Garden maintenance services encompass regular jobs such as weeding, grass cutting, tidying, pruning, leaf clearance and hedge trimming. Additionally, more specialised gardeners offer one-off services such as planting or lawn maintenance.
Customers generally include private households or other property owners along with specific operators such as restaurants, pubs, cafes, hotels or care homes. Garden maintenance businesses see competition from landscape gardeners, fencing contractors, garden designers and property maintenance businesses.
Here we will look at the skills and information regarding the set-up of a gardening business. Including available courses, pricing for specialised equipment and market trends on pricing.
Qualifications and skills
In order to start and operate a gardening service, no qualifications are legally required. However, The Gardeners Guild requires its members to hold nationally recognised horticultural qualifications. Anyone beginning a solo garden maintenance business would need basic knowledge of soil conditions, planting, propagation, weed control, turf maintenance and landscaping.
Courses for people starting up include,
- ACS Distance Education runs an online Garden Maintenance course covering planning, managing a garden, feeding plants, weed and turf management, costing £325. www.acsedu.co.uk/Courses/General-Horticulture/GARDEN-MAINTENANCE-VHT100-96.aspx
- The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), provides a level 2 Certificate in Practical Horticulture, costing £800.
- The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), Level 2 Certificate in Practical Horticulture which costs around £800. This course will teach students how to test soil, care for and prune plants, operate garden machinery safely, and identify plants, weeds, and pests. Go to www.rhs.org.uk/education-learning/qualifications-and-training/rhs-qualifications/level-2/level-2-certificate-in-practical-horticulture for more information and locations across the UK.
- Online gardening courses run by Learning with Experts in association with the RHS, which cost between £25 and £85. Examples include Trees, climbers & clematis, shrubs, Lawn Expertise to name but a few, for a full list see www.learningwithexperts.com/gardening
- An online practical information guide provided by The Gardeners Guild, giving details on qualifications, tax and insurance, equipment, what to charge, and advertising the service. Go to www.thegardenersguild.co.uk/garden_maintenance.html for more information.
For anyone starting a gardening service, there are a number of initial capital costs to consider:
- Scarifier/aerator (petrol, from £500 to £1,400).
- Petrol-powered rotary lawnmower (from £400 to £1,400).
- Rotavator (from £600 to £1,300).
- Petrol strimmers (from £400 to £750).
- Hedge trimmer (petrol, from £90 to £370).
In addition to seeds, bulbs, soil, compost, and fertiliser, fencing and paving, The Gardenforum website (www.gardenforum.co.uk) lists wholesale suppliers.
Garden maintenance services who use pesticides, such as weedkiller, in residential gardens are considered ‘amateur usage.’ Gardeners will therefore not be required to possess a professional qualification since they will not be using professional pesticide products. However, gardeners must carry out a risk assessment before using pesticides. Go to www.hse.gov.uk/pesticides/user-areas/garden-home.htm for more information.
The information and instructions provided on pesticide labels and other documentation from the manufacturer have legal force. As a result, gardeners who do not follow label requirements, such as using excess doses or failing to store products properly, are committing a crime.
Under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and the Waste and Contaminated Land (Northern Ireland) Order 1997, gardeners have a duty of care to ensure that any waste is properly and safely disposed of.
Some local authority recycling centres allow small traders such as gardeners to dispose of waste for a charge based on the weight of the waste. A reduced charge may be applied to green waste. For example, Milton Keynes Council charges around £17 (excluding VAT) for up to 0.15 tonnes of green waste compared to around £32 (excluding VAT) for most other types of trade waste (www.milton-keynes.gov.uk/waste-recycling/commercial-and-business-waste/trade-use-of-community-recycling-centres) and Devon County Council charges around £90 (excluding VAT) for up to 1 tonne of green waste (certain centres only, www.devon.gov.uk/wasteandrecycling/commercial-waste/apply-for-commercial-recycling).
Check for your costs with your local council.
Pricing and VAT
Rates charged by garden maintenance services vary across the UK and range from £12 to £59 per hour and from £100 to £400 per day.
Go to www.hamuch.com/rates/gardener and www.thegardenersguild.co.uk/how_much_should_you_expect_to_pay_a_gardener.html for more information about gardeners’ hourly rates.
The services provided by gardeners are standard-rated for VAT and they must register for VAT once their turnover reaches the mandatory threshold. Go to www.gov.uk/guidance/rates-of-vat-on-different-goods-and-services for further information about VAT rates.
Hopefully this guide to starting a garden maintenance business helps you begin your journey. Full industry reports, including trading, commercial and legal issues are available with the purchase of many of our products. If you’re not ready to start but would like to secure your name for the future use check out our reserve company name product, this will include the full industry report.
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