6 Don’ts for Apartment Landscaping



Landscaping is something that every apartment community must do. Sometimes, though, it’s hard to see the cost benefit it produces. Still, trees, shrubs, flowers and grass can actually make or break your community. And yet, for something that every community needs, so many companies struggle with maintaining green apartment landscaping.

That’s why we went directly to one of the experts – degreed horticulturist and Vice President of Gardens for the Dallas Arboretum, Dave Forehand – to get some advice.  Dave is the head of a landscaping staff of more than 50 people, including 15 other degreed horticulturalists. They manage a dense garden of 66 acres that includes native and experimental trees, shrubs, flowers and plants. Last year, just under a million people visited his grounds.

He gave us some obvious and no-so-obvious secrets to keeping a property’s flora and fauna (especially trees) green and attractive.  “It’s easier to start out with some things not to do,” he shares. Here’s a partial list of things he says to avoid.

1. Don’t Over-Mulch

“While mulch is a useful and attractive add-on to your landscaping, you don’t want have what we call a mulch volcano.” Forehand is referring to mulch that’s actually piled around the trunk of a tree to look a little like a volcano. “Tree trunks don’t like to be wet all of the time and mulch can do that. It smothers the tree and can attract a lot of insects too.  Roots can stay wet but not the trunk.”

2. Don’t Cover the Root Flare

Another thing he says that over-mulching can do is covering the root flare. But some landscapers actually cover it with dirt because they like the clean look of a single trunk coming out of the ground. “Problem is, the root flare is part of the trunk, not the roots. If it has bark on it, don’t cover it up. This will shorten the life of your tree and your investment.


3. Don’t Let Your Young Tree Canopies Go Unpruned

Young trees need special attention, Forehand warns. “They need to be carefully pruned and shaped. If you don’t prune and shape them when they are young, then you end up taking off large branches later, which takes more work and can damage the tree.  When they’re mature you have other problems. If you leave them too dense, they’re more susceptible to storms and won’t let light through to the grass underneath.

4) Don’t Use the Wrong Tools

No matter what you’re doing─ pruning, mowing, weeding─ use the right tool for the job. “Too many landscape crews try to mow a property’s entire lawn with a ride-on mower, especially in small spaces, says Dave. “They also use trimmers instead of single-blade edgers. To get a clean, manicured look, you can’t beat an edger.”

5) Don’t Mow and Blow.

After mowing, don’t blow the trimmings into the road and leave them. Dave says that too many landscaping crews leave the job unfinished, with grass in the street in front of the sidewalk.  “That totally ruins curb appeal for anyone just driving up. Take a few extra minutes and clean it up.”

6) Don’t Over-Fertilize.

This is especially true if you’re paying for an outside company to take care of your landscaping, says Forehand. “Some companies love to add in an extra session of fertilizer because it’s usually an extra charge. Fertilizing once in the spring and once in the fall is usually good enough,” he adds, “Unless you grow a winter grass like rye in hotter regions. Then you might fertilize again in winter.”

“There’s a lot more where that comes from,” says Dave. If you follow these don’ts, he says, it should keep your green thumb aimed in the right direction.


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With 25+ years of marketing communications experience and 20 years of digital, Brett Moneta is a consultant, strategist, and writer with a web, video, social media (and even print) background. Growing up with a family-owned swimming pool construction business, he learned the ins and outs of construction and real estate well. Brett has built content strategy for Fortune 50 companies and has been a national blogger for Talent Zoo’s Digital Pivot magazine. Presently, he works in Marketing at RealPage, Inc., a leading global provider of software data analytics to the real estate industry, where he’s been since 2015. Brett holds two bachelor’s degrees from the University of Texas at Austin: BS in Radio/Television/Film and a BA in English.

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