Knowing the signs: Simple landscaping mistakes to avoid

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Updated Aug 7, 2019

Shutterstock 218254411Even those who have been in the business of professional landscaping awhile will admit that they occasionally still make mistakes.

While making a few small mistakes along the way won’t necessarily make your landscaping company tank, continually making them can certainly spell disaster for you in the long run.

Whether you’re a landscaper just starting out or one who’s been in the business for years, take a look at a few small mistakes that could end up creating big problems for you if they aren’t quickly fixed.

No plan

While it may seem like a foreign concept to you to go into a landscaping project without a plan, there are those out there that attempt it.

Before purchasing any materials or committing to any type of timeline, be sure to sit down with your customer and talk out the design in its entirety. Talk to him/her about what the expectations are for the space in look and in price, talk about how the space will be used and discuss his/her input on plant options, preferred materials or desired design elements before ever starting the actual installation process.

Having this talk with your customer beforehand can also help keep your spending budget in check and allow you to not overspend on items you might end up not needing or wanting in the final plan.

When planning out your customer’s landscape, start by taking a look at the foundational features one at a time before moving on to additional features. Note the areas of turf, the placement, shape and state of beds that are currently present, how many and what kind of trees are planted and more along those lines before exploring add-on options.

When choosing plant options, be sure to take into consideration what will look good in the coming seasons. With fall soon approaching, don’t let customers fall into the trap of only wanting summer blooms and instead try to look to the future as to what will look good long term.

Forcing the design and improper prep 

Another rooky mistake that can be made is trying too hard to force the design to be what you want instead of working with an existing layout or ensuring plants are placed where they will thrive.

We all have ideas that we want to see come to fruition, but if the layout just isn’t there or the plants your customer wants can’t be planted where he/she originally thought, you will have to make adjustments and think on your feet.

Take a look at the area as a whole when designing and be sure to always think two steps ahead when choosing plants and materials, as this will help ensure that all hardscaping, furniture and other structures will mix together seamlessly in the final stages.

Also, keep in mind that you know better than most what conditions plants will need to thrive when placing them, so go with your gut instead of trying to always please the customer when it comes to where plants will need to go in the landscape.

Some customers might really want a certain plant to be in a certain spot for aesthetic reasons, but if the sun exposure and other elemental interference is too great for that particular plant, it’s best to talk that over with the customer and assure him/her that you have a better, similar option.

After you’ve discussed and approved the project plans with your customer, the next step is to make sure the planting sites are properly prepared for the materials that will be added in. It’s never a good idea to just assume the site is ready to accept what you will be adding, especially when it comes to soil.

Always have the soil tested beforehand to know what nutrients are currently available and which might need to be added in; this is also an opportune time to test the pH level of the soil to know if that will need adjusting.

Also, go through any existing beds and eliminate weeds or pest problems before bringing in the new material to ensure you are starting with a clean, healthy spot.

Speaking of choosing the appropriate place for plants, remember to also choose the appropriate spots for trees and shrubs that you know will grow to be wide or tall.

Plants will grow, and if they aren’t placed properly, they could end up growing too close to your customer’s home, structures or over walkways. When looking for plants to grow alongside a home or under a set of windows, look to dwarf varieties or compact forms of a species to fill that space, or if that isn’t an option for a particular type, find something similar that will stay an appropriate height.

Taking into account the mature width of a plant will come in handy, as you won’t want shrubs to grow so large that customers and their visitors won’t be able to easily maneuver through pathways in the landscape. When planting close to a walkway, a good rule of thumb is to take the mature width of the shrub and plant it half that distance from walkways.

When working to make a privacy hedge, remember that these plants will need to be spaced apart enough to allow them room to broaden and grow. The privacy hedge might not be instant, but in time, it will grow into its full potential.

The saying, “Less is more,” applies to many areas of life, and the landscape is no exception.

There’s always the temptation to overplant, especially once you find those plants that really pop in a space and make the project come together, but always beware of overcrowding the area. Not only can overcrowding hurt the health of the plants over time, but it can also create a lot of maintenance work for you when it comes to replanting or changing out flowers.

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