25 Biggest Landscaping Mistakes

HGTV has brought together some of the best gardening experts to share their insider tips on how to avoid common landscaping disasters and what to do to fix them if it does happen.

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(SHNS photo by Diana Baldrica/The Fresno Bee)

25. Excessive Lawn Ornamentation

People often make the mistake of putting too many decorative items in their front yard, which can be a distraction from the beauty of the natural landscape. Before setting out that lawn ornament, ask yourself why are you putting it there and how it fits in to the context of your overall design and plant materials. Stick with one crisp choice, even if it is a little silly. One little whimsical statement goes a lot further than 10.

24. Forgetting to Recycle

Yard projects tend to produce a good amount of waste, which most people don't realize when they set out to do the work.
Instead of tossing out the branches, clippings and other debris, dispose of them in an eco-friendly way. Rent a shredder and turn them into mulch, and put lawn clippings back on the lawn — they are both great fertilizers. Another idea is to create a compost pile. Compost containers have gotten more attractive. Some almost disappear into the landscape.

23. Planting in the Wrong Place

Improper plant placement is another common mistake. People often do not take into consideration the proper sunlight and exposure for their plants. Be sure to pay attention to the little tag that you get when you buy the plant. When it comes to planting trees, you need to remember how big they could get and how much space they are going to need. Also think about focal points — choose something that's going to look good year-round.

22. Planting Too Deeply

One of the quickest ways to kill a tree is to plant it too deeply. Some folks figure the more soil they can put around it, the better. But doing so can actually choke the tree to death because there is no air allowed to go to the root system. Going too deep can also encourage root rot. Avoid these scenarios by looking at the main stem, where the largest branch is and then where all of the tentacles come out. That's the root ball, and that's what you want to meet, right along the surface. A good rule of thumb with plants is to dig to the actual height of the container in which it came.

21. Cutting Grass Too Short

It's a common myth that cutting the grass shorter means you have to mow it less. That's actually not the case, and you can do more harm than good. If you scalp the lawn, it could result in a bare patch, which could make it too inviting for insects and/or susceptible to disease. The key is to cut the lawn different lengths throughout the year. During the summer, the lawn needs a little more shade, so let the blades grow just a little bit more. That way the water doesn't evaporate so quickly. During the winter, cut it a little bit shorter so that the sunlight can actually get into the soil.

20. Forgetting the View From Your Window

It may seem like common sense to think about the view from inside the house, but a lot of people forget it. Keep in mind what it looks like from all angles. Place your containers where you want them, and then go inside and look look through every major window to see what they'll look like before you plant. It should be like a painting. When you look out, you should see the glass framed with beautiful trees and foliage.

19. Using the Wrong-Size Pots

It is best to start a plant in a larger pot than it comes in to allow it to room to grow. However, if you put a plant in a pot that is too large, it can shift, sink down into the soil, get too much water or dry out too fast. Also, remember that you are going to have to re-pot it, eventually. It's easy to tell when that's necessary because little roots begin to stick out at the bottom. A word of caution related to re-potting. Be sure to give a plant plenty of time get acclimated to its new pot before re-potting again.

18. Failing to Fertilize Properly

There are two ways that fertilizing can be a mistake. The first one is not doing it at all. The other is fertilizing too much or fertilizing improperly. Ask someone at your garden center to recommend a proper fertilizer for your yard. It's a good idea to do it at least twice a year, once in the spring and again in the fall. You should never do so in the bright sun, and watering always needs to follow. It's also a good idea to mix in fertilizer when planting new plants. Make sure that, when I dig the hole, I mix in new soil and I also mix in fertilizer. So the plant, over the period of a year, is going to have a nice time release of fertilizer.

17. Picking the Wrong Plants

Just because a plant looks pretty doesn't mean it actually belongs in your yard. You have to take into consideration your particular backyard, with filtered light or shade, and what's going to work best for you. If it's a really hot, sunny spot, maybe you want to go with a succulent. Get a great landscaping book for your area to help you figure out what to plant and when, as well as how and when to fertilize.

16. Not Accounting for Wildlife

Before you decide what to plant in your garden, think about what pests you have in relation to what you'd like to plant. For example, pretty flowering plants can attract deer, so you might want to throw in some bitter-tasting ones among them. Once they taste the wrong one, they are likely to stop coming around. If there are wild rabbits around, you may need to shelter your garden bed by building a small fence. Chicken wire is another option.

15. Being Shortsighted

Being shortsighted is a common problem because many people don't know what the eventual growth of their plants will be. You need to find out how they spread, how they reproduce and what type of maintenance they require. There are actually software programs available where you can design a landscape and then click a button, and it will show you the growth rate of those plants over a year or two years and so on.

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