So your yard has gotten a bit out of control, how do you know when you can roll up your sleeves and tame the mess yourself with a do-it-yourself landscaping project or when you need to call in a professional to do a full landscape restoration?

What is landscape restoration?
Let’s begin with the basics, the term “landscape restoration” is most often used to describe the process of regaining ecological integrity in natural areas that have been deforested or degraded over time. You may have heard the term landscape restoration used in conjunction with national forests, wilderness areas or other large tracts of public land. What is not as commonly known is the trend toward landscape restoration on smaller privately owned plots of land and even your own backyard.

When a lawn or garden has become more mature, over grown or has simply gotten out of control, there comes a time when it is necessary to bring the land back to its original state. This original state would be the way that the original landscape architect envisioned the project taking into account the function, needs for privacy, light and other uses of the space.

Although the full process of landscape restoration will be covered later in this post, the typical process includes: sprinkler repair, reconditioning soil with gypsum and organic matter, and trimming or removing plants that don’t fit in with the original plan palate laid out by the landscape architect.

What are the causes of landscape degradation?
Landscaping on the cheap
Landscapes get degraded for a variety of different reasons. Probably the most common reason is that the crew hired to maintain the yard simply loses sight of the original intent of the landscape. When a landscape architect puts together the conceptual idea and designs a plan palate, it incorporates the needs of the client as well as the various factors associated with the size of the house and lot, sun exposure, etc.

In an effort to save money, it is not uncommon for homeowners to hire cheap landscaping crews that employ time-saving but environmentally destructive gardening practices. The use of hedge trimmers and shaping shrubs and trees into balls and squares versus more time consuming but environmentally friendly lace trimming and natural trimming is a good example of this practice.

Another example of how cheap landscaping crews degrade land is when they don’t know what they are doing, and their inability to manage the land causes it to become overgrown.

Over time it is definitely better to pay a little extra to hire the right landscaping crew and make sure they are familiar with the original landscape architect’s vision so they can maintain your yard accordingly.

Original plants have a short lifespan
Sometimes the plants that are included in the original plan palate have a shorter lifespan. For example if the original plants had a 3-5 year life span and that time is up, the plants will die and need to be replaced to maintain the integrity of the garden.

The original plan doesn’t work anymore
One common occurrence in home landscapes is when trees grow and render the original plan obsolete. As trees mature their root structures will pervade the surrounding area and make it difficult for other plants to grow since they are now competing with the massive root networks of the maturing trees.

Maturing trees also produce more shade as they grow which may restrict the growth of plants that thrive in direct sunlight. Landscape architects call these changes, the creation of a new micro-climate. Barring removal of the tree, it is now necessary to re-plan the environment for a different type of planting due to the changes that the maturing trees have created.

Instant landscape gratification
It is also common for landscape architects to cave in to homeowner demands for instant gratification when it comes to the appearance of their landscapes. For example, in the original plan a landscape architect may allocate one plant to a certain area knowing that as it grows and matures it will fill in the space and provide a fuller and more complete appearance.

Dissatisfied with the appearance of the open space and impatient for natural growth to fill it in, the homeowner will often request that the landscape architect plant two or three more plants in the same space immediately rather than wait for the natural maturing process to occur.

When this initial over-planting occurs, it creates a growing problem as the plants mature and overcrowd each other on the limited space.

For these reasons, many landscape architects believe that it is easier to over-plant in the beginning and then come in later to remove plants than to under-plant in the beginning and have to come back and add new plants later. Either way, having the space overseen by a competent landscaper throuout the process is critical to keeping the landscape healthy and thriving.

How do you know it’s time to call in a pro for a landscape restoration?
Here are some signs that a landscape restoration may be needed for your yard:

You notice dead areas of your lawn or garden.
Roots pop out and run along the surface of the ground.
Trees and plants start growing outside of the original planning area.
Plants start getting sick, especially in the summertime.
Plants are too round or boxy, not how they were intended to grow in nature.
What are the steps to professional landscape restoration?
The first step to successful landscape restoration is to step into the shoes of the original landscape architect and reconnect with the primary vision and original intent of the space when the design was created.

Step two would be replacing any sprinklers or other landscape infrastructure that is in need of repair.

Step three is to identify which plants should be removed, which plants can be trimmed or saved and which plants need to be cut down and trimmed back to original size.

Step four would be reconditioning the soil with gypsum and organic matter fertilizer as needed.

So if your yard is not where you would like for it to be, always remember to start any new landscape restoration project by reviewing the guidelines in this post. If you follow these guidelines you will know when tidying up your yard is a do-it-yourself affair and when you need to call in the pros to do a full landscape restoration for you. Making the right choice on a landscape restoration option can ensure that your open spaces stay beautiful and healthy for years to come.