Environment Issues

Home/Environment Issues

Bring Your Backyard to Life with a New Deck and Pond

Most are aware that when you add a pond to your yard, the water feature naturally attracts desirable wildlife such as birds, butterflies, etc.

But a deck can add life, too.

A deck that abuts a pond, for example, creates an idyllic spot for a variety of fun pursuits: cocktails after work, dining al fresco, bird watching, koi study/feeding, watercolor painting, book reading, and even meditation.

Because of such enticements, laughter and human chatter frequently mingle with birdsongs and the croaking of frogs. And backing up this vibrant symphony are the tranquil sounds of waterfalls and babbling brooks. 

The following Deck and Patio project is one such life-bringing project. (And we are delighted to say that it won for us two prestigious Gold Medal awards (APSP Awards/NESPA Awards).

Backstory

The homeowners felt they had neglected their love of nature long enough. They wanted a new backyard that was a home for desirable wildlife and lush vegetation, a place to regularly refresh the soul and spirit as well as entertain. 

The wife says she always loved birds and nature but hadn’t seen birds in a long time. A fully-blooming landscape was important to them, not only to attract birds but lots of butterflies. We proposed a multi-feature natural retreat that included a deck and pond. 

 

The Pond

 

Brooks, Waterfalls, Pond

Brooks, Waterfalls, Pond

This retreat includes two 35-foot babbling brooks and a four-foot multi-tiered waterfall that feed into the pond. The rocks we installed – some of which weigh over three tons — were imported from farmers’ fields in New Jersey. Each rock was hand picked for its particular use, sometimes for their ideal crevices in which garden perennials could be planted.

 

The Deck

For their deck, the clients wanted natural wood. 

“We often recommend using the remarkably durable Brazilian Walnut hardwood (Ipe – pronounced “e-pay”) that we used for this project,” says Dave Stockwell.

“Ipe’s strength, hardness and durability also resists splintering, termites, wear, rot, fire, chemicals, marine borers and almost every other threat imaginable. And because it is 100 percent natural wood, it is recyclable at the end of its long service life.”

 

Iron Woods “Ipe” Deck:

Iron Woods “Ipe” Deck:

Because we were installing the pond at the same time, we were able to design it all as a whole. Note how the pond seems to continue to flow under the deck, even though it doesn’t. The bridge, which was not done by Deck and Patio, was also constructed out of Ipe.

 

The Ultimate in Outdoor Dining (Long Island/NY):

The Ultimate in Outdoor Dining (Long Island/NY):

Imagine dining on your deck as the sun sets when you can not only hear birds singing goodnight, but being so near the pond, the gentle swish of koi swimming is part of the experience. That’s pretty much as good as as life gets. 

 

Aquatic Plants for Ponds (Long Island/NY):

Aquatic Plants for Ponds (Long Island/NY):

Creeping Jenny is one of the many aquatic plants Deck and Patio used here, first as a type of ground cover, but also for its cascading ability over rocks into the pond. Its pale green (chartreuse) leaves are shiny and luxurious and in summer boasts tiny yellow flowers. 

 

Pond With Waterfalls:

Pond With Waterfalls:

The four-foot multi-tiered waterfall feeding into the pond appears just like you see it in nature. To accomplish this, it is important to understand the way water moves over rock. Natural looking movement is determined by the type of rocks used, forcing water to move multiple ways when it comes down over the waterfall.

 

We also considered every detail carefully to ensure that it would fit perfectly with the additional elements the homeowners had hired other companies to do, such as the conservatory and small bridge — always taking into account how everything would appear in nature. 

 

 

 

 

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.  

 

Harvesting Long Island Rainwater is a Good Thing

According to statistics the average homeowner uses approximately 3,000 gallons of water weekly with about 70% used outdoors. 

“However, because typically, many locations on the East Coast, including Long Island, get plenty of rain, we have traditionally not worried about such numbers,” says Dave Stockwell. “But with climate concerns on the rise, opting to harvest rainfall for non-ingestive purposes seems much wiser than unnecessarily pulling precious water from local aquifers.”

 

Water Will Not Soak into Asphalt and Concrete

Water Will Not Soak into Asphalt and Concrete

 

Dave adds there are other benefits to capturing rainwater beyond using less water from our aquifers.

“We have a good deal of asphalt and concrete on Long Island. Rainwater does not soak into these materials. It flows away, picking up contaminants as it goes. This contaminated water ends up in our over-burdened sewer systems and eventually gets into our area waterways.”

 

 

 

 

Keeping Rain Where It Falls

Rain Barrel

Rain Barrel

Harvesting rainwater is not a new idea. People have been collecting it for generations, frequently storing it in rain barrels.

And this is still a viable method. But there’s a lot more that can be done with falling rain than saving small amounts in unattractive above-ground containers. Through our Rainwater Harvesting Group, Deck and Patio, for example, specializes in installing rainwater harvesting systems that can be part of a complete self-sustaining beautiful eco-system.

Properly captured, filtered and recirculated rainwater — in sufficient amounts to supply attractive water features — work together with carefully chosen plants, fish, rocks and gravel, to maintain a balanced system for long-term sustainability.

 

Capture Rainwater for Lawn Irrigation

Uses for Captured Rainwater

Using Aquascape’s Rainwater Harvesting System (previously branded RainXchange), and sometimes permeable pavers or roof runoff spouts, today’s rainwater harvesting systems capture sufficient rainwater to irrigate your garden and lawn, maintain any water feature, and also wash your car and/or hose down your deck and patio. 

“And when you consider that local Long island water companies frequently charge an incremental rate based on the amount of water used, capturing all the non-ingestive water you need from rainfall, the lower your rate will be,” adds Dave.

 

 

Harvested Rainwater Maintains Water Feature

Harvested Rainwater Maintains Water Feature

This Deck and Patio water feature includes a stream and multiple waterfalls — all recirculated through the same Aquascape Rainwater Harvesting water collection system. City water is not used. Such a feature attracts desirable wildlife including frogs, butterflies, birds etc. and naturally creates its own wildlife refuge.

 

Rainwater Part of Healthy Ecosystem:

Rainwater Part of Healthy Ecosystem:

Along with waterfalls, stream and pond, for a healthy ecosystem, it is essential to choose the right stones and gravel (which provide the correct ph value for the fish and plants). A beautiful Japanese maple shades this pondscape’s bridge; bright red geraniums add a strong burst of color (photo’s bottom right).

 

Permeable Pavers

Permeable Pavers

These pavers are fitted over gravel and a rubber liner is another way to harvest rainwater. They allow easy walking while capturing and filtering rainwater for reuse. The gravel underneath the pavers filters the collected water runoff before it is sent to any reservoir installed at the end of a stream/water feature.

Deck and Patio specializes in installing systems that capture, filter, and recirculate rainwater, in sufficient amounts to use in your yard for non-ingestive purposes, as well as  supply and keep topped off healthy water features.

 

Help the Declining Bird Population While Brightening Up Your Winter Yard

Long Islanders, including many Deck and Patio clients, are strong environmentalists and nature lovers. And they are well aware of recent news reports that North America has lost 3 billion birds since 1970. 

What may be news to some is that not all the loss has been among rare birds. One in four colorful blue jays, for example, have been lost, and we recommend a SC Times post that includes some great tips on a variety of ways we all can help.

News has not been all bad though. Because of conservation efforts, populations of waterfowl have increased in recent decades. However, even with the increase in waterfowl, the overall loss in birds does tug on the conscience. 

Inviting Birds to Your Property

We may not have any snowy owls to protect, on Long island, but we can provide a safe habitat for lots of delightful birds — and birds of glorious color that can brighten our winter season.

 

Blue Jay

Blue Jay

Peanut Wreath

Peanut Wreath

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blue Jays, who do need help, are colorful birds that by nature are happy to stay around in winter. These avian friends love to congregate in groups come winter. They also will squirrel food away. Some have witnessed Blue Jays hiding nuts in trees.

We spoke with Sandra Vultaggio, Horticulture Consultant at the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Riverhead about attracting the Jays.

 “If you want to help Blue Jays, they really like nuts and peanuts. I use a peanut wreath and fill it with shelled peanuts. This type of feeder attracts a lot of Blue Jays.”

They are also such fun to watch — not to mention they add a lot of color against a winter  landscape.”

 

Cardinals

Cardinals

Cardinals

Consider how the bright red plumage of the Cardinal could cheer the dreariest of days while you’re helping to save birds overall. The male’s full-bodied red actually gets more striking during winter. This is when some of their remaining gray-tipped feathers fall off, showing even more vibrant red.

What a picture they make resting on icy branches and snow. “If you want to attract them, Cardinals love black oil sunflower and safflower seeds,” says Vultaggio.

It’s helpful to note that Cardinals usually eat early in the morning or late in the evening so make sure feeders are well stocked at these times. Also, being a larger bird, they prefer a larger feeder that won’t sway too much as they eat.

 

Chickadees

Chickadees

Chickadees

Chickadees prefer the same type of seeds as the Cardinal: black oil sunflower and safflower.

Vultaggio is also delighted by their sounds: “They actually say chickadee when they sing.”

Chickadees are vibrant even though, as part of the Titmouse family, they are known for their gray color and lighter bellies.

“They dine primarily on insects, seeds and berries,” adds Vultaggio.

“They are active and agile little birds. These little acrobats are a delight to watch when they hang upside down from twigs or at your feeder.

 

Extra Tips

1.  Vulraggio also puts out suet in winter, which she says attracts other birds including woodpeckers.

2.  Bird Baths are a great help to birds in winter 

3.  Put up bird houses designed for specific birds

 

 

Bird Baths:

Bird Baths:

A bird bath is important. Water is often scarce in the dead of winter.

Of course, you don’t want the water to ice up and there are lots of bird bath heaters, including solar heated bird baths.

Pictured immediately above is a Heated Deck-Mounted Birdbath by Allied Precision. “You’ll also find that in winter birds tend to appear in groups since many eyes make it safer to watch out for predators.” 

 

Upscale Birdhouses:

Upscale Birdhouses:

Granted, wild birds may not exactly be pets. But it’s trendy to treat them like they are. So it’s not surprising that fancy bird houses are growing in popularity. Indeed, there are even awards for the best design in bird houses.

The point is, a bird house can be a reflection of your own style and tastes and certainly can be upscale, all while you’re aiding in bird conservation. Besides, if our avian friends are going to sing for their supper, they might as well be housed as nicely as we are. 

It’s worth checking to learn what the birds you’re trying to attract require. For example, Blue Jays like to nest at least 10 feet off the ground so your birdhouse should be at least that high in a tree or pole. They like to use tree roots and small thin sticks to create a nest so you can place them nearby along with the food they prefer. 

 

Birds are, indeed, such a wonderful way to add color to your winter garden. And it feels great to know you are helping in a very small way to reverse the trends of bird loss on our continent. 

Note: Our feature photo at the top of the page is of a tit bird feeding on a tit ring. 

By |2019-11-08T16:28:33-05:00November 7th, 2019|Backyard Escapes, Environment Issues, Landscaping, Seasonal Landscapes|Comments Off on Help the Declining Bird Population While Brightening Up Your Winter Yard