The real cost of real lawn care
Before you sign that next contract know the real cost of real lawn care. There is more to lawn care than just lawn spray. So you can compare apples to apples, because even two apples are not the same. Just because a company promises a great looking lawn doesn’t mean they can deliver one.
The difference is between a average lawn and great lawn is time, passion, experience, expertise, quality products. There is no such thing as cheap lawn care, sure there are a lot of companies selling people on the illusion of a great looking lawn with a quarterly service of fertilizer, weed control and insecticide for $29 and to most people that is a great deal and what they can afford.
But real lawn care, the golf course magazine type of lawn care that most dream about is like comparing a designer watch to a fine Swiss time piece. Every one wants one but few can really afford it or willing to pay for it.
First off let’s talk about cultural practices they need to be spot on, I mean your mowing and watering. Mowing must be performed at the right frequency and height that the cultivar requires to be optimal, not how you like it or when you feel like mowing it, and worse yet not how your landscaper says everyone does it.
Watering is the second most important cultural practice, most people over irrigate or under irrigate, or irrigate at the wrong time like at night. They turn that system on every night for an hour and wonder why the lawn turns yellow, because its rotting to death.
With out the right cultural practices no pest control company can make your lawn look good, killing a pest is not the same as good looking, I can kill the insect that caused the damage but you will still have a bad looking lawn.
No amount of fertilizer, weed control, insecticide, fungicide or surfactant will make up for bad habits. It’s like the patient that goes to his doctor and the doctors tells them to stop smoking, drinking, eating fast food, staying up late get some exercise and the patient responds, can’t you just give me a pill.
Ok so you get your practices corrected now what, now you have to become educated on what your particular lawn requires, a cool season grass has different requirement than a warm season grass, a zoysia lawn will require much more service and cost more to maintain than that of a St Augustine Floratam or Palmetto lawn every will, if you buy an expensive German automobile it will cost more to maintain than a low end Japanese car.
If your soil is calcareous, that is very high in alkaline it will require much more fertilizer, up to three times more fertilizers than other types of soil. This means up to 6 fertilizations per year and much more nitrogen up to 3 times more.
What is the guaranteed analysis of the fertilizers being used, fertilizer is fertilizer right, wrong! A bag of 24-0-16 with a poly coated 50% slow release nitrogen is more expensive than than a 12-2-12 40% slow release sulfur coated urea fertilizes which has half the nitrogen and a cheaper process which could cost half one could last 60 days the other might last 90 days. That can be the difference between one company being half the price from another.
Are they using liquid formulations with amino acids, micro-nutrients, hummic acids, surfactants, and wetting agents along with insecticides on a regular basis to condition the soil for better absorption by the plants which will give you a better looking lawn in drought stress situations, this is a super premium service used by golf course applied every 14 to 30 days to keep greens green all year around or at least until it’s snows.
let’s talk insecticides and how long do they last. If you are expecting an insecticide to last 3 or 4 months actively preventing pests you are in for a big disappointment, I know the bag at the big box store says one application will last all season long, try it and let me know how that works out for you.
The reality is that the length of most insecticides will be about 28 days, providing, you have average rain fall or correct irrigation, here in south Florida average rain fall is 60 to 80 inches per year and most of that is in 6 months, so average isn’t always average, degradation by soil Ph, water, UV light, and microbial activity in the soil will vary, the type of insecticide or class and active ingredient will determine the residual value.
The active ingredients like permethrin will knock down an insect population but don’t expect more that 7 to 14 days, bifenthrin will be longer lasting but you won’t get you more than 30 days here, systemics by far are the longest lasting but in highly mowed lawns or in the growing season you might get 30 to 45 days at best. So with a quarterly service your lawn is unprotected for 25 to 75 days. Great deal if nothing goes wrong.
The price of these insecticides will also vary from a cheap pyrethroid to a very expensive systemic or even more expensive combination of systemic and contact pyrethroids that offer quick knockdown and long term residual. Also depending on whether it’s a the original Brand Name or generic. A company or technician that only uses the cheapest generic pyrethroids will have a substantially lower price than a company that rotates the active ingredients and the modes of actions to prevent insect resistance.
Granular insecticides can give you longer control in the rainy season but generally cost op to 30% more than liquids, they also come in parathyroids, systemics, combination, generic and brand name original. The additional labor to apply them will also increase the price.
Weed control, is it post emergent, pre emergent or both? The cheapest programs on the market will include post emergent weed control as a spot treatment only, meaning they will only apply a weed control product after the weed has appeared and only to the spot that is there, they will not apply it to the entire lawn on every service, the most expensive services will include a quarterly pre emergent weed control application to prevent weeds from germinating, its up to the tolerance level the customer if you say you don’t want to see a single weed then the only way is to perform a pre emergent weed control service. This can ad up to 30% to the ticket but you are getting what you paid for.
Are they using a cheep active ingredient like 50 year old atrazine that is a restricted use product by the EPA requiring a restricted use license due to the contamination hazard it poses and which cannot be applied with temperatures over 85 degrees in the summer because it can burn your lawn.
Are they using modern products that can be applied almost all year around with low contamination as this will make a great difference in the cost of application. Is it liquid, granular, generic or Brand name.
Lawn disease are about the most problematic and expensive problems to treat and prevent in lawns, most lawn care programs do not include disease control and if they do they are very limited to spot treatments only and no one can guarantee disease control, a disease can spring up any minute. You only need three thing for an epidemic to break out on your lawn, the host or plant species, the pathogen to be present and the perfect conditions to activate that pathogen this typically is weather related, too hot, too cool, too dry or to wet, but rarely is it just right.
Fungicides just like insecticides come in expensive contact forms and very expensive systemic forms, granular and liquids Fungicides are the most expensive products to apply They can last from 14 days for contact fungicides up to 28 days for systemics, an the same rules apply for fungicides as insecticides for the degradation.
So what do golf courses do, they make a monthly application whether they have a fungus or not. This is very costly considering fungicides can cost 3 to 6 times more than insecticides. So be prepaid to fork over big bucks if you will not tolerate any imperfections due to fungus.
I then there is the commitment, most lawn care companies have long term contracts for up to 12 months, if you are weary of commitment then don’t have high expectations in getting a great looking lawn with a one time treatment every time you have a problem to call the local guy to solve it for a flat low price every time. If you wait till you have insects, disease and weeds and expect to solve all three in a single service, good luck with that. A stressed lawn cannot tolerate four chemical applications at one time and to the operator this would be an astronomical cost to apply all these products at one time. So be prepared to make several application, you might have to still fork over some serious cash and have a bad looking lawn for a while even replace a few spots with sod or plugs and wait for it to grow in.
The reality is that there is no such thing as cheap lawn care just cheap practices, products and procedures and the illusion of it. If you are satisfied with a less than perfect lawn, don’t mind the fact that you can’t control everything and when things do happen you can live with them, then a big national chain with a quarterly service with limitations on applications like an HMO will make you happy.
But if you are a die hard perfectionist with little tolerance for imperfection and demand perfection then you will have to look long and hard to find a company or individual with experience, expertise and price tag to match to satisfy you, these you can find performing service for Hollywood elite on there 20 million dolor estates.
You can get a dozen estimates for lawn care and have prices from very cheap to oh my god are you out of your mind and still not know what you are getting for it.
We offer a lawn care program that is environmentally friendly at a reasonable price, which program is right for you give us a call to get a free certified horticultural program consultation.