Hiring (and Talking To) Your Lawn Care Provider

Many lawn and landscape providers offer an array of services. How can you best choose one to perform organic lawn care? There are many questions to ask, and while you might not find a company that meets the highest of demands, choose one that can meet the most for you. Here are some questions to ask them before accepting their cost estimate.


Questions you should ask before hiring a lawn care provider (Or your current provider)

Are they certified in organic land care?

There are two North American organic landscape care certifications— SOUL (Society for Organic Urban Land Care) and NOFA ( Northeast Organic Farming Association) both have organic land care standards, and individuals can become certified to adhere to these standards. Ask your lawn care company if they have a certificate, or if they would be willing to become certified. You may also take certification classes to become educated yourself.


Do they currently provide organic lawn care options? Spend most of your conversation on this question.

By asking this question, you need to be able to ask what their version of “organic” means.

For some companies, that means that they don’t use pesticides, for others it means the chemicals and fertilizers they do use are OMRI certified. But, what you want to find out is how they can provide organic land care by only using the types of amendments mentioned in our soil test and nutrient additives guides (things like compost, effective microorganisms, etc), and that they use cultural methods like aeration, overseeding, and mowing high and leaving grass clippings to maintain your lawn.

You want to ask for a lawn care program that meets high standards for organic care. If the company you have is not currently educated in organic lawn care, ask and encourage them to become experts.


Searching for an organic lawn care provider.Researching an organic lawn care provider. Photo by cassinga, 123RF


Can they show examples of lawns they established or care for organically?

Ask them what they do to care for them through the seasons, in detail.  


Show them your soil test, share how the lawn has been cared for to date, then ask them what they would do for your lawn for the next 1-5 years.

A good organic lawn care provider should know how to interpret your soil test and read the current conditions of your lawn to come up with a plan for you. While they cannot provide a detailed plan for free, you can either offer to pay them for a detailed plan that you might execute on your own, or ask them for a plan that sets expectations for what you should expect from your lawn and their activities over the next few seasons or years.

For example, an estimate for work might include details that say they never use synthetic chemicals and fertilizers, will apply compost in spring and fall, overseed in fall, patch seed through the season, mow above 3 inches, aerate when soils are compacted, etc.


Soil being prepared for sending to a testing lab.


Ask if they have a Maryland Fertilizer Application license.

If the company proposes to apply any nitrogen or phosphorus, even with organic materials such as compost, they are required under State law to hold a fertilizer application license . If they never plan to add sources of nitrogen or phosphorus, they do not need this license.


What kind of lawn mowing equipment do you use?

If your lawn care company also mows your lawn, ask about their equipment.
  • Do they use electric mowers?
  • Do they use mulching mowers?
  • Do they sharpen their blades after every 10-12 hours of use?
  • Do they clean their mowers between jobs to reduce the spread of weed seeds from a weedy lawn?
  • How do they avoid fuel spills?
Educate and encourage your lawn care company to use environmentally friendly mowers.



What if you only need to hire someone to mow your lawn?

Ask your lawn care company, family member, neighbor, or the teenager down the street to:
  • Never mow below 3”, and ideally even higher.
  • Leave all grass clippings on the lawn. And to sweep any grass clippings from the road or sidewalk back onto the lawn; never let them bag them up, or blow them into the street.
  • Keep their blades sharp. Remind them to do this after every 10-12 hours of use.
  • Use an electric or manual mower for reduced emissions and noise, and for energy efficiency.
  • Use a mulching mower.
  • Mulch leaves that fell on the lawn, rather than removing them.