landscaping tips monster plant

The Landscaping Monster: Lurking Everywhere

This year is your year to keep that Landscaping Monster off your property—for good!

Monsters aren’t real, right? When you’re alone in the basement and the lights suddenly go off, there’s no need to fear something might grab you from behind. That would be illogical. Yet the goosebumps still come, and we find ourselves suddenly more alert. You think, I must get somewhere safe! Who knows what you’ll find in the dark? Or what will find you…

While most nightmarish creatures are just figments of our imagination, monsters can be real. These monsters deplete our wallets, wreak havoc on the environment, and have a very real impact on our quality of living. Most of them hide in plain sight, disguised as everyday things.

Consider landscaping for a moment. You own a property and it needs constant attention. The landscape surrounding your apartment complex or hotel needs to be maintained; the better it looks, the more business you draw. You look good, you make money.

Here's a great landscaping tip: Save money on landscaping by planting native crops and those that easily adapt to your climate like these drought resistant plants!Enter the Landscaping Monster! This beast promotes wasteful use of precious and costly resources, like water. He could be actively eating into your bottom line—even right now!

Where You’ll Find It

Beautifully maintained and well groomed landscaping increases the value of your hotel, apartment complex, condo, or restaurant property. People appreciate the aesthetics of a carefully thought out landscape and will pay more to live or stay in beautiful spaces.

If that Landscaping Monster is hanging out on your property, guzzling your water and making landscaping efforts more of a fight-for-survival rather than a good first impression, then the first thing you need to know is how to identify wasteful and poor landscaping practices.

How to Defeat It

Step one? Education. Do your research and be mindful of your unique environment. Pay attention to the seasons, the local weather forecasts, and the growth cycles of your flora. Create a schedule for lawn care based on these factors. Different seasons create different challenges—so plan ahead.

Step Two? Attack! Here are some places your Landscaping Monster might be lurking…

Landscaping Monster Hideouts

Your Lawn

  • The Monster: When is the best time to water the lawn? How often should it be watered and for how long?
  • The Solution: Your lawn really only needs to be watered for 15 minutes or so in the early morning or after the sun has gone down. When temperatures are cooler, that’s the time. During the day, heat from the sun makes that water evaporate, actually harming the grass—so you’re forced to use more water than necessary to compensate. It’s likely your landscaping doesn’t need to be watered every day, especially if you’re in the Midwest.

Sprinklers and Irrigation Systems

  • The Monster: A poorly installed or cheaply made sprinkler system can wreak havoc on your water bills.
  • The Solution: Hire professionals. You want options, water efficient products, and reliable water systems.

Your Lawnmower

  • The Monster: Of course a well-manicured lawn looks great, but when the grass is cropped too short, it’s unable to retain as much moisture. That’s why it can get brown even if you water all the time.
  • The Solution: Raise up your mower height. The shorter the grass, the less resistant it is to the sun’s heat. How do you know the right height? Walk on the grass. If you can see your footprints and watch them disappear as the grass springs back into place, it’s the right height.

In the Dirt

  • The Monster: Exposed dirt around planters, gardens and trees is another Landscaping Monster. This one allows evaporation and dehydration to occur rapidly, causing increased water use, due to poor water retention.
  • The Solution: Use mulch around plants to help avoid evaporation. It’s easy to do, low maintenance, and looks nice. As a bonus, mulching helps keep weeds to a minimum.

In Your Fertilizer

  • The Monster: Ever wonder how much fertilizer is just enough? Ever just use up the whole bottle, then wonder why the grass still looks like a monster’s been hanging out there?
  • Solution: Save the fertilizer for the vegetable gardens and flower beds. By practicing efficient and smart watering, keeping the grass at a healthy length and keeping weeds under control (weed killer also kills the lawn), your lawn should rarely, if ever, need to be fertilized. Save your money and use fertilizers sparingly.

In the Weeds

  • The Monster: Speaking of lawn monsters, weeds are a major source of water consumption. They spread quickly when left unchecked, suck up all the water meant your lawn and ruin the aesthetic of an inviting landscape. This is an ugly monster, and one that is hard to control if you don’t get on it quickly.
  • The Monster’s Cousin: It’s easy to just spray weed-killing chemicals all over the yard… but do you really think that’s a good idea? These chemicals don’t discriminate, and will leave your lawn looking pretty awful. Weed killer kills not just your weeds, but your grass as well. (Not to mention the negative environmental impact.) Poisoning your soil isn’t going to yield a beautiful lawn. Weed killer is, at best, a temporary fix to a problem that will never go away.
  • The Solution: You can manage this! It’s not that hard. Early in the growing season, keep an eye out for these pest plants. Before they really take root and start spreading, they can usually be pulled, greatly reducing the frequency of their return. If chemicals must be used, they should be applied conservatively and only on the most stubborn of weeds.

Pools & Other Recreation Areas

  • The Monster: A pool is a great amenity to offer your residents and tenants, but can be incredibly costly to maintain.
  • The Solution: Water levels should be assessed regularly. Don’t overfill the pool; you’ll lose what you add past a certain point. Splashed out water runoff can be channeled into gardens and/or irrigation systems for more efficient watering. Why waste it if it can be reused? (Pro tip: Be sure your pool chemicals are environmentally friendly or you’ll do more harm than good!)

Let’s Talk Flora

Many people make the mistake of choosing flora that looks great, but doesn’t flourish well outside its native environment, or is poisonous to surrounding living things. Here’s how to pick winners—and avoid creating more monsters!

Top-Choice Trees

  • Look for low maintenance trees and trees that don’t need a lot of water.
  • Go local. Trees native to your region are not only the best choice, but are going to require the least amount of care and attention.
  • Proper placement of trees can not only offer strategic shade, which cuts down on water costs, but can also help reduce your residents’ air conditioning usage.
  • If you really want your trees to impress others, consider grooming and shaping them, rather than trying to find exotic, high-maintenance, water-guzzling trees.

Picking Plants

  • Choose local plantlife and plants that don’t require a lot of water.
  • Flower beds:
    • Group plants together based on water needs.
    • Maintain healthy soil. This creates a better growing environment for your plants; healthy soil means better water retention.
    • Don’t forget the mulch!
    • Pesticides? If you do things right, you can employ the right sort of wildlife to do this for you. Find out what kinds of bugs and pests are attracted to the plants on your properties. They all have natural predators, so by encouraging those predators to hang out in your yard, you can employ them to manage any pests and bugs for you.

Your Plan of Attack

  • Design a seasonal maintenance calendar. Set a schedule. Base it around seasons and local weather patterns. You’ll have little trouble controlling weeds if you’re consistent.
  • Use rain barrels. Not only do these reduce stormwater runoff (which washes away topsoil, fertilizers and pesticides), but they also collect all that free water that can be used later for landscaping needs. They’re great for the environment and even better for your wallet.
  • Install timers and soil moisture override systems on sprinkler systems. Be sure irrigation equipment applies water evenly; if it’s watering anything other than the lawn and garden, it’s wasting your money.
  • Consult local garden centers and nurseries for specifics about your region’s environmental trends. They’re easy and convenient resources that give you access to a variety of experts who live in your climate and region, and who understand the nuances of keeping up a healthy landscape.

That Monster’s on the Run Now

It shouldn’t cost you an arm and a leg to keep the Landscaping Monster and his buddies at bay. It all starts with education. Do some research and learn more about your particular region’s environment. By talking to experts at your local garden centers and nurseries, you can choose the sorts of flora right for your landscape. Understanding the climate and weather patterns can help you design a schedule for maintenance, and coordinating that schedule with the needs of your plants and other flora will result in a healthy and beautiful landscape surrounding your hotel or apartment property. This not only reduces your water costs but also increases property values!

This year is your year to keep that Landscaping Monster off your property—for good!

Image “Pam Penick’s Austin Front Yard”  courtesy of Flickr user Susan Harris, featured image “monster plant” courtesy of Flickr user Brett L.; all images licensed under CC by 2.0.