leaf removal--solo operation

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by cwsimmsjr, Nov 10, 2007.

  1. cwsimmsjr

    cwsimmsjr LawnSite Member
    Posts: 6

    Hello everybody, I am new to the forum and would like to introduce myself. My name is Wade and I have been in the lawncare business part time for the past two years, and now I am about to take on the task of leaf removal.
    This will be my first season of leaf removal, so I need everybody's tips and advice.

    I also need to know whats the best equipment to buy/techniques to use to clean leaves up. I have about $1,500 to invest in leaf removal equipment, so I would imagine I am limited to my equipment choice of purchases.

    Also I need to know how much to charge for an average job, I've been reading up on this site about leaf removal and seems everybody is charging by the hour and not by the job. So how much should I charge, being that I am solo without employees. Also how do I tell potential customers that I am going to charge them X per hour?

    Thanks guys, :cool2:
  2. yardmanlee

    yardmanlee LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 898

    what do ya have now ? mower ? w ? bagger ? bp Blower ? hand held blower ? where in va are ya ?
  3. LawnScapers of Dayton

    LawnScapers of Dayton LawnSite Silver Member
    Male, from Dayton, OH
    Posts: 2,574

    I recommend a high power Back Pack blower, then a OCDC and double blades, and a bagger for your mower......That is a good way to start....not the most efficient but you can get rid of a lot of leaves by mulching......
  4. cwsimmsjr

    cwsimmsjr LawnSite Member
    Posts: 6

    Yardmanlees, Right now I have two commercial Toro 21" mowers, both equipped with baggers, in terms of my mowers.
    In the spring I plan to invest in a 36" to 42" walk behind mower.
    I am from the Fredericksburg, Virginia area.

    DRM, What size "high power back pack blower" do you recommend?
    And what is a OCDC?

    On an average based on an high power back pack blower and a tarp, how fast can I estimate to do an average yard from an 1/4 acre to an acre?

    MATT'S_LAWN_CARE LawnSite Member
    Posts: 3

    I also had about 1,500 to spend on leaf equipment. I looked at all the brands of trailer vacs first. After really looking them over and thinking it out I thought they would be too much work to pack around. I ended up buying a bagger for my Husqvarna Z5426 ($499) and a Stihl BG 85 Blower/Vac ($259). It has worked out great so far! THe money I saved was the down payment on my 2nd Zero-Turn!! It worked out well for me..

    I am located in SE Kansas and about half the leaves have fell, I am trying to figure out whether to wait until they all fall to begin extensive clean-up or just do the best I can now because their is SNOW in the foreceast for the week after Thanksgiving... PLEASE GIVE ME SUGGESTIONS!!!
  6. NewHorizon's Land

    NewHorizon's Land LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 690

    Wade, It all depends on how many leaves are down(20% or 80% down), the amount of obstacles such as landscaping, trees, etc. If the driveway is stone then that too can cause problems. Also a big factor is where your truck is parked in relation to the wind direction. Obviously if you are trying to blow against the wind it will take longer. These are reason why we charge by the hour and not by the job.

    As far as equipment goes you should probably get a blower of some sort. Backpack would be better if you have a lot of leaves to blow. We built a box out of 2x4's and plywood that slides in the back of the truck and we generally blow the leaves to the truck or makes piles and pick up with trash cans. This works for us, maybe not for you.

    Leaf removal can be hard work so make sure you get paid well. Charge for the dump fees and time it takes you to dump. Tell the customer you will charge them $XX dollars per hour and you time is from blah to blah.

    Hope this helped.

  7. NewHorizon's Land

    NewHorizon's Land LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 690

    Matt, Work now if you can. It will be easier to pick the leaves up dry and you can go back after the snow to get the rest. My two cents

  8. lawnprosteveo

    lawnprosteveo LawnSite Bronze Member
    from Tulsa
    Posts: 1,930

    Ive been doing leaves solo for about 5 yrs. I have tried it lots of different ways....and I dont think there is a "right way" or "wrong way".

    This is what is working well for me. I schedule customers for leaf cleanup every 2 weeks beginning in November and going thru December. This figures to be 4 or 5 visits.

    When I am there, I use mulching kits on my mowers. I blow the leaves from the corners and then mow over them. Whatever is left, I do a quick blowing and tarp or bag the little bit that is left.

    I tell them it is $40 per man hour with a $50 minimum and that they will end paying about the same per month as they do now. For example, if they have been paying $120 per month for mowing, they will pay about $120 for 2 leaf cleanup visits.

    This has worked well for me and I havent had any complaints. I have all the work I can handle. And it essentially allows me to receive a regular income thru December.

    Lots of guys do it differently and their methods work well for them. I just know this works well for this solo op...
  9. Roger

    Roger LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 5,923

    There are too many variables to give a simple answer to your question. One thing not mentioned was disposal. If you have to remove leaves from the site, what do you have to haul away, and where do you dispose of the debris?

    When I started, I invested in a couple of tarps and one rake, far less than the $1,500 budget you have. And, I had a 4X5 ft trailer, equipped with 4 ft plywood sides. Later I bought a blower, a poor choice in hand blowers. Sometime later, I bought a better hand blower, and now I have a really good one, Stihl BG85. I have a couple more tarps, better rakes (steel tined, with ram's horn spring), and a larger trailer to haul debris away.

    But, more than a little more equipment, I have experience! I think back to the strategies being used 10 years ago, I shake my head. I do thinks so much differently now. I have learned ways of doing the disposal so much easier and quicker. And, I am not hauling away nearly as many leaves as I did earlier (e.g. 12 trailer loads, not 35-40). And, I keep trying new ways all the time, ones that make the job easier and quicker (most important to me). I don't use the same method on the same property through a season -- situations change (e.g. weather, leaf burden, kind of trees that populate the property and therefore drop leaves at different times). What worked best today may not work well on the next visit.

    I think we all have our own methods, ones that evolved over time. Some have made large investments, and have done well because they have the kinds of properties that warrant such investments. Others have stayed simple because the kind of properties being serviced requires the simple tools.
  10. jeffex

    jeffex LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,933

    your best bet is to spend $500 on a br600 and save the grand for your walkbehind. you can still get the job done by using the blower to blow the leaves into rows . then mulch them with your mower to reduce volume. You can make a finish pass with the bag on . thats how i did leaves before I had a walkbehind with a mulch kit and one with a grass gobbler. same general practice it just takes longer with 21" mowers . price accordingly

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