Need lawn care services? Experts say start looking now

Consumer Reports offers expert advice on hiring the right service for your yard
Posted at 6:52 AM, Oct 23, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-23 06:52:25-04

In 2017, annual spending on lawn care services hit its highest point in 10 years. More homeowners are hiring companies—from local outfits to national firms, such as TruGreen and Lawn Doctor—to develop and maintain their landscaping, to the tune of hundreds of dollars per month over three seasons a year.

When searching for a company, consider your lawn’s problem areas. Maybe weeds have taken over or some unknown blight is attacking your shrubbery. Lawn care companies give your lawn a “health” checkup and prescribe a treatment plan.

That often starts with a soil analysis, says Eric A. Brown, Ph.D., director of agronomy for Massey Services, a pest control and lawn care company based in Florida. If a pro suggests testing the soil and checking its acidity, Brown says, it’s a good indicator that he knows what he's doing. “They should also look at your plants to note, for example, if they’re in the right place for the conditions.” And he says a pro should determine whether your current irrigation system is getting the job done.

Before hiring anyone, Jason Henderson, Ph.D., associate professor of turfgrass and soil sciences at the University of Connecticut, recommends that you ask a pro­fes­sional about her credentials. Does she have a formal education in turfgrass science or agronomy (the science of soil management)? What does she do for continuing education, or how does she stay current with today’s best practices? You should also ask whether she’s active in any professional organizations, such as the National Association of Landscape Professionals.
The NALP also advises asking neighbors for references and making sure a company is licensed if that’s a requirement in your state. Certain states have online databases you can search to find out whether a company or an individual is legitimate.

Get bids from multiple companies. The bids should detail the services they recommend for your lawn and the associated prices. And don’t necessarily go for the lowest price.

"You want a lawn service that's going to customize what you want rather than just trying to put a square peg in a round hole," says Frank Rossi, Ph.D., turfgrass specialist at Cornell University. "Ask them if they're going to be flexible about the services they provide."