How best to use a mower vac to clean up leaves and how to charge for it.

How best to use a mower vac to clean up leaves and how to charge for it. YOu can join in on this discussion at the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum here.
Jeremy wrote in “I’m planning on purchasing an ultra vac for my exmark zero turn lawn mower to do leaf cleanup, but I’m not sure how best to use it or how to charge my lawn care customers? Any suggestions?

I’ve never used the vac system on a rider mower, and my first idea was to just charge them for another cut since I would be going over it more than once.

Example: I have to go over a lawn three times in order to have it cut and the leaves removed. The lawn is $25 dollars a cut so I charge $75 dollar for the job.

Does this sound like a good idea to anyone else, or should I rethink this.”

ultra vac lawn mower

Ken: “I’ve used the “vacuum” on a Z mower method for a few years now. I’ve never been able to do a job for only 3 times the mowing price. My minimum is $200 and I get anywhere from 7-11 times the mowing price. I make an exception if we do a multi-stage cleanup. Keep in mind, this is Maine, and we often have 4-8 inches solid leaves - completely mulched, one 20k job can fill a 8 x 12 landscaping trailer with four foot sides, but we average 3-5 jobs per trailer load. We use one trailer for towing the Z mower and one for leaves.

We estimate mulch and cleanups based on mowing price … it’s not perfect, but we analyzed all our mulch and cleanups and discovered that we COULD use mowing price as a fairly accurate multiplier, simply because mowing price is based, in part, on square footage of the yard.”

Jeremy: “I have not purchased the vacuum for the CT yet and don’t really know what to expect. What I’m looking to do is to cut the grass with the leaves on top and then go back over it with the vacuum to get all the remaining clippings? Is this a good idea, or do you have a better recommendation? I just want to be the most efficient as i can be, but really have no experience. Any advice would be useful!”

Ken: “I’m not sure about the “cut first / suck later” strategy. I can’t say I’ve actually tried and timed it vs. the “suck from the beginning” method, but I think that simply vacumming the leaves off the lawn right from the beginning is best, because the grass is standing up and “presenting” the leaves to you … and they’re still in one piece and light. If you mow first, you sort of “drive” everything into the ground, then you’re picking up much finer, heavier particles. You want BIG AND LIGHT vs. small and wet and heavy for your vacuuming system, IMHO.

What we have found works for HEAVY leaves is to go over them once with the deck completely raised, which will suck the top layer without chopping and mulching the grass up too much … then we lower the deck and repeat as needed.

We have also found that sometimes it’s better to just shut the z mower off, and do a “very quick and dirty” blowing of the bulk of the leaves into a pile and tarp them into the woods. This is ONLY if there’s ankle deep leaves - which we DO HAVE in rural Maine, or if the leaves are plentiful and wet.

The best of both worlds of course is to have a truck leaf sucker too, so you use that for the big piles of leaves and the Z for the less “leaf populated” areas.

I have found a sub-contractor that got out of the lawn mowing business to concentrate on leaf pickup and hydro seeding, so we’re going to use him this year for sucking some of our larger accounts. Very synergistic - using the right tool for the job.”

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