A lawn-spraying business that treats grass with fertilizer or pesticides can be a great opportunity, but you'll need to carefully research your local market. State requirements and those of the Environmental Protection Agency will likely mean that you will need a license, particularly if you're going to use pesticides that are restricted for professional use only.
Start With Your Business Plan
A business plan is always important, but for a lawn-spraying business, it's absolutely critical to do this first. The types of services you offer and the chemicals that you use will have far-reaching implications for your business when it comes time to register.
Begin by researching your market and find out what other companies currently offer, the prices they charge and how you can distinguish your business from theirs. Talk to potential customers, do surveys if possible and determine the local demand for lawn-care services. Investing a few dollars in an industry report will give you insights on this business sector as well.
Once you decide on the types of sprays you will use, you will need to find distributors or wholesalers. Above all, ensure that you will be able to get a license to provide these services. In some states, you may need to put your plans on hold or modify them until you qualify for licensing.
EPA and State Requirements for Handling Chemicals
The Environmental Protection Agency and state governments restrict the sale of many commercial pesticides (including herbicides) to the general public, meaning you will need a license from the state before you can use them. If you plan to use any of these chemicals — known as restricted-use pesticides, or RUPs — you will need to write an exam at the very least.
In some states, like Florida, you are ineligible to write the Pest Control Operator Certification exam unless you have three years of experience working for a licensed company in Florida. At least one of these years must be the year immediately preceding your application. The exam fee was $300 in 2019, and the business registration fee was an additional $300.
Additional Requirements for Commercial Lawn Spraying
In some states, handling RUPs is just one requirement you will need to consider. In Wisconsin, for example, if you use fertilizers, you will need to get a fertilizer license, even if you just mix fertilizer with water before applying it to a lawn.
As another example, Ohio has several different license requirements depending on the type of work you do. Anyone using RUPs on his own land, such as a farmer, requires one kind of license, while a business working with pesticides may need one or more of the following licenses:
- Commercial Pesticide Applicator License: For the business owner and each person in the company who applies pesticides on other people's properties
- Pesticide Business and Business Location License: For any company that applies pesticides to other people's properties
- Pesticide Solicitation Business License: For companies that work as sales agents for a company applying pesticides but doesn't actually apply them themselves
- Pesticide Dealer License: For distributors of RUPs
- Pesticide Product Registration: For any pesticides you may produce yourself, including both general and restricted pesticides
Like any other business, you'll need to register your business with your local government and state government. If you plan to hire employees, you will need an employer identification number from the IRS, and you'll need to register for payroll taxes in your state. If your state has a sales tax, you'll likely need to register for this as well, but keep in mind that the laws may be a bit different than for other services.
In Ohio, applying chemicals or watering or fertilizing grass, shrubs or other flora constitutes a landscaping and lawn-care service. Unlike some other businesses, you only need to register for sales tax if you have sales each year of $5,000 or more. In the year you reach this threshold, you will be required to charge sales tax to your customers and remit the tax to the state.
You will also need liability insurance and have a place to store chemicals in a safe manner as required by state law. You will need a vehicle such as a pickup truck and commercial insurance for that vehicle.
- Ohio Department of Taxation: Landscaping, Lawn Care, and Snow Removal
- Environmental Protection Agency: Revised Certification Standards for Pesticide Applicators
- Environmental Protection Agency: How to Get Certified as a Pesticide Applicator
- Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services: Pest Control Licensing and Certification
- State of Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection: Fertilizer Requirements for Lawncare Firms
A published author, David Weedmark has advised businesses on technology, media and marketing for more than 20 years and used to teach computer science at Algonquin College. He is currently the owner of Mad Hat Labs, a web design and media consultancy business. David has written hundreds of articles for newspapers, magazines and websites including American Express, Samsung, Re/Max and the New York Times' About.com.