Tuesday Tips: Hiring a Lawn Care Company

Isn't the warm weather great? I can't wait to hear those lawn mowers start roaring. I can say that now because I live in a community that takes care of all the landscaping. But as I get ready to move into a single family home, my gardening thumb will either turn black and fall off, along with all the vegetation in my yard, or I'll hire a lawn care company. Option 2 is sounding so good. So here are some tips on hiring a lawn care firm:

Tip #1: There's no stronger power than word of mouth. Ask friends and family who they use to take care of their lawn. And check out ratings from places like Washington Consumers' Checkbook magazine and Angie's List.

Tip #2: Once you've got a small list narrowed down, check the Better Business Bureau for any black marks. Obviously you'll want to stay away from the ones that have several unresolved complaints.

Tip #3: Figure out what you want a lawn care company to do for you. If it's just mow the lawn and trim the edges, you might want to offer the job to a neighborhood kid, who'll be much cheaper than a company. But if you're in need of someone to do some landscaping or to treat some troubled spots in the yard, then make sure you're hiring a company that has people who specialize in landscaping and design.

Tip #4: Ask the company how long they've been in business. While you're at it, get a list of references. And call those references. Their other customers may have nice things to say about them and they may also have pointers on how to deal with them.

Tip #5: Visit other projects that they're working on, especially ones in your neighborhood, says PLANET, an association of lawn care companies. It'll not only give you ideas for what you could do in your yard but also you'll see their work first-hand.

Tip #6: Get it in writing. The company should provide a list of services they'll provide and when. The contract should also tell you if it's renewed each year and if there are any penalties for canceling your agreement.

Tip #7: If you've never used a lawn service, start out small. Sign up for a few services and if things go well, add more the next year.

Tip #8: Make sure the company is licensed and insured and ask for proof. This just makes sure that they're following the rules of the state when it comes to things like applying pesticides and other chemicals.

Tip #9: Do some research on how your lawn should be cared for. State cooperative extensions provide information and experts on how lawns in your area should be maintained.

So which lawn service do you use? What are some ways to save on the bill?

By Tania Anderson |  March 10, 2009; 12:00 AM ET Home Improvement , Tuesday Tips
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If all you need is someone to cut the grass and trim, Craigslist is great. They are usually doing this on the side so they tend to be cheaper than a service. I have a small yard, so its not really worth it for most services. Unfortunately I have allergies/asthma so doing it myself was becoming a problem. I have a friend who used a "kid from the neighborhood", he showed up whenever he felt like.

Posted by: milesdy | March 10, 2009 9:15 AM

I fail to see the point of this. If people haven't previously hired a lawn service and are in need these tips, this isn't the year they are going to start.

Posted by: Labradorian | March 10, 2009 2:47 PM

I am not much with planting things and can kill a potted plastic plant. Yet even I have been able to keep my yard alive and create simple beds of ground cover.

In my case, I'm lucky - my mother is a Master Gardener with an Extension office, and she's given me all sorts of great tips.

(For example, most grass doesn't need much more than 1" of watering a week during the summer. Or killing the grass in a handspan around your trees and planting beds makes mowing go a lot easier and is easier to manage than edging, and the eye just glosses right over it.)

Your local Extension offices tend to offer all sorts of helpful brochures and advice on how to maintain your lawn. It's not actually rocket science and if a "black thumb" like me can keep a healthy yard and inspire the surrounding neighbors to plant more ground cover and make lush containers, anyone can.

If you're really interested, you can take courses to become a Master Gardener for your county - it takes a bit of time, but at the end, you will have a very thorough knowledge of horticulture in your area.

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | March 10, 2009 9:11 PM

Tip #10: Ask if the service utilizes illegal aliens as its workforce. If so, hang up and call someone else.

Posted by: wpguest1 | March 10, 2009 9:59 PM

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