Viewing Carson City's landscape standards

I teach proper landscape design and planting to homeowners and the green industry. People often want a concise but detailed reference about these topics. There are numerous books available, but an excellent resource is the set of landscape standards developed by Carson City's Planning Department, with the help of Molly Sinnott, consulting arborist.

The standards are available at, and are actually designed for contractors working on Carson City projects. However, if you are installing a landscape or having a contractor install one for you, the standards outlined here will also be of great assistance to you. They state how proper planting and installation should be done.

Some requirements outlined in the standards state that tree staking shall be done on all trees. Original stakes on nursery trees shall be removed before installation. Trees must stand upright without support to be acceptable. Other standards include that the contractor shall remove all burlap, twine, ties, containers and wire baskets from all plant material. Do not disturb rootballs.

In addition, the standards say that there can be no girdling, kinked or circling roots. The standards also require that there be no topped trees, or wounds in the trunk, bark or limbs. Planting pits should be either hand or backhoe dug, with the soil on the bottom and sides of the planting pits being loosened before the plants are installed. Holes must be three times as wide as the rootball diameter, and the same depth as the rootball. These are all principles that University of Nevada Cooperative Extension teaches in our classes.

These methods of selection and installation help ensure plant survival and health. Furthermore, the standards state that contractors must not use plastic sheeting under rock mulch. They must use permeable, professional grade landscape fabric. To prevent weeds, rock mulch has to be washed and cleaned prior to installation and applied at a depth of 4 inches to 6 inches. Whether used under rock or organic mulches, landscape fabric cannot be left exposed. The standards also require the use of pre-emergent herbicides under landscape fabric and mulches, and slow-release fertilizers for all plants.

There are diagrams illustrating proper irrigation techniques, planting holes and much more on the Web site. A tree and shrub list provides great information on some of the hardiest plants, as well as on some of the historic trees for the area. Since some contractors restore riparian areas, there is also a list of riparian, or water-loving plants, appropriate for restoration projects.

If you want to know how to do a landscape project correctly, review the standards.

For more information on gardening, contact me, 887-2252 or, or your local University of Nevada Cooperative Extension office. Check out many useful horticulture publications at "Ask a Master Gardener" by e-mailing

-- JoAnne Skelly is the Carson City/Storey County Extension Educator for University of

Nevada Cooperative Extension.


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