Thinking of Hiring a Lawn Care Service this Spring? Read this First!

Tracy E. Outlaw
Public Information Director, Regulatory Services

With the past few weeks of freezing temperatures and wintry mixes, the last thing on our minds is lawn care and gardening. But spring is just around the corner, and many of us may decide to use a professional lawn care service to help give our yards a head start.

If you are thinking about hiring a lawn care service to help control insects, weeds, or plant diseases in your lawn or garden, the Clemson University Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) urges you to make sure you hire a service that is licensed in S.C. Category 3, Turf & Ornamental Pest Control.

“Using non-chemical methods such as biological, environmental, or mechanical controls is the preferred and most environmentally-friendly means of getting rid of lawn and garden pests,” said Rusty Wilson, field specialist for DPR. “But sometimes they're not enough, or there just isn't a non-chemical solution to getting your landscape back on track. When chemicals have to be applied, it's important to make sure the applicator is trained, licensed, and legal.”

Wilson said that since 2005 he and the rest of the DPR's field staff across the state have been actively spreading the word about the changes in the pesticide laws.

“I think we've done a good job,” said Wilson. “I meet very few people in this industry who aren't aware that they need a license.”

The law requires that anyone who applies herbicides, insecticides, or other pesticides to commercially- or privately-owned turf, landscapes, or ornamental plantings for compensation on someone else's property must have a pesticide applicator’s license and be covered by a minimum amount of liability insurance. “Like most of what we do, it's a consumer and environmental protection issue,” added Wilson.

Cam Lay, assistant department head for DPR, agrees. “The level of technology and chemistry in this industry has increased dramatically, and so has the need for training and competency standards. Our licensing process makes sure that the person treating your lawn understands the risks and gets the job right the first time.”

According to DPR, many lawn care services have chosen either to forego the chemical application parts of their business or hire it out to a licensed applicator. Mowing, raking, pruning, and other non-chemical services do not require a pesticide license.

Licenses can be verified on the DPR website at All lawn care professionals who are licensed by the Department of Pesticide Regulation are required to have a yellow departmental decal on each side of their vehicle. Any lawn care service employee who applies herbicides, insecticides, or other pesticides must either be licensed or working under the direct supervision of the service's licensee.

Truck with a yellow Department of Pesticide Regulation decal

Truck with the required Department of Pesticide Regulation decal
Tracy E. Outlaw, Clemson Regulatory Services

DPR offers the following tips when selecting a lawn care company:

  • Call the department’s main office at 864.646.2150 to learn whether a service has a history of violations or visit the online enforcement history database at
  • Get several bids from different lawn care services. Bids are usually free.
  • Ask friends and neighbors to recommend a service.
  • Trust your instincts! If the individual or service you are dealing with does not treat you with courtesy and professionalism, find someone else!


The Department of Pesticide Regulation has 15 field specialists in eight offices across South Carolina. Visit their web site at to find the field office nearest you.

For other considerations when selecting a lawn care company, see the Home & Garden Information Center fact sheet, HGIC 1222, Selecting a Lawn Care Service.

Page maintained by: Home & Garden Information Center

This information is supplied with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and no endorsement by the Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service is implied. All recommendations are for South Carolina conditions and may not apply to other areas. Use pesticides only according to the directions on the label. All recommendations for pesticide use are for South Carolina only and were legal at the time of publication, but the status of registration and use patterns are subject to change by action of state and federal regulatory agencies. Follow all directions, precautions and restrictions that are listed.