Choosing a Lawn Care ProfessionalBy Toni Leland (tonileland)
April 27, 2009
The Professional Lawn Care Association of America has designated April as Lawn Care Month, and the Colorado Association of Lawn Care Professionals offers the following thought-provoking information.
“Turf-grass helps purify water entering underground aquifers - its root mass and soil microbes act as a filter to capture and breakdown many types of pollutants. It is estimated that turf-grasses trap much of the 12 million tons of dust and dirt released annually into the U.S. atmosphere. In addition, a turf area of just 2500 square feet absorbs carbon dioxide, ozone and other pollutants, and releases enough oxygen to meet the needs of a family of four. Eight average front lawns have the cooling effect of about 70 tons of air conditioning. The investment of your time and money into your lawn and landscape have a profound effect on the world around us...and is a valuable contribution to the community and the environment.” 
Mowing alone is the most time-consuming operation in lawn maintenance, and realizing the importance of our green property helps take the sting out of the hard work involved. With today’s busy lifestyles, this chore has generated a huge industry.
Choosing a company to mow your grass and trim the weeds should involve almost as much research as choosing a lawn care company to manage the property year around. Word of mouth seems to be the best method for finding reputable, affordable individuals to mow and trim, but professional lawn care companies require a bit more time to learn what services and policies they provide, as well as their professional affiliations.
Large regional or national companies should be members of the Professional Lawn Care Association of America, or a state organization. This is your assurance that they have standards to which they must adhere to remain in good standing. Each company has its own approach to estimating a new job, and it’s a good idea to contact at least two for information.
Some will send an agent to your property to assess and estimate; others will try to do it over the phone. While you can glean a lot of information from a phone call, it is important that the agent see and measure your property, recognize the landscaping elements, and most important, take a soil sample. It is difficult to determine what fertilizers or pH adjustments are needed without analyzing the soil.
While you are interviewing a lawn care professional, ask for a list of the services that are provided in the monthly or yearly price. Does it include weed and pest control, aeration, seeding, and fertilizer? Many companies do more than maintain the health of the turf-grass--they often mow, prune, or do landscaping. Determine exactly what you want and have it in writing before signing a contract.
Organic lawn care appears to be difficult to come by, and when available, is more expensive than chemical care.
Elaborate garden designs require extra care
When seeking someone to mow regularly, check the neighborhood to see who is recommended. Ask questions about timing, cost, and reliability as well as how careful that individual is with equipment. Many of the commercial ride-on mowers move extremely fast and, while they do maneuver easily, damage to tree trunks and shrubs can happen quickly.
When you are considering a lawn care service, have them visit your home and walk the property with you. Point out the landscaping elements and specify where you want a hand-mower used, or a spot where you’ll trim the weeds yourself, such as close to prized flower beds. Be sure to find out what their schedule is; many of these individuals manage their mowing business in the evening after their regular job, or only on weekends. Know what to expect, and how often. Of course, you’ll want to know what the hourly or per/visit cost will be, but before you react to what you think is a high price, consider this: the investment in equipment and maintenance is significant for even a lone self-employed individual, who will have at least the following:
- a commercial riding mower (approximately $10,000)
- a commercial walk-behind mower ($3,000 to $6,000)
- possibly a regular hand-mower ($200 to $400)
- a string trimmer ($300)
- a blower ($400)
- a trailer to haul the equipment
- a truck capable of hauling the loaded trailer
- All these must be insured, registered, maintained, and filled with gas.
- A business license is required, along with liability insurance and tax registration.
- If this individual brings a helper, that person must be paid a salary.
So whether you opt for a large commercial lawn care service, or the local guy who mows lawns as a second job, be sure to consider all the aspects of turning your precious property over to someone else.