Bed maintenance

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by AndyL, Mar 20, 2002.

  1. AndyL

    AndyL LawnSite Member
    Messages: 50

    Hey folks,

    This has to be my most hated topic of conversation. I can't stand bed maintenance... I swore up and down, when I started my own company I'd never do it.

    Now I've received a request from what so far is a GOOD customer, to give them a quote for the summer on doing it. (They're already booked in for mowing) This customer 'started' the ball rolling with me getting going on my own landscaping company, its an apartment complex, (only about 6k sf of turf, another 3.5-4k sf of beds) I started by providing snow removal for them, just actually walked in the door from getting rid of a big patch of ice.

    Anyway, they've got I'm pretty sure about 3500 square feet of beds. Hard to know exactly, everything is still covered with about 2' of snow :) Most is shrub beds (dogwood/cottoneaster), a couple tree wells, and one BIG annuals/perennials bed.

    I tried to get away with my preference, of 'time/materials' but they want a fixed price per month.

    My other headache, is they're not being very clear about exactly what they want. In the landlords words she wants them to be "kept up" doesn't help much. So I'd go by my assumption that I'd spent at least 45 minutes a week doing it... But even that is at best a guess, not knowing how well the beds have been maintained. I don't want to get into what I had last year, of going in, getting paid for an hours work a month, and finding quakc grass EVERYWHERE... I can think of one place in particular I spent 4 hours a week, for 8 weeks, and still didn't have the beds looking good.


  2. stslawncare

    stslawncare LawnSite Bronze Member
    from DE
    Messages: 1,484

    wow this is hard. i personally wouldnt do it the way they want, cant have a set price, what if for some odd reason one week or month or whatever there are tons of weeds? or what about mulching? and so on and so on
  3. trimmer

    trimmer LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 293

    If somebody wants thier beds cleaned up and they have not been done in a while I charge by the hour. There is no other way I will do it because there is no way that you can tell how long it will take you to do it. If they want mulch and other things done then I will charge accordling. I have found bed maintenance to be a good profitable service. I try to get as many as these as possible.

    BRIAN GALLO LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 282

    I've got a similar problem and dislike for bed maintenance. I have some customers that insist on bed maintenance with their lawns, and I always get burned on those. I end up spending way more time than they pay for, and the beds are still never up to snuff. This year I am asking for more $$$, and going to put down a good pre-emergent in hopes of keeping the weeds down. You still have all of the plant maintenance to up keep though. Price it good or you'll be mad every time you go out there.
  5. Southern Lawns

    Southern Lawns LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 259

    I hear ya! To me it's a red flag when a customer says a general statement like "I want them kept up". It happend to me today!
    First thing I do is (if i'm not already in front of them) I request a meeting to walk the prop. and I ask them to define "kept up" to me. What do YOU mean by kept up, I force them (in a nice way) to be specific so I can be specific. With that you will better understand their desire as to what it needs to look like, you can meet their needs much more effectively. I shudder when I get someone who will under all situations avoid being specific.
    From my experience it always pays to spend that extra time "grilling " the customer so as to know what their expectations are. You will both be happier. After trying to get them to be specific and they can't or won't I pad the bid in anticipation of more problems. On very rare instances I will explain that I can't help them.
  6. Southern Lawns

    Southern Lawns LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 259

    Also........When you get a situation with a lack of specifics you can for the most part refer to their Landscape education or lack of. If you spend a few minutes to educate them on what they NEED you will most likely get the specifics once they understand.
    Don't know if my experiences will help, good luck.
  7. Ssouth

    Ssouth LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 436

    Andy, I feel the same way you do about bed maintenance. I don't mention this service, but if someone ask I'll do it. What I normally do is:
    1.) Charge an initial clean-up fee; which includes everthing needed to gets the beds up to an initial standard. ( weeding, tilling, fert., mulching, and etc...)
    2.) Estimate how long it will take to keep the beds clean/visit. And add this to your mowing time and charge accordingly. For weekly weeding I charge $20/hr and I pay some one $10 an hour cash. ( I never have over 5 hrs of weeding a week )
    3.)Estimate trimming/pruning time. Trimming intervals are determined by planted materials. This could vary from monthly, quarterly, annual, or even by request. If know how many times you will pruning, just average that cost in with the mowing and weeding. If you are doing it by request, I would bill that seperatly and bid it on how long they wait.
    4.) Estimate for mulch touch-ups and average this into the bid.

    After you have all the above bases covered ask the manager if there is any other services that she would like such as seasonal plantings or anything else that you are willing to provide.

    Hope this makes since to ya'.

    Hope this makes since to you.

  8. bridges

    bridges LawnSite Member
    from RI
    Messages: 196

    I have done some bed maintenance for condo complex. The bed areas I would guess total 4,000sq or more. Thet are all shrubs

    They wanted the beds to be pretty much weed free. they paid $300 for 5 months. I quoted $500 , I came down to 300 to keep the client happy.
    Shrub prunning was more.

    All I did was spray the weeds with roundup It took only 15mins.

    I did that on the mowing day when i was there. and sprayed every other week.

    I would charge a first time clean up fee and then so much a month after that.(just for weeding)

    Then so much to mulch and so much to trim the shrubs once or twice a year.
  9. Premo Services

    Premo Services LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,516

    This is a little different situation. I offered contracts to my customers this year. On the proposals this year, I included xxx hours a month(at my price per hour). I will spend at least that much time. Sometimes there will be more time spent, and then I will be invoicing for the extra time. I think it will work out well. I have a hard time estimating how long the maint. will take on some jobs, so at least I will be geting paid no matter how long it takes. ;)
  10. Turfdude

    Turfdude LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,899


    Once snow melts, you'll see what kind of mess your up against. Bid job for initial cleaning of beds, weeding,mulching and add in time and mats for a good weed pre-M (snapshot, gallery, etc). These do help.

    See if you can be able to use round-up, scythe, or finale each week when mowing to keep weeds at bay (quicker and cheaper than weeding). Try to factor in at least one more pre-M application mid season.
    Let client know this is the most cost effective way so its a win-win situation for both of you!

    Good luck


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