
    Posts: 4,739

    Well as for tarping- thats if it's in the backyard. I found that I can push piles with the mower without need for a plow. I just drop the deck on the Ferris and drive the piles where I want them. Sure may not take as huge of a pile as the JRCO but i don't have to unhook it to take off mowing/bagging either. It pushes a good size pile, but some leaves are left on the ground, blower guy will touch it up or i get it when i mow and bag. works fine for us. backyards are sometimes fenced, thus the need for tarps (gates too small for rider, and the JRCO is too wide for gates anyway). Now, I did think about making a leaf plow but i don't really think we would use it very much because of the way my properties are setup. Most are small to medium size places (depending on your definition of those i guess) like anywhere from 3,000 sq. ft. to 1/3 of an acre. The largest I do cleanup on is a half acre, the rest are all smaller. For the small ones we just blow the front yard to the curb then blow the backyard into one pile and usually just one or two tarp loads is all we need to pull out of the back. Tarp is the only good way i know of to get through a fence gate, and with just one or two loads needed it seems a good way to me. I'm trying to get another 5hp engine and vac from a buddy so I can make my homemade Trac Vac fit on my 36" eXmark (same setup as I had on the 52" just on the 36" instead) to help out doing the final cleanup in those gated backyards. I hate side catchers. Sometimes the blowers can't get the embedded leaves unstuck from the ground so the mower pulls up lots of them.
    Yesterday was fun, we did 3 of the largest cleanups (all around 1/2 or 2/3 of an acre properties) right before it rained! Started at 7:45 and finished at 10:45 just as it was starting to rain. We are constantly getting faster as we are getting better at it and the helper is finding little things to make it faster.
     
  10. dishboy

    dishboy LawnSite Platinum Member
    from zone 6
    Posts: 4,308

    FSM,

    Have you tryed using rubbermaid commercial garbage cans instead of tarps[32 gal.]. I find trying to get leaves onto a tarp very time consuming. I just lay them on the ground between my legs and push the leaves in with my hands and off to the truck with a can in each hand. This is much easier on my back than fighting a tarp since I work alone. With two guys this should eliminate having to coodinate or wait for the second guy to haul off the tarp. Do a test with two piles, you will be surprised.
     

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