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What's a sulky? And other Newbie questions

Discussion in 'Starting a Lawn Care Business' started by truerblue, Feb 8, 2005.

  1. truerblue

    truerblue LawnSite Member
    Messages: 5

    I've read on this site that if you want to start without a lot of expense to go with a walk behind with a sulky. What is a Sulky? Also, I looked at a Honda commercial mower today for around 1000 dollars- hydrostatic. Just a 22 inch deck. Just planning to do residential. And probably small sites(I think). So, I won't be uncompetitive? Also what is a mulching deck. And is mulching an extra service that is charged for and when do you mulch. Also, can I work without contracts. Or can you give them a contract discount. And, will they for example have their own idea(the customer) as to how often they want the lawn cut. Like every 10 days or something like that or can I lead them to accept a schedule that is best for me and etc. And, what is best for me. I don't mean money wise but, is it best to mow on a regular enough basis to keep the grass from getting to long and problems arising from that. Also, if I am working part time and that is Saturday and a night or two per week how many residential size sites can I do a week and so on. Thanks a lot.
  2. touhey33

    touhey33 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 778

    You have a lot of information you want to find out, best to start out by using the search tool, browse the posts from other members and you will learn alot, like you i didn't know alot about lawn care, but this forum is great for helping you learn and understand the business. As for a sulky it is the thing you stand or sit on behind your walkbehind mower. It is an accessory. Mulching when you mow simply means cutting the grass blades into small pieces with mulching blades on your mower, and a cover on your chute, and allowing them to go back onto the ground for nutrition to the grass, this means you don't have to bag and it is better for the lawn. The other type of mulch is used for trees and flower beds, etc. It is used for appearance as well as to hold the moisture in for the plants and trees. Usually you change your mulch once to twice a year. Good luck, there are alot of people on this site that will help you out.
  3. Carolina Cutter

    Carolina Cutter LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 984

    A sulky is a two wheeled version of a stand or sit rider and a velke is a one wheel version.
  4. SoloMow

    SoloMow LawnSite Member
    Messages: 173

    I am a solo operator in a growing, but not prosperous, suburb of Dallas-Ft. Worth. I will attempt to answer some of your questions based upon my one full season in the business. My experiences may not be appropriate for Oregon.

    1. Sulky? No way. If you intend to service small residential
    sites. A commercial 21" Toro or Exmark (same mower) would be
    great. But, don't worry if you start out with a solid residential
    mulching mower. You will wear it out in one year, but it will get
    you started. You can always buy better when you get a cash flow.

    2. Mulching mowers will save you time, effort, and money. Nothing else
    needs to be considered. :)

    3. Contracts? I work on ORAL contracts. I cut every 10 days and bill
    my customers monthly. In my first year I had only one deadbeat
    account that failed to pay $50. I would have taken it to a small
    claims court, but I knew the eventual outcome in this particular
    county court.
  5. polecat63

    polecat63 LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,655

    Can't use a sulky with a mower that small. Heck, I wouldn't use one with anything smaller than a 36" walk behind mower. If your all of your lots are 5000 square feet or smaller then a 21" mower should be okay. I started out with one, but tracked down a used 44" Toro within 3 months of starting. I mow every seven days, period. I used to do 10 days with some customers but it always came back to bite me in the arse. You get some rain and lose a day or two it isn't too bad with a weekly mow, but you start looking at 12-14 days during growing season and fogetaboutit! Working without contracts is fine. I still do it with about half my customers. They either pay me every week or at the end of the month I usually tell them they can pay at the end of the month as long as they pay on time. They pay we late, then they pre-pay me.
    As far as your mower, I'd try to find a little larger mowr. I know yazoo used to make a 27" mower or maybe bump up to a 32". Heck, you're already paying a grand, why not throw in a few extra hundered and get something you'll really use. IMHO
  6. Hartlawn Services

    Hartlawn Services LawnSite Member
    Messages: 17

    After 6 years in the business, I also believe that a larger deck is better, within reason of course. Look at decks bigger than 21" because they will save you time. Maybe check out a 33" or a 44" walk behind, both of which should be able to pull a sulky if they have enough horsepower.

    And on that subject, a sulky is well worth the investment. If you do more than a few lawns, you put a lot of miles on your legs, and a sulky can really make getting through the day easier!

    Since I mow cool grasses, which tend to be thicker and wetter, I would highly recommend against a mulching mower. With the cool, wet grasses, the mulching mowers tend to leave large clumps or lines of mulched grass on the lawn. Side-discharging is much preferred. If you buy a decent mower, you will not see the clippings from a discharge mower because they will be finely cut and spread over a large area.

    Finally, I have operated with oral contracts in the past, but am slowly switching to written contracts. Oral contracts give you greater flexibility and invoke a greater sense of trust between the client and yourself, but it also leaves room for you to get burned, which has happened to me several times over the years.
  7. truerblue

    truerblue LawnSite Member
    Messages: 5

    Wow!Thanks for all the help. And, I have learned to search the web and find answers to questions. It is very gratifying to have a direct response to the questions I posted. Thanks everyone. I am in the doubt and fear stage of getting started. In that: when I first thought of starting out (before I found this site by accident really) it was so simple. I would buy a mower and go out and mow lawns and do other yard work like I did when I was a kid. (I like the informality of verbal contracts). And, now, I see that there is so much more to it. And because I want to do it part time for a few years (and mostly to pay off debt) I am a little anxious that I will go into more debt for the right equipment and also that I won't be experienced enough to offer all the services that people will ask for. I will (if I end up getting started) Charge the right rates. I won't be a scrub. I will get a license and etc. I will do that part right. But, I hear guys in their late forties wondering if they can do this. And, I am almost 60 and thinking about starting this way and then later offering Landscape Design Services and working with contrators to provide the necessary work that I can't or don't want to. Because I don't want to work for someone else when I am 64. And I don't want to retire completely I just want to have more control over my life and prospects.
  8. truerblue

    truerblue LawnSite Member
    Messages: 5

    Polecat63 mentioned that if all the lawns were 5000 sq ft then a 21" would be ok. I think most of the residential lawns in my area are smaller. If they are 5-8000 sqft how long would it take to mow a lawn with a 21" selfpropelled hydorstatic honda type (approx). And then assuming it is less than an hour each (say a 1/2 hour) would you charge (for example) a 30 dollar minimum. Also, I have been thinking about doing this on Saturdays but it sounds like a lot of people don't like their lawn mowed on saturdays(like it mowed and ready for saturday) I could mow on Fridays from say 12 noon to dark 8 hours probably and then I could do as many lawns as saturday.

    95 Ford F150
    Electric hedge trimmer
    Hand Tools
    Electric Chain Saw
    A whole wish list of stuff I want.
  9. polecat63

    polecat63 LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,655

    If you don't have tons of turns or beds to cut around 30 min. per lawn of 5000 sq ft sounds about right. I would guess alittle longer though. Edging, blowing etc... I try to average $50 to $60 per man hour with residential mowing. Don't always get there, but I try. It's been my experience that people don't mind having the grass cut on Saturday as long as it get s cut. The problem with scheduling all your lawns on Sat. is your shafted if it rains. Spread 'em out over a few days instead of killing yourself. Good luck.
  10. mikeyshane331

    mikeyshane331 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 32

    No im sorry but thats incorrect a sulky can be one or two wheeled, but Velke is a name brand for sulkies and they make one and two wheeled sulkies. This is the website that sells the velke brands http://www.wrightmfg.com

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