Welcome to the first entry of my weekly landscape gardening business diary which will run for 12 months. I hope this series will give those of you looking to start your own garden maintenance or landscaping business a better understanding of what’s involved or even if it’s the right career choice for you. So, where do I start?
When did I go back to work after the Christmas period?
I actually continued working up to the 23rd December so I didn’t get much time off before Christmas but I did manage to get a week off after Christmas, going back to work on Tuesday 4th January. I would have started on Monday the 3rd January but decided against it due to Bank Holiday.
Feeling like I missed out financially on the bank holiday Monday, I continued to work through to the Saturday which is something I try not to do nowadays. With 5 children, having too much time off work is something to be avoided. One of the downsides to running your own business is ofcourse the fact that you don’t get paid for holidays but I’d trade this for more freedom any time.
January is an awful time of year for a landscape gardener to find work
Since starting my own gardening business many years ago, I’ve learned alot over the years and one of the hardest pills to swallow is to accept that unless you are a contractor building the gardens for new build developments then there may not be work in the Winter months, or atleast very little of it. We now work as many hours as we can in the Spring, Summer and Autumn months with a view to not having to work in the Winter if there’s no gardening work available.
I think my business partner would agree that one of the key things to running a successful landscape gardening business is to budget your money. Always save. In the Summer months it’s easy to be so busy that you have no choice but to turn down work but struggle to get any work in the Winter months.
It’s worth noting that we’ve had some success in the past from quoting in our busier seasons and asking to do the work when Winter arrives. This year however, and still recovering from the pandemic, we have struggled to get any gardening or landscaping work booked in for January and February. Not to worry though, as like I said above, we have worked hard enough in our busier months and budgeted enough to survive Winter with no work at all if needed.
You know that old saying, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know”, well thanks to who I know – I’ve been working! That’s the thing about running your own business, you will meet people along the way which can range from customers with never ending work available on huge gardens to other business owners that can always throw work your way if needed.
For example, where I’ve been working at the moment is for a customer that has a huge garden. He always has work available since he never seems to be on top of his list of ‘to dos’ despite having other gardeners attending throughout the year. It’s actually my father that has a close relationship with this person but since there’s so much to do, I’m not stepping on anyone’s toes by being there and if anything, I’m helping with those jobs that nobody else wants to do.
I have other customers like this as well as building companies and landscaping contractors where all I need to do is make a phone call and I’ll have work available the next day. If you do a good job then people will appreciate your work and be keen to have you back. We keep a good relationship with all of these people just incase we ever need them no matter how rare. Although during the pandemic we lost a lot of work so we worked for 3 months building the gardens on new build developments through one of these contacts.
What landscape gardening work have I been doing in my first week back?
I’ve actually had a very boring first week back at work! All I’ve been doing every day is replacing the pointing (jointing) between the patio slabs and replacing any broken or loose paving slabs that I find along the way . It probably wouldn’t be so bad but I’m carrying on from already doing this for 2 weeks before Christmas.
Basically, the customer has a huge patio area and after having a small area of patio extended with the new jointing compound, he has asked that all of the pointing (mortar) between the paving slabs be replaced with the new jointing compound. The problem is that despite the patio having been layed about 10 years ago, the landscape gardener that layed it done a really good job when pointing. I mean it’s absolutely solid!
I’m having to grind out all of the old mortar before scraping it out with a weed scraper. Once it’s all removed I then need to sweep it all up and wash the patio down whilst making sure the joints are clear, ready for the new jointing compound. This work is so time consuming! Luckily I’m on a day rate here as I most definitely would have underpriced this one!
My goggles constantly steam up but if I take them off then ill lose use of my eyes fairly quickly given the amount of mortar spraying in my face. My back hurts too and I’m forever changing the grinding discs. I did say above that I’m doing the work that no-one else wants to do and now you can see why! Do I absolutely have to work? No. I’ve budgeted well throughout the year. But being a self employed landscape gardener comes with it’s own uncertainties to come so it’s hard to say no to work if it’s there. To be fair, the work is local and the day rate is fair. Overall I’m happy!
The highlight of my week was the hour I spent fixing a leaking gutter
Given the weeks I’ve spent continuously replacing the mortar between the paving slabs I almost jumped for joy when the customer asked me to fix his leaking gutter. Unfortunately however, it only took an hour to fix! Come to think of it – This gives me an idea for one of my next articles!
The gutter was leaking at a joint. At first I thought that maybe the fixings were lose but upon further inspection everything was fitted correctly so I decided to run water into the gutter to see what was happening. It quickly became clear that the water was puddling at the joint.
Using a spirit level I could see that both sides of the joint ran down to the joint itself. All I needed to do was reverse the run off of the guttering on either side to have the water run away from the joint instead of to it. Nice and easy! Using pliers, all I needed to do was losen the fixings holding the gutter in place, adjust the height of the guttering and tighten back up whilst holding it in place.
Once I had re-adjusted the guttering I gave it all a good clean before running water through it again to make sure that there was no more leak. Job done!
My landscape gardening plans for next week
Although there is still alot of pointing and broken paving slabs to replace, fortunately next week I have been tasked with replacing the rotten sleepers on some steps with a granite set and pave a small area next to the workshop at the top of the garden. I should think that this work won’t take longer than a few days before I’m back to pointing but it will still be nice to be doing something else and it gives me some pictures to add to the website.
Hopefully on my next landscape gardening business diary entry I’ll be able to show you some pictures of this work to come!