Bad Yard Habits to Avoid

Every spring about this time I get my fill of the same homeowner mistakes, some even when they should know better. An example: those who claim to be landscape installers and then charge the homeowner for not planting properly. I’m going to list what I call the five biggest mistakes that can cost you the success that is so easy to achieve with the proper knowledge

1. Planting upright growing evergreen trees underneath shade trees. Planting spruce, pine, or hemlock underneath larger shade trees and their spreading branches will cause two problems. The evergreens will compete for growing room and there will be lots of root competition. If you need to screen areas underneath shade trees, use evergreen varieties of the viburnum shrub family.

2. Replace that ‘bad’ soil when installing new trees and shrubs. That soil you call bad is what your entire yard has throughout that is the same soil the roots of your new trees and shrubs will grow in once the roots grow beyond the holes you dug. Just take the existing clay soil that you dig out and take your spade to chop that clay soil up so no clay particles that you put back around the new root clump are bigger than a golf ball. You can also easily drown the new roots by removing that clay soil and filling the hole back up with so called planting soil. This system causes what’s called ‘bath tubbing’ and the water in the hole takes too long to drain out causing the roots to rot.

3. “My new shrubs are so small I’ll plant them close together and close to the house.” The biggest plants were once small. Determine how big you want each shrub to grow and plant with that spacing in mind, not how big they are today. When planting against the house, plant so that you always have space to walk behind them as they mature. Example: you want boxwoods to be 36” wide., plant them 18” plus 12” from the house. You’ll have boxwoods that are 36” wide and 12” from the house to prune and keep them at regardless of how small they were when you installed them.

4. “I have lots of shade from my maple trees and have a hard time keeping new grass alive.” The only grass that will tolerate any shade is turf fescue. If you buy a so called shady seed mix, the only seed in that mix that has a chance again is the turf fescue, but even this seed can’t grow in dense shade. A good way to let nature determine if grass will grow in this shade area is if other natural vegetation (weeds) grows in this area. If they don’t grow, forget the grass and plant English ivy or purple winter creeper.

5. Shopping for plants over the telephone. When you call a garden center and ask for the price of any plant, you’ll be told a container size the plant is growing in and how much for that plant. Remember, you are not buying the container but you are buying the plant that is in it. You can’t see that on your phone. Grab the car keys and drive to the nursery and look. You don’t buy a couch over the phone and you shouldn’t buy plants that way either.

Have a happy and safe Memorial Day and remember the real reason
we celebrate this weekend.