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Good morning folks,

I hope this message finds you safe and well.

I have lots of questions, so please bare with me! :D

Earlier this year, I took a leap and went self employed ontop of my employment. I currently offer a wide range of gardening services which is primarily lawn and hedge care. As I currently work outside of an estate car, I am looking at purchasing a trailer - which will come with it's own pro's and cons. Luckily, I live in a rural area and majority of drives are large enough to accomodate trailers. Thus far, it's been very successful and I have already built up a decent customer base with returning customers. 

I currently have a rotary mower from Hyundai, specifically a 4 in 1, 139cc petrol mower without roller. I've had it for approximately 18 months, over last few mows it has began to surge - I feel this is likely the carburator and am planning to put it in for a service. However, that will leave me without a mower- so will need a backup. I don't know whether it's worth getting two mowers (one with and one without roller) for general lawn maintenance? and if so - what brand do you recommend? Cobra with honda engines seem reasonable, but professional versions are very expensive. I have also considered the petrol version of Cobra cylinder mower with cassets, which should allow me to scalp and scarify/dethatch. Specifically I am looking to offer lawn renovation services in Spring/Autumn so am also looking for a half decent scarifer. I have considered the Hyundai, but after reading many Hyundai reviews, I'm not filled with confidence, although I have not yet had any problems myself (apart from carburator). 

I am also looking at winter months, with trailer I'll be able to offer waste removal, I have successfully applied for the the low tier license, so can only remove waste I produce myself. Second option is gutter clearing - I've found a decent hoover that'll set me back approx £1200-1500 with a total reach of approx 10.5 metres, so should cover most basis. I have also considered purchasing a generator to ensure self-sustainability. For those interested GVS Panther.

I also considered pressure washing services, but that adds a whole new kettle of fish and costs, so probably won't offer this right now. 

Am I best to invest in a cylinder mower from Cobra that have specific attachments to fulfill multi roles or am i better to get single purpose equipment?
What's the cheapest way to get your selective pesticide license? cheapest I've found in my area is £600 for practical and theory.
How do you price jobs? for example, gutter clearing, lawn renovations (scarify, overseed, top dress).

Brands I have considered thus far are Stihl, Stiga, Hyundai and Cobra but seriously considering the Cobra Fortis 14L 

I have an approximate budget of
£2500 for garden equipment (such as Mower, scalper, scarifer, petrol blower, sprayer)  
£1500 for gutter equipment

I'm open to suggestions and feel free to crititise or recommend as needed.

Thank you, and happy to answer any questions you may have.

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  • PRO

    Personally I am a big fan of cylinder mowers , the first petrol mower I used was a customers Atco and I loved it , Then spent over Twenty years employed cutting large ornamental lawns on an estate using ride on Atcos and smaller Dennis cylinder mowers . 

    Dedicated machinery scarifiers were used separately but we are talking acres of separate ornamental areas  .

    Honda rotary mowers were used for rough areas and occasionally on some ornamental areas and were ultra reliable but all mowers require blades keeping sharp and regular servicing no matter how efficient .

    When I started up and became self employed I knew it would not be practical to carry a cylinder mower around due to the weight and not suitable for all lawns unless I was specialising in country estates but have come across these types of properties which have cylinder mowers in situ belonging to customers . 

    It is a valid business model if you can get that type of client and specialise almost niche , nice lawns ,big properties ,,plenty to do and work all year round    

    I don't honestly know if the cylinder mowers you mention are designed to be used professionally .

    Never used cobra myself but occasionally work with colleagues who praise the brand and have not heard of any issues , In fact a colleague high up in the pecking order recently recommended cobra machinery to a mutual client where price is not an issue . 

    Also have a colleague who has had the same Honda Izzy for for Twenty years which was bought used and it's bullet proof , Done a lot of hard work and never missed a beat , not roller either but leaves a reasonable stripe due to a plate on the rear and on premium lawns too but will equally cut down rough grass in orchards and do a nice job on most lawns . 

    Depends on your job spec but there are other options available in rotary mowers with rollers and you have your existing mower if it just requires a service . 

    You can always hire or pick up a used dedicated scarifier if it's viable .

    Gutter cleaning not the nicest job can be problematic if you come across gutter guard and need to start climbing up ladders and also gutter leaks appearing after cleaning and getting the blame , I would rather do Leaf clearance and apple tree pruning . 

     

     

     

  • I don't know exactly how you see your business going but for me, I found in the early days I offered to do too much and my profit suffered even though I was busy. Eventually I found (for me) the perfect model. I can do all I need with a few mowers, a strimmer, hedgetrimmers, long reach h/t, backpack blower, arb ladder and some handtools. This way I maintain lawns, hedges, borders most of the year, blow leaves until Christmas and cut taller hedging early new year. It is not set in stone but I find this generally keeps me busy for 12 months doing a mix of domestic and commercial customers. I found in the early days I was scaryfying, turfing, lopping branches,  gutter cleaning, you name it. Now I simply recommend  people to do those jobs as I found carrying endless equipment and switching from one type of work to another was not efficient on time or my profit. It doesn't happen overnight but I found learning to say no allowed me to concentrate on building the business efficiently. I know what equipment I need to put on each day and don't have expensive plant lying around for months without use. This may not be what you are looking at but all I'll say is this model works well for me. What I would add is buy quality. You want to know every machine will start straight away and be up to the job. We all have our preferances but Honda and Stihl are my choice every time.

  • For what it's worth after 40 years in the trade, hope this helps.

    Scarifier Stihl RL 540 £650

    Cylinder mower forget it despite maintaining some very high end private and commercial sites never been asked. We use Hayter 56 Pro roller mowers for high end work, fantastic finish but at around £1600 with the cost of the scarifier that's most of your budget gone. I would hire a scarifier at this stage in your business as you have no idea what demand is going to be.Any decent roller mower is going to be best part of £1000 and is a must have. You will also need a 4 wheel mower, anything from Honda but if you can afford Honda 537 HRX HY or the 19 inch version if you want to save a couple of hundred pounds. DO NOT BUY anything from Cobra ( apart from pro) or Hyundai there is a reason they are cheap!

    As to blower you don't say if its backpack or hand held the answer for both is anything from Echo, they have given us years of exemplary service with not even a snapped starter cord.

    You have not mentioned hedgecutter or strimmer? With budget in mind the best option would be the Stihl Kombi system and you can add attachments as needed. DO NOT buy the entry level power unit as the drive shaft is not up to heavy load, buy the next one up.

    Knapsack sprayer Matabi super green 12 £60.

    I have doubts,, considering the investment whether the gutter cleaning is a good idea and feel that the money would be better spent on garden equipment, the garden maintenance is your core money maker. A garden needs maintaining every week/ fortnight a gutter needs clearing once a year?

    A pressure washer may be worthwile but a decentone will be expensive and I would hire initially until you see what demand is like.

    You don't want to offer too many services as you may come across as a handy man type service rather than a professional gardener which I guess is the route you want to go down?

    Invest in some workwear with business name on along with decent invoices and business cards.

    To reiterate spend that £1500 on mowers etc not gutter kit.

    Hope I have not come across too opinionated but above is from lessons learnt after a long time!

  • have you considered going on Ebay and picking up some good secondhand stuff.... will make your money go a lot further.   If you're careful........... avoid anything that could possibly have been used commercially............  you can pick up so good deals. 

    • Unless you're very lucky most of the kit is on there because its wrecked and just wating for an unsuspecting buyer. Heard some real horror stories, the last thing you want is having to buy twice because you have bought a pup

      • you're absolutely right there................ that "bargain" stihl hedgecutter going for half-price but the blades are badly worn and a new set is £100+    The Kaaz mower where the gearbox "jumps" when you engage............ £300+ if you can't do it yourself.    Its pretty easy to spot a machine thats had minimal use and not been been used commercially....... dents, scratches, labels worn away, grass bag with a few holes, tread worn away on the mower front wheels  etc........ they all give the game away.  

        • Yes I"ve got a really good Honda pro that works perfectly with no faults and runs like a dream. Think I'll put it on ebay for £600 and go and buy a new one for £1800, why would you do that!

  • PRO

    From nearly fifteen years in the trade...

    Cylinder mower - forget it - if the client has a good enough lawn for one - they will already have one! In many, many years I have only been asked ONCE if I had a cylinder mower and that was by the local bowling green as theirs was broken.

    Roller mower - chalk and cheese - depends what you are doing - I now do a lot of 'high end' residential and they are all done with a 19" Cobra Pro - I can go from there to mowing graveyards - which I use my trusty Kubota 21" Wheeled Pro for. The deck on this has recently shattered after 9 years after hitting a fist sized rock, but I have had to stitch it back together as there is a MASSIVE backlog on new Cobra Pro kit, with the official importer now quoting end of September delivery....

    One issue you will find with 'PRO' mowers is the handles often don't fold easily to fit in a car (plus they are HEAVY) and Iwouldn't be leaving a £1200 machine on the trailer!

    The price you have been quoted for PA1/6 sounds about right from my recollection.

    I bought a scarifer many years ago and use it a handful of times a year - secondhand it was a worthwhile investment but buying new wouldn't have been.

    Pressure washing kit I hire in off Sunbelt Rentals (formerly A Plant), proper industrial kit, massive flow and pressure and the hire charge gets included in price to client(s).

    Its very easy to buy lots of kit and find you never need half of it - been there - done that!

    • I wanted to ask you re pressure washing quickly - as this peaked my interest. Do you require pesticide license when applying treatment? Also, does the hire kit come as part of a trailer pack, with water tank included for steady water flow? I appreciate your sound advice and many of peoples comments on here are exactly what my wife told me... I often run before I can walk. 

  • I had a lot more responses than I anticipated, firstly - thanks to all. 
    I can see a few questions, so will start with them first.
    Equipment I already own 

    Hyundai 20V Cordless Leaf Blower
    Hyundai 20v Cordless Grass Trimmer
    Hyundai 18" / 46cm 139cc 4-in-1 Self-Propelled Petrol Lawnmower 
    Hyundai 52cc Petrol Grass Trimmer / Brushcutter (I have two versions, different handles + extended reach hedge cutting attachment)
    Hawksmoor 26cc Petrol Hedge Trimmer 
    I have also have a handheld spreader for seed/fertaliser, compost roller and an electric scarifier from AL-KO.

    From reading your comments, I note that gutter clearance may not be such a bright idea, however I am worried about the winter months whilst I'm still building up a customer base. I understand leaf clearance may be a more suitable option, but don't know where I stand in regards to waste removal. Although I have blowed/raked etc, it's not generally waste I have produced myself. Am i required to have a high tier waste license for this? 
    I want to 'specialise' in lawn renovations, but as many of you know it's generally only done in spring/fall, so will need something to tie me over the whole year. I am not a big fan of garden bed clearance, but I do offer this as part of the service - i generally use the wolf-garten tools for this. 

    From reading your comments,STIHL, Echo and Honda. Whilst Honda is a bit out of my price range, atleast from a professional standpoint. I currently only offer my services at weekends, although I am opening up a Monday from middle of July. I am terrible at quoting which I feel holds me back quite a bit, so generally quote per hour, but always under estimate how long something will take. 

    I haven't had any customers ask for scarifying yet, but only started trading officially beginning of June, so wrong time of the year. I would like to offer this service, so will go with Peter sellers recommendation on Stihl. I cannot afford an aerator, so will likely hire this should it be needed. Whilst I appreciate it's difficult to put a price on, what's the general consensus for a lawn renovation (aeration, scarify, overseed, top dress and treatment for 250sqm lawn? Also thank you for recommending the Knapsack - will pick this up. 

    Will look at a back blower from ECHO
    Will look at hedge trimmers from ECHO although my Hawksmoor does surprisingly well, but only been used a few handful of times this year thus far. I struggle to quote projects, but noticed waste removal is where money soon adds up. As soon as I added waste removal as part of my service, profit sky rocketed (not really, but it did have a meaningful impact). 
    Will look into 

    Whilst I'd like higher quality petrol strimmer/multi tool, the hyundai will do it's job for now and I will look to invest in better equipment in future. 

    Reading everyone's comments re cylinder mowers - I think it's fair to say it's a no go at this point. 

    One question, whilst I need P1/P6 for selective pesticide application, same rule does not apply for fertalisers, such as iron sulphate, iron, phospate and so on? 

    I forgot to mention, I have already built my own website, designed my own logo, got business cards and apparel with logo etc.

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