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Need a Landscaping Idea for Your Backyard Slope?

A few years ago, Deck and Patio had clients whose property had an unused backyard hill area that sloped toward their house. And they asked us to think about how to best make use of it.

“At the top of the slope was a pool,” says our own Dave Stockwell. “Our idea was to take advantage of the slope by designing a stream beginning near the pool to run downward toward the house, ending in waterfalls and a koi pond. We also suggested a new patio and stepping stones as finishing touches.”

Stream Ending in Pond

Stream Ending in Pond

This Deck and Patio free-form pond and stream turned out to be a huge hit with the clients’ entire nature-loving family.

“Everyone loves feeding and watching the koi as they swim about. Because of good outdoor lighting, we even get to enjoy it all at night,” says the mother. “Plus, we can see it from inside our home and offices, too.”

The homeowners add they are particularly enchanted by the sounds of the waterfalls and the serenity everyone feels watching the fish swim. “It’s something we look forward to at the end of a long day.”

Frankly, the clients’ desire for a natural-scape in the yard helped inspire us at Deck and Patio,” owner Dave.

“Our design meandered the serene watery trail along their property’s formerly unused slope. Gravity is all that’s needed to move the water, so it’s also very energy-efficient.

The 35-foot-stream includes natural moss rock boulders and plantings, as well as river stones positioned along its banks; the stream ends where it tumbles over moss rock waterfalls into a 10’-by-15’ fish pond.

“The adjacent landscape is dotted with tall grasses like Miscanthus and evergreens such as Juniper Parsoni, giving a lush backdrop to it all,” adds Dave.

A natural setting such as this backyard project naturally attracts wildlife, which the homeowners particularly hoped would happen.

“The whole pond and stream areas attract so much delightful wildlife — like frogs and birds,” say the homeowners. “That really is one of our favorite things about having a pond.”

The Deck and Patio Company earned a Silver Award from the Northeast Spa and Pool Association (NESPA) for this project.

 

Free-form Pond and Stream:

Free-form Pond and Stream:

Deck and Patio used a flexible pond liner to create a free-form pond that would blend into the natural landscape. We planted Purple Cone flowers, Coreopsis and Spirea Anthony Waters, as well as tall grasses, and deep green ground cover. Together, the bursts of bright plant color and the sounds of moving water are soothing whether the clients are lounging by their pool, back patio or even in the house.

 

Creating Natural-looking Pondscapes:

Creating Natural-looking Pondscapes:

Having gone to “pond college” at Aquascape, Inc’s Pondemonium, Deck and Patio’s team has learned to look at a property from various viewing points — from wherever the clients will be looking at the water feature, including the house. Here we positioned an 11x 16 pond adjacent to their patio.

 

Pondscapes-Beautiful All Year Long:

Pondscapes-Beautiful All Year Long:

“Our clients found that in winter the moss rock boulders become sparkling ice sculptures so they enjoy their water feature all year-long” says Dave Stockwell. “Their backyard hill area sloped toward the house and a pool at the top of the hill. Our design allowed for the stream to begin near the pool and run toward the pond, patio, and house.”

 

Backyard Pondscape and Stream:

Backyard Pondscape and Stream:

Deck and Patio’s design called for an extended patio with bluestone stepping stones leading to the stream, natural stones to walk across it, and more bluestone on the other side up to the pool area.

 

 

 

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

Outdoor Living: How to Block Out Traffic Noise

When you’re trying to enjoy time in your yard, noise from nearby traffic can be very annoying. Such was the case for these Deck and Patio clients. Their home is located in the heart of Queens, a borough of New York City, and is tightly surrounded by apartment buildings, traffic and noise. 

In such a city atmosphere, even adding the pool and patio they asked for wouldn’t provide the escape they desired. To create for them a real backyard oasis, we had to block out the noise and oppressive atmosphere.

“We’ve found that one of the best ways to screen out noise is a sizable waterfall,” says Deck and Patio’s own Dave Stockwell. “Our clients agreed and opted for one that would provide pleasant splashing sounds into their backyard’s new vinyl-lined pool.”

 

Backyard Noise Barriers:

Backyard Noise Barriers:

Water cascading over rock into another water pool is a natural sound barrier that is peaceful and soothing to the soul.

 

In addition to the waterfall, the clients also wanted another noise barrier — a 12-foot-high concrete block wall. 

“While a wall like that is truly useful for privacy as well as a noise barrier, it can be oppressive in itself,” says Dave.

So the next challenge for our designers was to soften the wall’s appearance. One thing great about interior and exterior walls is they make an ideal canvas. 

“First, we planted bamboo around its perimeter,” says Dave. “Bamboo can be invasive so we encased the woody grass with concrete blocks to limit its spreading.”

 

Backyard Refuge:

Backyard Refuge:

The sounds of the waterfalls, the colorful landscaping including the bamboo and the dramatic concrete block wall give a sense of refuge in this bustling part of one of America’s five largest cities.

 

Living Walls

Living Walls

 

 

Taking full advantage of the wall, Deck and Patio designed and supervised the layout of a “living wall” that can hold multiple-sized pots for plants.

When completed, the living wall became living art — changing in color and shape almost daily.

The result: the clients may live in a busy part of New York City, but during outdoor living season — every spare moment they can muster— is spent in blissful leisure right in their own backyard.

 

 

 

 

Pool Waterfalls:

Pool Waterfalls:

The free-form vinyl-liner pool includes boulder coping, and a moss rock waterfall with robust plantings that help beautify the wall.

 

Techo-Bloc Patios:

Techo-Bloc Patios:

The pool’s surrounding patio is made from Techo-Bloc pavers that complement the 12-foot-high wall and smaller concrete encasement for the bamboo.

 

Creating a Lush Poolscape with Colorful Plantings

Sleek geometric pools can look just fine without a lot of softening. The addition of, perhaps, sheer descent waterfalls (aka sheet falling), a handsome patio, plus a green backdrop, and the picture is complete.

But pools designed in a more natural look, more free-form such as Mother Nature might create, cry out for a more lush poolscape. In addition, for practical reasons, pools naturally have a lot of surrounding patio hardscapes. So adding the right plants for color and texture, nestled in and around moss or other natural stone rocks and boulders, and some waterfalls, turn your poolscape into an oasis.  

Here’s a few Deck and Patio projects that will give you an idea of what we’re talking about.

 

Picture-Perfect Swimming Pool (Long Island/NY):

Picture-Perfect Swimming Pool (Long Island/NY):

Deck and Patio’s design gave this vacation-style Adirondack pool the exact feeling our clients wanted; they just step outside to a natural swimming pond where they can hang out. 

We added bright colorful plants in between the boulders, in such a way that they cascade into the pool, like they would in nature. This contributes to a beautiful all-rock pool, filtered and treated chemically, but which looks like a natural pond.

 

 

Pool Landscaping (Long Island/NY):

Pool Landscaping (Long Island/NY):

Here, vibration flowers and fragrance — provided by many varieties of perennials, evergreen and deciduous plantings — were planned for successional color throughout the pool season.

 

 

Pool With Raised Spillover Spa (Long Island/NY):

Pool With Raised Spillover Spa (Long Island/NY):

This concrete pool has a vinyl liner. We positioned it into the natural surrounding landscape considering carefully any existing trees and mature shrub root systems. With that lush backdrop, the addition of color plants and ground cover make for a glorious retreat.

 

 

New Natural Retaining Wall (Long Island/NY):

New Natural Retaining Wall (Long Island/NY):

Close Up of Natural Retaining Wall (Long Island/NY):

Close Up of Natural Retaining Wall (Long Island/NY):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And old wooden retaining wall took away from the attractiveness of the pool area.

Our creative team introduced a unique concept to deal with this new poolscape: re-grade the slope, turning it into a “natural” retaining wall (left) including a dramatic waterfall, stream, and woodland garden in its place.

Once the stream and waterfall were complete, we pressed boulders into the surrounding slope. After that, we addressed the landscaping (see close up at right).

Our crew installed natural woodland plantings to tie in with the tall oaks that exist on the property’s perimeter — and along with bright colorful plants, we added evergreen shrubs to ensure year-round color.

 

 

Go Bold with Your Poolscape (Long Island/NY):

Go Bold with Your Poolscape (Long Island/NY):

 

Now, consider this stunning apricot-pink rose that one of our designers added to landscaping around this client’s pool.

Such a dramatic hued plant gets attention, and in smaller spaces like this, it helps the landscape to recede behind it — causing the overall area to seem larger.

 

As for this color: without a doubt “orange” roses have the most attitude in the rose family. These beauties are known for enthusiasm, not to mention passion.

The color also suggests a sense of significance and even urgency — perhaps just the right color to draw your loved ones outside on a warm summer day.

 

 

Feature Photo

Feature Photo

 

Note: Today’s Feature Photo (top of page) is another example of Deck and Patio’s lush poolscapes. If you’d like to learn more about this project, click here. 

 

 

 

Landscaping Awards: Sweeping the Entire Water Features’ Category

Submitting your company’s project(s) for recognition by your peers requires a bit of work. For example, arranging for a photographer to visit the completed job sites — hopefully on sunny days — must also be coordinated with our Deck and Patio clients. 

Then choosing just the right photos and writing up details of the work to support these entries  requires precious time — usually during our busiest time of year. Only then, does “fingers crossed” waiting begin.

Winning Awards

When you consider the quality of Deck and Patio’s competitors, over the years we’ve always been humbled not to mention a little bit proud when winning our share of awards. 

And right now we are in the process of arranging photography for some of our most recent work. 

While this is being done, we couldn’t resist remembering that time, not too long ago, when Deck and Patio actually swept APSP’s entire water feature category.

“To receive an award from The Association of Pool & Spa Professionals (APSP) — the voice of the pool and spa industry — is a great achievement,” says our own Dave Stockwell. “To have won Gold, Silver and Bronze for three of our water features, and to have been the only company to win in that category that year, says all the effort and love we put into our work was recognized.”

Here are those awards:

 

1.  Gold Award, Islip NY/Category: Hot Tubs, Spas, and Water Features/Residential Water Features 

 

Deck and Patio’s APSP Gold Award (Islip, NY)

Deck and Patio’s APSP Gold Award (Islip, NY)

The waterfalls we created to flow over rocks in this water feature are not just for beauty; they aerate the 23  by 16,  2-foot-deep pond, keeping it from becoming stagnant. In addition to aquatic plants in and around the pond, the landscaping included bright plantings. We added colorful koi, plus the pond attracts other desirable wildlife for a blissful backyard escape that is a delight for all the senses.

 Deck and Patio’s APSP Gold Award (Islip, NY):

Deck and Patio’s APSP Gold Award (Islip, NY):

We also added stepping stones across this same pond, which make it possible to go from their new deck out into the yard — in a way that contributes to the overall restful experience of the water feature. The stones’ irregularity and careful placement create an element of what the ancient Japanese called the ‘contemplative world.’

 

2.  Silver Award, Brooklyn/NY/Category: Hot Tubs, Spas, and Water Features/Residential Water Features

Deck and Patio’s APSP Silver Award (Brooklyn, NY):

Deck and Patio’s APSP Silver Award (Brooklyn, NY):

Even though they live in a bustling, high-traffic part of New York City, this client wanted her children to experience the same interaction with nature that she had as a child. For them we designed/built a complete backyard playground oasis: a swimming pond with a beach-style entry and a water feature with three waterfalls.

Deck and Patio’s APSP Silver Award (Brooklyn, NY):

Deck and Patio’s APSP Silver Award (Brooklyn, NY):

Instead of using any chemicals, to keep the pond healthy through a natural eco-system, we used all Aquascape Inc. equipment and components. 

We also constructed the shallow pond as a deeper koi pond with boulders that are covered with fabric and gravel; when the children are older, this can be removed, leaving only the liner, to create a full-sized koi pond providing an entirely different experience for the children.

 

3. Bronze Award, Fort Salonga/NY/Category: Hot Tubs, Spas, and Water Features/Exterior/Interior Portable Hot Tubs

Deck and Patio’s APSP Bronze Award (Fort Salonga, NY):

Deck and Patio’s APSP Bronze Award (Fort Salonga, NY):

These clients wanted a spillover spa, but so they could enjoy it all year, they wanted it separate from the pool. To provide the look they wanted, along with year-round use, we built a portable hot tub all the way into the ground with boulders and plantings around it.

Deck and Patio’s APSP Bronze Award (Fort Salonga, NY):

Deck and Patio’s APSP Bronze Award (Fort Salonga, NY):

We also added a moss rock waterfall just beneath the hot tub that spills into the pool. While it’s actually coming from the pool’s edge, this waterfall appears to be coming from a custom in-ground concrete spillover spa.

 

Those three jobs won the whole water features category! Gold, Silver, Bronze. Fingers crossed on our new round of submissions!

 

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. 

 

 

 

 

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

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.  

 

Avoid Cabin Fever and Spring Clean Your Pond

Avoiding Cabin Fever

Avoiding Cabin Fever

In the Northern Hemisphere, today is the first day of spring. Nothing could be more welcome. But with so many of us working from home, or even confined to home, just being able to go outdoors in our yards is essential to keeping ‘cabin fever’ at bay.

If you’re fortunate enough to have a backyard pond, there’s some activities families in isolation might want to do together — or at least ensure someone (ahem) performs such outdoor refurbishments as spring pond maintenance.

It’s true, that as certified Aquascape Inc. contractors, many local pond owners prefer experts like Deck and Patio get their pond ready for the coming outdoor season. But, if you’re eager to get outside yourself and don’t mind putting on some boots and getting your hands dirty, we have some maintenance tips for you today.

 

 

What’s Involved in Spring 

Cleaning Your Pond? 

Debris in Water Features

Debris in Water Features

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

Immediately below is a helpful video by Aquascape Inc. showing what’s needed in pond 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 additional tips. These are from Forrest Churchill for how best to integrate your pond fish back into the cleaned pond:

 

 

 

 

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 clear 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.

 

Spring Maintenance

Spring Maintenance

 

 

 

Stay well, everyone! Spring maintenance may be a welcome activity for the family. Of course, we’re happy to help as well. 631-549-8100.