Special Winter Landscape Tips

While most landscaping tips are concerned with tending plants during the growing season, winter landscaping is every bit as important if you want to have a great-looking lawn and healthy, vibrant plants. With the arrival of fall and cold weather, it is essential to complete a few projects to keep your landscaping protected during the dormant months. Prepare shrubs, trees and grass now, and they will return healthy in the spring and leave you with a neat, well-tended winter landscape.

Winter Landscapes: Preparing Your Lawn

Although grass appears to stop growing in the fall, the roots are actually growing deeper to prepare for winter. Now is the best time to fertilize and reseed your lawn. Feeding the lawn early in autumn will give the roots a boost before winter arrives. A second feeding in late October will keep it winterized and strong in the freezing weather.

If your lawn has some bare patches, early autumn is a perfect time to install sod or reseed. Adding sod gives you an instantly perfect lawn that will be a pleasure when the warm weather returns. To firmly establish new sod, keep it moist for the first week after it is laid. After the first week, it can be watered as needed. Avoid having sod laid in hot, dry weather, as it will be hard for the roots to establish.

Be sure the sod contains varieties of grass that are indigenous to your region. The sod should not look dry and should be sitting on a pallet no longer than two days. It should not be warm to the touch. You can eliminate a lot of uncertainty by buying sod from a reputable grower. For types and average pricing, see our sod price guide.

Winter Landscaping Tips for Pruning Shrubs and Hedges

Pruning is very important to encourage healthy growth in spring. Most pruning should be done after the leaves turn, indicating that the plant is dormant. A good rule of thumb is to prune spring blooming shrubs immediately after flowering and to prune summer blooming shrubs in the dormant season. Pruning late in the growing season will encourage new growth that will be damaged by frost.

When pruning, use caution to make a good cut at a slight angle about 1/4 inch from the branch. You may want to hire a professional gardener to help with this delicate task.

Some shrubs need to be wrapped with burlap to protect them from frost. If you have experienced frost damage in the past, make sure to protect these plants before the temperature dips down. Spread a layer of mulch around the base of the plants to provide insulation for the winter. Wait until spring to fertilize shrubs and trees.

Landscaping Tips for Trees

Like most of the plants in your yard, trees need special care. It is important to keep tree limbs away from power lines and away from the roof of your house. Branches can easily pull down gutters or cause other costly damage if they are hanging over your house.

When planning to prune trees, consult with a professional arborist. He or she will know the best method for your species of trees and the correct time of year for pruning. A professional arborist will also know how to safely remove any troublesome branches without causing damage to the tree. Typically, tree pruning should be done in early autumn or late spring.

Preparing Landscape Fixtures for Winter

Winter landscapes are made up not only of plant-life, but of many other objects, as well. Just like the plants, however, these fixtures often require special care to weather the cold. Walkways and patios can take a beating in cold weather. Shifts in temperature and humidity can cause concrete and brick to heave and settle unevenly. Keeping them free of water build up and debris will reduce the chances of winter damage. If you noticed water or ice accumulation last winter, take steps now to provide proper drainage. This can be as simple as adding a small gravel drainage channel next to a walkway or fixing a gutter that drips onto steps.

Having a professional pool cleaning company winterize your swimming pool is essential. Drain the water and cover the pool to keep out leaves and animals. In winter, it is not uncommon for deer or other wildlife to walk over pool covers, so choose the strongest cover you can afford.

Hot tubs and spas will be a welcome treat in the cool weather. Make sure the heater and pump are functioning properly. If not handled correctly, water could freeze in the pump, pipes, or the hot tub itself, causing irreparable damage.

Learn More About Landscape Design

There was a time when most people thought landscaping was little more than lawn mowing, weeding and planting a few flowers. In recent years, landscaping has taken on a whole new meaning. Good landscape design can add to the value of a home, dramatically increase your living space, and contribute greatly to an improved home lifestyle.

As a trade, landscaping has been divided into three main fields:

Lawn care companies
Landscape maintenance firms
Landscape design firms
Lawn care companies specialize in mowing, raking, edging, seeding and otherwise caring for the grassy areas.

Landscape maintenance firms are primarily concerned with periodic maintenance of shrubs and flowerbeds.

Landscape design firms that handle landscape construction and planting under the direction of a landscape designer or architect. This last group deals with everything from patios to fountains to rock gardens.

Most people have no long-term plans for their landscaping. More often than not, changes in the landscape are triggered by sales on plants at the local nursery or home center. Some of these impulse purchases die before being transplanted and plants that are successfully transplanted end up providing a final look short of expectations. While nearly every household does some landscaping, few achieve the results they seek. In most neighborhoods, truly appealing landscapes are few and far between.

Why do so few people create truly satisfying landscapes? It certainly isn’t for lack of trying. It’s nearly always for lack of attention to the design. A good landscape designer can help you integrate all kinds of practical and aesthetic considerations into an overall plan that achieves the effects that are most important to you. Whether you want to attract birds, impress the neighbors, or create fanciful outdoor recreation areas for grandchildren, landscape designers can help you pull it together so that it really works.

Most people assume that landscape designer means “big expense.” This is not necessarily the case. Designers can help you work within a budget and can help you implement the landscape plan in stages spread over several seasons.

Most homeowners who do their own landscaping end up redoing parts of it time and time again, trying to create the right look without creating a maintenance nightmare. This is not a recipe for saving money. A designer can help you develop an approach that doesn’t waste your time and money.

To get help with your landscape design, there are many ways to gather ideas:

– Landscaping and gardening books
– Home and gardening magazines
– Computer-based landscape design tools
– Flower shows and home shows
– Home centers and nurseries

For the most comprehensive design help, use a landscape architect or someone with equivalent training. These people have studied landscaping from every angle over a long period of time and are in the best position to help you juggle thousands of variables to end up with the ideal plan for you. Even if you decide to formulate a plan on your own, have a landscape design professional review your ideas before you start moving dirt around or buying expensive plants.

Let’s Learn How To Backyard Landscaping

Much like a living room is for public entertaining and a bedroom is your quiet and private domain, your front yard and backyard will often serve different purposes of outdoor landscaping. The front of your house is more public. You want passers-by to stop, roll down their windows, and say to themselves, “That’s the house I want.” Your backyard is your personal outdoor oasis.

Backyard Landscaping Installations

You may hear about backyard installations that have better or worse value return. A costly gazebo or storage shed may not have the same installation cost-to-property value ratio as a moderately priced pond or swimming pool. Your first question when deciding what backyard landscaping project to undertake should always be your lifestyle.

If you long for afternoon barbecues, a deck is probably where you should start. If you prefer quiet, evening dining, a patio is probably the better bet. If you’re an avid reader who finds the outdoors relaxing, a pond/waterfall combination may be ideal. A swimming pool can be a good installation that both you and your children can enjoy. Don’t go for projects that seem trendy, unless you’re sure it fits your lifestyle and/or you plan on selling your home in the next few years.

Planning for the future can mean more than just spending more on your installation project or getting the most bang for your buck. A common example of this is an above ground swimming pool installation. If you have children, they may bug you to put in a swimming pool. Spending more on this swimming pool may increase its lifetime by an extra ten years. It may seem like a good idea at the time, but once the kids leave the nest, your priorities may change.

You could invest that extra money and in ten years use that money to replace the swimming pool. An above ground swimming pool is one of the easiest installations to replace. Digging the foundation for the swimming pool is also natural ground preparation for a garden or patio.

Backyard Landscaping Care and Maintenance

General landscaping care and maintenance can be more about getting the most for your money. Planting or removing trees or other plants can provide many options and several of them can save you money and still achieve similar effects. Existing topsoil can often be revitalized in a relatively short amount of time at a significantly cheaper price. The most important thing is to ask a lot of questions before you make any actual plans. Talking to a landscaping professional about what you want for your backyard landscaping can be invaluable for both quality and cost. Be sure to ask what your options are and make sure you can justify each decision to yourself.

When hiring a lawn service company, it’s important to find a reputable company, but it’s also a good idea to get quotes from several companies. To save on operating costs, these companies tend to bundle their services into packages. Different companies may have different packages. Finding the right fit for your specific lawn needs can help you make the best choice.

Easy Tips To Make Small Garden with Difficult Soil

Don’t blame yourself if you’re having trouble sustaining your yard. It doesn’t mean you lack a green thumb or can’t keep the simplest of species alive. The number one problem in any kind of landscaping is soil. Unless you live in a fertile part of the country, there’s a good chance you’ll run into difficult soil that will hinder you in growing even the most maintenance-free flowers or plants. There are several reasons why plants have a hard time growing, but when nature seems to be stacked against you, these soil solutions can make the difference between a garden that’s great, and one that’s nearly non-existent.

Causes of Difficult Soil

All yards run into difficulties at some point and a lot of it has to do with the ground it’s growing in. So the first line of attack is a good defense: identifying the setback.

pH Balance: the most troublesome dilemma is your yard’s chemical composition. Dirt has a pH level which is measured using a scale ranging from 0-14. Since plants need a nice balance of several chemical elements (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, etc.) in order to effectively grow, you need to make sure its pH level is balanced as well. It should always stay somewhere between 5 and 7. Below that it’s too acidic, and above that it’s too alkaline; too much in either direction and you have a problem.
Salty Soil: If your plant leaves are discolored, if brown crust is surfacing, or if a powdery material is dusting the top of your small garden, then you may have saline or sodic soil. In other words, sodium levels are high and it’s stressing your yard.
Soil Species: Soil structure could also be causing some obstacles. Clay can hold too much water at times and then suddenly dry out and get hard (hardpan). Sandy dirt can’t hold water at all, and therefore nutrients simply slide away with the irrigation.
Lucky for us, the modern gardener has the benefit of decades of science and research that can be used to modify whatever dirt we’re dealing with. Contemporary garden planning and soil additives are the key elements in keeping our plants healthy, and easy to manage.

Common Soil Additives

Before you can find a suitable soil solution, you must understand your specific soil problem. Therefore, it’s a good idea to hire a professional to test it. Take a dirt sample from the plot and a water sample from the irrigation source, and give it to a testing facility who’ll quickly diagnose the difficulty.

Once you know what your dirt is lacking, you can improve its structure with soil additives like organic compost, top soil, and activation products that can help to thicken sand, calm down clay, and dilute salt. Soil additives are often a necessity when balancing pH levels. If you want to keep it organic, however, make sure to read labels carefully. You may even want to consult a gardening specialist in your area for suggestions on what soil additives will work best.

Drainage Solutions

Soil additives are only one element in making your garden grow. When it comes to small gardens, raised garden beds, or entire lawns, another common predicament is drainage. Soil could be draining too fast, which washes away vital nutrients and creates puddles (causing root destruction and rotting). But if it’s not getting enough irrigation, it could become hardpan and barren. There are different solutions to improper drainage (some that you can to do on your own and some larger projects which may take the hand of a professional), but there’s only one overriding philosophy: moderation and proportion.

– Compost: Once again, soil structure is essential. Add compost to thicken sandy dirt, but beware of overfilling: it causes settling and the compost could waterlog.
– Dry Dirt: Adding dry dirt, such as limestone and silica sand, could help soak up the moisture from clay, but watch out for overdoing it because it alters pH levels as well.
– No Tilling: We love to feel like we’re doing something, so sometimes gardeners over-till the earth, which only aggravates the soil and upsets natural drainage systems.
– Grading: It’s crucial to have proper surface drainage, which means your yard must be appropriately sloped so water doesn’t collect. Underground tile and subsurface pipes can’t do it alone: you have to actually move around and correctly grade the topsoil.
– Low spots: Backfilling low spots help to avoid water buildup, but you’ll have to get a backhoe, dig up the ground, and add new dirt (of the same species) until it is leveled.
– Irrigation: To make sure the yard is getting just the right amount of water, you may want to hire a landscape contractor to install a sprinkler system for $1,800 to $2,500 to control the exact amount of irrigation your lawn receives.

More Information About Backyard Waterfalls and Ponds

One of the most soothing sounds is the sound of running water. People will spend thousands of dollars on vacations simply to unwind from their stressful jobs, their chaotic lives. For about the same price as one of these vacations, you can create a similar paradise by installing a backyard waterfall and pond. New installation techniques have drastically reduced the cost of putting in this luxurious addition to your backyard that often will still more than pay for itself when it comes time to sell your home. Stop listening to the barking dogs and the screaming children and settle in with a nice book next to your backyard waterfall.

Installation

Companies now offer DIY waterfall and pond systems. Lighter, artificial rocks eliminate the need for heavy lifting. If you’re willing to put in the time and effort, there’s no reason you can’t install a backyard waterfall and pond yourself. Putting in a little extra money for a contractor, though, does still have some important advantages.

Professional installers have experience shaping and designing rock and synthetic rock formations for the most appealing appearance and effect. More than simply finding the right place for the rocks, they may still need to be sculpted to control the water flow into your backyard pond. If you’re planning on putting fish and plant life in and around pond, as most homeowners do, a local contractor will be able to design and advise you on the best filtering system for your local climate.

They’ll show you how and where to create holes in the ice if your pond freezes over in the winter. These holes will allow the fish to survive. Finally, a local contractor will be able to customize your backyard waterfall and pond to fit the natural contours of your yard to create a more stunning effect than a cookie-cutter installation package.

Backyard Ponds

Part of the custom options include what type of backyard pond you choose to install. These are the two main kinds of backyards available:

Preformed ponds—Just as the name says, these ponds are pre-formed. They allow for the cheapest, easiest installation but provide fewer design options. They are usually made from fiberglass. You can choose either a fully preformed pond with the pond edging already created or you can choose a partially preformed edging and customize the edging yourself. If you choose a partially formed pond, make sure you decide on the edging before you buy anything so you can make sure the materials match.
Flexible, vinyl liners—These ponds are created with vinyl liners allowing you to create any size and shape pond you want. They can be more expensive, but won’t have as great an effect on the total cost of your project as rock selection and size. If you want your waterfall and pond to really stand out this is probably the type of pond you’ll want to choose.
Maintenance

One of the hidden reasons for spending a little more on the initial installation is the maintenance the pond and waterfall will need. Again, a lot of this depends on the climate where you’re living. For warmer climates where pond freezes are less of an issue, a high-quality filtering system where you constantly leave the water running will make maintenance extremely simple. Keeping the water running will reduce your pond’s susceptibility to algae which will make your pond green and clouded. This is especially important since the FDA has taken many of the algaecide chemicals off the market. You’ll also want to prevent dirt run-off into your pond as this can turn the pond white and clouded. Every pond is different and will have different maintenance requirements and damage prevention. Make sure you talk to a professional before and after you install your pond to keep this amazing investment in good condition.