The 6 biggest backyard blunders
Learn from the mistakes of others and make the right choices when it comes to yard design, plant selection and watering.
We all make mistakes, right? It’s OK. But, honestly, wouldn’t you really rather read about the mistakes of others than learn from your own experience?
In honor of that notion, here are six common errors that homeowners — particularly those new to the whole business of planting — make in the yard, and what the experts say you should do instead.
1. Forgetting the growth gene
There’s a good degree of wishful thinking in yard design, particularly in failed yard design.
The most common hapless dream: wishing that a shrub or tree would stay at just that height, say, under the window ledge. The owner diligently cuts, and cuts, and cuts, but the shrub keeps growing, until all that’s left is a tangled web of brown branches.
Expecting any plant to flourish — or even remain — at an immature size is as unrealistic as willing a child to stay small, the experts say.
“Any plant is programmed to grow a certain height,” says Joe Machcinski, owner of Pangea Gardenscapes in Seattle. “You can’t keep a big plant small. You can’t prune it the way you like it. It’s just going to continue to grow.
“I’ve seen a lot of mispruned plants, and I just shake my head,” he says. “Why not just do your research or let someone who knows their plants lay them out properly?”
The solution: Read the label at the plant store. Note the size at maturity. Plant based on this measurement. In the meantime, make do. Hey, whoever said waiting out adolescence was fun?
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2. Not putting it where the sun don’t shine
“You can’t plant ferns in the sun,” says Don Mahoney, curator of the plant collection at the San Francisco Botanical Garden.
And yet people do, again and again. They also put impatiens in the middle of an open yard and rhododendrons on the south side of the house.
Then they call him, or come in with depressing photos of withered, browning plants and ask, “Please, what am I doing wrong?”
“They’re beginners and they don’t really understand that plants are different,” Mahoney says. “To a lot of people, a plant’s a plant and you just plant it. They don’t understand that plants have different growing requirements.
“It’s such a problem that breeders are trying to breed impatiens that can handle sun,” he says. People see the color and want to put it in a bright spot in the yard.
“They go to the nursery and say, ‘Those are so pretty. I’ll buy some of those,’” he says.
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It doesn’t help that some nurseries – particularly large, chain stores with unschooled staff – will display plants in a sunny place outside the store even though those plants need shade.
“Most nurseries don’t separate them out,” Mahoney says. ‘You’ve got to think for yourself a little bit.”
The solution: Get a book on plants and flowers for your region. Plenty of used ones are available for a few bucks, if need be. Then read the labels in the store.
Local, specialized garden centers likely have experts on hand, unlike the big, multipurpose stores that have a high turnover of young clerks.
“I’ve overheard them telling wrong advice to people so often,” Mahoney says. Instead, read up before going to the store. Or check online with a local garden club or specialty flower club. It’ll pay off later when you don’t have to replace your dried-up, dead plants.
3. Not knowing that watering is a science best left to nature
Plants have evolved to thrive in a particular environment. Get it wrong and it’s difficult, if not impossible, to overcome with a hose or a few drain pipes.
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“Right plant, right place — that’s the phrase we use,” says Irene Mills, a horticulturalist and owner of The Plant Mommy, a landscaping consultancy in Washington state.
“It doesn’t have to be a native plant; it just has to be a plant that’s adapted to those conditions. Usually reading the tag is enough to figure it out.”
In fact, not putting the right plants in the right place for their sun and water needs is the No. 1 mistake that newcomers make, experts say.
“And then people get discouraged and they say they have a black thumb,” Mills says. But it’s not them. If you don’t believe it, just look at the wild.
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“There are lots and lots of trees, and they’re growing and I know they‘re not getting watered. They’re not being messed with. They’re not being sprayed,” Mills says. “That’s the concept of right plant, right place.”
The solution: Read the label on the plant. It will tell you. Sometimes this tiny bit of foresight will be enough to turn a “black thumb” wonderfully green.
Rent a power auger for aeration? An auger is usually used for drilling holes for posts, bushes, trees; etc...
The holes for aeration are usually a 1/2 inch in diameter, not a foot.
Of course a tree is going to do well wherever it happens to grow. It was started from freaking SEED. That is already adapted to the specific area it is growing in. A plant that already has an established (albeit in a pot) root system needs care after it is planted. I wonder what this woman's yard must look like if she puts in previously potted plants and just leaves them there to observe "survival of the fittest".
And yeah, if you have power lines buried 3 inches under your sod you have MAJOR ISSUES!! If the yard is terribly compacted to the point where it doesn't improve with aeration it just might be better to tear it up, till it, and replant it.
Is there an easy way to move full grown pine trees 8-10' tall.
He is now serving hard time in Dannemora State Corrections Facility, a maximum security prison in the Siberia of New York State.
The moral: Being a member of the BBB is no guarantee that someone is reputable. It's easy to join, and if no one files a complaint against you quickly, you look sterling for a good long while. They can't do anything anyway, except record the complaint. Better: Look up the contractor on the state's Attorney General's website. If a complaint has been filed there, you will find it--and they have much more clout than the BBB has, though they may not use it. I have to admit, when I went to the local AG's office to file a complaint, the attorney there said, in a tone that was sympathetic to the culprit,"Oh, Carl again?"Then nothing happened. All he had to do was give the local AG representative a denial, a **** and bull story, and that was that--until people started complaining at the state level.
Other moral: Do not ever give as contractor money upfront. If they want it, they need it for purposes other than the work they presumably intend to do for you.
Good news: key members, aka victims, of at least two of the families he ripped off were--guess what?--prison guards at Dannemora.
Another mistake is planting trees too close to structures. When I moved into my house I had to completely remove a half-dozen beautiful, mature trees because the previous owner planted them 2 - 5 feet from the house, garage, and fence causing all sorts of roof and foundation problems. Plant trees at least 10 - 15 feet from structures. You'll do your trees and yourself a big favor.
“Any plant is programmed to grow a certain height,” says Joe Machcinski, owner of Pangea Gardenscapes in Seattle. “You can’t keep a big plant small. You can’t prune it the way you like it. It’s just going to continue to grow." - Obviously, this guy has never heard of a Bonsai. It can be done, but it takes more time than most people want to put into it.
Drives4alivin, did you ever stop to consider that if you didn't see the address you were looking for... and there were houses with addresses you couldn't see... that it might be one of those houses that you were looking for?