Starting A Landscape Business

Source(s): Gary L Wade

Unlike the nursery or greenhouse industry that require a large capital investment to start, a landscape business requires less start-up funds. However, there are certain legal requirements for someone entertaining the business in terms of permits and licenses that must be obtained. These permits and licenses could result in a considerable outlay of money for new firms.

First, a firm must have a business license for the municipality in which the business is based. If a firm is headquartered in one county but does business in five adjoining counties, it may or may not have to have a business license in each of those counties. It is suggested that the landscaper check with the business license office in counties where business is done to determine if a business license is necessary. Some local municipalities have local requirements, while others do not.

Landscape contractors who handle and distribute plant materials must have a Nursery Dealer’s License from the Georgia Department of Agriculture. Also, any plants distributed must be purchased from licensed Nursery Growers and must be free of insects and diseases at the time of installation. If a landscape firm also grows it’s own plant material, it must also have a Nursery Grower’s License. Nursery Growers and Dealer’s Licenses are available from the Georgia Department of Agriculture, Plant Production Division, 19 Martin Luther King Jr. Dr., SW, Atlanta, GA 30334. Phone (404) 651-9486.

A Commercial Pesticide Applicator’s License is required of a person who applies pesticides to the land of another person for hire, or directs the application of pesticides by subordinates. A firm applying pesticides for hire must have a Pesticide Contractor’s License. Both of these licenses can be obtained through the Georgia Department of Agriculture, Phone (404) 656-4958.

If the firm will be installing hardscapes, such as brick walls, decks, etc., a building permit or Contractor’s License is required. Contact the local government for information on permits required.

All irrigation installers are required to have a Low Voltage Electrician’s License before they can install irrigation systems. The license is obtained through the Secretary of State’s office in Atlanta and requires one to pass a written test.

All businesses need to obtain a tax number from the Internal Revenue Service. If a landscaper plans to use part-time workers, temporaries, or subcontractors, the IRS has some rather complicated and specific rules in this area that he must understand and follow.

Speaking of liability, firms doing the work on the properties of others must have liability insurance. Generally, liability insurance rates increase dramatically when a firm applies pesticides on the properties of others. This finding has caused many newcomers to the landscape profession to think twice about offering pesticide services to clients.

Landscape maintenance professionals applying pesticides, including insecticides, fungicides herbicides or growth regulators, to a landscape site are required to post the property with a sign that reads: CAUTION: PESTICIDE APPLICATION….KEEP OFF. Also, the bottom of the sign should read as follows: “This sign may be removed on the day after application.” Firms may also have their name and address printed on the sign. The signs must be 4″ x 5″ in size and made of sturdy, weather resistant material. Contact the Georgia Department of Agriculture for additional information. The Georgia Department of Agriculture also has a source list of manufacturers who make the signs.

Finally, Georgia House Bill 417, passed during the 1993 legislative session, relates to who can and cannot do landscape design work for money. According to this act, only a Registered Landscape Architect can sell his design. A Registered Landscape Architect is one who passes a stringent Landscape Architect’s Certification Exam administered by the American Society of Landscape Architects and is licensed with the GA Secretary of State’s Office). A landscape contractor, designer or retailers (or anyone who is not a Registered Landscape Architect) who performs design services can not charge for his/her design and must follow up by installing the design. Newcomers to the landscape profession need to be aware of this act if they are considering design services as a part of their business.

Center Publication Number: 124

Composting: Feed Your Landscape, Not the Landfill


  • Gary L Wade
  • Wayne McLaurin

Landfills in Georgia are filling up fast, and residents throughout the state are recycling items such as newspaper, cans, glass and plastic in an effort to prevent this problem.

Landscape recycling also makes sense because leaves, lawn clippings and tree trimmings account for up to 30% of the material being dumped in landfills today. These riches from Mother Nature can be easily recycled right in our own backyards by a process called COMPOSTING.

Composting is a practical and convenient way of recycling leaves, lawn clippings and trimmings from the lawnscape. It is also an economical way of producing rich humus that can be added back to your soil.

Composting is not just a practice for farmers, rural residents or serious gardeners. Anyone with a landscape can benefit both the environment and their landscape by composting.

To learn more about composting and find answers to these commonly asked questions about composting:

  • What is compost?
  • What are the best materials for composting?
  • Do compost piles have offensive odors?
  • Where can I make a compost pile?
  • How big can I make the pile?
  • Do I have to build a frame to hold the compost?
  • How do I construct the pile?
  • How do I care for the pile?
  • What causes decomposition?
  • Does compost have a nutrient value?
  • When is compost ready to use?
  • How can compost be used?


Center Publication Number: 35



  • Lynn Batdorf, Curator – National Boxwood Collection, National Arboretum in Washington, DC
  • Dr. Gary Wade, Extension Horticulturist, University of Georgia College of Environmental & Environmental Sciences

Lynn Batdorf, Curator of the national boxwood collection at the National Arboretum in Washington, DC spoke at the Landscape Planning Short Course in Athens on January 29, 2009. He offered some interesting insight into the genus Buxus as he described in detail the history, culture and many cultivars of boxwood. I summarized my notes from his lecture in bullet form below.

  • There are 97 species of boxwood worldwide, but only 7 are temperate plants. The rest are tropicals. There are 182 cultivars of the temperate species in the national boxwood collection at the National Arboretum.
  • Boxwood roots grow shallow, within the top 15 inches of soil, and the roots extend out several times the canopy spread. A mature boxwood is difficult to transplant due to the extensive root mass and percent of root loss during transplant.
  • Boxwood prefers an alkaline pH, in the range of 6.8 to 7.5 for optimum growth. It often suffers nutritional deficiencies at low pH. Dolomite lime is recommended to increase pH because it contains magnesium which boxwood likes. Do not plant boxwood adjacent to azaleas, camellias, gardenias or other acid-loving plants.
  • Boxwood responds to fall fertilization because it promotes root growth, and roots grow all winter. Fall fertilization also minimizes winter leaf bronzing, since this is often linked to nutritional deficiencies. Tip bronzing, for instance, indicates magnesium deficiency.
  • Hand thinning is much better for boxwood than shearing. Shearing results in a thick, dense outer canopy, poor air flow within the foliage, and encourages leaf and twig diseases. Branch die-back can often be attributed to shearing and poor cultural conditions.
  • Boxwood leaves remain on plants for 3 years before they shed. It’s important to keep them on the plant as long as possible by preventing inner leaves from becoming shaded. It’s also important to maintain leaves as far down within the canopy as possible.
  • Use hand pruners to make selective thinning cuts inside the canopy on selected branches. Thinning gradually controls plant size, but more importantly it opens the canopy and improves air flow and light penetration which are important for maintaining leaves.
  • Boxwood does not respond well to severe pruning. Exposing the old wood often results to frost and winter injury and sunscald on the trunk and branches.
  • There is no such thing as boxwood decline. Boxwood problems are caused by numerous insects and diseases, including leaf miner, mites and scales, but most of these are encouraged by poor cultural/management conditions or improper soil pH.
  • English boxwood does not get leaf miners because the leaves contain an alkaloid that kills the insect.

Be a Plant Detective

Source(s): Gary L Wade

Plants in the landscape cannot talk, but they will let you know when they are sick by the symptoms they express. Wilted or discolored leaves, dying branches and premature leaf drop are just a few of the symptoms of plant stress.


Often plant problems occur when a plant is not able to adapt to the site in which it is planted. For instance, junipers are extremely drought-tolerant once established, but they cannot tolerate poorly drained soils. Shade-loving plants like azalea, rhododendron and hosta often have problems when planted in areas that receive hot, mid-afternoon sun. Forcing plants to grow in harsh or unsuitable sites weakens them and encourages secondary insect and disease infestations.

At other times, plant problems result from poor cultural or management practices. We can literally kill plants with kindness by applying excess quantities of fertilizer or water. Planting too deeply is a common cultural mistake. When plants are set too deeply in the soil, the lower portion of the root system becomes deprived of oxygen and dies. When attempting to diagnose and remedy a plant problem, be a detective and gather all the clues before attempting a cure. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What has the recent weather pattern been? Has there been heavy rain or drought?
  • Are other plants in the vicinity showing the same problem, or is this just an isolated case?
  • What are the soil drainage patterns? Does the soil stay wet for a long period after rain or irrigation?
  • What is the light level in the area and is the plant well- suited to the amount of light it receives?
  • Has there been a chemical or fertilizer spilled in the vicinity of the plant?
  • Have there been any chemicals sprayed on the plant recently?

If you cannot diagnose the problem, seek help from your county extension agent or nurseryman. A sample of a live plant showing the symptoms and a soil sample (of at least 1 pint) taken from around the plant will help these professionals provide an accurate diagnosis of the plant problem. Taking the time to properly diagnose a plant problem before trying a cure will save you time, effort and money.

Resource(s):Care of Ornamental Plants in the Landscape

Center Publication Number: 249