WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST LANDSCAPING MISTAKES?

Properly designing an outdoor space effectively is not easy. Which is why many people hire a professional and enlist the services of a landscape designer, garden designer, landscape architect or landscape gardener.  Here are some common mishaps to avoid.

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1. NO PLAN FOR YOUR LANDSCAPE DESIGN

Don’t just pick a residential landscape design that looks good in a brochure or copy a pretty picture – it may not work for you, as every garden is individual and should be custom designed. As you plan your inside space, so should you plan your outdoor space. Remember, even Louis XIV couldn’t construct Versailles overnight and neither will your garden design be constructed overnight.  Understand patience and the opportunity to phase a plan in over time. Great gardens require time, consideration and input. The knack is to love the journey as well as the destination.  HGTV also rates this as the #1 mistake for homeowners or renters. 

2. LACK OF A COMPREHENSIVE UNDERSTANDING OF SITE CONDITIONS

Your residential landscape site is the entire outdoor area you own or rent, not just areas close to the house. Take inventory of what exists, challenges, opportunities and the programming you will need for this site.  These are all possibilities to take advantage of in your garden design!

3. UNDERESTIMATE THE COST OF LANDSCAPE DESIGN

Once you a have a well thought out landscape design or garden design then you can begin the estimating process. Cost engineer if you need to compromise. Consider phasing in elements to be more financially conservative. Remember that good landscape design will ultimately increase the real estate value of your property.

4. OVERLOOKING THE MAINTENANCE ASPECT OF A GARDEN 

 Even a low maintenance garden needs maintenance.  Without considering future maintenance of a garden, all the planning and financial investment to create a well-designed garden will be for naught.

 Underestimating the cost of a project and long term maintenance can be significant. Turning a large pond into a meadow is working against the course of nature and therefore costly. 

Underestimating the cost of a project and long term maintenance can be significant. Turning a large pond into a meadow is working against the course of nature and therefore costly. 

5. UNDERSTAND THE FUNCTIONALITY OF YOUR INTENDED SPACE

Many times people fail to understand what their family needs and practicalities are.  For example, a rock garden is really attractive, but probably not the best thing for a family with small children. Sit down and make a list of the possible activities that your family will be involved in, making sure to look at the needs of everyone in the household. How much time does your family spend outside right now? Do a lot of outdoor grilling? These are all questions to ponder before settling on a landscape design, as it will determine the number and placement of seating areas, as well as the type of plantings.  How wide is comfortable to walk down a path?  If you entertain or dine outdoors, how many people do you expect in your garden?  Always err toward a more generous amount of area.  Understand how much space you actually need for a table and chairs. (It's not just the table and chairs; it's the space necessary to move around them.)

6. WRONG PLANT, WRONG PLACE

There are many factors that go into making this assessment. Here is the checklist… "HOW TO PLANT"

7.  LAWN ISSUES IN THE GARDEN

The #1 mistake is cutting the grass too short. Lawns composed of cool-season grasses need to be three inches tall after being cut to be able to grow the deep healthy roots that can crowd out weeds. Warm-season grasses do best at around two inches after cutting. We know that you THINK a short cut will mean more time between mowing, but it actually means the opposite. Scalped lawns grow at the maximum speed to try and compensate for your vicious attack. Grass allowed to achieve a decent height will always look much greener, have fewer weeds, and grow at the slowest possible rate.

8. DO NOT FORGET THAT THERE ARE FOUR SEASONS TO DESIGN A GARDEN FOR

Everything looks good in the spring. Don't put all your money into spring color. What looks good in summer? What about fall? There are plenty of late season bloomers and even some leaf color choices for fall. Then consider winter. This is where evergreens really earn their keep, as do berrying plants. Think of a backyard landscape design for all four seasons.

9. WHAT IS A MULCH VOLCANO.

Mulch is a good thing, but too much of a good thing usually isn’t. Mulching with organic matter—like straw, dry leaves or grass clippings—helps keep weeds from sprouting, retains moisture in the soil, keeps the root zone cool and provides nutrients for the plants as the mulch decays.  But my biggest pet peeve front lawn landscaping or backyard landscaping is a “mulch volcano”. This is what results when you pile mounds of mulch right up to a tree trunk, often with a depression at the top to (theoretically) collect water. According to Cornell Cooperative extension:

> Mulch that actually touches the base of a young tree is a problem, no matter its depth. Mulch can trap and retain moisture, and most tree bark does not benefit from constant moisture. When the mulch remains moist, that moisture eventually penetrates the bark and suffocates the cells of the layer of tissue (phloem) that transfers food up and down the plant. Once that food supply from the leaves is compromised, the roots can die back, creating a vicious cycle in which insufficient water goes up the tree from the roots, too little nutrition goes down the tree to the roots, and so on. This can lead to a slow decline and eventual death of a substantial landscape investment.

> Once the tree is weakened by the moisture/rot issues, secondary problems can develop. Insects, including borers, fungi, and bacteria, will take advantage of the stressed situation and start to inhabit the area. 

> A too-thick layer of mulch can actually keep water from reaching the soil under the tree. Imagine what it would take to get a rainfall to penetrate a foot or so of mulch, or think about how long a sprinkler would have to run to thoroughly saturate all that mulch and reach the soil below it. If insufficient water penetrates the mulch, feeder and secondary tree roots may actually migrate up into the mulch seeking water.  These roots grow above the tree’s main roots, and once they reach the drier edge of the mulch volcano, they can start to encircle the tree. This is simply not a good situation for tree growth.

 "Volcano mulches" may be the most common landscaping mistake, occurring everywhere that gardening crews are uninformed.

"Volcano mulches" may be the most common landscaping mistake, occurring everywhere that gardening crews are uninformed.