Top tips for landscapers during the winter months
The life of a gardener can seem pretty good: spending time in nature and listening to sweet birdsong on warm, sunny days. But, as anyone in the business knows, it’s not all roses — especially when winter rolls around. This time of year can be extremely difficult for professional gardeners, both in terms of workload (or the lack thereof) and weather conditions.
With as little as 7 hours sunlight and the possibility of ice and snow for months, it’s no wonder that landscapers and gardeners don’t look forward to this time of year. When 52% of the nation completely abandon their gardens in winter, according to a survey by Tiger Sheds, it’s no surprise that many folks simply won’t bother hiring gardeners.
But, while the challenges may seem like they’re never ending, there are some steps you can take to get the most out of winter, and make sure you can see yourself through until spring.
Build up your emergency funds
When it comes to winter, gardeners and landscapers are at the mercy of the elements. Cold and icy conditions can make life hard, but a prolonged period of wind and snowfall, such as the Beast from the East earlier this year, can put us out of action for weeks if not months. This kind of extreme weather brought many in our profession to their knees, so much so that some firms even laid-off staff.
A repeat of this kind of event is a threat that every self-employed gardener and landscaper needs to bear in mind as we move into the winter months. The financial health of your business is paramount to your survival and having nothing in the coffers when a cold snap hits is a recipe for disaster. For this reason, you should build up an emergency fund throughout the year that you can fall back on in times of needs. A simple way to do this is put away 10% of your earnings each month into an easy access savings account or ISA.
Adapt to winter conditions
Extreme weather is a rare occurrence, even in winter. Most of the time you will be dealing with the ‘standard’ winter conditions: short days, cold temperatures, and the occasional bit of rain or snow. While this is far away from the glory of summer, it’s still possible to get a lot of work done, although you will need to make sure you have the right equipment. Zoro has everything you need, from cutters and saws to shovels and rakes, to help with those tough winter jobs, and you’ll get free delivery if you spend £20.
The clocks going back makes a big difference and you’ll find that, on some days, it can be hard to complete even five hours of work safely. You can work this knowledge into your yearly plan and schedule extra work during the summer months to cover the winter shortfall. This will differ depending on your location and the kind of clients you have, but some gardeners simply take a month or two off during the winter months.
Suggest winter work to your clients
If you decide that you’re going to work through the winter months, you need to be thinking about what jobs you will be able to do, while also keeping your client satisfied. It is worth keeping an eye on these things throughout the year, and even discussing the winter months with your clients as summer draws to a close. Explain to that work doesn’t have to stop during the winter and there is plenty to be done to get their garden ready for spring.
For example, winter is an ideal time to work on anything that is overgrown: trees, shrubs and hedges can be maintained, and the frozen ground will actually make this job easier. You can offer to remove garden waste, carry out repairs to fencing, or even lay patio. If the weather gets really bad, consider diversifying and doing a bit of snow ploughing. Winter is also a fantastic time to test the soil ready for spring and repair any lawn that has been worn out during the summer months.
Brush up on skills
If you decide to decrease your work hours, or stop working altogether for a time, winter can be a great opportunity to brush up on your skills and pursue new qualifications. Look for specific courses that complement your existing skills and they will open up new areas of opportunity. By the time next summer rolls around, you could have a whole new skillset to sell. For more information on qualifications and training you can undertake, check out the Royal Horticultural Society’s website.
If you’re self-employed, December and January can be an ideal time to get your taxes in order. You can also use this time to catch up on other business elements you may have overlooked until now: paperwork, future planning, inventory of equipment, and servicing and repairs. Do your own research at home to make sure you are up to date with the latest techniques and products that can make your life even easier.
Whether you decide to use winter as a time to holiday, take it as an opportunity to develop your own skills, or simply want to keep working for your clients, follow this guide and you should be able to avoid running into any financial trouble.