WASHINGTON — Homeowners who want to delegate an item on their “honey-do” list should consider what exactly they may want when hiring a lawn care service, a consumer group warns.
“Set expectations up front,” said Kevin Brasler, executive editor at Checkbook.org. “If you can live with some weeds and some bare spots, and your lawn is starting out in rough shape, make sure the lawn care service knows that.”
Brasler said not expecting perfection might save money. Also, homeowners should consider their tolerance for chemicals.
“A lot of these lawn care services will dump the same stuff on your lawn as all its other customers whether you need it or not,” Brasler noted. “If you don’t want that — if you want a more ‘natural program,’ then make sure that’s something you discuss up front.”
Checkbook mystery shoppers discovered local companies quote vastly different prices for servicing the same lawn with bids ranging from $354 to $945. For an average-sized lawn, Checkbook found differences of more than $300 a year are common.
When deciding whether to hire a company, Brasler recommends homeowners be at home for the pre-bid evaluation so they can ask questions — especially if they want a program tailored to their preferences, such as chemical use, or want specific problems addressed.
“Asking questions and evaluating their answers and talking with them a bit, you’ll get a pretty good sense as to whether or not the company knows what it’s doing,” Brasler said.
Some general lawn care advice from Checkbook includes not cutting the grass too short and not watering too lightly.
Avoid shortcuts: Most grasses in the Washington area should be cut to 2.5 inches or so, Brasler said.
“A mistake a lot of people make is they mow way too short,” Brasler said. Overly short cuts can stress a lawn, making it vulnerable to bare spots, and it can give budding weeds access to sunlight they need to grow.
Make watering worthwhile: Give the lawn a good soaking once a week if needed, Brasler recommends, versus multiple, shorter waterings.
“Watering thoroughly, you’ll really promote root growth as opposed to just giving it a little sip of water.”
When hiring a company, Brasler suggests getting expectations in writing as well as a guarantee for either a refund or extended service for free until the specified lawn expectations are met.
Through a special arrangement with the nonprofit Washington Consumers’ Checkbook, WTOP.com readers can have a look at Checkbook ratings and price comparisons for lawn care services for a limited time.
Consumers’ Checkbook/Center for the Study of Services is an independent nonprofit consumer organization founded in 1974. It has for more than 40 years been an innovator in providing information to help consumers make smarter choices.
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