Lessons for your first year leaf removal season.

There are many variables you need to take into account for fall leaf cleanups. Do you wait until all the leaves have fallen or keep up on the property until the last leaf has dropped?  What about equipment? Is it worthwhile simply starting off with a rake and some bags or will you need more than that? These are the questions a new entrepreneur asked on the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum. The first leaf clean up season can be tough but here are plenty of tips to make it a bit easier.

One lawn care business owner wrote “with this being my first leaf removal season I have a lot of questions. Should I wait until pretty much all the leaves are off the trees and hope it is not too late? I have a fear I might put it off so long that it snows or that it does not stop raining therefore never giving me enough opportunity to get out there with the blower vac. As far as equipment goes, should I bother with vacuuming/mulching leaves compared to just blowing them and bagging them as is?”

A second lawn care business owner said “a lot of this is dependent on where you live and your climate. In my area, I stop cutting grass on October 16th, I vacation until November 1st. On November 1st, I start looking into fall leaf removal services. Though it can be really tough to estimate when to start, with snow on the way. You’re best bet is to do them all starting November 1st and maybe go back to the ones you started earlier for little touch ups. You’re customers will like this, though you do waste a bit of money. A lot of my properties here have no leaves by the end of October, but then there are others that still do.

As for equipment goes, in your first season, I’d suggest you use what you got!

  • Lawn Mower: Mulches leaves, cuts grass at the same time = better outcome, more room in bags give or take.
  • Vacuum: Sucks up leaves, doesn’t suck up grass = you did your job and because you didn’t suck up grass maybe you ALSO saved room in bags….

My experience has been that leaf vacuum sucker/blower devices will be the death of you. Use a bagging lawn mower as it will increase your speed dramatically. A vacuum sucker/blower isn’t very powerful and unzipping/detaching the bag every time you need to empty it - well, that’s a pain because I’m sure it holds less than what you get bending down and grabbing with your hands in one shot.

What I do is use a backpack blower to blow all the leaves on the property into the middle on the lawn, while also trying not to make one big pile. I then use my tractor and have the job done in 2 seconds or I use my walk behind bagging lawn mower. I take the bag off and mulch the leaves up on my first pass. Then on my second pass, I attach the bag and mow up the debris. It’s easier on the machine, and the bag is able to hold more.

A tip I found when cutting leaves on the first pass (without the bag) angle your mower so that the front tires aren’t touching the ground. The leaves will mulch and your machine won’t clog and/or stall.

If you only have a handheld blower instead of a backpack blower, use it together with a rake. Handheld blowers wont make the leaves jump out of tricky corners or steep areas. If you don’t have a lawn mower, get a wide rake.

You can rake the leaves (but this is the fun part) use the rake as a shovel, by holding the pile with your free hand as you lift the rake up and into a garbage can. (make sure you put a garbage bag inside of it). Once you put one pile of leaves in the bag, which is in the garbage can. REMOVE the bag or else it will get stuck in the garbage can.

Don’t forget to sit on the garbage bag to compact the leaves, you will usually get 50% more room to put leaves by doing this and save $$$ on bags!

After your first fall cleanup you learn a lot. My first year, I went in and had quite a nightmare. A big problem I had was with pricing. I learned you can charge the same as your competitors, but the safest thing to do is charge a little more, because you may end up being at one property all day.

One big property can take:

  • Rake, Blower, Bags - 6 hours
  • Blower Lawn Mower - 1-2 hours
  • Backpack blower & Tractor - 20 - 40 minutes

There is a big difference in time and your competitors may have the advantage. You won’t make a better profit than them as it may be that much easier for them to do the job, than it is for you. But at least you won’t be losing so much money that you find yourself paying to do the work.

I charged $80.00 my first year on one yard. I didn’t bring much with me and it took me all day. I regretted it and promised never to do it again. I can now do the same property today with more equipment and make a killing. So you have to ask yourself if it’s worth it? $80.00 is great, the less time I spend at a job - the more I profit! If I spend 5 hours at the job charging $80.00, I would have wished that I had stayed home and watched tv. If I can do the job in less than an hour, woohoo I am going to make a good profit!

You should actually go out and experiment a bit to see what you can do. Either on your property or a family member’s or friend’s. It’s an amazing experience. You cannot fail, you really learn a lot to improve on so it’s worth trying.

Then when you get a tractor or ztr with a bagger, imagine how happy you’ll feel knowing you’re making the same money you did, plus MORE and by doing less work. You could drive down a street with a sign saying … hell.. ‘$50 leaf removal, front yard only!’ Fall is the time to catch up on profits and fatten your bank account. Get out there and do what you can. Winter will be coming and you will need to have saved enough to make it through to spring.”

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