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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Backyard Pond Retreat that ‘Feels Magical’

This editorial space is usually given to highlighting our own Deck and Patio projects. But, occasionally, we give a bow to work done by others that impresses us.

Such is the case with the following Chicago, IL pond. It was designed and built for his own backyard by Brian Helfrich, lead designer and president of construction at Aquascape, Inc. 

Aquascape is the leading water garden innovator in North America. From aquatic plant information, pond design ideas and equipment, to training/certification programs, they are the final word in koi ponds, water gardens and fountains.

“Brian is a water garden expert who was able to turn his backyard into a personal water garden retreat,” says Dave Stockwell, owner of Deck and Patio. “It’s outdoor living at its finest.”

Helfrich built his pond over 10 years ago which has become a delightful backyard escape during all seasons. Soft moss has collected on the boulders and rocks, and other rocks have been softened by the use of ground covers like Hostas and other smaller plants.

The trees in his yard have also matured. To help create privacy and, where needed, block unattractive views, conifers like Green Giant Arborvitae or Norway Spruce were used.

The water feature oasis is a blend of ponds, streams, waterfalls, gazebo with bridge, beautifully landscaped areas, and patios. The first photo of this expansive refuge (below) shows one of its waterfalls. It was positioned close to a welcoming patio where, “Friends and family gather for meals and celebrations,” says Aquascape.

Helfrich Pond/Patio at Dusk:

Helfrich Pond/Patio at Dusk:

“A pond or water feature adds so much to outdoor entertaining and living,” says Dave Stockwell. “And just like Brian did for his project, when we construct ponds, we always try to include adjacent or close by patio areas.”

Children Love Koi

Children Love Koi

 

Whether it’s a patio or bridge or deck, a pond is an attraction to more than adults. Children love ponds, including feeding koi. A pond is truly interactive in that way.

Koi ponds were once a characteristic of Japanese gardens, but have been growing in popularity around the world. And why not. Listening to the sounds of trickling water, while watching colorful koi swim around throughout several seasons is transforming.

 

 

 

Speaking of the seasons. We love ponds all year, even in winter, but autumn can be an extraordinary experience.

 

Gazebo/Bridge When New

Gazebo/Bridge When New

Beautifully Weathered Bridge/Gazebo

Beautifully Weathered Bridge/Gazebo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Enjoyment of a well designed pond, like the one Brian Helfrich has built, begins in the morning when you’re having that first cup of coffee.

A well-placed pond with streams and falls will be viewable from the most used rooms of your home and especially from the kitchen.

“It’s wonderful to watch the leaves bud, grow and change, and see it all reflected in your pond,” says Dave.

 

Adding a Bridge

Adding a Bridge

Bridges add a lovely design element to a backyard pond oasis. Here, Brian’s structure acts as a walkway along the side of his home. Plants and shrubs offer a pleasing “softscape” contrast to the rock and wood “hardscapes.” Note how the design makes it all appear organic, with water flowing in and around all the hardscape areas. 

 

Pond Waterfall

Pond Waterfall

Pondless Waterfall

Pondless Waterfall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The above two photos show two of the waterfalls that are part of the overall water garden. The one on the left is a waterfall cascading down into the pond, while the one on the right is a “pondless” waterfall, which is a perfect place for very young children to play. This pondless waterfall has been designed to let the water to seep through a “pebble beach” area before being filtered, captured below and recirculated.

We’re told by Aquascape that small birds love the pondless area and use it as their own private oasis to congregate, drink and enjoy a bird bath. 

The feature photo at the top of our page today is of one of Brian’s waterfalls captured at night. Landscape lighting helps create a very special mood in and around the pond when, as they described it, “the yard feels almost magical.” Brian says he designed the water feature but he built it with the help of Certified Aquascape Contractors across the country. Deck and Patio is proud to claim that same status.

To see more photos of this pond and learn more about it, click here. 

 

Kids and Gardening: How About a Rainbow Garden?

Children Love a Rainbow Garden

Children Love Rainbow Gardens

Involving children in gardening offers a great many benefits, say experts, from family bonding, to encouraging healthy eating and teaching them responsibility.

One garden project you might consider is a ‘rainbow garden.’ Kids love the colors of the rainbow — red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet! 

To help you kick off such a plan, if your kids don’t already have the book, you could share with them the following 2 minute video: Planting a Rainbow by Lois Ehlert.

 

 

 

Once they are eager for the project, how about involving your children in the landscaping plan by having them draw flowers in each of the seven rainbow colors. We’re including an easy cheat sheet of plants by color below — which we are using with permission from The Homespun Hydrangea. 

Of course, part of any landscape plan requires knowing which flowers come from bulbs, or seeds, etc., as well as the best time of year to plant each. We’ve selected one plant for each color and offer some tips for that plant. But you and your children may enjoy doing some of your own research.

Since your children will no doubt be eager to see the flowers this spring/summer, you can always get ready-grown plants at a local nursery, and plant from seeds and bulbs next year. 

So let’s begin:

Red:
Tulips, Hummingbird Sage, Red Roses, Red Bee Balm, Mums, Geraniums, Primrose, Red Poppies, Red Monkey Flower, Coleus, Cosmos, Bird of Paradise, Red Lilies, Western Columbine, Zinnia, Begonia, Red Cactus Flower 

Red Roses

Red Roses

When you want to go red, you can’t go wrong with rose bushes. Potted roses can be added to the garden any time, but if the roots are bare, plant these when the daytime temperatures are between 40 and 60 degrees F — or their dormant season (autumn through late winter/early spring). Look for disease-resistant tough roses. 

 

Orange:
Orange Poppies, Tulips, Lantana, Blackberry Lily, Tiger Lily, Iceland Poppy, Helenium, Cosmos, Asiatic Lily, Marigold, Butterfly Weed, Red Hot Poker, Flowering Maple, Snapdragon, Hyssop, Minion Bells, Twinspur

Butterfly Weed

Butterfly Weed

With Butterfly Weed, you not only get bright, gorgeous orange, but, like the name says, you also attract butterlfies. Your youngsters will love that. Its clusters of blossoms bloom from early summer to first frost. It thrives in clay, rocky or dry soil and while it prefers full sun, it can take partial shade. These grow well from seeds, but since they are usually planted in fall, if you want them in the garden this year, consider using mail order or your local nursery. 

 

Yellow:
Tulips, Snapdragons, Marigolds, Yellow Columbine, Yellow Butterfly Bush, Iceplant, Mums, Daisies, Gerber Daisy, Daylily, Sunflower, Daffodil, Primula, Yellow Rose, Gold Nugget, Indian Shot, Yellow Bee Balm

Columbine

Columbine

Another pollinator-friendly plant, Columbine will re-seed itself in your garden! Early spring or fall is the best time to plant either bare root or potted plants. They like well-drained moist soil. With very warm Long Island, NY, summers, it’s wise to give the plant some partial shade. If you plant from seed, it will take a full season before you get to enjoy them.

 

Green:
Green/Lime Rose, Mums, Hellebore, Daylily, Dianthus, Bells of Ireland, Hydrangeas, Mint, Catnip, Sage, Rosemary, Basil, assorted grasses, Coleus

Bells of Ireland

Bells of Ireland

Bells of Ireland are shell flowers that are loved as both ornamental and culinary plants. The outer bells are the goal, not the small and fragrant white flowers within. They don’t love hot and humid temperatures, so consider a shade cloth to maintain the hardiness of the plant. Check out the various nurseries available to you (or consider mail order) so you can enjoy Bells of Ireland this summer. Then, get the kids to help you harvest and save some of the seeds and plant them for a more extensive patch of bells next year.

 

Blue:

Brunerra, Delphinium, Hydrangea, Lead Plant, Hyacinth, Clematis, Blue Star, Aster, Bell Flower, Salvia, Balloon Flower, Asters, Morning Glories, Virginia Blue Bells, Forget Me Knots, Columbine

Morning Glory

Morning Glory

When it comes to morning glories, you’ll want full sun and fertile soil. Avoid too much nitrogen. If you soak the seeds,  you may be able to see them sprout up this year without having to purchase grown plants. For more, check here

 

Purple:
Salvia, Cat Mint, Tulips, Lilies, Balloon Flower, Iris, Clematis, Lavender, Bell Flower, Crocus, Snapdragon, Petunia, Verbena, Pansy, Fan Flower, Heliotrope, Purple Bee Balm, Thyme, Chives, Lilacs

Purple Allium

Purple Allium

At Deck and Patio, we’ve often included lovely purple allium in our landscaping plans. They are hardy and deer and rodent resistant. Their bulbs need to be planted in the fall, so to enjoy them this year you’ll need to pick up some plants from the nursery. Did you know that they are also members of the onion family? As you plan out your garden for next year, you can get some crocus bulbs for a double punch of purple next spring. 

 

Some final tips: 

Curve Appeal

Curve Appeal

Design the garden in a sweeping curve (left) — the eye can’t help but follow along such a layout. It’ll capture interest immediately. 

Keep any plants that grow over 30 inches at least two to three feet away from the walkway and patio edges.

Keep thorny plants away from walk areas and avoid them entirely if you have toddlers. 

 

 

By |2020-02-20T15:06:37-05:00February 20th, 2020|Backyard Refurbishments, Creative Design, Family Fun, Gardening, Landscape Planning, Landscaping, Plantings/Pondscapes, Plants, Seasonal Landscapes|Comments Off on Kids and Gardening: How About a Rainbow Garden?

Landscaping with Pantone’s Color for 2020: ‘Classic Blue’ Is Elegant and Reassuring

At Deck and Patio, we frequently get requests for plants in the latest popular colors, including Pantone’s color of the year. This year Pantone has chosen ‘Classic Blue.’ According to their announcement, in making this decision, they considered the following: 

 

Pantone's Statement

 

“Classic Blue’ certainly is a reassuring color,” says our own Dave Stockwell. “We have available lovely blue plants that can bring that sense of reassurance, that anchoring, to any landscape or garden.”

Balkan Anemone

Balkan Anemone

Balkan Anemone

One spring bloomer that Dave recommends in the ‘Balkan Anemone’ (left) which is hardy and blooms again and again each year.

Its star-like petals are also stunning in the evening and at night as they sparkle amid landscape lighting and moonlight. 

Tall and lace-y, this flower is also known as ‘Grecian Windflower.’ If you are planting them yourself, it’s best to do it in autumn, in moist soil with partial shade. For an Anemone planting guide, click here.

 

Blue Hydrangea

Blue Hydrangea

Blue Hydrangea

Then, of course, there is a Long Island, NY, favorite — the stunning hydrangea. One lovely example is the Nikko Blue. 

However, achieving a true blue hue to this plant requires a certain type of soil, or you won’t get the blue color.  For more on growing blue hydrangeas, click here.

Note: Blue hydrangeas make such gorgeous bouquets, which means the interior of your home can be as filled with Pantone’s color for 2020 as your garden.

Cornflower

Cornflower

Cornflower

Of course, don’t forget the traditional blue ‘cornflower.’ This plant is hardy and can withstand draught and are delightful interspersed around a garden. They can be grown as a perennial or annual. 

By the way, cornflowers fit particularly well with Pantone’s intention in bringing classic blue to the forefront for 2020 because they are symbols of very old traditions. One website described them as reminding us of “the cultural ebb and flow of mankind throughout the centuries.” Now that’s an anchor.

Another note on cornflowers, they grow easily from seed — which makes them effortless to disperse in the garden — and they last quite a while as a cut flower and keep their color when dried. 

Availability

“As most gardeners know, blue isn’t the most prevalent color in plants. That said, our buyers do have a range of blue plants available,” adds Dave, “And of course, we have many sources.”

One mid-western U.S. florist company, Dreisbach Wholesale Florists, got the jump on Pantone back in June when this blue color was their choice for a Floral Friday focus. Although they admitted on their website, that: “…blue can be a challenge for [floral arrangements] since there are a limited number of naturally occurring blue blooms. Don’t let that stop you!”  

And Deck and Patio adds, when it comes to gardens, don’t let that stop you! As you’ll see from the flowers we listed above — as well as in the feature shot at the top of this page, there are enough blue flowers to incorporate Pantone’s reassuring color throughout your landscape. (Note: *Feature art at the top of our page today is courtesy of Dreisbach Wholesale Florists.)

 

Outdoor Color Is More Than Flowers

In choosing Classic Blue, Pantone said they also wanted to evoke “the vast and infinite evening sky,” which, Deck and Patio believes, can be achieved in many ways in the landscape. “You can change your pool and spa’s vinyl liner or Gunite finish to bring about this soaring feeling, for example,” says Dave. “Like this dramatic custom pool and spa project we did a while ago.”

Deck and Patio Custom Infinity Pool/Spa

Deck and Patio Custom Infinity Pool/Spa

To enhance an already beautiful view of Long Island Sound, the owners of the waterside home wanted an infinity pool; a spectacular “infinity” spa also became part of the project. A swim-up U-shaped bar serves as a patio bar; the pool boasts 5 in-pool stools and swim-out steps.

The ultimate in resort-style living includes a tumbled stone patio, natural gas campfires, evergreen trees for privacy, pool waterfalls, in-pool bar stools, three staircases, and in-floor cleaning.

You might say this project is awash in glorious Classic Blue. 

So readers. How will you bring Pantone’s elegant and reassuring Classic Blue into your yard this year? 

 

How Can I Enjoy My Deck in the Winter?

“Enjoy my deck in winter?” you might be asking. Actually, yes. The weather where we live in Long Island, NY, can be harsh  — and also not so bad. 

So to get the snowdown on how best to enjoy our decks even when it’s snowy, we spoke to Edie Kello, Director of Marketing Communications at a leading capped-composite decking manufacturer: Fiberon Decking.

First. Remove any Snow

Kello says the most important aspect to outdoor winter enjoyment is to remove any existing snow.

How to Best Remove Snow

How to Best Remove Snow

“Whether you have a wood or capped-composite deck, we recommend not using metal shovels for this, but plastic ones.

If you feel it necessary to use de-icing materials, rock salt is the best choice for any deck surface. Be sure to choose rock salt that is labeled safe for flagstone or concrete and will not kill grass.”

Kello does not recommend using sand to remove ice and snow because that can mar a deck’s surface; if the snow is light, a broom is a good choice or, again, a plastic shovel, Kello recommends sweeping the used rock salt into the trash, then rinsing the deck off to remove any residue. This is especially important if you have pets.

“You can use a pressure washer if you like, but we recommend not going beyond 3,000 PSI (pounds per square inch). Also, keep the nozzle about 10” above the deck. This applies to both wood and composite decking.“

 

How to Best Remove Snow

Removing snow is key to outdoor winter enjoyment. Photo: Fiberon Decking and Railing

 

Keeping Warm on Your Deck

Deck and Patio Deck with Natural Gas Fire Pit 

Deck and Patio Deck with Natural Gas Fire Pit

Having a heat source, such as a deck heater (or patio heater), permits you to enjoy your winter wonderland and the fresh crisp air longer.

Not to mention you can make s’mores and keep hot cider and hot chocolate warm. Available in building supply stores, they come free standing, fit on a table top, and usually run on propane gas.

“These heaters will throw heat down and around where you are sitting,” says Kello.

“Fire pits and fireplaces are other popular choices. If you are not using a natural gas heat source, we recommend putting a fiber-cement mat (made of a mix of wood pulp and cement) underneath a fire pit to catch any embers.

It is also important to ensure heat doesn’t build up against the wood or composite decking, so keep any heat source up off the deck by at least a foot.”

 

A fire pit adds warmth and is the perfect place to roast a marshmallow for s’mores. Photo: Fiberon Decking and Railing

A fire pit adds warmth and is the perfect place to roast a marshmallow for s’mores. Photo: Fiberon Decking and Railing

 

Trapping Your Heat

Since heat rises, Kello says you probably want some sort of deck covering that will help trap the heat. “It’s great if you can add a roof, but if you have a pergola, you can put a tarp or outdoor fabric over it, or add an awning. These options help keep harsh elements off the deck as well, so there’s less shoveling.

 

Deck Covering: A roof is an ideal way to trap heat when it’s cold; plus a fireplace not only adds warmth, but it provides a lot of ambiance. Photo: Fiberon Decking and Railing

Deck Covering: A roof is an ideal way to trap heat when it’s cold; plus a fireplace not only adds warmth, but it provides a lot of ambiance. Photo: Fiberon Decking and Railing

 

Now, for the Enjoyment!

If we go through the effort of keeping our decks clear of snow and add a source of warmth, that means we get to use our outdoor grills much longer into the winter season.

Hot Tub Deck

Hot Tub Deck

Additionally, some people install a hot tub to take full advantage of winter outdoor living — even when there is a massive amount of snow. Just be sure any hot tub is properly supported within the sub-structure of the deck, says Kello.

Like in our feature photo at the top of the page, she also suggests the addition of lights for a cozy winter atmosphere. 

“If you don’t have any deck lights built into the railing, just add Christmas/holiday lights, or snowflake lights along the railing, pergola, shrubs/planters, or even on a deck umbrella.”

So, as the song says, when it comes to enjoying your deck even in winter….let it snow, let snow, let it snow.

 

By |2019-12-19T13:31:43-05:00December 19th, 2019|Ask the Experts, Composite Decking, Design and Build Experts, Fire Pits, Outdoor Living, Patios & Decks, Portable Hot Tubs, Seasonal Landscapes, Snow Removal|Comments Off on How Can I Enjoy My Deck in the Winter?

Give Yourself the Gift of a Backyard Pond

'Tis The Season

‘Tis The Season

You might be wondering if this is the best time of year to give yourself and family the gift of a backyard water feature. After all, aren’t ponds, streams, waterfalls, for the outdoor living season?

While most water features, particularly ponds, are, indeed, enjoyed extensively in warm weather, a water feature is actually appreciated during all seasons, including winter. And sometimes they are even built during winter’s blasts.

“Not to mention that during the gift-giving season we’re often encouraged to think deeply about what we’d love to receive ourselves as well as what to give to others,” says Deck and Patio’s Dave Stockwell.

But why now precisely? Shouldn’t we wait for spring? 

“You’d be surprised what can be built outdoors during these colder months,” adds Dave. “Even if it’s not fully built until spring, it’s great to get a good start.”  Click here for a Deck and Patio water feature built primarily during winter.

 

Holiday Gift Wish List

 

Natural Swimming Pond

Also called “recreational ponds,” these water features offer the opportunity to swim and snorkel without having to deal with chlorinated water. 

 

The Gift of Snorkeling:

The Gift of Snorkeling:

You’ll definitely get on Santa’s “nice” list when opting for swimming/snorkeling in your own natural or recreational pond over a regular pool. Natural ponds are good for the environment.

“In order to snorkel in your own home pond, it’s important to build a pond big and deep enough,” says Dave. “It’s also key to not overload your pond with fish so the pond remains pristine for swimming. “This way, the aquatic plants and natural filtration systems are able to absorb and ‘clean’ the pond sufficiently for an enjoyable swim.”

To learn more about Deck and Patio natural swimming ponds, click here.  Then next year, Santa won’t have to snorkel his way to your home via the local aquarium.

 

Koi Pond

Ponds in Spring/Summer:

Outdoor Living Season

Outdoor Living Season

Even if they’re not built for swimming, once the weather warms, ponds are a natural wonderland for children to explore. Plus, they provide a lovely spot for dining al fresco, or just sitting beside while reading a book. Feeding your koi is also a delightful way to relax and let stress just fall away. 

 

Ponds in Autumn

Ponds in Autumn

Ponds in Winter

Ponds in Winter

 

 

 

 

 

 

A few autumn leaves falling into a backyard pond is not a problem. Some leaves actually add to the health of a pond’s ecosystem.

However. If your pond is surrounded by deciduous trees, autumn’s storm of foliage are leaves of a different color.  Learn more here.

Many people love to be outdoors in winter and a pond helps create the perfect winter wonderland. A popular trend these days is creating a winter walk “event” for strolling by lighted trees or bushes, also a fully-operating water feature with waterfalls, and even enjoying an ice rink for skating. 

Creating Your Own Ice Rink

Creating Your Own Ice Rink

It takes some prep work and lots of caution and care to make a rink, but according to naturally-recognized “The Pond Guy” you can, indeed, turn your pond into a rink for skating.

The Pond Guy has several blogs on this topic covering how to create good ice, what red flags to look for, how to check the ice, and how to create a glassy smooth surface. For two of his blogs, click here and here. 

 

 

Getting Ready for the First Snowfall

Prepping for Snow

Prepping for Snow

When you have a home, snow can present problems beyond keeping stairs and walks free of snow and ice. 

It’s also critical that 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. 

Also be aware that 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.

 

Driveway Prep

Plow Stakes

Plow Stakes

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”). And the longer you put it off, the harder the ground will get from the cold. 

(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.

 

Roof Prep

Roof Snow Removal

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.

 

Snow Blowers, Shoveling

Snow Removal

Snow Removal

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.

 

 

Professional Snow Removal

Dix Hills Snowplowing

Dix Hills Snowplowing

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.

 

Dix Hills Snowplowing

Dix Hills Snowplowing

 

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.)

 

 

 

By |2019-11-21T13:53:57-05:00November 21st, 2019|Driveways, outdoor maintenance, Seasonal Landscapes, Snow Removal|Comments Off on Getting Ready for the First Snowfall

Plan Your Backyard Upgrade While Dreaming of Warmer Days

There’s more than a deep chill in the air. It even snowed a little over much of Long Island this week. It may not be officially winter yet, but many of us are already dreaming of warmer days.

So as you gaze out over your yard, here’s some ‘before and after’ Deck and Patio projects that might inspire the perfect upgrade for you — done in plenty of time for next year’s outdoor living season.

 

Backyard Upgrade on a Budget

"Before"

“Before”

"After"

“After”

 

 

 

 

 

 

This Massapequa couple, says Deck and Patio’s Dave Stockwell, hankered to enjoy their backyard more  — which was tidy but not enticing.

Space was also at a premium. And in lieu of a rather more expensive pool, the couple settled on installing a quality hot tub, in-ground.

An in-ground installation makes a portable hot tub appear like it’s a custom-made spa.  Plus it would be easy to get in and out of (see before/after photos above).

However, even though they knew they’d love spending time outdoors in their new hot tub, they also wanted something beautiful to look at while in it. They certainly did not want to be facing their home’s siding, or even just a plain line of healthy evergreens. 

Upshot? The pond with waterfalls, hot tub installation and landscaping were still less expensive than a pool.

 

Large Pond Under Stone Bridge

"Before"

“Before”

"After"

“After”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shortly after the homeowner purchased his property, he contacted us. An entrance he had to drive over each day, on his way to and from work, had not been kept up for many years.

He asked us to accentuate a beautiful 1880 bridge structure with a man-made reflecting pond.

Our design allowed the pre-existing bridge’s entire stone gazebo to be reflected in the pond water. The water feature we designed and built is more than 240-feet-long and 60-feet-wide, so it also captures the surrounding landscape. Plus, such a wonderful expanse of water made the perfect habitat for koi. 

Our team ensured the pond design included lots of flowing water, with rock overhangs, and plenty of space for pond fish to hide and thrive. Such a design makes it difficult for natural predators to reach the fish.

The stone bridge with turret creates a stunning pond reflection in its crystal clear water, doesn’t it?

 

Pool and Retaining Wall Upgrade

"Before"

“Before”

"After"

“After”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A family in Dix Hills, NY, called on Deck and Patio when they decided to update their 1980”s backyard pool area. Their old wood deck and red brick patios were small and unusable for parties and entertaining. But they couldn’t come up with a complete plan themselves to transform the space.

“We suggested a unique idea to deal with the large wall behind the pool and small patio spaces,” says Dave Stockwell, owner of Deck and Patio. “The plan was to remove the wood retaining wall, re-grade the slope, and create a large natural waterfall, stream, and woodland garden.”

The plan also called for draining the pool and removing the liner; a poorly built concrete block wall was uncovered and we straightened the wall and filled the block in with concrete and steal rebar for strength. New vinyl-covered stairs were added to the pool, plus new pipes, returns, skimmers, pump, filter and a new liner.

 

New Modern Deck

"Beginning Construction"

“Beginning Construction”

"After Construction"

“Completed Construction”

 

 

 

 

 

 

These Centerport, NY, homeowners were both outdoor enthusiasts with a property that had a nice water view. Their wish list included: an attractive modern-looking deck from where they could best appreciate their view; a deck/railing that did not in any way obstruct the view; and a conveniently placed portable spa.

It was clear a two-story deck was needed. But we realized that the deck also needed to be large enough to allow designated areas for grilling, dining, lounging and hot tubbing. Plus, the railing would need special consideration.

An important choice for this Trex Deck project was the steel cable railing by Feeney does not obstruct the water views from any place on the deck. Deck and Patio built a custom spa “cradle” as a mount for their new hot tub. This positioned the spa so they could enjoy the views when inside the tub.

 

New Backyard ‘Spool’

"Before"

“Before”

"After"

“After”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Deck and Patio built this backyard ‘spool” (a cross between a spa and pool) several years ago. The homeowners decided on a ‘spool” for their yard  because they didn’t have room for a full-sized pool.

A spool would also allow them to enjoy it year-round. They could opt to run cool water in the spool during warm months, and hot water during cold months and cool evenings.

In addition, the mechanics of a spa provides the benefits of hydrotherapy massage — not to mention the amazing experience of sitting under flowing water from an added waterfall. A new fence was added for contrast and a bit of drama; a rushing stream flows through the large moss rock boulders to become a waterfall flowing into the spa. Lush plantings and a new patio completed their new backyard retreat.

So let it snow or blast cold. You can stay warm while planning your new backyard upgrade. 

Help the Declining Bird Population While Brightening Up Your Winter Yard

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

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

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

Inviting Birds to Your Property

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

 

Blue Jay

Blue Jay

Peanut Wreath

Peanut Wreath

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

Cardinals

Cardinals

Cardinals

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

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

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

 

Chickadees

Chickadees

Chickadees

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

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

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

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

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

 

Extra Tips

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

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

3.  Put up bird houses designed for specific birds

 

 

Bird Baths:

Bird Baths:

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

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

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

 

Upscale Birdhouses:

Upscale Birdhouses:

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Some Like It Hot: Enjoying Red Fall Foliage at Home

Fiery Red Foliage

Fiery Red Foliage

When the weather gets cool, some really like it hot…fiery red hot, that is. The heat we’re talking about is blazing red foliage — bursts of color that some find ease the pain of the outdoor season coming to an end.

More than that, say experts, the color red goes beyond sensual pleasure. It stimulates the human system — even increasing pulse and heart rates. It’s well worth it then to be able to enjoy autumn’s bursts of fiery red daily, by having the right trees in your yard.

That said, brilliant red foliage outside our very own windows requires planning. To get all the dirt on what trees to plant, we spoke with Angelo Puleo, Nursery Division at Bissett Nursery (Holtsville, NY).

 

Maple Trees

“One of the most popular and widespread deciduous trees that produces bright reds in autumn is the beautiful Maple tree,” says Pueleo. “In particular, along with oaks, we recommend Sugar Maples for great fall red color.”

 

Choosing the right Maple

Choosing the right Maple

 

Note: Be sure to ask experts at an established nursery or landscaping firm which variety of maple, etc. will produce red leaves in fall, as some varieties offer up a blazing yellow instead. Not that there’s anything wrong with that…it’s just for another blog post.

 

 

Red Maple in Fall:

Red Maple in Fall:

A beautiful shade tree in summer with brilliant color in autumn, the Red Maple can be planted any time of year, including fall.

 

Cleveland Select Pear 

Puleo also recommends the Cleveland Select Pear for robust color. Like the Oak and Maple, it is also hardy and can withstand most winds and storms, including ice storms — a real plus in our neck of the woods (the Northeast).

Cleveland Select Pear:

Cleveland Select Pear:

“In spring, the Cleveland Select Pear bursts awake in beautiful white flowers, and in the fall, its leaves offer up a deep orangey-red blaze of color,” adds Pueleo.

Bradford Pear Tree:

Bradford Pear Tree: (Photo With Permission: Abrahami):

A close cousin of the Cleveland Select Pear, the Bradford is pictured here as its leaves begin to turn from green to fall-red.

 

Japanese Maple 

When it comes to smaller trees, Deck and Patio designers often consider Japanese Maples in landscaping plans; red-leafed versions of this beautiful tree offer degrees of red from spring through fall (see last photo). Planting them in early fall allows for new root growth in time for spring.

Japanese Maple (Photo With Permission: Wikipedia 松岡明芳):

Japanese Maple (Photo With Permission: Wikipedia 松岡明芳):

This beautiful Japanese Maple is native to Japan and other nearby Asian countries such as South Korea. It’s prized for the shape of its leaves and rich red color. It’s useful to note that there are different types of Japanese maples. Some stay red ’til their leaves drop in autumn but others leaf out in brilliant reds in spring and turn to yellows and orange in fall. These, of course, can be dazzling, too, but be sure you get what you want.

 

Mighty Oaks

In 2004, the gorgeous and majestic oak tree was designated the USA’s official national tree. Known for its wonderful shade and lumber it grows to great heights from just an acorn. You can begin from a seed, but you might also want to transplant one that is partially grown. While you can transplant up to between 5 and 8 feet in growth, it’s best to go with a smaller tree to allow its roots to cope in the process.  

Mighty Oak:

Mighty Oak:

A few varieties of oak grow rapidly (e.g., Heritage Oak, Swamp White Oak and Northern Red Oak), making them an ideal choice. Like all the trees mentioned in this blog post, leave about 10 feet between each one when planting. The oaks are sun lovers so choose a sunny spot. Note: For those who keep horses, the oak’s acorn and leaves can be toxic to animals such as horses. 

This is by no means an exhaustive list for fiery red foliage. But we hope it’ll be enough to get your heart pumping every time you walk outdoors next fall. The fiery red scene will so take you away that you’ll forget you’re wearing a jacket.

 

 

By |2019-10-24T12:42:51-05:00October 24th, 2019|Backyard Upgrades, Creative Design, Gardening, Landscaping, Seasonal Landscapes, trees, Updating Landscape|Comments Off on Some Like It Hot: Enjoying Red Fall Foliage at Home