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  • Nonprofit and independent
  • Takes no advertising or referral fees
  • Ratings and reviews by surveyed Consumers' Checkbook and Consumer Reports local subscribers
  • Undercover price comparisons
  • Complaint counts from local consumer agencies and attorney general offices
  • Advice to help you get the best service and value

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Methods and Limitations

Since most garden centers buy—rather than raise—most of what they sell, there is room for tremendous variation in buying ability and buying standards. The opinions we collected from consumers on garden centers reflect this big variation in quality.

Healthy though they appear most of the time, on occasion your trees might become shady characters, done in—and perhaps ultimately brought down—by disease or damage or both. We advise you on how to choose a tree care professional.

Once you have chosen a company that can do the work well, price becomes your primary consideration. Our undercover shoppers found huge company-to-company price differences for the same work.

You don’t have to be an expert to spot many potential tree problems. Like most plants, trees have ways of indicating distress. Examine your trees several times a year for the following...

Kermit the Frog once crooned “It’s Not Easy Being Green.” If you have a lawn, you can relate: It’s not easy keeping things green. Here's how to plot a course, whether you call in the pros or go it alone.

The proposals Checkbook's undercover shoppers get from lawn care services rarely agree on identification of weed species, presence of disease, need to correct soil acidity, and recommendations on core aeration.

Lawn care services work with different products and techniques, but the results they promise are similar. Companies usually offer customers a selection of “packages” that include specified treatment plans to take place over the course of a year.