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Should You Hire a Lawn Care Service?

by Ryan Guina

When my wife and I moved into our new home a year ago, it marked the first time I had to take care of my own lawn. Before this, I had always lived in apartments, or in a town home, both of which included lawn care and other landscaping. When we bought our house I was actually looking forward to mowing the lawn and taking care of it. Call me strange, but I find mowing the lawn a nice break and a chance to have some alone time where I can get lost in thought. Some people like running, I like mowing.

Even though I enjoy the general lawn care, I realized there were a few things I couldn’t do as well on my own. For example, when we moved into  our house, the lawn was in desperate need of weed control, fertilizer, and other lawn care goodies.

hire lawn care service

Do you do your own lawn care, or hire out?

So being the frugal homeowner, I drove to our neighborhood Lowe’s and bought 3 bottles of weed & feed (for approximately $45), and proceeded to follow the directions. I attached the weed spray to my hose and sprayed it evenly on my lawn. Then I  waited a few days. Nothing. We were still running a dandelion farm.

So off to Lowe’s I went again, and bought some more weed control and repeated the process. The results this time were slightly better, but still not great. And this was after spending a small fortune on weed control and allocating the better part of two Saturday mornings to drive to the store, buy the spray, apply it, and clean up.

About two weeks after the second application, I saw a landscaping truck at our neighbor’s house across the street. I flagged down the guy in charge (Bill) and asked him for a quote and some advice for my lawn. He was extremely knowledgeable about the types of grass, problems with my lawn, how to control the weeds, and other things my lawn needed that I didn’t know about (like aeration and crabgrass pre-emergent). He also gave me information about dethatching, but told me that to hold off a year or so and see if the aeration, fertilizer and weed control would be enough to help resuscitate my lawn. (I loved that he had a chance to sell me anything, but instead chose to educate me about how to better take care of my lawn, what to do, and what not to do).

It was early spring when we bought our home, and only a few weeks after we moved in when I met Bill. I signed a summer care contract with his landscaping company, and they took care to apply the right weed control, fertilizer, and other applications at the right times of the year, based on weather, experience, and other factors. They also had access to fertilizers and weed control you can’t buy without a license.

These are things I wouldn’t have known about myself. They were also much more effective than I could do on my own. As for the cost, it was comparable to what I would have paid on my own, if not cheaper in some cases (especially for things such as aeration or dethatching, which require specialized equipment). Most applications for fertilizer and weed control are around $45, which is what I paid on my own for something that wasn’t effective, and took over two hours of my time, including the shopping and cleanup.

When I factored in the cost of equipment and materials, the time it takes to apply it, and my own lack of knowledge when it comes to lawn care, it was a no-brainer to sign up for the service.

I still mow my own lawn, and I enjoy it. But the fertilizer, weed control, and other aspects are best left to the pros.

What are your thoughts? Do you use a lawn care service, or DIY?

Photo credit: Theophilus Photography


Published or updated April 3, 2012.
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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jeremy @ Modest Money

If they can take care of that for essentially the same price, it seems like a no-brainer to me. I’m probably cheap enough that I’d try to do a bunch of online research to figure it all out, but then it would take even more time. I understand why you might want to do mowing yourself though. It is a nice change of pace from working in front of a computer all day. It gets you outside to enjoy the sun and get a bit of exercise. And yeah, you get some quiet time with your thoughts without a whole bunch of distractions. That’s why I somewhat enjoy cleaning. It gives me that same mental break.

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2 Ryan Guina

That’s exactly what it is for me – a chance to get out in the sun and have some quiet time away from work, kids, etc. OK, maybe not “quiet” since the lawnmower is running, but I wear over the ear hearing protection, so it’s not too loud!

As for the expense, I’ve learned that some things are best left to the pros. Unless you want to research and learn everything, which can take hours, sometimes it’s better to contact a pro, hire them, and learn from them. Then you can decide if it is worth your time to learn more, buy the equipment and materials, and DIY. In many cases, I’ve found that it is faster/cheaper/easier to hire out. That it turn gives me more family, business, and personal time.

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3 Jeremy @ Modest Money

It’s funny, I have that mindset for my business tasks but I still haven’t accepted it in other areas. Either way, it is paying to save time. When the cost is the same, there’s very little reason to do it yourself.

As for the quietness, the sound of the lawnmower may actually make it easier to think. Then it is truly drowning out other distractions. This post kinda makes me miss having a lawn to mow. I’ve lived in an apartment for a while now and I just don’t have the excuse to get out there anymore. It is a nice sunny day today though. So maybe I’ll go for a walk to pick up some lunch later.

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4 Bryan

All of our outdoor maintenance and lawn care is covered by the HOA (though it costs us to the tune of $257/month total). If I had my own place, I’m reasonably certain that I’d just buy a lawn mower, and take care of the lawn myself.

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5 Ryan Guina

Bryan, I was in a similar situation in my last home (it was a town home). I would have bought a lawnmower and other tools, and performed most of the work on my own. But I would have at least looked into the lawn care for things such as fertilizer, weed control, etc. My current arrangement suits me well.

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6 Peter

I’m in that same boat Ryan, I wouldn’t mind doing our own lawn care – mowing, etc – but we currently live in a neighborhood with an association that we pay $150/month for – and they take care of all that for us. If we had the option I’m sure I’d be fine doing it all myself. Of course if you’re starting a weed garden in your yard – it may pay to get a little help. I’ve heard horror stories of people trying to kill the weeds, and ending up killing their entire lawn.

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7 Ryan Guina

I had the opposite problem – the weed killer wasn’t effective! The landscapers who do my lawn have access to much better stuff than I can buy on my own. Add in the time and expense, and it’s well worth it in my book!

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8 K.C.

Ryan, I would have made the same decision if given the identical situation.

I live in the desert. Trying to have a lawn here is insane. It requires too much water. Still, I tried to grow grass in sand (and under two large shade trees, as well). Did the manure thing a couple of times. Finally, we hired someone to take out the grass (if that’s what you want to call it) in the front yard and replace it with decorative gravel.

My wife and I “converted” the backyard one summer. A room addition took up about a third of the backyard. I put in a paving brick patio that covered about another third. We mixed concrete and with the help of a mold covered the rest of the yard with cobblestones. We left a few beds for plants and trees and put in a concrete block, raised garden along the back wall. The backyard project was the final step in our plan to make our property low maintenance for our golden years.

I have leaves to deal with in the fall. Not a big chore. The wind blows them up against one fence or the other and I just bag ‘em. In the spring and summer, I have to keep up with the weeds, but those are only a problem if it rains which it doesn’t much. Of course, I also water the trees, oleanders, Mexican birds of paradise, and prickly pear cactus. I almost forgot. Once a year I have to cut back the prickly pear cactus. You know, those make good eating once the needles have been removed.

My wife and I solved the lawn maintenance problem by getting rid of the lawn. That’s one advantage of desert living.

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9 Ryan Guina

I probably would have gone a similar route, and removed the grass and replaced it with native plants and similar rock decorations. My wife and I are doing some landscaping and we are trying to decide which plants to use in our yard. One of the things we keep coming back to is the desire for low maintenance plants which are native to our area. We don’t want to spend a lot of time or money with upkeep!

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10 Geoff

When I moved in to my present property 4 years ago I started to use a lawn care service. It was the best thing I could have done. I very rarely get any weeds in the lawn, the grass looks healthy, and grows faster (though that can be a pain sometimes as it needs cutting more frequently). Leave it to the experts who use whatever is necessary at different times of the year.

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11 Ryan Guina

Excellent points, Geoff. My lawn remained greener throughout the winter than many of my neighbors, and once spring hit, my lawn sprouted to life with a vengeance! I had to mow my lawn twice before some of my neighbors’ lawns even started turning green. Most of their lawns have caught up by now, but my lawn had a nice head start. I think a lot of it had to do with the fall aeration and winter fertilizer the landscapers recommended – things I wouldn’t have known to do.

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12 Jonathan@ Friends and Money

I like caring for my own lawn and I agree that the costs can be higher by the time that you’ve bought the equipment but I shared the cost with my neighbours. I love trying things myself.

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13 Joe

When we moved into our new/used home, the yard was AWESOME. Bushes, shrubs, trees, grass as green as you could get it, nice.

After I mowed it the second time, I got from my wife that I didn’t do it right, the bushes, shrubs and such aren’t trimmed right and so forth. Well, 7 years later and a switch to desert landscaping with some of the original bushes and shrubs left and new stuff in, the yard looks great.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention. It’s the best $100 a month I spend on the best yard guy I think there is. As the poster mentioned, this guy knows his stuff.

I’d pay him $200 but he never wants any more money ever for doing extra stuff. Just the other day he trimmed/thinned out my 100′ pine tree because it was dropping too many needles and didn’t want any more money other then what I already pay him.

Worth every penny spent.

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