Landscaping Guide For Beginners

Professional landscaping

If you are new to landscaping, whether it is the care of a lawn or plant around your current steel home or building or putting down new sod, planting new bushes or flowers, or planting new trees, you may feel overwhelmed at first. With any new endeavor it is important to take one project at a time. It can help, further, to break the landscaping project into smaller steps. Here, you will find the basics of landscaping to get you started, plus a glossary to help with any terms that aren’t familiar.

Lawn Care Tips

The largest part of your landscaped area may consist of lawn. Once you have created an even, green grass you will feel more confident to tackle the smaller landscaping projects. Begin with any bare patches in your lawn. Dampen the area Use a garden rake or hand rake to scratch the soil in the bare spots. Sprinkle grass seed over the soil. Cover the seeded area with straw, not hay. Hay may carry seeds that will sprout. Sprinkle the area often to keep the soil moist. When you can see green grass sprouts popping through the straw, remove and discard the straw. Keep the grass moist as the new spouts grow in thick and green.

The majority of your lawn care will be performed during the spring and summer months. The first step of you spring care will be to aerate the lawn. A lawn aerating tool can be purchased at your local garden center or nursery. It has a long handle with spices at the bottom. Poke the spikes into the lawn soil, across the entire area, about every foot or two. The purpose of this task is to permit water and oxygen to reach the grass roots.

Fertilization is important for the health of your lawn and will make your grass and property around your commercial or residential property look green and full. First, determine if you have a cold-season or a warm-season type of grass. Most colder climate areas have a cold-season grass, while warmer climate areas have warm-season types. If you are unsure, take a grass sample to your local nursery to consult an expert. Generally speaking, cold-season grasses require a feeding of a balanced fertilizer (10-15-10) in February, April and November. With a warm-season grass, feed your lawn in January, April, September and November. You may choose between a liquid or granular fertilizer. Be sure to follow the specific manufacturer’s instructions and do not over fertilize. Follow the fertilization process with a good watering. Fertilizer that is left on the surface of the lawn may cause burning.

Perhaps the most important aspect of a beautiful lawn is that the soil is kept moist with watering. However, it should not receive so much water that there are puddles on the surface.

Lawn Mowing Tips

The purpose of proper grass mowing is to complete the job with an attractively trimmed lawn that accentuates your steel or metal building. Start the lawn mowing season out by getting your lawn mower blades sharpened by a professional. Although grass can be cut at different heights, depending on the type of grass you have, 2 ½ to 3 inches is a good general height. Adjust the height of the lawn mower blades to reflect this. Start the mowing process when the grass is dry. Use earplugs and goggles (safety glasses) to protect your ears and eyes. Mow the lawn in one direction, changing the direction the next time you mow. This will cause the grass to stand up straighter, creating a more attractive lawn. Trim the lawn edges with a lawn edger.

Weed Control Tips

If your weed problem is not too extensive, you can merely pull them up and discard them. Start by soaking the weeded area with water. This will help the weeds be pulled up easier, with the roots intact and keep them away from your steel building for a longer period of time. Placing your grip, on the weed, as close to the ground as possible will also help in making sure you don’t just end up with the root top in your hand. As you pull the weeds have a bucket or other container to put them in as you go. If you place the pulled weed on the ground you could be spreading weed seeds to the area. Discard the weeds when you are finished with the process. If the weed has root runners, you will need to use a claw tool to pull them up.

You may just pull weeds as they appear, or use a weed killer. There are many chemical or organic weed killers to choose from. Be very careful to read the manufacturer’s instructions to make sure that it is applied properly. Also, make sure that your other plants are safe with the particular weed killer you choose.

Pruning Tips

The type of trees and shrubs, as well as the area, can dictate detailed pruning procedures. Still, there are basic tips for pruning that work for most deciduous trees and shrubs that will be planted and grow around your building or home. Choose the dormant (non-growing) time of the year to prune. This will keep the plant from going into shock after pruning. Make your cuts as close to the attached trunk or limb as possible.

Start by removing any dead or damaged parts of the tree or shrub. If you are unsure if the branch is dead, just snip the end of it. If it is green within, it is still alive. If it is not green, make cuts at every 2 or three inches, going towards the plant trunk, checking for inner green. Next, trim off any branches that go across the center of the plant. Cut out any leaders that are competing with the main trunk. Remove any branches that are interfering with power lines, walls, roofs or other locations where they may cause hazards. Lastly, you may shape the overall tree or shrub to be more aesthetically appealing.

Transplanting Tips

Do not attempt to transplant potted nursery plants around your steel or metal building until the last scheduled frost has passed for the year. Most potted plants, from the garden center or nursery, come with an informational tag. It will tell you where to plant, such as direct sun, partial shade or shaded area. Watering and feeding instructions should be clear. And there may be other specific instructions regarding the particular plant. Still, there are basic tips for transplanting most landscaping plants.

Start by considering the full-grown height of the plant. Make sure it will not be hindered by any obstructions at it’s full growth, such as power lines, walls or other plants. For larger plants, trees and shrubs, dig a hole two to three times around the plant root ball. Break up the soil at the bottom of the hole. Place the plant in the center of the hole, making sure that the top of the root ball soil is at ground level. Shovel soil around the plant, into the whole, packing it with your hands. This will remove any air holes. When you’ve packed the soil to the ground surface, you are done. Water the tree generously during the next few days. Place 2 to 3 inches of mulch around the tree, at ground level, for protection.

Glossary of Landscaping Terms

  • Acidic soil: soil tested with a PH value lower than 7.0.
  • Alkaline soil: soil tested with a PH value higher than 7,0.
  • Annual: a one season flowering plant.
  • Apex: the stem’s tip
  • Bare root: plants packaged without soil, such as bare root roses.
  • Biennial: a plant the produces flowers, seeds or fruit in the second year and then dies.
  • Bleeding: when sap oozes from a wound or cut.
  • Broad-leaf: evergreens with broad leaves, rather than needles, such as rhododendrons.
  • Bulb: a plant structure that contains the seed and nutrients of a plant, such as tulips or lilies.
  • Canker: dark areas on stems and trunks caused by a fungal infection.
  • Central leader: center upright trunk, or stem, of a plant.
  • Cold hardiness: the amount of cold a plant can withstand to survive the winter.
  • Conifer: evergreens, and others, that are cone bearing.
  • Corm: a tuber-shaped underground structure that stores nutrients.
  • Cross-pollination: a plantthat is fertilized by a different type of plant.
  • Crown: the location on a plant where it’s shoots connect to the roots.
  • Cultivar: a variety of plant that was developed through cultivation, not naturally.
  • Deadheading: pinching or cutting off spent flower heads, so that nutrition goes to developing flowers.
  • Deciduous: plants that lose their foliage before dormancy.
  • Dieback: the tips of plant shoots that die due to disease or damage.
  • Division: splitting the roots of a plant to create additional smaller plants.
  • Dormancy: a temporary growth stop during colder temperatures.
  • Drip Irrigation: a hose irrigation system that allows small amounts of water to run continuously.
  • Edging: creating a sharp line between areas of the landscaping, such as between flower beds and lawn, or sidewalk and lawn.
  • Evergreen: plants that stay green throughout the entire year.
  • Fireblight: black flowers or stems caused by this disease.
  • Form: the way a plant or object is shaped.
  • Formal design: the design elements in landscaping that are balance throughout the garden or yard. Elements are generally shaped in geometric shapes or in clean lines.
  • Foundation plant: a plant growing close to the foundation of a building to hide or soften the appearance of the lower architectural lines.
  • Genus: related plant species.
  • Germinate: when the seed sprouts.
  • Hardiness zone: the eleven zones of North America that tell the average to low winter temperatures.
  • Hardscape: non plant features in or around landscaping, such as sidewalk, paving stones or streets.
  • Herbaceous: a plant that dies to the ground surface at the end of its growing season.
  • Hybrid: a new plant resulting from the cross breading of dissimilar plants.
  • Landscaping fabric: material that blocks weeds and light, but lets water to pass through to the soil and plant roots.
  • Limestone: calcium based soil amendment that raises the PH level.
  • Low-water demand: Plants that require limited watering.
  • Mulch: material that placed, at ground level, around plants to keep moisture in and keep weeds out.
  • Nitrogen: an element of fertilizer that feeds vegetable growth.
  • Organic matter: remains from animals or plants, that are decaying, used to condition soil.
  • Perennial: a plant that comes back every growing season.
  • PH: the measure of alkaline or acidity in the soil.
  • Pruning: the removal of limbs and shoots from a plant for the sake of health and appearance.
  • Rootbound: a potted plant that has been allowed to remain too long, thus the roots are over grown for the size of container.
  • Scale: a landscape design principal referring to the size of objects relating to each other.
  • Sucker: shoots that appear at ground level from the plant roots.
  • Transplant: to plant a plant in an alternate location, or to plant a nursery plant.


Author: Conrad Mackie