8 Strategies for a Smart Landscape Design

The traditional view of landscape design is a detailed drawing specifying the location of each shrub and flower bed. In truth, each time you bring home a plant from the nursery you are engaging in the design process, either intentionally or unintentionally.
Judging from the results I see, there are an awful lot of unintentional designers out there. Many landscapes look like a collection of randomly chosen and haphazardly placed plants. Not only do they lack cohesion, but even worse, the poorly placed plants become liabilities, requiring expensive pest treatments, frequent pruning or complete removal long before they have fulfilled their natural life spans.
Although an overall plan is a valuable tool, there’s nothing wrong with designing on the fly. Experienced gardeners do it all the time, usually with great delight. Whichever method you choose, here are a few tips for creating a landscape that stands out from the crowd and minimizes future headaches.

Plan for Equipment Access

“It’s important to anticipate future access,” advises Liz Dean of New Leaf Landscaping in Durham, N.C., “whether it be mowers or stump grinders, or future building projects such as a porch or patio.” At some point in the life of your home, you will be faced with a project or repair that requires some loud, monstrous machine to get into your backyard. Plan for it in advance, or be faced with having to tear out some of your precious plantings.

Start With (and Maintain) the Focal Points

Stated simply, a focal point is something that “makes you look,” says Dr. Pat Lindsey, a landscape design professor at North Carolina State University. At its best, however, “it directs you visually and makes you feel surprised, moved or engaged, moving you through the garden experience.”
Although we typically think of using a specimen tree or statue as a focal point, there are many other possibilities. Lindsey says the key is to find something that is “slightly to very different from the rest of your landscape in form, texture or color.” It could be an architectural feature of your house or even a borrowed view.
The trick is to make them stand out, yet not stick out. It should be somehow connected to the rest of the landscape, either through a repeated shape or color, or a connection to the overall style of the landscape. Scale is also important. If your landscape is several acres with broad vistas, then perhaps an ancient oak would play the role quite well. In a small urban lot, an ornate garden bench or small statue might be the perfect size.

Leave Formal Landscapes to the Rich and Famous

A formal landscape is one of the most challenging to create, and the upkeep can be arduous. “Symmetry is very difficult to maintain,” notes Dean. If, for example, you have two identical evergreens at the corners of the house and one dies, it could be very difficult to find a matching replacement. “Sometimes,” she continues, “the only choice is to replace both, which adds to the expense.” One of the most common dilemmas is the hedgerow or foundation planting where one or two shrubs have succumbed to a plague. Be wary of putting all your eggs in one basket.

Keep Curves in Check

Incorporating curves will add interest to your garden, but don’t overdo it. A collection of amoeba-shaped beds would be overkill, as would a curvy path that takes you far out of the way of your destination. Long, subtle curves are often best.
Lindsey also advises gardeners to “limit the geometries so that one dominates.” If you incorporate curved lines in beds and walkways, for example, repeat those shapes in the third dimension with the shape of the plants you choose and the way you arrange them.

Add Movement

A landscape without movement is like a painting. Paintings are fine for hanging on a wall, but a garden needs movement to add life and interest. No garden is complete without some ornamental grasses to sway in the breeze. Add flowers to attract hummingbirds and butterflies, and several berry producers for the birds.

Accent Your House

Unless your house is an architectural masterpiece, it could benefit from some thoughtful plantings to soften the edges and help it blend with the surroundings. But take care not to end up at the other extreme, a house that is hidden by overgrown shrubbery. Even the smallest starter home usually has some interesting architectural feature. The best design will highlight that feature.

Take Nothing for Granted

When you live in a place for a while, you tend to accept existing features as obstacles, sometimes without completely noticing them. Rather than designing around the overgrown shrubbery, established trees, or worn-out deck, consider removing them. You may discover new possibilities, such as a sunny spot for a vegetable garden or rose bed.

Right Plant, Right Spot

On the outside chance that someone reading this has not heard the old adage “right plant, right spot,” I urge you to adopt it as your personal gardening mantra. The phrase should be repeated constantly during each visit to the nursery. In addition to knowing the full-grown size, Liz Dean cautions us to consider growth rate as well. Since they get large more quickly, fast-growing plants may seem like a bargain. In the end, however, time and money spent on pruning and other maintenance may outweigh the initial savings.
Dean also observes that “proper spacing allows air circulation to prevent fungal and insect problems.” But won’t the finished landscape look sparse? Easy, she counters, simply “fill in with annuals.”
Finally, keep in mind that you needn’t have a five-figure budget to achieve an exceptional landscape. Whether your landscape venture is a two-month multiphase project, or a Saturday trip to the nursery, the key is to select your plants purposefully and place them thoughtfully. The result is sure to bring you years of enjoyment.

Basic Lawn Care Tips

You know a healthy lawn when you see it: a smooth, lush green carpet, perfect for cartwheels and croquet. So why doesn’t your lawn look like that? To get that perfect lawn you may have to change your mindset, says landscape designer Gary Alan (www.garyalan.com). “You know how in golf they say ‘Be the ball’? Well, you’ve got to be the grass. You’ve got to think about what it needs,” Gary says. The basics, he says, are pretty simple: sun, water and fertilizer. Once you get those down, everyone’s happy — you and your lawn. Here’s how to get started.

Setting Soil

Planting a new lawn is like any good adventure: preparation and planning are key. No matter which planting method you plan to use, you need to prepare the area thoroughly to banish weeds and make sure soil won’t immediately crust over or compact into lumpy ruts. John Griggs, a master gardener in West Virginia, says the most important step — and one that many gardeners skip — is testing the pH of your soil. Do-it-yourself test kids are available from nurseries and catalogs, or you can take advantage of the testing offered by your state’s designated agricultural university. “It might seem like a hassle, but testing your soil will save you from pouring money into the ground,” John says.

Green Lawn Maintenance Tips

Follow Ahmed Hassan’s expert tips to have the greenest lawn in the neighborhood.
Start by stripping the area of all weeds, including roots, even if that means taking off the top six inches. Then rototill to a depth of at least six inches to loosen compaction and improve drainage. It’s extremely important to add loam and compost to enrich the soil; many experts suggest mixing equal parts of loam, sand and your original topsoil. You’re best off in the long run if you incorporate a slight slope to facilitate drainage and prevent pooling. Finally, use a roller to pack down the soil, then grade the area with a metal rake. Be as thorough as you can — remember, once you’ve put your seed or sod down, you can’t go back and regrade.

To Seed or Not to Seed

No question but rolling out a carpet of sod is the quickest way to a beautiful lawn. But sod can get expensive, especially if your lawn is going to cover a large area. The alternative is seeding the area yourself, either by hand or with a method called hydroseeding, which has recently become quite popular. Long used by farmers to sow large fields, hydroseeding solves one of the main problems of hand seeding: even dispersal of seeds. The grass seed — a mix of varieties blended for your climate and the type of use your lawn will get — is mixed into a pulp made from virgin wood fibers, fertilizer and binding agents.

Shave and a Haircut

When it comes to sharing lawn secrets, the first one on many garden experts’ lips is mowing height. “Most people mow their lawns way too short, which stresses out the grass,” says Paul James, host of Gardening by the Yard. The secret, he says, is do less, not more: “I’m a great believer in benign neglect.” He recommends raising the mower to the highest possible notch so you’re mowing only the top third of the grass when you cut. Taller grass promotes better root development, Paul says, as well as shading the ground so it doesn’t dry out as fast. An added benefit: the taller grass blocks the sun that weed seeds require to germinate. And don’t believe for a moment that leaving grass taller is going to mean mowing more often, says Gary. “There’s a big misunderstanding that a lot of people have that if they cut it shorter, they won’t have to mow it as often,” say Gary. “But that’s absolutely false; it renews itself so fast that it doesn’t save you any time.”

Water, Water Everywhere

“Water only once a week, but water deep” is the rule according to Paul. A weekly soaking helps roots extend deeper into the soil, while frequent shallow waterings tend to lead to thatch, that unsightly web of dry brown runners just above the soil. Watering deeply can also prevent chinch bugs, a pest that tends to attach dried, stressed out lawns across the midsection of the country. To figure out how much water your lawn needs, take your soil type into account: sandy soils dry out faster, while clay soils hold moisture longer and don’t require watering as often.
For a newly seeded lawn, water every day for five to 10 minutes only. Your goal is to dampen the seeds without causing runoff that might wash them away or mar the surface with gullies. After the seeds sprout and the new grass is a half inch tall, water once a day for 15 to 20 minutes.

Please Feed Me

Even the healthiest lawn gets hungry and needs a solid meal. Twice a year, spring and fall, is the bare minimum most experts recommend for fertilization, though some add a feeding in the middle of the summer. But beware the common N-P-K (nitrogen-phosphate-potassium) fertilizers popular with most gardeners, says Gary; they don’t provide everything your hungry grass needs. Instead, he recommends a complete fertilizer that includes micronutrients such as sulfur, copper and iron. “Just like you take a multivitamin, your grass needs one too,” says Gary. In addition to regular fertilizing, he recommends an application of dolomitic lime every few years. This is because watering and fertilizing cause soil to become acidic over time and lime restores the pH while putting important minerals like calcium and magnesium back into the soil. In some Western areas, soils are naturally alkaline and may not have this problem, so it’s best to test your soil’s pH first.

Weeds, Go Away

No doubt about it, crabgrass is the bane of every lawn gardener’s existence. But that doesn’t mean herbicides are essential to a healthy lawn; in fact, many experts avoid them. The true secret to banishing weeds, they say, is to grow such healthy grass that it chokes out the invaders naturally. Mowing regularly helps too, because it tops off weeds like dandelions and crabgrass before they have a chance to scatter their seeds. When you do find yourself compelled to do battle against a path of weeds, Paul recommends using one of the new “natural” herbicides that derive their potency from corn gluten, salts from fatty acids or other nonchemical sources.

Air Supply

When grass gets too compacted, nutrients can’t penetrate to the root system where they’re most needed. That’s where aeration — poking holes in your lawn to improve oxygen circulation — comes in. Most people aerate with a simple tool that looks like two hollow tubes attached to the end of a long handle. Of course, you can also just waltz around your lawn in spiked sports shoes — that works fairly well too.

Types of Grass

Some lawns have finer textures (think golf courses), while others feel like Astroturf under your feet. There are hundreds of types of grass available, and new varieties are developed every year.
As with all plant choices, climate plays a big role in determining which type of grass will work best for you — soil type, rainfall and other factors also come into it. As a general rule, cool-season grasses go dormant during the warm weather, and warm-season grasses go dormant during the coolest months of the year; in areas where it’s possible to have a green lawn all year round, you want a mixture of both these types. “I’ve lived in seven different states and I’ve had seven different lawns,” says master gardener John Griggs, who believes a local nursery is one of the best sources of information on which type of grass will work best in your area. Here’s a list of the most popular choices:
Popular warm-season grasses:
Popular cool-season grasses:
Grasses for special needs:
  • Shade: St. Augustine grass, fine fescue, tall fescue, ryegrass, bentgrass
  • High traffic: Zoysia grass, improved Bermuda grass, Bahia grass, regular Bermuda grass, perennial ryegrass

Lawn Care – Ultimate Tips For Keeping Your Lawn In The Best Possible Condition

 Lawn Care

Lawns are a matter of pride for the 3 out of 4 homeowners that have them in the US. Keeping the edges neat and tidy, the blades of grass fresh and healthy looking, avoiding pests and insects making ugly hills, and keeping the grass trimmed, is all part and parcel of maintaining a beautiful lawn. For some homeowners, a lawn is something to be treasured because it represents their very own green space and plot of land, to raise children on, to entertain guests on, to maintain and look after as part of their treasured estate. Lawns are extremely important to many of us, for many different reasons, which is exactly why lawn care is such a high priority for lawn owners. After all, a lawn cannot maintain itself, so if the rewards are to continue, a lawn must be maintained well.

Lawn Facts

There is a lot more to a lawn than you might imagine, and so, a lot more to the care of a lawn than you might realise. Those taking on a lawn often only realise the true extent of lawn care once patches start turning brown, growth speeds up and slows down, and areas of baldness or weed attack begin to appear. One great way to begin caring for your lawn is to have a better understanding of what it is and what it needs. Here are some interesting lawn facts to get you started:


  • Each grass plant on your lawn is up to 80% water in weight.
  • The weight of a grass plant is mainly made up from its roots, nearly 90% in fact.
  • The healthiest lawns absorb rainfall really well, and can absorb up to 6 times more water than an agricultural crop field.
  • The average lawn, produces enough oxygen to keep a family of four alive (two adults, two children).
  • The average lawn gets rid of lots of nasties naturally, such as carbon dioxide and hydrogen fluoride.
  • The average lawn contains over 8 million grass plants.
  • Natural lawns are better for the environment than artificial lawns as they provide natural habitats for animals and insects, produce oxygen and remove bad gases from the air, and they are biodegradable.


There is so much more to your lawn than you likely realise, and as it provides you with benefits like; stunning aesthetics, soft ground for your children to play on and your animals to walk on, oxygen production, water absorption and in many cases added value to your property, it is certainly worth understanding it, and in turn, caring for it properly so you can continue to enjoy all the benefits it brings for years to come.

Caring For Your Lawn In Summer

Although caring for your lawn is different depending on the season, in summer it is more tricky for several different reasons. Water shortages, extreme weather, insects, usage, growth and other factors all come into play during summer, which makes caring for it particularly challenging. During this season, lawns can become hot and stressed out, to the point of causing considerable damage if you’re not careful.

Luckily, despite the many threats to a lush, beautiful lawn, caring for it isn’t all that difficult, as long as you don’t mind putting the effort in when needed. Often, a good maintenance plan prevents any major issues, and maintaining is much easier than curing difficult lawn issues that can arise with a neglected area of turf.

Here are the best summer lawn maintenance tips to ensure your lawn stays beautiful all season:

Don’t Be Precious

Don’t be precious, enjoy your lawn. This may seem like an odd piece of advice, because your lawn is much more likely to sustain damage if people use it, but, why be precious over this extra land on your property that you pay for? Enjoying your lawn is the big payoff for maintaining it so well, and if you do keep up maintenance, your lawn will recover from damage quickly and easily anyway so, you can’t really go wrong. The only thing you should do is avoid areas that are damaged until they recover. For example; if there has been a lot of rain and you have a muddy patch, add repair turf to the patch and then let it recover.

Ensure You Mow A Lot

It seems like you’re mowing everyday in summer doesn’t it? The lawn grows so quickly, it can be tempting to neglect the mowing, but it is a really important job. It is better to mow more regularly, than to mow the grass really short when it is very hot. Mowing keeps the grass looking good, it promotes new growth and ensures better drainage, aeration and helps prevent shade dwelling weeds thriving and destroying turf.

Feed Your Lawn

Lawn feeds are essential to help nature do its best job. Lawn feeds are usually applied after mowing and help to keep your turf strong, keep it bright and lush, and helps to protect the lawn against the hot conditions. Lawn feed is only usually required during the summer months.

Use The Best Products & Tools

When it comes to lawn care, if you want the best out of your lawn, use the best products on it. With tools, it pays to pay more for good quality products that will work well time and time again.  Your reel mower is especially important, especially during heavy usage times like summer so ensure you do your research and get the best for your money. With things like lawn feeder and insecticides if you can opt for natural before chemical that is best for the environment. With things like grass seed, opt for a seed relevant to your climate. IE if you live in a drought prone area, opt for a drought resilient grass seed.

Deal With Weeds

Weeds are a nuisance with lawns and cause unsightly lumps and bumps, and a break in the grass. It pays to educate yourself on the different types of lawn weeds and what to do with them. If you take a picture, your local hardware store can advise on the best type of approach to killing the weeds. It might be you need more than one application,and you might need a different approach if the weeds indicate an insect issue under the ground.

Treat New Lawns With Kid Gloves

New lawns need nurturing whilst they become established. In summer the biggest threat to new lawns is dry spells. To avoid issues during these hot dry periods of the season, soak the lawn thoroughly when the sun has gone down in the evening, to avoid scorching. Ensure the water has soaked through into the roots, as watering on the surface encourages the roots to come to the surface which is something to avoid.

Wait Till Autumn To Sow A New Lawn

If you want a new lawn, don’t sow it in summer as the soil will be too hard and dry to promote growth. Sow in Autumn for the best chance of starting a great lawn. You can of course start planning it in summer though.

Dealing With Droughts

In areas prone to droughts, it is so important to understand how your lawn will respond to the weather, and how to help it cope with the conditions. In most situations, your lawn is likely to go brown. This is not something to worry about, as when the conditions improve, it will turn green again, as long as you have cared for it in the meantime by:-


  • Keeping your grass mowed to around 4 inches to ensure you are encouraging a deep root system that utilises water in the soil. This height of grass also provides more shade for the roots, keeping them cooler and a cooler lawn needs less water.
  • Plan how to use water so you are doing so responsibly. Some people choose to avoid watering at all during a drought and let nature run its course. You might choose to water yourself, in which case always opt for manual watering so you can physically see everything is getting water. Water after the sun has gone down to avoid scorching.
  • Accept that the grass may well turn brown, and that is OK. Grass understands its environment and if it goes brown it doesn’t mean it is dead, it just means it is shutting down certain processes to preserve itself.


Hopefully, you now feel completely prepared for a wonderful summer maintaining and enjoying your luscious lawn. Remember, with lawns it really is a case of the more you put in, the more you get out. Getting to know your lawn really will bring you many rewards that you and your family can enjoy for many years to come.