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Lawn care companies offer range of services

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by Jan K. Allen

SBJ Contributing Writer

There are many individuals and companies providing lawn service in the Springfield area. Because of the seasonal nature of the business and the cost of the equipment required, several come and go each year.

So, how does the property owner go about finding a good, dependable lawn care service provider?

Local lawn care professionals agreed that homeowners should look for a service that is licensed and insured. Reliability is another factor the specialists believe is important.

The lawn care professional should carry both liability and workers' compensation insurance, said Nick Miller, owner of Meadowgreen of Springfield. He said homeowners have a right to expect this kind of protection.

In terms of reliability, it is important to remember that the weather is a major and uncontrollable factor.

Much of the lawn service business is dependent on the weather, and if nature does not cooperate, it is easy to get behind. Some people don't understand that a day of rain can put a business a day and a half behind, according to Cecil Keene, owner of Springfield Lawn and Landscaping.

Equipment breakdowns can also cause delays. Despite such interference, professional lawn services try to keep on schedule and keep their customers happy year after year, Keene said.

The quality of the work is another major factor in hiring a service. This factor should speak for itself, according to local professionals. Trimming and edging are as much a part of weekly maintenance as mowing. A professional who takes pride in his work will not do a sloppy job.

The price for an average size yard, without a lot of ornamental plants to maintain and mow around runs about $25. Extra services, such as pruning and fertilizing can vary, according to Keene.

Most full-service specialists offer light pruning and tree trimming, although large-tree trimming and removal are often deferred to tree care services that have the specialized equipment to deal with them.

Most professional services can advise homeowners when fertilization is needed and have the equipment to make the needed applications, though many services, like Keene's business, do not use herbicides and insecticides.

A person has to be state-licensed and -certified to apply these chemicals, and Keene contracts this work out to other professionals for his customers. The homeowner can also do it himself if he wishes, Keene said.

For a healthy lawn, Keene usually recommends a treatment of fertilizer containing phosphorus and potash in the spring to help develop a healthy root system, and a more nitrogen rich application as things begin to grow to assist the foliage later in the summer.

It is beneficial to go back to the nutrients that aid the root system in the fall. Although the plants become dormant in the winter, root systems can still use help, he said. Of course, fertilization also increases the need for maintenance. The treated lawn will grow faster and thicker than the one left on its own.

"If you fertilize, you can sit there and watch it grow," Keene said.

Application is important, and if a homeowner plans to do his own fertilizing, he should be careful to get an even coverage, Keene said.

Fees for fertilizer applications vary among lawn care specialists. Miller said that, on average, he charges $120 for three applications, considered by professionals to be a minimum treatment.

"You should have a minimum of three applications or you defeat the purpose," Miller said.

Miller, who is certified in pest control, uses a mixture of fertilizer and herbicide in the applications.

David McFarland, owner of McFarland Landscaping, charges by the hour, plus a slight markup on the chemicals used when he does fertilizer applications. McFarland, once licensed to apply herbicides, no longer works with the chemicals for personal safety reasons.

McFarland, also has a degree in horticulture. He said fertilization is important to help the grass compete with weeds. Homeowners and businesses keep grass cut to make the yard look good, but this also stresses the grass.

Grass left to grow to its natural mature height can hold its own with its weedy relatives, but cut grass needs help, McFarland said.

Although Miller maintains his license to work with pesticides and herbicides, it is not necessarily common for lawn care specialists to carry this specialty license.[[In-content Ad]]

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