Garden & Landscape Tips

1. Avoid invasive plants

chameleon plant
Chameleon plant can take over a flowerbed.
© University of Wisconsin

Most of these plants spread by runners or underground stems called stolens, which can quickly take over their space and more. These specimens may be described in catalogs or on plants tags as strong or fast growers. Some examples: although excellent as ground cover, chameleon plants (Houttuynia cordata) will smother or choke out nearby plants in the flowerbed. Mint (Mentha) will take over an herb garden, so many gardeners plant it in a large pot rather than in the ground. A few others to avoid: lamb’s ear (Stachys byzantina), gooseneck Loosestrife (Lysimachia clethroides), lily-of the-valley (Covallaria majalis), Roman wormwood (Artemesia pontica) and bishop’s goutweed, sometimes called snow-on-the-mountain, (Aegopodium podagraria ‘variegatum’).

2. Know what you have and use only what you need

Using the wrong garden product is a waste of money and time. Using too much of the product is just as wasteful and may be harmful to plants and the environment. That means you should identify what the problem is before applying a product. If you have bugs on a plant and apply a fungicide, you will still have bugs. If you have crabgrass in the lawn and apply a broadleaf weed killer, you’ll still have crabgrass. If you are unsure of exactly what the problem is in the garden, contact your county extension agent. Click here to find the extension office near you.

3. Right plant, right place

tree in house
Tree planted too close to house takes toll.
© Jud Scott Consulting Arborist, LLC

Make sure the plant you buy will fit the space. There’s no reason to plant a shrub that will get 10 feet tall and 8 feet wide under the eave, a foot from the house, or next to the driveway. Right plant, right place also reduces pruning chores because a plant can grow its natural size and shape. By the same token, make sure the plants are well suited to the site. Plants that do best in shade, such as Impatiens, should not be planted in full sun because they will die. Those that like dry soil, such as geraniums (Pelargonium), will rot in wet areas. Plants in the wrong place will struggle to survive and their weakened state makes them susceptible to diseases or insects. You can learn more about your specific plant’s needs by reviewing the plant tag information or asking your local garden center.

4. If some is good, more is not always better

Some fertilizer is good, but too much can burn and kill garden plants, vegetables and the lawn. Always read and follow the label directions of the product you use. Too much water probably kills more plants than not enough, so don’t drown your plants. Most established plants prefer about 1 inch of rainfall or water from the hose every week to 10 days. Too much water can cause yellow leaves, rot or weak growth. Click here for more tips about water conservation in the garden.

5. Know your zone

hardiness zone map
USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has assigned zone numbers to regions, based on the average lowest temperature over a period of time. You need to know this because many plants are rated on plant tags, catalog descriptions and other materials according to their hardiness by USDA Zone numbers. For instance, much of the Midwest is in Zone 5, where the lowest temperatures range from -10 to -20 degrees F. Plants with hardiness rated to these temperatures will be described as Zone 5. Trying to grow plants out of their zone frequently results in the plant dying. Visit the National Arboretum’s website to find the hardiness zone for your area.

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