Being in Northeast Ohio, there are scores of companies doing work in our area. There are several landscape practices that from the Horticultural community’s point of view, shouldn’t be done, here is a list of things you should watch out for:
- Transporting Plant Material that isn’t Covered: Trees, bushes and shrubs breath through their foliage or needles. When exposed to the high winds while in a vehicle, this can strip them of their ability to breath and cause wind burn. Although not noticeable initially, what could happen is that the leaves on the plant begin to burn or dry out and defoliate. Although this won’t always kill a plant, if driving long distances it very well could. Make sure your landscaper uses a covered trailer or uses some sort of tarp or cloth to prevent wind burn
- Mulching Trees Up Over the Base: Although this is commonly seen, mulch and soil should not be put up around the base of the tree to the point where it is very thick around the trunk and exposed roots. Homeowners and businesses alike sometimes request this to be done because it “looks better” however heavy mulching could create an area where bugs and moisture populate where normally they would not, causing the base of the tree or bark to rot or create a safe haven for insects or slugs to live and munch on your plants.Although a lot of landscapers comply, simply to satisfy the customer, you should think twice before requesting this. If your landscaper
does this, simply ask them to leave 2-3 inches around the base of your trees or shrubs un-mulched. Most plants in general do not like to be mulched up to their bases! Always leave an inch around the base of the plant where the mulch is not piled high as it could also burn out some perennials and tender annuals depending on the type of mulch you use. Another plant that doesn’t like to be mulched are German Iris, their rhizomes should be at the top of the soil, and exposed to sunlight where they can stay dry. If mulched or buried in soil to deep, they may begin to rot and insects will also eat them.
- Using Dyed, Un-Composted Mulches: Be careful what type of mulch you buy! Although some dyed mulches are okay, others may be made of ground pallets or secondary lumber or building material, and then dyed. These don’t break down easily and provide no nutrients to your plants. Some inexpensive dyed mulches will even lose their color after several rains, and expose the light colored shredded lumber. Although sometimes good for commercial instances, they are generally not good for your home garden. A composted natural bark mulch is best for your plants. A composted mulch is usually made of natural materials that have been composted over a period of time. Composting sterilizes the medium, as well as generates nutrients and microorganisms that are beneficial to your soil and plants.
- Overcrowding Plants: Unless you want instant gratification with your landscape when it is installed, you should not have more plants installed than necessary. Some designers will recommend more plants than necessary simply to sell you more and make more money. However overcrowded landscapes at installation typically become overcrowded, overgrown landscapes a few years down the road causing you to tear out or have to severely cut back your plants. If you feel your landscaper is recommending more plants than is necessary, simply ask them what the mature size of the plants will be, and if they will need to be trimmed and how often to keep them at a manageable size. Below are images if a landscape we installed (which may look bare to some at the time of planting) and a picture of the same landscape years later. You can see how nicely it filled in over time without being overcrowded:
- Blowing Grass Clippings Into Your Beds: Whether just mowing your lawn, or using a leaf blower to clear away clippings, clippings should not be blown into your beds. Why? Although clippings will break down into mulch, grass and weed seeds may also be contained in clippings which will cause weeds to grow in your beds. Mowing companies should always run mowers so the clippings blow away from your beds, into the lawn where they can break down in your lawn. (It also doesn’t look very nice when you have grass clippings laying all over your mulch!)