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Don’t waste your weekends: How to find reliable lawn care

Erik J. Martin
The Mortgage Reports contributor

In this article:

Everyone likes a nice yard, but not everyone enjoys gardening or lawn care. Here are the top concerns you might have about finding a provider:

  1. Are they full-service, or just “mow and go?”
  2. How much do they cost?
  3. What chemicals or products do they use?

Your choice depends on your needs, priorities and budget — from “just pick up the dog poop” to full-time manicuring and landscape architecture.

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How to find reliable lawn care

Maintaining your lawn and grounds can be a chore. It requires mowing, fertilizing, edging and aerating. Yes, it takes hard work to keep your exterior green and growing. But you don’t have to handle these tasks yourself. Instead, you can leave it to the pros. This means learning how to find a reliable lawn care service.

Related: Selling your home? Use these outdoor projects to up its value

Not every company offers the same services. Some have better reputations than others. That’s why it pays to shop around, ask questions and compare services carefully.

If you lack the time or know-how to manage your lawn, there’s no shame in enlisting an expert.

Why it’s worth it

In life, they say, you get what you pay for. That can certainly be true of a lawn care service. In exchange for a reasonable fee, a service can ensure that your lawn and yard will be properly maintained and look attractive. And that equates to better peace of mind and less hassle.

“The biggest reason to hire a lawn care company is that it gives you more time to enjoy your yard. That beats toiling over it,” says Dan DiClerico with HomeAdvisor. He says professional landscaping is a perennial winner in HomeAdvisor’s Homeowner Happiness Index survey.

When you hire a service, you’re paying for their expertise as well as their labor.

“There’s a lot of science behind proper lawn care,” says Brad Leahy with Blades of Green. “You not only need to apply the right fertilizer blends. They also need to be applied at the correct rate and correct time for your soil and grass. This timing plays an important role in the health of your yard.”

An expert will also know how to work around weather challenges. This can include drought or rainy conditions. It can involve customizing a plan for delayed or premature growing seasons.

“Plus, they’ll know how to spot and treat the warning signs of diseases or other landscape problems,” Leahy says.

The best candidates for help

Do you lack the time or physical means to care for your landscaping? Short on equipment or knowledge, too? Then hiring a professional service is best. This can particularly apply to older homeowners, professionals who travel, and the disabled.

“Actually, any owners who want to ensure their lawns are healthy should work with lawn care experts,” Missy Henriksen with the National Association of Landscape Professionals says. “Doing so can also provide maximum environmental benefits.”

But if you’re going to commit to a service, expect to provide a little DIY care, too.

“The best candidates are those who follow best practices. That means, for example, watering properly as instructed,” says Leahy.

Lawn care services available

Lawn care companies provide a range of services and packages. “As a result, services typically start out at a minimum to keep costs low,” Henriksen says.

A basic package often starts with mowing services. Typical upgrades include:

  • Fertilizing
  • Seeding
  • pH adjustments
  • Weed control
  • Aeration
  • Edging
  • Trimming/pruning
  • Leaf blowing
  • Pest control
  • Seasonal cleanups.

“If you’re also seeking help with trees, shrubs and plantings, you should enlist a full-service landscaping company,” DiClerico notes.

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Remember: not all lawns need the same amount of help. And not all companies offer every service you may need or want. So shop around carefully.

How to find and choose a service

To find a worthy company, ask friends and family for referrals. Or hunt online. The most important factor to value in a company is reputation. This can be verified by reading online reviews. Visit your local Better Business Bureau and research the outfit, too.

“It also never hurts to speak with a few current clients and asking for their experience,” suggests DiClerico.

The best way to screen a service is to request a free inspection of your yard. During this visit, they should propose a custom treatment plan that fits your needs and budget. Remember to ask questions. Henriksen, Leahy and DiClerico recommend asking:

  1. What range of services do you offer?
  2. What particular services do you recommend for my yard? Why?
  3. Which services do you recommend?
  4. What products and chemicals will you use? What are their pros and cons? Are there any alternatives? Do you offer eco-friendly options?
  5. What days/times will you visit to provide services? What happens if I’m not home?
  6. Are you licensed and insured in my state, as required by law? Can you furnish proof?
  7. Can you provide a contract that clearly defines the terms of service?
  8. What kind of results do you guarantee? Can you put these in writing? What happens if I’m not completely satisfied?
  9. What will my package cost? When is payment due?
  10. Do you offer any discounts? Can I get a reduced price with an annual service contract?

Costs

Most companies charge a flat rate per visit for mowing. Then, additional fees may apply for extra services.

Per HomeAdvisor, average prices for lawn and garden services are:

  • $123 for aeration
  • $140 for lawn mowing and maintaining
  • $226 for lawn fertilizing
  • $329 for leaf removal
  • $420 for maintaining trees and shrubs
  • $743 for trimming/removing trees and shrubs
  • $855 for lawn seeding

Many of these costs vary widely, depending on your area, the size of your yard, and whether you choose a weekly or monthly package. For instance, mowing varies between $30 and $550. So if your yard isn’t that large, and your contract for weekly service, you’ll likely pay the lower end.

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Worry that these costs will exceed your budget? Try this strategy: hire a service for one season. But have them train you on how to repeat their care yourself next year.

Or, DiClerico suggests, “Try mowing the lawn yourself, but hire a pro to visit a few times a year for some of the other services.”

Verify your new rate (Nov 17th, 2018)