Lance Ellis

Lance Ellis

As gardeners, we are human and make mistakes, judgment errors, or just don’t have all the information necessary to make an informed decision. I would like to share the most common mistakes gardeners make, and should be avoided.

1. Roundup (glyphosate herbicide), should not be used to kill the dandelions in your lawn. You would assume everyone knows that Roundup, or the other generic brands of Roundup, will kill or severely injure any plant material it is sprayed on. But it still continually occurs that someone will assume that it only kills weeds, and leave the desired plants alive, which is not true. Roundup and the other generic brands of it, are non-selective herbicides, meaning that they will kill or severely damage any plant material they come in contact with.

2. Hitting your tree with the edge of a mower or string trimmer is a common occurrence that causes more death and health problems than many other landscape problems. When a tree is hit and the bark is damaged, it exposes the tree to diseases and insects, and it interrupts the flow of water and nutrients from the leaves to the roots, and vice versa. The tree can die immediately if the damage is severe enough, or decline over several years, which is disheartening to most homeowners. Put 4- to 8-foot-wide tree wells around the base of trees or plant the trees in landscape beds to protect them from damage.

3. Do not plant your trees in the middle of the lawn. Trees in the middle of the lawn not only are asking to be damaged by equipment, but also are a nuisance for people trying to mow the lawn. They also run a higher risk of being affected by the application of chemicals that do not injure grass, but can damage trees. Plant trees in landscape beds or out of major greenways in your lawn area.

4. Do not assume you are adequately watering your lawn based upon how much time you are running the irrigation system. The length of time that a sprinkler system runs is not an accurate measurement to determine if your lawn is being given adequate moisture. The way to check is to measure in inches how much water is being put on your lawn. Also, if your lawn is showing signs of drought, that can be an indicator that you need to water longer and deeper.

5. Do not assume that your landscape trees are receiving adequate moisture, even if the lawn around them is green and growing well. Quite often the lawn will be using up the available water, and the tree’s roots below it are dehydrated and needing moisture. A good rule of thumb is that every two weeks during the mid to late spring, summer and fall, place a sprinkler around the trees and soak the ground until the water penetrates 2 to 3 feet down. This will give the trees a good drink and improve overall health. Water-loving trees such as birches and willows will benefit the most from a good watering every two weeks.

6. Don’t mow your lawn too short. It’s a common occurrence that homeowners want a clean-cut and manicured lawn, and you can still have that, but leave your grass taller, such as 2.5 to 3 inches tall. Shaving the grass short damages grass crowns, increases the evaporation of water, which then leads the grass to dry our quicker and use more water in the long run.

7. Avoid the idea that “a little is good, and a lot must be great” when applying fertilizers and pesticides. Over application of fertilizers not only is a waste, but it can damage the plants and add fertilizer residues to the waste water system. Over application of herbicides, insecticides and all pesticides in general is against federal law. It is also a waste and can lead to non-target poisonings of plants or animals, or residues in the soil that could negatively impact future crops. Follow all chemical labels exactly as it directs, and if you have questions please contact either the manufacturer or the county extension office.

8. Misdiagnosing problems in your yard is a common occurrence. What compounds the problem is when you randomly start trying to find a diagnosis on the internet. There is a great deal of misinformation available on the web when it comes to identifying and dealing with garden and yard problems. If you don’t know or are unsure about what is causing a particular problem in your yard, there are resources available at no cost to help correctly identify the issue. The extension office and local master gardeners are willing to help with these problems.

Lance Ellis is the University of Idaho Extension educator for Fremont County. He can be reached at 208-624-3102.