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Backyard Upgrades: Time to Spring Into Action

“If there’s one thing we dislike in our work,” says our own Dave Stockwell, “it’s disappointing a potential client’s request for a special backyard upgrade in time for the upcoming outdoor season.”

Mid February, he adds, may sound to some very early to plan. But once robins are singing and trees are budding, the phones at Deck and Patio have been ringing for many weeks with requests for projects. 

“So it’s best to begin the process in late winter,” Dave adds. “Beginning early not only allows time to come up with a design plan that isn’t rushed, it also provides sufficient time to check on local variances and to secure permits. Many towns and villages on Long Island, for example, have different codes and requirements; delays in approval are common.”

Other key parts of the design/bid process include pulling the right people together for every aspect of the project. Starting early ensures each team will be available at the right time to work in a way that doesn’t slow the job down.

The "A" Team: Deck and Patio Works with HGTV's Pool Kings

The “A” Team: Deck and Patio Has worked with HGTV’s Pool Kings

Choosing the right designer/builder is perhaps the most important decision you have to make when planning your outdoor retreat. Here are just a few of the questions you should consider:

—  Will your design/build firm be using subcontractors and if so, are they licensed and insured? Who will be responsible for any repairs during the warranty?

—  Will your design/builder obtain town codes and zoning information or will you be doing this? Some firms such as The Deck and Patio Company can introduce you to an expeditor to help in the permit process, if required.

—  Take the time necessary to verify the references of your designer/builder and how many workers will be on the site at any given time. Will there be a supervisor there, for example.

—  Review any contracts carefully before signing on. Ensure you have all the warranty information that was promised.

 

 

 Hiring a Landscaping Contractor Booklet

Hiring a Landscaping Contractor Booklet

“In fact, there are so many important things to consider early in the process that we have created a booklet, “10 Things You Should Know Before Hiring a Landscape Contractor,” says Dave.

“This brochure spells out in detail a variety of things to be considered before you begin. You can get a copy by stopping by our design center, or just call or email us for one.”

 

 

 

Landscape Planning Should Begin in Winter (Long Island/NY):

Landscape Planning Should Begin in Winter (Long Island/NY):

Even if there’s snow on the ground, a good design/build firm is able to see underneath it to plan an outdoor retreat. In fact, we built these dual ponds (immediately above) for a client during winter. 

“The ground was getting hard and it was brutally cold,” says Dave. “But, in one way, it was a good time of year for such a project because we had more time in our schedule than we usually do in spring. So it was cold, but stress-free.”

This water feature was designed as an ecosystem pond with a natural-looking moss rock waterfall. It includes a stone bridge. And the stream we added just behind the pond feeds the pond area and boasts an additional waterfall.

 

Planning Landscape Projects in 3-D Animation (Long Island/NY):

Planning Landscape Projects in 3-D Animation (Long Island/NY):

It is great if your designer/builder can show you through computer animation what your backyard upgrade will look like before you commit to the plan. Everything in this project, including the house (unseen here) patio, pool, waterfalls, outdoor kitchen and expanded pond were shown clearly in the animation — even the natural gas campfires.

 

Natural Vanishing Edge Pond (Eatons Neck/NY):

Natural Vanishing Edge Pond (Eatons Neck/NY):

This serenely unique vanishing edge pond belies the challenges (town codes/design planning) that were required to bring it all about. Being located on a bluff on a highly regulated area of Long Island’s north shore (Eaton’s Neck), there were lots of regulations regarding building near the cliff’s edge.

Deck and Patio came up with a natural vanishing edge “pond” design instead of a pool which satisfied the code regulations. But it took early planning to not only get permits but to also create the pond’s complex natural biological filtration system that maintains the pond’s crystal clear water.

 

Backyard Water Features (Long Island/NY):

Backyard Water Features (Long Island/NY):

Planning glorious backyard water features takes time, especially if you want a man-made feature like this to appear as if Mother Nature designed it herself. This requires ordering and installing the perfect-sized rocks and boulders that urge the water to flow in natural spills into either a pond or pondless-reservoir.

 

 

Landscape Upgrade: Before, After and In-Between ‘Spool’ Construction

When we previously highlighted this Deck and Patio backyard ‘spool” (a cross between a spa and pool) several years ago, our blog posts showcased only the finished project.

However, because this spool has remained a popular download across our social media platforms even today, we thought readers would like to see some of our file photos (below) for this project. They capture its various stages — from the first marking of the grass, to the finished landscaped custom spool with waterfall.

Short Summary of Project

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.

 

Spool: Before, After, and In-Between

 

'Before:' Deck and Patio used orange paint to mark the areas for the spool, waterfall, patio and landscaping.

‘Before:’ Deck and Patio used orange paint to mark the areas for the new spool, waterfall, patio and landscaping.

 

“During.” Winter was upon us not long after we began the project. We did have time to dig out the area for the spa. Then we covered the hole while we all waited for spring to continue.

“During.” Winter was upon us not long after we began the project. We did have time to dig out the area for the spa which would give us a head start come spring. Then we covered the hole while we all waited for it to arrive.

 

“During Spring” As soon as spring came, we began building the concrete shell. As you can see the ground was still hard but the hole was already dug so we could do this.

“During” Spring
As soon as spring came, we began building the concrete shell. As you can see the ground was still hard but the hole was already dug allowing us to proceed early.

 

“During” Waterfall Addition: The boulders needed for a good-looking waterfall can weigh tons and special machinery is needed to put them in place.

“During” Waterfall Addition:
The huge boulders required for a natural-looking waterfall can weigh tons and special machinery is needed to put them in place.

 

'Before' the Landscaping: Here a member of our team is marking out the landscaping areas for behind the waterfall up to the garage. You can see on the right the spool and waterfall are already complete. You can also see a small piece of the new patio.

‘Before’ Landscaping: Here a member of our team is marking out the landscaping areas for behind the waterfall up to the garage. You can see (on the right) the spool and waterfall are already complete. You can also see a small segment of the new patio.

 

‘During’ Testing of Waterfall: This is day we tested the waterfall. The completed spool is 8’ x 10’ and is vinyl-lined. Note the patio was complete also. The patio was built using Techo-Bloc paving stones (Elena in Sandlewood) which are durable and will withstand a lot of activity and weather changes.

Testing of Waterfall:
This is day we tested the waterfall. The completed spool is 8’ x 10’ and is vinyl-lined. Note the patio was complete also. The patio was built using Techo-Bloc paving stones (Elena in Sandlewood) which are durable and will withstand a lot of activity and weather changes.

 

 “After” Landscaping: First angle of “after” job complete. 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.

“After” Landscaping:
First photo angle of “after” job complete. 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.

 

“After” Landscaping Second angle of “after” job complete. Here you can see the garage, fence, patio and spool; you can almost feel the warmth from their natural gas campfire. The end result is a beautiful backyard oasis tucked nicely into a corner of their new backyard patio.

“After” Landscaping
Second angle of “after” job complete. Here you can see the garage, fence, patio and spool; you can almost feel the warmth from their natural gas campfire. The end result is a beautiful backyard oasis tucked nicely into a corner of their new backyard upgrade.

 

 

 

 

Before the Leaves Fall: Some Backyard Maintenance Tips

 

 

 

It’s weeks away. But as sure as leaf tannin stains decks and driveways, fall foliage is coming.

So kick back and give a few thoughts to some backyard maintenance that can be done now — and might make falling leaves less of a problem.

 

 

 

 

 

Pruning

Right now — on the cusp of early fall — is the ideal time to prune. Cutting plants back now will give them enough time to callous over before the first frost.

Without callouses, frost can cause them to die back or not bloom come spring. And we don’t want that.

 

 

 

Ponds

Pond nets can keep out even the smallest pieces of debris such as falling leaves and pine needles. We recommend netting from Aquascape Inc. (St. Charles, IL) which includes hold-down staples to secure it.

Pond nets can keep out even the smallest pieces of debris such as falling leaves and pine needles. We recommend netting from Aquascape Inc. (St. Charles, IL) which includes hold-down staples to secure it.

One area that needs a little care before leaves drop is the backyard pond.

In a previous post, our blog covered in detail the importance of protecting pond water from falling leaves.

“Netting your pond before fall foliage is important,” says Dave Stockwell, owner of Deck and Patio. “But once the leaves have all fallen, you can pull out the netting and get rid of the leaves and have pristine clear water come spring. Water features can be enjoyed all through fall, and even into winter.”

Pond experts at Aquascape Inc., a leading pond supply company, also suggest “tenting” the net so it doesn’t sag into the water when it becomes heavy with leaves and debris.

They also say to trim back aquatic plants to reduce the amount of organic material decomposing in the colder months. A previous blog offers more details on water plants and how to care for pond fish in fall.

 

 

 

Tree Trimming

Photo: Courtesy of Aquascape Inc.

Photo: Courtesy of Aquascape Inc.

 

Before the leaves start falling off trees in your yard, check them out to see if there are any branches that do not have leaves on them.

“This will tell you which branches might offer potential problems later down the road,” says Dave.

“Come the cold weather, dead limbs snap off due to the weight of ice and snow. This can cause havoc with power lines. Not to mention they can be a source of accidents to cars, people and homes.”

 

 

 

 

 

Plantings

Skimmia (Photo Credit: Musical Linguist at the English language Wikipedia)

Skimmia (Photo Credit: Musical Linguist at the English language Wikipedia)

To give plants a head start before spring, now, through the end of October, is a great time to be planting.

Many of you will, of course, be thinking of planting bulbs for spring beauties like tulips, daffodils etc. But you can get all kinds of perennials in the ground now that will give you buds in spring, and color next fall/winter.

In an earlier blog, we discussed — Skimmia — along with other plants that offer color in the colder months. In spring these will give you vibrant white flowers; in fall, crimson red fruits (berries) that last through winter.

 

 

 

Deck and Patio Pond Project

Deck and Patio Pond Project

A bit of effort in fall — before the leaves fall — brings big rewards come next outdoor season. Clean pond water, tidy and safe yards, blooming with color.

 

 

When To Start Planning a Backyard Retreat

When landscaping firms such as Deck and Patio recommend planning an outdoor retreat before spring arrives, it isn’t self-serving. It is because, if left too late, it may not be possible for a client’s dream backyard to be completed for the year’s outdoor season.

“It’s best to begin in late winter,” says Deck and Patio owner Dave Stockwell. “Beginning early not only allows time to come up with a design plan that isn’t rushed, but it also provides sufficient time to check on local variances and secure permits. Many towns and villages on Long Island, for example, have different codes and requirements, and delays in approval are common.”

Other key parts of the design/bid process, says Dave, include pulling together those needed for every aspect of the project. Starting early ensures each team will be available at the right time to work in a way that doesn’t slow the job down.

Deck and Patio at work

Deck and Patio at work

Choosing the Right Designer/Builder

Choosing the right designer/builder is perhaps the most important decision you have to make when planning your outdoor retreat. Here are just a few of the questions you should consider:

—  Will your design/build firm be using subcontractors and if so, are they licensed and insured? Who will be responsible for any repairs during the warranty?

—  Will your design/builder obtain town codes and zoning information or will you be doing this? Some firms such as The Deck and Patio Company can introduce you to an expeditor to help in the permit process, if required.

—  Take the time necessary to verify the references of your designer/builder and how many workers will be on the site at any given time. Will there be a supervisor there, for example.

—  Review any contracts carefully before signing on. Ensure you have all the warranty information that was promised.

 

Deck and Patio brochure

Deck and Patio brochure

 

“In fact, there are so many important things to consider early in the process that we have created a booklet, “10 Things You Should Know Before Hiring a Landscape Contractor,” says Dave.

“This brochure spells out in detail a variety of things to be considered before you begin. You can get a copy by stopping by our design center, or just call or email us for one.”

 

 

Landscape Planning Should Begin in Winter (Long Island/NY):

Landscape Planning Should Begin in Winter (Long Island/NY):

Even if there’s snow on the ground, a good design/build firm is able to see underneath it to plan an outdoor retreat. “We use surveys and Google Earth, etc. to plan any backyard refurbishment,” says Dave Stockwell, owner of Deck and Patio.

 

Planning Landscape Projects in 3-D Animation (Long Island/NY):

Planning Landscape Projects in 3-D Animation (Long Island/NY):

As we highlighted in last week’s blog, it is great if your designer/builder can show you through computer animation what your backyard upgrade will look like before you commit to the plan. Everything in this project, including the house (unseen here) patio, pool, waterfalls, outdoor kitchen and expanded pond were shown clearly in the animation — even the natural gas campfires.

 

Home Contractor and Landscaper Cooperation (Long Island/NY):

Home Contractor and Landscaper Cooperation (Long Island/NY):

These homeowners brought Deck and Patio on board early on when they were designing their home. This helped create a seamless integration of the landscape and nature with the home’s architecture — the architect even changed his design of the home’s turret in order ensure views from within would capture the various outdoor vistas. (Note: The town involved had strict setback requirements; we brought our 3-D animated landscaping plan to the town which aided in getting the permit granted quickly.)

 

Natural Vanishing Edge Pond (Long Island/NY):

Natural Vanishing Edge Pond (Long Island/NY):

This serenely beautiful vanishing edge pond belies the challenges (town codes/design planning) that were required to bring it all about. Being located on a bluff on a highly regulated area of Long Island’s north shore (Eaton’s Neck), there were lots of regulations regarding building near the cliff’s edge. Deck and Patio came up with a natural vanishing edge pond design instead of a pool which satisfied the code regulations. But it took early planning to not only get permits but to also create the pond’s complex natural biological filtration system that maintains the pond’s crystal clear water.

 

Backyard Water Features (Long Island/NY):

Backyard Water Features (Long Island/NY):

Planning glorious backyard water features takes time, especially if you want a man-made feature like this to appear as if Mother Nature designed it herself. This requires ordering and installing the perfect-sized rocks and boulders that urge the water to flow in natural spills into either a pond or pondless-reservoir.