The Fine Print: Your Best Lawn Now

The difference between a yard and a perfect lawn is know-how, and knowing how starts with talking to the right professionals. If you want that uniform green carpet outside your window, then it’s not enough to hire a landscaper to do some mowing and edging. You’ll need a lawn care specialist, someone who will take care of the fertilization, soil treatment, and pest and disease control.

Get started by calling a lawn care specialist in early spring, says Richard Arnold, district manager of the King of Prussia office of the Davey Tree Expert Company. “You really can get started any time,” he says. “But if you wait too long, you’re missing the first application of fertilizer with crabgrass preemergent control.” This initial combo treatment is especially good at getting rid of crabgrass. Apply it in March to kill the sprouts before they get out of hand. Many companies will also give your lawn a “core aeration” in the spring — pulling up plugs of earth so the soil gets more water and oxygen.

The standard lawn service comes with six treatments, spaced out by about six weeks. May is the time for broadleaf weed control. In July, the company lays down some slow-release fertilizer. Nothing looks worse on a lawn than brown patches appearing irregularly throughout your yard — usually the result of root-eating grubs below the surface. To prevent it, an August treatment brings some pesticide to deal with the little white larvae. In October, there is another application of fertilizer and weed control, followed by a winterizing fertilizer in November.

Don’t overdo it with the treatments, though — nobody wants a chemical sponge for a lawn. Look for companies that adhere to Integrated Pest Management (IPM), a set of EPA-endorsed guidelines for keeping pesticide use under control.

If you have the time and the interest to take care of your own lawn, it might be worth handling the fertilization yourself. But a particularly large lawn, or one that has problems with grubs or fungus (the result of a wet spring followed by a hot summer), will likely do better with professional attention. Arnold says most companies offer quotes based on the yard’s square footage.

When you do hit the yellow pages or the Internet, look for name recognition and references, says Arnold. “You want to know that the guys you hire today will be around tomorrow if there are any problems.”

With the prep work and the fertilization done, the only thing left to do is sit back and watch the grass grow — and schedule the mowing, edging, watering and more fertilizing. But with a plan this strong, caring for your lawn can be less drudgery and more joy.