Be the Best-Lawn-On-The-Block! Turns the struggling or average lawn into the envy of neighbourhood.
The most popular package for dry and patchy lawns that want to transform into a thick, green, and weed-free turf.
For those that want to give their existing healthy lawn a bit more love. Expect a weed free grass with everything a lawn needs to stay healthy.
The basic package for people with an existing healthy lawn that want help with their weed control and lawn nutrition needs.
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Every Spring once the birds start chirping, the sun starts shining and the snow begins to melt, dozens of lawn care companies start marketing their services for the upcoming lawn care season once again. These services, as you know, come at a cost. Most homeowners question whether they can enjoy a green and weed free lawn without burning a hole in their wallet. Lawn care isn’t something you can just leave up to chance. Your lawn requires care. We have that neighbour who puts no effort in when it comes to their grass. Regardless of their intention, the lawn always looks a little sloppy.
So, you own a home, odds are a lawn comes with it. Let’s review the benefits versus the costs of tackling this project by yourself as opposed to hiring a company to do the heavy lifting.
When looking at both the DIY method versus hiring a professional company, we need to take several things into account:
The Price, The Risks, The Effectiveness, The Time
Let’s call this the PRET analysis.
This assessment with put the small details aside and focus on the meat and potatoes of the issue.
Let’s dive right in!
If you’re looking towards doing lawn care yourself, you’ll need some tools to successfully treat your lawn this season. We’ll break these down one by one and use the average price based on typical hardware stores such as Lowes and The Home Depot.
Not all fertilizer is made equal. In fact, a lot of fertilizer is made poorly. If there’s one repeating topic thing you should take away from this is that most of the time, you get what you pay for.
The three numbers you see on a bag of lawn fertilizer stand for:
Example: (25-5-10) commonly referred to as NPK
The ratio for these chemicals is dependent on the season you are in and how established your lawn is.
The higher the numbers on the bag, typically the more potent and expensive the fertilizer will be. The cheapest fertilizer you can find at Walmart will not compare to the numbers Scott’s Fertilizer is able to produce.
Fertilizer brands speak for themselves. The three brands you’ll normally see at a store are:
The Private Label / Generic Brand - Low Grade product
Vigoro and CIL - Mid Grade product
Scott’s - High Grade product
We are only going to focus on Scott’s Fertilizer, as it’s the only brand for DIY that we recommend. They have the product quality and technology your lawn needs to thrive if you’re doing it yourself. The other brands don’t meet the minimum standards needed for a beautiful lawn.
In addition to using the right blend of Scott’s Fertilizer, it’s imperative that you consider the fertilizer’s posted coverage area and your lawn size. Apply the right product at the correct rate! Fertilizer product companies will market a bag of fertilizer at a great price, but in small print you’ll see it doesn’t cover a very large area.
A large amount of a cheap product will often cost more and be less effective than the right amount of a quality product.
The formula to find out how much your fertilizer will cost is:
If your home is 2,500 square feet (as most homes in Calgary are), a bag of Scott’s Fertilizer from the store is $40, and the bag will cover 4,000 square feet, your calculation will look like this:
How many times per season do you need to do this? Depends on the type of fertilizer you purchased. (See where this can start to get a bit complicated?)
A generic rule is that if you’re using store bought fertilizer, you can expect to fertilize your lawn 3 times per season: Spring, Summer, and Fall. A professional company will only need to fertilize two to three times. This is because the fertilizer applied by a company is of much higher quality than store bought fertilizer. The Yard Dawgs fertilizer is a custom blend for Alberta’s climate.
Based on this example you’ll need to purchase two bags of fertilizer to apply three times to your lawn. This will total $75. However, to properly apply fertilizer you’ll need the right tool.
Because we are using Scott’s Fertilizer, it’s important to use only a Scott’s Broadcast Spreader. For this we have three options:
To keep this simple you won’t need to consider option number 3. The Wizz Spreader relies on how fast you’re walking and how quickly you’re cranking the handle. These two factors – if done incorrectly – can ruin your lawn.
The second option is only recommended if your lawn is over 4,000 sqft. This measurement only applies to 20% of the homes in Calgary. So, you’ll need to purchase the Scott’s Turf Builder Mini Broadcast Spreader which is priced at $47. If you don’t let your kids use these as rides, this toll should last you about five seasons.
Combining the cost of fertilizer and a spreader takes your total to $122 so far.
This section is very straight forward. All you will need are a pair of rubber or nitrile gloves and some safety glasses. These combined will cost you $24.
Yes, these are necessary. Fertilizer purchased at the store comes in granular form. Inside your Scott’s Fertilizer bag, you’ll find thousands of assorted beads. These products, when used with the right precautions are safe for the applicator, pets, and children, they are not to be ingested or come in contact with the skin. Pellets of fertilizer are corrosive in nature because they are designed to break down. When opening the bag, pouring out the fertilizer, closing or storing the bag, you’ll need protection. If the fertilizer does come in contact with your skin, simply wash with soap and water. This goes for your eyes as well. Flush under a tap for ten minutes. If ingested, call poison control immediately.
Our total is at $146 so far. However, we have yet to address the weeds that seem to take over your lawn so naturally each year.
Weeds tend to emerge in late spring around May and June. If you don’t control them, they’ll take over your entire lawn. The products for a DIY homeowner would be Scott’s Weed B Gon, which retails for $40 at Home Depot and will last for a season. This product is safe for homeowners when you follow the label, but caution should be taken if you have not used this product before. Weed B Gon needs to be diluted in water and then put into a sprayer to spot spray the weeds.
So far, we have a total of $186.
The price range for a weed control sprayer is quite large. You’ll see some from $10, and some commercial ones are priced at $5000. For the average homeowner, you don’t need anything special. We recommend the 10L sprayer from Lowe’s which retails for $35. With this tool, you’ll be able to mix the weed control and water together to effectively spray for weeds.
Let’s crunch the numbers! The cost of everything covered so far brings us to a total of $224.
|Lawn Fertilizer: 3 Rounds||$75|
|Lawn Fertilizer Scott's Spreader||$47|
|Weed Control Product||$40|
|Weed Control Applicator||$38|
Remember the rule from before? You get what you pay for. This is just as true when it comes to hiring a company, as it is for DIY lawn care. Companies you’ll want to avoid are:
These are the companies that mow lawns, prune trees, trim hedges, fertilize, landscape, install irrigation, clean gutter, etc. You wouldn’t go to your family doctor for heart surgery, nor should you book services from a company that doesn’t specialize. This is especially true when it comes to fertilizer. The risks of getting it wrong are significant, you want to find a company that has an in-depth knowledge of the service.
Accidents happen, no matter how experienced a company is. Fertilizing a lawn has consequences. If product is over applied, applied in the wrong area, or applied at the wrong time. If a technician trips and breaks his/her heel, that person can sue you. It’s imperative they have their own liability insurance, and WCB coverage on all employees.
Companies are not required to have a certification to fertilize your lawn. Getting a license to apply herbicides is not an easy task. It takes a large commitment of time, money, and due diligence. This is good news for you as the homeowner! A company that has its herbicide certification will have the resources and practices in place to also deliver exceptional, safe, and effective fertilizer treatments. The best lawn care companies do both fertilizer and weed control. Both treatments go hand-in-hand, so it’s in a company’s best interest to be top-notch.
Now that we’ve covered how not to hire a company, let’s review some best practices when it comes to hiring a company. You could simply go to Google and search:
“Fertilizing Services [name of your city] or [near me]”
“Weed control [name of your city] or [near me]”
The top five companies that pop up will be the ones you’ll want to consider. To have your lawn covered all season by a professional, the price you’re looking at is:
This generally will include enough fertilizer and weed control to get you through the spring, summer and fall if your lawn is average size, and healthy in general. This is the average of the basic packages found from five different lawn care companies in Calgary.
To Note: Fertilizer and weed control alone isn’t enough to enjoy a beautiful lawn all season. You must also investigate aerating and seeding services yearly to make sure you’re checking all the boxes.
Unfortunately, the risk of ruining your lawn with DIY fertilization is very high. Overlapping lawn fertilizer in a single spot and applying product before back-to-back weeks of heavy sun and light rain are two of the most common ways, we see people make mistakes.
Fertilizer burn presents itself as an orange tint within the damaged area. It dries out the lawn, leaving it more yellow, gray, and crusty. Backyard Boss reviews how to repair an overfertilized lawn here.
When spreading fertilizer on your lawn, make sure you are not overlapping fertilizer. It’s difficult and time consuming to remove fertilizer from your grass. Make sure you know how far the spreader will project the beads before beginning the process.
When it comes to hiring a company, it’s best to choose based on industry experience (5+ years), strong online reviews and full liability insurance. There are minimal risks with having a company treat your lawn. They know what they are doing and will fix any damage (rare) that may occur. However, hire a company that specializes in weed control and fertilization.
One reality of the industry is no matter how much money you spend on your Scott’s Fertilizer and tools, a professional lawn care company will yield a healthier lawn. This is under the assumption the watering, mowing, and soil conditions are the same. The market for homeowners purchasing fertilizer versus the market for lawn care companies purchasing fertilizer is very different.
Lawn care companies put extensive research into fertilizer blends for the exact climate of the places they service. Lowes will carry blends that are marketed to as many people as possible. Scott’s Fertilizer profit margins get tighter with each specialty blend they produce. So, the incentive to create a “one size fits all” for fertilizer is elevated. Professional companies have access to wholesale and fertilizer suppliers that create specialized fertilizer for different grass types.
If time is money than DIY people may be in trouble. You want to have time for family, watching the game, or throwing up your feet. That’s when hiring a company comes into play. They’ll be able to take care of scheduling, notifications, servicing, reports, and accounting. Once you consider the effectiveness, time and risks associated with doing it yourself, hiring a company starts to look very attractive.
It’s never been quicker or easier. The right company should allow you to book through their website in a matter of minutes or over the phone, which would take 5-10 minutes. A general trend we’ve seen in the industry is homeowners will take care of general maintenance (i.e. mowing), but will often hire a company to look after the health of their property.
If you go past the cheap fertilizer in the isles and scroll past the companies that are offer cheap fertilizing as a service, you’ll notice very quickly that the costs for a premium fertilizer with the equipment compared to hiring a specialized lawn care company are quite similar. For the first year, it can cost about $224 to fertilize and do weed control for your own lawn.
If you hire a company, prices start at $240 and include fertilizer and unlimited weed control. This doesn't begin to factor your valuable time into the equation. Once you do consider the effectiveness, time, and risks associated with doing it yourself; however, hiring out a company does look quite attractive.
As a homeowner, you should decide whether enjoying the summer means DIY or hiring a company. If you love getting out there and doing it yourself, grab some cold ones with the bit of money you save. If; however, you want to leave for the mountains, or kick your feet up soaking in the sun, it’s best you hire a company to ensure your grass stays green all season long. Your lawn is your home’s first impression and it’s important you make great!
Clare Ottenbreit is the Yard Dawgs Content Manager. In her Marketing role she coordinates and manages content, social media engagement and blogs. Clare has a diploma in Journalism from the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology. In addition to working with Yard Dawgs, she is an avid hiker and runner.