How Misdiagnosing Lawn Problems Can Cost You Money And What To Do About It

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  • Many lawn care companies misdiagnose your lawn problem which costs you more money

  • Finding the right lawn care company

  • Know some lawn care basics to avoid unnecessary costs / upsells

There is a wide number of problems your lawn could be experiencing ranging from major to minor, easy fixes. Unfortunately, though, there are a lot of people who are more than happy to make a problem out bigger than it actually is in order to get an upsell. If something seems off, you are entitled to get another quote. There are a number of common problems that are easy to treat.

One of the most common “ugly” practices that I see in the lawn care business is technicians and operators misdiagnosing lawn problems which can lead to a very (un)eco-friendly solution.

Here is the situation: You hire a local lawn fertilization company to come out and treat your lawn 5-6 times per season.

They come to do the treatment and (hopefully) are really paying attention to your property. They see a brown (or dead) spot in the lawn and they think one thing - cha ching…$$ ...upsell opportunity. They knock and tell you that you have grubs, billbugs, and a fungus problem and if you do not take care of it right away, you may risk losing your entire lawn (they use fear to sell).

The price is going to be 2 times your normal application price for each service. So, if your normal lawn visit for fertilizing and spraying weeds is $50 it will be $100 for the fungus and $100 for the insect control.

At this point you are so worried about your lawn that you sign up for anything they recommend to stop the problem and protect your lawn. They report to their office they had a $200 upsell today and they get their 10% commision. They then grab the fungicide and insecticide off the truck and cover the entire lawn (or they schedule to have someone else come back out shortly) with a product that will kill off all of the apparent nasty evil insects and fungi: It’s a win win and everyone is happy, right? Well not exactly…

Here are some of the problems with this common situation:

  • The diagnosis may have been incorrect.

  • You likely spent $200 you didn’t need to spend.

  • The impact of covering the entire lawn with insecticide and fungicide could be very negative.

  • Your lawn company could be motivating technicians to be mini salesmen who feel they need to upsell and earn a commission.

I am not suggesting that you should question everything your lawn company recommends, but you need to be educated enough so that if this situation happens (and it will) you can know enough to make a wise decision. Unfortunately, with over 20 years in this industry, I have seen this happen so many times that I cannot count.

For me, having a client spend money on something they do not need is wrong and bad business. Applying insecticide and fungicides when they are not needed or applying them in areas that do not need them is harmful to the environment and just not smart. This is a dirty practice that makes our industry look bad and needs to be stopped. I would like to provide a few tips and some useful information to help avoid these situations and clean things up a little bit.

Find the Right Service

If you are hiring a lawn company, good for you! It is a great thing to take pride in your home and your property and to make things look the best that you can. This does not excuse you from what they do on the property, though. Make sure to research the company that you hire. Look at their core values, go through their website, and make sure you can feel good about hiring them.

If you are only looking at the cost then the above situation will happen much more than you think. Be sure to ask questions like, are you mindful and smart with the applications? Are your technicians trained and experienced? Do you try to use the most eco-friendly products and solutions possible?

Know Some Lawn Basics

Learn a few things about the most common lawn problems in our area. You don’t need to become a lawn care expert, but having a little knowledge can help you immensely. Here are a few things I wish all lawn owners knew, so that they could recognize problems when they develop.

This may change depending on the region and type of soil and grass you have, but here are a few overall tips that may be helpful.

Dog Damage  

The green outer ring received less urine and is acting more like fertilizer, thus causing a dark green and rapid growth. It is also common to see the green ring around dog feces that have been left on the lawn for several days.

Again, this is related to the nutrients leaching into the soil. There is not a lot that can be done from a product standpoint. There are products on the market that you can feed your dog to neutralize their urine, but I would not recommend that. There are also some products you can spray on the spot as soon as your pet is done going to the bathroom, but they are tricky because you need to be out there right away.

Although there’s not much that can be done right now, they are testing some new products so I will be researching them.

Fungus Damage

Notice how irregular and bizarre these shapes are. Normally (here in Utah) you will see fungus damage show from early summer to early fall. There are many different types of lawn fungus so it helps to know which kind you have so that you can treat it with the correct product. Not all fungus are created and treated equal.

Drought or Dry spot

The lawn can become stressed from heat to drought. And here in Utah we are so high in elevation that it can be hard to keep a lawn from getting dry. If you see this, the first thing I would do is check all sprinkler heads and make sure you visually can see each area getting hit. You may need to increase your sprinkler time. There are also products like “Revive” and other organic soil conditioners that can help it bounce back.

There are quite a few different lawn problems but my goal here was to make you aware of a few of the most common ones and have you think before you just sign up for services. Over the years, I have been to many properties where someone saw one grub and they wanted the entire lawn treated.

The truth is, if you see a grub or a few it’s okay. There are all kinds of insects in your soil. It’s an ecosystem, they work together to keep things in balance and check. When you plaster insecticide across your lawn, you may be doing more damage than good in the long run. You may be killing thousands of beneficial insects. If you receive a diagnosis from a lawn care company be sure to check for the following:

  1. Make sure to have the correct diagnosis.

  2. Treat it correctly with the least amount of excess and impact.

  3. Weigh out all the options.

  4. Look for organic and eco-friendly solutions to these problems.


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