Shrub planting job estimate.

Every landscape job you take on will be unique in some way. Here is one of those jobs that really stands out because of the tight area the job must be performed in. Normally planting a handful of shrubs along a property line wouldn’t stand out too much. But as we will see in this discussion from the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum, when you need to plant those shrubs within a narrow path between two fences, the difficulty factor increases and so does the price.

One lawn care business owner wrote “I just had a call today from someone interested in having me plant shrubs. The job consisted of:

  • 15-20 (4′-5′ tall) arborvitae/juniper plants to go along property line.
  • Pick up plants at the nursery (hope they all fit in one trip - short bed w/cap and cargo carrier on back).
  • Dig holes/plant.

I haven’t spoken to the client yet, I can only go on what was left in the message. (info above).

They are located within 30 min of my house. I’m a beginner at all of this. Well, I’ve been digging/planting my own (plants in general - no experience with this type) for years, but the whole lawn care for a living is completely new. I actually just picked up my first gas hedge trimmer this evening for two jobs I need to do - electric and cordless have always been sufficient for my own use.

I don’t know what type of soil I’ll be digging in or if it will be done with a shovel or if I need to pick one up if need be. This will be just me, no help.

Would 20 minutes per planting be anywhere in the ballpark? If I have an idea of how long it may take to put those shrubs in the ground, I can give them an hourly rate. (unless you think a flat rate is better).

I’m not the type to do a job fast just to get done - I like to do it right. I’ll also need to find out if there is a place on the property to dump the excess dirt that is left over after digging.

Any other tips for planting that type of shrub would be appreciated as well. At my own home, I usually mix native soil with peat moss, potting mix, or whatever happens to be handy to throw in around the roots. If that is not necessary - great! It will take long enough just digging the holes.

Fence line brush planting job

Fence line brush planting job

The customer is at the property with the white fence. They and the neighbor have discussed it and both wish to run the arborvitaes down the center between the fence line. There’s only 4′ 5″ between the fences, so no room to run a wheelbarrow through after a plant is in the ground. I’d need to work one at a time from the far end back toward the front of the house.

They also wish to cover the grass with a weed block, then mulch over the entire space between the fences. I don’t know if that will be sufficient, or if all of the grass will need to be killed first. Any advice on that would be helpful.

There MAY be a place nearby on an undeveloped lot that I can place dirt, but not within several lots, so taking it there with a wheelbarrow is out. I may not need to remove the dirt though if they want to cover the area with mulch. I could probably just spread it all out first.

Here I was thinking 20 minutes per tree, but with that ’sucky’ location, I don’t know how much it will add to the time it takes. The only access is right in from the front as shown from where the photo was taken.

Oh, and delivery will not be an issue. I stopped at the local nursery and got a price - $20 if I unload, and $40 if they have to unload. $40 is a lot less than I’d charge for all the aggravation of doing it in my own truck.”

A second lawn care business owner said “don’t sell yourself short on such jobs. I know there is a tendency to do that when you haven’t taken on jobs that are this size but it is better to overprice it than under price it. I say that because even your overprice will still probably be too low.

To do this job right, I would find a sod cutter for that much area. They rent for around $35 a day here. It will take the grass and a little dirt up with it. The holes would take about 30 minutes per tree because you have to dig them manually, set the tree, and haul off the dirt.

What about stakes are the trees gonna stand up straight if it blows? You might have to stake each tree.I would just to cover your butt for future call backs because of weather.

Laying the fabric and cutting around the trees would be another 1 to 1.5 hrs. Spreading the mulch might take another 3 hrs. Remember, you won’t get a wheel barrow in there after the trees are in so you may have to set a tree, put down the fabric, and mulch as you move along otherwise you could be carrying the mulch from end to end on a shovel.

As for your mulch if you have at least a 2 foot width to work with, after the trees are all planted, I would use a tarp, put about 2 bags worth of mulch in the tarp keep it channeled so its not all spread out, double up the tarp at one end and drag it down the side.

This could be the job that pays for you to have a TRAILER!!!  Removing the sod would be the ideal thing to do because you don’t want a higher mulch pile higher than your grass, if you do, when it rains the yards will be mulched.

I would say it’s going to take at least 8 hours but it could be 12 hours to remove and haul off that sod. So we’ll say 12 hours total. That’s $420.00 at $35 an hour. If you have no where to dispose of the sod, you will need to find somewhere. maybe a lot that needs some new grass to get rid of it at. Now add 10 hours for planting. That’s another $350 and to spread the mulch, maybe add $100.

Lets try $420+$350+$100 = $870 and another $35 more for laying and cutting the weed barrier fabric. That would make $905.

If it takes you 2 days, that’s $425.50 per day. You should have it knocked out in 2 full days.

This is my estimating. Maybe you can be happy with making less per day, but what if it runs into you having to come back out for a few hours to finish up? You will have to think about that and all the other little issues that can pop up, like what if there are rocks under where you want to dig etc.

It may sound to be a little high from homeowner point of view, but if you explain to them you have to cut all the sod out and dispose of it and the tightness of the job area they will understand. You can tell them, without removing the sod they might not be happy with the end result and down the road it will only cost more to fix it.”

A third lawn care business owner said “I think you need to take a deep breath and calm down. It’s not a complicated job. this is what I would do.

1. Rent a trailer from Home depot. Here they cost like $20-$25 for 24 hours. This is if you need one for hauling the mulch or if you want to haul the dirt away.

2. Spray all the area with round up to kill off the grass.

3. When they deliver the trees, have them place them next to where they will be planted so you don’t have to do all the hauling.

4. Dig a small edge along the neighbor’s fence to keep the mulch from sliding onto their property. Use a flat spade shovel to do this. Just stick it into the ground about 3 inches and kick the dirt out. It’s pretty simple and quick.

5. Start at the far end and dig the hole, spread the dirt, lay the weed block and cut a hole where you dug it, plant the tree, steak it, and spread the mulch. (Spread the excess dirt on the property along the homeowner’s side of the fence to make another type of edge to keep excess water from the homeowner’s lawn from washing the mulch down to the neighbor’s since it is down hill. Any excess dirt just spread evenly over the dead grass.)

You don’t need to lay fabric to block weeds in this situation. we don’t lay that down unless we are putting down rock. The mulch will take care of the grass from growing. If they see a few weeds popping up, they can be sprayed. It’s cheaper to buy spray than it is to have fabric laid along that whole area. Also it’s less work for you and less they have to pay. If I were you, I would explain that to them. Then you can skip that process.

For this job I would charge $20 per tree to plant. Also 1 hour for spraying the round up and the cost of the round up. 3-4 hours for spreading the mulch. 1.5 hours to dig the edge along the neighbor’s fence. If they want the fabric laid down I would charge another 2 hours plus the cost of the fabric.

I would charge around $550-$650 for labor for this job depending on if they want the fabric laid down or not. This would take me and helper about 1 day. So If I charged $650 and paid my helper $80 then I would make $570 in a day. Not bad for a day’s work.

But, let’s say that sounds high in your area so maybe you want to make $200 for the day and 80 for your helper, you could charge $300. It just depends on how much you want to make. In my area, $600 for that job is normal.

Now if you really want to know what normal price for planting those tree is, go to the nursery and ask them how much they charge to plant one of those, or 15 of those. Then you will know how much you can charge and still be less than having the nursery plant them.”

UPDATE:

I didn’t get the job. The husband is going to try and do it himself.

The price I quoted? $500

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