Solutions to the 30 Biggest Landscaping Mistakes
Learn how to avoid common landscaping blunders and how to remedy the ones that may already be creeping into your yard.
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Mistake: Not Recycling Your Fall Yard Waste
Fall yard projects tend to produce a good amount of waste; what a shame to let good waste go to waste.
Solution: Compost It
Instead of tossing out those fall leaves, branches, clippings and other debris from your fall clean-up, 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. Better yet, create a compost pile or build a compost bin. Layer yard waste with food scraps and in no time you'll have rich fertilzer that didn't cost you a dime.
Get the How-To: Build a Pallet Compost Bin
Mistake: Neglecting Curb Appeal
Never underestimate the power of curb appeal. A lot of homeowners put all of their energy into the backyard, but the front of the house is where first impressions are made.
Solution: Do These Three Things
There are three simple improvements you can make that make a big difference. Paint your door a contrasting color than the base color of your home, keep the grass trim and green and plant colorful flowers.
See More Photos: 40 Before-and-After Curb Appeal Makeovers
Mistake: Excessive Lawn Tchotchkes
Solution: Be Selective
Before filling your yard with a gaggle of garden gnomes, ask yourself why you're putting it there and how it fits the context of your overall design and plant materials. Stick with one choice, even if it is a little silly. One whimsical statement goes a lot further than 10.
Mistake: Planting in the Wrong Place
Solution: Read the Plant Tag
Mistake: Leaving Tools Out in the Elements
Let's be honest: Quality tools cost a pretty penny so leaving them out to ruin in the rain is like throwing money away. Plus, rusty shears will make uneven, dull cuts that can harm even healthy plants.
Solution: a Dedicated Storage Spot
Whether it's an organized corner in your garage or a standalone garden shed, storing expensive garden tools indoors will prolong their usefulness for many years to come.
Mistake: Planting Too Deeply
Solution: Match the Depth
Mistake: Not Planning for Pets
Even the most couch-loving indoor pup will want to spend some time outdoors — especially, if that's where you're spending a lot of your time.
Solution: Plant a Pet-Friendly Garden
Pets are family but, unfortunately, some common plants may be harmful or even poisonous to your furbaby. Check out the list, below, of the common landscape plants to avoid.
Learn More: Protect Your Pets From Harmful Plants
Mistake: Over-Using Pesticides
Many newbie gardeners think that a regular dousing of pesticide is necessary to keep bugs at bay and promote healthy plant growth.
Solution: 'Bee' Kind to Pollinators
Pesticides are a case where even a little bit can be a disastrous thing. Pesticides are essentially poison — poison that can not only ultimately end up in the food you eat but also wipe out beneficial bugs, like bees, moths and butterflies, in addition to any leaf-eating 'pests' you're hoping to target.
Mistake: Cutting Grass Too Short
Solution: Switch It Up
Mistake: Neglecting Your View
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.
Solution: Enhance Your View
Place your containers where you want them, and then go inside and 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.
Mistake: Using the Wrong Size Pots
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. On the other hand, a pot that is too small will quickly make the plant become rootbound.
See More Photos: Biggest Container Fails
Solution: Start Small
Mistake: 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.
Solution: Fertilize With Caution
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 it 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 you dig the hole, you mix in new soil and fertilizer so the plant, over the period of a year, is going to have a nice time release of fertilizer.
Get the How-To: The Fertilizer 411
Mistake: Picking the Wrong Plants
Solution: Know Your Yard
Mistake: Not Accounting for Wildlife
You could be planting a buffet rather than a garden if you don't consider what animals or garden pests might be around.
Solution: Plant Things Critters Hate
Before you decide what to plant in your garden, think about what critters 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.
See More Photos: 24 Deer-Resistant Plants
Mistake: Being Shortsighted
Solution: Do Your Research
Mistakes: Improper Pruning
Pruning can be just as much of an art form as it is a technique, but when pruning is not done correctly, you can do more harm than good. In fact, in some cases, it's better not to prune at all than to do it improperly.
Watch the Video: Pruning Basics
Solution: Prune With Caution
Mistake: Forgetting a Focal Point
A lush carpet of grass is great but to really get the most of your landscape, follow the same rule you would for interior design and incorporate a focal point.
Solution: Focus Found
Of course, your landscape's focal point doesn't have to be this elaborate but a view this lovely certainly is inspiring and may encourage you to plant an ornamental tree, add a pergola or plan a garden bed that will be the star of your outdoor design.
Mistake: Scattered Color
Solution: Create a Palette
Mistake: Letting Weeds Reign Supreme
It happens to the best of us. You neglect your yard for a short time and, before you know it, weeds have spread to every corner of your formerly lush lawn.
Solution: Reclaim Your Lawn
Hand-digging weeds may be a time-consuming proposition but it's typically the most effective while also not damaging the surrounding plants — as spraying an herbicide might. For weeds with a long taproot, like the ever-evasive dandelion, be sure to dig up the entire root or this willful weed may return.
Mistake: Irrational Irrigation
Solution: Timely Watering
Mistake: Using the Wrong Tool
Solution: Get to Know Your Garden Tools
Mistake: Failing to Be Family Friendly
Solution: Think About Functionality
Sit down and make a list of what you want to do in your yard, making sure to look at the needs of everyone in the household including pets. And, make a plan that will allow your landscape to mature as your family does.
Mistake: Impulse Buying
Yes, flowers are pretty and buying a lot of them may seem pretty darn tempting but buying plants without a plan can be disastrous.
Solution: Make a Shopping List
Mistake: Too Much of the Same Thing
Solution: Mix It Up
Mistake: Not Having a Plan
As the old adage goes, failing to plan is planning to fail.
Solution: Sketch It
Mistake: Overlooking Maintenance
Solution: Make a Schedule
Mistake: Ignoring the Seasons
Not planning a garden for year-round color or interest.
Solution: Create Year-Round Color
Plan out your garden with regard to the seasons. When homeowners go to a nursery or plant yard, they often just buy what's in season at the time. Various flowers bloom at certain times of the year. If you've got a lot of plants that are blooming in the spring, remember that in the fall you're going to need some other plants, if you want foliage. Also, try to select plants that look good in the winter and in the spring.
See More Photos: 13 Flowering Trees for Year-Round Color
Mistake: Underestimating Budget
Solution: Create a Cushion
Mistake: Overlooking Exterior Lighting
Solution: Make an Outdoor Lighting Plan
Adding some exterior lighting not only helps with vision and movement, but it also really makes the garden pop. It doesn't have to be expensive or entail a lot of effort. For instance, there are a lot of good solar lights that can easily be stuck in the ground. The sun heats them up all day and then at night they give off a soft glow.
See More Photos: Landscape Lighting Ideas
Mistake: Mismatched Style
Not considering your home's architectural style when choosing plants.
Solution: Consider Your Home's Architecture
When selecting plants, you should match the architecture of your home with the theme of your garden. Above, the cottage-style garden goes very well with the style of the home. Besides the plants in your garden, you need to think about your hardscape. If you are putting in a deck, for example, you need to make sure those elements of your garden also reflect positively upon your house.