Editorial: Avoid lawn care pitfallsThe snow shovel has long been put away and lawn mowers are again buzzing around area neighborhoods.
The snow shovel has long been put away and lawn mowers are again buzzing around area neighborhoods.
However, the ravages of an unusual bout of weather may have some thinking they should hire a professional lawn service this spring. The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) cautions against hastiness in committing to a contract when brown grass is seen in the yard.
DATCP’s division administrator advises the focus should be more on the quality of service than price. The cheapest option could prove to be the most expensive if a second company must be hired to repair the first company’s mistakes.
When choosing a landscaping company to service a yard, consider the following:
—Ask for recommendations from neighbors who have used lawn care services.
—Talk with representatives from several lawn care firms and get estimates.
—If planning to have pesticides applied to the yard, make sure the companies being considered are licensed and certified by DATCP. Individuals who apply or supervise the application of pesticides are required to carry a certification card—if there are any questions, ask to view the card.
—Find out if the company has liability insurance and if the work is guaranteed.
—Put all agreements in writing and make sure all of the expected services are included in the written contract before signing it.
—Read the contract carefully; it may involve an agreement for multiple visits over the course of one year or for multi-year services.
—See if there are extra charges for special services such as fertilizing, disease control or reseeding.
—Check with DATCP to see if any complaints have been lodged against the company.
Before agreeing to a contract, thoroughly research the top company and know what services are wanted from the firm. Remember there are a wide range of lawn care services to choose from, including grass cutting and watering, pesticide application, weed and fungus control, aeration and fertilization, tree and shrub pruning, resodding and more. Have a plan as to which services are required and verify preferred vendors provide those options.
For more information or to file a consumer complaint, visit www.datcp.wisconsin.gov, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 1-800-422-7128.
Looking ahead to fall, a do-it-yourself lawn care approach might be preferred. If so, here are some tips from the Professional Landcare Network:
—Mowing the lawn. It’s important to keep the grass two- to two-and-a-half inches tall throughout the fall. Much taller and it will mat, leading to disease problems such as snow mold; shorter, and its ability to make and store food for growth the next spring will be limited.
—Raking leaves. Lawn raking in the fall removes excess organic debris and can help maintain water quality. Keep grass clippings, leaf litter and other organic debris off driveways, sidewalks and streets, too.
—Recycling leaves. The best way to dispose of fallen leaves is to compost them, avoiding their entry into streets and storm sewers. Otherwise, use them—whole or chipped by a power mower—as mulch next winter around rose bushes and landscape plants.
—Watering the lawn. If it doesn’t rain, a lawn needs supplemental watering even when it’s cooler than in summer. Water as needed until the ground is cold and beginning to freeze. If having an automatic irrigation system, blow it out with compressed air before the water freezes in the pipes and sprinkler heads.
—Fertilizing the lawn. Apply a final application of fertilizer by early December. This should be done before the soil is frozen and while the lawn is still green.
—Broadleaf weed control. Limited numbers of weeds can be removed by hand. If weeds are few and scattered—or confined to a few small areas—spot-treat them with a weed control product. Be sure to complete treatments when temperatures are above 50 degrees.
—Seeding and sodding the lawn. Seeding should be completed by mid-September. Be sure to complete sodding before very cold weather sets in.
For more information, log on to www.LandcareNetwork.org/findaprofessional or call (800) 395-2522.