The Lowdown on Lawn Care Companies
There's no one-size-fits-all solution to having a lawn that stays green and weed-free
Friday, June 22, 2012
Many kids who had the arduous task of mowing their parents lawn, clipping hedges, or pulling weeds probably said to themselves, "I'm going to use a lawn care company when I'm older and get my own house."
For many, that proclamation turned into reality, as a lot of homeowners choose to hire companies like TruGreen, and National Grass Cut Inc., because their lives are just too busy for yard-work, or they simple hate doing it.
One would imagine the business exchange between consumer and lawn care company would be quite simple. The consumer obtains a reputable company, an estimate is provided, and the workers come and give your lawn that tidy golf course look. But many times it's not that simple.
Plenty of consumers across the U.S. have reported cases of lawn care companies doing poor yard work, having questionable billing practices, and using harmful lawn chemicals.
A perfect example is the Kansas-based Ryan Lawn and Tree. The company is swimming in a sea of lawsuits claiming it used a harmful herbicide that killed trees, bushes and plants on the yards of several residents.
One of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit is suing the nationwide company for the sum of $50,000, alleging that Ryan Lawn killed over 75 trees and bushes on his estate.
The landscapers used the controversial herbicide Imprelis, created by the chemical company Dupont. In 2011, the product was pulled by the Environmental Protection Agency, but many companies already used it before it was taken off shelves.
A report conducted by Ohio State University about selecting proper lawn care service showed that consumers should become well acquainted with the various types of lawn care options and company programs.
The authors of the report say it's imperative for homeowners to select the right company and service for their specific landscape needs. Many companies have a standard or basic package, but what that service actually entails will differ from company to company -- and may not be appropriate for your specific situation.
While some plans may be inadequate, others may have more service than what's actually needed.
The report states that consumers should call at least two to three companies before choosing one.
The authors of the report also tell consumers to find out how much and what type of fertilizer a company uses, as it must comply with state laws for the amount of nitrogen the fertilizer contains.
For example, Maryland's Nutrient Management Law not only regulates fertilizer use, it makes lawn companies test the soil, and keep records of when and what type of chemicals it uses. The Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) also makes sure commercial lawn companies properly apply chemicals to yards. Similiar laws are established across the U.S.
Lawn care experts say consumers should ask neighbors or friends for recommendations of yard service companies instead of choosing one blindly. In addition, cost shouldn't be the sole factor in selecting a lawn care company, as better fertilizers and higher-quality service will obviously cost more, but will pay off over time.
Homeowners should know exactly what they want done to their yards before the company arrives, while also staying away from general flat rates. A free inspection should be done to determine the size of your yard, as not one rate should be applied to every yard.
The size of your yard will also determine the proper amount of fertilizer the company should use.
Get it in writing
Additionally, it's important for homeowners to lock down guarantees in writing for things like response times, pricing and materials used.
One should also know the names and faces of who will be working on your yard, as people have reported seeing phony uniformed workers showing up early, saying they're part of the work team.
"A man with a TruGreen logo shirt rang my door bell," said Cheryl in a complaint posted on ConsumerAffairs. "Not knowing him and having seen a 'beware of scammer alert' from the local news, I wouldn't open the door. As he left, he made an inappropriate comment about my talking through the door."
Kudos to Cheryl for listening to her gut instinct.
Consumers should also make sure a company is certified according to state laws, especially if the company is using pesticides.