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10 Common Landscaping Mistakes

Landscaping Can Go Wrong

Have you ever seen a house or business with a yard that just looks unpleasant? There are so many mistakes you can make with landscaping. If you don’t know what you’re doing, your yard will end up a terrible mess, driving customers away, or making your neighbors shake their heads in disgust. If you want to avoid this, there are some common landscaping mistakes you don’t want to make. We talked with CV Lawn King, a landscaping company in Cache Valley, to find out the most important ones.

1. Not Having A Plan

This is usually the root cause of all landscaping mistakes. If you don’t have a plan for what you’re trying to do at the start, your yard is going to be a mess. There’s just no way to avoid disaster if you start your projects without a plan. Decide what you want to accomplish with your landscape, work out what areas will be best for planting, and keep in mind how you might want to upgrade or change things in the future.

A particularly common planning mistake people make is to set up a landscape fixture – like building a fence – without knowing what they want. They build it in a permanent fashion, only to have to pull it apart later. With fencing and other kinds of landscaping features, you can build temporary set-ups that are easy to remove if you don’t like the look of them. It’s easier to make a fence permanent later when you’re sure you like it than pull up a permanent fence and replace it with something else.

2. Not Knowing What Plants Are Good For

Different plants have different needs. Some plants need more water than others. Some require warmer temperatures than others. Some require more maintenance in general than others. If you buy plants just because they look pretty in the story, you’ll end up with a yard full of plants that require tons of extra work to keep them looking good. Before you buy any plants, make sure you research on what their needs are and whether or not you have the time and money to meet their needs. This can be influenced by the environment you live in. For example, here in Cache Valley, we have really dry summers, so planting flowers and trees that require a lot of water to survive is going to dramatically increase your water bill. Make sure you know what you’re getting before you buy!

a park walkway in the fall with leaves all over the ground3. Not Accounting For Seasons

While this partly falls under the last mistake, it has enough separate problems to justify it’s own discussion. Different plants bloom during different seasons. When you’re buying plants, the stores will mostly be showing off what’s in season at the time. If you only buy what looks good while you’re there, your yard will look beautiful for a season. Then all your flowers and trees stop blooming and your yard looks dead and boring. When buying plants, be sure to pick a few that are active in other seasons so when the current seasonal flowers stop blooming, new ones liven up your yard afterward.

4. Ignoring Maintenance

This is a big mistake and you’d think that a lot of people would know better. Yet, it’s still very common to see it happen. This is especially true with pruning trees, shrubs, and hedges. A hedge can make for a good alternative to a fence, and a tree can provide you with shade (and maybe fruit!), but if you don’t prune and trim them, or do so at the wrong time of year, they grow into wild, ugly things. You’ll have to do research what kind of maintenance you have to do on your individual plants, but make sure you actually do it afterwards.

5. Symmetrical Plant Displays

A bit of symmetry can be really nice. It looks elegant and refined. It also takes a lot of work if you try to incorporate plants into it. You can do it, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not easy. Plants want to grow their own way and if you don’t constantly trim them to match, your symmetry goes out the window. If you don’t want to spend the extra time to keep it looking good, don’t try to make symmetrical displays with plants.

6. Girdling Trees

Girdling a tree is when something wraps around a tree, forcing it to grow around or over it. This often happens in the wild when parasitic plants strangle trees. In landscaping, it happens if you plant a fence too close to a tree, or leave a tag on too long, or wrap something else around your tree to try and decorate it. If you put something like that in place, the tree will start to grow around it. It consumes the fence, or the string on the tag, or the decoration you put on it. This can choke off the flow of nutrients to the tree, crippling its growth and possibly even killing it if the blockage is too big. To avoid this mistake, remove all labels and avoid putting fencing or other structures too close to the tree’s trunk.

7. Irrigation Problems

All plants need some amount of water, but the exact amount they need can vary wildly. A common mistake people make is to arrange gardens where plants that have very different water requirements are close together. You end up either drowning the plants with lower water requirements, or dehydrating the plants with higher water requirements. Either way, some of the plants will probably die.

Make sure you know what the water requirements are and group your plants so that the ones close to each other have similar needs. That way, you can set up automatic systems that cater to them, reducing the amount of work you have to do yourself. If you live in a place with very dry summers like here in Cache Valley, it’s usually best to stick to plants that have lower water requirements to save money. If money’s no object, feel free to do what you want – as long as you keep it within the city mandated water restrictions – but most of us don’t have an endless supply of money to spend on water.

8. Scalping the Grass

scalped grass
Scalping your lawn leaves dead spots

This one is unbelievably common. Amateurs think that cutting the grass short means less work because they can let the grass grow longer before needing to cut it again. What it really means is a dead lawn. Cutting grass is about more than length, it’s about keeping it healthy. Too long and the grass can’t support its own weight and the canopy it creates blocks sunlight and moisture. On the other hand, if you cut it too short, there isn’t enough of the blade to absorb sunlight. Exposing too much of the soil to the sun by cutting grass short can parch it, giving the grass less moisture to live on. You need to make sure your grass isn’t cut too short when you mow. Exactly how tall your grass should be depends on the type of grass, so make sure you ask about that when you plant your sod.

9. Not Accounting For Wildlife

Pests are going to be a problem in your garden. Pests aren’t just insects, but also deer, rabbits, and other animals that will eat your plants. Here in Cache Valley, we get deer coming down out of the mountains a lot. This is especially true since that one year a former mayor decided – against all common sense – to order people to feed them in the winter. Since deer know they can come down for food, they do so whenever they get hungry. To keep them from eating up your garden, find out what plants give off a bitter flavor that deer don’t like. As soon as they taste it, they’ll decide the garden isn’t for eating and go elsewhere.

You should make similar plans to deal with other animals and pests that could invade your garden. It’s easy to set up water traps for snails, slugs, and other garden-chomping bugs. A few praying mantises help fend off crickets and grasshoppers, and ladybugs will eat aphids. Knowing what ecologically friendly pest-solutions are available can do wonders for making your yard look good without breaking the bank.

10. Impulse Buying and Overdecorating

The purpose of landscaping is to have a yard that looks good. A little bit of decoration and a few special flowers can really add to that. Don’t go overboard, though. A plastic flamingo in the right place might look good – even if it has become an easy stereotype for gaudy lawn ornaments – but a flock of flamingos will always look ugly. Avoid impulse buying plants or ornaments that look good to you in the store. It’s super easy to end up with too much decoration, turning your yard into a mess. Before you buy anything to add to your garden, make sure you’ve got a good place for it first.

Landscaping For Homes And Businesses

You want your yard to look good. This is true whether you’re a homeowner or a business. It’s even more true for businesses, in fact; a poorly managed yard around a business tells customers you run your business in a sloppy way. When it comes to managing your yard, the first and most important step is to have a plan. If you have a plan, you should be able to avoid these other common landscaping mistakes.