If your thinking about getting a gardener to come and maintain your garden or even come and give it a one-off large cut back then the first thing your going to be asking yourself is “how much does a gardener charge?”. It’s a question I have wanted to answer for a while now but whenever I start writing this article it very quickly becomes more complex, and in return, more confusing than it needs to be, especially for such a simple question! Here is my best attempt at keeping this article simple whilst trying to cover all angles of the question, how much should you pay a gardener for regular garden maintenance?
What expenses does a gardener have?
I feel it important to cover the expenses that a gardener needs to pay in order to stay in business and work on your garden as this will put everything else into prospective. for example, you will have a better understanding if a gardener is trying to charge too much or too little when giving a quote for garden maintenance as you will have an idea on what it costs to actually do the work, from a small simple grass cut to an all day job cutting back your shrubs and reclaiming flowerbeds.
Public liability insurance
It is especially important for a gardener to have public liability insurance as there is a high risk of causing damage to your property. This may sound silly but there has been a few occasions now that a garden strimmer has flicked a stone at a customer’s window and smashed it. I have even had this happen with a lawnmower! Not only this but I have also cut through electrical wires with hedge cutters that were hidden in hedges (for outdoor lighting, shed electrics etc.) and unless your new gardener is also a qualified electrician or window fitter then they are going to need to pay someone to do the repairs for you or go through their public liability insurance (although your home insurance may be a possibility). Public liability insurance isn’t expensive for most, but it’s not free by any means and will easily set a gardener back a good £300 per year.
Just like public liability insurance, van insurance isn’t free and a gardener has to charge enough to cover the van’s running costs. As a professional gardener I currently pay £500 per year, but it wasn’t too long ago that I was paying £1500 per year on the outskirts of London, totalling over £120 per month. This is because if you are new to having your own van insurance then it comes at a higher price, since you can’t transfer your no claims discount from your personal car insurance.
Cost of tools
A gardener’s tools aren’t cheap, and if your getting prices from professional gardeners that take pride in their work then their tools are going to cost even more. Going through my accounts for last years work, I spent just over £2000 in tools for my garden maintenance side of the business and an additional £1000 in running them, be that fuel and/or repairs when needed. This doesn’t include the tools I already own and the ones I plan on purchasing in the near future. There is a common misconception that gardener’s should charge around the £10 per hour mark, but this is a low amount to cover a good £1200 lawnmower and the petrol to run them as well as the leaf blower, strimmer, hedge cutter, brush cutter etc..
Cost of fuel & travel times between jobs
Believe it or not, the cost of fuel and travel times between jobs can have a great impact on how much a gardener will charge for garden maintenance whether that be on a regular or one-off basis. If you were to live, let’s say 15 miles away from any of my other garden maintenance customers and I have a van that averages 30 miles to the gallon and it costs approximately £6 per gallon, this means that it would cost me approximately £6 to get there and back before I have even started work, not mentioning the time lost in labour. In this case, If the gardener were to charge you £20 per hour and you only have an hour’s worth of grass cutting available then the gardener will only make £14 for that hour after the cost of fuel but would have also lost another hour in travel time. This means that the gardener would have only made £14 over 2 hours, equalling £7 per hour minus other outgoings. It is for this reason that a gardener may charge a minimum fee for smaller garden maintenance jobs but provide discounts for larger gardening jobs where there is less travel time.
There is little or no work for a lot of gardeners when Winter comes
I know this doesn’t strictly come under expenses, but it seems the most appropriate place to put this as it will affect how much a gardener charges to work on your garden. Speaking from experience, it is very hard for us gardeners to get by when Winter comes. The grass and plants become dormant and stop growing, flower beds stop growing weeds, almost everything just comes to a standstill meaning that there is just no work to be getting on with. I myself try to push for tree pruning as this is best for Winter months in most cases as they are best pruned when dormant as well as push for leaf clearances and the like. But despite this, the hours are still cut in half and we need to account for this in the Spring and Summer months.
My overall thoughts on what expenses a gardener has and how this affects how much a gardener charges for garden maintenance
Like any trade, running a gardening business isn’t cheap. When you look at public liability insurance, van insurance, cost of tools, fuel as well as cost of losing hours due to travel times between jobs and the little to no work available in Winter, running a garden maintenance business isn’t for the faint hearted and all of these factors need to be accounted for when you’re wondering how much you should expect to pay a gardener, whether that be for a simple grass cut or an all day garden makeover.
The cheapest gardeners aren’t always the most cost effective
This isn’t going to be the case with every gardener as there will be many legitimate cheaper gardeners out there but this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be wary of those charging less. When I say cheap, what I really mean is if you find a gardener charging you £10 per hour or less for garden maintenance or any other gardening tasks. I mean, a gardener charging £10 per hour would have to work on 1 garden all day without any travel time between jobs to make £80 per day. If there were a few different gardens to attend to then the gardener may only make around the £50-60 mark for the day. When you take into account the cost of fuel, tools and all other expenses this doesn’t leave them with much.
The first thing I would recommend is don’t be afraid to ask questions. You may have a young gardener looking to grow his business and takes pride in his work or you may have a semi-retired gardener that just can’t keep away from tending to flower beds and other garden tasks. On the other hand, you may just have someone looking to make a quick bit of money on the side and knows nothing about gardening, taking twice as long as a professional gardener would take. If you pay an inexperienced garden £10 per hour for a task that takes him/her 2 hours to complete totalling £20, then you may as well have paid an experienced gardener that knows what they are doing for £20 per hour and taking just 1 hour to complete.
If the costs given to you by a potential gardener to maintain your garden seem too good to be true then just ask if they have public liability insurance and if they have their own tools to use. Try and get a feel for their persona and get a better understanding of who they are. Are they someone that will make an hour last 4 hours to make the hourly rate go further? Or are they a genuine person who simply enjoys gardening and is in an already good financial position? The last thing you want is a stone to go through your window with no insurance to repair it!
How much should you pay a gardener to maintain your garden?
We are finally here! The first thing I would say is that prices can vary depending on where you are based due to the cost of living in different locations but the cost of running a gardening business stays the same no matter where you are located, as does the minimum wage. At the lower end of the scale, although they would be hard to find and if you did find one, the chances of them having any availability free would be pretty slim, a good gardener could charge as little as £15 per hour. Often this could be a professional gardener who has been in the trade for years and has always stuck by their prices, or a new gardener looking to grow his/her business. Remember, a new gardener doesn’t mean a bad gardener as often someone that is new to the trade will pay the most attention to detail.
At the higher end of the scale I have known professional gardeners to charge up to £25-30 per hour, per person although this can often be found with larger companies with staff and professional fees to pay. The higher the overheads the higher the price. The good thing however is that you will likely have an extremely reliable gardener than that comes to maintain your garden on the time and day they say they will be there, no matter the circumstances. There is a reason that they are charging £25 per hour – If no one paid it then they wouldn’t be in business.
As an average, I would say that you should expect to pay a gardener around the £20 per hour mark to maintain your garden. This is what I charge for garden maintenance and is what the majority of other gardeners I know charge on the outskirts of London although there have been a few friends of mine lately pushing their prices up slightly to £22.50 per hour, per person.
Additional fees a gardener might charge when regularly maintaining your garden
One very important question to ask your new potential gardener is how much they charge to remove the waste from your garden if this is a service you need. This is because it’s not free for those of us that run a business. The way that my garden business gets rid of waste is to store it elsewhere until we have a van load and then take it to a commercial recycling centre where we are charged £140 per tonne with a minimum charge of £80 but this varies depending on which company your gardener uses to get rid of your garden waste. As a result, we offer to remove waste at £3 per bin bag or £30 per bulk bag depending on the work we are doing. If you are on a tight budget then it may be worth looking at my article showing ways that you can get rid of your garden waste for free.
My overall thoughts on how much you should expect to pay a gardener to regularly maintain your garden
A gardening business has just as many expenses as any other legitimate business and just like a plumber or electrician, it is likely that your gardener has studied to be where they are today and have chosen this career path for both income and passion. A good gardener will take pride in what they do and have all of the necessary insurance in place as well as own the best tools for the job, keeping your garden looking fresh all year round. But a good gardener has to be paid enough to continue being a good gardener with the best tools and business practices in place. If you are on a tight budget and can’t afford an hourly fee of around £20 per hour then be sure to do your checks beforehand and make sure they are a reputable person or business with the right practices in place that works for you.