Every time a client calls, Martin Alamillo gets nervous. Since last summer, more than 10 of his clients have discontinued their weekly gardening service. Several are behind on their payments, including one woman who owes him nearly $1,000.

Alamillo and his two crews are still out mowing lawns, blowing leaves and picking weeds, but he estimates that business is down as much as 20 percent. While the economic crash has affected businesses from real estate to retail, gardeners like Alamillo have been among the hardest hit as homeowners looking to save money dust off their lawn mowers and take care of their own yards.

Gardeners, like housekeepers and pool cleaners, are seen as extras when people's houses go upside down or when they lose their jobs,

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