When those weeds get waist-high, there's no denying it: You need to get a lawn mower.

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If you rent your home, chances are yard care is the responsibility of your landlord or property manager. But if you own your home, you don't have it so easy.

Whether you have sprawling acres of lawn or a patch of grass, you have two options when it comes to caring for your lawn and garden: Hire help, or do it yourself. If you opt for the latter, choosing the right lawn mower will be important (unless you happen to have a generous neighbor who lets you borrow hers). We have a lot more to say about choosing the right lawn mower, but first, here are a few tips for those of you who fall outside the DIY party.

Lawn care service companies' pricing depends on a number of factors, including plot size, intensity of work required and what market you live in. Typically, the most bare, basic services cost approximately $30 per week in small towns. Trimming, raking and other add-on services will cost more. Big cities across the country are a different story. In metropolises, yards tend to be smaller and, therefore, cheaper to maintain, but labor costs more. This means professional service providers in urban areas can be more or less expensive than those in rural locales.

Shop around and compare a few companies before choosing one. Know what's included in the standard program, that program's annual cost and the type and cost of optional services available. Ohio State University's Horticulture and Crop Sciences recommends asking the following questions before hiring a lawn service company:

  • How much fertilizer is applied annually?
  • Does the company apply nitrogen fertilizers?
  • Are spray or granular fertilizers used?
  • What does the company guarantee about its service?
  • Does it provide any kind of lawn care education to the homeowner?
  • Is the lawn and garden service flexible -- and is the level of service worth the cost?

While all lawns may seem relatively the same in nature, they can have quite different needs when it comes to care. If you decide to pass on professional help and go it alone after doing all this due diligence, then this article is for you. First, you'll need to determine what features your lawn mower should have in order to keep your cultivated area looking its best. Find out on the next page.