Robbie Caponetto

Colorful flower beds, shapely hedges, a lush Zoysia lawn—these landscaping features are what curb appeal dreams are made of. Transforming a blank outdoor space into an eye-catching garden oasis is an achievable DIY project. Creating a charming yard can take a lot of sweat equity, but the results are worth it. A few common, easy-to-make mistakes—like overgrown flower beds or brown splotches on the grass—can ruin a homeowner’s hard work. Avoid these seven frequent gardening errors for the best lawn on the block.

1. Mowing too low.

Cutting the grass too short is the No. 1 mistake that makes landscapers everywhere cringe. Mowing the lawn too low can slice off the food-producing leaf blades, which can temporarily stop root growth (and with weaker roots come thinner grass and more weeds). Using sharp lawnmower blades, cut the grass to its highest recommended height, which varies for different selections. (Popular Zoysia, for instance, should be mowed at 2 inches.)

2. Not making a master plan.

Before breaking out the shovels, sketch out a map of your garden. A preliminary blueprint will save you a headache later on in the process. It’ll give you a better idea of how the garden will look when it comes to life, and changing plans now is much easier than digging up plants later. Tip: Arrange plantings from in vertical lines, from shortest to tallest, in garden beds to help ensure everything will get enough of sun and shade.

3. Not considering sun and shade.

A key to a long-lasting garden? Giving plants the right amount of sunlight. Consider each plants’ ideal light requirement before deciding on where to plant them. Place shade-lovers in shady spots and sun-lovers in sunny spots for a happy, healthy garden.

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4. Not giving plants their personal space.

Consider plantings mature size before placing in beds so they won’t get too crowded over time. Space them a healthy distance apart from one another so their roots will have plenty of room to grow down in their soil and their leaves will have enough space for unfurling to their full glory. Beds may look sparse when the plantings are young, but give them time to grow in.

5. Messy mulch.

Don’t leave mounds of mulch piled in garden beds. Spreading it evenly over the ground not only looks neater but it also helps protect the roots and soil underneath from outdoor elements.

6. Not installing landscaping borders.

Landscaping borders keep beds neat and tidy, and they can also add extra visual interest to your garden design. Pick materials like stone pavers, sturdy steel edging, weathered bricks, or shapely river rocks.

7. Letting the garden outgrow you.

An overgrown garden is a messy garden. Devote one afternoon a week to giving your garden some TLC, or spend a few minutes each day pruning and deadheading plants so everything stays in tip-top shape.