How to choose a lawn care service

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Did the mowing, trimming, weeding, leaf blowing, and raking of summer yard work do you in? Are you thinking about hiring a service to do it all?

Now is the time to shop for a lawn care service. Consumer Reports shares some tips on finding the right one.

Fall is a great time to start assessing these services. But before you commit to spending hundreds of dollars a month, CR says take a look around your yard to get an idea about what you actually need from a lawn care service.

It's a good idea to ask friends and neighbors for recommendations and references. And be sure to ask companies you're considering certain questions. Do the employees have formal training or experience in lawn care? Are they licensed? (That may be a requirement in your state. In California, a landscaping contractor license (C-27) is required.)

An easy thing you can do is go online. A lot of states have resources to find out if a company is legitimate. And last, ask them if they're members of professional organizations. That'll give you a good idea of how serious they are about their trade.

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A reputable lawn care company can give your lawn a "health checkup" and create a customized plan for your property.

Make sure that they test the soil, checking its acidity, and that they look at your plants to determine if they're healthy and growing in the right conditions.

And get multiple bids detailing the recommended services for your lawn and how much each will cost.

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Another reason autumn is a great time to consider a lawn care service is that you can audition a company for fall cleanup, and if you like them, keep them onboard for spring and summer.

If you decide to take on your lawn yourself, investing in a top-performing lawn tractor will save you money over time. Consumer Reports recommends the John Deere E-160 for $2,300. It offers even cutting and excellent predicted reliability, and Consumer Reports surveys have found that its owners are extremely satisfied.

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