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Now is the time to plan a landscape makeover

By Darrell Blackwelder
For the Salisbury Post
Work outside came to a screeching halt this week with three days of continuous rain. Many have nothing to do but peer outside and think about improving the existing landscape.
Now is a good time to research and plan a landscape makeover. Preparation and proper knowledge are essential in becoming a successful landscape gardener. Below are a few mistakes homeowners make that can be avoided with proper planning.
– How big will this plant get? Most buy plants without knowledge of how fast they grow or the mature size. Dwarf shrubs such as burfordi holly actually stretch 8 feet tall. Many think that dwarf means it will not get much larger than the size in the container. Consult with knowledgeable growers or sales persons to learn as much about the plant as you can before planting.
– Over-planting. Impatient for the shrubs to mature, many tend to over plant, pacing plants close together is more appealing, but as shrubs become established, they become overcrowded and unattractive. Overcrowded shrubs are often removed after a few years. Fast food chains and restaurants often have overly crowded landscapes. Ironically, some companies budget for total landscape renovation every 3-4 years.
– Improper or no pruning. Cooperative Extension receives more questions on pruning than any other subject. Most inquiries are concerned about trees that are too big. Horning back trees or shrubs can create unnatural forms that weaken plants predispose them to insect and disease problems. Take time to learn growth habits before pruning.
– Improper planting techniques. It doesn’t matter how much time or money you spend preparing the soil if you don’t plant the shrub correctly. Sick or diseased shrubs are often a result improper planting, usually too deep. In tight clay, its better to set shrubs a little high in a plant bed than too deeply.
– Impatience. Planning is very important part of good landscape design. Landscape architects spend hours developing the perfect landscape. Take you time learn about growth and maintenance of new shrubs. Great landscapes often take years to develop. Your landscape is an open book to your personality or some refer to landscape as a person’s outdoor living room. Make time to study new plant materials and have a viable plan.
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Darrell Blackwelder is an agricultural agent in charge of horticulture with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County. Call him at 704-216-8970.

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