Waiting Patiently for Spring

At least once a day I'll catch myself and my wife standing at our kitchen window that looks out into our backyard, just staring silently. There is no set time for how long this will go on before something is said, but usually at least a few minutes. Eventually one of us will mutter "I can't wait for spring so we can go work in the yard. When is it ever going to stop raining?".

Most of our conversations lately seem to revolve around what we would like to do differently in our yard this year, if only it would stop raining. Our plans include reducing the number of vegetables in our garden and focusing on high quality plants, possibly putting in a play yard/sandbox for our 16 month old son, fencing off a portion of our yard for the chickens (tip toeing through our chicken poop minefield gets a little old), and finally installing the most magnificent horseshoe pits that I've been designing in my head for quite some time now (I may be all alone on that one). While we day dream of sunny days spent shoveling, pulling, planting, raking and enjoying the feel of cool freshly turned soil on bare hands and feet, I leave you with a few things to consider while planning what to do with your own backyard wonderland. Now all we need is some sunshine.

Landscape Design: 20 Mistakes to Avoid

Eye-catching and beautiful home landscape design is certainly attainable for do-it-yourselfers, but there are some common "misjudgements" that should be avoided if all-around satisfaction is desired. Therefore, below is a list of 20 mistakes to be avoided in home landscape design. The mistakes covered here range from oversights that have practical ramifications to more subtle errors that negatively impact your enjoyment (or even your neighbors' enjoyment) of your home landscape design.

1. Failure to have a plan.

Ideally, it's best to start from scratch, draw a plan for the whole yard, and stick to it. Short of that, try at least to sketch a rough plan for one large area of your yard, and put all your energy into implementing that plan this year.

2. Straight walkways and planting beds.

A curving walkway provides more visual interest and softens the boxy shape of your home and property. Planting beds with curved borders gently guide the eye around the yard and look more natural and inviting.

3. Having a lawn because you think you should.

For those not attracted to the "green carpet" look or who dislike having to mow grass every week, it's important to know that other acceptable options exist, especially for small spaces.

4. No theme.

It helps to pick a theme which suits the architecture of your home and the sun exposure of your yard. When you select plants at the nursery, place them next to each other for visual compatibility.

5. No overall color scheme.

Use tried-and-true color schemes. Monochromatic: select one color and its variations, such as purple, and blend lilac, pale purple and eggplant-colored flowers together. Analogous: plant related colors, such as yellows, golds, oranges and reds. Complementary: select colors opposite each other on the color wheel, such as purple and yellow or blue and orange. Remember to select colors which harmonize with your home's paint color.

6. Insufficient fall color.

The fall season holds enormous promise for those landscaping enthusiasts willing to plan for it. Don't allow your home landscape design to miss out on the colors offered by autumn's beauty!

7. Lack of winter interest.

If you live in the North, it is precisely in wintertime that we most need a yard decor that will bring us cheer.

8. Hanging onto scraggly, unhealthy or overgrown plants.

Brown leaves, misshapen limbs, and sparse foliage do not add beauty to your landscape. Overgrown junipers and yews planted years ago can dominate your yard and give it a dated look. Remove offenders and replace with appropriate plantings. Group or cluster plants, with the tallest toward the rear and those of lesser height in front.

9. Failure to irrigate.

There's a lot tied up in your home landscape design, both in terms of money and sentimental value. Consider installing an automatic irrigation system in your home landscape design.

10. Shrubs and trees blocking passage.

Your home will look more inviting and well-maintained if you trim overgrown shrubs.

11. Planting on an eroding hillside.

Build a retaining wall first, then do your planting afterwards.

12. Failure to work with what you have.

Sometimes you can successfully fight the terrain you inherit in your yard. Other times, instead of fighting it, it's better to go with the flow and work with what you have. The key is to know what you're up against and what options you have.

13. Topping trees.

Don't get sold on the erroneous notion that cutting off the tops of trees spurs growth. The fact is, removing all or part of a treetop encourages rapid decay, weakens the branches and makes them susceptible to disease and breakage.

14. Dangerous walkways and paths.

Repair uneven sections of cement and loose bricks. You'll make it safe for your visitors and your yard will look well-maintained.

15. Failure to plant deer-resistant plants.

Don't want all of your hard work turned to shreds? Ask a garden professional to recommend plantings that aren't on your neighborhood deer's menu.

16. House number problems.

Place your house numbers in one or two prominent locations. Invest in large-sized (5" to 8") numbers and position them horizontally or vertically.

17. Lawn tools simply can't be found.

What you need is a storage shed. The longer you put off getting adequate storage, the longer you'll be disorganized - and the further you'll fall behind in your yard work.

18. No personality.

The gardens that have the most sparkle and creative touches express the character of the inhabitants. Display a sculpture piece or ornament, place one or two unusual plants in your yard, or arrange some antique furniture on your front porch. Place yard ornaments, such as bird baths or sundials amongst one or two of the groupings.

19. Forgetting functionality.

Functionality takes precedence over aesthetics. Home landscape design should always be safe, convenient and usable.

20. Covering your yard with red lava or white quartz rocks.

If you have this in your yard, get rid of it, and if you're thinking of putting it in, don't!

Your lawn, and how you take care of it, can help the environment!

Healthy grass provides feeding ground for birds, who find it a rich source of insects, worms, and other food. Thick grass prevents soil erosion, filters contaminants from rainwater and absorbs many types of airborne pollutants, like dust and soot. Grass is also highly efficient at converting carbon dioxide to oxygen, a process that helps clean the air.

Caring for your lawn properly can both enhance its appearance and contribute to its environmental benefits. This means creating conditions for grass to thrive and resist damage from weeds, disease, and insect pests. If you choose to use pesticides or fertilizers, it means using them with extreme care so as to get the most benefit and reduce any risks.

Caring for your lawn in an environmentally sensible way can have a bigger impact than you might think. Your lawn may only be a small piece of land, but all the lawns across the country cover a lot of ground. That means you and your lawn-care activities, along with everyone else's, can make a difference to the environment. And that's why taking care of the environment begins in our own backyards.

This article is adapted from a Real Living newsletter

Josh Domke is a Marine Corps veteran who works as a full-time REALTOR® with Real Living/Real Estate Professionals and co-owns Domke & Buick Construction with his long time friend Judd Buick. He, his wife Kat and their son Austin are proud to call Redding their home. (Josh is also Doni's son.)

Josh Domke is a Marine Corps veteran who works as a full-time REALTOR® with Real Living/Real Estate Professionals and co-owns Domke & Buick Construction with his long time friend Judd Buick. He, his wife Kat and their son Austin are proud to call Redding their home. (Josh is also Doni's son.)
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5 Responses

  1. Budd Hodges says:

    Good information Josh. As soon as the weather improves and we get a warming trend, I've got my work cut out for me. There's lots of "honey does" to do and then some.

    • Josh says:

      Aahhh, the never ending "honey do" list. If you're as lucky as me then your honey do list is comprised mostly of chores you create for yourself. Good luck!

  2. Barbara N. says:

    I think I did pretty good, got number one wrong, but have been working with that mistake ever since. The rest are always a work in progress!! Good advice all around Josh, thanks.

  3. Sally says:

    Lots of good advice, but living in an area that deer called home first, I lived with a certain shrub (don't know its name) lining my driveway for 12 years…untouched by the deer. This year this same shrub has become, to the deer, their prized gourmet food. Dang it anyway. They don't actually destroy the bush, but somehow takes the leaves off, which are small. I needed to replace a couple of plants that the deer did destroy and specified to the nursery that I needed plants deer did not like, and could stand a western exposure. I happily planted two new plants and within days the deer had devoured them! Boo-hiss!

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