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Green Spaces Positively Influence the Mental Development of Children

Many parents hope their child will get into a good college. That motive is frequently behind where parents choose to buy a home. They want the best possible school district for their kids.

Heckscher Park, Huntington, NY

Heckscher Park, Huntington, NY

But as study after study shows, parents might want to also look at how green the district is — or how green their own residential neighborhood will be. For one recently published study suggests that growing up among green surroundings can improve a child’s IQ. 

This study covered in The Guardian earlier this week analyzed what happens to a child’s IQ when the green space is increased. The average IQ score of children in the study went up by 2.6 points in both richer and poor neighborhoods. 

Analyst believe that perhaps this cognitive development came about because green areas lower stress levels, encourage play, and that a quieter environment is conducive to increased social contact.

Other studies, like a Danish one published last year proved, for example, that living near a park or forest may aid a child’s mental health later in life — giving children a 55% lower risk of developing a mental disorder. 

In addition to choosing a town or area with lots of green public spaces, one’s private residential property can be landscaped to ensure sufficient green space for your children. 

“We love being in the business of creating such harmonious landscapes. Of course, not all properties make it easy to design such a space,” says our owner Dave Stockwell. “Sometimes the property’s grades or its size make it a challenge. One of the things we do well at Deck and Patio is manipulate grades within the different levels so the family can get the maximum enjoyment.”

Landscaping for Children (Long Island/NY):

Landscaping for Children (Long Island/NY):

This is a good example (left) of just such careful manipulation.

Deck and Patio worked with True Blue Swimming Pools (Dix Hills) to design and build a lagoon-style pool on this property which included a swim-up bar, yet we still managed to leave some lawn space where their children could play.

“The homeowners had previously spoken with other pool and landscape companies, who all wanted to put the pool where the lawn is. But Michael Truehart of True Blue felt it was a pity to use up that flat piece of lawn, where the children loved to play,” adds Dave. 

“What was required in order to allow for that was a lot of creative landscaping within the grades, including the pool design. We just had to sculpt the unusual elevated terrain so as to incorporate all that was on their wish list.”

 

Green Space with Water Features

‘Green’ doesn’t mean only an expansive lawn. A natural environment that aids in the reduction of stress in both children and adults includes lush vegetation as well as, perhaps, a pond, or other water feature for that extra dose of tranquility. 

Deck and Patio’s design for this project not only included lots of green space and a waterfall area but an attractive patio for relaxation.

Green/Natural Spaces (Long Island/NY):

Green/Natural Spaces (Long Island/NY):

“We also try to keep as many trees as possible when we design an upgrade to someone’s landscaping,” says Dave Stockwell. “Trees are a precious commodity for our well being in so many ways, not to mention they offer a haven to birds.”

Indeed, one of our blogs a few months ago reported on another study regarding the benefits of birdsongs to humans. It said, “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.” 

Even a small waterfall and/or pond is a perfect place for birds to refresh themselves and have a drink.

 

Ponds, Pool, and Green Space

Keeping Plenty of Green Space (Long Island/NY):

Keeping Plenty of Green Space (Long Island/NY):

This project (left) was actually 3 bodies of water if you include the swimming pool. Our client wanted 2 ponds, one for fish only, and one for water garden plants. 

What happened was surprising. The lower pond was the fish pond (it made sense, because the fish might swim down stream into the lower pond if it were the other way around).

“However we were shocked when the client called and told us that the fish were jumping over the waterfall stone and swimming up stream and into the upper pond. I guess you can’t beat mother nature,” says Dave.

This project shows the opposite of our first example above. This property is not sloped at all, which shows it’s not necessary to have a yard with a slope to plan a beautiful water garden. Not to mention, a flat property allows for lots of green space for play. 

“It’s all about scale and proportion to achieve a serene vista,” says Dave. “And of course, utility. We were able to leave lots of green play space as well. It’s great when you can plan the landscape for both children and adults.”

 

 

When It Comes to Lawns, Consider What Millennials Would Do

Did you know ‘sustainability” is very important to 87 percent of millennials? When you consider millennials are 30 percent of the population, their preferences for environmentally-friendly lifestyles should make everyone sit up and take notice. 

Millennial Lifestyle

Millennial Lifestyle

Millennial Lifestyle

From all we’re learning about this age group (22-38 years) they are serious about sustainability and put their money where their beliefs are.

They prefer to learn online rather than in-person,  marry later, love tiny homes (at least postpone larger ones), prefer take-out to home-meal preparation — finding other ways to spend time with their children rather than at meal time.

Some are also joining ‘agrihoods’ or “agricultural neighborhoods” which are smaller communities designed to be good to the environment.

 

Landscaping the Millennial Way

 

Such passion has inspired Deck and Patio today to consider what millennials would do and highlight how homeowners can reduce the size of their expansive lawns, should they desire.

Note: Reducing lawn size does not mean giving the land over to seed. In true millennial fashion, reducing the size of one’s lawn should be part of a well-planned landscape — one that is vibrant and beautiful, as well as eco-friendly. 

 

Lawns Require Care

Lawns Require Care

“We love caring for expansive lawns,” says Dave Stockwell.

“But a beautifully manicured green lawn does take a lot of watering and fertilizing. Not to mention mowing. As they say, it’s not easy being green.”

For those wishing to reduce their lawn size, Dave has some helpful tips in removing turf grass.

 

 

Lawn Reduction: Initial Steps

Removing Turfgrass

Removing Turfgrass

— Decide where you want to reduce the lawn area

— Use powdered lime, flour, or spray paint to mark the exact section you wish to cut back;

— Water the area ahead of time and then ‘scalp’ the grass (cut it to expose the stems)

— Now you have two options: (1) The physically harder, but quicker, one is: Using a turf cutter or spade, dig out the turf. Add soil and plant right away.  (Note: keep the removed turfgrass. After the sod breaks down, the turf can help make nitrogen-rich soil around the roots of plants).

Or…(2) try an easier, but slower, alternative method: Cover the sod with about 7 layers of newspaper or thin cardboard. Add a minimum of 6 inches of compost or topsoil on top.  The grass underneath will decompose in due course. Planting can then be done without any cultivation of the soil. Of course, if starting this process now, by the time the area is ready, it would be time to put in fall plants. For some ideas on ideal fall plants, visit this earlier blog.

— Dave Stockwell

 

 

What To Plant In Place of Turfgrass

In speaking with a Long Island horticulturist, Sandra Vultaggio, we discovered that this same subject has been on her mind, too.

“I’ve been slowly edging out my own lawn in favor of native plants and flowers,” she adds. “A lawn is a high-input plant like Dave Stockwell says. So it’s a particularly good idea, say on Long Island, to reduce the amount of lawn we preserve.”

Vultaggio suggests, instead, planting more native perennials and shrubs. “Over time, after the planting stage, these will require much less irrigation. Perennials are pretty self-sufficient in searching for water on their own. Plus, their fertilizer requirements are at a minimum.”

Adding native plants is also a great help to local wildlife, who thrive when they can feed, find cover, and raise their young around familiar flora. “In fact, The National Wildlife Federation has a program devoted to reducing lawns and introducing pollinators to the garden through native plants,” says Vultaggio.

 

Mid-Late Summer Blooming Plants

For those who are eager to save some money, time — all while helping local wildlife — Vultaggio suggests the following native plants:

 

Monarda (Bee Balm)

Monarda (Bee Balm)

1.  Monarda (Bee Balm)

Native to North America, this beautiful flowering plant is from the mint family. It’s easy to grow, is deer resistant, and attracts pollinators like butterflies, hummingbirds, and bees.

It’s tubular flowers come in a variety of colors (pink, white, violet, red) and bloom in high summer through early fall. Bee Balm takes to full sun or light shade, and prefers a well-drained fertile soil. It needs some protection from excess moisture in winter.

 

Liatris Spicata (Gayfeather)

Liatris Spicata (Gayfeather)

2.  Violet-colored Liatris Sicata (Gayfeather)

Gayfeather (tall purple plant on the left) is an extremely easy plant to grow.

It blooms in late summer and grows from corms that sprout in spring.

Part of the sunflower family, it, too, is native to North America. It likes full sun, well-drained soils; it attract birds and butterflies, and is an ideal perennial.

Because the Gayfeather often grows to a robust 2-4’ feet tall, it may require staking or some other support.

 

 

Asclepias tuberosa (Milkweed)

Asclepias tuberosa (Asclepias tuberosa (Milkweed)Milkweed)

3.  Nectar and pollen-rich Asclepias tuberosa (Milkweed):

Milkweed is native to eastern North America and blooms in clusters of orange flowers from mid-late summer.

It is drought-tolerant and attracts birds and pollinators. It is a particularly good source of nectar for Monarchs; plus Monarch caterpillars feed off its leaves.

This plant thrives in poor dry soils, likes full sun; it is deer resistant, and is nicely fragrant.  (This photo (right) is of Vultaggio’s own garden and are courtesy of Sandra Vultaggio.)

 

 

 

 

Kniphofia (Red Hot Poker)

Kniphofia (Red Hot Poker)

4. Kniphofia (Red Hot Poker):

This frequently bi-colored flower makes a dramatic statement in the garden and is an ideal plant for those who are new to gardening.

In fact, this plant is so easy to grow it has been described as “tough to kill.” It is fairly drought-resistant, plus hummingbirds and butterflies love it. It is best planted in early spring or late fall.

When in bloom, the blossoms appear a bit like a hot poker or torch and for those feeling a bit of sadness saying good-bye to some of their lawn, note that these plants boast very “grass-like” leaves. (This photo is of Vultaggio’s own garden and is courtesy of Sandra Vultaggio.)

(Note: the dramatic dark blue/black flowers in the foreground are Salvia ‘Black and Blue’ which bloom from late spring to early autumn.)

 

So here’s to millennials and their commitment to sustainability. If you have any questions on this topic, feel free to contact our office for more ideas.

 

By |2020-07-23T12:16:28-05:00July 23rd, 2020|Backyard Refurbishments, Creative Design, Environment Issues, Gardening, Landscape Planning, Landscaping, Lawns, Living Landscapes, outdoor maintenance, Plants, Seasonal Landscapes, Unique Ideas, Updating Landscape|Comments Off on When It Comes to Lawns, Consider What Millennials Would Do