Top 10 Landscape Maintenance Mistakes Phil Sell K-State Research and Extension Horticulture Agent Shawnee County
“Unless we confront and acknowledge mistakes of the past, we are destined to repeat them in the future.”
Inadequate Soil Preparation • DO NOT work soil when wet (squeeze test). • DO NOT add sand to clay soil. • DO NOT excessively till (pulverize) soil. • DO till the soil to a depth of 6-8 inches. • DO incorporate organic amendments prior to planting. • DO blend off-site topsoil with the sub-grade soil (avoid layering).
Improper Planting Procedures - Lawns • DO NOT seed too heavily (especially small, irregular areas). • DO plant at the recommended time. • DO adequately prepare the seed bed (sod bed). • Do water adequately. • DO consider shade tolerant ground covers as an alternative to turf in shade.
Improper Planting Procedures – Trees and Shrubs • DO NOT plant a ring of flowers around the base of trees. • DO NOT plant drought stressed plants. • DO cover nursery stock while in transit. • DO consider mature plant size (space accordingly). • DO plant at the proper depth - according to root flare. • DO cut and/or spread encircling roots. • DO remove wire baskets and nylon cords. • DO consider location of utilities (Call Dig-Safe).
Improper Use of Mulch • DO NOT apply mulch too deep. • DO NOT create mulch volcanoes. • DO NOT apply black plastic or weed mat fabric around landscape plants. • DO keep mulch a few inches away from the base of trees.
Construction Damage to Trees • DO NOT change (raise or lower) the grade around trees. • DO NOT cut roots inside of the Critical Root Radius (apply formula). • DO NOT compact the soil over the root-zone of trees. • DO NOT damage bark surfaces with heavy equipment.
Improper Pruning Practices • DO NOT shear shrubs into geometric shapes. • DO NOT top trees. • DO NOT prune early spring flowering shrubs before they bloom. • DO NOT prematurely cut the leaves off of spring flowering bulbs (Don’t tie or braid). • DO eliminate competing multiple leaders in young trees.
Improper Mowing Practices • DO NOT mow bluegrass and tall fescue lawns too low. • DO NOT cut off more than 1/3 of the height of the grass at one time. • DO NOT cause damage to trees with mowers or trimmers. • DO NOT collect clippings – but follow 1/3 rule and adjust maintenance accordingly • DO keep mower blades sharp.
Irrigation Mismanagement • DO NOT over water • DO NOT set irrigation systems on a timer to cycle too frequently. • DO NOT allow irrigation systems to water hard surfaces (esp. street). • DO water when needed • DO water lawns separately from landscape beds. • DO become familiar with sprinkler output – tin cans
Inappropriate Fertilization • DO NOT fertilize cool-season lawns in both late fall and early spring (follow fall emphasis schedule). • DO NOT fertilize cool season grasses in late spring (May) if not planning to water throughout summer. • DO NOT fertilize warm season grasses on the same schedule as cool season species. • DO NOT make indiscriminate limestone applications. • DO test the soil and use results as a guide for fertilization and pH adjustment.
Pesticide Misuse • DO NOT apply insecticides on an arbitrary, indiscriminate, predetermined schedule. • DO NOT get pesticide or fertilizer granules in the street (or clean them up afterwards). • DO avoid off target drift of pesticides. • DO read, understand and follow label instructions, precautions, and restrictions.