Do-It-Yourself Guide to Choosing a Lawn Care Service Do-It-Yourself Guide to Choosing a Lawn Care Service

Many people choose to hire a professional company to help maintain their lawn. Lawn care companies offer a range of services, from fertilizing and pest control to aerating, mowing, and renovation. Lawn care companies should follow the same healthy lawn program outlined. They should also follow the same precautions for minimizing pesticide risks.

How can you be sure that a service will do these things? Start by asking questions like these:

Q. Is the company licensed?

A. Nearly all states require lawn care companies to be licensed. The qualifications for obtaining a license vary from state to state, but having a license is one indication that the company is reputable and operating legally.

Q. Does the company have a good track record?

A. Ask neighbors and friends who have dealt with the company if they were satisfied with the service they received. Call the Better Business Bureau or the state or local consumer protection office listed in your phone book; have they received any complaints about the company? Determine from the state pesticide regulatory agency if the company has a history of violations.

Q. Is the company affiliated with a professional lawn care association?

A. Affiliation with a professional association helps members to stay informed of new developments in the lawn care field.

Q. Does the company offer a variety of pest management approaches? Does it apply pesticides on a set schedule or only when they are really needed? Does it use integrated pest management, or "IPM" - an approach that often reduces pesticide use by combining it with other, non-chemical methods of pest control?

A. More and more lawn companies are offering integrated pest management (IPM) in response to public concern about pesticides. Be aware that IPM is a general term and that companies may use it to describe a wide range of activities. Find out exactly what a company means if it says it uses IPM.

Q. Is the company willing to help you understand your lawn's problems and the solutions?

A. Lawn services generally apply fertilizers and pesticides. But you may be the one who mows and waters - and poor watering and mowing practices can lead to disappointing results. The company should tell you how it plans to take care of your lawn, and advise you about the work you need to do to keep your lawn in good shape.

Q. Will the company tell you what pesticides it applies to your lawn and why, and what health and environmental risks may be presented by their use?

A. You have a right to this information. If asked, the company should readily supply it. The EPA registers all pesticides sold legally in the United States, but such registration is not a guarantee of safety. Ask to see a copy of pesticide labels to make sure they bear an EPA registration number, and to review the directions that should be followed. If the company can't answer your questions about the chemicals it uses, call NPTN (1-800-858-7378) for more information.

For More Information

The National Pesticide Information Center is a toll free, 24-hour information service that can be reached by calling 1-800-858-7378 or by FAX at 806-743-3094. The operators can provide a wide range of information about the health effects of pesticides, and provide assistance in dealing with pesticide-related emergencies.

The Environmental Protection Agency can provide information on integrated pest management strategies for lawn care. Write EPA's Office of Pesticide Programs, Field Operations Division (H7506C), 401 M St., S.W., Washington, D.C. 20460.

Some suppliers of lawn care products can provide helpful tips, answer questions, and help identify problems. Look for information or hotline numbers on product packaging.

The Bio-Integral Resource Center (BIRC), a non-profit organization formed in 1978 through an EPA grant, has information on least-toxic methods for lawn care. BIRC's address is: P.O. Box 7414, Berkeley, CA 94707

Courtesy of the EPA

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