Which is Better: DIY or Professional Lawn Care?

by Travis Pizel · 33 comments

The love of a lush green lawn is a trait my father passed down to me. As a teenager, I was in charge of mowing and watering the lawn by manually moving a hose and sprinkler during the summer. Because of that responsibility, I learned to appreciate the hard work that went into keeping the lawn looking great.

When I bought my first home, my dad sat me down and gave me β€œthe talk.” Meaning, that conversation every father should have with his son about how to properly apply fertilizer and weed killer to his lawn during the growing season.

After 15 years of doing it myself,Β  a new neighbor told me he did commercial lawn care as a side business. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to get some information to see how paying a commercial lawn service stacked up to doing it myself.

Is DIY or Professional Lawn Care Better?

DIY Lawn Care

Four applications make up a typical weed and feed program. I priced out the four bags of Scott’s lawn care products (my preferred brand) needed at full price for a 15,000 square foot lawn:

Cost:

  • Turfbuilder + Halts (crabgrass control): $59.98
  • TurfBuilder + 2 (broadleaf weed control): $49.98
  • Turfbuilder lawn food: $39.98
  • Winterizer: $44.99

Total cost: $194.93

Other considerations:

  • Able to apply at will
  • Requires applicator purchase (one time cost of around $60)
  • Must apply correctly for optimal performance

Professional Lawn Care

Cost:

My neighbor indicated his program would also be four applications. Each application was $65.

Total cost: $260

Other considerations:

  • Commercial product may be a bit more powerful
  • Applied at the discretion of the lawn care service

So, Which Is Better?

For an experienced lawn DIYer like me, the skill and time needed to apply the fertilizer myself is not an issue. Commercial lawn care product is at least perceived to be more powerful (not sure if that’s factual or not), but is only applied whenever you fit into their schedule — which may or may not be the optimal time for your lawn. I’ve had friends with lawns in full dandelion bloom, who had to wait over a week for the lawn service to get to them.

After weighing the information, the savings in cost, along with the ability to apply the product at exactly the right time (weather permitting), DIY is the right choice for me. But it might be different for you.

Do you care for your own lawn, or do you hire a professional service? Why?

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • Erika Brady says:

    I think there are definitely pro’s and con’s to both like you mention. For me, I like having the peace of mind knowing that someone else is taking care of the weeds in my yard, instead of having to have to add it to my list of things to do. My list can get so long sometimes, so I love being able to have the option available to have someone else take care of it.

  • Cuqie says:

    Regardless of how many times they came to aply fertilizer, and weed control, dandelion were still showing up. There excuse was it’s because of the weather this year. I dont know if they used weeker products or what, but it wasn’t the same as years before. Plus they are not cheep. I think I’m doing it myself from now on.

  • mic wills says:

    The main problem with DIY is when a big brown patch of grass appears you’re wondering if it’s a fungus, chinch bugs, sod worms, brown patch, grubs, and who knows what else? You may be able to figure it out with some research, or, you may end up trying different chemicals in hopes that one might work. The pros can diagnose it on the spot (one would hope!)

    • Cuqie says:

      I’ve had professionals du my lawn for years, and they were great for a good 7 years, but they’ve gotten sloppy with finances. I do my payment through the easy pay program, where payment comes out automatically from your credit card every aplicacion they do. A month ago i spoke to them and gave them my credit card #, a week later i called them to tell them i didn’t want the to do to many aplicacions at one time cause my i didn’t want my credit card to get to many charges at a time. My request was not respected. The rep i talked to asked me for my credit card again. I told her that that was the fourth time i was asked for my credit card # she opoligize. I told her i wanted to cancel them out to not aply anyore to my grass at all. The next day i went to work, and when i got home somebody had came and did the opposite. I called again and told them i had cancelled them they opoligize again. A few days later somebody had came again when i was at work and aplied something else to my grass. Very frustrating
      Now I’m being charged 58.00 for something i had cancelled three week prior.

  • This is some great information, and I appreciate your point that DIY lawn care might not be the right choice for everyone. My husband and I just moved into our first house, and neither of us has any experience with caring for our own lawn. While we could probably figure it out eventually, I think it would be beneficial to let a professional take care of that for us. Thanks for the great post!

  • Ana says:

    Unfortunately, lawn care is never on the top of my list of things to-do in the fall and every spring I regret not spending a little more time the year before. I will work with these DIY tips. Thanks.

  • Tyler Slade says:

    I think would prefer professional lawn care service. Because as a professional they can do much more to our lawn. And yes we can also say that it depends on the lawn. If the lawn is simple can be done by yourself than we can. Thanks for the article.!

  • sean says:

    I think many people use a DIY method of lawn care because of the cost factor. They feel they cannot afford to pay for professional lawn care. I find the price comparison interesting though. I wouldn’t have considered the cost of the materials I needed to do it myself. Because I am busy and my time is worth quite a bit of money to me, I think a lawn care professional would be my best bet.

    • If you’re busy, Sean, or have other things you’d rather spend your time on, then I would agree that it may be worth it to you to have a service do it (as long as it fits in your budget). For me, I actually enjoy it, so my equation looks a little different. πŸ˜‰

  • Eli says:

    My lawn looked pretty bad but it was neglience on my part. So I got determined to try to properly take care of it. I too was concerned about too much commercial fertilizer what 3-4 x a year. So now I use that stuff only once at the beginning of the warm weather months.(May) Then I use granualized manure the rest. Holy smokes my front lwan looks geat. And yes, you have to water regualrly as well but even if you had a pro do your lawn you still have to water. Look, theres no shortcuts and it takes time and work. But Im 66 and I love doing it. Out in the fresh air, moving so yes yhere are benefits to DIY. BTW some of these lawn services try to get in and out and they;re not always that good. Not to mention they put a whole in my vinyl gate when they tried opening the gate door with one of their mowers. As long as Im fit I’ll continue to do it myself. Know what, when Im sitting on my front porch I take pride knowing in looking out over my beautiful lawn!

  • I actually own a lawn care service. You can save money, but you have to do it at the right time. If you really want to save money, skip the fertilizer all together. It’s also less mowing…

    • That’s an interesting thought, no nonsense landlord….but I wonder what kind of effect that would have on my lawn that is all clay. I would suspect that would make it less lush, less green, and give the weeds more opportunity to grow, wouldn’t it?

  • I think it is better if you use professional lawn care πŸ™‚ You don’t have to make one yet when the total cost of each is just near. Well, that’s what I think about.

  • Steve says:

    I’ve had lawn care service for years, and I have never had to wait for their schedule. They treat the lawn on a scheduled basis. If weeds, disease or insect damage crop up, I call them and they come out to treat it, even if in between treatments. Just set the expectation up front.
    In your case, the price is almost the same so unless it is your hobby, it’s a no brainer to hire the professional.

  • David Ning says:

    I’m bias because I have no clue about lawn maintenance, but at $65 more, I would seriously consider using a professional. He’s your neighbor, so there’s worries about the lawn not being done right. Also, you wouldn’t have to spend the hours applying the chemicals, and maybe a bit more to buy say gloves or something, and more time + gas required to actually go get the stuff from the store.

    • Well, my concern – especially with having my neighbor do it – is what if he doesn’t get to me when I need him to? Or what if his product doesn’t work? I don’t want to create an awkward situation with him. Although that’s a completely different situation than using a professional service that’s NOT my neighbor. πŸ™‚

      • David Ning says:

        I actually feel like him being your neighbor is to your advantage. You need to properly vet this neighbor, but anyone decent isn’t going to ruin his reputation by messing his neighbor’s yard. And the other thing is if he’s not there when you need him, you can actually find him!

  • For us it depends on how desperate our lawn is. As a general rule, the times in the past when we’ve had a professional lawn service equated with the times when our lawn has looked best. I don’t know if that’s because their stuff is better or because they are more reliable about applying it than we are. But right now our lawn is looking decent with lots of spring rain so we are taking care of it ourselves. Last summer it was in dire straits so we hired a lawn service for the summer to get it back into decent shape. The as-needed basis seems to work best for us.

    • David Ning says:

      There are definitely a ton of stuff you can do to lawns to make them look better. If hiring lawn care services become too expensive, it may be worth investigating what it’ll take to replace the type of grass to the kinds that are easiest to take care of year round.

    • That’s a good thought, Dee….although I’m going to take it in a slightly different direction. I have taken care of my lawn for years, but there have been a time or two where no matter what I do, the onslaught of dandilions from the part behind our house is too strong, and I need to call in the pros for a dose of the heavy artillery. It’s certainly nice to have the option! πŸ™‚

  • Aldo@MDN says:

    It depends on how you value your time. If you don’t mind doing it and you enjoy it, then why not do it yourself. But if it’s just another chore and you don’t like it, then you should pay and relax for a bit.

    Also, it seems like you know what you are doing, but a lot of people don’t know what to do and end up ruining their lawns. That’s something you should take into consideration as well.

    • David Ning says:

      An alternative, for those who actually want to learn, is to pay for someone to do it but be there to watch when they care for your lawn. This way, you can ask a ton of questions in order to be able to do it yourself next time.

    • I definitely like it, and I do know (relatively well) what I’m doing. Your comment is right on the money though, Aldo – it’s kind of like me and electrically – anything to do with electricity and I tap out and leave it to the pros. πŸ™‚

  • Glen Craig says:

    One question you need to ask is what is the value of your time? Basically, is it worth it to you to have someone else take care of it?

    I think another consideration is how well the company will take care of your lawn. Some companies just throw on the standard chemical that they use on every other lawn. From what I’ve seen most don’t take the time to see what your particular lawn actually needs.

    Lastly, and this may just be me, is the safety of what is being put on your lawn. To me, all that chemical fertilizer and weed killer on a lawn is a bit scary. My kids play on the lawn and this stuff runs off into the sewers too. That can’t be great. Organic options may not be as effective but they may not be as harmful either.

    • David Ning says:

      Good points to consider Glen. I don’t think outside companies will ever be as careful about your lawn than you, especially if they are so busy it actually takes them one full week to get to your home.

      Of course, this is assuming you know what you are doing (or has the time to figure all this out!).

    • Great questions, Glen – the time isn’t an issue, as it really amounts to about 20 minutes a month. As far as the safety, Scotts has recently removed Phosphorous from their products for just that reason. Thanks for stopping by, Glen!

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