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Choosing a Lawn Service Company    

What Do Lawn Care Services Do?
Choosing a Lawn Service
The Contract and Warranty
What You'll Have to Do
Pesticides
Assistance

The grass is always "greener" on the other side of the fence. Or so if seems to the many consumers who turn to a lawn care company to help make their lawn greener. However, every year OCP receives many complaints about such companies. Below are some helpful websites on lawn care and some tips on choosing the right company for your needs:

What Lawn Care Services Do

Lawn care service usually consists of evaluating your lawn, fertilizing and treating it for the control of weeds and pests. Some services also offer the option of disease control. Lawn care service is usually done in a series of four or five treatments beginning in early spring and ending in late fall.

In addition to lawn service, some firms also offer a tree and shrub care program consisting of pest and disease control and fertilization.

Choosing A Lawn Service

You will want to get estimates from several firms. A good way to start is to ask friends and neighbors for recommendations.

Make sure the firm is licensed. Only if the company applies pesticides does it need a license from the  Maryland Department of Agriculture's Pesticide Regulation Section, T: 410.841.5710. Since companies which do not apply pesticides are generally unregulated, it is important to take the time to choose wisely.

Do not choose a company simply from their phone call to you. Have the companies come out and walk over your yard with you. Discuss the type of grass you like and what would be appropriate for your yard. If seeding is going to be done, verify what type of grass seed will be used. Ask about the price differences of different types of seeds. Discuss what the company can help you with and what will be your responsibilities, i.e., what mower height you should use and how frequent should the waterings be. Insist on a written estimate or contract which specifies the costs and services to be provided.

Check on a firm's complaint record by visiting our Merchant Disclosure web page or calling OCP 240.777.3636 and the Better Business Bureau 202.393.8000.

Find out if the service will evaluate the condition of your lawn (including a soil test) and treat it accordingly. Some firms have a "blanket" program which treats every lawn alike regardless of its needs. Find out whether you're getting blanket or custom care. Ask the company to do a soil test on your yard and provide you with the results. When comparing prices offered by different lawn services you also have to find out if the services offered are comparable.

Ask the chemical makeup of any chemicals to be used on your lawn. Ask carefully about the training of anyone who will be applying these chemicals. Ask what kind of signs will be put up to warn neighbors about the chemicals used on your lawn.

Ask if the firm is treating other yards in your area. If so, find out if those homeowners are satisfied customers by calling those homeowners directly.

Find out if the company has liability insurance to cover their employees while working in your yard.

If your lawn is in poor condition it may take a season or two for it to become healthy and weed free. A good turf program may involve re-establishing your lawn by overseeding with University of Maryland approved turf grass varieties which will help reduce extensive damage from insects and diseases. Contact the Extension Service at (301) 590-9650 to obtain a list of recommended varieties.

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The Contract and Warranty

Be sure you understand the terms and conditions of the contract. The contract should contain your name, address, and phone number. Have the company list what problems currently exist with your lawn.

The contract should state specific prices for the services to be provided and how many visits are included. If there is any additional charge for services, i.e., removal of grass clippings or leaves, these prices should be noted as well. Include the approximate dates of the visits as well as a requirement that the company contact you the day before coming to prepare you as well as to discuss any problems you may be seeing with the lawn. Include the names of all products to be used, grass seed, fertilizer, pesticides etc.

Most lawn services contracts contain automatic renewal provisions which mean that a penalty will be charged if you cancel the services after it has automatically renewed. If the contract contains the automatic renewal clause, advise the company and cross this out of the contract. Do not sign a contract for more than one year.

If the contract is made in your home with the salesperson present, the contract needs to contain a three day right to cancel provision.

Find out in advance if there are extra charges for treating special problems such as fungus-related diseases or Japanese Beetle grubs. There may also be an extra charge for services such as reseeding, de-thatching, and aeration.

Get the guarantee or warranty in writing. Carefully read the terms and conditions of any warranty. Ask questions if you don't understand the warranty.

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What You'll Have To Do

Your lawn service representative only sees your lawn four or five times each year. Between visits you'll have to mow the lawn at a prescribed height with a sharp bladed mower and water it according to your representative's instructions. You may also have to do periodic de-thatching, aeration, or both in order to maintain a healthy lawn.

In addition, it's up to you to report the first sign of a lawn problem to the lawn service. There are some disease and insect problems which can severely damage a lawn in a very short time, and which may first appear between visits by the lawn care company.

Pesticide Use

The Maryland Pesticide Applicator's Law says, in part, that when a pesticide is applied, or at the time you sign a contract, you must be given the following written information:

  • Name, license number, and telephone number of the lawn service;
  • Common name of pesticide or active ingredient applied;
  • Safety information, including health risks to humans and animals;
  • Maryland Poison Center telephone number.
  • Upon request the lawn service must provide you with advance notice of each pesticide application.

This law also requires the lawn service to post a state-approved pesticide notification sign at the time and place pesticides are applied. The sign must remain in place for 48 hours after which you are responsible for removing it.

In addition, the law requires that sales personnel and applicators be registered with the State and carry identification cards. They must also be trained and supervised by a person who has been certified by the State. Certification indicates that the person has passed a State-administered test and has a bachelor's degree in a biological science or has worked one year under the supervision of a person who was previously certified.

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To Get Advice or Assistance

If you need independent advice about your lawn or plantings, or information on pesticides, call the University of Maryland Cooperative Extension Service, (301) 590-9650. Also, check the "Gardening" section in the public libraries where there are usually several books devoted to lawn care. If you have a consumer problem with a lawn service that you haven't been able to resolve by talking it over with the business, call the Montgomery County Office of Consumer Protection, 240.777.3636. If the problem pertains to the possible misuse of pesticides, contact the Maryland Department of Agriculture Pesticide Regulation Section at 410.841.5710.

For additional information contact Montgomery County's Dept of Environmental Protection:  http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/sws/grasscycling and Maryland Attorney General.

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