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Does your homeowners association (HOA) have defined landscape guidelines to set expectations for the contractors you hire to care for your grounds? When is the last time you reviewed those rules—if you have any in place at all?

In many cases, HOAs tend to go all or nothing with landscaping guidelines. Their rules are either detailed with an extensive scope of work, or there are no written maintenance recommendations at all.

homeowners association landscape guidelines

There is a middle ground. We suggest a concise yet specific set of landscaping guidelines that addresses all critical maintenance points and aligns with your HOA’s goals for the property.

Believe it or not, there is such thing as too much detail. For example, guidelines that specify mowing twice weekly and 15 rounds of fertilization annually—well, that’s too much cutting and way too much chemical application. On the other hand, some guidelines can miss the boat by neglecting to specify maintenance needs like pruning or managing debris. (See what we mean? It’s all or nothing with the rules.)

So, how do you strike a balance of providing direct, detailed instructions to a landscape contractor without complicating the bidding process and driving up cost? (Trust us, you don’t want to pay for twice weekly mowing and umpteen fertilizer applications.)

Here is your roadmap for creating HOA landscape guidelines that will cover all the key maintenance bases, while staying focused on budget, quality and results. Be sure to cover these 5 landscaping tasks in your landscaping rules to set a high standard for property maintenance on your HOA grounds.

#1 Weekly Mow, Edge & Blow

In Georgia, commercial properties including HOAs require weekly mowing to keep lawns healthy and attractive. If your landscape contractor suggests bi-weekly mowing, think twice about signing that contract. When we care for properties every two weeks, we must spend just as much time on the grounds as if we had visited weekly. Plus, the work becomes more of a cleanup project because of excessive growth and buildup of debris. Things just get messy if landscape maintenance only happens every other week.


On the other hand, mowing twice a week is too much. You’ll pay more for labor, and your lawn really will not gain any benefit from the extra visit.

Beyond maintenance should include edging and blowing grass clippings and leaves out of beds and off of walkways.

#2 Attention To Detail: Picking Up Debris

Some HOA landscaping guidelines neglect to address debris on the property and who’s going to pick it up. We believe the landscape contractor should take ownership of removing debris from the property. That includes trash that collects in drainage grates and along curbs, and green waste like clippings and other “stuff” Mother Nature deposits on the grounds. (Depending on the type of trees on your property, the grounds can get messy with dropping flowers, seedpods and leaves.)

#3 Regular Pruning—As Needed

pruning as neededSome shrubs require pruning more often than others. For example, azaleas are generally trimmed back once a year after they bloom. But fast-growing shrubs that might interfere with walkways or sight lines must be managed more frequently. First, be sure pruning is included in your landscape guidelines. Note that pruning should depend on the shrub/tree variety and what’s necessary to maintain optimum plant health and safety on your HOA property. Address rejuvenation pruning, as well.

#4 Appropriate Fertilization—Not Too Much, Not Too Little

You’d be surprised how often some HOA property managers believe their grounds must be fertilized to thrive here in Atlanta, Georgia. We have read some HOA guidelines that suggest fertilizing 10, 12 and even 15-plus times per year. That’s way too much fertilizer!

We recommend 4 to 5 fertilizer applications annually, and timing depends on the grass variety and time of year. For example, Bermuda grass goes dormant in winter so it requires very little maintenance at that time (fertilizer or mowing).

#5 Irrigation System Maintenance

commercial_irrigation_systems_design.jpgDon’t forget to address irrigation maintenance in your HOA landscaping guidelines. During the growing season when sprinkler systems are hard at work, you’ll likely need to adjust some watering times and possibly make some repairs to fix broken sprinkler heads, valves or other parts. Without figuring in these costs, you could quickly blow your landscape maintenance budget.

So, our advice is to ask your landscape contractor for an irrigation system assessment so you know what repairs might be coming down the pike. Discuss what annual maintenance will be required to keep it working efficiently and effectively. And be sure the landscaper is keeping up on irrigation maintenance so you can reduce water costs and keep your landscape healthy during the dry months.

How Do Your HOA Landscaping Rules Rate?

Talk to an experienced commercial landscape maintenance firm about the landscaping rules you have in place for your HOA and how they might be revised to improve the outcome of your service. We always spend time walking the property with facility/property managers to review the condition of turf, plants’ specific needs, irrigation system and other maintenance requirements. (Tip: Be sure to provide your landscape contractor with a map of your grounds so we understand boundary lines.) Then, we can discuss the HOA’s vision for the property and what level of landscape maintenance will achieve their goals.

In the meantime, be sure to conduct a thorough RFP process and vet landscape contractors who bid to maintain your HOA’s property. Ask for referrals and take the time to call those property managers who have landscapes similar to yours.

Let’s talk more about how you can create HOA landscaping guidelines that will get you the high-quality results you desire. Call us any time at 678.298.0550, or fill out this simple contact form and we’ll get in touch with you.


Last modified: September 8, 2016

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