When planning the home landscape, people frequently prefer one with a multitude of plants to add beauty and interest. Many times, though, they fail to consider the mature size of the plant material installed. The small plants of today could be large in a few short years, and if spacing them too close can cause serious long-term problems.
When planting, many people do not like to wait for the plants to grow and fill in an area, but the landscape would fill in now. However, planting ornamental shrubs and trees at their mature size is quite difficult and is cost prohibitive. Instead, homeowners purchase and install smaller-sized plants and then plant them close together to make the landscape appear full. Doing so is detrimental to the plants.
Ornamental trees and shrubs planted too closely may have an attractive appearance for a few years before issues appear. They begin to grow together, and larger ones overgrow those with a smaller stature. They can grow over sidewalks, driveways, and even roads creating an unsightly appearance and possible hazards. Instead of the property having a mature landscape, visitors see the landscape as swallowing the house. Pruning and maintenance increases to keep the plants away from windows, gutters, and doors and may be harmful to the plants. One example of this issue is Leyland cypress trees. Many homeowners want an instant screen and install these trees only a few feet away from each other. Leyland cypress can grow 50 to 60 in height and up to 20 feet in width. If planted six feet apart, they will grow into each other, causing the trees to decline and die.
Planting trees and ornamental plants too closely also favor disease and insect problems. Their limbs rub in the wind creating entry points for disease organisms. The thick mass of closely interwoven branches holds moisture that promotes the development of fungal diseases. They also provide hidden refuges for insect pests that would otherwise be noticed and controlled earlier.
The solution is to space plants correctly when planting. Read the tag at the nursery or ask the nurseryman how large the mature plant will get. If a holly plant you want to buy has a mature spread of 10 feet, then I know that you cannot plant it closer than about six feet from a sidewalk. That may seem far away for a small one-gallon plant, but you must visualize the mature, full-grown plant.
When planted correctly, most new landscapes appear relatively sparse. However, if they receive the proper level of maintenance, you will be surprised by how rapidly they fill an area.
Of course, spacing is essential vertically as well as horizontally. You do not want your trees or shrubs growing into power lines, obscuring the view from second-story windows, or casting too much shade around the pool.
As you work in the garden this growing season, remember to space new plants correctly. A little extra planning upfront will save an appearance and maintenance headache later.
In addition to growing ornamental landscape plants, many of us have vegetable gardens. Growing them can be fun, exciting, and a source of fresh vegetables. However, many pests can trouble these plants.
On June 8 at 6 p.m,, UGA Extension Gwinnett will have a virtual program on the topic of vegetable garden pests and their control. To register, please contact the Extension office.