Eliminating excess from your garden

Debbie Green
Guest Columnist
Debbie Green

If you ate or drank too much over the holidays, you know that you can have too much of a good thing. Take a look around your yard in the New Year and see if your landscape is suffering from excesses, too.

Resolve to make some positive changes.

Garden woes:

  • Our wet weather this past year was a major culprit in producing too much of a good thing—rain. 

Although we have no control over drought or flood, we can make the best of it through managing stormwater to our advantage. The phrase “slow it down, spread it out, soak it in” describes your goal in keeping excess rain from causing destructive erosion and pollution.

Reducing impervious surfaces (driveways, walkways, patios) by using permeable materials, and capturing water in rain barrels and rain gardens are some examples of ways to survive wet weather and make the best use of rain that falls in dry years.

  • Monocultures — too much of the same thing in your landscape — are another type of garden excess. You wanted to screen the view of your neighbor’s yard, so you planted a row of identical shrubs and now you find some of those shrubs aren’t doing so well and aren’t providing that much-needed screen.

Diseases and pests are often plant-specific, so if one shrub becomes infected, others are likely to follow. And any variation in appearance stands out if you have several of the same plants.

Maybe you decided to plant the slope by the street with English ivy and find that your whole yard is now ivy! Choosing different ground-covers for different areas of your landscape looks much more interesting.

Plant diversity is usually a better choice, both for curb appeal and plant health.

  • Overgrown plantings are another excess. You may love the trees and shrubs you have growing around your home, but all too often we don’t consider the “mature” size of these at planting time and end up with way too much vegetation—blocking windows, encroaching on pathways and entrances, or just dominating our yards in ways we didn’t intend.

Consider removing trees or shrubs that are too big for their locations. Winter is also the ideal time to prune all but some flowering shrubs, if you think some maintenance will put your plantings back in proper perspective.

Using proper pruning techniques is important, however. 

North Carolina Cooperative Extension provides a useful guide at:

Even if you’ve used the “right plant in the right place,” you may need to replace trees and shrubs that have reached the ends of their lifespans. It is also important to divide healthy perennials that are spreading far afield or have dead centers.

  • Finally, sometimes we provide an excess of supposedly good things in our gardens. Fertilizers and pesticides may help your landscape thrive, but most shrubs and trees don’t require regular fertilizing and you should only use pesticides to treat identified pest infestations and diseases.

Read labels and follow them carefully. Too much fertilizer or pesticide is worse than none at all.

Similarly, too much of a mulch that can help by retaining soil moisture and moderating soil temperatures can be a killer! Although weeds may soon overwhelm bare earth, never apply more than three or four inches of mulch around any planting.

Wait until temperatures start to warm up in the spring and your plants begin to grow again before mulching. Never allow mulch to rest against trunks of shrubs and trees or pile it deeper than the root flare at their base.

Garden joys

Unlike many New Year’s resolutions, avoiding garden excesses can be a lot of fun—take time to enjoy your landscape, don’t create work and unneeded expenses for yourself. 

Debbie Green has been a member of the Black Mountain Beautification Committee for over 10 years and maintains one of the committee’s sites in town. She enjoys gardening with native plants, as well as growing flowers, herbs, and vegetables. Debbie is also a regular contributor to the Buncombe County Extension Master Gardener blog at