Although we all strive to have the perfect landscape, that is one with lots of year-round color and interest, yet requires little care on our part, most Floridians fail to achieve that goal.
Listed below are some of the common landscape mistakes we make. By correcting or eliminating these mistakes, we can all have a landscape to be proud of.
- We don’t fully understand that “In Florida, we do things differently here”. Because we live in a subtropical environment, we have different soil issues, we grow different plants, (including turf), we have more pest issues, our weather/seasons is/are different, etc.
2. We don’t match our plants to our individual environment (aka right plant/right place), or with the various landscape plants we already have, which often results in overcrowding. We fail to work with what we have.
3. We don’t know our plants – especially their ultimate size, typical problems we may encounter and how to deal with them, cultural requirements, etc., etc. We often buy plants on impulse that aren’t suited to our environment, and may become invasive/ aggressive.
4. We often overplant, use too many different plant varieties and don’t consider time requirements to maintain them, which often results in required maintenance either not getting done, done correctly, or at the proper time.
5. We either don’t know of or use the services available at the Ag. Center – especially soil testing, diagnosing pest problems, etc., and if they do, they still will often do what they think is right. We often seek advice of neighbor or someone with limited knowledge at box stores.
6. We don’t work with our neighbors in maintaining our landscapes, which is often the reason why we have pest problems, especially with lawns.
7. We all want simple, fast, easy solutions to our plant problems. This is not always possible. Maintaining ones landscape is like a great spider web – change one maintenance practice and it will often affect several others.
8. When something goes wrong, we typically will assume it’s a pest problem and reach for a pesticide. Even if it is a pest issue, we often apply the wrong material or too much because we didn’t diagnose the problem/cause, nor do we properly apply it.
9. We often don’t plant correctly. We either don’t make the planting hole large enough or it’s too deep. We add soil amendments even though we don’t need them because “that’s the way we did it up north”, or “that’s what the person at the ‘big box store’ told us to do”. We also don’t know how to deal with pot-bound plants and we either forget/ignore the importance of after care.
10. We don’t water correctly. We typically either overwater, or don’t water often enough. If we have an irrigation system, we don’t know how to set the running times correctly, nor do we periodically check it to see if it’s operating properly.
11. We don’t know how to mow our lawns. Most of us mow it in the same pattern, we don’t periodically sharpen the mower blades, and we usually cut the grass too short.
12. We take our trees for granted. After planting, we often forget to give them sufficient water until they have become established. (Many think that their irrigation system will take care of this – it won’t.) Once established, we don’t have our trees periodically checked for problems or needed pruning. (This should be done every 3-5 years and done by an arborist.) It often takes the threat of a hurricane coming before many will have their trees pruned, and some even then won’t have it done because of the cost. This may result in considerable damage to trees, structures, or life.
13. We don’t use the proper tools for the various gardening tasks we do. When pruning, we try to cut stems that are too large or woody with hand pruners, which can end up warping the cutting blades. We leave branch stubs or we cut too close to the trunk, and some even cover the cutting wounds with paint, which causes decay. Also, once we’re done with a task, we don’t clean our tools and put them back where they belong.
14. We don’t understand what soil preparation is – it’s more than just fertilizing. It’s also adjusting our soil pH, and incorporating amendments to our soil.
15. We don’t develop/follow a plan – resulting in piecemeal planting, which is usually lacking in year round interest or meets our goals/needs. Furthermore, we waste a lot of time, energy, and money modifying it later on.
16. We want instant landscapes – this is not advisable. Look at a typical model home landscape when first put in and six months later. (Notice the overcrowding.)
17. We don’t group our plants according to their watering needs.
18. We don’t keep a journal of our landscaping activities, including what we did, when we did it, what worked/what didn’t.
19. We don’t know how to prune or when to do it. Often one will see plants that resemble boxes or balls – unnatural. We hat-rack crape myrtle and hurricane cut palms.
20. We’ve become too dependent on lawn services. Not only do we not get the results we desire, but we’re also overcharged. How many of you have ever received a proposal for annual care of your lawn which includes what materials will be applied and pesticide material safety data sheets (MSDS), for each material?
21. Safety – often ignored. How often have you seen children riding along with their parents on riding lawn mowers? Many also remove safety devices. We plant trees too close to structures. (Except for palms, keep trees a minimum of 25 feet from you home.)