14 Biggest Landscape Mistakes

by Jan Cashman 12/04/08

The Home and Garden Channel has had a series on the 25 Biggest Mistakes made in areas like Decorating, Real Estate, and Renovating. The program that interested me most in this series was the one on the 25 Biggest Landscaping Mistakes. I asked our staff what mistakes they see people making when they landscape. We came up with 14. Here they are:

  1. Not figuring landscape costs when building or purchasing a new home, so there is no money left when it’s time to landscape. Although homeowners are becoming more aware of necessary landscaping costs, saving for landscaping is often neglected because it is the last thing to complete on a new home.
  2. Not having a landscape plan. Instead of a unified, cohesive landscape that looks well thought out, without a plan, your landscape design could be a series of unrelated plantings.
  3. Forgetting hardscape. Retaining walls, stone pathways, patios, trellises, fences, light posts, even mailboxes, all create an essential background to show off your plants.
  4. Making planting beds too small. Narrow foundation plantings and tiny berms, are dwarfed by the home and look out of scale. Minimum width for a foundation planting on a one story house is 6 to 8 feet. Berms should be in scale to your lot and the plants you are planting in them.
  5. Not starting with good soil. Some soils in our valley are black and fertile. Others are mostly clay or full of rocks. If you have poor soil, amend before you plant grass, shrubs, and trees, and flower and vegetable gardens. Your plants will be glad you did.
  6. Poor planting procedures. Many people don’t know how to plant a tree or shrub. Plants are forced into too small a hole. They are sometimes planted too deeply. These mistakes can hinder a plant’s growth, or even kill it.
  7. Waiting too long to plant trees. If you don’t have the time or the money to complete your whole landscape at once, at least plant trees. Trees grow slowly in our climate, so start establishing them as soon as you can. Because flowers and shrubs grow quicker, they can wait.
  8. Planting or edging in straight lines. In nature, trees don’t grow in straight lines so planting them that way looks artificial. When creating an edge between a shrub or flower bed and grass, it is more pleasing to the eye to use a curved edge. Even hedges look better planted with a slight curve. And flowers look more natural planted in groupings, not rows.
  9. Not considering maintenance in your design and choice of plants. Small spaces and tight turns for your lawn mower, too many flower beds to weed, and lack of mulch, can mean more work. You want to be able to enjoy your landscape, not spend every minute caring for it.
  10. Planting a plant in the wrong place. Plants’ hardiness, sun and water requirements differ. Plant those with like requirements together. Learn your plants’ needs and they will do better.
  11. Failure to understand fertilizing practices. Without fertilizer, lawns look pale, even yellow. Flowers and vegetables grow better with regular fertilizer applications. If you don’t want to use chemical fertilizers, many organic fertilizers are available.
  12. Overwatering. Those who have drip and sprinkler systems sometimes fail to monitor them and end up drowning their plants.
  13. Not pruning. Though plants grow slowly here, they still grow. Many plants require pruning to keep them in control and shapely. Hedges will grow denser with proper pruning. Fruit trees need to be thinned to let sunlight in. Too many branches on an apple tree will produce lots of tiny apples instead of fewer, bigger, fruits. Suckers look untidy and should be pruned from the bottom of tree trunks. Low branches on shade trees should be removed as they grow to enable one to mow and walk under them. Some shrubs get leggy without pruning.
  14. Not considering the mature size of a plant when placing it in your landscape. This was the one mistake that everyone on our staff mentioned first. That small tree or shrub you purchased will grow. The extreme example of this mistake is a spruce tree planted in a small front yard in the older part of town that now fills up the front yard, prevents the homeowner from seeing out his windows, blocks the sidewalk or grows together with another spruce planted next to it. Even though that mistake seems obvious, many don’t realize the mature size of trees and shrubs, and, therefore, plant them too close together or too close to the house.

We see many beautifully landscaped homes in and around Bozeman. Most homeowners in our area do a good job of landscaping. Hopefully, reading about these mistakes might help you to avoid them and improve your landscaping.