8 Landscaping Faux-Pas and How-to Avoid Them

Designing your own landscape is a tempting way to save money. How hard can it be? A trip to your local garden center, a spade, and some edging and that’s that. Right? 

Not exactly. 

Professional landscape designers see the same homeowner-inspired mistakes, over and over again. In fact, they are often hired to fix these mistakes. How much better would it be to give the matter some serious thought before planting anything, or even to hire a professional right out of the gate? 

Here are 8 of the most common landscape faux-pas and how to avoid them: 

1) Not having a plan. If you have a new home with minimal existing landscaping, having a plan is essential. Considerations include plant size at maturity, desired effect, seasonal habits, deer and pest resistance, and maintenance concerns. 

Solution: Before embarking on an extensive do-it-yourself landscape project, consider having a plan drawn up professionally; or at least do some research and adopt a plan from a book or magazine you trust. 

2) Planting shrubs too close to the foundation. Burning bushes and yews are the most common victims of this landscape error. Plant a shrub that is ten inches tall when you purchase it a foot away from your foundation and in a year or two you will have a unhappy giant pushing against the side of your house. No amount of pruning will fix that. 

Solution: Before planting anything against your foundation, take its mature size into consideration and space accordingly. 

3) Using too much, too little, or the wrong kind of mulch. White limestone is pretty in many applications but use it as a mulch and it will heat up and fry any plant it surrounds. 

Solution: Don’t use stone around plants and read up on mulching requirements. Too much mulch invites pests. Too little has no effect. 

4) Relying too heavily on sod. Green lawns are important on golf courses, but they are so hard to maintain that greens keepers need technical degrees to manage them. Grass is a mono-culture, meaning it is comprised of one type of plant. Mono-cultures do not exist in nature; they invite other species to move in. 

Solution: Everyone wants a bit of lawn in back for the kids to play on and some in front to frame flower and landscape beds. Just be sure to add interest a save on mowing with beds around your shrubbery and flowers. 

5)Overly narrow foundation beds. A two-story colonial home with a one-foot bed around the base of it makes anything you plant look small and ineffective. Depending on what you intend to plant, plan to make a curved bed that extends at least 4 to 6 feet out. 

Solution: Take the scale of your house and yard into account before cutting a bed or planting. Plantings may look sparse at first, but in a few years, you’ll be glad you gave them plenty of room. 

6) Bypassing slow growth shade trees. Ornamental trees like crab apples and dogwoods are lovely and have their place in home landscaping plans as accents and showpieces. But slow growth shade trees like maples, oaks, hickory, and beech bring cooling shade that lowers electric bills and shelters generations. 

Solution: Consider planting at least one or two shade trees placed so they shield your home from the afternoon sun. 

7) Ignoring your soil. Very little grows in clay soil. Sandy soil doesn’t hold water well. If your soil is poor and you don’t amend it before planting, your trees, shrubs, and other plants will not thrive. 

Solution: Get your soil tested at your local county extension before you invest in expensive plant and landscape material. 

8) Wrong plant, wrong place. Roses are beautiful but they won’t grow in poor soil in the shade. Most lilies can’t sit in standing water. Trumpet vines are so invasive and strong they will pull the shingles right off a house if planted next to it. 

Solution: You can’t over-educate yourself about plants. If you need help, consider consulting a landscape professional before you plant. 


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