Help Squad: Here’s the dirt on lawn, landscape care

It’s been covered with snow for the past five or six months, but now that your lawn and landscaping are in full view again, it’s time to think about getting them ready for summer.

But how much do you know about fertilizers and weed killers? Are they safe? How do you know which types are effective for your yard?

Help Squad reached out to Dr. Aaron Hager, associate professor in crop sciences and weed science Specialist at the University of Illinois, who gave us the dirt.

• There are certain elements required by all plants and many can be supplied by the soil, but overtime, there can be deficiencies in these elements, causing a need for fertilizers. If you have deficiencies and you choose not to fertilize, the plants may never reach their full growth potential, or they could die.

• Weed killers, also known as herbicides are pesticides, are used to kill unwanted plants that can grow in your sidewalks, driveway, garden or grass. There are several different types of weed killers, so be careful in what you select. Some are broad spectrum and others are more specific in what they kill.

• All herbicides used in the U.S. go through extensive tests by the EPA and the industry is highly regulated. Therefore, if you use the products according to their directions, they are safe.

So, should you hire a landscaper to do the job, or head to Home Depot and do it yourself? What are the advantages of having your yard treated professionally and what’s the cost difference? For these answers, we talked to Highland Park-based landscaper, Gary Bregman, whose company, Bregman Landscape Group has been treating yards on the North Shore for more than two decades.

 

5 tips in treating your yard this spring:

1. Timing is important. Lawns and landscaping should be treated four times during the season, and Bregman recommends spacing it out. He suggests two applications in the spring, a summer application and a late fall or early winter application.

2. Be careful to use the right amount of the product. Using too much can burn your lawn and applying too little will prevent you from getting the desired effect. Professional landscapers have equipment that is calibrated to put down the intended amount.

3. Different lawns require different types of fertilizers and pesticides. In other words, what’s right for one yard might not be right for another. Choosing the right product is based on the type of grass, how much sun the lawn gets, and if the property has an irrigation system affecting how much water it’s getting. Bregman said certain landscapers use the same product on every lawn, so make sure to ask if the project will be customized.

4. Small jobs, such as treating minimal driveway cracks that have some growth, or spot spraying your dandelions and clovers can be done easily using store bought products. Just make sure you always wear gloves while handling the products, and don’t treat the areas on days when the weather is extremely hot or when there are high winds.

5. The average cost of each treatment of either fertilizer or herbicides done by a landscaper is $65-85. A bag of Vigora Lawn Fertilizer from Home Depot that will fertilize 5,000 square feet costs $12.78. A 32 ounce spray bottle of Spectracide Weed Stop costs $9.47.

 

Need help?

Did a utilities company overcharge you? Did a boutique deny your request for a return? Are you the victim of fraudulent business practices? Is someone just exhibiting bad business behavior? Let Help Squad make the call for you. Send your letters, your complaints, your injustices and your story ideas to HelpSquad@pioneerlocal.com and we will be happy to help you.

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