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How much should you expect to pay a gardener for regular or one-off garden maintenance?

The simple answer is 'the same as any other tradesman'. Although you may not uses a plumber or electrician every week, a gardeners expenses are very high and the work is very labour intensive.

The running costs of a professional gardening business are just as high as any other professional trade - accountant, training, insurance, transport and vehicle maintenance, tools and tool maintenance. For example, it can cost as much to service a mower as it does to service a car. A gardener may have more than one mower plus many other petrol tools that all need servicing, oil, fuel, lubricants and replacement parts.

Compare gardeners fairly - ask about insurance, tools, experience, licenses and qualifications.

Most traders aim to earn a minimum of £150 a day - that's £20 - £40 per hour. However, this rate will be effected by:

- Minimum call out charge - because a gardener may charge by the hour rather than by the day, much of the day will include unpaid travel from job to job. For this reason, a gardener will likely have a minimum charge of 2 hours labour or similar.

- If you don't need 2 hours work i.e. you just want the grass cut, then your gardener will likely offer a fixed price for a specific job. A fixed price will vary according to the circumstances. As a result, the fixed price will have no relation to the gardeners standard hourly rates. To illustrate, a window cleaner does not work for an hourly rate - it just wouldn't be practical. Neither could a gardener cut a small lawn for an hourly rate.

- Rates may increase for regional variations.

- Will increase as the level of danger does.

- Generally excludes removal of cuttings, chemicals etc

The gardener may also have one hourly rate for manual tools and another for petrol tools. This is because of the higher cost of maintaining petrol tools and because they work faster with petrol tools - shooting yourself in the foot when you charge by the hour!

Although he/she may charge more and work faster - being experienced and familiar with their own professional tools will result in a superior finish. Their insurance will put things right in the event of an accident and you are not responsible if they hurt themselves on their own tools. They have an incentive to do a good job - their reputation as a professional and the prospect of repeat business and recommendations. Their professional tools have achieved much more in the time - giving you value for money.

What needs to be done?

Think about what you really need - maintenance or 'manicure'. A 'manicured' garden will need regular visits so a gardener will likely charge by the hour and involve detailed work. Standard regular maintenance (mowing lawns, trimming hedges) will normally be charged at a fixed price. A fixed price helps you budget and is an efficient way to keep your garden under control.

Doing the right job at the right time of the year will help you spread the cost and keep your garden healthy.

Beware of false economy

The less a gardener charges the longer he/she is likely to take - after all, what incentive do they have to hurry? Are they insured? Are they qualified? Do they have their own tools? If they use your tools are you insured if they hurt themselves? If the gardener offers you nothing but labour then the minimum wage in the UK is around £9 phr. Cheap labourers soon give up self-employment and return to employed work - especially during the winter months.

Many non-qualified gardeners try to charge the same as a qualified gardener - so why not just look for a qualified gardener and get what you are already paying for!

Having spent thousands of pounds on tools, insurance and training a professional gardener will be proud to tell you why he/she are worth their fees and you will benefit as they work efficiently, safely and intelligently.

Saving money with a professional gardener

Save money (and help your gardener) by doing the right job at the right time! Garden maintenance is required all year around. Spread the cost by doing the right job at the right time.

* Ask your gardener for help when work is really required at the right time of the year.
* Talk to your gardener about how to simplify your garden i.e. mulching borders so you don't have to weed so often.
* Stay in contact with your gardener by asking him/her to cut your lawn regularly - often a fixed price service.
* Plan ahead and call your gardener before the garden gets desperate as he/she may be busy.

If you do this he/she will likely give you priority over any ad-hoc or new customers when you need hedges pruned, planting, soft landscaping etc - especially during the colder months.

You can also talk to your gardener for ideas on how to simplify your garden. Good gardeners are busy gardeners and get the job done. Professional gardeners have no shortage of work and regular customers so they don't need to make a simple task last all day.

During the busy seasons, a good gardener will likely be booked months in advance. Stay in contact with your gardener. A gardener who regularly cuts your grass will likely give you priority when you need other work done. Plan ahead and contact your gardener before your garden becomes very overgrown.

Why not judge the quality of a gardeners work by asking them to do a small task and invite them back only if you are happy.

Be specific

To some people it's a wildflower - to others it's a weed. Every customer is different. Let your gardener know exactly what you want. Talk to your gardener - if there is something they have not done it may be because it is the wrong time of year to do so.

Why not judge the quality of a gardeners work by asking them to do a small task and invite them back only if you are happy.

Please note: These suggestions are for maintenance gardening only and not landscaping or tree surgery as these are different disciplines with higher costs involved.

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