Landscaping Service: I Still Refuse to Pay for It

Our lawn is much more filled in than this now, but still patchy. At the right are weeds that had come back.

After a year of home ownership, our lawn is still looking anemic. Well, I’d rather that than the way I found it when we moved in, with 2-foot-tall weeds covering the front lawn. I pulled out all of the weeds last summer, which left our front lawn with nothing but dirt. I planted seeds and watered faithfully. The grass did eventually grow, but there’s still crabgrass, and other weeds are slowly making their way back into the fold. There’s clover, ivy, dandelions and some weeds that have little white (ugly) flowers. Just when I think I’ve got everything set, a new weed creeps its way onto the lawn.

And yes, I still refuse to spring for a landscaping service.

Why? Because I’m determined to get our lawn looking nice on my own. And I’m stubborn. And cheap. And frugal, and any other adjective you can think of that describes my unwillingness to part with money.

My brother was generous enough to give us a self-propelled lawnmower for a housewarming gift, and we use it. I also went out and bought a mid-level weedwacker, but that needs to be repaired (already) — the reel is stuck, and I need to remove it to refill the trimming line. I’ll have to see if my father-in-law has some vise grips.

So we’ve been pushing our lawnmower up and down this gosh-darned slope on our lawn. It’s not good for the grass, because the self-propelled motion of the mower tends to kick up dirt and burn up fragile grass.

I need to get some more grass seed to help fill in the patchy areas we still have. I had bought some “turf builder” that was supposed to kill some of the invading crab grass and weeds, but it’s super-clumpy and difficult to spread around properly. I’d really like to have some sort of ground cover on the sloped area of our front lawn, like our neighbors do, that doesn’t have to be mowed, but I’m not sure how to go about that without completely wrecking the lawn. Time to hit the Internet and do some research.

Am I an idiot for not letting a professional take care of our lawn? It does make our home stand out (negatively) on the block, since everyone else’s lawns are well-manicured and lush — or, at least, more presentable than ours. Saving money is still a priority for us, even though we’ve been in our home for a year, so I don’t feel too badly about it. But it still irks me!

26 comments to Landscaping Service: I Still Refuse to Pay for It

  • i love to relax on our garden lawn, it is quite pleasing out there ..

  • aj

    You have the right idea!
    We have lived in our house 6 years and I am slowly but surely getting it done bit by bit.
    But as we speak I have a huge flower garden at one of the house that has weeds so tall in it I can’t see the perennials that I know are in there somewhere…and there are 2X4′s setting out front just waiting for a time when both my husband & I can get back to constructing a simple flower garden & walkway in the front yard. But it can wait. And yes every time I see it all it irks me…but I know that when I am done I will be proud of it because we did it ourselves and very frugally.
    I am planning on collecting big flat rocks (my creek, my family’s farm, along country roads, at my friend’s grandpa’s house) to make a walkway. I love the natural rocks, and the price is just my time (or my husband’s ;) lugging them around. And most of my plants I get for free. People always have cuttings or sprouts coming up…my Dad is always giving me plants from his gardens. I want to have a nice looking landscaped yard but I am willing to be patient…I am learning as I go and eventually will get it all the way I envision it in my head!

  • Korey

    It seems to me the problem is that it’s a hill. Maybe you could put up a wall so that the ground is level. It would require bricks, mortar and dirt, but then you’d likely have success. Would that be cheaper? That would take some light number crunching.

    • Nicole

      Oh yes, the hill is the main issue. But we’d rather concentrate our spending on the interior of our home for the moment. Otherwise, a wall is definitely the best solution for the front yard.

  • I did it myself once… felt great, BUT, it doesn’t look as good as a pro’s. 3 years later, I’m gonna hire someone to create some levels and lights for me and I’ll pay up to $15,000 to do it. It’s worth it!

    • Nicole

      $15,000 for landscaping? Man, I’m going to hit you up when I need a loan, you’re rolling in it! ;)

      Seriously, though, since we’ve only been in our home for a year (and we don’t have much property, living in the NJ ‘burbs), I’m going to wait one more year to see how things look come next spring. Then I may pay for some professional help!

  • Yeah maybe just some pro advice may speed things up but if you can live with it then just keep at it…. and no I don’t think you are an idiot!

  • Red

    I don’t think you’re an “idiot.” But it may be worth it to see how much it would cost just to get everything growing, and then you could maintain the yard yourself. It’s one of the tough bits of home ownership for me to swallow because, on the one hand, I’d like a nice big yard with mature trees and lots of room to walk around. On the other hand, I do not want to spend my entire weekend caring for a giant yard! :)

  • Why not look into the cost of just getting you started? If it is “low” (whatever that may mean to you) why not just do it up for the first time set up? Then do the work yourself.

    • Nicole

      @Evan: I did have them do a cleanup, where they straightened everything out. If I can’t get grass to grow on the bare patches in a few weeks, I’ll see about a low-maintenance plan.

  • I totally know where you are coming from. My lawn is the same way, and I am going to go down kicking and screaming before I let it win (ie. it wins by looking awful). It is an ongoing battle, but I’m determined!

  • I like little house’s idea of finding alternatives. Use something easy like hostas that you can easily split and make a path or something so you have less lawn. Otherwise I would try to do some heavy reading and really try to figure out how to do it correctly yourself.

    • Nicole

      @Ryan: We really don’t have much lawn. Mainly, it’s that the front lawn is sloped at something like a 75-degree angle (no joke) and rises for about 5 feet, making it difficult to maintain grass. Now that I actually HAVE grass on the land this year, I’m going to weigh my options. Hostas are nice as accents — in fact, a neighbor a few blocks away sells them (and we have a nursery in the other direction). Thanks for the suggestion!

  • If you are willing to work on it, then you are being smart.

    Hubby and I aren’t willing to even mow, so we have a biweekly lawn service for mowing, edging, weeding, and cleanup for $25 every two weeks for 8 months a year.

    I say more power to you and I’m sure you’ll have a great lawn soonish! It’s not like a lawn service would be able to make grass grow any faster than you are anyway…

    • Nicole

      BITFS: That’s not a terrible price. I think I’m just being stubborn because *I* want to be the one that gets the grass to grow! Then someone else can take care of it. The other thing is that I do have the time to work on it. If I didn’t, then I’d probably be more open to paying a landscaper.

  • Donna

    We have been in our 1890 house for 14 years and still are working on our garden/lawn. Priority to me is grass, not a carpet! I like flowers as accents, not overgrown gigantic beds. It is all perspective. I will not spend my money on something I CAN do myself and get some exercise to boot!

  • I’m with you-I hate paying for that type of thing. (Although every once in a while it would sure be nice to have a housekeeper.) My theory is that if it’s green and mowed, it will pass as a lawn. Therefore, our “lawn” is in reality clipped crabgrass and clover. It works for me.

  • I think this is one where you should invest in your landscaping. To lay or seed the grass and get it set. From there, you can take it over. I think it would save in the long run. And save on frustration or neighborhood angst. ;)

  • You’re just smart! Have you checked out ideas for replacing your lawn with something low maintenance? I really love the Sunset magazine alternative lawn ideas. I know you live on the opposite coast as me, but I bet there are some great ground cover plants that would spruce up the yard and require less maintenance. Just a thought!

    • Nicole

      @Little House: That’s exactly what I’m thinking – ground cover! I wonder how long that will take to grow, lol. That’s the best solution for the time being. Eventually (10 years?) we want to put up a retaining wall and add fill to make it level and easier to manage.

  • danielle

    you’ve heard all the stories about my husband and how he can also be described with the same adjectives as yourself, and he springs for the landscaper. what he does differently than most in our neighborhood is he found a landscaper that didnt require us to sign a contract and will come every other week during peak time instead of weekly. So our lawn isnt AS well manicured, the off week during the summer looks a little like a corn field the grass gets so high, but it’s in better condition than if he attempted to do it himself.

    • Nicole

      @Danielle: Yes, I know which adjectives you’re talking about (although he could be even worse than me, haha). I *might* price out your husband’s idea (every other week), because Mr. Saver just isn’t an outdoor-maintenance kind of guy. I don’t mind tending to the flowerbeds, but the grass is a pain in the butt. It’s a shame, because we have the equipment we need to do it — that’s what really makes me not want to pay someone.

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