Using A Lawn Care Service

Get the most out of your lawn care service

You want a healthy, green lawn, but you just don’t have the time to take care of it yourself. So you hire a lawncare service. But now you’re worried about how much fertilizer they apply. And was that pesticide application really necessary? You know that chemical lawncare applications are a huge contributor to water pollution and you wonder if it’s safe for your kids to run around barefoot in the backyard.

There is good news. You can hire a lawncare service and protect your home environment, too.

First of all, you need to know what your goals for your lawn are. Do you want a pristine green like a golf course? Or are you okay with hand-digging a weed here and there? Are you concerned about contamination from excess chemical applications? Communicate your goals with the lawn care service and ask them to tailor a lawncare program to meet your needs. You are the customer; you can choose the services you wish for your lawn.

Secondly, ask questions about specific practices of the service. As lawncare professionals they should adhere to certain best management practices widely known to produce the best results in home lawns while reducing environmental risks. For example:

  • Do they test the soil before deciding how often to fertilize and which nutrients to apply?
  • Do they use a slow-release nitrogen fertilizer when appropriate to reduce the amount lost to
    leaching?
  • Are they careful to use no-phosphorous fertilizers when working on property near lakes and
    streams?
  • Do they fertilize only when the grass is actively growing (not before May or during late summer
    when grass is dormant)?
  • Do they sweep up fertilizer granules from the sidewalk and driveways?
  • Do they spot-treat for weeds rather than widely broadcasting an herbicide where it may not be
    needed?
  • Will they mow the grass high (2.5-3 inches) to naturally shade out weeds and allow for stronger
    root growth of the grass?
  • Will they return grass clippings to the lawn to reduce the need for chemical fertilizers by up to
    25%?

Finally, when you decide on a lawncare service, carefully read the service agreement before signing. Make sure you understand the schedule and frequency of services, all fees, and disclosures about which products will be used on your lawn. If you have questions about the health effects of specific chemicals, call the National Pesticide Information Center at 1-800-858-7378 or log on to http://ace.orst.edu/info/nptn.

SOURCE: Erin Charles, Muskegon Conservation District
For more information, or a free consultation about the environmental effects of your current lawn care practices, contact the Muskegon Conservation District at 231-773-0008.

Homeowners tend an estimated 40 million acres of turf (Environmental Science and Technology, 2005).

If classified as a crop, lawns would rank as the fifth largest in the country on the basis of area after corn, soybeans, wheat, and hay (USDA, 1992).

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