We welcome your views and thoughts on the lawn care business, gardening and landscape contracting for publication in ProGardenBiz. Send us an email. Please include your name and address. We reserve the right to edit letters.

eMail: editor@progardenbiz.com

For the most recent letters received see the new Mailbag section by clicking here.

favorite brand/model of drip controllers…

Do you all have any favorite brand/model of drip controllers for a six valve system? 


For home use I’d recommend Richdell (available at most Home Depot or other home supply centers).  For professional use I’d go with Toro or Irritrol. Pay close attention to how you program the unit.  The more simple, the better, and be sure there are instructions attached to the inside of the unit (who remembers all the different options?).

I am gaining more than I had planned…

I am a curriculum writer for a local technical college. Curriculum writers do not have to know the details of the subject (the instructors/professors do). Anyway, I am contracted to write curriculum for 8 landscaping courses. The first is the Core course, inclusive of basics for the others. 

I joined this website to gain knowledge & pointers on the subjects. I am writing this to let you know I am gaining more than I had planned. My own home has 9000 sq. feet of beautiful lawns & gardens (thanks to the prior owner). I have gained information for both the college subjects & the “how-to-care’ for my own home.
I have copied many of the articles & included them in the binders for the instructors to use in their classes. The cartoons & stories are good “ice breakers” for the students.   Thanks!
I do have a request, if possible. I need more information concerning Computer Assisted Design; Irrigation;  and Hardscape Installation. There is not that much information out there - or I am looking in the wrong places.    HELP!
Thank you,  
Bonnie Sterling-Grant

Thank you. I’m glad the articles have been helpful. Here are some CAD irrigation links you may find useful.


If you have any other questions, please contact me

Thinking about starting my own lawn care business.

I’m recently retired from the military in coastal NC. Currently working for a pest control company.  Thinking about starting my own lawn care business.  Could you fill me in on the license and law requirement in the state of NC.  I’m also taking a course at the local college on small business.


I’m not up on the laws in NC, but most states do not regulate lawn maintenance.  Your local city or county will probably require a business license.  Most states will require a landscape
contractor’s license if you do installations of landscaping or irrigation.  Some states have dollar limits that state requirements over a certain job value.  Your state contractor’s
board would have all the information.

Check with state and local authorities to see if they require a pesticide applicator license.  In most cases if the gardener is only using off-the-shelf products that the homeowner would
use, it is not required (but check).

For the basic mow, edge, and garden maintenance work there are usually no license requirements.

For more information on starting a lawn care business see our article “How to Start and Run a Lawn Care Business.”

input about such things as prices…

Please help us about this business. We need some input about such things as prices, grass materials, fertilizer doses etc. We have in our staff an Agriculture Engineer, but with knowledge in tropical plants and enviromentals, so for him is easy to understand your recommendations.

Thanks in advance

BP Services, Osmar Paz

I’ll need some more specific questions to be helpful. In general, though, these are some good books to read:

Be sure to read How to Start and Run a Landscape Maintenance Business at ProGardenBiz. You can see it at:


Good luck in your new venture.

rates for bidding jobs…

Could you please tell me the best place to look to find rates for bidding jobs. I would greatly appreciate it. I am in the process of starting a lawn care and pressure washing business and would feel so much more confident if I had some numbers to look at.

Rates will vary depending on where you are located. What you need to determine is what hourly rate do you need to make to cover your expenses and pay yourself a very good wage. If you are using employees then you need to decide what hourly rate per man will cover expenses, including their wage, and then leave you a good profit margin. Your profit margin on employee service should be at least 30% after expenses.

In every area there is going to be a low, medium, and high service rate being charged by your competition. You want to provide high quality service that commands that top service rate. Don’t bid on price alone. If the customer is not willing to pay your rate, don’t take the job if it is not profitable.

Find out what your competition is charging. Check your local paper for businesses for sale. If there are lawn care businesses for sale, then contact them. You can learn a lot while “looking”. If you own a home you can call for bids on the lawn care. Experience your competition from the customer’s point of view.

Then there is always trial and error. If all your bids are accepted immediately then you are either an excellent salesman or your prices are just way too low! Try inching up your prices during the bid process until you start meeting some sales resistance. Then push for the top dollar.

Break every bid down to time and materials. Estimate the time in man-hours each job will take. Your bid will be the hourly rate you have determined you need to be profitable. Materials should not be included, but always itemized and billed extra. Buy your materials in bulk at wholesale and sell to your customers at retail and make a profit.

safety of children and water features…

I am looking for sources of information regarding the safety of children and water features (do’s and don’t of a design, inspirational designers, academic or professional debate on the subject).

Do you know of any legislation or approved codes of practice for pond/water feature design? I’m located in the U.K.

Thanks for your time, oneill69uk

In general, if children can get into it, it can be a hazard. No water feature will be completely safe without adult supervision. One idea on reducing the hazard would be to raise the water feature as in a sitting height border. This would not stop children, but at least slow them down. You can also place decorative landscaping around features to prevent actually approaching them.

Codes and legislation will vary widely from area to area.

Thanks for the invite…

Thanks for the invite to your ezine. Here is a link to my site I am local in
Washington State:


Regards, Thom Boullioun, owner

I need to buy some railroad ties…

I live in Los Angeles, Ca in the Pasadena area. I need to buy some railroad ties to hold up my hillside. Any ideas where I may purchase them. Appreciate any help you may give…

Railroad ties can be found at places like Home Depot, most major home improvement stores and major lumber yards. Some areas even have outlets that specialize in railroad ties and other landscape timbers. Just check your local yellow pages.

how to take care of the different plants…

I have just recently moved into a house where the previous owner has done a lot of landscaping.  I have spent the past two weeks identifying all of the plants and now need to put together a maintenance plan — fertilizer, mulching, pruning, etc…  I now need to know how to take care of the different plants.  Are there any good websites with such information?

A good site is MyGardenGuide at:


Another is Dave’s Garden at:


Does anyone have good solution?

Our front yard is open to the street and every dog and cat within miles stops by and leaves a “calling card”. This has made the yard almost impossible to use without checking each and every inch as if one is looking for land mines. Does anyone have good solution, spray, or dust? homebrew or store bought that may aid turning our unwanted pets onto the yard next door?


The best deterrent would be a fence.  This could be a low entry fence(four foot) and can be an attractive picket or other material.  You can do the same thing with plants such as a low hedge, roses, etc.  If you don’t want to make any changes to your yard you can try using a granule dog and cat repellant that is sold at most pet supply stores.

interested in having your articles…

I am interested in having your articles appear on my free web site.  Please advise as to how to do this. 

Regards,  Thom Boullioun, Owner

Any of our articles that are listed on our web site with the “Article Syndication” info at the end of the article may be used. Also, check our “Free Content” page for available articles and features. Just be sure to use the whole article and include the contact info at the end. If you are interested in other articles, just let me know which ones. Or I could just add you to our article mail list and send articles to your Yahoo Group automatically. Just let me know if you would like to be added.

keeping the mulch beds clean of dead leaves…

I am hoping that someone can share their tips in keeping the mulch beds clean of dead leaves and flower buds.  At the beginning of the season, the mulch beds are pretty messy.  Even during the summer, my rose beds get messy with dead rose buds.  Raking is difficult because the rake gets caught in the plants.  Blowing blows the mulch as well as the leaves.  Any suggestions would be welcome.

Thank you very much.

Many people like the look of a “clean” garden bed and will rake everything out leaving only the surface dirt.  Although this looks tidy, it’s not the best for your plants.  Leaving leaves and other plant debris provides natural mulch and returns nutrients to the the soil.  To make this look better you can turn the leaves into the soil or cover lightly with a dark mulch.

The less you remove from your garden, the less chemicals you need to add to replenish it.

looking to put down Desert Landscaping…

I need your advice since I do not have a green thumb. I live in Arizona and I am looking to put down Desert Landscaping. But I need to kill whatever is remaining of the current lawn. So far I have used a tiller to remove from the roots up and sprayed various chemicals from Home Depot….even stuff that was suppose to last a whole year. But the grass just continued growing 2 days later. Can anyone tell me how I can kill this lawn? What chemicals can you recommend? I am getting tired of continuesly working on this lawn. Any help would be appreciated.


I’m not sure what chemicals you have already used, but it sounds like they were either ineffective products or perhaps used incorrectly. Please be very careful in using any herbicide that will sterilize the ground for “a whole year”.  Even though you are going to put in desert landscaping you will still be putting some plants in the ground and such chemicals will kill your new plants as well.

The best product to use to kill the old lawn is Round-up.  Read the label directions completely.  It is important to water well and have a thriving plant prior to using Round-up.  Round-up works best on healthy plants.  If used correctly, Round-up will definitely solve your problem and it will not hurt any new plants planted later.  For hardy grasses it may require more than one application spaced a week or so apart.

Also, if you will be putting in decorative rock as part of your desert landscaping then the plastic ground cover you put down under the rock will also serve to smother any remaining grass or weeds and prevent them from coming back (except, perhaps, around the edges of the plastic).

I planted some lantana…

I planted some lantana last year. Do I prune the plant back - leave it alone or just cut off what looks like it is dead?


It’s not necessary to prune back Lantana, but you can to control it. Here in California Lantana grows all year and needs to be trimmed regularly to keep it from over-growing the entire landscape.  Definitely prune back the dead material and then trim the rest to suit your landscape’s appearance.

Would this tip not exactly apply to all turfgrasses?

I had a question regarding your article titled “Learn from last years lawn care mistakes” under the heading general lawn care tips to keep in mind. I see that it states to set correct mowing height to (2 1/2 to 3 inches). Shouldn’t some type of information be given on knowing what type of turfgrass is on one’s lawn and the correct mowing height for that type turfgrass. Would this tip not exactly apply to all turfgrasses?


You’re right that this tip does not apply to all turfgrass. It mainly applies to fescues and other tall, broad-leaf grasses. Bermuda grass and several others are routinely kept very short, but the height can vary.

Your site gave me a lot of useful information…

Just wanted to say that I have been in the residential lawn care and garden maintenance business for over 10 years and I am now starting to bid commercial landscape maintenance jobs. Your site gave me a lot of useful information on bidding. Thanks so much.

Greenweaver Property Maintenance