Common Mistakes in Home Landscape Design

Avoid These Amateur Pitfalls for a Great-Looking Yard

A successful home landscape design is certainly attainable for do-it-yourselfers, but you need to be aware of some pitfalls if you are to achieve maximum satisfaction. Thus the need for this list of common mistakes that beginners should try to avoid. The mistakes covered range from miscalculations that have practical ramifications to more subtle errors that negatively impact your enjoyment of your yard.

  • 01 of 10

    Failure to Work With What You Have

    Front yard garden
    Perry Mastrovito / Getty Images

    Do you have a rocky yard? A yard with a lot of shade? Or perhaps your yard's problem is a punishing summertime heat that scorches all in its path? Sometimes you can successfully fight the terrain you inherit in your yard, as in the case of building retaining walls for slopes to fight erosion. 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. That's the mission of this article.

  • 02 of 10

    Having a Lawn Just Because "Everyone Else Does It"

    Lawn mower and grass

    Sean Hobson / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

    Many homeowners make the mistake of assuming that having a grassy area in the yard designated as "the lawn" is somehow an obligatory part of home landscape design. But historically speaking, the lawn as we know it is a relatively recent introduction to landscaping. For those not attracted to that rather monotonous "green carpet" look or who dislike having to mow the grass every week, it's important to know that other acceptable options exist, especially for small spaces. Whose yard is it, anyhow?

    Do you agree? If so, you'll want to check out my alternatives. And if one of them strikes your fancy and you start considering a transformation from lawn to perennial bed, let me help you answer the question of how to get rid of grass in a way that is economical, organic, and reasonably easy.

  • 03 of 10

    Insufficient Fall Color in Your Yard

    Front lawn fall foliage
    Travelif / Getty Images

    Spring and summer receive most of our attention when it comes to planting. Unfortunately, it's easy to forget to plant for fall. Yet 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 bounty! Consult this Top 10 list for shrubs and vines with standout fall foliage.

  • 04 of 10

    Lack of Winter Interest

    Evergreen holly with berries.
    Evergreen holly with berries. David Beaulieu

    If the fall season is often neglected in home landscape design, matters stand twice as bad with the winter season. Yet in the North, it is precisely in wintertime that we most need a yard decor that will bring us cheer. This article presents a Top 10 list of trees and shrubs for winter interest (descriptions accompany the ten entries).

    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10

    Failure to Irrigate

    Sprinklers (image) can save you money. They can also save you time.
    Automatic irrigation is an option to consider if you have a large lawn. David Beaulieu

    Many of us face a dilemma: we enjoy having plants in our yards, but we also like to travel during the summer. So how do the plants get watered while we're gone? Sometimes a friend or relative can come to the rescue, but why chance it? There's a lot tied up in your home landscape design, both in terms of money and sentimental value. But don't ditch your travel plans! Just install an automatic irrigation system in your home landscape design.

  • 06 of 10

    Planting on a Hillside Prone to Erosion

    A retaining wall holds back soil that would otherwise erode.
    A retaining wall holds back soil that would otherwise erode. Building stone retaining walls is one way to terrace a hillside and make the land there usable.

    Do you have a steep slope in your yard? Is it tough to retain your topsoil there during heavy rain? Have you tried growing your favorite plants there to no avail? The problem is that you failed to fix your erosion problem prior to planting. Build a retaining wall first, then do your planting afterward.

  • 07 of 10

    Failure to Incorporate Deer-Resistant Plants Where Bambi Is a Known Nemesis

    Pachysandra (image) is a widely grown ground cover. It is useful in deer-infested locations.
    David Beaulieu

    You may think you've arrived at the ideal home landscape design. You meticulously drew up a plan and stuck to it. The soil is fertile, you've installed automatic irrigation, you've followed directions faithfully in planting your specimens, and you've applied a generous layer of mulch around them. But you come out of the house one day -- and find your plants in shreds! What happened? You forgot one thing: deer can make a snack of your plants quicker than you can say, "Bambi goes to market."

  • 08 of 10

    You Never Get Anything Done in the Yard Because Tools Are Never Handy

    Supplies needed for planting hedges. Image is in an article with full instructions.
    The right tools for the job (in this case, planting a hedge). Tape measure, helpful; guide string, essential; shovel, indispensable; knowing where to find them -- priceless. David Beaulieu

    The surest way to get little done in the yard is to realize you need a tool -- only to find that you can't find it! If you don't have enough storage space, chances are your tools will all be jammed into one small area (perhaps a corner of the garage), making it tough to keep the area accessible and the tools organized. 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.

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    Forgetting the Place of Functionality in Landscaping

    Even great fences profit from a shrub planting.
    This lovely fence offers security, as well as eye candy. David Beaulieu

    When one thinks about home landscape design, it is aesthetic considerations that immediately come to mind. Functionality, however, takes precedence over aesthetics. There is no reason you shouldn't be able to have both; but when push comes to shove, one needs to be more concerned that a home landscape design is secure, safe, convenient and usable.

  • 10 of 10

    Piecemeal Planting: Failure to Have a Plan

    Landscape blueprints

    Kaloyan Suhorukov / E+ / Getty Images

    Many home landscape designs evolve helter-skelter. A plant is planted somewhere in the yard simply because there is room for it there at the time. 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.