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Lawn Reduction: Because ‘It’s Not Easy Being Green’

A beautifully manicured green lawn takes a lot of watering and fertilizing, not to mention mowing. It’s truly not easy being green.

In speaking with Sandra Vultaggio, Horticulture Consultant at Suffolk County’s Cornell Cooperative Extension, it turns out, this is something very much on her mind, too.

“I’ve been slowly edging out my own lawn in favor of native plants and flowers,” says Vultaggio. “A lawn is a high-input plant that requires a good deal of water and fertilizer to stay green, so it’s a 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 (see fact sheet) 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 Spicata (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.

 

 

 

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

Milkweed Photo courtesy of Sandra Vultaggio

Milkweed Photo courtesy of Sandra Vultaggio

Milkweed Photo courtesy of Sandra Vultaggio

Milkweed Photo courtesy of Sandra Vultaggio

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.  These two photos are of Vultaggio’s own garden and are courtesy of Sandra Vultaggio.

 

 

Kniphofia Photo Courtesy of Sandra Vultaggio

Kniphofia Photo Courtesy of Sandra Vultaggio

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.)

 

For those unsure on how Ito remove turfgrass, Dave Stockwell, owner of Deck and Patio, offers the following tips:

 

 


Lawn Reduction: Initial Steps

— 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

 

 

By | 2017-07-13T12:26:31+00:00 July 13th, 2017|Ask the Experts, Gardening, Landscaping, Outdoor Living, outdoor maintenance, Seasonal Landscapes, Unique Ideas, Updating Landscape|Comments Off on Lawn Reduction: Because ‘It’s Not Easy Being Green’

5 Must-Haves for Today’s Backyards

Already have a terrific backyard? Well, even the best yards can embrace a trendy must-have every now and then.

Let’s kick off our list of backyard must-haves with a focus on pets.

 

 

Photo: SYNLawn

Photo: SYNLawn

I.  ‘Synthetic Turf’ Dog Run

Imagine a backyard dog run where no fleas or ticks lurk in the grass. Well, a dog run made of synthetic turf will not only not house any irritating pests, but the family pooch will not be exposed to natural-grass pesticides and chemicals that might cause pet allergies.

If that’s not enough reason to go synthetic for Fido, imagine no brown spots or holes to fill because of the dog’s activities. Plus, after a rambunctious outing, he’ll be as clean as he was before he went out — no tracking mud and dirt back into the house, even when the weather is bad. We also understand cleaning synthetic turf is quite easy.

Thanks to SYNLawn for sharing this photo of  two best-pups relaxing on a dog run made from their synthetic turf.

 

 

Photo: Long Island Builders institute’s (LIBI)

Photo: Long Island Builders institute’s (LIBI)

 

 

2.  Upscale Pet Playhouse 

We’re highlighting this pet playhouse today because, although it was built to be a donation, it highlights a growing trend for residential backyards. It was showcased along with other upscale pet playhouses at Long Island Builders Institute’s (LIBI) Annual Home, Trade and Remodeling Expo this past March here on Long Island. The playhouses were built by various LIBI members and were later donated to local town animal shelters.

This handsome playhouse is shaped like a dinosaur, which the team at LIBI describes as welcoming “any little animal who wants to play and rest.” It was donated to the Hempstead animal shelter. Cool, yes?

Thanks to LIBI for sharing it with us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

3.  Upscale Bird Houses

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. And if our avian friends are going to sing for their supper, they might as well be housed as nicely as we are.

 

 

 

 

 

Completed Deck and Patio/Living Wall

Completed Deck and Patio/Living Wall

Deck and Patio/Living Wall

Deck and Patio/Living Wall

4.  Living Walls

Living Walls house nature’s own handiwork to create outdoor art. This particular model is made by ‘Plug n Play.’ Using their vertical garden system, Deck and Patio’s team designed and installed it as a gorgeous accent on a wall built to block street noise and activity. It really spruced the wall up, if you’ll forgive the pun.

Garden systems like these are versatile and can be constructed to hold different sized pots: in this case from 3” to 12”.

How it works: Drip irrigation fitted on alternating rows trickles down to the rows below and any excess water is captured or drained off. These walls are light in weight and do not need heavy anchor bolts. They can be attached to just about any type of wall – just use the appropriate fastener for the wall type.

 

 

 

Deck and Patio/Customized Fire Pit

Deck and Patio/Customized Fire Pit

Deck and Patio/Customized Fire Pit

Deck and Patio/Customized Fire Pit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. Customized Fire Pits

Another on trend backyard amenity is a customized fire pit that coordinates with its surroundings.

The first fire pit shown (above left) was designed by Deck and Patio as part of a backyard makeover that included a meandering stream, bordered with natural stone boulders, and waterfalls that end close to a new Techo-Bloc patio. Note, how we faced the patio fire pit with stone to harmonize with the other design elements.

For the second project (right), we surrounded a propane stainless steel burner campfire with moss rock to give it a customized look that uses similar boulders to the stone steps/rock border just behind it, as well as complementing the veneer on the exposed portion of the pool. Note: The clients added the amusing s’mores sign behind their new campfire.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By | 2017-06-15T11:27:24+00:00 June 15th, 2017|Backyard Escapes, Backyard Refurbishments, Creative Design, Deck and Patios, Fire Pits, Landscaping, Outdoor Living, outdoor maintenance, Unique Ideas|Comments Off on 5 Must-Haves for Today’s Backyards

Quality Backyard Makeover Pulls Out all the Stops

 

Pulling out all the stops of an organ increases the sound so an audience can hear everything — every grand sound, in all its lovely variations.

You might say that the two Long Island homeowners who planned this backyard upgrade also “pulled out all the stops” to orchestrate a wonderful experience in outdoor living. Their completed project included:

—  a free-form pool and surround renovation

—  new custom pool pavilion

—  refurbished multi-level Techo-Bloc patio

—  new multi-faceted water feature (several sets of waterfalls and stream)

—  new koi pond, and

—  a new hot tub (Bullfrog Spa) wedged in-between the upper and lower patios.

“The totality of these amenities create a beautiful paradise,” says Dave Stockwell, owner of Deck and Patio. “But the homeowners didn’t stop there. They asked that their multi-faceted water feature (which they can enjoy on the upper patio, from the house and poolside) be extremely eco-friendly. For example, Town water is not used to keep the stream and waterfalls supplied.”

To ensure no use of Town water, Deck and Patio installed a ‘pondless’ reservoir system below the lower-level waterfall. The spills from the waterfall pass through river rock and gravel and is collected underground. Inside the reservoir, a pump recirculates the filtered water back up through the system.

Also, by letting gravity pull the flowing water downward, the whole system is turned into a complete ‘green’ maintenance-free water source that can enjoy throughout most of the year.

The Pool Area

“We designed the overall look of the refurbished pool area to appear organic so it blends with the property’s beautiful natural surroundings,” says Dave. “The pool construction included a 24-by-42-foot free-form concrete wall.”

Deck and Patio’s toughest challenge was accurately measuring and cutting the vinyl liners needed for the pool itself and its in-pool stairs. However, having done many vinyl-pools over the years, Deck and Patio’s team knew it would just require patience and steady attention to detail.

“All this was done so as to create bodies of water that would be in harmony with the patio area, with its outdoor kitchen, and with the waterfalls, stream and koi pond. Not only is the end result beautiful to look at, but the sounds of moving and spilling water can be appreciated at every section of the outdoor retreat. For sure, these clients pulled out all the stops.”

The following photos highlight many of the project’s elements.

 

Backyard Upgrade Showcase Project:

Backyard Upgrade Showcase Project:

This photo looks up from the custom pool pavilion (not seen) over the newly renovated vinyl pool, Techo-Bloc pool surround, a pair of natural stone steps leading to upper patio that flank the waterfalls, the lower-level waterfalls, and a portable spa set against the upper patio area. Not seen is the upper waterfall that faces the house.

 

Backyard Water Feature:

Backyard Water Feature:

Looking down at the pool and new custom pavilion that grace the lower level, the eye is first captivated by an upper waterfall; its spilling water flows downward forming a stream behind that gravity pulls to the lower level. This part of the water feature was installed to face the house so it can be enjoyed from the upper patio as well as inside the home.

 

Waterfall-Fed Koi Pond:

Waterfall-Fed Koi Pond:

The complete water feature for this project includes a 10-by-15 foot freeform koi pond, which is regularly aerated by waterfalls from the 35-foot backyard meandering stream. Parts of the property is natural woodland, so care was taken to protect the fish. Predators, that might live nearby, are discouraged from going after the fish by installation of a small cave where the fish can hide unseen — as well as remain dormant during winter months.

 

Techo-Bloc Patio and Steps:

Techo-Bloc Patio and Steps:

One reason we love Techo-Bloc products is because they appear natural. They come in kits with varying shapes that allow us to create an attractive design instead of being limited by one-sized bricks etc. The Bullfrog Spa these clients chose fits snugly against the patio which was shaped to embrace it.

 

Bullfrog Spas:

Bullfrog Spas:

This portable spa was positioned against the patio in a way to appear built-in — or custom. This way the clients have the best of both worlds, a handsome looking spa that is fitted with Bullfrog’s enviable massage jets — their patented JetPaks.

 

One last thought. The Waterfalls, stream, double steps, moss rock and plantings along the change in grade together create a natural looking retaining wall — a great way to cut costs while increasing the aesthetics of a beautiful graded property.

 

How to Plan a Landscape Garden

 

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Audrey Hepburn once shared her love of beautiful gardens and landscapes in a television documentary series, “Gardens of The World with Audrey Hepburn.”

The episodes celebrated such delights as tulips and spring bulbs, perennials, flower borders, mixed planting styles, trees,  tropical plants, stroll gardens, etc., and nature in general.

“As landscapers, we draw on the same elements when planning each landscaping project,” says Deck and Patio owner, Dave Stockwell. “It’s just a matter of smaller scale.”

 

 

 

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Deck and Patio Landscape Rendering

The First Step in Designing a Landscape Garden

Whether Deck and Patio is planning the landscape for a water garden, stroll garden, or just landscape borders, we always begin with a detailed plan, says Dave.

“For the initial drawings, we frequently use a property survey and topographical map. From there, we create sketches which eventually turn into a final rendering.”

Dave adds that landscaping plans are often part of a wider project that can include a new patio, deck, swimming pool, pond, spa, or other outdoor living amenities.

 

 

Insert 3Once we get the fixed areas detailed and sketched (home, sheds, cabanas, etc.), including any new hardscapes like a patio or deck, the needs and preferences of our clients are weaved in.

“For example, will they need deer-resistant plants,” says Dave. “How much entertaining do they expect to do — will they require space for adding tables, etc.? How much will they use their property at night? Are they the type to garden on a regular basis themselves, or do they prefer plantings that are low-maintenance?

Sometimes there are young children to consider, so we might plan for a sand box or other play areas, along with sitting areas, contemplative quiet spaces, etc.”

Dave adds that once all this is known: the fun begins:

— Designing seasonal color, texture, fragrance, even fruits, etc. as part of their landscape gardens. Plants can also serve to delineate spaces  within the property as well as define where it ends.

— Sounds are also important, e.g., where should the sound of any fountain be, or a bird house to attract chirpers?

— Plantings, along with moss rock, etc. can add the strength to a natural and beautiful retaining wall.

— Plus groups of plantings to create focal points to sitting areas.

— What water source will be used to maintain the landscape gardens (town water or will they harvest rainwater)?

“Of course, planning for the passage of time is also key. Plants grow differently; some rapidly, some slowly. You need to know how it’s all going to look in six months and a few years down the line.”

 

 

 

Growing Hydrangeas on Long Island, NY: Hydrangeas can be a garden all on their own. Indeed, some clients want hydrangeas to grow to size without pruning in order to create a dramatic effect. For healthy robust growth, just remove dead-growth stems which should permit new growth without any problems. Winter frost and cold can affect these beauties so we recommend using some type of winter protection for them.

Growing Hydrangeas on Long Island, NY: Hydrangeas can be a garden all on their own. Indeed, some clients want hydrangeas to grow to size without pruning in order to create a dramatic effect. For healthy robust growth, just remove dead-growth stems which should permit new growth without any problems. Winter frost and cold can affect these beauties so we recommend using some type of winter protection for them.

 

 

Landscaping Backyard Ponds: Many of our Deck and Patio clients choose to add a backyard pond. Landscaping a pond requires an understanding of not just soil and sun but how water and moisture will affect your plantings. Here we chose Purple Cone flowers, Spirea Anthony Waters, Coreopsis for bright bursts of color. You also see deep green ground color, tall grasses, along with the sounds of moving water. In developing the plan, we ensured that we located all this within view of the home’s back patio, pool area, in addition from their house.

Landscaping Backyard Ponds: Many of our Deck and Patio clients choose to add a backyard pond. Landscaping a pond requires an understanding of not just soil and sun but how water and moisture will affect your plantings. Here we chose Purple Cone flowers, Spirea Anthony Waters, Coreopsis for bright bursts of color. You also see deep green ground color, tall grasses, along with the sounds of moving water. In developing the plan, we ensured that we located all this within view of the home’s back patio, pool area, in addition from their house.

 

 

Backyard Stroll Garden: If you have the space, a stroll garden, possibly including a refreshing stream with waterfalls, can inspire through all seasons. Ruby red impatiens in the foreground and yellow-orange cone flowers towards the back, shrubs and trees, ground cover like Procumbent Juniper, flowering grasses are all added after careful rock placement. Knowing where to place rocks to create the most natural looking effect is key.

Backyard Stroll Garden: If you have the space, a stroll garden, possibly including a refreshing stream with waterfalls, can inspire through all seasons. Ruby red impatiens in the foreground and yellow-orange cone flowers towards the back, shrubs and trees, ground cover like Procumbent Juniper, flowering grasses are all added after careful rock placement. Knowing where to place rocks to create the most natural looking effect is key.

 

 

Landscaping Infinity Pool Cove Neck, Long Island: When developing any landscaping plan, it is key to mark out carefully where all the hardscapes will be, as well as any water features. Then you can add in flowering grasses, ground cover, bright plantings in harmony with everything else.

Landscaping Infinity Pool Cove Neck, Long Island: When developing any landscaping plan, it is key to mark out carefully where all the hardscapes will be, as well as any water features. Then you can add in flowering grasses, ground cover, bright plantings in harmony with everything else.

 

 

Tulips and Spring Bulbs: One of the episodes on Audrey Hepburn’s series on world gardens covered tulips and spring bulbs. It showcased the wide variety of tulips available as well as the story of how, through the centuries, tulips influenced the history and art of Holland, as well as Turkey. These beauties are some of the first heralds that spring has arrived. It’s no wonder that Ms. Hepburn and the producers of “Gardens of the World..” chose them as a focus of an episode.

Tulips and Spring Bulbs: One of the episodes on Audrey Hepburn’s series on world gardens covered tulips and spring bulbs. It showcased the wide variety of tulips available and the story of how, through the centuries, tulips influenced the history and art of Holland, as well as Turkey. These beauties are some of the first heralds that spring has arrived. It’s no wonder that Ms. Hepburn and the producers of “Gardens of the World..” chose them as a focus of an episode.

 

 

From “Gardens of The World with Audrey Hepburn.”

From “Gardens of The World with Audrey Hepburn.”

 

 

 

 

Ms. Hepburn fell in love with beautiful gardens when living in the English countryside during World War II. She learned that no matter what happens in life, no matter how harsh the winter, spring always comes, and life blooms again.

“At Deck and Patio, we also believe that if you plan your landscape garden well, its ongoing renewal will inspire and uplift all of us, just as it did Ms. Hepburn,” says Dave Stockwell.

 

 

 

 

“Pondless” Waterfall Features Are Easy to Create and Maintain

In order to enjoy the beauty and serenity of a flowing stream or waterfall, some sort of basin is required to capture the water. Frequently, such a basin is a pond, possibly adorned with exotic water plants as well as being a home to pond fish. But there are many who want a water feature — just not with a pond.

 

Photo: Aquascape Inc.

Photo: Aquascape Inc.

Those with very young children, for example, sometimes worry that a full, deep pond in their backyard might present safety concerns, and prefer a pondless waterfall (left) where river rock allows water to seep down into the ground. In addition, come spring and fall, ponds require maintenance to keep it healthy and beautiful.

Another reason for not wanting a pond came up with one our water feature clients. Their property abutted parklands, and they feared a pond would attract too many wild animals. With other clients, budget and property size are factors.

For all or any of these reasons, if you are considering a water feature, you may want to go “pondless.”

Certified Aquascape Contractor

Deck and Patio is a Certified Aquascape Contractor, which means we’ve been pre-qualified as experts in designing and building water features of all types, including “pondless” waterfalls. Aquascape offers years of experience in this field and their products are both technologically and biologically efficient. Their pondless systems allow water to drain through gravel into a reservoir, which stores the filtered water underground and recirculates it.

 

“Of course, having a pondless waterfall does not mean that it can’t be adorned with robust plantings, especially when you consider that you’ve not had the added expense of any extra labor and materials required in creating a pond,” says Dave Stockwell, owner of Deck and Patio.

 

 

Deck and Patio Pondless Waterfall

Deck and Patio Pondless Waterfall

For the handsomely landscaped pondless waterfall pictured here (right), we planted durable thick and compact evergreens, including the low-maintenance Procumbent Juniper, which spreads well. For splashes of color we added Begonias, Coleus, plus Astilbe with its beautiful and showy flowers.

With a pondless waterfall, you are recirculating water, which is definitely eco-friendly. But natural evaporation will require that this recirculating water be “topped off” and refreshed occasionally. For those who would prefer to go totally “green” and not use town water to replenish your stream/waterfall, Aquascape also makes a RainXchange reservoir system.

With RainXchange, runoff rainwater — either from a roof or permeable pavers is collected to maintain the water feature’s system through completely green rainwater harvesting methods. This captured rainwater can also replenish the surrounding landscape, wash a car, rinse down a deck or patio, etc., and is especially helpful during droughts.

 

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Water doesn’t soak into asphalt and concrete and picks up contaminants

“Whether you harvest rainwater or maintain your water feature with town water, an Aquascape Inc. pondless system will keep the spillover water from running into over-burdened sewer systems,” says Dave.

“That is because we use river rock underneath the waterfall. It not only allows water to seep through to the reservoir, but it helps filter it. This river rock process is essential, because water doesn’t soak into asphalt and concrete, but, instead, flows away to the local waterways, picking up contaminants as it goes.

“So if you’re not sure you want a pond, but definitely want the sounds and sights of running water, pondless just may be the way to go,” says Dave.

 

 

 

Natural Retaining Wall with Pondless Waterfall: Here, Deck and Patio used plantings as a key part of a natural retaining wall we built. “Along with boulders and other rocks, their root systems add to the overall strength of the support system,” says Dave Stockwell. “Deck and Patio always chooses plants for their color, bloom periods and how they grow. You can see the river rock we used here instead of concrete or asphalt so that the water seeps through into the reservoir below.

Natural Retaining Wall with Pondless Waterfall: Here, Deck and Patio used plantings as a key part of a natural retaining wall we built. “Along with boulders and other rocks, their root systems add to the overall strength of the support system,” says Dave Stockwell. “Deck and Patio always chooses plants for their color, bloom periods and how they grow. You can see the river rock we used here instead of concrete or asphalt so that the water seeps through into the reservoir below.

 

Outdoor Bar with Pondless Waterfalls: Here sheet waterfalls (a.k.a. sheer descent waterfalls) offer a modern sleek look as they flow out from a pergola adorned bar positioned just above the family’s swimming pool. Robust plantings bring bright pops of color; the flowing water is captured in a pondless waterfall system from Aquascape Inc.

Outdoor Bar with Pondless Waterfalls: Here sheet waterfalls (a.k.a. sheer descent waterfalls) offer a modern sleek look as they flow out from a pergola-adorned bar positioned just above the family’s swimming pool. Robust plantings bring bright pops of color; the flowing water is captured in a pondless waterfall system from Aquascape Inc.

 

Pondless Water Feature as Focal Point: Lush landscape surrounds a pondless waterfall that makes an ideal focal point near the edge of what was an existing patio. The fact that the pondless waterfall feature doesn’t require much maintenance (that a pond would require), it is provides a truly relaxing escape for some quiet, or to enjoy it with friends.

Pondless Water Feature as Focal Point: Lush landscape surrounds a pondless waterfall that makes an ideal focal point near the edge of their patio. The fact that the pondless waterfall feature doesn’t require much maintenance (that a pond would require), it is provides a truly relaxing escape for some quiet, or to enjoy it with friends.

 

Walkway Waterfall: Our new “hardscape” patio design was tied together with lush, colorful perennials throughout, and at the top of the asphalt walkway we had room to add a new waterfall to create a luxurious and soothing highlight. As you can see from this photo, if you are going “pondless” you can fit a waterfall just about anywhere…even between a driveway and upper patio.

Walkway Waterfall: Our new “hardscape” patio design was tied together with lush, colorful perennials throughout, and at the top of the asphalt walkway we had room to add a new waterfall to create a luxurious and soothing highlight. As you can see from this photo, if you are going “pondless” you can fit a waterfall just about anywhere…even between a driveway and upper patio.

 

 

 

Proper Snow Removal: How to Keep from Being Snowed In

insert-snowflakeFor obvious reasons, during snow storms, it’s important to keep stairs and walks free of snow and ice. But it’s also critical to ensure water cut offs are accessible and that your driveway is ice and snow free.

If you plan to take care of all this yourself, make sure that your snow blower, generator, roof rake, deicers, etc. are all placed where they can be easily retrieved. Alas, snow and ice storms are occasionally accompanied by a power failure. So do plan ahead, including putting fresh batteries in your carbon monoxide monitor. Also, have emergency telephone numbers near the phone.

 

innoplast-dmDriveway Prep

Even before you hear of any storm approaching, it’s important to “prep” your driveway and walkway by installing fiberglass stakes (sometimes called “plow stakes” or “snow stakes”). Note: wood plow/snow stakes aren’t as strong as fiberglass and can be easily damaged.

Position the stakes to indicate where any costly Belgium Block or other edging could be damaged from snow plows. One end of the stake is pointed for easy insertion in the ground. Also, they come in different colors and you can let a particular color indicate, for example, where a fire hydrant is, the regular curb, your driveway entrance, etc.

If your driveway is straight, you won’t need as many markers. But if it’s curved, it’s important to mark key points at every turn. In addition, if you will be doing the snow removal yourself, chances are you’ll be doing it before or after work, when it’s dark. In this case, consider reflective snow stakes, which, while more costly, can be alternated with less-expensive non-reflective ones. This way, you’ll be sure to see all the important areas.

When placing the stakes, consider placing them further back from the driveway than the 2 inches often recommended. This allows for the opening of car doors, piling of shoveled snow, etc. without dislodging or covering a key stake.

 

 

insert-2Roof Prep

Snow can cause a lot of pressure on your roof. One of the best ways to remove it is with a roof rake, so it’s good to have it readily on hand. Also take a look at your gutters to make sure ice doesn’t dam them up and cause leaking into your home or attic.

Some experts recommend stringing heat cables through them, or on the roof just above the gutters. This should be done, of course, before major snowstorms to avoid any Clark Griswald-like ice rockets from a frozen gutter fail.

 

 

insert-3Snow Blowers, Shoveling

Even an inexpensive snow blower is preferable to shoveling by hand.

But if you are going to shovel, here’s a tip: coat the scoop of the shovel with non-stick cooking spray. Be sure, whether you are using a snow blower or shoveling, to remove the snow in small increments at a time — don’t try to do it all at once.

 

 

 

insert-4Professional Snow Removal

Of course, the easiest way to handle some of this is to contact professionals like Deck and Patio’s Dix Hills Snowplowing.

In speaking with our own Office Manager, Linda LaRose, if you live in our corner of Suffolk County (Huntington/Dix Hills) and wish to have us take care of your snow removal, you can contact us with no obligation (631-549-8100).

Once we hear from you, Linda will email a contract to review and you can always call her with questions before signing on, or incurring any expense. When you make this initial contact, this would be the right time to let us know if you have any special requirements: e.g., early service, service at 1-inch (ours usually begins at 2”), sand service, if garage doors need to shoveled, mail box cleared, etc.

We can also stake the driveway for you, if you ask for it. (Note: For snow removal from roofs, you should contact a roof contractor for their specialized service.)

 

Holiday Gift to You from Our Blog

And as a little gift to all our BLOG readers, below are a two adult coloring pages for you to enjoy during our first big snowstorm:

 

 

Adult Coloring Art-Snowflake: Just click on this piece of artwork, print, then color… or use your smart pen (stylus) on your iPad etc.

 

Adult Coloring Art-Snowflake: Just click on this piece of artwork, print, then color… or use your smart pen (stylus) on your iPad etc. (When you click on the snowflake the black background will disappear.)

 

 

 

Adult Coloring Art: If you need to think of Spring at any time during a snow storm, just click on this artwork, print, then color…or use your smart pen (stylus) on your iPad etc.

 

Adult Coloring Art: If you need to think of Spring at any time during a snow storm, just click on this artwork, print, then color…or use your smart pen (stylus) on your iPad etc.

Happy holidays, everyone!!

 

 

Preparing Ponds for Winter

 

We are not alarmists at The Deck and Patio Company, but our job requires that we pay attention to credible weather forecasts. And according to Accuweather, the Northeast may be in for an extended snowy winter, stretching into spring of 2017. If you have a backyard pond, there are a few things you can do to get ready for this onslaught.

Pond Fish in Winter

First, let’s deal with the misconception that you can’t leave your fish in the pond during winter months. Actually fish do just fine in winter. They go dormant and hibernate. However, our pond expert, Bill Renter, does add that it’s well to be especially alert to their needs once water starts to freeze. Should ice, for example, completely cover your pond, the fish could become starved for oxygen.

“This can be remedied by ensuring the pond has at least two feet of water for them to swim in,” says Bill. “It’s also key for the water to remain oxygenated by keeping a little hole in the ice with a heater, bubbler, and an aerator. We use products from Aquascapes Inc. — pond experts from St. Charles, Illinois.”

Aquascapes’ designs manager, Gary Gronwick agrees it’s important to use a pond de-icer. “This will keep a little hole in the ice so gases can escape,” he says. “While some recommend boiling water to create an opening in frozen-over ponds, that should be discouraged. It will only ice up again quickly.“

Gronwick also says to avoid chopping or sawing the ice to open a hole. The noise and vibrations will stress out the hibernating fish to a point they could die.

These things done, Mother Nature will do the rest. The fish will spend the entire winter hibernating at the bottom of the pond, or in a cave designed for this, and then will slowly wake up as the water warms in the spring. The fish do not need to eat during this time and, in fact, shouldn’t be fed at all.

We’ve included in our photo captions below more tips on preparing your pond and fish for winter and how to watch over it all. Happy ponding.

 

Prepare Ponds in Fall for Winter:

Prepare Ponds in Fall for Winter:

Before winter sets in, carefully look over your plants and remove any dying material. These materials rot and build up poisonous gases that can’t escape through ice when it forms. Such conditions might mean the koi are no longer simply hibernating, but are in a dangerous state of torpor.

 

Pond Waterfalls in Winter: (Photo/Aquascapes Inc.)

Pond Waterfalls in Winter: (Photo/Aquascapes Inc.)

Keeping any waterfalls running during cold months helps move the water so ice doesn’t form. But if ice builds up, pond aerators can put bubbles back in the water to add oxygen for the fish.

 

Contented Pond Fish in Winter: (Photo/Aquascapes Inc)

Contented Pond Fish in Winter: (Photo/Aquascapes Inc)

This pond has been cleared of excessive plant material and ice does not cover over the pond so the fish are happily hibernating.

 

Water Plants in Winter:

Water Plants in Winter:

Hardy water lilies (shown here) that float on the water’s surface and have a short blooming period can withstand the cold winter months nicely. Lotuses also can withstand the cold winter months because they bloom in summer and go dormant in winter. Note that frost kills water hyacinths; water lettuce, which fights algae, should be wintered in a warm spot that is well lighted as they will not survive in the pond over winter.

 

Prepare Pond Fish for Winter:

Prepare Pond Fish for Winter:

To be on the safe side, take water temperature regularly once it hits 55 or lower. If your pond jewels are hungry and moving about and you haven’t fed them, they will find something in the pond to eat and soon will be dormant anyway.

 

 Pond Caves for Fish:

Pond Caves for Fish:

Ask your pond designer/builder to create a small cave, or caves, where the fish can hide from predators in warm weather, and where they can also lie dormant during the winter months. Caves are easily made from the way rocks are positioned in and around the pond.

 

 

Fall Maintenance Tips

Fall foliage is glorious. That is until the leaves fall. Indeed, clearing away fallen leaves from key outdoor areas is one of the most important chores you can do this time of year. Here’s some tips from Deck and Patio’s Dave Stockwell and Bill Renter on fall outdoor maintenance.

 

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Photo: Aquascape, Inc.

 

Tip 1: Tree Trimming:

Before leaves fall, Deck and Patio’s Bill Renter suggests looking up your trees to see if any branches are completely bare of leaves.

“This is a good indicator of what needs to be cut off. Also, look to see if any low-hanging branches are near power lines; trim these so the weight of winter’s ice or snow won’t pull them down into the wiring. Also, falling limbs can result in accidents to people, cars, and homes, so this is an important step in fall maintenance.”

 

 

 

 

 

insert-2Tip # 2:  Leaf Piles Are Unhealthy:

Forgive our paraphrasing an old adage, but when it comes to DIY fall maintenance: Don’t let the leaves fall where they may.  “Too many leaves settled on your grass not only suffocates the lawn below, but piles of damp leaves breed insects and germs,” adds Deck and Patio owner, Dave Stockwell. “However, used correctly, collected leaves do make great compost or mulch.”

Tip # 3 Wet Foliage Can Stain:

“Fallen leaves also have tannin,” adds Bill. “The tannin can stain concrete, pavers and decks. People often don’t realize that it’s preferable to simply remove the leaves than to seal your deck or patio.”

Sealants, Bill explains, need to be regularly redone, which is a lot more maintenance than just getting rid of the leaves. (Indeed, some new deck materials such as Trex Transcend, don’t require sealants and it’s a good idea not to use them at all on these types of decks.)

 

 

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Tip # 4 Fall Pond Maintenance: 

We are nearing peak season for fall foliage here on Long Island and many backyard ponds are positioned near deciduous trees. Even if there aren’t trees hovering immediately around your pond, fallen leaves from nearby trees can also make it into the water.

“It’s advisable, then, if you haven’t already put up netting to catch falling debris, we suggest you tend to that soon in order to maintain your stream or pond’s water. Once all the leaves have dropped, you can pull up the net and get rid of the leaves. You’ll be delighted come spring how much cleaner your water will be and how much less maintenance will be needed.”

 

 

NY’s Central Park in Fall

NY’s Central Park in Fall

If you are fortunate to live in an area with an abundance of deciduous trees, you already know that fall foliage is a beautiful sight. So take your photos of the blazing colors, trek along your favorite orange-and-red-crowned paths, canoe beside vibrant vistas, and sometimes just stop to sit and ponder Nature’s majesty.

Just don’t let the beauty of it all make you forget the above chore tips. Whether you perform them yourself, or call a trusted landscaper, you’ll be happy you did.