Does this pay?

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by mottster, Jun 8, 2003.

  1. mottster

    mottster LawnSite Member
    Messages: 191

    Sup all. I like landscaping...its more exciting then just mowing but me being fresh outta highschool with out any college landscape design classes and/or designing experience...i can't actually put landscapes together. In your opinion would I be able to find enough business to make a part-time job (5-9pm mon-sat) with out having those skills? Just relying on the owners telling me exactly what they want and where they want their stuff? I'm sure I can get some people who love working in their yards and can't do it due to dissabilities but is there enough?

  2. Kohls Landscaping Co

    Kohls Landscaping Co LawnSite Member
    Messages: 188

    There is definately work out there that needs to be done. However, repeat and new customers will only come from customers who are happy and satisfied with your work. We all have to start somewhere, even if it's only doing what customer tell you to do. I can't tell you how much I have learned about landscaping from customers who are good with plants. If you want to pursue a landscaping career, I would suggest first working with a larger landscaping company to learn and see if you like the type of work. If you do a good job, I am sure that 4 hours a day will not be enough time to complete all the jobs you want to get to. Best of luck to ya...
  3. blafleur

    blafleur LawnSite Member
    Messages: 229

    Thats exactly how I got started. I also did a lot of self study and research, and studied local landscapes. That is the long way, but I was doing it part time like you which takes some of the pressure off. I really dont think you need college classes for learning design, but you do need to learn what works well in your area, and the characteristics of those plants. You can get a good feel for design by driving around and taking pictures of good designs.

    Good luck,
  4. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,872

    I think there are plenty of landscaping type things to keep you busy. Just don't be too eager to do all of it right off the bat. Realize and respect your limits and don't do stuff you're not familiar with or comfortable with. As for things you don't have a lot of experience with - start small. Make your first lawn renovation one that is 500 sq. ft., not 5,000 sq. ft.

    Before you ever prune anything I highly recommend reading Ortho's book "All About Pruning." and maybe another book or two on pruning. Sooooo many guys out there pruning the wrong way. Get the "Western Garden Book" also and read the entire glossary over and over. Excellent info. in there! Read the main pages also as to specifics on certain plants. But the glossary in the back is a gem!

    It's a good idea to read up on lots of things before you ever start to do them. Once you understand them in concept, then start on small projects. For instance, if you want to do block retaining walls, read up on how to construct them; how to lay a solid footing down, what a tamper is, how to make each block level, drainage behind the wall, etc. and THEN do a small one. Don't take on anything big until you first have read up and practiced on smaller such jobs.

    And finally, make sure you're covered as far as your license, bond, etc. If you can't get a landscaping license right now (e.g. there is a test that you have to take and you're not ready) then just don't do stuff that requires a license.

    Anyway, the answer to your question is Yes. You can make a good living at this even without taking landscaping courses at college. But you need to be smart about it. What I've outlined is a good start.

    p.s. don't do any work on irrigation systems until you really know what you're doing. Leave that stuff alone for now.
  5. mdvaden

    mdvaden LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,946

    There is a very well known real estate woman in Beaverton - Tigard, Oregon area - Lewis knows her too - anyway, she said she likes the availability of people working in landscape for when she needs someone to simply follow her directions and get the work done.

    So there is a market from poverty level to upper-class.

    Just don't claim to be an expert until you learn, and have someone train you or show you.

    And you will not really understand until you see a full year pass on each of your projects, minimum.
  6. mottster

    mottster LawnSite Member
    Messages: 191

    I have experience with all of the techniques of each individual project...pavers, walkways, retaining walls, sod, planting trees, spreading mulch, building fences...i know how to do all that stuff...i've done it...i've even worked on irrigation systems with success. The only thing is i can't actually design a landscape...i can't put each of the individual things I know how to do together to make it look complete. I'm glad to hear there is a market...thanks for the insight.
  7. mdvaden

    mdvaden LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,946

    Try one design class at a hort college and see if you like it.

    Some people do, some don't.

    I liked design before working with plants. In 1977, my graduation year, I took the woodworking furniture design trophy in the local competition located in the major mall. That's when the area high schools displayed the projects for competition.

    There is no real right or wrong in the design world. Its a matter of picking plants, characteristics, and making it flow, clash or interact with other elements.

    For example, our homepage shows me with some New Zealand Flax and Italian Cypress. If the photo is enlarged, the vertical lines of the siding should show. The narrow vertical Cypress were planted to go with the lines of the siding.

    Years ago, I saw a design from Hillsboro, Oregon. The landscape architect designed a courtyard with a grove of bamboo (tender flexible) at one end of the raked gravel rectangular area, and then at the other end was a large, multi-ton boulder (hard, immovable).

    I think the greatest requirement in design, is that the design lasts for an intended span of time. That requires putting plants where they can keep getting larger for decades. Or, its known that they will be shaped to fit the spot ahead of time - not shaped as a band-aid after-though reaction.

    One's own yard is a great practice zone.

    If you ever get into design, an "up" side to it, is that the tools of the trade are small and transportable. Hand drafting is still widely acceptable. A camera and measuring tape are easy to take to a site. A sight level will suffice rather than a transit for most yards.

    No trucks, no trailers, no stacks of equipment, no oil changes.

    Design is where I want to expand more in the next decade.
  8. llgardens

    llgardens LawnSite Member
    Messages: 16

    seeking courtship with landscaping?

    If you feel that you are interesed in installing landscapes and have the means to expose yourself to it (You have lawn clients right?), offer services in your next mailing or send out a newsletter introducing some remedial services such as pruning, shrub, edging, mulch installations...what you feel comfortable offering. YOU Propose ideas to clients and then discuss changes. You will gain respect from the get-go, even though you may have ill experence. Do what I did (and still do)...when you drive around, analyze all the landscapes you see, what would you change, what looks good and the like. For me it has been the best landscaping class I never had to pay for!

    Good luck and you'll do just fine...

    'Believe in something and you'll go where you believe'
  9. mdvaden

    mdvaden LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,946

    llgardens reminded me of something I used to do in winters - referring to looking and analyzing other landscapes and visualizing changes and improvements.

    Every winter, since its slower, I'd spend 20 minutes to an hour every day distributing flyers right to the door of houses in nice neighborhoods - taking my time too.

    I'd look at every yard - up to 3000 - and see what looked good, what looked bad, and what I thought should be done different.

    After going to the same areas over 5 years, it really became evident which designs started to fall apart, and which were manageable - it got to where I recognized the homes and landscaping.

    So it was good for promotion, and for education. I even picked up a lot of ideas from it.


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