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Posted November 16, 2018 | 7:18 AM

Need Help in the Yard?

Do some groundwork before hiring a landscape professional

Is Florida's lengthy growing season wearing you down?

Thinking about hiring professionals to maintain the lawn, apply fertilizer or pesticides, or install an irrigation system?

Lawn maintenance and landscape design are thriving businesses in Hillsborough County. But before laying down your pruning shears and writing a check, make sure you've specified exactly what needs to be done and confirm the professionals you are considering are certified and licensed to do the work.

Hillsborough County's UF/IFAS Extension can help. Here are some of the services its commercial horticulture expert says you might be seeking:

  • Mowing, edging, and trimming
  • Pest control
  • Fertilization or correction of nutrient deficiencies
  • Turfgrass maintenance or replacement
  • Care of trees and shrubs
  • Installation of irrigation and water conservation devices
  • Drainage improvements
  • Landscape design

All residents should be familiar with their local government's fertilizer-use and landscape maintenance regulations. They vary, even within Hillsborough County. Use of fertilizers containing nitrogen and phosphorous, for example, are banned in Tampa and restricted in some surrounding counties and municipalities during the rainy season, from June 1 through Sept. 30. These fertilizers are not banned in unincorporated Hillsborough County.

All local governments prohibit leaving fertilizer, grass clippings, and other vegetation on solid surfaces such as driveways and sidewalks. The debris can wash into gutters and down storm drains, and flow into water bodies.

Thoroughly vet landscape companies before hiring them. Make sure they have required business, pesticide, and fertilizer licenses, liability insurance, and required permits.

You also might ask how long a company has been in business, the range of services it is qualified to provide, and the ratio of employees to supervisors.

Lean toward companies that have professional certifications or are members of trade associations. Landscapers with Green Industry Best Management Practices and Florida Horticulture Professional certifications are more likely to use environmentally sustainable methods such as Florida-Friendly Landscaping™, which favors the use of low-maintenance plants and water conservation.

Carefully read any contract or other written agreement before signing it. Such documents should specify what services will be provided and how often, and what will happen if your expectations are not met.

Extension has programs for horticulture professionals to learn best management practices, receive training to qualify for licenses and certifications, and keep up with the latest information in their areas of interest.

For more information, contact UF/IFAS Extension online, or call (813) 744-5519.

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