Landscape Restoration

Does your landscape need some restoration?

Landscape restoration is the process of taking an existing component of your landscape and repairing it. Billings Landscaping regularly works with Billings Montana residents to restore their existing landscapes. And as a part of our mission to beautify Billings, we are offering some free landscaping tips to help you to identify if you need landscape maintenance services, and for the do it yourself-er: to help you restore your own landscape. In order to do this, we will start by identifying some common problems in Billings Landscapes.

Common Landscape problems

Here are some common problems that we find during landscape maintenance and restoration here in Billings Montana.

  1. Leaves, twigs, and debris in the gravel beds.
  2. Excessive weeds in beds.
  3. Weeds along edges of beds.
  4. Unhealthy or stunted plants.
  5. Gravel not staying in beds.
  6. Over-sized shrubs.
  7. Irrigation problems.

If you have any of these problems, then you probably need some landscape maintenance and restoration work done.

Landscape Maintenance, Problem #1: Leaves, twigs, and debris in beds

Organic matter in gravel beds quickly contributes to problems with weeds. This is due to the fact that leaves decompose very quickly. As the leaves and twigs break apart into smaller pieces, they get trapped in the gravel. Over time, this forms a layer of organic material in which weeds can grow. In a gravel bed, it only takes 1/8″ of dirt to fully support a weeds roots. This is because the feeder roots can grow on the surface of the landscape fabric, taking nutrients and moisture from the thin layer of dirt, while using the rocks to protect them from the sun.

Landscape Maintenance needed
Example of leaves around shrubs that need to be blown out.

Landscape Maintenance, Problem #2: Excessive Weeds in beds and along edges of beds

Wind blown dirt will enter the bed from adjacent fields and unfinished landscapes. The dirt settles on top of the fabric and will grow weeds if the gravel is not deep enough to make it too difficult for the weed to grow. Therefore, it is best to blow out your beds every year. Be sure to move the gravel around with your feet or a rake as you blow it out. It helps to have on person on the rake and another using the blower. This will help you clear out the air born sands and silts that settled into you beds and will get the leaves and debris out so they don’t decompose into dirt. We often use a combined solution of blowing out the dirt and adding more gravel to better prevent weeds from growing in the gravel beds.

Landscape Maintenance, Problem #3: Weeds growing around edges of beds

landscape repairs
Example of improper staking resulting in fabric pulling away from edge of bed.

If weeds are growing around the edges of the beds, this is usually the result of the landscape fabric being improperly installed. Often times, weed form around edges of beds because the landscape fabric was not properly stakes during installation. When landscape fabric is not properly staked, the weight of the gravel settling over the dirt will actually pull the fabric away from the edges of the beds, thus leaving bare dirt where weeds can grow.

Landscape Problem #4: Unhealthy or stunted plants

There are four main factors that contribute to unhealthy growth in plants.

  1. Improper watering.
  2. Wrong sun exposure for the type of plant.
  3. Planted too deep in the dirt.
  4. Landscape fabric and rock choke the plant.
  1. Different plants have different watering requirements. Some plants can handle full sun, other can’t. It depends on the species of plant. Furthermore, some plants need more acidic soils to do well. It is best to get this information from a nursery. Good Earth Works and Billings Nursery are good places here in Billings Montana to acquire this information, or you can find it many places online.
  2. There are shade plants, part sun plants, and full sun plants. When shade plants get too much sun, they burn. When full sun plants don’t get enough sun, they grow slowly and become leggy.
  3. When planted to deep in the ground, a plant will not do well. When properly planted, your perennials and shrubs should be slightly above grade. On trees, we usually plant 2″ above grade. The reason for this is because the main feeder roots that bring water and nutrients to the plant exist in the top 2″ of soil surrounding the plant. These feeder roots do best when growing with gravity. They also grow more quickly with less resistance and have access to more water when they can grow in the top inch or two of soil. If you plant too deep, then the feeder roots will be too deep. In deeper soil, they will have a harder time penetrating the firmer dirt, and they will be deprived of precious surface water.
  4. Rocks and fabric around the base of your landscape’s plants will stunt their growth. Plants are very aware of their surroundings. In nature, plants compete for space. When another plant is competing with them, they will not do as well. When a plant is restricted by landscape fabric, it also immediately doesn’t do as well. However, the plant will grow to fill the hole in the fabric. The common problem we find in landscape maintenance and restoration work is that the hole originally provided was often too small for the plant. A correct installation predicts the mature size of the plant and provides a hole in the fabric large enough to accommodate. On the other hand, you might want to control the size of a plant with the fabric. We often do this with ground covers.
landscape maintenance and restoration
This native grass was stunted by the landscape fabric and was planted too deep in the soil.

Landscape Problem #5: Gravel not staying in beds

This is a common problem for Billings and is usually the result of improper installation or age. Best practices are to dig down 3-4″ around the edges of the beds and then rake back, leaving a gradual mound towards the center of the bed. That way, when gravel is placed, it stays put.

Landscape Problem #6: Over-sized shrubs

Shrubs are great, but as a designer, I often recommend removing them when the get large enough to throw off the proportions in the house and landscape. It is often difficult for homeowners and business owners to visualize how removing an over-sized shrub can improve the look of the landscape and home, but it is often true that by removing it, you will do just that!

Landscape Problem #7: Irrigation problems

Sprinkler systems need yearly maintenance. This is because the components do not last forever. In particular, sprinkler heads and drip emitters are subject to damage from uv, roots, being stepped on, and a variety of other culprits. Give a plant too much water, and it will starve for oxygen and die from fungus. Starve a plant and it will won’t grow. When plants enter “survival” mode, they typically do not strive. The goal is to give you plants exactly what they need to thrive. This means proper watering for every plant.

landscape maintenance to help plants
Landscape fabric cut correctly around the shrub to allow for future growth.
landscape maintenance problems
Native grass roots constricted by landscape fabric. Fibers are from the fabric that was peeled away from the roots.

Why hire a landscape designer?

Hiring a landscape designer might be one of the most intelligent things you can do as a home owner or business owner. A common trend throughout new developments has been to neglect the landscaping and focus on the house. This is primarily the case because of basic economics. Homeowners often get overextended when buying a new home and builders focus on their part which doesn’t typically include the landscape. I worked for years in a multi-disciplined architecture and engineering firm. One of my good friends lead the landscape architecture department for CTA Architects in Billings MT. Time and time again, I observed how landscaping budgets got cut.
landscape designer
The reason for this has been three fold.

  1. Landscapes are the last to be constructed
  2. Most builders do not install landscapes and homeowner have to stretch to buy the home
  3. Most projects run over budget

The first obvious reason is that the landscape is the last thing to be constructed. Since it is last, it seems to get the least attention. The component of human nature that seeks immediate needs first seems to win. The point to remember is that though landscapes are the last to be constructed, they are the first thing that you see when approaching a home or business.

The second issue is common in Billings MT for homes in new developments. For whatever reasons, it is often difficult for the home owner to afford landscaping. As a result, many developments in Billings tend to get the same set of landscapers who do affordable “cookie cutter” landscapes. The end result is often poorly designed or incomplete landscapes that all look the same.

The third factor is like unto the second. Call it Murphy’s Law, but simply put, not every project goes well. Scheduling, labor, materials and other factors such as closing deadline and economics can make a project late and over budget.

So when should you hire a landscape designer and how can you afford it?

The answer is that you should always hire a talented designer to do your landscape. The trick if to find a talented designer. These days, many professionals posture as designers. The fact is that the factors listed above have created little room for professional landscape designers. This is especially true in Billings MT. Instead of designers, we have landscapers doing slap stick designs. Some have gotten fairly good at it, however, most of these same landscapers push to do maintenance contracts with their customers. If you design and install a landscape with care, then there is little need for maintaining beyond what is dictated by the landscape design itself. And so again, we have a conflict of interest in the industry and in addition, we have a lack of creative talent and experience industry wide. There is no replacement for a good designer. Ask an engineer to design your house and you’ll likely get a box. Ask a landscaper to design your landscape, and you’ll get the “cookie cutter” equivalent of a “box”.

The second part of the question was how do you afford it? The answer is that a good designer can often pay for themselves in the long run by applying good design practices. In addition, since the value of your home will be significantly greater with a professionally designed landscape, the better question is how can you invest so much into a home and not follow suit by hiring a landscape designer? Your home or business is likely the largest investment you will make in your life. It just doesn’t make sense to quit on the project before it is completed. Again, the first thing you and others will see is your landscape.

So if money becomes the primary obstacle, then a good approach is to hire a landscape designer to get you started, and then do the work yourself, have family help, and maybe hire the kids next door. Your designer will give you a good plan and a solid grasp of the costs involved for as little as $500. It is money well spent because it will save you money before the project is completed guaranteed…and the end result will be way better. If you are striving to do the work yourself, then check out these landscape design tips to help you install a maintenance free landscape that will last for years.

How Billings Landscaping is helping homeowners and business owners in Billings:

Our passion is to bring beauty to the world. We offer our design services as part of the landscaping services that you get when you hire us. We help you plan your project in a way that makes it affordable and beautiful. In addition, we offer this website as a free service to Billings residents so they can help themselves. Landscaping isn’t all that difficult. It is the lack of knowledge and experience that makes it hard for people to do it themselves. We hope that by offering this information to the public, we are doing a better job of serving our community and making Billings more beautiful.