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9 Things to Avoid in Landscaping

By Bob Fitz, Principal, Koontz-Bryant, P.C.

1. Having No Plan

All too often, a landscaping project is started with no clear plan or objective other than to “beautify” an area.


  • Determine what areas need to be addressed.
  • Decide on a specific theme and/or objectives.
  • Put it on paper. Develop a plan.
  • Establish a budget.
  • Stick to the plan. Avoid random changes or impulse buying because something catches your eye or because it is on sale.

2. Incorrect Plan Selection

Just because a particular plant looks good at the nursery or in a magazine or on another property doesn’t mean that it is the right plant for your needs.


  • Consult with experts (landscape architects, horticulturists, landscape designers, growers, etc.) and/or research the specific characteristics of each plant. Plants are living organisms with different requirements on acceptable growing conditions in regards to sunlight exposure, drainage, spacing, soils, etc.
  • Make sure that you have the right plant type for the situation. Many plants have multiple hybrids that are more suited for given situations (space limitations, pest/disease resistance, etc.).


3. An Uncoordinated Palette

Even the best intentions can result in a disjointed landscape appearance with little or no positive impact.


  • Avoid haphazard random plant placement or spot plantings by grouping like plant types in an organized configuration.
  • Keep it simple. Avoid having an abundance of plant types with competing colors.
  • Make a statement. Except for intimate gardens, think big by incorporating larger masses of plant groupings and/or color. A handful of flowers don’t make much of an impact in the larger landscape applications.


4. Inadequate Budget

At one time or another, most of us have been guilty of having “champagne taste with a beer budget.” Landscaping related purchases are no different than others in that we are often hit with sticker shock on the cost of materials. It is also not uncommon in new construction projects for the landscaping budget to be reduced at the end of the project because of cost over-runs in other areas.


  • Establish some sort of starting budget whether it is large or small.
  • Discuss your goals and objectives with a professional landscape design consultant. The consultant will be able to advise you quickly on whether or not you have a realistic budget.
  • As the plans are developed the consultant can provide an opinion of probable cost for installation. Be sure to factor in a contingency amount for unforeseen cost overruns.
  • Develop a master plan to serve as a guide for phased installations as funding permits so that you can do the job right.



5. Overlooking Maintenance

There is no such thing as a maintenance free landscape. It is unrealistic to think that you can plant it, forget about it and expect to have the desired long term results. Even artificial turf requires ongoing maintenance.


  • Make provisions for maintenance by establishing a schedule and abide by it. If you can’t take care of it yourself then budget to pay someone to do it.
  • Use established proper horticultural maintenance practices and not necessarily what someone who just specializes in grass-cutting thinks is best.

6. Improper Pruning

A top quality landscape design and installation can be ruined and money wasted in short order if the plant material is not maintained properly. We’ve all seen the butchery where some trees such as crape myrtles have been repeatedly pruned “hard” resulting in short stubby trunks, or where certain shrubs that have a natural loose growing habit such as forsythia has been sheared into “gum-ball like” shapes.


  • Not all plants should be pruned in the same manner. Consult with a landscape architect, horticulturist, landscape designer, or refer to published pruning guides to find out what the proper pruning technique is for specific plants.


7. Improper Fertilization

The first mistake is not to fertilize at all. The second mistake is to fertilize too much. The third mistake is to fertilize at the wrong time.


  • Pay close attention to the directions on the grass seed containers and to the planting instructions that come with some trees and shrubs. Seek guidance from personnel at garden centers or nurseries.
  • Typically, lawns are best fertilized in September, October and December (SOD) but can be done in Spring under the right conditions. Plant material should be fertilized when planted and then twice a year once established.


8. Improper Irrigation

Too much or not enough? A lot of people tend to water lawn areas too frequently and/or at the wrong times. Shrubbery typically doesn’t need as much water as a lawn.


  • Most lawns need about an inch of water per week to thrive.
  • It is best to water every few days for longer periods than to do short applications daily. Watering too frequently promotes shallow root growth which is not beneficial in drought conditions if the water supply is interrupted.
  • Watering should be done in the early morning hours. Watering at night promotes fungus and disease.


9. Cutting the Grass too Short

Unless you have a putting green, cutting the grass too short can do more harm than good. Skimming or scalping the lawn can result in simply having thin coverage or “brown patch” which can make it susceptible to disease or infestation.


  • Cut the lawn at different heights throughout the seasons. During the summer, the lawn needs a little more self-shading, so cut the grass a little higher, three inches or so. Water won’t evaporate as quickly either. During the winter, cut the grass a little shorter so that the soil is exposed to sunlight a bit more.
  • Don’t mow in the same pattern every time. Alter the mowing direction to get a more uniform appearance.

Contact Bob Fitz, PLA via email or at 804-200-1913 for any landscape architectural design services.