Do-It-Yourself Lawn Treatment vs. Professional Lawn Care Services
You Always Save Money by Tackling Projects Yourself, Right?
I do a lot of DIY projects. Most of them save money.
For example, painting has saved me (and probably you) a lot of money, and the end result is comparable to that of a professional painter – it just takes me a little longer (ok, a lot longer). The same goes for building my deck and installing replacement windows.
Lawn care treatments, surprisingly, are not much of a money saver.
A Strange Phenomenon
There’s a strange, but explainable, phenomenon about lawn care. It’s one project that costs just about the same amount of money to Do-It-Yourself as it costs to have a company perform the service for you (and we are not including any costs for your time).
Before comparing prices for DIY Lawn Care to a Professional Lawn Care Company’s service, I’ll explain how and why this works.
How Can the Prices for a Professional Lawn Service and Scott’s 4-Step Program be Similar?
To be clear, the prices are not exactly the same. Some of the Scott’s services are more expensive, and some are less than a lawn care company would charge. However, in the end, you will see there’s not much of a difference.
Three things make this possible (listed from most important to least important):
An Efficient Route is Very Important
The postal system is a great example of an efficient route. If someone decides to mail a letter across the country by DIY, do you think they could drive it to California for the price of a stamp? Of course not.
So, how does the post office do it? They have the routes that lawn care companies can only dream of. They have every single house – which allows for highly efficient routes.
Route efficiency is, by far, the most important piece of the puzzle. A lawn care company needs to have a lot of customers in an area to make this work. But when they do, they can be very efficient.
Here’s an example:
- Let’s say that we have 20 customers within a 2 – 3 block area of a neighborhood. Once we get to the neighborhood, we will have very little travel time between homes.
- If, on average, it takes 15 minutes to service each lawn, it will take about 5 ½ – 6 hours to complete all 20 lawns.
- Conversely, if we had 15 minutes of drive time between each job, it would take about 9 – 10 hours to do the 20 jobs.
Purchase Materials in Bulk
This is pretty simple, we are purchasing in bulk. We get tractor trailer loads of fertilizer and other materials, which means we are paying less than the retail price.
Faster, More Precision Equipment
Maybe you noticed that I mentioned above, “If it takes us 15 minutes to service each lawn…” Yes, it is not uncommon to service a typical residential property, in 15 minutes, sometimes less.
The machines we use to treat a lawn are:
- Faster than pushing a spreader.
- Designed to spread both dry and liquid materials at the same time.
- More accurate than most homeowner spreaders.
Plus, our lawn care technicians know exactly what to do before they arrive at your house.
Learn more about our professional lawn care services.
DIY Lawn Care can Include
- Going to the store and buying the fertilizer and other materials.
- Digging your spreader out of your garage or shed.
- Reading the label instructions to make sure you understand how to use the material and how to spread it evenly.
- Getting the spreader ready and calibrating it to dispense the proper rate (amount) of fertilizer (so you don’t apply too much or too little).
- Clean-up when the work is done.
- Storing things away – like the left over fertilizer, the spreader, and the leaf blower or broom used to clean fertilizer off of the sidewalks and driveway.
Notice, none of these bullet points include actually treating the lawn.
Before a professional lawn care service arrives at your house, all of the prep work has already been done. When the technician arrives, all they need to do is treat the lawn and clean up as needed (blow excess fertilizer off of the hard surfaces like sidewalks and the driveway).
The lawn care applicator has all the materials they need, and their equipment is calibrated before they arrive at your house. They also have a leaf blower that is easily accessible and starts on the first pull.
Comparing Prices – DIY Lawn Care vs. a Professional Lawn Care Company
Comparing DIY lawn care prices to hiring a lawn care company is a little tricky, but we will be as fair and accurate as possible. In the end, our goal is to help you understand the differences, so you can make the decision that is right for you.
For example, you will see below that Scott’s 4-Step program uses dry, granular material for weed control. But granular weed control doesn’t work as well as liquid weed control. Since professional lawn care companies almost always use liquid weed control, to make an apples-to-apples comparison, we are adding the cost of some Scott’s liquid weed control to spot-treat weeds that the dry material did not control.
In this related article, we break down the pros and cons of these 2 types of weed killers.
Liquid Vs. Granular Weed Killer
What Prices are Being Used in the Comparison?
I will use Green Giant’s prices only because I know what they are. However, most lawn care companies in our area in southern Pennsylvania have similar pricing.
I will use Scott’s 4-Step Turf Builder program for the Do-It-Yourself comparison because Scott’s program is one of the most popular and well-known brands (for a good reason – it can work very well). And, since Scott’s products are sold on a retail level, we can easily find their prices.
Scott’s products come in different sized bags for different sized lawns. For example, Scott’s has a 40.5 lb. bag for a 15,000 square foot lawn and a 13.58 lb. bag for a 5,000 square foot lawn for their Step-1 application. When I refer to a “5,000 square foot bag,” I am referring to the square footage that the material is intended to cover (a 5,000 square foot lawn, in this example).
Here we go…
We will use a 10,000 square foot lawn (about 1-quarter of an acre) for the price comparison because this is a very common lawn size:
The 1st application of the season includes crabgrass preventer and fertilizer. This is true for both Scott’s Step-1 “Turf Builder Plus Halts” product and almost all programs provided by professional lawn care companies.
So, What’s the Difference?
- The amount of crabgrass preventer that is applied to your lawn
- How well the crabgrass preventer works.
Crabgrass preventer is also called “pre-emergent” because it kills the crabgrass before it grows, “emerges,” into a mature plant. This is important because it is harder and more expensive to get rid of crabgrass after it has “emerged” – meaning, after it has grown into a mature plant.
While it is unlikely Ben Franklin was thinking about lawn care, the saying does apply to a lot of things – even crabgrass removal!
The Amount of Crabgrass Preventer Matters
If you use a 10,000 square foot bag of Scott’s “Turf Builder Plus Halts” on a 10,000 square foot lawn, you will be applying the lowest recommended rate of application. With the 15,000 square foot bag, you will be applying the higher rate, which will provide better results (and will be more comparable to a professional lawn care company). So, we will price this application using Scott’s 15,000 square foot bag – this is your “ounce of prevention.”
Does Scott’s use the Best Crabgrass Preventer?
Scott’s uses a material called Pendimethalin (or ‘Pendi’ for short). The label for all Pendimethalin products I have ever seen (except Scott’s) recommends, “Apply(ing)a repeat application after 5 – 8 weeks” for better crabgrass control. Pendi will definitely work better with two applications, spaced “5 – 8 weeks” apart. However, the Scott’s 4-step program only provides for one crabgrass preventer application (which is in their Step-1).
Also, Pendi is considered to be less effective by many lawn care professionals and others in the industry. With good, healthy turf that is mowed at the right height and frequency, Pendi can do a good job, but it should to be applied twice.
The reason we do not use Pendimethalin at Green Giant is that we guarantee our crabgrass control with our full lawn care package. If a customer gets our crabgrass services and ends up with crabgrass in their lawn, we will come back and treat the crabgrass at no charge. This costs us money in labor and materials, so we go with what we believe is the best product whenever we provide a lawn spray service.
What do Lawn Companies Spray on Lawns?
The two types of crabgrass preventers that most lawn care professionals choose are Prodiamine (brand name Barricade) and Dithiopyr (brand name Dimension). Each of these have their pluses and minuses,/ but, in my experience, both are much better at controlling crabgrass than Pendi. While no product can prevent all crabgrass seeds from growing into a big ugly weed, these two products give you the best chance to avoid this nasty weed.
To be fair, Scott’s also has a guarantee. Scott’s “No Quibble Guarantee” states that they will refund your money if you are unhappy. However, Scott’s will not do the work to treat the crabgrass or provide the material that will kill crabgrass actively growing in your yard.
Also, to be fair to other lawn care companies, Green Giant’s guarantee is not unusual – most reputable lawn care companies in our area provide the same guarantee.
Price for Scott’s Step-1: $67.99 +tax
Price for Green Giant’s 1st application: $66.00
Learn more about crabgrass.
What is Crabgrass and Why is it Bad for my Lawn?
Step-2 of Scott’s lawn care program includes fertilizer and broadleaf weed control (broadleaf weeds include dandelion, clover, oxalis, and many others).
Scott’s weed control in the Step-2 bag is a dry, granular material, blended in with the fertilizer. The problem with dry weed control is that it can just roll off the weed, leading to disappointing results. For weed control to work, it has to stay in contact with the weed. If possible, apply this material when your lawn is wet – this will help the weed control stick to the weeds.
Most professional lawn care companies use a liquid spray for weed control. The spray hits the weeds and, once it dries, it will not come off – even in the rain. Also, most lawn care companies will treat broadleaf weeds multiple times throughout the growing season. Scott’s 4-Step program only provides for one weed control application.
To compare “apples to apples” for weed control, you will want to also purchase a liquid to spray (which Scott’s sells) to treat weeds that are not controlled by the dry weed control.
To cover the entire 10,000 square feet, you would need almost two of Scott’s 32 oz containers. But, since we expect that you would get some weed control with the dry material, we will assume only one container will be needed to spot treat weeds.
Scott’s 2nd Step Price:
Fertilizer with dry weed control: $81.48 +tax
(We could not find a Scott’s bag for a 10,000 square foot yard online, so we will price this using two 5,000 square foot bags. Each bag costs $40.74 +tax)
Liquid Weed Control: $17.98 +tax
Total for Scott’s Step-2 treatment: $99.46 +tax
Total for Green Giant’s price: $66.00 +tax
Scott’s Step-3 includes fertilizer and an insecticide that controls surface-feeding insects. At this time of year, Green Giant will provide broadleaf weed control and fertilizer. We do not believe it is environmentally friendly to spread insecticide when there may not even be any surface feeding insects in the lawn. These types of insects can be seen and identified because they are on the surface. This contrasts with sub-surface insects (such as grubs) that are not visible, and a preventative treatment is considered a good practice.
Scott’s Price: $52.96
Two 5,000 square foot bags are needed. Each bag costs $26.48 from Lowes
Green Giant’s price: $66.00
We are about $13 more expensive, but we include a liquid weed control with all of our applications as needed. And, remember, we will be doing the work, and we will come back at no charge if there is a problem.
Scott’s Step-4 only includes fertilizer. Green Giant (and most professional lawn care companies) will also include weed control.
Scott’s price: $59.78 +tax
Two 5,000 square foot bags at $29.89 comes to $59.78
Green Giant’s price: $66.00
- What happens if a DIY lawn care doesn’t work? The Do-It-Yourselfer either goes through the entire process again or lives with the results.
- Organic-based fertilizer – The Scott’s fertilizers mentioned in this article do not include any organic material. Green Giant includes a percentage of organic matter in our fertilizer blends whenever possible. For example, in most of our applications, our fertilizer is about 50% organic material.
- Lawn Care companies are responsible for their work. If there is a problem with a treatment, we pay the price – not the customer. It just takes a phone call, text message, or email for a customer to let us know they have some weeds popping up in between our applications for us to dispatch a technician to treat the weeds – at no cost to the customer.
Because of this, we put all of our technicians through a rigorous, month-long training program and have weekly training sessions that all lawn technicians are required to attend.
- How many people have a lawn that is the exact size of what is in a Scott’s bag? I have seen bags for 2,500, 5,000, and 15,000 square feet. If you have, say, an 8,000 square foot lawn, you will have to buy a 10,000 square foot bag and then store it where pets and children can’t get into it.
- Lawn Care Companies can provide additional services, such as Aeration with Over-seeding, Lime applications, and specialty products to treat weeds like nutsedge.
Green Giant Home & Commercial’s Lawn Care services control weeds, build the thickness and density of your lawn and protect it from being damaged by insects and disease, providing you with a great-looking, healthy lawn. We offer fertilization, weed control, liming, insect control, and aeration and overseeding. Visit our Lawn Care page for more information.
Green Giant performs: Proper Diagnosis and Treatment of Tree & Shrub Problems, Insect & Disease Control (including Spotted Lanternfly), and Nutrient Management via Deep Root Fertilization to keep your plants healthy and thriving. Visit our Tree Care page for more information.
Green Giant’s Non-Lawn Weed Control services eliminate unwanted vegetation in a wide variety of locations for both residential and large commercial/municipal properties. Areas include fence lines, around obstacles to reduce weed eating, stone/gravel driveways & parking lots, swales, roadside/curbside vegetation management and more. Find more information, visit our Vegetation Management page.
Our full service pest control division provides both Year-Round Service Programs that cover the vast majority of pests that you will encounter and also One-Time Corrective Services for pests such as bees, ants, termites or mice. For more information, visit our Pest Control page.