Monthly Archives: April 2016

//April

Upgrading Pool and Backyard: New Landscaped Slope Replaces Old Retaining Wall

As part of an overall backyard upgrade, Deck and patio was asked to replace a deteriorating two-tiered retaining wall that had become an unsightly focal point of the clients’ pool and patio area. In addition, loud noises that came from behind the wall were a problem. Other elements that needed refurbishing were the pool’s bowing stack concrete wall, and an aging patio.

To renovate the pool, we reinforced its wall with steel rebar and filled blocks with concrete; we also reshaped its design into an elegant geometric form. In addition, Deck and Patio surrounded the pool on three sides with a durable and handsome Cambridge patio.

Work in Progress

Work in Progress

Transforming the dual four-foot retaining walls called for a major transformation: removing and replacing the walls, and filling the space with naturalized boulders before colorful plantings, and a seven-foot high water feature could be added. Deck and Patio’s project manager/designer for the job was Bill Renter, who is an avid outdoor enthusiast.

“I spend as much time as I can walking the hillsides of New York’s Catskills and studying the landscape,” says Renter. “This has increased my expertise in how rock placement affects the flow of streams and waterfalls.”

Indeed, over the years, Renter has received a multitude of awards for choosing the perfect rocks, and artfully installing them to great effect and function.

 

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Seven-Foot High Waterfall

Replaces Old Retaining Wall

 

“Bill wanted our clients to experience what he does when he explores nature,” adds Dave Stockwell, owner of Deck and Patio.

“Not only did he create a beautiful focal point behind the pool, the dramatic waterfall drops into a pond-less system by Aquascape that filters and collects the water underground to recirculate it. Not having a pond capturing the falling water allowed Bill to add a stepping stone path that bring strollers right up to the fall, as if they were on a nature walk in the mountains.”

 

 

 

Backyard Upgrade Before and After:

 

Before Photo of Pool and Retaining Wall

Before Photo of Pool and Retaining Wall

 

 

After Photo of Pool/Retaining Wall

After Photo of Pool/Retaining Wall

 

 

Cambridge Pavingstone Patio:

Cambridge Pavingstone Patio:

Replacing the clients’ old patio with Cambridge Sahara Chestnut pavers included this new handsome entrance to the pool area with a spectacular view of  of the new natural retaining wall.

 

Natural Noise Barrier:

Natural Noise Barrier:

The new seven-foot waterfall is not just a delightful feature, it serves as a natural noise barrier for unwanted sounds that might intrude on a serene backyard oasis such as this.

 

Natural Retaining Walls:

Natural Retaining Walls:

Plantings are a key part of creating any natural retaining walls. Along with boulders and other rocks, their root systems add to the overall strength of the support system. Deck and Patio always chooses plants for their color, bloom periods and how they grow — ensuring color all through the seasons that keep their harmony year after year.

 

Here’s one additional “before” and “after” grouping that highlights the process of replacing a  retaining wall.

New Wall Includes Aquascape Pondless Waterfall

New Wall With Aquascape Pondless Waterfall

Natural Retaining Wall as a Work in Progress

Natural Retaining Wall as a Work in Progress

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coming ‘Back Down to Earth’ for Earth Day 2016

Earth Day is once again upon us. And isn’t it heartening that so many countries and citizens around the world will be considering the needs of our planet at the same time? One of the special celebrations taking place this year on Earth Day (April 22)  is the signing ceremony for the international Paris Agreement on Climate Change, which many agree is a step in the right direction for safeguarding our shared home.

But Earth Day is also celebrated each and every day  — a ‘coming back down to earth’ so to speak — where individuals and communities regularly act in useful and practical ways to nourish their own corners of Mother Earth. Some are diligent about recycling, others capture rainwater for irrigation, still others install solar panels, or use organic fertilizers.

For Deck and Patio, protecting the earth is a priority as we create beautiful outdoor living spaces. Indeed, we specialize in helping clients design/build outdoor amenities that are as eco-friendly as they are enchanting. In some cases, these not only do no harm to the local environment, but the projects actually help to improve it.

Aquascape RainXchange Reservoirs

As Certified Aquascape Contractors, Deck and Patio strives not to only make serene water features look natural, but also be natural. One way we do this is by using an Aquascape RainXchange reservoir. The reservoir, which stores water underground to be recirculated, can be used as part of a “pond-less” water feature system. Instead of falling into a pond, the flow from waterfalls and streams seemingly disappears into gravel, where it is filtered, and eventually recirculated. (Examples: see first two photos below)

 

Pristine Water Features:

Pristine Water Features:

This “pond-less” waterfall and stream was installed with all Aquascape Inc. components, so it is eco-friendly: the water is kept clean and healthy without the use of any chemicals.

 

Eco-Friendly Water Features:

Eco-Friendly Water Features:

For this “pond-less” waterfall and stream, the water required to keep it topped off and refreshed is harvested from the roof of the clients’ house. “Such a water feature is run entirely without using city water,” says Dave Stockwell, owner of Deck and Patio. “It acts as a ‘green’ maintenance-free source that operates daily March through December. “And any excess harvested rainwater can be used for irrigation of the property.”

Environmentally-Friendly Backyard Ponds

Backyard ponds with waterfalls and streams can also be created in eco-friendly ways so they not only do no harm, but also help improve the environment. Fish ponds, for example, naturally attract — and provide a haven for — other wildlife that children (as well as adults) love: frogs, salamanders, song birds, etc.

Of course, all these creatures are delightful to watch and listen to. More than that, their presence offer natural ways to a healthier environment. Frogs eat algae in the water which contributes to keeping the water clean; adult toads aid in controlling insects, as do the birds the water attracts; and the koi, which are so much fun to feed, eat any mosquito larva that might develop.

 

Healthy Pond Eco-Systems:

Healthy Pond Eco-Systems:

It is essential to choose the right stones and gravel (which provide the correct ph value for fish and plants), in order to keep a pond healthy in a natural way. For this project, we also planted a beautiful Japanese maple that shades the pondscape’s bridge; bright red geraniums add a strong burst of color (bottom right of photo.)

 

 

Public Sustainable Water Feature:

Public Sustainable Water Feature:

Not all sustainable water feature projects are for private use. Deck and Patio created this stream and waterfall spot in cooperation with the Town of Huntington (Long Island) where we installed it with a paver pathway at the area train station parking lot. The pathway is made of permeable pavers by Techo-Bloc, which were put over gravel and a rubber liner, which capture and filter the path’s rainwater runoff before it reaches the underground Aquascape Inc. reservoir installed at the end of the stream.

 

 

Public Sustainable Water Feature:

Public Sustainable Water Feature:

There is enough captured water at this train station water feature to not only sustain itself, but to also irrigate all the plantings around the water feature. Plus, this eco-friendly system keeps any non-filtered rainwater from going into the Town’s sewer system and on into beautiful Huntington Bay.

 

 

Day 2016 coincides with the signing ceremony for the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Photo from WMO.

Day 2016 coincides with the signing ceremony for the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Photo from WMO.

 

This is the second of a two-part series in honor of Earth Day 2016 (April 22nd). 

 

 

Earth Day 2016: Attracting Butterflies to Home Gardens

 

Monarch Butterfly

Monarch Butterfly

As landscapers, Deck and Patio’s team is frequently asked by homeowners to plant flowers that will attack butterflies. Yet even we were surprised at how widespread the desire for butterfly gardens has become.

In speaking recently with our friends at Hicks Nurseries, in Westbury, we learned that they have seen a huge spike in the purchase of pollinator-friendly plants, as well as a large uptick in the size of audiences attending seminars on the subject.

“Those interested are outdoor people, who traditionally enjoyed creating gardens that brought in birds to feeders and provided opportunities to watch butterflies,” says Caldwell. “More and more, however, we’re seeing a desire to create safe havens for butterflies, as well as other pollinators, including bees and hummingbirds.”

Caldwell says the growing awareness in how pesticides has affected the pollinator populations has helped stir this awakening. “Butterflies and other animal groups are having trouble with repopulation because it is so hard for them to find pure food sources. Butterflies, for example, often use too much energy hunting for food.

“It’s also key to create a safe habitat for their caterpillars. Some herbs are ideal for that; Dill and Dutchman’s Pipe, for example, not only provide caterpillars food, but also protective cover before they turn into butterflies.”

Organic gardening and environmentally-friendly lawn care products go hand-in-hand with protecting and attracting the pollinators, Caldwell adds. Dave Stockwell, owner of Deck and Patio, agrees.

“Earth-friendly lawn and plant care is very possible,” he says. “It isn’t essential to go for a fast kill of plant disease and pests. In doing that, you might also hurt helpful organisms in the process. Heavy use of toxic chemicals are also dangerous to pets and children. It is much healthier to control them — and protect butterflies and other pollinators in the process — through a more organic approach.”

As for ideal food, tubular-shaped plants or “Umbrels” provide a wonderful sanctuary for butterflies. “These give them a landing plant filled with nectar just waiting for them,” says Caldwell. She also suggests a seasonal approach that not only provides multi-seasonal color in gardens, but extra months of safe, bountiful habitats.

“In spring, you can plant Columbine, Bachelor Buttons, Bleeding Hearts, and Dianthus, for example. In summer, there’s 30-40 plants to choose from, including Black Eyed Susan, Butterfly Weed, Butterfly Bush to name just a few. In fall, there’s Sedums, Joe Pye Weed, Asters, and Golden Rod.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Butterflies will get plenty of moisture from droplets left from sprinklers, morning dew, etc. “However, they do seem to love oranges, not only for food, but to quench their thirst,” says Caldwell. Note: To keep ants away from the fruit, put the slice on a smaller dish and insert it into a larger one with water. Also, cut fresh slices into the fruit every day.

“We were delighted to learn that so many Long Islanders are helping, in their own quiet way, to help the environment” says Dave Stockwell. “They’re celebrating Earth Day, every day, by creating safe, beautiful habitats for butterflies and other pollinators.”

 

 

Butterfly Bush (Photo: Hicks Nurseries)

Butterfly Bush (Photo: Hicks Nurseries)

As the name implies, Butterfly Bush is a great choice for attracting butterflies in the summer. “They can reach up to 6-8 feet in height,” says Caldwell. “They’re fast growing and don’t need a lot of care.”

 

 

Lavender and Butterflies:

Lavender and Butterflies:

Dave Stockwell (Deck and Patio) says that Lavender (shown here) is another plant butterflies love. “It also gives off a calming peaceful scent. There are several types of lavender that bloom at different times — so you can have its perfume from spring nearly through fall.”

 

 

Black Eyed Susans (Photo: Hicks Nurseries):

Black Eyed Susans (Photo: Hicks Nurseries):

Great for attracting butterflies, these biennials are also a haven for other pollinators like bees. Their bright yellow petals and dark centers can’t help but make you smile.

 

 

Earth Day 2016 Earth Day coincides with the signing ceremony for the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Photo from WMO

Earth Day 2016 Earth Day coincides with the signing ceremony for the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Photo from WMO

This is the first of a two-part series in honor of Earth Day 2016 (April 22nd). Next week, our blog will cover sustainable water features and rainwater harvesting. 

 

 

 

The Pond Life: Spring Cleaning Is for Ponds, Too

For pond lovers, the advent of spring means more than cleaning away dust bunnies behind the fridge. If you have a backyard pond, and depending on its size and what part of the country it is located, some degree of pond cleaning is an equally important rite of spring.

As certified Aquascape Inc. contractors, many local pond owners prefer that someone from our Deck and Patio team come and prepare their pond come spring. But, avid pondsters (is that a word?) who don’t mind putting on some boots and getting their hands dirty are happy to do it all themselves, or at least part of it.

What’s involved?

In the north, fall brings debris! Photo Aquascape Inc.

In the north, fall brings debris! Photo Aquascape Inc.

If your aquatic plants were not properly cut back in fall, they may very well have fallen back into the pond and decomposed and dirtied the water.

However, even if you did cut them back, some cleaning will probably be required. How much cleaning may depend on your pond’s size. Smaller ponds tend to have more impurities than larger ones.

“It’s not unlike a fish bowl verses a fish tank,” says Dave Stockwell, owner of Deck and Patio. “A fish tank is much easier to maintain than a fish bowl, isn’t it? There’s just more water to absorb impurities. However, even larger ponds require basic maintenance, such as cleaning out the filtration systems, fertilizing aquatic plants, adding new filter mats when required, etc.”

Dave adds that depending on the quality of the water, draining of the pond, rinsing it out, and refilling it using a de-chlorinator may be required as well.

Here’s a helpful video by Aquascape Inc. showing spring cleaning:

 

 

“If you’re draining the pond, it’s important to take great care of any pond fish during the process,” says Dave. “Keep them safe in a kiddie pool or the like, and put a net over them so they don’t jump out. Also, be sure to acclimate them during reentry.”

Here’s some tips from Forrest Churchill for how best to integrate your pond fish back into the cleaned pond:

 

 

 

 

 

Pond Maintenance:

Pond Maintenance:

In the north, one of the best things you can do to reduce spring clean up is to use pond netting during fall foliage season. Photo: Aquascape Inc.

 

 Pond-less Waterfalls:

Pond-less Waterfalls:

It will take much less time to clean up a pond-less waterfall (pictured above) than a pond basin. Just dig out any debris in the Pond-less Waterfalls Snorkel Vault and, if it is required, drain the water using a clean-out pump placed into the vault — being careful not to flood any particular area.

 

Spring Pond Cleaning:

Spring Pond Cleaning:

The larger the pond, the better quality the water will be come spring. This beautiful pond project is really two ponds (one shown); in the larger pond pictured here there was even room for adding a large stone island with stepping stones out to it, where two Adirondack chairs were positioned for periods of contemplation and feeding the koi.

 

Spring Cleaning Begins in Winter:

Spring Cleaning Begins in Winter:

Even if you cut back your aquatic plants and water grasses, some will decompose. When doing spring cleaning, be sure it’s before the pond water temperature gets  above 55 degrees. Otherwise, bacteria from the warmer water will have formed — causing another undesirable green phase.  Photo: Aquascape Inc.

 

Natural Swimming Ponds:

Natural Swimming Ponds:

Spring pond cleaning is essential for a pond pristine enough to swim in (even if you don’t wish to). Remember, all bacteria isn’t bad, some good bacteria kill the bad guys. A healthy natural swimming pond is very possible and is worth all the care you give it. The right bog filtration and water plants, along with Biofalls (such as Aquascape Inc.’s) support your seasonal care for a healthy water feature.

 

The goal, of course, is that any pond at a minimum be healthy for fish and aquatic plants. This kind of water feature is a joy to sit by, listen to, and pond-er spring.