How to start a garden maintenance business


Are you looking to start your own gardening business? Here I will explain everything you need to know from the tools you need to the jobs that need doing. In this post, I will be talking more specifically about garden maintenance and the jobs that your customers don’t have time to do, or don’t have the tools necessary to perform the garden work required. With 10 years of gardening experience behind me, I hope to give all the information that you are looking for. If I miss anything, just leave a comment and I will be sure to answer!

Do I need experience to start my own gardening business?

To start, let’s talk about what experience is needed to start your gardening business. And in short, the answer is none! Don’t get me wrong, with experience you will be able to price jobs up (give quotes) properly, be faster at what you do and give better quality work compared to new gardeners, but everyone has to start somewhere right?­­­

If you can gain experience working for an already established garden maintenance company then this is great, as you already know everything that’s needed to know. But it’s easy enough to learn on your own if you’ve never done it before, providing that you stick to the most basic of jobs in the beginning, and offer more as you become more confident. The safest of jobs to start your garden maintenance business will include:

  • Grass cutting
  • Edging
  • De-weeding
  • Hedge cutting

If you work for a garden maintenance company, these are typically what you would start off doing whilst learning on the job, even with no experience. So stick to this, and with confidence you will soon be offering tree pruning and removal, laying shingle, slate and other decorative stones, laying new turf and much more.

What tools will I need to start my garden maintenance business?

If you start your garden maintenance business offering grass cutting, edging, de-weeding and hedge cutting, the start up costs can be very low! Although machinery will need to be petrol powered as you will find that most of your customers won’t be at home when you perform the work asked, so electric may not be available.

For grass cutting, the most important thing to get right is to get a lawnmower with a roller! This allows you to give those nice stripes / lines on the grass where able as you will come across customers who can be quite picky with their gardens, this and you want to look professional and be ahead of the competition. When starting my garden business a few years ago now, I paid £100.00 for a second hand one on eBay, which is still working now! Although I have additional mowers now depending on the size of the job.

You will also need a petrol strimmer to cut around the garden where the lawnmower can’t get to. This allows a nice finish along the edge of the garden, the flower beds and more.

Edging and de-weeding come hand in hand and will require similar, if not the same tools. You will have customer’s asking if you can re-edge their flower beds as seen in the before and after pictures below. If these flower beds need edging, the chances are that they will need de-weeding too. After de-weeding the flower bed, be sure to turn the soil over, and keep doing it on future visits to keep on top of the weeds. You will need simple hand tools for these jobs which include a spade, lawn edger, fork and ho. If you price up a job and think you may need something different, just let me know in the comment section below and I will quickly respond.

Everyone wants their hedges nice and straight! You have probably driven past hedges and thought to yourself, how did the gardener do that? But the truth of the matter is that it really isn’t that hard and you very quickly get the hang of it! A petrol hedge cutter can be as little as £60.00 from new and comes with 12 months warranty. Start with the smallest of hedge cutting, and work your way up to much larger ones where ladders may need to be purchased.

Be sure to purchase a leaf blower to help blow away the mess that you make. Failure in this, a good sweep will suffice for now. But a leaf blower always gives the perfect finish!

To confirm, the tools needed that should be able to get your new garden maintenance business up and running include:

  • Lawnmower
  • Strimmer
  • Hedge cutter
  • Leaf blower
  • Spade, fork, lawn edger & ho
  • Broom, dustpan & brush and other cleaning equipment

How do I price up jobs for my garden maintenance business?

This is actually a very easy question to answer, and is much more simple that you might think. As a new gardener, you don’t want to give a quoted job because if you under price then you will be out of pocket. Ideally, you will want to stick to an hourly rate. Depending on where you will be doing business and the cost of living, you will need to work out what you would be happy to accept as an hourly rate. For example, I try to earn £20.00 per hour in the UK, but with garden maintenance, you will find that you may have a number of jobs per day. If charging £20.00 per hour, and travelling a total of 2 hours between jobs for that day, then you have lost £40.00 in travelling for that day. To over come this, I charge £30.00 for the first hour, and £20.00 per hour thereafter. If it is an 8 hour day job, then I will reduce the £160.00 day rate to £140.00, offering a discount.

When it comes to removing the waste (this is where having a van will be handy), you will be charged when disposing of it due to being a business. You will need to charge this to the customer. What works for me is filling up a large ton/bundle bag, and charging £25.00 per bag taken away on larger jobs. This almost always covers me for fuel and removal of the waste. For small jobs, such as a grass cuttings on a small garden, a small £5.00 charge will be more than enough.

What should I bare in mind when starting my garden maintenance business?

With any new business, starting up can be slow. I would recommend keeping your full time job elsewhere and offering your services on the weekends until business picks up. Where possible, spend money on advertisement to help speed up the process, but slow and steady will help keep your initial costs down.

Cash flow is always important with any business. Once you have purchased all equipment necessary, be sure to have money left in the bank. You may get a customer who wants a job done that you don’t have the tools for but are confident enough to do it. You will always need to add tools to your collection as you build customers so keep some money to one side to buy these extra tools.

Be sure to buy public liability insurance, this way you are covered if you do make any mistakes. You could be digging and hit a pipe, hedge cutting and hit a live wire hidden behind the hedge, smash a window with the strimmer or lawnmower, the list really does go on!

In the UK, a green waste license is required. If you are only offering garden services, then this is free to get and is a case completing a simple 5 minute application online. With out it you could get fined! It’s free, so be sure to get it.

If you have any other questions, then please leave a comment and I will answer them as quickly as I can!

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Tony says:

    How do you work out vat and how do you manage your money when it comes to tax and how does tax and stuff work if your employed and working for yourself

    1. hankintech says:

      Hi Tony and thank you for your question. This question differs from being a sole trader or limited company, but assuming that you will be a sole trader when running your garden maintenance business I will give advice based on this. First of all, I would recommend not being VAT registered until you absolutely have to, which is when you turn over £85,000 or more.

      The reason being, VAT and income tax are 2 separate taxes. For example, if you were VAT registered and you completed a job at £100.00. This £100.00 is your gross profit, meaning that you have to pay 20% in VAT totalling £20.00. This leaves you with a net profit of £80.00.

      Of course, any gardening tools and machinery that you purchase, you will be able to claim back the VAT, providing that the company you purchase it from is VAT registered. But as long as you are making a profit, there will be VAT to pay which is payable monthly or quarterly, depending on how your accountant sets you up.

      Let’s say for example that you make £30,000 in gardening in year 1, you would have paid £6000.00 in VAT over the year. This leaves you with a net profit of £24,000. This £24,000 will be taxable (income tax) at 20%.

      In the UK, the basic taxable rate allows you to earn £11,851 before paying any tax. So the remaining £12,149 will be taxed at 20% (£2429.80)

      So to finalise with your VAT question, earning £30,000 per year will be paying total taxes, including income tax and VAT of £8429.80. If you were not VAT registered then you would have paid only income tax of £3629.80 (given that you would have only paid income tax on remaining £18,149). This is a big difference so I hope this makes sense!

      All of the above calculations is based on only profits. Any garden machinery, tools, commercial vehicle, fuel etc, will also be taken into account when filing your taxes and will reduce your tax bill, this is why you will need an accountant. In my experience providing garden maintenance, accountants never charge up front to set up with them and will be able to register you as self employed and provide you with a UTR number. I recently turned my garden maintenance business into a limited company, but as a sole trader I would pay my accountant an annual fee of £300.

      Either way, you just need to keep track of everything! Keep all invoices when you provide work, and keep all receipts for fuel, tools and anything else business related. You can do this the old fashion way by putting all of your receipts into an envelope each month, and labelling the envelope with the month that the receipts relate to. At the end of the tax year, give all of the envelopes to your accountant and he/she will do the rest.

      There are new online companies available now such a Quickbooks, where you can take pictures of your receipts and income, connect it to your bank and more. Your accountant then just needs to log in and do the rest.

      Please note, I am not a tax advisor and this information should not be taken literally. I can only speak of my experiences from running my own business and the information given could be incorrect. If you call an accountant local to you, they will be able to give more information, and probably put it in a less complicated way than myself!

      I really hope that the information given has helped! Please let me know if you have any other questions.

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