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How much should I charge for my fruit tree planting service?
December 6, 2009 10:11 AM   Subscribe

I am doing a lot of landscaping gigs lately, and want to start planting Edible Landscape for folks. How much should I charge for an edible tree package?

Hello there fellow Mefi friends!

Fruit trees, Berries and Nut trees.

I will come to the customer, asses and test his soil for P.H and drainage, check the amount of sun the area is receiving, see that the area is large enough to provide space for future growth.

I am not going to push stuff that will not grow well in the area/problematic/high maintenance just to make a sell. Only trees that "want" to grow there, and will prosper without much maintenance, disease and pest problems.

* Healthy vigorous plants that have been checked for disease, been found free of "root bounding". Specific verities that adapted to the growing zone.
* Beautiful organic soil mixture tailored for new trees.
* Thick Layer (4"-6") of good mulch.
* An information pamphlet about the tree history, the specific variety, growing tips, watering schedules, pruning advice.

My questions will be:

1. What is the price range you would be willing to pay for something like that? How much for one tree? How much for a package of five shrubs/trees?
2. If the client have deer problem/huge dogs I can install a small durable fence. How much extra you think that worth to you?
3. What other services/extras I can offer that you think will make your decision more smooth?
4. Generally speaking, would you want a cheaper younger tree (2'-3' feet tall) or a more expensive and established tree (5'-8' feet tall)?
5. Any other suggestions and nuggets of wisdom?

Thank you and have a great day,
posted by Sentus to Home & Garden (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Regarding #4, and this is largely my own horticultural ignorance, but don't most fruit trees take several years to start bearing fruit? We have a several year old 4-footish tall apple tree in the front yard (in Eugene, OR) that just started fruiting this year. I would rather pay more for a larger tree that will start fruiting within a year or two, but I'm also an impatient twenty five year old.
posted by Derive the Hamiltonian of... at 10:30 AM on December 6, 2009

Your best bet might be to call landscapers in your area and find out what they'd charge for a comparable service. Then decide if you want to slightly undercut them for more volume, meet their prices, or cater to a more upscale crowd with less volume but higher prices.

Personally, I'd want older trees that would fruit within a year or two. And since I live on a large property in the country, I'd want help maintaining them. As they age and grow larger, that might be beyond your expertise unless you're a qualified tree surgeon, so make sure you're capable of doing lots of climbing and safe tree surgery before you offer to provide maintenance.

Cool idea, though. Would you also offer to set up good vegetable and herb gardens for people? Because I'd love to grow my own food but the process of setting up a large veggie patch is daunting indeed. I'd definitely pay someone to get me started.

Good luck!
posted by balls at 10:41 AM on December 6, 2009

Awesome idea! You should offer different packages at different prices. Give people the opportunity to spend less for smaller trees, and more for larger ones.

Break it down like you would any other service: cost of trees/material, labor, profit, etc. That will give you a starting point.

A service to come back and maintain the trees would be nice.

You can offer package deals or let them choose by item. (giving a discount for the package deal)

Did I say awesome idea yet?
posted by Vaike at 11:22 AM on December 6, 2009

Okay. First, 4-6 inches of mulch is too deep. 2-3 inches is adequate. The organic soil mixture is only necessary if you are planting in very nutrient-poor areas that will need remediation, and you have to amend a large area around the planting hole. You don't want to create a soil interface of differing textures that water has difficulty crossing. That is one of the biggest problems with newly planted trees, especially container-grown, which it sounds like you're planning on doing. Also, container-grown trees are invariably rife with circling and kinked roots, make very sure to straighten where possible and prune when necessary to assure a good radial root system. I recommend bare-rooting, honestly. You would do better to remove most of the soil (carefully) from a container-grown tree and placing the roots where they are best spread. Often you'll find where the tree was potted up previously, creating two tiers of circling roots. If you've got this, the tree is mostly trash at that point. If you're doing b&b trees, make sure to find the root crown and make sure its final placement is slightly above the soil grade, cut the upper 2/3 of the wire basket off after placement, and get the burlap off of the upper part as well. Make sure if there is a difference in soils (which there almost always is) that you at least have a few of the larger roots' ends cleared of the root ball soil so that they will be in the new soil.
For more planting and maintenance recommendations, go to the ISA's Trees Are Good website. But, they won't have much on maintaining fruit trees for production, which is a somewhat complicated prospect in its own right. Even if the trees can thrive where you plant them, people should realize that there's going to be a bit of maintenance necessary. Well, let me amend that. You can plant an apple tree, or a pecan tree—whatever— and they can grow well and produce. If people want pretty apples without spots, or easily harvestable pecans, they'll need to do a bit of work.
As to how much one would be willing to pay, it does depend on who you're selling to, doesn't it? You should base your cost on what you're paying for the material and amendments, the size of the tree, and how much time you think it will take you in the given situation. It makes a difference if you drive up and plop a tree in a hole by a driveway or have to carry it down a steep hill into a backyard. Just figure how much you'll need to capture in overhead and what you need to make, I guess. The rule of thumb in the landscaping industry for planting (especially b&b) is 2.5 to 3 times wholesale cost for the installed cost.
I hope that's helpful!
posted by Red Loop at 11:39 AM on December 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

If you ask people on the internet what to charge for well executed professional landscaping you will not make money.

You need to learn about pricing your work. AskMefi is not how you do it.

Figure out materials and labor and what markups are in your area. Where I am its usually 2x-3x on materials and then labor is ~$25 - $50 an hour/person. You usually guarantee woody materials for one growing season.
posted by JPD at 11:41 AM on December 6, 2009

Red Loop thank you for the lengthy response. I do appreciate it.
posted by Sentus at 12:54 PM on December 6, 2009

I think you've got a great niche here. If you haven't seen Edible Forest Gardens well, I think you'll be pleased when you do.

The smartest guy I know NEVER throws out the first number, that's the customers job.
posted by mearls at 3:46 PM on December 6, 2009

Where are you?
posted by shothotbot at 4:36 PM on December 6, 2009

You need to add proper staking of the tree into the package if the tree doesn't have a good taper to begin with. I would also impress upon your clients the need for a maintenance regime. Unmaintained fruit trees are not only a giant pain in the ass, but they can allow for the spread of pests and pathogens. One tree with uncontrolled fireblight can infect an entire neighborhood. In certain instances, you're going to have to talk your client into multiple trees if the one they like is not self-fruitful. The other options are three-in-ones, which require more maintenance as a general rule, since some varieties may outpace others especially when the tree is young.

Trees that are smaller usually acclimate faster and go through much less stress at planting time. They are also usually in better shape because they have gone through fewer iterations of nursery cans. I would choose a sturdy, shorter tree with good structure over a tall spindly tree every time (unless I had some crazy bendy espalier experiment to run).
posted by oneirodynia at 5:18 PM on December 6, 2009

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