Clay, N.Y.: “Other than snowplowing, what do you guys do in the winter? I know most people in the Northeast plow, but I am interested in seeing other ways to make money in the winter. Let’s get a list going of other ways to make money in the winter.”
Southwest: “Landscaping is year-round for us, as well as most of our maintenance accounts. We do a lot of hauling and delivery-type stuff, as well. We only have January where we don’t do anything with our weekly mowing accounts. Come January 1, we’re back doing our spring prep (aerations, dethatching, cleanups), that will take us up to May, then we start back full go with mowing.”
Ocean County, N.J.: “I do a whole lot of nothing, except for prepping for next season.”
Conshohocken, Pa.: “There is plenty of work in the Northeast during the winter months. You just have to go get it. It is a great time of year to cut shrubs back hard, meaning reduce the size by more then half. If you drive around, you can see this issue from the street. Just knock on the door give them a price and boom, you have $100 in your pocket in no time. Five quick jobs a day will make your week. Go out and hustle up some winter work, and it will turn into spring work. If you have a good winter, you will have a better-than-good year.”
Hampton, Va.: “Still doing leaf removal, got two landscaping jobs to do and pruning. Before I know it, it will be spring. Really no downtime here.”
Tulsa, Okla.: “Leaves last until Christmas. Take off and do nothing until about mid-February, then it’s cutting back perennials and putting down mulch, cleaning up flowerbeds. That takes you to mid-March, and it’s time to scalp the bermuda. Then it’s April, and time to mow.”
Waggaman, La.: “Repair equipment and get ready for the spring.”
Broomfield, Colo.: “Live in the Phoenix area. Work year-round. Growing season never really stops. I used to have to cut back my ficus trees two to three times a year. In neighborhoods with HOAs (95 percent of them are), it’s mandatory to overseed for winter, so the mowing never stops.
“Course, you have to deal with 115-plus temperatures for two and a half months, and then you’re only at about 110 through October. Oh yeah, we hit 102 one Easter and it didn’t dip below triple digits until November.”
Memphis, Tenn.: “Work year-round here. Unlike other regions that get consistent freezing temps/snow, here in Memphis, we get rain. Sometimes days’ worth, or rain monsoon. I enjoy spending the slower rainy days or weeks with my family.
“Winter is oil change time. All my equipment is on extended oil/filter change intervals, so all oil/filter changes have been moved to the off-season.”
Reading, England: “In the winter, which thankfully is only two months long now (thanks to global warming), I prune fruit trees and other deciduous trees, rake up leaves, dig vegetable patches, dig new borders, prune back roses and shrubs, scarify lawns, hollow-tine lawns, repair fences, repair gravel drives, service lawn mowers, chop wood, fell dead trees, winter tar oil spray fruit trees, deep weed, prepare beds for spring planting, move unsuitably planted plants, cut lawn edging, spread manure—in fact, I could go on and on.
“I can find work in any garden. I sometimes think there is more things to do in the winter than in the summer, as in the summer, I basically cut grass. But, as I live in the south of England, it is warmer, and the ground isn’t covered in snow. Sometimes it’s frozen for a day or two, but if you put your mind to it, there is loads of work. And, most clients I have [know] what needs doing.
“If you live somewhere where the ground is covered in snow, then fell dead trees, snowplow, prune deciduous trees.”
Central, New York: “I go to lots of auctions throughout the year and pick up box lots of stuff. Store it until now, and sell it on eBay or by other means. But, I also do lots of plowing. If I wanted to, I could make enough on eBay to get me through the winter. I see guys at the auctions that make it a career, year-round.
“You had asked about the seasonal lighting in another thread. I personally feel that is a market in our area that hasn’t been tapped much. People love to see lots of lights. I bet if you asked anyone if they like putting up/taking down their lights, they will say ‘no.’ And, if you asked that same person if they would want a nicer, more professional display, they would say ‘yes.’ It’s just a matter of hitting their price point, and finding your niche in that market.”
Clay, N.Y.: “The lighting thing might work here, I’m just not sure yet. There must be some guys doing it already. With this economy, who knows if it will work. I am getting out of snowplowing after this year, so I need quite a bit of work to replace it.”
Clarksville, Tenn.: “You’re still mowing down in Memphis? Everything here is dead, except maybe some weeds, but people would shoot me if I came to mow their yards.
“For the other guys, how did you get into the Christmas lights? It seems like it would be a great market here, but very little experience in that field.”
Rhode Island: “Other than snowplowing and equipment maintenance, I deliver oil for a local company.”
Central New York: “I’m hoping to bust ass this summer, and downsize my plowing to just my eight or 10 best commercial accounts.”
“Most of the summer-only guys down here work at the local ski places in the winter. One I know cuts firewood.”
CNY: “I have thought about putting up lights, but I think I hate it as much as the people paying to do it. I have often thought about setting up fall and winter displays and storing them off-season. Something like a small wagon, hay bales, pumpkins, scarecrow and gourds. Not sure if this would keep you busy or if people in central New York would be able to afford this service? Maybe in the Fayettville/Manlius area?
“I do maintenance in the winter, like painting, light plumbing, insulation and trim work. I find that everyone who owns a home has a list inside their heads of things they want done, but may never happen if the right person does not prompt them. I usually call my regulars and check up on them during the slow times.
“I have a few elderly women who keep honey-do lists year-round and save them up for winter. Most of their families are in other states, so they need someone dependable to fix simple things. I charge them a lower hourly rate and they pay all expenses to keep my liability down. It works well for me. There are many contractors looking for help in the winter I know, if you know who to talk to.
“Why are you guys getting out of plowing? I hear that is the best margin of all landscaping? Did you read the report the other day about Syracuse and how we get more snow, but how it melts faster due to global warming? Interesting to think how this affects plowing in central New York.”
Paducah, Ky.: “I work until the end of December. Take two months off, a little plowing, getting everything ready for next year, start first of March cleanups, mulch.”
Rome, Ga.: “Curious about the mowing part myself. I’m not too far from you guys, 50 miles south of Chattanooga. Not meaning to be nosey, but what kinda profit do you see from the Christmas light installs?”
Yellow Springs, Ohio: “We found shredding limb piles works well. Almost every yard has limb piles. We bought an Eliet shredder that is self-propelled and we can turn limb piles into usable mulch they can keep or we haul away. We charge by the hour, per man, per hour, and make good money at it.”
Bloomington, Ill.: “I plow snow. If we’re lucky, we get four good snow clearings a year. Last couple of years we’ve had six. Some years, none. I do only residentials, as I know they’ll pay fairly quickly, and they don’t want any salt thrown down, so I don’t have to deal with it. I also get caught up on designs for customers on my waiting list; that helps the bills, too. After that, I service all my equipment so it’s ready to go as soon as the frost is gone. Most importantly, I play with my son.”