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Lawn Care Guide

Trees & Bees Lawn Care

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Lawn Care Guide

Just as home ownership is the flagship component of what most people call 'The American Dream', the pride of a home has much of its roots - pardon the expression! - in a lush, vibrant, postcard-worthy lawn. It might sound silly to say such a thing, given all of the things a home can be to the people that live in it, but when you pause to think about it, it makes sense. The lawn that fronts and surrounds your house is, after all, the first and most lasting impression most folks will ever have of the house and its owner (that's you!). A well-tended lawn is a microcosm of the home and homeowner: It shows pride in one's appearance, competence regarding the general tasks of life, and a certain measure of environmental consciousness and aesthetics. In short, your lawn is a great big mirror, and as everybody knows, mirrors work best when they're clean and well cared for!

When push comes to shove, the issue of lawn care isn't one of unwillingness or sloth. It's a matter of education. Those whose lawns are, well, let's just say "substandard" are almost always lacking in the basic skills required to do something about it. Lawn care and maintenance is an ongoing and multifaceted process, and it takes a lot of skill and understanding to pull it off, not to mention time. In today's hectic world, knowledge and the skills that come with it are readily available, but spare time is a whole other story. That's why the truly savvy property owner hires a competent, trustworthy lawn care company to take care of his or her lawn - it gets done quickly and correctly, and the homeowner in question can devote his or her time to other pursuits. To learn more about what to look for in a lawn care company, read on!

Hiring 101

The first thing you need to know if you're going to use the services of a lawn care company (sometimes known as a lawn service or full-service landscaping company) is how to hire a good one. Mess up here, and it won't just be your lawn that withers - your wallet will follow suit with alarming speed. Consider the factors below when evaluating lawn care services:

License and Registration, Please

While you may think raking leaves or cutting the grass is a job that any high school kid can do, you need to remember that you're hunting for a professional service provider to do pro-level work, ideally over the long term. One of the quickest ways to weed out the undesirables in this sector of the service community is to check their licensing status. No valid licenses? Pass on them! Not only should any reputable, competent lawn care service have no trouble securing the relevant credentials and documentation for its employees, but it may also be a legal requirement in your area.

Do They Have Insurance?

Accidents can happen anywhere at any time. That's a basic fact of reality that will hold true regardless of the lawn care service or landscaping company you end up choosing. Of course, if you make sure the service provider you contract with is fully insured, the fallout from such accidents will be greatly diminished in comparison to working with an uninsured provider. It only takes one nasty legal entanglement to ruin your day - and perhaps your life. If the lawn care pros you're considering can't produce current, complete insurance for all of their employees, nix them and move on to the next choice!

Star Search

Once you've made sure that your lawn care company or full-service landscaper of choice is fully licensed and bonded, the next and final step in the filtration process is to check what others have to say about them. You want to emphasize things like a track record of dependable, quality service, a lack of accidents or work-related incidents, a good refund / resolution policy for clear instances of legitimate customer dissatisfaction, and so on.

Before continuing, it's important to note that unlike verifying a company's licensing and insurance status or other hard data, using past reviews to get a feel for a business's performance is a very subjective process. Every company will have some dings in their review portfolio, and that doesn't necessarily make them unfit or bad in any way. After all, it just seems like some people refuse to give positive feedback in return for good service, even if their only basis for giving a bad review is a bad case of the Mondays. On the other hand, everyone makes mistakes, and sometimes the negative reviews a service provider receives are totally warranted.

Without belaboring the point, it's OK to search for the company with the most favorable review profile. Just make sure to balance the negative stuff with the positive entries on a company's review page (or equivalent) on scales that mirror real life. Chances are good that if all their other ducks are in a row, a company with a handful of less than stellar reviews will still serve you well.

The Most Common Lawn Care / Lawn Maintenance Tasks and Services

One thing that most people overlook when it comes to the landscaping services discussed in this guide, is that their lawns are living, breathing organisms that pass through the various phases of an annual life cycle, just like people or animals. As such, the lawn care / lawn maintenance routine each person uses will differ according to the needs of their individual lawns - climate, soil and grass type, and the personal preferences of the homeowner(s) in question will all take a hand. Still, all lawns have certain uniformly applicable tasks, and if you're not tackling them on your own, any lawn care service worth the name will offer some or all of them in its standard rotation. In that spirit, take a look below for some of the most common lawn care / lawn maintenance tasks.

NOTE: While sample cost estimates will be given below for each service entry, please understand that as a rule, lawn care services charge by the square foot for all baseline services, with extra charges added on for things they consider to be incidentals. The exception is long-term service plans (a flat rate for retainer-based service). Actual service rates will vary.

  • Mowing: Lawn mowing is the most common of all lawn care tasks. It's important to keep your grass cut on a regular basis, as not doing so will not only make your lawn look awful, but will also make it harder to work on in the future. Most lawn services will cut your grass weekly using a variety of lawn mowers, clippers, and so forth, and some offer combo deals (mowing + hedge trimming, mowing + mulching, etc.).

    Estimated cost: Lawn mowing services start at $50 USD per session.

  • Mulching: Keeping your lawn's various plant beds well-mulched lends an attractive accent to the sweeping, uniform vista of a well-cut lawn and helps keep weeds and other pests to a minimum. A simple job - some mulch, work gloves, a wheelbarrow or two, and some basic gardening tools are all you should need - also helps cut down on bed deterioration, weed infestation, plant death, and other problems that affect un-mulched beds, hedges and other decorative plants that call them home. As a service, mulching tends to be an "as needed" option, with biannual applications being the most popular.

    Estimated cost: Variable. Mulches come in a variety of types and associated price points. Hardwood mulches generally cost around $30 USD per bag, while premium varieties can cost $50+ USD per bag. This is in addition to installation fees and any shipping and handling charges which might be assessed.

  • Fertilization: Everyone knows that fertilizer is great for gardens and flowerbeds, but it also works wonders on the lawn! Properly applied, fertilizers can give even the most lackluster lawns new life, transforming them into lush, green carpets. On the other hand, overdoing it can actually be toxic to your lawn. You can expect a lawn service to lay down fertilizer on a quarterly basis, although exact timetables can vary based upon a variety of factors. Again, the tools used are simple: Plenty of fertilizer, work gloves, one or more wheelbarrows, and basic gardening tools will get the job done in no time.

    Estimated cost: +/- $300 USD for yearly service.

  • Aeration: Aeration is a service which can take a variety of forms. Basic aeration, or core aeration as it can sometimes be called, involves taking small cylinders from the larger lawn, while combo aeration involves this and supplemental de-thatching. De-thatching is the removal of all the dead stuff that accumulates at soil level over the course of a year - small sticks and twigs, dead plant matter, leaves, and so forth. In either case, aeration is a biannual service; most lawn care services and landscaping companies will aerate a lawn once in the spring and again in the fall. Aeration is somewhat akin to tire rotation in that it helps refresh the soil while allowing water, fertilizer, oxygen, and various other beneficial substances to pervade the soil and root system of your lawn more completely than they would otherwise be able to. Tools for this project include coring tools, various rakes, and wheelbarrows for the disposal of detritus (cores are left alone to biodegrade).

    Estimated cost: Aeration carries an average per session cost of $100 USD.

  • Leaf Removal If there's one universally despised lawn care chore, it's raking leaves. Happily, when you hire a lawn care service, it's no longer your concern! Landscaping and lawn care operations tend to offer this service in tiers - the basic level will usually include raking and removal, while more advanced service options can include gutter cleaning, composting, and other such peripherals. The tools for such a job are exactly what you'd expect - rakes, wheelbarrows and/or removal bags, ladders, compost makers, and so forth. Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of leaf removal related service calls take place in the autumn.

    Estimated cost: Standard leaf removal packages cost $350+ USD per annum.

  • General Maintenance: As mentioned at the start, lawn care isn't just something you do once. On the contrary, it's an ongoing process that runs year after year. Given the sheer breadth of tasks that can fall under this umbrella, general maintenance involves a plethora of tools and a price range that simply can't be quantified in this guide. To get a solid grasp on these metrics, the only real solution is to talk to your lawn care professional.

Reducing the Lawn Care Burden

There are a number of ways to reduce your obligation to lawn care and the continuing maintenance that goes with it. Here are some suggestions for the curious (or the desperate):

  • Use astroturf or a related artificial grass product
  • Move to a place where lawn care / lawn maintenance is no longer your concern (an apartment complex or similar community, a major urban area like Los Angeles or New York City, or those areas with climates not conducive to the formation of lawns.)
  • Remodel your lawn by inserting various landscaping features - statuary, fountains, brickwork like paths or patios, pools, ponds, or rock gardens, and so forth
  • Investigate alternative living arrangements such as living on a houseboat

Lawn Care Concerns:FAQ

In spite of the necessity and reward of maintaining a vibrant, healthy lawn, there are concerns associated with the processes involved. The following FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) should help to address and allay these concerns.

Q: What's the deal with chemical-based lawn care? Is it safe?

A: While there's no doubt that drenching your lawn in pesticides and chemicals is an effective strategy, it can be every bit as harmful as helpful. The wide range of traditional defoliants, pesticides, and so forth pose a verified health risk not just to wild plant and animal life (which is, after all, their purpose), but also to the pets and people who inhabit their usage area. This is especially true in the case of the very young, the very old, and the ill / infirm.

Q: Is there an organic or non-harmful alternative?

A: Yes! There is lots of information regarding the non-traditional side of lawn care and lawn maintenance. There are even organic lawn care books available through Amazon . Best bet is once you speak with a lawn care specialist, ask them about this type of service and whether they offer it.

Q: When is the best time to begin a lawn care cycle?

A:While the individual homeowner can do most things himself or herself as and when it suits their schedule, the wintertime is probably the best time to start calling your shortlist of dedicated lawn care professionals. Starting early will help you get a running start once the spring lawn care season arrives, but beware - other people will have the same notion, and competition in your area may be stiff!

Q: Is there a "best" mulch, fertilizer, etc. for my lawn?

A: No. Well, not exactly, anyway. While there is no one perfect brand of lawn care product, some do work better than others. For example, Ringer brand fertilizers tend to be eco-friendly, safe for pets, kids and adults alike when used as directed, and at least as effective as traditional chemical products. Organic mulch, on the other hand, can be sourced from any big box home improvement store in your area. For everything else, check out sites like this one. When in doubt, talk to your lawn care professional about alternative methods of care - if they can't help you personally, they almost always know someone who can.

Q: Is a lawn care service even worth it?

A: This is really a non-question. It's akin to asking whether or not it's worth your time and money to take your car to a pro mechanic. Do you need to do it? No. You can always tackle the problem yourself; many people do just that with great gusto and success. Still, a professional touch never hurts, so when you want the job done in as efficient and complete a manner as possible, consider contracting the services of your local landscaping or lawn care company.

Q: Help! My lawn is awash in moles / insects / weeds! What do I do?

A: First off, the things your HOA considers weeds may not be. Don't get yourself in trouble, but if you can get a book and/or some advice on common plants from your library or lawn care team, do it! Many non-grass plants that get classified as pests are actually great indicators of the health and composition of your soil and/or overall lawn health. The same goes for insects - if they're not dangerous or harmful to you, your pets, or your lawn and home (ask your lawn care professional for clarification), it's best to leave them alone. When it comes to moles, the solution is actually rather funny. Believe it or not, moles love peanut butter! Bait some traps with it, and with any luck, your mole problem will be fixed in a Jif(fy).

Find The Best Solution For Your Lawn

Your lawn is a tiny (or for the lucky, not so tiny) ecosystem all its own. For good or ill, what you do with and to it will impact it for months and years to come, which is why most folks choose to go the professional route. Finding a decent company or independent service provider can be daunting process, especially for the uninitiated. With this guide at your disposal, however, you'll have all the know-how required to find the perfect "lawn guy" for you and your living space. Thanks for reading, and happy hunting!

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