complaint dept. is open: more ‘no-no’s’

I FEEL ROUND 3 OF GARDEN NO-NO’S coming on. When Mary Lynn asked yesterday in a comment about my point of view on using landscape fabric, the fuse was quickly lit: NO! I said. NO! I’ve rounded up some no-no’s we’ve posted collectively so far, but I bet by now there are a few more things to bitch about. Grab a lawn chair and a cold drink, and we can fester together this holiday weekend. Sure beats weeding (which ought to be a garden no-no). Is watering with a coffee pot (or gardening in your long-johns) a no-no? Not for me, apparently.

Some greatest (worst?) hits we shared from Garden No-No’s Part 1 and No-No’s Part 2:

Dyed green bamboo stakes.

Dyed rust-colored mulch (do you sense a theme here?). Any dyed mulch, in fact, is a no-no to my eye.

Volcano mulch (that is, piled up deep against trunks of trees and shrubs).

Cartoon-like or out of scale garden décor items, especially in plastic, to include gnomes (though there was some sentimental dispute about gnomes), wishing wells and lions.

White plastic anything.

Gravel or lava rock as a decorative mulch outside of dry zones or containers.

Chemicals and chemical-laden products.

Too much space between plants. Too much lawn.

Bad staking, particularly staking with other than natural bamboo and twine.

Inserting plastic nursery tags into the garden as markers.

Sprinkler systems running in the rain or when otherwise not needed.

Excess noisy power tools.

And like I said, landscape fabric. Again, dissent expressed here; some people are proponents of the stuff.

So? You?

July 3, 2008


  1. Nancy says

    Margaret, I am coming to the garden “no-nos” late as it seems that I spent the week-end weeding and trimming, with some planting thrown in!
    no-no 1. All the whirlies from the maple trees. If anyone has suggestions for best dealing with them I would most appreciate hearing. IT is a neighhor’s tree not mine. I did some early mulching and many still grew into saplings in the mulch. Areas without mulch became mini forests.

    no-no 2. I do not believe I saw this listed but I am in awe of the money and time involved in turned a dead tree into a carved animal . . . or even worse purchasing a carved bear etc and having it installed?

    Margaret, Several weeks ago you advised me regarding underplanting some hemlocks. I am thrilled with the transformation. IT is an area outside the windows by my kitchen table. I used hosta, ferns, grasses and heuchera. I transplanted small pieces of woodruff throughout the area. Many thanks.

  2. says

    Thanks, Nancy, for your no-no’s (better late than never!) and I am delighted to hear the underplanting is going so well. Sounds beautiful, like it will bring many happy views day after day.

  3. katlia says

    This relative gardening newbie asks timidly… please oh please explain what landscape fabric is…

  4. says

    I am glad you asked, Katlia. It reminds me that leaving people out of the conversation by not explaining is rude.
    Landscape or weed-block fabric is one of several synthetic textiles in varied widths and thicknesses that are sold in rolls to use as an underlayment for various landscaping projects. The stuff is often black in color and also often made of polypropylene; you may have seen it on the “floor” of greenhouses or nurseries, between the rows, like a carpeting (have a look at what I mean).
    People (contractors, homeowners) use it under paths and patios and so forth to suppress weeds that would otherwise push up between gravel or stone. Ditto in beds, under mulch (which is where it really loses it for me). Sometimes other “geotextiles” as these materials are called that are very similar are used alongside highways to hold banks and prevent erosion–you may have seen this.
    Block weeds the materials often do…but because of what they’re made of, they never biodegrade and can be this scary layer of artificial stuff that’s permanently grown into your soil if used in a bed.
    Hope this helps a little…maybe it conjures an “Oh, I’ve seen that stuff.”

  5. jeff says

    The plastic covers are like Creeping Charlie. They both seem like they’d do a great job when you put them down. I hereby promise to leave my roll untouched in the basement.

    I sell old crap (antiques) for entertainment, so here’s a few I’ve learned. Never go to a yard sale without asking if they have any gardening tools. You can recondition and sharpen most of the old tools. You can buy new handles at any hardware.

    Never go to an estate sale without asking to see the cellar. The good tools are thrown in there with old canning supplies. No, that aluminum pot will not harm your canning jars; look for the ugly lid with wood handles while you’re down there.

    Never let an airedale see you dig.

    Never set rotten bananas out for raccoons; they’ll assume you hid buried treasure just for them under the rose bushes.

    Never forget that stolen time is the best. When that phone call sounds like it’s going to be a long one, grab the cordless and head outdoors. You can get a lot of weeding done. It’s up to you to explain any pulling noises you make.

  6. trina says

    I really don’t like the look of the white chalky landscaping rocks as garden cover. It always makes the garden look like a garden outside of the local McDonalds. And landscape cloth (which I don’t use anymore) seems to really, really attract a large number of ants to take over my garden. It is like “woo hoo, a new ant nursery”. A few ants are nice, but uber-colonies, no.

  7. MaryEllen says

    Another HUGE no-no: invasive plants. All homeowners should know which plants are invasive in their area and do their best to keep their landscapes clear. Garlic mustard, multiflora rose, phragmites, loosestrife — just say NO!
    Oh, and chemicals. Can’t say enough bad things about RoundUp, et al. The person I bought my house from left me with a garage-full. Now I’m stuck disposing of the junk. Ugh.

  8. says

    Welcome, MaryEllen. Funny, I was just writing a post about an invasive plant I haven’t been able to outsmart (read: kill) and so more on that perhaps tomorrow. But thanks for adding these to the list.

    RE: Landscape fabric…In another thread on a post on underplanting, first-time visitor Chris just shared this experience (along with underplanting success stories), so I thought I’d copy it in here as well:

    “…I have used landscape fabric successfully to remake an out-of-control, overweeded mess…lay the fabric out, cover with woodchips so it doesn’t look like you have a parking lot, wait a year or two (which also lets the wood chips compost), move the chips section by section to cut out the fabric and plant, leaving fabric covered by chips in areas that you want to keep as pathways etc.”

  9. joyce says

    Why would someone plant gladiolas in a straight line against a concrete porch, and then tie them up together with white twine when they start to keel over? (Does anyone plant gladiolas???)
    …Another gorgeous look — a neighbor installed hayracks above her basement windows (with iddy biddy petunias in them. They look like Groucho Marx eyebrows ready to bounce up and down.

  10. Phillip says

    You have included my most despised gardening no-no…RED MULCH!!!!! Yuk…what exactly is it? I would like to add a plant to the list of gardening no-no’s – impatiens…the most insipid plant of all!

  11. Leigh, Austin says

    I think the red mulch should win the All-Time Worst award. What idiot decided that bright rust-red was the color we all should add to our gardens by the square yard?

    I do think that I should stand up a little for Round-Up. My garden is infested by bermuda grass, the metastatic cancer of the plant world. There is NO WAY to get rid of it other than chemically. Even if you dig down three feet and get it out, it will come back, either from the one node you missed, or from seed.

    You may know of Malcolm and Delphine Beck, the prophets of organic gardening here in Texas. I asked Delphine about the bermuda grass. She suggested solarizing (which I had already tried). I shamefacedly admitted to using Round-Up, and she told me that it decomposes to inert chemicals in just a few weeks.

    I’ve researched it since then, and it’s quite true. Round-Up is NOT a permanent adulteration to the soil, and in hot weather, it decomposes to harmless compounds in as little as a week.

  12. says

    Welcome, Leigh, from a city of beautiful gardens and great gardeners (plus some pretty amazing Mexican food as I recall).
    I second the (e)motion about red mulch. And since this is my blog: Motion passed! Yes, an invention of an idiot, truly.
    And I think your Roundup point is well-considered. I am no scientist, so I cannot confirm nor deny (now I sound like a politician!). I think each of us must weigh each decision carefully, case by case. I know that knee-jerk use of any chemical is precipitous, and we must THINK before we ACT (not “ready, shoot, aim,” but the other way, please). So thanks for provoking more thought in the discussion here.

  13. joyce says

    Re: Roundup
    My daughter, who is a chemist, said “Why don’t you just pour it right into the birdbath?” when she saw I had purchased Roundup. So I guess one could put up little warning signs to stay away for 3 weeks along with tiny cakes of soap and little washcloths for the birds.

  14. says

    @Joyce: Speaking of provocative, enter the chilling testimony from your daughter. You know, in 20 years here I have relented 3 or 4 times. I always hate myself, and don’t do it for 5 or 8 years or more. I do know better. And I don’t believe the sunny half-life reports (just being better half-life-wise than truly horrible stuff doesn’t mean you’re great), even when I am desperate.
    But I also understand what Leigh is saying and wonder if I had been more violent with my Hottuynia earlier on, if I could have stopped this invasive from getting hold, and wonder what is more better-worse. Such a hard topic, so many layers of thought to process to know what to do.
    Invasives, chemicals, all if it very complex. And so we ruminate together here, I guess.

  15. Leigh, Austin says

    I live in Texas, where the half-life of glyphosate is 3 days; I am not above a watershed, creek, or stream; my soil is a type which renders glyphosate intert more quickly than any other (sandy loam w/ considerable clay and vigorous microbial populations); and I use it very little, at most once a year, on a very small amount of ground. Honestly, if I weren’t in Texas where it’s very hot, I probably would have given it up as a bad job.

    The decision to use any herbicide or pesticide should be undertaken very carefully, after much research and thought (and prayer). The struggle against invasives is so tough that I would argue that — very occasionally, after all other control methods have been vigorously applied — a herbicide must be used to eradicate the offender.

    Here are some of the resources I used to make the decision, including one from a science site and two others:

  16. joyce says

    So I feel very guilty. I desperately want to save my phlox, which have all fallen prey to nasty orange and black mosquito-legged beetles (that don’t fly). I couldn’t take it anymore. ALL of my phlox is affected, was told to use “Eight”, and I did. Some of the phlox are recuperating, but most are gone.

    You know, I happily dig up and rip out invasive plants all the time, but what do I do about insects that just don’t surrender to soaps, etc.? Must I only grow what isn’t tasty to them??? I think I am starting to whine…sorry.

  17. Caroline the Garden Gifts Lady says

    Garden no no for me is garden gnomes! Or perhaps you do not have them in your neck of the woods!

  18. says

    Welcome, Caroline. I think you are in good company, with some other anti-gnome friends among the group assembled. Hope you will soon stop in again.

  19. missmsry says

    I can’t condemn small gravel or crushed shell lawn substitutes, because where I live (a barrier island)it’s the best way to see snakes( and there are many poisonous ones). Plus, no chems. We have areas with native trees and plants, and a vegetable area.

  20. says

    Welcome, Missmsry. You are so right that gravel and the like is totally appropriate in some locales, I think. It is an organic-looking mulch on a barrier island, I would think. Good point. Come visit us (by boat? by bridge? by causeway?) again soon.

  21. says

    I keep the plastic nursery tags near my various tomato, herbs and vegetable plants. I hid them fairly deep in the soil but it allows me to quickly refer to important info about the plant. I wouldn’t do this in a flower bed, however.

  22. says

    Welcome, Early Snowdrop. I think that’s a great compromise…in the vegetable garden, why not use the nursery ones? Good idea. Hope to see you again soon.

  23. Cathy says

    My pet peeve happens right about this time of the year. Hanging planters and baskets that have gone stringy and woody and sparse. Nothing worse than seeing long tendrils of spent petunias or any flower for that matter. In my neck of the woods it’s time to think of glorious mums in all of the warm colours of autumn.

  24. says

    Hi, Cathy…and yes, I agree. I just tossed out a few annual potted things here that didn’t deserve to stay around one moment longer. And thanks for commenting on this older post…bringing the total number of comments to 100 (a first to A Way to Garden). :)

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