If you are going to hire a lawn care professional, check to see if the company provides Integrated Pest Management (IPM) services. An IPM approach to managing your lawn will require time and commitment from you and your lawn care professional. The end result however should lead to a healthy, natural lawn with a reduction in the lawn’s chemical needs or dependency. This section will help you choose a company that performs IPM and will also provide you with information on basic hiring practices.
Selecting the lawn care professional
If the company has not seen your lawn, it is impossible to decide what it will or will not need. The professional should provide you with a plan based specifically on your yard, your needs and your expectations. Because IPM is site specific, no company can provide you with a price over the phone. Ask about the price system and what services are included. Because IPM requires monitoring to check the health of the yard, a company may offer a service contract for a period of time. Check to see if the lawn care professional is involved with any groups such as the Massachusetts Nursery and Lawn Care Association or Massachusetts Association of Lawn Care Professionals. Many companies affiliated with these types of groups have extensive training and are up to date on the new developments in the field.
If pesticide use is part of the plan, the professional must be licensed with the State Pesticide Bureau and carry insurance. Check for a license and certificate of insurance to ensure that they possess the requirements to do business as a lawn care company. Also check the background of the company for complaints, prior violations or investigations. Call the Better Business Bureau or the Pesticide Bureau. Contact information is provided in the Where to Get More Information section.
Discuss your expectations
You must be realistic about your expectations for your lawn and fully understand what an IPM plan entails. IPM involves the use of common sense methods to prevent and minimize pest problems. Maintaining a healthy lawn, that is not completely dependent on chemicals, is the key to IPM. Healthy plants with adequate nutrients are better able to resist attacks from insects and diseases. It is not necessary to kill every insect, weed or disease organism to have a healthy yard. The presence of a few pests does not always mean that a pesticide treatment is necessary. The pest management professional will determine whether the pests are present at a level from which damage can result. For more detailed information on tolerance levels refer to the Commonly Encountered Pests section.
Evaluate the health of the lawn and determine its needs
An IPM approach to lawn maintenance will start with an overall evaluation by the professional of the health of the lawn. This involves an inspection of grass type, soil, thatch, weeds, insects, nutrient needs and overall health. With a map, you and your lawn care professional can target the areas that need work.
Perform a soil test
A soil test is an important component of any evaluation of your yard. It gives you information about the existing nutrient levels within the soil and helps provides a blueprint of what needs to be done in order to improve the lawns condition.
Monitoring is essential for a successful IPM program. Your lawn care professional should monitor, or show you how to monitor, for pest problems. Early identification of problems is an essential part of IPM. Refer to the Commonly Encountered Pests section.
Use appropriate control measures
Controls should not be scheduled. If you are following IPM, chemical control methods should only be used when a pest has reached an unacceptable level.