The Homeowners Column

The Homeowners Column

Avoiding Common Landscape Mistakes

Photo of Sandra Mason

Sandra Mason
State Master Gardener Coordinator

One mammal causes more landscape problems than any other; more problems than rabbits and rodents, moles and voles, dogs and deer. Many well meaning people spawn time consuming landscape lycanthropes.

The buzz phrase in landscaping is "low maintenance". However I've never heard anyone proclaim, "Gee I wish I had a high maintenance landscape." Everybody wants a low maintenance yard. Actually many want a no maintenance yard, but even parking lots have weeds infiltrating cracks in the concrete fortress. Landscapes can become monsters due to our errors in planting and plant selection.

A common mistake in landscape plantings is over-planting; in other words too many plants that are planted too close together. A properly planned landscape should appear sparse after planting. If we allow for the mature size of the plant (as we are supposed to do) there can easily be three feet or more between shrubs. Perhaps an upcoming wedding or graduation yard party or a pending house sale might be good reasons to overplant, but generally we are better off filling space between the shrubs with annual flowers or ground covers.

Another widespread error is underestimating a plant's size. The plant labels and garden books give a range of possible plant heights, for example 12-20 feet tall. If I really really really want that plant but I don't have the space, I automatically delude myself into thinking it will grow to only 12 feet tall. The 20-foot tall part of the description is wiped from my consciousness. With our great soil and plenty of moisture, assume plants will grow to the high end of their plant height range.

Initially beginning a landscape or refurbishing an existing one may seem overwhelming, physically and financially. First evaluate any existing plants to determine if they should or can be salvaged then avoid overplanting and plan for the plant's maximum mature size.

You are sure to discover lots of gardening and landscaping tips during Garden Day 2010 - Spring into Gardening March 26th and 27th at the I-Hotel and Conference Center 1900 South First Street in Champaign, IL. Learn from nationally known speakers and get ready for spring as you shop among unique garden vendors and artisans.

March 26th program focuses on "Landscape Design and Art in the Garden" as it highlights methods for putting your design on paper, how to design for focal points and how to effectively use art in the garden. Join Kaizad Irani landscape architect and horticulture program leader at Parkland College for this engaging workshop.

March 27th program includes several selections and plenty of shopping for that perfect garden accessory or tool. Spring into Gardening kicks off with Joe Lamp'l alias Joe Gardener the host of GardenSMART on PBS television. Joe is also a Master Gardener, Designer, Certified Landscape Professional, author, and syndicated columnist. Join your fellow gardeners as Joe shares "The Five Biggest Mistakes We Make in our Home Landscape". Check him out at

Spring into Gardening continues with Rosalind Creasy author of Edible Landscaping. UI instructor and host of WILL TV's Illinois Gardener Dianne Noland will share her tips on using native palnts in the flower border. Dave Wanninger of Beaver Creek Nursery will discuss shrub selection in "Let's Get Small: Shrubs that Actually Fit in your Garden." Chef Ben Lubchansky gets our taste buds going and our garden trowels busy with "Cooking and Growing Spring Veggies". Author and designer Janet Macunovich and photographer Steven Nikkila share their "50 Favorite Before and After Examples: Looks and Lessons in Design, Problem Solving and Enjoyment".

Attend one day or both days. Click here to register or call 217.333.7672. UI Extension provides equal opportunities in programs and employment.

March 13, 2010 Garden Day Workshop Danville, IL. Vermilion County UI Extension 217-442-8615.

March 27, 2010 Gardening Insights Decatur, IL Macon County UI Extension 217-877-6042

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