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Lawns are the canvas upon which our landscapes are created. They provide living walkways, play areas for the family, energy savings and environmental benefits by capturing soil and water, preventing it from entering our waterways.

But limited time and environmental concerns often prevent homeowners from growing a green healthy lawn. If this is your challenge, consider hiring a lawn care professional to lend a helping hand.

Start shopping for a professional lawn care service now. Allow sufficient time to find the best company for your needs. Plus, quality companies are in demand and fill their schedules before the growing season begins.

Look for a company whose mission matches your landscape goals. They should work with you and not try to pigeonhole you into a program that works best for them.

Select a company that shares your environmental concerns. If eco-friendly is your goal, look for a company like Kanavas Landscape Management, Inc. (kanavaslandscape.com) that uses slow-release fertilizers, spot treats weeds at the proper time, and uses the most ecofriendly products available.

Make sure the company you choose works to build the overall health and longevity of your lawn. Growing and nurturing a healthy lawn means fewer weeds, insect and disease problems. A quality company encourages you to leave clippings on the lawn to add moisture, nutrients and organic matter to the soil. And they recommend aeration only if it is needed to control thatch and soil compaction which can reduce the health and quality of your lawn.

Visit their website to find out more about the company, their employees and mission. Check the credentials and training of the company and its employees. Employees should be experienced and trained as well as certified and licensed applicators. Companies involved with professional organizations like the Wisconsin Landscape Contractors Association invest in their profession, the company and employees to stay up to date on the latest trends and techniques.

Review references and testimonials. Companies with satisfied customers will have a high retention rate. Look at portfolios of completed jobs, photo galleries on their website and testimonials from clients.

Make certain the company is insured. If a problem arises, you need to make sure everyone is covered.

Most importantly, when comparing bids, make sure the companies are equally qualified and providing all the same services and long-term benefits in the bid. The cheapest bid may not give you the results you want and it could even cost you more in the long run.

Use this checklist when selecting a lawn care professional. Once you find your match, you can start planning fun activities to fill the time you save tending your lawn.

Gardening expert Melinda Myers is the author or more than 20 gardening books, including Small Space Gardening and the Midwest Gardener’s Handbook. She hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything: Food Gardening For Everyone” DVD set and the nationally-syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment TV & radio program. Myers is a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine. Her website is melindamyers.com

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