High end garden service idea

Discussion in 'Landscape Maintenance' started by sgbotsford, Aug 22, 2012.

  1. sgbotsford

    sgbotsford LawnSite Member
    Messages: 123

    If you have a greenhouse division, or can partner with a greenhouse or nursery here's a service you can add.

    Base setup: Sink large pots (#5 - $15) into the ground. You have to have reasonable drainage for this to work. I've found the best way to do this is to over dig the hole. So for example for a 16" pot, auger a 12" hole 4 feet deep, scalp the edges to fit the pot, and now you have a foot or so of space under the pot to act as a sump. If you have sandy soil, you don't need to do this.

    Line the socket pot with a good quality root control fabric. This is essential for certain woody shrubs such as willow. Doesn't matter for most annuals. or bulbs.

    Now, for each socket pot there are several plant pots. So, for example:

    Set one is spring bulbs. These are put in place in the fall. Come spring, they do their showy thing, and when the tulips start to fade, you come by and swap the spring bulb pot for the iris pot. Later the iris pot is swapped for the early lily pot. Later the early lily pot is swapped for the late lily pot. In the fall the liies are picked up and the spring bulbs are left.

    Set 2 could be flowering double plum, early lilac, late lilac, and dogwood.

    Set 3 could be potted trees with flowering crab for spring color, ivory silk tree lilac mid summer, and sugar maple for fall color.

    Set 4 could be a set of bonsai/topiary trees.

    Set 5 could be a set of perennials.

    Set 6 could be a set of annuals.

    Between the pots is either a low maintenance ground cover, or some form of zero vegetation cover.

    Most of the maintenance is done at your shop. Yes, you need suitable space for these pots to do their growing during the off season. And you have to have people who are flexible in what they do. But it means that your wizard at pruning and shaping doesn't spend half his day riding around in a truck.

    You gain efficiency. Your customer gains variety -- and invisibility. Hardly anyone ever sees anyone working on the gardens.

    It's another service they pay for.

    As a branch of this same service, you can provide potted displays for parties.

    And there is a whole market for balcony gardens -- people in apartment buildings who want some green. Can be as simple as drop off in spring, pick up in fall, or as complex as the 5-6 change sets above. (Scheduling for apartment dwellers can be a pain.)

    Would it work? Physically yes. I planted bulbs in a liner pot, dropped it into a socket pot on my tree farm, and they did just fine. Will it sell? You tell me.
  2. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,082

    Local nurseries are generally already working that market, but like anything else,,, start small and see if it works...
  3. Duekster

    Duekster LawnSite Fanatic
    from DFW, TX
    Messages: 7,961

    This is common in interior scaping in building lobby's. It was the 80's when I noticed it.
    I have see some Green Roof strategies use swappable trays.

    Our soils are generally too heavy but I can see an application for it. Around Restaurants and such.

    Thanks for bringing this up and reminding me of this tactic for seasonal change outs. It does work well if you have a green house to return and nurse / propagate the plants.
  4. sgbotsford

    sgbotsford LawnSite Member
    Messages: 123

    @Duekster: When you say your soils are too heavy -- the sockets won't drain?

    Two thoughts: 1. It can have limited application next to foundation of the house. At least here there is frequently weeping tile and drainage rock next to the foundation.

    2. It can have application for raised beds.

    Drainage is the key, and some careful testing needs to happen when installing the sytem. One trick: Take the bottom out of a 5 gallon pail, and sink it below the socket pot. This gives a 5 gallon 16" deep reservoir underneath the socket pot. The hydrostatic pressure from the water column will push the water into the soil

    An alternate way is to fill the space below the socket pot with gravel, in essence each pot has a small private french drain.

    A third aspect is to use shallow pots. This may mean using more, but smaller pots. Using the right ones means that the entire pot is in the top soil where there is reasonable drainage.

    I'm not in a position to try it. I'm here under false colors. I'm a tree farmer, who grows ornamentals and mows about 6 acres of aisles and paths. I'm suggesting it, as it may be a market I can develop, supplying trees and shrubs and possibly flowers for other landscapers to do this.

    In my very limited view the term 'landscape contractor' is a grab bag of a bunch of different businesses.

    A: Grass and Snow. They mow and fertilize the grass, dethatch and fertilize. In the winter they shovel snow, sprinkle de-icer.

    B: Dirt and Stone. They guys come in after a house is built, spread the topsoil, put in patios, decks, fences, retaining walls. They may also do irrigation systems, but that isn't big here as our summers tend to be cool.

    C: Trees & Shrubs. Lot of this is done either by garden centres in in conjunction with garden centres. This is primarily the planting of these. But this category also can include pruning, and pest management. With some outfits, it merges with the Arborists

    D: Design.

    Some companies offer turn key solutions and will handle all 4 stages. This isn't common around here. A and B in particular seem to take different mindsets, and a completely different set of equipment.

    Locally I've seen it done where high end landscappers will replant gardens, lifting the old plants and putting in new ones. This gives you the rather startling image of a tulip changing into a petunia. But it makes a mess, and it's not quick. Much of the time the plants taken out are just discarded. These same guys will also take on a weeding contract to keep your beds free of weeds.

    If this sort of thing is done under one roof, it can mean you offer more work to your employees. Here, for example, we get a lot of rain in June, and the grass grows like crazy. You have to mow twice a week to keep it looking nice. By August you can get away with mowing every other week. Which means you have to let a bunch of guys off, or find them other work to do.

    If can diversity into "Constant Comment" gardening:
    A: You have activity that can be done on a rainy day.
    B: Refurbishing pots for next year and installing sockets is something that you can do during the slow season.

    One approach you can take to this is a partnership with a garden centre or tree farm. You miss the ability to fill in workers, but you have relatively little investment.

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