Common Landscaping Mistakes

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Jan 01, 2011 | Rahel Jaskow
Rachel Kramer/flickr
We would like our homes to reflect our best selves. That includes what is outside our homes as well – our lawns, our gardens, our yards. We live in a culture devoted to doing our own thing our own way. That’s all very well, but when we’re dealing with nature – even the controlled nature of our own front lawns or back yards – we need to realize that we can’t always play by our own rules. Even if our yard is the size of the proverbial postage stamp, nature will have her say.

How can we work best with nature when we plan our yards, and what mistakes should we avoid? You can always consult a landscaper, but if you’re determined to do it yourself, here are some common errors to avoid when you plan and plant your yard.

  • Not taking your geographical region into account. This mistake can take several forms: planting the wrong plants at the wrong time – or, more subtly, not being aware of which parts of your yard are in sun or shade at various times of the year and planting accordingly. Professional landscapers in Phoenix, Arizona know to focus on succulents and other plants that do well in hot, dry climates. Make sure to do the proper research and planning before you plant.

  • Putting aesthetics before functionality. Perhaps you've always wanted a stand of prize-winning rose bushes or a bed of rare orchids where everyone can see them – but what if you have small children and pets? They will want to be able to play outside freely without having to worry about delicate flowers – or thorns. Consider growing the rare blooms indoors where they’ll be safer and letting the kids romp on the grass.

  • Not considering the terrain of your yard. Do you want to cover that gentle slope in the southern corner of your yard with phlox or portulacas? You might want to put in a retaining wall first. Otherwise, those bright, spectacular colors will end up in a heap at the bottom. Likewise, if you’ve always dreamed of an in-ground swimming pool but live in an area with rocky soil, perhaps you'd do better to install an above-ground pool instead.

  • Not finding out where cables or pipes are buried before you dig. This is serious. If you’re planning to do any significant digging in your yard – to build that retaining wall, for example – consult the local utility companies to find out where any cables or pipes may be buried underground. Failure to do so could endanger you, your family, your home and your neighbors. It could also involve steep fines and trouble with the law.

  • Inviting the deer to dinner. If the local wildlife visit regularly, consider putting in plants that they don’t like to eat. Otherwise, Bambi and all his friends – possibly even bears – may be coming to dinner every night, with you supplying the menu.

Rahel Jaskow is a home improvement writer, covering topics from pest control to frugal DIY.

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