How to offer weed pulling services and make money at it.

Should you be offering weed pulling in your list of lawn care services? Pulling weeds can be labor intensive but can make a huge difference in how the property appears as a whole. One lawn care business owner was questioning if this service was worth it or not when he wrote us on the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum. He wondered if not offering the service would mean he would lose customers. As we will see in this discussion, there is a proper way to go about it and to bill for it to really make it worth your while.

He wrote “I am starting out with mowing, trimming, blowing, and edging. Then throw in pressure washing later on. I don’t like pulling weeds and do not plan on throwing that in to my services. The thing I don’t know is, how do most lawn care customers react when their lawn guy does not pull weeds? Have any of you ever lost a customer because of your refusal to pull weeds or will they just simply hire someone else, like a gardener to do it?”

A second lawn care business owner shared “the problem with weeds is even many landscapers do not know the difference between some plant the client or previous homeowner planted and a weed. What we do is simply tell the client we are not plant specialists, however we have access to a horticulturist that will come in and identify everything for you and a staff supervisor and give you a plan of action. Then I give the customer the phone number and leave it at that. Without this identification, we will not weed a garden. We will remove dandelions from a lawn however, which is charged by the hour.

We have clients with flower beds that are worth thousands of dollars and they have plants that look like weeds, weeds that look like plants, with all these high priced yards, we absolutely need to call in a professional to tell us what we are looking at.

The professional we use also looks after all the gardens in the city. She told me even the biggest companies here do not know what they are doing when they get into a flower bed to weed. Personally the last thing I want is to be sued to replace what looked like a weed but was an exotic plant. I personally see nothing wrong with bringing in a professional, there are many things that we are all experts at, at the same time the phrase ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’ comes to mind in some cases where we might try to be everything.

Lastly, sometimes we get a customer who may ask us if we can simply spray weed killer here or there. In our city, you need to be certified to spray chemicals. If you don’t have a certification and you get caught, not only would they throw the book at you in fines, afterwards they wouldn’t allow you to get certified in the future!”

A third said “I will pull weeds for nominal fee depending on the size of the flower bed. Normally I only do it twice a month and it’s an additional fee. Usually I charge half what the lawn maintence fee is since I have to spend extra time there weeding out their garden. My prices vary depending on how big the garden and flower beds are, how many non-weeds are in it. The more packed a garden is, the more careful I need to be and the more time I will need to be there. I have to be careful that I do not distrupt the ecosystem of the garden.

Sure pulling weeds is a pain in a butt. Spraying a weed killer can work faster but it could damage the surrounding plants to some degree. If I pull the weeds out, roots and all, it’s bye bye problem. Weeds, being what they are will still come back over time, but overall I don’t mind performing the service. It’s all apart of landscaping. We take care of everything that grows on the exterior of your home and it’s overall appearance. If it does not belong there, we remove it. If it grows too long, we give it a cut. If it’s dirty we clean it. So we need to be able to perform mowing, trimming, edging, cleanup, bush/hedge trimming, power washing, etc. Overall it’s about curb appeal. The better your place looks, the higher the value it will be. Just ask any real estate agent.

I don’t base my weeding price off a square foot size. I should but I don’t. I also don’t promote or advertise the service. If the customer asks for it I tell them sure I can do that for a nominal fee. I check out the garden and make a guesstimate on how long it would take, and thats about it. Since I mainly service townhouses. the front gardens are no larger then 4 foot wide by 8 foot long and same goes for the rear. If it’s jammed packed with weeds, I will raise the rate. Since most the yard and garden sizes I work on are similar, I tend to keep my weeding price as a flat fee and it normally takes me 30-45 minutes to weed out the garden the first time. After that initial service each bi-monthly time I spend half that time and still charge the same rate.

I know a lot of you may say, oh but how do you know what is a weed and what isn’t? I just use common sense really. I frequent nursuries and garden centers checking out flowers all the time and if it looks like something that isn’t a flower, I will ask the customer to be sure. If it isn’t something they are growing, it will be pulled. If I am unsure, it’s always better to ask versus guess and accidentally pull the wrong thing and it cost me money to replace it. You can even ask the customer to you give you a walk thru first before you give them a quote. I rarely charge more then $10.00 for each 4′ x 8′ garden. It all depends on what the customer’s end goal is.”

A last business owner shared “weeding all depends on the client doesn’t it? If the client wants their lawns or beds weeded. I have had a yard or two where the customer  wanted it PERFECT! In which case if I spotted one weed from the mower, I would stop for a second and use the weed puller and pull it out. That’s no big deal. We charge a little extra for that service.

If a yard needs herbicide, well I call in someone else then that has more experience in that field.

Now if there is a weed problem in the bed, that’s a gardeners work in my opinion. When I first go to a client’s home that wants gardening work done, I first do what is called a ‘Clean out.’ This may take half a day (minimum I am willing to charge) to one that took me a full week! I do this before I do any design work! This gives me a clear idea of what the beds look like. Usually this is when weeds are at their worst.

The client after this ‘Clean Out’ gets excited and ambitious (which is when the checkbook opens a little more it seems). Then the design and installation happens.

BUT back to the regular gardening clients. I have some clients that I go to their place and pull weeds, take care of plants on a weekly schedule like you would mow their lawns on a weekly schedule. That’s what a gardener does.

So looking at the client and their landscape, judge if they need a gardener or just a weed puller. Charge weekly for weed pulling/spraying like you would for your lawn service.

When it comes to estimating, I figure out how long it will take me and charge like that but I don’t like to tell the home owner what the hourly rate is because there are going to be weeks where there isn’t much to do and then there are weeks where there are a lot of weeds. It may look overwhelming at first but just break down the areas into smaller ‘zones’ and figure out how long each zone will take. Maybe they only want weed control in the front yard or maybe only in the back? But breaking the job down into smaller parts always makes it a lot easier to bid on.”

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