There’s nothing more appealing when you drive up to a home than a well-landscaped yard. It’s beauty can be deceptive, leading you to think this is a simple process – just buy some plants, a few bags of mulch, a good mower and some yard tools and you’re all set.
If only it were that simple.
“Whether you’re a first-time landscaper or have been doing it for years, getting the results you want is typically not as easy as you think it will be, and there’s always more to learn,” says Chad Everage with Landscape Management in Lake Charles. “A big part of landscape success is recognizing your mistakes and learning from them.”
Everage provides a closer look at some of the most common landscape mistakes they see and how to make sure you avoid these:
Cutting your grass too low. How tall or short you cut your lawn may seem to be a matter of personal preference. Many people cut it as short as their mower will allow in hopes to stretch out the time between mowing. Everage says this is a mistake. “Mowing your lawn is not just about keeping up appearances; it’s about the health of the grass.” He explains that when grass is too short, too much of the leaf surface is removed, hurting its ability to perform photosynthesis. Short grass also produces weak, unhealthy roots that have difficulty absorbing nutrients. “For best results, never remove more than one-third of total grass blade length at a single cutting. For warm weather grasses, 3 inches is an ideal cut length. Be sure to keep your mower blade sharp. A dull blade rips the grass, providing an opening for diseases.”
Bad pruning habits. Correct pruning encourages and controls strong new growth and is a necessary part of landscape maintenance, but it’s easy to do incorrectly, according to Everage. “This can damage plants and give your landscape an unbalanced and/or unhealthy look. In most cases you shouldn’t prune more than about 10-15% of a plant at one time. More than that can cause damage and inhibit growth.” For most plants, he says it’s best to do pruning in winter months while the plant is dormant, but spring and summer pruning can be done sparingly. Avoid pruning during the fall as plants might not have time to recover before winter. Make sure you’re pruning with a sharp pair of gardening shears and making clean cuts through stems and branches. Never cut the tops off of trees. It weakens them and leads to irregular growth.
Overwatering. Water is crucial to the health of your landscape, but too much of a good thing can have a negative impact. “People have a tendency to overwater their landscape, and they underestimate the hardiness of trees and plants. Unless they’re exhibiting symptoms of dehydration—yellow/brown colors, wilted leaves, slow growth, etc.—much of your landscape probably needs little or no extra water unless your area is not getting regular rainfall,” says Everage. “This is just a general rule, and many plants like annuals and tropical plants can require constant watering. This is one more reason to have a plan for what you are planting and know how to care for it.”
Putting plants in the wrong spots. You shouldn’t put a plant somewhere just because it looks nice. While that’s part of the decision, Everage says you also have to consider its needs: How much sunlight does it require? How much water? What will its mature size be? Will it be healthier in dirt beds, rocky beds, or with mulch? “If you don’t consider its needs, the plant might not reach its full potential, or may not survive at all. And keep in mind that most landscapes look best in spring, but you’ll want to choose plants that’ll look great during other seasons, too,” he adds.
Not planning. Creating a sustainable, healthy, beautiful landscape doesn’t happen overnight. It takes careful planning with consideration given to climate, available space, threats from pests, color patterns, water needs, functionality, and much more. The right plan will come from both what you want and what your landscape foundation can support, along with plant choices and hardscaping that work together. Everage advises starting with a few beds and continue adding to your landscape over weeks, months and even years, rather than trying to do everything at once.
Everage says the key to long-term landscape success is working on it regularly and having a good understanding of what your plants need—and what they don’t.
For help with landscape planning or care, visit Landscape Management in Lakes Charles, or on their website, www.landscapemanagement.org