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Pond-side Living: The Home-Refuge You Never Knew You Wanted

Just about every one on Long Island has a “can’t wait to do” list for when social distancing is over. Being locked down has been a struggle. Every inch of our properties, inside and out, have been under family microscopes — causing us to make still another list: “must-have improvements” as soon as possible!

This week, Deck and Patio is focusing on a landscape idea for that second list. A landscaping transformation that will be enjoyable for the whole family. 

Imagine for a moment an eco-friendly water garden, steps from your door. A water feature that provides endless hours of entertainment and draws family members outside, together or on their own. An outdoor spot alive with interest and stimulation that is a delight in all seasons.

This home-refuge idea is: Pond-side living.

 

Ponds in Spring

Deck and Patio Pond in Spring

Deck and Patio Pond in Spring

As the weather warms, pond fish come out of winter hibernation. As koi lethargy turns to activity, inactivity in the family is also overcome. Children want to run outside and feed them. Even Fido is thrilled.

With flowers blossoming, trees budding, pond-side in spring is a paradise for families. Not only are pond fish a delight to study but a healthy pond attracts more birds, a few frogs, etc. Backyard strolls are enjoyed with a symphony of birdsongs and croaks — melting any winter-built-up tensions away.

We should add, spring is also a time for pond cleaning and maintenance: the removal of debris, revving up of the filtration system, installing a pump or skimmer, and sometimes changing the water. 

“Having designed and built over 300 ponds on Long Island, Deck and Patio has our share of spring pond maintenance contracts,” says Dave Stockwell. “Spring pond maintenance isn’t all that hard really. Frankly, we specialize in creating low-maintenance ponds. Their ecosystems work naturally with Mother Nature to keep the pond clean and clear. So very often the maintenance is minimal.”

 

Ponds in Summer

Natural Swimming Ponds

Natural Swimming Ponds

If your pond was designed to be a natural swimming pond, summer is a wonderful time for pond-side living. Regular swimming pools are terrific, too, but there’s not much to see when snorkeling in a concrete pool. 

Another pleasure of a natural swimming pond is the lack of chemicals. This means you’ll run across the odd dragonfly flitting across your pond’s surface. You may also spy a salamander at its edge. And frogs (who eat the more undesirable insects around your pond) may parent some tadpoles in any natural pond. That aside, swimming in a well-maintained pristine natural pond is not just possible, it is thrilling. Children and adults alike love it. 

Whether or not it’s a swimming pond, most ponds are designed with waterfalls which add to the peaceful enjoyment while they aerate the water. The sounds of moving water is as good for relaxing as a massage. 

Reading a book next to a water garden or dining al fresco with the family is a wonderful way to spend summer hours.

 

Pond-side Living:

Pond-side Living:

This pond project by Deck and Patio included a new deck with a viewing platform where the family can dine and enjoy the pond and its robust landscaping. After dinner they can walk across a set of large stepping stones to view the pond from another vantage point.

 

Ponds in Fall

Ponds/Water Features

Ponds/Water Features

As long as the weather permits, family pond enjoyment continues well into autumn. The fish continue swimming about and wanting to be fed as long as the water temperature is above 60 degrees. 

The addition of an outdoor fireplace, fire pit or fire table — perhaps at the edge of a patio or deck — makes the whole experience that more relaxing, extending the outdoor season.

And can you imagine a more peaceful spot to watch the trees turn from a bright green to yellow, crimson and orange? 

From spring through fall, your pond will be the hobby of the whole family. It’s perfect for relaxing or dining beside, koi keeping, nature study, and water gardening.

Note: As the weather cools and fall arrives, once again there’s some maintenance to get the pond ready for winter.

 

Ponds in Winter

Ponds in Winter

Ponds in Winter

Some pond lovers say the real magic begins in winter. True, you won’t be sitting or dining pond-side when it’s really cold or wintry. However, ponds can help create a winter wonderland that is delightful during crisp winter walks.

Indeed, many people love to be outdoors in winter. A popular trend these days is creating a winter walk “event” for strolling by lighted trees or bushes, a fully-operating water feature with waterfalls, and even skating on your pond-rink. While it may take some preparation and care to create a safe rink, it is very doable. 

As for your pond’s fish, Dave Stockwell says it is a common myth that you can’t leave your pond fish outside once the cold sets in.

“Actually, fish do just fine during winter. That said, I always caution pond owners to be alert. When ice covers the pond, the fish might not be getting enough oxygen.” To learn more about that, click here.

Pond-side living is a home-refuge gift for all seasons. A gift that, until the recent pandemic, you may never have known you wanted.

Blog photos: With the exception of our feature photo at the top of the page all photos are of Deck and Patio ponds. The feature photo is from a blog post on Aquascape Inc.’s website, titled: “Growing Up Around a Pond.” The writer included this photo of her son encouraging a friend to join him in the pond. Photo: Courtesy of Aquascape Inc.

 

How to Protect Your Pond Fish From Attack

If you’ve been spending more time at home like so many in our area of New York, we bet some of that’s been outdoors. And those with a pond are probably noticing that your pond fish are coming out of hibernation. Ahh. Spring.

One thing we hope you haven’t noticed, however, is any of your precious koi suddenly disappearing!

Now if that’s the case, we feel your pain. Not only do we enjoy watching and feeding these jeweled treasures, koi help balance the entire ecosystem of a pond. So we get it that you want to protect them. 

 

Safety Begins with Good Pond Design

Herons Don’t Like Deep Water

Herons Don’t Like Deep Water

If your koi pond was designed and built well, it was designed and built deep.

A water feature with sufficient water depth, for example, will dissuade raccoons and cats from going after your fish, since neither species enjoys swimming to get their dinner.

Plus deeper water at the edges (more than 18” deep) discourages the most challenging predator, the heron, from wading into your pond. Herons enjoy walking around in slightly shallow water.

Deep water really puts them off.

So a pond designed with high rock ledges and no easy wading entrance discourages a heron from hunting your fish.

 

 

Pond Water Features:

Pond Water Features:

Another helpful idea is adding a waterfall feature. The continuous movement of bubble rocks, waterfalls, or even water from nearby sprinklers, will put off many predators. Also, unlike still water which offers a glass-like surface, bubbling water from a waterfall etc. disturbs that serene surface, making it harder for predators to see the fish underneath. 

“In addition, when we construct a pond, we frequently include underwater koi castles,” says Deck and Patio’s Dave Stockwell. “When the koi sense danger, they can hid in there until the creature has given up.”

 

 

Other Tips for Protecting Koi

  1. Statues: Some swear by scarecrows like owl statues. Others recommend a decoy-heron. Indeed, being territorial, herons will usually avoid conflict with what they perceive as another heron. Be sure the decoy is large enough to appear as a reasonable threat, however. And it is also important to move the decoy every few days. Herons are clever and will soon figure out a decoy that never moves isn’t a danger.

Motion-Activated Sprinklers 2. Another effective deterrent is installing a motion-activated sprinkler. We found, for example, one gardening expert, the Laidback Gardener, who says that after testing just about every animal repellent conceivable: “…the only simple deterrent that keeps most animals away in the long run is the motion-activated sprinkler.”

The motion-activated sprinkler is just one of several deterrents that should be used, adds Dave. “It can be effective, but works best in combination with some of the other suggestions we’ve given here today.”

3. Pond Netting/Fish Wire: “The most effective guarantee for safeguarding pond fish is pond netting,” says Dave. “But, because they spoil the look of the pond, most people prefer to use netting only during fall foliage. However, another suggestion which you’ll see in the following video seems a better alternative. Fish wire can be strung around pond areas where predators can get close enough to grab your fish.

 

 

The following YouTube video is by Foisy Aquatics who has a YouTube channel devoted just to fish.

 

 

Today’s Feature Photo (at Top of Page):  Koi are a healthy part of this Deck and Patio pond’s natural ecosystem; they have lots of room to hide as well as swim. The pond is sufficiently deep, including around the edges. There are also plenty of high rock overhangs to discourage predators. A motion-activated sprinkler and a koi castle offer the final bits of security.

 

By |2020-04-23T14:29:27-05:00April 23rd, 2020|Aquascape Biofalls, Backyard Escapes, Creative Design, Design and Build Experts, Koi Ponds, Landscaping, Living Landscapes, Moss Rock and Stones, Ponds & Water Features|Comments Off on How to Protect Your Pond Fish From Attack

Making the World a Better Place through Rainwater Harvesting

Next Wednesday (April 22nd) is not only Earth Day, but it’s the Day’s 50th anniversary. To mark this year’s event, NASA says it’s taking the adage “Make the World a Better Place” seriously by using technology over in-person activities. Their website will host at-home science activities, videos from earth and space, social media engagement etc.

If you’re asking what can we do locally in each community to contribute, we have a thought. Here at Deck and Patio we have a division called Rainwater Harvesting. If using less local water is something you find you’d like to do, you’ll be happy to learn that harvested rainwater can be used for washing your car, watering your garden and lawn, etc. You can get in touch with us to begin planning such a change.

Do You Need a Large Property to Harvest Rainwater?

A few years ago, long before COVID-19, The Deck and Patio Company — through our Rainwater Harvesting Group — did just such a project in Brooklyn, New York. Certainly these clients had a very tight city backyard. It was barely 25’x 12’.

“The clients had a four-story walk-up,” adds Dave Stockwell. “They wanted us to help them   collect all the water that came off their roof.”

In addition to the obvious “green” aspects, the clients were keen to take advantage of certification from the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) program. 

According to the Council, certification may allow property owners to “qualify for a host of incentives like tax rebates and zoning allowances. Not to mention they retain higher property values.”

In addition, says Dave, rainwater harvesting reduces energy and water bills, sometimes by as much as 40%.

The following photos and video show The Deck and Patio Company hard at work  awhile back (in the good old days) at this Brooklyn project. As you’ll see, we are happy to go the extra mile no matter how tight or challenging a property site turns out to be.

 

Updating Small Backyards:

Updating Small Backyards:

In addition to the the Rainwater Harvesting System by Aquascape Inc, these clients wanted a small built-in barbecue; they also had a vegetable garden and we planted drought-tolerant xeriscape plants across from it.

 

Installing Rainwater Harvesting Reservoir:

Installing Rainwater Harvesting Reservoir:

Our team was hard at work here prepping a large enough hole to install an adequate tank. Water comes off their Brooklyn 4-story roof and is collected in a 500-gallon underground rainwater harvesting reservoir. When it’s full, water flows into an overflow regeneration zone where it can perk slowly back into the ground.

 

Private Water Systems:

Private Water Systems:

Previously, any excess water from rainfalls etc. ran off into the New York City sewer system; now, because rainwater and any overflow will be collected, stored, and controlled, the water for plants and vegetables is completely disconnected from the city sewer system.

 

Small Yard Renovations:

Small Yard Renovations:

We had to dig a hole 4’ x 6’ and 3’ deep to install the underground 500-gallon reservoir. This required digging out soil and filling 5-gallon buckets that our team carried one at a time down to the basement, up stairs, and out to a dump truck in front of the house.

 

Aerating Water Feature:

Aerating Water Feature:

We drilled a hole through a rock to create a bubbling rock feature; water bubbles up and then goes back down; having a connecting water feature allows the water to be continually aerated, thereby helping to purify the water.

 

 

By |2020-04-16T14:10:00-05:00April 16th, 2020|Aquascape Biofalls, Backyard Escapes, Design and Build Experts, Environment Issues, Gardening, Herb/Vegetable Gardens, Landscape Planning, Landscaping, outdoor maintenance, Rainwater Harvesting|Comments Off on Making the World a Better Place through Rainwater Harvesting

Birdsongs Are Actually Good For You

 

 

Note: We highly recommend opening the above video before reading further. That way you can experience the transforming effects of bird songs — while reading about the transforming effects of birds songs and how to entice more birds to your yard!

 

Birdsongs’ Restorative Effects

Birdsongs

City Birdsongs

Because of extensive sheltering-in-place, even city dwellers are hearing natural sounds these days that usually are muted by the normal drone of human activity.

Rebecca Franks wrote on Facebook that she used to think there weren’t really any birds in the city where she was living. She rarely saw them and never heard them. “I now know they were just muted and crowded out by the traffic and people. All day long now I hear birds singing.”

And what better time to learn that hearing birdsongs is actually good for you. A recent study says that, depending on the particular birdsong and its type and frequency, the sound of birds can actually help one feel better and react more positively to life — offering restoration from stress and cognitive fatigue.

 

Attracting Birds to Your Yard

Bird Feeders

Bird Feeders

Before rushing out to put up more bird houses and feeders, remember attracting birds takes some planning.

Deck and Patio has been in the business of creating bird-friendly landscapes for over 25 years. And we’ve learned a thing or two.

For example. Birds aren’t as happy with your perfectly cut and edged expansive lawns as your neighbors might be. And while the odd bird house or feeder will help attract a few birds to a nicely manicured area, birds, prefer a bit of density.

“Songbirds love bushes and trees,” says Deck and Patio’s Dave Stockwell. “Birds of all sorts drop by for the food, comfort and privacy such lush vegetation gives them. And in turn for access to some clean water and natural munchies, like berries, they’ll give you an opera of stress-reducing songs. Berries, by the way, have been known to tempt even timid birds out of hiding, like woodpeckers.”

Here’s an example of a modest natural sanctuary we designed/built for one of our clients.

 

Attracting Birds:

Attracting Birds:

Although the neighbors of these clients have a natural wooded area, we added bushes, trees and plenty of plantings to their own yard. This means birds and their songs will be closer by and easier to hear. The crepe myrtles, for example, contribute to an extended picture-perfect landscape season — they bloom from August through October, providing a haven for a variety of visiting birds.

 

Some April ‘To Do’s’

Photo by Sandra Vultaggio

Photo by Sandra Vultaggio

During March and April many birds migrate back up north. Ruby-throated hummingbirds are just one species that make their home in Mexico and Central America during winter, and are already back in our neck of the woods.

So if you want to invite them to your yard, it’s time to fill hummingbird feeders etc. As for blooms, horticulturist Sandra Vultaggio says that these hummingbirds particularly love rhododendrons and azaleas. “They also love Columbine, which they track as they move north.”

Other delightful birds — e.g., the Baltimore Oriole and certain Warblers — also arrive on Long Island and other areas of the Northeast in April.

Oriole migration coincides with that of hummingbirds, says Vultaggio — arriving usually a week ahead of their smaller rapid-flapping friends. For the Orioles, she puts out oranges, which they love.

Like hummingbirds, Orioles winter in Mexico and Central and South America. It’s worth planning for their arrival because they don’t stay around long. They begin migrating south again in August. So get your Oriole-feeders out early.

Some ‘Not To Do’s’

“April is a good time of year to postpone any severe pruning you might want to do,” says Vultaggio. “This time of year is usually mating season, and squirrels and birds are busy building their nests.”

“You don’t want to be cutting down trees while these creatures are nesting. Also, it’s helpful to the birds if you don’t make a thorough clean up of your yard during spring maintenance. Leave behind loose twigs and leaves for them to build their nests.”

During April, gardeners often find it necessary to go after insects and pests that might destroy their garden. This can mean applying fungicide or spraying insecticides.

“Be sure that when you do this, not to spray the blooming trees and shrubs. You don’t want to harm birds, bees and other pollinating insects,” says Dave.

Extra Tips

If you’re not an avian expert and are not sure which bird is which, you’ll appreciate the Audubon Soceity’s app. Not only will it help you identify the birds you see, but you can keep track of them, share photos, etc. There’s a good tutorial on their app’s information page, just click here. 

So make your home’s outdoors as much of bird sanctuary as possible. If you help the birds…they’ll help you right back! In the meantime, if you need a little restorative birdsong uplift, try out  Bird Song Opera. It’s great.  

 

Landscaping Ideas: Sheltering in Place Sparks Passion for Growing Vegetables

The New York Times had an interesting column this week, entitled “Panic Buying Goes for the Seeds.”  After discovering a renewed passion for gardening, the Times writer began searching for seeds to grow some of his favorite vegetables — only to find that seeds are becoming as scarce as toilet paper. One seed supplier had a notice advising that their “current shipping backlog was 18 to 24 days.” 

Home Grown Fruits & Vegetables

Home Grown Fruits & Vegetables

Shopping During COVID-19

Shopping During COVID-19

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Exactly what is motivating this surge in gardening is debatable. It could be the peaceful distraction that working in a garden offers. It might also be that the occasionally misshapen home-grown fruits and vegetables seem preferable to interacting with mask-faced crowds in supermarkets. 

Whatever the reason, growing vegetables is a wonderful pastime. And Deck and Patio remains ever hopeful that all shortages will end soon. So with that in mind we’re sharing today a project we did for clients a while back — which included a unique vegetable garden fence.

Deck and Patio Project Showcase

The entire project included a new patio, shade pergola, wood-burning fireplace, fire pit, attractive landscaping — and, a small herb/vegetable garden. The only problem was the homeowners feared the larger of their two dogs would trample any garden created. Some sort of fencing would be required, but would that detract from the limited natural space they had?

While considering our clients’ concerns, we were cutting down a large overgrown bush in the yard when a unique idea occurred to our project manager. A fence made from the old bush would offer a whimsical piece of natural design to the yard.

The result is the bush clippings didn’t end up at the dump; instead, they were used to good effect. As for the other amenities: the custom pergola effectively provides shaded areas in their backyard, as well as privacy around the sitting areas. And because their home is in a beach community, cool evening ocean breezes are eased by the fireplace and fire pit.

We’re happy to add that the couple was very successful in growing fresh herbs and vegetables — unmolested. Their cherished larger dog (not shown in our photos) hasn’t gotten into any trouble — at least because of any harm he did to their garden.

 

New Patio and Pergola:

New Patio and Pergola:

The project’s new shade pergola and fireplace offer privacy in this compact beach community; the new patio is made from Cambridge Renaissance 6 x 9 Ruby Onyx pavers.

 

Vegetable Garden Fencing:

Vegetable Garden Fencing:

Deck and Patio used some unique materials to protect the newly created herb/vegetable garden. A 2.5-foot-high fence with gate was made from brush twigs; it not only protects the garden, but offers an interesting focal point to the yard.

 

Garden Fence Construction:

Garden Fence Construction:

The garden fence made from cut down brush is completely custom and is a unique part of the backyard upgrade design.

 

Outdoor Fireplace:

Outdoor Fireplace:

The new wood-burning fireplace in made in cultured stone: Country Ledgestone, in the color “Bucks County.” The fire pit table is “Snowbird” made with a stainless steel burner: its clear fire jewels appear to be bubbling when the flame is lit.

 

Shade Pergola:

Shade Pergola:

The custom shade pergola can be enjoyed for its beautiful architectural interest alone. However, it also offers privacy and shade during the intense heat and light of summer.

 

 

By |2020-04-02T11:01:11-05:00April 2nd, 2020|Backyard Refurbishments, Backyard Upgrades, Deck and Patios, Fences, Fire Pits, Gardening, Herb/Vegetable Gardens, Landscaping, Outdoor Fireplaces, outdoor maintenance, Patios & Decks, paving stones, Pergola|Comments Off on Landscaping Ideas: Sheltering in Place Sparks Passion for Growing Vegetables