Barbara J. Bromley, Mercer Co. Horticulturist 04

  • Do you expect a “perfect” lawn? Does your service company promise you a “perfect” lawn? Do you require low or no pesticide use and a “perfect” lawn? Will you compromise?
  • At the beginning of a service year have you told your service if you have seeded or are intending to seed in the near future? Did they ask? Most pre-emergence crabgrass and broadleaf weed controls interfere with seed germination or kill new grass as well as undesirable species. Special materials must be used on new seedings, or those areas must be avoided when applying most herbicides.
  • Does the service suggest a soil test for pH and nutrient levels? Lime is often an option, and optimum amounts needed are not known without a test. Most lawns in NJ require the addition of calcitic or dolomitic limestone to maintain a pH between 6.0 and 6.8, but timing of applications may be as infrequent as every 6 or 7 years. Nutrient level tests help prevent over- or under-application. The only way to know what is needed is by soil test.
  • Are chemicals applied in a timely manner? Because of many clients requiring service plus weather variability, chemicals may be applied when they can get to your lawn, not when timing is best. Applying short-residual pre-emergence crabgrass controls too early, broadleaf weed controls during or immediately before a rain or in a wind, or grub controls to very dry soil without proper irrigation information reduce effectiveness of materials or may cause environmental problems.
  • Does the service supply written information about your part in the care of your lawn? Is a list of suggested references or fact sheets about mowing heights and frequency, watering techniques, and leaving clippings supplied? Do you argue with company representatives or ignore their cultural recommendations?
  • Is a limited fertilizer program offered for shady or low maintenance lawns or a specially timed fertilizer program offered for zoysia lawns? The “standard” program offered by many services is not appropriate for all lawns.
  • When only a few weeds are a problem or disease or insects affect a small lawn area, is a spot treatment offered instead of a cover application of pesticide to the entire lawn?
  • Ideally your service should send a representative to monitor for grub and other insect populations in the lawn to determine control needs. Are integrated pest management programs offered? Are post emergence crabgrass control, yellow nutsedge control, and disease control optional and applied only when needed.
  • Does the service suggest core aerifying for heavy clay or compacted soils and dethatching when the thatch layer exceeds 1/2 inch? Do you agree to it if it means additional cost?
  • Does your service recommend that you call immediately if a section of lawn appears to be declining? Do you wait until whole areas have died, then blame the service? When the service representative gives you information, do you follow it?
  • Is your service licensed by the NJ DEP to apply chemicals to your lawn? Anyone who applies pesticides for hire must have a pesticide applicator’s or operator’s license or be supervised by someone who does. A licensed operator has knowledge of the hazards of the materials he/she is using, of safe chemical application procedures, and of posting and notification laws. The company must provide you with a list of pesticides used and the approximate time of application.