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How to Choose the Right Lawn Care Service

Updated on August 9, 2017
Frank Sturm profile image

Frank Sturm considers himself an avid New England adventurer and has 15 years of experience in the lawn care industry.

For the past couple of years you've wanted your lawn to look better. Every time you walk outside you find it hard to look at the bare spots that appear to grow with each passing minute. Areas of your lawn that once were green and vibrant have succumb to months or years of neglect. But now you are ready to save it, and you believe a lawn company can help.

While many small and large (national) lawn companies operate in your town or city, what company is right for you? Before you sign on with a provider, you should ask yourself a few important questions.

What kind of lawn do you want to have? And, what kind of lawn can you expect to have?

First set expectations: If you can answer these two questions honestly, you’ll find it easier to hire a company, and you'll feel satisfied with your choice. Many people expect their lawn to immediately look lush and beautiful like the lawns they see in advertisements. Growing a gorgeous lawn takes time and a lot of elbow grease. Even then, the environment and weather play a recurring role in the state of your property.

What do you value most in a lawn care company?

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Be realistic: You may want to grow the best looking lawn in your neighborhood. However, if your grass is cast in shadow beneath a thick canopy of tree cover, it'll be difficult to achieve this goal. All cool-season grasses need at least four to five hours of direct sunlight a day. Many grass types even need upwards of six hours of direct sunlight. And when they don’t receive an adequate amount of light, grasses thin and moss begins to appear.

So, if your lawn rests in the shadows and you still want the lawn of your dreams, you'll need to reduce the canopy's cover. If you're not willing or can't do this, you may have to adjust your expectations.

All cool-season grasses need at least five to six hours of direct sunlight every day to thrive. Some shade, however, is not bad, especially when it helps cool the grass.
All cool-season grasses need at least five to six hours of direct sunlight every day to thrive. Some shade, however, is not bad, especially when it helps cool the grass. | Source
A lawn needs constant attention otherwise areas can fade away.
A lawn needs constant attention otherwise areas can fade away. | Source
Set up a mowing schedule. Keep your cool season grasses around 3 to 3.5 inches in height. Never cut off more than 1/4 of the blade at each mow.
Set up a mowing schedule. Keep your cool season grasses around 3 to 3.5 inches in height. Never cut off more than 1/4 of the blade at each mow. | Source

How much effort can you and will you put into maintaining your desired lawn?

You must also help the company succeed: Many people expect their lawns to suddenly look green after they hire a company. While the company must distribute the appropriate products at the correct rate, you must also help take care of your lawn when a technician is not present. For example, you may have to mow the grass, and you'll definitely have to water it. You're also the company's eyes when they're not at your property. If the lawn begins to brown or look diseased, you'll need to call your provider for advice.

Always set a budget! Know how much you want to spend before you go to the negotiating table. But remember, you may have to be flexible to get the type of service you covet.
Always set a budget! Know how much you want to spend before you go to the negotiating table. But remember, you may have to be flexible to get the type of service you covet. | Source

How much will you spend on a lawn care company?

1. Set a budget: Consider the amount of money you currently spend to care for your lawn on your own. Now, ask yourself if that's the maximum amount of money you'd want to spend on a lawn care company.

It's important to first set a budget. Then, it's just as crucial that you understand this budget may fluctuate depending on the state of your property each year.

2. Companies present there services in different ways: They offer services per application or in lump sum. For example, they may offer a certain program for a flat rate of $200 or they could offer the same program at $40 for 5 services. (This is just one example.) They may also offer a flat rate with an option to add on additional services such insect or grub control.

People often make the mistake of hiring a company solely on the offered per application price or lump sum. Instead, you should look at the services they offer for that price. Cheaper isn't always better. If you pay $2 to $3 more on the application price, you could actually receive a much better package. Unfortunately, many companies offer to give you the world for pennies, but their services and products are sub par. The homeowner usually won’t realize they've been duped until a couple of years later when they've already spent hundreds and their lawn looks like its on its death bed.

3. Know how companies price lawns: There exists certain benchmarks for lawn services and applications in this industry. These might change based on the region, state, city, etc. Always realize that companies have to pay their expenses and make a profit. They usually charge per square foot of property.

In Massachusetts, if a company offers you their services at $20 to $25 per application and you have a 16,000 square foot lawn, you should question that company's motive. Here's why: Many large company's require that their in-field technicians meet a certain sales goal each day. For example, this means techs will have to complete "x" number of properties to meet "x" number of total dollars. If that tech has to meet a $800 daily sales goal, your 16,000 square foot lawn at $20 to $25 per application hardly puts a dent in that goal. Instead, it’s often best to pay what your property is worth so you obtain a better service than to nickel and dime companies and technicians.

The final question: So, after you consider all this, the question still remains: What are you willing to spend? My advice is to work with a company you trust and a technician you feel is knowledgeable and reliable. They will price your lawn correctly. While you may spend a little more money to hire a company you trust, your lawn will have a better chance to succeed.

What type of company do you prefer?

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Positives if you use a small company

  • Possible better customer service. If it takes a little longer for a representative to answer return your call, it is probably worth the wait. That representative is likely the company's owner who knows all about lawn care and your lawn.
  • Because small companies may have less technicians, they should be be able to offer you better service. When a customer knows only one technician will treat their property, they often feel more comfortable with the company. More so, small companies may be less opt to hire anyone off the street (yes, it happens with large companies), so technicians may be more knowledgeable and experienced.
  • These operations may limit the number of programs offered, but this can be a good thing. Sometimes simpler is better. They know what works best and will adjust the program slightly if your lawn fails to react in a positive way.

Negatives if you use a small company

  • Small companies may also have poor customer service. As stated above, you are more likely to leave them a voice mail whereas with a larger company you'll at least talk to a customer service representative after the first couple of rings.
  • Small companies usually have a small crew of technicians, so if you don’t like the technician, you may have to change the company.
  • They may not have a program that you want. For example, some small companies don’t offer organic services whereas larger companies are more likely to offer an array of services.

Do you want a small or large corporation to treat your lawn?

Small and large companies share similar traits, but they can also act very differently.

Positives if you use a large company

  • You might be able to reach a customer service representative more quickly than a representative in a small company. In fact, a small company's customer service department might be its owner, and you're more likely to leave a voice mail.
  • Large companies may have different technicians, so if you don’t like your technician you can ask the company to make a change.
  • Large companies may be more opt to negotiate prices and services with you. They may also offer more programs and services.

Negatives if you use a large company

  • Large companies may also have poor customer service. It may take you longer to reach the person you want to talk with. A customer service representative may not know how to answer your very specific lawn question, so they will direct you to a supervisor in your branch. Or, they may direct you to your technician. Often, you will have to wait for these individuals to call you back.
  • Usually, these services hire a number of technicians to work in a very large area. This means there is slim chance you'll only have one technician working on your property...even if you ask, demand and beg.
  • Large companies may charge less. This is good. On the flip side, read the above section titled "How much are you willing to spend” and I tell you why this is not always a good thing.

© 2014 Frank Sturm

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