Save That Yard with Peter’s Landscaping Tips for Homeowners

Debug the Myths was back in the Tampa Bay area this week to save the yard of Donald Chatman. Mr. Chatman, a Wesley Chapel resident and former Marine, described his yard as “coyote ugly” when he entered pictures online for a chance to win a complete makeover. His “desperate” yard has since been transformed, thanks to Cornerstone Solutions, who created a property-enhancing outdoor area to enjoy.  Check back here for before and after pictures, follow us on Twitter (@
debugthemyths) for more updates or “like” us at as we upload videos and pictures of the makeover.

For those of you that are currently trying to save your own yard, follow Peter Klinkenberg’s (Director of Landscape  for Cornerstone Solutions Group) tips for Florida Homeowners and you’ll be on your way to an enjoyable outdoor space.

No. 1: Know Your Grass

Grass usually covers the most area, so it is one of the most important features of your yard.  Be sure to choose the right type of grass for the climate and pest pressures in your region to get a head start on a healthy lawn.

  • Healthy turfgrass has a positive effect on the environment by reducing soil erosion and preventing runoff into lakes, rivers, and streams.  It also traps an estimated 12 million tons of dust and dirt released annually into the atmosphere.
  • Chinch bugs are one of Florida’s most common lawn pests. They happen to enjoy feasting on St. Augustine grass, which is one of the most common grasses used in Florida lawns. 
  • Fertilization is important because it keeps your lawn healthy. This helps to reduce the weeds and pests that may be invading your yard.
  • Reducing weed pressure is always important. Without regular maintenance, weeds can take over a lawn. The only remedy to weeds taking over your yard is installing new sod or reseeding the grass, which can be costly.

No. 2: Add Excitement with Ornamentals

“Ornamentals” may sound exotic, but the term refers to any flowers, shrubs or other plants that add an extra touch of beauty to your landscape. Shrubs and flowers add dimension and color to your landscaping.  The key is to pick plants that are easy to maintain and grow well in your area.

  • How do you choose? Local nurseries or stores with large garden centers  have experts on hand that can help you decide which ornamentals will work best in your situation. Your local university extension office can also help with selection guidance.
  • Ask about plants that grow well in your zone. The Tampa Bay area is split between zones 9a and 9b.
  • Choose ornamentals that require the amount of maintenance you’re willing to give.
  • Keep in mind where you will be planting your selections – will they receive full sun or little sun? Look for plants that match the sunlight requirements your landscape will provide.

No. 3: Tips for Trees

There are several things to consider when choosing and planting trees on your property.

  • Trees are an important part of landscaping because they provide oxygen, improve air quality and help control the climate by reflecting the heat of the sun and providing a screen from harsh wind or rain. Trees also conserve water, preserve soil and support wildlife.
  • After selecting and planting a tree, it’s hard to wait patiently for it to grow into the landscape. A few trees that are known for growing a little faster: Royal Empress Tree (grows 12 feet a year), Weeping Willow (grows 10 feet a year), Lombardy Poplar (grows 6 feet a year), and the Thuja Green Giant (grows 3-5 feet a year).
  • There are a few key signs to look for when deciding if a tree needs to be removed. Keep an eye out for dead wood, which can break at any time so should be removed immediately.  Distressed trees may also exhibit cracks, weak branch unions, decay, cankers (if a localized area of the stem or branch of a tree is sunken or missing), or root problems.

No. 4: Weed Out Problems

Weeds are an eyesore for any lawn and can spread rapidly, taking over your grass and making outdoor spaces less enjoyable. Keeping your grass properly irrigated and fertilized is key for preventing weeds. 

  • Common weeds include poison ivy, poison sumac, poison oak and ragweed, which cause allergic reactions for numbers of individuals.
  • Weeds such as dandelions and crabgrass compete for the water and nutrients your lawn needs to thrive. Controlling these unwanted plants is especially important with new sod or grass.
  • Manual labor is one option for controlling weeds; however, it is difficult to commit the time and effort necessary to keep weeds from growing faster than you can pull them. Unchecked, you may find yourself looking out on a front lawn void of grass due to weed takeover. Many herbicide options are available to stop weeds from taking over.

No. 5:  Small Changes = Big Impact

If planning to do a large-scale complete lawn makeover, it may be best to call in a professional. If you want to take smaller steps to improve your lawn, the plants and products available from local gardening centers are effective and can make a big impact.

  • A simple and time saving way for eliminating weeds is using a herbicide and a little sweat equity.
  • Learn the best times to plant, fertilize, water and treat your lawn and landscape for pests to make sure your work and the products you use will be effective.
  • Adding flowers in large pots around your home is a quick way to immediately bring more color and excitement to your landscape. If you’re putting your house on the market, consider planting yellow flowers, as some claim the color yellow puts people in the mood to spend money.

Good Day Tampa Bay was on-site both Tuesday for the “before” shots and on Thursday for the “big reveal.” If you didn’t catch it live, check out the coverage here! Also, check out for more help from Peter and his team.

Categories: Gardening Pest Management Plant Care Uncategorized
Back to top