I knocked on the door, stepped back, and politely awaited a response. I stepped down a little from the front porch, so as not appear threatening to the person answering the door. A shuffling noise, followed by some hurried footsteps approaching the front of the home, and then the door opened…
“Hi, my name is Jay, and I work for –“
“Sorry, I don’t believe in chemicals,” was the response I got once the woman who answered the door saw the lawn care company logo on my shirt.
“Well…that is unfortunate, because chemicals do exist. They are a very real part of our world, so….”
Luckily, this woman saw the intended humor in my sarcastic response, and broke into a wide grin which turned into a laugh. “What I meant was that I don’t believe in using chemicals on my lawn.”
Having been in business in Central PA for over 35 years, we often hear lots of reasons from potential clients for not purchasing lawn care. I myself sold lawn care door-to-door for many years for a national lawn care firm, and heard just about every excuse and justification you can imagine from a potential client for deciding against hiring a service.
What follows here is the collective wisdom accumulated from personal experience and institutional memory – here are 9 “facts” about lawn care that are just categorically untrue.
1.“Lawn care is too expensive.”
I hear this one frequently. There’s an assumption that because this service is considered to be a luxury by many homeowners, that the “luxury” must come at a premium price.
The reality is two-fold. First, it really is a necessity for many homeowners. I frequently field calls from clients who have neglected the lawn for years at a time, and then want it magically “fixed” before they sell it in four months. Lawns are a complex ecosystem, composed of hundreds of thousands of individual plants. There is no “quick-fix” for many lawn care concerns.
Secondly, many homeowners who have never had a quote are often surprised at the affordability of a lawn care service for their property. I would frequently ask clients (and still do) to simply “Allow me to put a quote together for you. It is no-obligation, and you might be surprised at how affordable it actually will be. I’ll be five minutes or less with that number.”
When clients take the time to hear us out, they are usually pleasantly surprised at the resulting quote.
2.“My lawn is so bad, no one can fix it.”
This is a particularly persistent myth we run across. Often times a homeowner has either had a bad experience with a competitor of ours, or they have tried to do this maintenance themselves with little or no results to show for their effort.
The truth of the matter is that a trained and seasoned professional can help you by setting realistic expectations for your lawn. Unless your lawn is on an extremely steep slope or gets less than five or six hours of direct sunlight daily, you can usually have a pleasant-looking, healthy lawn. Your professional should communicate reasonable expectations for results, how long they will take, and any additional recommendations, like aerating the lawn or the need to re-seed. They will also probably insist on a soil test, so that any nutrient deficiencies can be address and remedied, giving your lawn the best possible chance of success.
3.“My neighbors don’t treat their lawn, so it would be a waste of money for me to treat my lawn.”
Again, the homeowners we hear this from usually fall into one of two categories. First, they may truly see no value in treating the lawn, and they are using their neighbor’s lack of interest as a justification for their poor property management. The other scenario is often a homeowner who worked consistently on their lawn for a number of years, and threw up their hands in frustration when the neighbor’s weeds consistently encroached across the property line.
The fact is very different. We’ll get into some of the environmental benefits of having a healthy lawn further down the list, but the reality is that most respectable lawn care providers offer you free “call backs” or “service calls” with a full program. If you’re paying a company to treat the lawn, and they’re leaving behind something in the lawn (usually a small flag) that has their company name on it, they want the lawn to look good. Calling once or twice throughout the season, between your scheduled visits and asking for a touch-up on the weed control is doable. And it usually minimizes the frustration you have with “that” neighbor’s turf issues trying to claim territory in your lawn.
4.“Lawn care is a scam. I can buy the products and DIY it!”
This assumption is only partly true. Yes, you can buy lawn care products like fertilizer, weed control, and insecticides to treat the lawn yourself.
The reality for many homeowners is that it is very difficult to select the right products at the home center, get the timing of those applications correct, and continue to do so throughout the entire growing season. In fact, many of the fertilizers you can buy “over-the-counter” so to speak are in effect a “watered-down” version of what the professionals use. The companies that produce these products have been forced to do this by consumer habits; most homeowners have no idea how much product they should be applying, or they deliberately over-apply to get the lawn looking “extra-green” this season. In fact, this is the reason most of these companies no longer include phosphorus, a key ingredient in fertilizer, in their mixes. Misapplication by homeowners runs into the watershed (it ends up in storm drains, for example) and causes rapid algae growth that damages the ecosystems it traverses on the way to larger bodies of water, like the Chesapeake Bay.
The full truth is also that many products are simply not available to your average homeowner. Products used by your lawn care company are applied at lower rates, and applied for a specific purpose. A professional lawn care company will almost always apply a lower (but correct) rate of fertilizer than a homeowner, and still get better results. And many of the most efficacious herbicides require licensing from a governing body. Here in Pennsylvania, the Department of Agriculture has a registry of licensed applicators, and they are the only ones who can legally and safely (due to training) apply these products to your lawn.
For best results, you should still hire a professional.
5.“Lawn care is bad for the environment.”
Ah, the environmentalist. Listen folks, I grew up sorting my recyclables and watching Captain Planet for cartoons. I get excited about plants, and read books about trees for fun. I care as much about the environment and being a good steward of our natural resources as anyone, and probably more than most people.
The fact is that lawn care is not bad for the environment, and hiring a professional is even better for the environment, many times, then doing it yourself. Lawn care companies have tighter government regulations on the products they use and the rates at which they use those products. This means less run-off into local water sources; a properly applied fertilizer is absorbed by the plants it is fertilizing, leaving no room for the “extra” nutrients to leave the property.
6.“Lawn care does nothing to help the environment.”
The national firm I worked for previously invested heavily in research and development. They had a “hold message” (when you called in and waited to speak with a representative) that gave lots of helpful information about the environmental impacts of a healthy lawn. For instance, did you know that an average residential sized lawn, when healthy, produces enough oxygen for the family that lives there for an entire year? Or that a healthy root system in your turf filters water more effectively than anything on the planet except virgin, untouched rainforest?
No, my friends, lawn care is not bad for the environment. Ignoring your lawn’s needs can lead to erosion, where soil ends up in the water supply, making it dirty. THAT is bad for the environment. Not responsibly applied products to promote the lawn’s health.
7.“Lawn care companies don’t care about people/pets/the environment.”
I once knocked on a potential client’s door, and walked away after about a minute when there was no answer. I got halfway to the next door to knock on, when the previous homeowner came out. I turned back around, smiled politely, and introduced myself.
What I was greeted with in return was anger, rudeness, and outright animosity. This woman screamed at me and waved the door-hanger I had left at her home in my face for about three full minutes. She went on about every conceivable conspiracy regarding how lawn care companies are hurting people/pets/the environment. I had trouble following much of it, honestly. I finally said “I’m sorry you feel that way, Ma’am. Sorry to have bothered you,” and walked away. I decided I had earned a coffee break, and drove to a local gas station, where my phone rang…she had taken my phone number off the door-hanger, and called me to continue her rant. (In fairness, she did eventually apologize to me for the way she treated me. Lovely woman, actually!)
Lawn care products go through a pretty stringent “vetting” process by the Federal government and many state Departments of Agriculture. They are labeled only for very specific purposes, and there are incredibly stiff penalties for violating those product label’s guidelines. It is simply not worth the risk for your lawn care company to do something illegal (or immoral) in the way they apply products to your property.
The truth is pretty simple here; the people that run your local lawn care company have families/pets/property that they are concerned about, too. Here at our firm, many of our coworkers are avid outdoorspeople, and care very much about the environment. We are not going to ask you, the client, to have something applied to your property that we would (or don’t) apply to ours.
8.“Treating my lawn only means I’m going to have to mow more often.”
False. This statement is just not the whole truth.
The real truth is that having a lawn with a healthy root system does mean that it is generally more heat and drought resistant than a lawn that suffers benign (or even malicious) neglect. Regularly treated and aerated lawns tend to use water more effectively, and so weather the hot, dry conditions we typically experience in summer, better than untended lawns.
But the reality is that the amount of rainfall often has far more to do with the amount of mowing you’ll be doing than anything your lawn care company is applying. That is why you mow more often in spring and fall than you do in the summer – there’s more water for the lawn.
Getting the lawn treated will help it withstand heat and drought better, but won’t necessarily make you have to mow more often.
9.“I’m paying XYZ company to treat my lawn, so it should be perfect!!”
Again, just flatly untrue.
While it is true that your lawn care professional is being paid to maintain the turf, there are many things that they simply cannot control, or cannot control until they know about them.
For instance, I once had a client that was a soccer coach, and he was from a foreign country. The climate in his home country was much warmer, and he was used to a much different grass type. (Grasses in North America are generally either “warm-season” or “cool-season” grasses. We grow cool-season best here in Pennsylvania.)
This client insisted on mowing his cool-season grass very close to the soil level, like the warm-season grass he was used to in his home country. He simply would not listen to me about the proper mowing height, and became impatient when he continued to have problems with drought stress, weeds, and a generally thin, anemic looking lawn.
Cultural practices like this are an important part of the partnership you have with your lawn care professional. You should be working together to get the desired results, and sometimes that means you, as the homeowner, need to accept and respond to the company’s feedback on these issues.
Other considerations are insect populations, amount of rainfall, overnight temperatures, the actual grading of the lawn in question, presence (known or unknown) of turf-damaging fungus, the amount of shade on a property, the degree of slope on the property, and the amount of traffic on the turf, just to name a few. This is by no means an exhaustive list.
Here’s the bottom line – lawn care is an established industry for a reason. There’s value in it for the homeowner, for the neighborhood, and for the environment. It’s here to stay. We hope you’ve taken a few moments to read through this list and educate yourself.
If you would like more information about lawn care for your property, we’d be happy to give you a free consultation.