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Lawn treatment service - worth it?
Old 12-14-2015, 04:32 PM   #1
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Lawn treatment service - worth it?

I (like many others in my neighborhood) have been using a lawn treatment service for many years now. I started out with TruGreen Chemlawn about 12 years ago, but after several summers of very mediocre results and way too many weeds for my liking, I switched to a competitor. The competitor charges more ($46/service) but the results have been better. They come out roughly 8-9 times per year, so annual cost is roughly $400.

Lately, though, I've been wondering if this year-round, not-exactly-inexpensive service is really worth it. Having been ESR'd now for almost two years, I have had a number of opportunities to watch the entire process when the big truck rolls up out front and the service tech hops out and does his thing. Here are my observations.

1) Rarely does the tech stay on my property for more than about 5-7 minutes. My house sits on about 0.2 acres, and it takes me about 45 minutes to mow it with a push mower walking at a leisurely pace. The techs usually walk at a very fast pace all over the yard, kind of like they're "race walking". The consistency and thoroughness of their coverage of my yard seem to be driven by speed, with very little attention to detail.

2) Sometimes the tech will skip one of the side yards entirely. I suspect this is due to the inconvenience factor, since my back yard is fenced in and the gates on both sides of the house have latches (not locked) to keep the doors closed.

3) When they apply granular fertilizer, they don't exercise any sort of care in terms of trying to keep it on the yard and off the driveway and patio. So the result is little while granules all over the place that get stepped on or that my car runs over for the next week (unless I go out and use a big push broom to clear them away). Probably not harmful in any real way, but very messy and unsightly, not to mention wasteful.

I'm kind of on the fence about whether to continue with this service and try another local competitor, or maybe just try to handle it myself with some seasonal applications of fertilizer and weed killer. I'm pretty sure I could do a comparable job (and certainly a much more conscientious, careful job) of keeping my lawn green, well-fed, and weed-free, and I'd bet I could save a couple hundred dollars in the process.

What are your thoughts on these lawn treatment companies? Worth it for you, or not?
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Old 12-14-2015, 04:39 PM   #2
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We use a yard service to cut and trim our lawn and to do heavy-lifting gardening chores we don't feel like handling ourselves. But we fertilize the lawn and do smallish, detail orientated jobs ourselves. We've been traveling and just aren't home for weekly lawn mowing. But fertilizing has more flexibility as to when it's done. We already owned the drop spreader, it takes 1.5 hours three times per year and we save about $50 per application compared to paying the pros to do it. And, as you say, we know we do an even, complete application and it doesn't seem the pros have time to do that.
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Old 12-14-2015, 04:43 PM   #3
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we save about $50 per application compared to paying the pros to do it. And, as you say, we know we do an even, complete application and it doesn't seem the pros have time to do that.
If pro applications cost < $50, how in the world do you SAVE $50 per application DIY?
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Old 12-14-2015, 04:44 PM   #4
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This is one of the "potential cost cutting areas" I've looked at on numerous occasions.

I tried DIY a few times and concluded that (aside from possibly doing it "better" myself) that I couldn't get any significant savings DIY.

Plus, quite frankly, it's a PITA. Kinda like cutting my own lawn. It takes my lawn guys about 1/10th the time it takes me. Opportunity cost ain't worth the time spent. Maybe in retirement, and when I have a lot smaller lawn.
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Old 12-14-2015, 04:52 PM   #5
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Generally, We have decided that a perfect yard is not something we need to have, so we just mow a lot when the weeds are active, lol!

We don't have a maintenance contract, but we have a guy that mows when we're on vacation and he'll do over-seeding, aeration, fertilizer, pre-emergent if we want. When he asks (via email), that's my queue to decide if I want to go through the trouble of doing it myself, having him do it, or blowing it off completely. Being alerted to the best timing of things is a good part of the battle won.

It is a PITA to go to the store at all of the right times of year, buy the stuff, and apply it while following the rules of temperature, precipitation, pre-post mowing, etc. Also, I found it annoying that I couldn't find a complete turn-key service that did both bug/grub control along with fertilization, overseeding, aeration.
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Old 12-14-2015, 05:02 PM   #6
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If pro applications cost < $50, how in the world do you SAVE $50 per application DIY?
We haven't had a quote for several years. What are you paying and for exactly what services? We're in suburban Chicago and the franchise lawn fertilizing guys aren't cheap.

We asked the Green-something guy (can't remember the whole name) who had sent an unsolicited quote to our home to add in some detail work like spraying Roundup where weeds pop up in the patio area, tossing some soil pH correcting product and schrub/bush fertilizer into certain places per DW's instructions and a few other details we take care of on "lawn fertilizing afternoons." His price increased considerably from the basic hit or miss granular application to the lawn. I think our list would have had him here an hour or so. Takes the two of us about 1.5 hours, but we're geezers and spend time on details.

We got the same thing from the lawn service who cuts the grass. The outfit we use does our and our neighbors lawn together (no fences). As long as we don't ask for any extras, it's quite reasonable. But quotes for other custom work, such as mentioned, come back surprisingly high.

So, we just get our the drop spreader, the sprayer and the bags of other "stuff" DW keeps in the shed and do it ourselves. DW says we save about $50 3X/yr.

I don't know where this will go. I used to swear we'd never use a lawn service to cut the grass. Now I can't imagine going back to doing it myself. I don't even own a mower anymore. I suppose one of these days we'll succumb to the fertilizer guy too, if he can meet DW's requirements for attention to detail.
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Old 12-14-2015, 05:09 PM   #7
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I had a small lawn mowing/fertilizer business.

They should be blowing off your driveway after they fertilize.

You can do it yourself, if you do it at the right times with the right product. in MN, you would get four treatments, maybe five if you wanted a super deluxe program. Miss a deadline, and you get crabgrass. Skip a broad-leaf treatment in the summer/fall, and you get dandelions in the Spring.

Factor in some toxic chemicals, and the need for extra lawn equipment, and they can do it. If you mow yourself, fertilize yourself.

Granular for most applications, a spray to clean up some broad-leaf weeds in the fall.
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Old 12-14-2015, 05:12 PM   #8
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Being that our house sits in the middle of 32 wooded acres and not a blade of mowed grass adjoins any neighbors property, I'm certain our lawn is an outlier in terms of keeping it up for appearances sake. But I still prefer keeping the crabgrass under control in order to maintain a somewhat civilized yard. For me shopping for weed control/fertilizer mix at the local 'urban farmer' version of a bigbox store once a year or so and applying it myself takes care of things just fine. Less than $50 to maintain about an acre of lawn.
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Old 12-14-2015, 05:19 PM   #9
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We've had our lawn treatments done by a service for three years now. We pay ahead to get a discount so it comes to a little over $300/season for five treatments on our 1/3 acre lot. DH says he would spend that much buying the products to do it himself, and by having it done for us we don't worry about missing a treatment or carting around the bags of product.

Our one problem area in the lawn is the border with our neighbor to the south. He doesn't treat his lawn at all, so his weeds are always encroaching into our property. A couple of weeks ago when we were paying the bill for our 2016 service, DH asked me if he could buy service for the neighbor to take care of the problem. I nixed the idea, not for the cost but because I'm pretty sure the neighbor would be embarrassed or hurt.
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Old 12-14-2015, 05:26 PM   #10
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Our one problem area in the lawn is the border with our neighbor to the south. He doesn't treat his lawn at all, so his weeds are always encroaching into our property. A couple of weeks ago when we were paying the bill for our 2016 service, DH asked me if he could buy service for the neighbor to take care of the problem. I nixed the idea, not for the cost but because I'm pretty sure the neighbor would be embarrassed or hurt.
We have the opposite problem. Once, our neighbors fertilizer-guy applied chemicals while it was breezy and some of it drifted to DW's nearby rose bushes. She's a rosarian and had some custom stuff so her feeling were very hurt (understatement). When DW spoke to the neighbor, she just shrugged and told her to take it up with her fertilizer-guy. He denied he could be connected to the problem, pissing DW off even more. She said he seemed like a dunce and only seemed to know the script the franchise had taught him as opposed to being a true lawn/garden aficionado.

This is a small part of why we apply chemicals ourselves. We're in a tight, suburban neighborhood and the franchise guys aren't very respectful of neighbors or very knowledgeable of the consequences of their actions. They have a schedule to meet and, damn, they intend to meet it!
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Old 12-14-2015, 05:28 PM   #11
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I seldom have to cut the grass on my heavily shaded yard. Moss doesn't grow very fast.
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Old 12-14-2015, 05:33 PM   #12
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This is one of many things I choose to do myself. It's cheaper, I get to choose the material and timing, and I do a better job of spreading and clean-up. I have 2.2 acres and do all the routine yard care myself and always have. It's time-consuming, but I enjoy being outside and getting the exercise, not to mention the satisfaction of a job well done. I will hire out certain things that are beyond my physical capability, like removing a large tree or building a stone retaining wall.
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Old 12-14-2015, 05:35 PM   #13
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I do it myself for three reasons:
- It's cheaper
- I can take care about where I put the fertilizer/herbicide
- I want to minimize chemical use

We have about 1/3 of an acre, and I put down timed-release granular fertilizer 4 times per year. I also broadcast pre-emergent chemicals (to fight the crabgrass and Creeping Charlie to a standstill) and spot treat with broadleaf herbicide a few times per year (good old 2,4-D mostly, newer, pricier stuff if the Creeping Charlie goes crazy). And some Roundup in cracks and along some fencelines.

Our lawn wouldn't win any prizes, and I'm okay with some weeds. I spend about $50 on all supplies and it takes less than 4 hours per year. Best of all, my yard doesn't smell strongly of chemicals and I'm sure I'm using less than a pro would need to keep all weeds at bay.
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Old 12-14-2015, 06:37 PM   #14
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We don't bother most years, sometimes I'll spread some granular weed and feed stuff to knock back the weeds.
I will spot spray to kill big ugly weeds which is very effective.
Our lawn is green, but up close you can see its not all grass

This year we hired a lawn company to mow, we are on a corner so have a large lot with plantings scattered all over it instead of in big garden areas.
Their fee of $28 was a great deal.

If we weren't travelling so much I would have done it like in previous years.
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Old 12-14-2015, 07:13 PM   #15
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well now that they have those snap on fertilizers, I had been doing it more regularly myself since one bag was basically perfect for my yard so $50 maybe a year for DIY. My thoughts were kind of along the lines that my parents NEVER used a single chemical on our grass and it somehow magically was still grass.

That given, I paid for service every 4-5 years just to kind of get it back on par, airate, power rake, etc.. usually within a year it was awesome again and I could go back to winging it.
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Old 12-14-2015, 09:17 PM   #16
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Like someone said above, I had a neighbor claim that she would have to spend as much in products as the service costs, but I don't see how that's possible. I mean, on a 1/3 of an acre that we had, not all of it grass, I think a bag of each product was about all I needed per year, or maybe spring and fall.

The nice thing about a service is that they should know what to do when so that it's most effective. That's assuming 1) they do know, 2) they actually follow the schedule, which can be tough to do everyone's lawn at the right time if they have a busy business, and 3) their workers actually do a good job instead of just rushing through it and not getting good even coverage due to their own sloppiness or the manager overbooking them and not leaving them time to do the job right.

I always like to mow myself because that gave me a chance to spot things for myself that a service might ignore. I could spot treat weeds if needed, take care of a fire ant mound, notice an issue with a fence, and so on. I had mixed success. I had trouble with the red clay in North Carolina and never really got a good lawn in two different houses. In Texas I had St Augustine's grass that grew thick and lush and either squeezed out weeds or grew back well after hitting the area with roundup. Now I live on a mountain and just try to keep the stilt grass under control while trying to let periwinkle and phlox take over.

To me it depends on how much you want to do. I get a lot of satisfaction of seeing stuff I plant and maintain grow. Others don't care and don't want to do the work, and the cost isn't that high, so why not get a service?
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Old 12-15-2015, 02:41 AM   #17
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I never had good luck with a "lawn service" for fertilizer/weed control. When I used to live in the Chicago burbs I tried 3 different companies, all well known names in the business, like Truegreen/Chemlawn.

First lawn service, one day arriving home after work I saw the usual sign on the lawn indicating that the service had been there for an application of granular fertilizer. I could see the little granules all over the driveway. The neighbor across the street saw me and came over to thank me for fertilizing his lawn that day. He said he looked out his window and saw my lawn service spreading fertilizer in his yard. That was strange because he didn't use a lawn service. When he questioned the guy why he was fertilizing his lawn it became apparent to the lawn service guy that he was fertilizing the wrong lawn. So at that point the lawn service guy did not have enough fertilizer to do my lawn. The neighbor watching out his window saw the lawn guy run the spreader up one side of my driveway and down the other to give the visual effect on the driveway that he had fertilized the lawn, then he stuck the little sign on the lawn, loaded up, then drove away. Needless to say this service was terminated immediately.

Second service used liquid fertilizer applications which required a long hose to be run from the truck across the yard. I just happened to be home from work on a day this outfit showed up to make the scheduled application. The lawn service guy parked the truck in front of the house and rolled the hose into the back lawn. He was about 50 feet short of the property line so the back quarter of the lawn got no treatment. Since we live on a corner lot he could have pulled the truck around the corner where he could have easily reached that last 50 feet of the property. I suspected he might not do it because he was sort of sheepishly looking around when we found out the hose was not long enough to reach the back of the property. He didn't know I was watching him from inside the house so he thought no one was home to know the difference. Of course, he rolled up the hose and drove off leaving the back quarter of the lawn untreated. Again, that service was immediately terminated.

The third lawn service I contracted with had a 4 application program that did not include treatment for grubs. They sent out a flyer suggesting that grub protection be applied since that year was expected to be bad for grub damage. I paid for the additional service that was supposed to be applied mid to late summer, at their scheduling. My experience is that grub damage occurred late August thru mid September. When late August arrived the grub protection had not yet been applied so I called the company to remind them they had not yet done my lawn. We wanted to make sure it was done right away as we were leaving on an extended vacation and we would not be there to remind them if they failed to show up within a few days. I was told not to worry, they would be out in a few day (after our departure date) to take care of it. When we got home half of the front lawn was brown from grub damage. They never did come out for the application. That was the last time I used a lawn service.

Since we now live on a 2 acre lot I doubt I could afford to pay for a comprehensive lawn service with 4 treatments per year. But if I ever decide to use another lawn service I would only allow them to make the applications when I was home and they would know that I was watching the quality of their work.
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Old 12-15-2015, 03:31 AM   #18
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I don't mind the weeds in the lawn so don't use anything. Plus when we had dogs, I didn't want to have them walking in all the chemicals.
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Old 12-15-2015, 05:04 AM   #19
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I've used a lawn service intermittently through the years and have used one for all 11 years I've lived in the current house. But I'm on my third company. I've found that the easy part is fertilizing, but weed control is difficult for me to maintain.....having the right chemicals at the proper timing.
First company, a national brand, had totally incompetent management and workers and would promise but wouldn't carry through and got fired, wanted to do 7 applications per year. Second company did six but kept raising their rates per application each year.
Third and current company is small, the same individual has been doing my lawn for five years now. Five applications and each is cheaper than the two previous companies.
Before 2004, I would have the service every other year for weed control, handle the odd years myself with just fertilizer.
I do my own mowing, takes about 1.5 hours, I just consider it part of my fitness regime. Instead of riding my bike or going for a run, I push a mower (hate indoor exercising and no gym membership but that's another thread). Maybe when I'm 75, I'll move up to self-propelled mower, at 85 hire it out or move to a lawn tractor. (For my 60th birthday, I traded my snow shovel for a snowblower).
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Old 12-15-2015, 06:36 AM   #20
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1) Rarely does the tech stay on my property for more than about 5-7 minutes. My house sits on about 0.2 acres, and it takes me about 45 minutes to mow it with a push mower walking at a leisurely pace. The techs usually walk at a very fast pace all over the yard, kind of like they're "race walking". The consistency and thoroughness of their coverage of my yard seem to be driven by speed, with very little attention to detail.
Get a hand held sprayer and do it yourself in 10 -12 minutes. It's not rocket science.
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