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Six Landscaping Mistakes Commonly Made by Homeowners

Creating a beautiful landscape requires some thoughtful planning and research. This is true whether you are planning to landscape a newly built home or looking to give an existing landscape a makeover.

Before you reach for that trowel or spade, it is important to learn all you can about the characteristics and care of the plants you are considering for your landscape.

It is also important to recognize some of the more common landscaping mistakes that homeowners make. Hopefully, being aware of the following oversights and missteps will help you avoid them…

1) Failing to consider the mature size of a tree or shrub

It is no secret that trees and shrubs will grow taller and wider as time passes. But failing to allow enough room for a plant’s mature size is a very common mistake of home gardeners. For example, planting a tree too close to the house is inviting future problems. The tree may be small now, but in a few years the branches could scrape against the siding and roof, or block the view from a window. In rare instances, tree roots can even harm the foundation.

Similarly, shrubs planted too close to walkways and driveways will eventually overhang into the paths of people or vehicles. Also, shrubs planted too close together will crowd each other in time. This not only affects the aesthetics of your landscape, the root systems will be competing for moisture and nutrients. Fortunately, most trees and shrubs are sold with a tag or label that lists the mature size. To avoid problems down the road, always take this size into consideration when planning the placement of your trees and shrubs.

2) Not paying attention to climate zones

The USDA plant hardiness zone map helps homeowners determine which plants are most likely to perform well for a specific geographic location. This is important because the success of a plant is determined by many factors, such as the average high and low temperatures, humidity levels, rain and snowfall amounts, wind, sun intensity and so forth. Most plant tags (and seed packets) will list the zone hardiness information. This is particularly important when selecting expensive plants as you want to do everything possible to ensure their survival.

3) Putting plants in the wrong spot

Placing a plant in the wrong spot is a common mistake for those new to landscaping. Every plant variety has specific requirements for it to reach its full potential. For example, you wouldn’t place a shade-loving plant in full sun or vice versa. Likewise, a plant that needs good drainage won’t perform well in the soggiest part of your yard. Do your research to ensure you are providing the best sun, water and soil conditions for each plant variety. Also, when grouping plants, it will be more eye-pleasing if you place lower growing plants in the foreground and taller plants in the background.

4) Not preparing the hole properly

Whenever purchasing a tree, shrub or other plant, ask the seller for planting instructions. Making the planting hole the proper width and depth will go a long way toward ensuring the health of the plant. A common mistake is not making the hole wide enough or planting too deep. Certain soil amendments, such as compost or other organic matter, may also be recommended. Not preparing the hole properly can hinder the plant’s growth or may even lead to its demise. By the way, it is highly recommended that you call “811” to have the location of any underground cables or pipes marked before you do any serious digging. This is a free service.

5) Choosing an invasive species

At one time or another, many homeowners will make the mistake of unknowingly planting an invasive species. These plant varieties grow and spread aggressively, and can take over an entire planting area. Because they are so prolific, they are often difficult to get under control. Obviously, it is better not to introduce them to your landscape in the first place. Before purchasing any unfamiliar plant, do your research to make sure it is not invasive. After all, you have more important things to do than battle an aggressive plant.

6) Creating a maintenance nightmare

It is relatively easy to create a maintenance nightmare for yourself without realizing it. Having lots of plants and flower beds may look nice but the more planting areas you have, the more areas you will have to maintain. Even though you may be extremely motivated right now, it is always best to keep things manageable. After all, you may not always have the time or energy to keep up with all the pruning, weeding, and other chores your ambitious landscape will likely require. Also, try to avoid selecting species that will add to your workload. For example, it can be rather time consuming to continually clean up pine cones, acorns, sweet gum balls, and the like. Perhaps there are less messy varieties that you will like just as well in your landscape. A little planning now can save you many hours of maintenance later.

Having a well-landscaped yard can be a source of great satisfaction. But it can also be quite frustrating when things don’t work out as well as you had hoped. Fortunately, many problems can be avoided by having a well-thought-out plan…and by learning all you can about the trees, shrubs and plants you have chosen for your landscape.

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