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Does your lawn need professional help?

Rod  Davis CEO BBB serving Southeast Florida and the Caribbean

So I moved to Florida (like many of you) and had to create a landscape in my backyard that would not say to all of my visitors, “this guy is not from Florida.”

–Insert image of a barren backyard —-

I needed help.  So, where to begin?  Lawn and plant care generally fall into three categories: landscaping, lawn maintenance and sprinkler systems. Before selecting a company, evaluate your needs and know which services require a license. Some companies specialize in one area, while others offer a variety of services.

Landscaping companies design landscapes for designated areas, select the appropriate plants, and provide and install the plants.   Landscape architects, who deal with land conservation and proper water use, must obtain state licenses in order to do business in Florida.

Lawn Maintenance

Services generally include mowing, edging, weeding of flower beds, treating for insect disease, weed control, trimming of shrubs, irrigation systems checks, and fertilizing.  For basic maintenance and lawn care, a license is not needed.

Sprinkler Systems
Services provided by sprinkler system companies include design, installation, and general maintenance and repair.   Florida requires an irrigation license for businesses to install, repair and maintain lawn sprinkler systems.

I needed it all, so the first place I looked for ideas was in my neighborhood.  There was a lawn I drove by every day with the design style that appealed to me.  It was time to meet my neighbor. I knocked on my neighbor’s door and after convincing him that I was not selling anything, he welcomed me in and shared the name of his landscaper.  Next, I checked the reputation of the landscaper by visiting and Google to obtain feedback from other people in our community.

Next, I put together a budget for the landscape design, installation and the sprinkler installation.  In addition to my neighbor’s landscaper, I wanted to get at least one other option so I could compare proposals and pricing.  I found a couple of other landscaping businesses at and looked at photographs of their work and found another company with the experience, licensing and the design style that fit with my design style.    

Fortunately, both companies agreed to come to my house, walk through the goals and ideas I had for the project.  If you have a company that seeks to provide a quote without seeing your lawn, it might be a red flag to move on. While my two businesses did not require a deposit, some businesses will charge you to discuss specific landscaping ideas to protect themselves against clients who want to get their ideas and implement them on their own.  If you contract with a business charging a deposit, they may credit you back for the design fee.

I tried to develop a clear scope of work before meeting with the two businesses.  I included the areas of the yard to be re-sodded, the locations and areas to be planted, as much detail as I could gather about the sprinkler and, as I gained more insight from business number 1, I kept notes so that my second business would be providing a proposal to provide similar services.  When getting bids, I didn’t want to compare apples with oranges.

I also asked each business to bring examples of their work and the plants they would recommend so I could share my preferences based on their recommendations.  I also confirmed the license and insurance for each business. After seeing the two proposals, and considering the pricing options, one presentation delivered a plan matching the vision I had for the project.

Next we began to work on our agreement.  Make sure the contract contains all topics discussed and promises made. Incorporate a final landscape design into the agreement so that it includes the plants, quantity, size and other features or materials to be used.  We also included the specific sprinkler system, a timetable for work to be initiated and concluded and a payment schedule that staggered payments to be made at various points in the project. Some services may offer a guarantee of performance. My contractor agreed to replace any of the trees should they not survive for 2 years (with exceptions for natural disaster or due to lack of routine care).  Get copies of anything you sign and document the progress of the work and retain copies of all payments made.

I ended up very satisfied with the new landscape, and unfortunately, my contract landscaper did not provide lawn maintenance.  (enter my sigh here). So I went through a similar screening process to find my lawn service provider and requested quotes from three quality providers (based on ratings and reviews).  Again, to finalize the selection, I asked for a proposal from each business and developed a set of questions so that I would get proposals based on the same type work expectations:

Do you bill by the mow or by the month? What happens if it rains the day someone is supposed to come mow your lawn? Does mowing include edging and removal of grass/debris from walks and driveway? Cutting back shrubs? Pruning trees? Mulching? Re-planting as needed? Disposal of yard waste/debris?

Each home is different and your list might be slightly modified to meet the services you need and any areas most important to you.  Use these tips to find the right business for your needs.