How to find a good lawn care company?

Discussion in 'Organic Lawn Care' started by CletusT, Mar 18, 2009.

  1. CletusT

    CletusT LawnSite Member
    Messages: 25

    I realize that this may be more appropriate for the Homeowner Assistance forum.. but before you bash me.. just hear me out. I think what I have to say may be helpful to some of you out there.

    I am a homeowner in the upstate (Greenville) area of South Carolina. I have right at 54,000ft^2 of grass. I found a couple of years ago while looking for information on a good lawn mower to purchase and I have lurked here ever since.

    I have decided this year that my lawn isn't getting the care it needs with me taking care of it. The soil is very low in nutrients and I just don't have the time right now to do everything that it needs.

    I am looking for a reputable lawn care company that can come in and evaluate my soil and yard and then provide me with a fair fertilization/aeration/ammendments program to build my yard up and get nutrients in the soil. I put this in the organic lawn care section because it sounds like the organic approach is really what my yard needs to actually turn my hard sunbaked clay into some sort of soil. I am mainly only looking for help with the fertilization and nutrient side of the lawn.. but if given the right price I would consider an all inclusive option including mowing etc.

    Here is my dilema (and why I put this in this thread instead of the howmeowner thread):

    I have no real source for finding a lawn care company besides the good old fashioned yellow pages. I open it up and what do I see.... nice pretty adds for the national lawn care services: Trugreen, Scott's, Lawn Dr. these listings provide information on the services provided, and have a website where I can go to find out some more information on what they do and get a feel for the company itself.
    The rest of the listings are little one line listings with a name and a phone number. With these listings I have no clue whether I'm about to call a good reputable company or Joe blow with a honda and a bag of Scott's from Lowe's.

    I know there are no guarantees even with a nice pretty add. I've talked with some people about who they would use and Trugreen seems to actually be a decent company in my area. I've read enough about the overall company though that I would much rather find a smaller operation that takes pride in the work they do in my yard.

    As far as organic goes.. I've only seen 2 companies that mention it in any way - Trugreen says they have an organic program and so does Naturalawn. My yard is already in pretty rough shape, so I would be open to organic (or at least mostly organic) if I could actually find somone who knows something about it in my area.

    I guess my questions for lawnsite are:

    1. How do I go about finding a good company in my area?

    2. How are you positioning yourself in your advertising to let people like me know what you offer?

    3. It's my opinion that most people either go with a referal from a friend, or they go to the yellow pages and go with a company that gets their attention. How many of you are taking advantage of that by providing a decent add in the phone book or even a website so that people can find out more about you and even see pictures of your work?

    As a side note: I've repeatedly seen people on here complain about customers shopping around for best prices, etc. If I call you and have a referal from a friend then most likely I will call only you and if you give me a fair price I'll go with you and give you a chance. If I'm calling from the phone book then I have no idea whether you are any good or not. Price matters these days.. but it's not really what I'm looking for. I know just enough about this stuff to be dangerous. :) When I call and get you to come quote me... I'm really evaluating how I was treated, how professional you are, whether you seem like you know more than me about what is going on with my yard, etc. On these calls you only have one chance to make an impression. I have no attachment to you yet.. so if you don't show, or don't seem like the right fit then I'm just going to the next name on the list.

    Sorry for the book, but I thought y'all might like some feedback and information from the customers point of view.
  2. starry night

    starry night LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,317

    Sorry I can't help you directly since I am in Ohio. However, I want to thank you for your post. It's good for us professionals to hear the consumer side of the story concerning advertising, referrals, desire to hire a reputable company rather than just the cheapest.
  3. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,082

    Chemlawn will put down ferts (semi-organic or syntetic) and pesticides. It will be your job to keep enough water on the lawn to keep them ferts from burning the lawn.

    I had a client that brought in Chemlawn without irrigation. 3 years later, less grass more dust, only now there were pesticides in the dust.
    They left notes on each visit stating that - lawn needs water. :laugh:

    Clay lawns should be plugged, topdressed with compost and sand, then maybe dragged if needs be. Bicm. was just talking about his method on the golf greens.

    The important thing to remember is that plants need their roots in descent structured soil. Soil structure allows water to perculate and air to get in. Soil structure provides Cation Exchange sites for roots to get NPK off of.

    I know what you mean about finding decent. Find a guy that can understand what needs to be done, gives a quote for aeration and topdressing and see what he says.

    That is way too far outside the box for most LCOs. They will aerate without topdressing because it is easier. Aeration alone has NO long term benefits.
    So if you can afford only one option go with the compost or the sand - without the aeration. Long time to see results however.

    On large places like you have just doing your most important part of the lawn first, gives you experience and saves you money.
  4. TMGL&L

    TMGL&L LawnSite Member
    Messages: 243

    "I put this in the organic lawn care section because it sounds like the organic approach is really what my yard needs"..... Nattylawn knows all about the Organic Approach...

    Anyway, I second dirtandhoops post earlier.

    I would call up all the guys in the book and keep an eye out for trucks and/or ask around. To add to this there may be online directories and foundations that have listed approved or accredited "organic programs."

    Also, maybe you could search google or for contractors from towns outside your area if you don't find them in your own book. If those guys are too far away, they may have some contacts in your area that could help you.

    ...Any colleges that offer turf management or horticultural science? Those places are crawling with educated natural landscape people. There would definetly be people there ready to work.

    You could go to a garden center or green house. Maybe they would have people who know people who know organic gardeners.

    ...Craigslist wanted ads, angie's list for reviews....

    Those were just a few ideas... I hope that helped.

    DUSTYCEDAR LawnSite Fanatic
    from PA
    Messages: 5,132

    they tend to have a good list of who is on the up and up and who is not so good
  6. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,082

    You could look for a 'fertilizer salesman' - or someone who has a clue about growing grass.

    What are you trying to accomplish???
  7. CletusT

    CletusT LawnSite Member
    Messages: 25

    That's it in a nutshell. I'm looking for someone who knows what they are doing and is reputable.

    Thanks for all the good responses. I was referred by a friend to a good landscape architect to handle some of my landscaping needs. I'm probably going through him for a referral on the lawn care, but I now have some new sources for info if that doesn't pan out.
  8. Keegan

    Keegan LawnSite Senior Member
    from CT
    Messages: 614

    I would try a place where they sell organic fertilizers and see if they know of anyone.
    Or you may have a group they is trying to promote orgaincs in your area. Up here in the northeast we have NOFA & ELA.
  9. Prolawnservice

    Prolawnservice LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 612

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