Backyard Maintenance

Home/Backyard Maintenance

How Can I Improve My Pool Area?

Long frustrated by a dated backyard pool area, this Dix Hills family was particularly focused on the old wood deck and red brick patios around their pool which were to small for parties and entertaining.

Another issue was an old retaining wall which spoiled the look of the pool area.

Deck and Patio’s creative team inspired these clients with this suggestion: re-grade the slope area and replace it with a “natural” retaining wall with a dramatic waterfall, stream, and woodland garden.

Rather than create a pond to capture the water from the planned seven-foot-high “sheet” waterfall, a pondless waterfall system from Aquascape was recommended. 



Old Unattractive Retaining Wall.

Old Unattractive Retaining Wall.

New Natural Looking Retaining Wall

New Natural Looking Retaining Wall









“We particularly value Aquascape’s waterfall systems because they focus, like we do, on an ecosystem approach to water features,” says Dave Stockwell, owner of Deck and Patio. “For this project, the pondless system relies on a natural balance of circulation, filtration, plants, rocks and gravel to ensure sustainability.”



Deck and Patio creates natural looking waterfalls

Deck and Patio creates natural looking waterfalls


To achieve a natural looking waterfall, the design/build team needs to understand how water flows over and releases from rock in nature in order to re-create the feeling you’re hiking or strolling along some natural pathway. 

We avoid a man-made water feature appearance by designing it so the water changes directions in the waterfalls and streams.

Once this project’s stream and waterfall was complete, we pressed boulders into the surrounding slope. After that, we addressed the landscaping. Our crew installed natural woodland plantings to tie in with the tall oaks that exist on the property’s perimeter and added evergreen shrubs to ensure year-round color.



Refurbished Pool and Patio

Refurbished Pool and Patio

With the slope stabilized, our team addressed pool renovation. After draining the pool and removing the original liner, a poorly built concrete block wall was uncovered.

We straightened the wall and filled the block in with concrete and steel rebars for strength. New vinyl covered stairs were then added, as well as new pipes, returns, skimmers, pump, filter and new liner was installed.

After this, the pool was carefully backfilled and tamped. We compacted the soil back around the pool in three-inch lifts to allow for the immediate installation of new pavers around the pool.



Note: This compacting process is not done by many contractors. The idea is that using compacted soil the base will not settle, so you don’t have to wait to install a patio around a new pool. Many contractors still install concrete slabs under their patio. In our experience we find this does not work well. Settling still occurs under the slab allowing the patio to crack or settle. 


After the base materials were finished, we installed chestnut-hued durable pavers from Cambridge (Sahara). These particular pavers have little or no color fade and the random design pattern adds interest to the patio. The pavers’ protective coating means these clients will have a clean-lined modern look. Even after being subjected to snow plowing, de-icing salts and normal wear, they will keep their color and beautiful appearance.



How Can I Keep My Pond Fish Safe from Predators?

According to retailers, the pond and water garden industry has enjoyed a leap is sales during the pandemic. This jump has appeared in both water feature installations and maintenance services. 

“Ponds are a wonderful way to enjoy the outdoors without having to leave home. And they can be built in any size,” says Dave Stockwell. “But those who want a pond large enough for koi often worry if they will be able to keep their pond fish safe from predators.”

Pond fish are worth protecting. They are not just lovely to look at; koi help balance the entire ecosystem of a pond.


Safety Begins with Good Pond Design

Herons Don’t Like Deep Water

Herons Don’t Like Deep Water


“If your koi pond was designed and built well, it was designed and built deep,” says Dave.

A water feature with sufficient water depth will dissuade, for example,  raccoons and cats from going after your fish, since neither species enjoy swimming to get their dinner.

Plus deeper water at the edges (more than 18” deep) discourages the most challenging predator, the heron, from wading into your pond. Herons enjoy walking around in slightly shallow water.

Deep water really puts them off.

So a pond designed with high rock ledges and no easy wading entrance discourages a heron from hunting your fish.




Pond Water Features:

Pond Water Features:

Another helpful idea is adding a waterfall feature. The continuous movement of bubble rocks, waterfalls, or even water from nearby sprinklers will put off many predators. 

Also, unlike still water which offers a glass-like surface, bubbling water from a waterfall etc. disturbs that serene surface, making it harder for predators to see the fish underneath.

 “In addition, when we construct a pond, we frequently include underwater koi castles,” says Dave.. “When the koi sense danger, they can hid in there until the creature has given up.”


1. Statues: Some swear by scarecrows like owl statues. Others recommend a decoy-heron. Indeed, being territorial, herons will usually avoid conflict with what they perceive as another heron. Be sure the decoy is large enough to appear as a reasonable threat, however. And it is also important to move the decoy every few days. Herons are clever and will soon figure out a decoy that never moves isn’t a danger.

Motion-Activated Sprinklers

Motion-Activated Sprinklers


2. Another effective deterrent is installing a motion-activated sprinkler. We found, for example, one gardening expert, the Laidback Gardener, who says that after testing just about every animal repellent conceivable: “…the only simple deterrent that keeps most animals away in the long run is the motion-activated sprinkler.”

The motion-activated sprinkler is just one of several deterrents that should be used, adds Dave. “It can be effective, but works best in combination with some of the other suggestions we’ve given here today.”

3. Pond Netting/Fish Wire: “The most effective guarantee for safeguarding pond fish is pond netting,” says Dave. “But, because they spoil the look of the pond, most people prefer to use netting only during fall foliage. However, another suggestion which you’ll see in the following video seems a better alternative. Fish wire can be strung around pond areas where predators can get close enough to grab your fish.



The following YouTube video is by Foisy Aquatics who has a YouTube channel devoted just to fish.




Final Note: Koi are a healthy part of this Deck and Patio pond’s natural ecosystem. We construct ponds so they have lots of room to hide as well as swim. We also ensure the pond is sufficiently deep, including around the edges. We add plenty of high rock overhangs to discourage predators. A motion-activated sprinkler and a koi castle offer the final bits of security.



Landscaping Ideas: Add Plants in Pantone’s ‘Very Peri’ Color

Very Peri’ is Pantone’s Color for 2022

Very Peri’ is Pantone’s Color for 2022

Last month, Pantone announced Very Peri as its 2022 color of the year. They made their choice with a view to encourage an “altered landscape of possibilities” during a time when our “notions and standards are changing,” 

Pantone believes that Very Peri “displays a needed spritely, joyous attitude and dynamic presence” helpful in encouraging creativity and imaginative expressions.” 

Pantone’s new color definitely provides homeowners with the opportunity to create contrast and interest in their landscapes.

“We frequently get requests for plants in the latest popular colors,” says our own Dave Stockwell. “We love helping them keep up with the times, while always ensuring any updates are in harmony with the rest of what’s there.”

Dave adds that even if families aren’t planning major updates to their properties, incorporating some fresh touches of color such as Pantone’s Very Peri is an easy change.

For those who’d like to get started planning some seasonal floral updates, here’s just some plants that mimic Very Peri nicely:



Periwinkles: This flower’s color and name may have inspired Pantone’s choice for 2022. “It’s such a superb spreading shrub, we like it because it’s great for erosion control. Grown as a ground cover, it blooms in April and May.”

This plant also helps control the growth of weeds. It’s a good climber, too. Caution: Plant it on its own where it won’t overtake or choke valuable plantings. It likes partial shade and acidic soil. If you don’t want it to spread too far and rapidly, you can plant it in full sun.







Iris: These beauties come in a variety of sizes and colors. Mark your calendar as the best time to plant them is late summer to early autumn. Most varieties need full sun. “We always recommend preparing the planting beds ahead. 

About two weeks before, loosen the soil in a depth close to a foot to allow for good drainage. They don’t need much water except just before bloom time. Caution: These plants are bad if ingested and definitely are not good for your pets. 





Delphinium elatum

Delphinium elatum

Delphinium elatum: A member of the buttercup family, delphiniums are delightful perennials that add lovely color when they bloom during spring to early summer. A sturdy plant grows tall and is nicely herbaceous. 

“In our neck of the woods,” says Dave, “these plants require special care, but are worth the effort we think.”

Perhaps in keeping with Pantone’s purpose in choosing the Very Peri color, these old-fashioned flowers, if you’ve got the time to care for them, can make a magnificent statement. 

They require high fertility, careful staking to keep them standing in rainstorms, etc. Give them space to spread out and ample air circulation. For more on this, check out this article.  



Feature Photo

Feature Photo: Hydrangea


Feature Photo at top of page: We selected hydrangea as our feature photo today because it not only is available in Pantone’s Very Peri color but is a favorite here on Long Island and easy to grow.  

More plantings available in this color choice are: hyacinths, verbena bonariensis, clematis ‘multi blue,’ nemesia denim blue, and, of course, one of our favorites — alliums! 



Landscaping: As Leaves Start to Fall, Think Spring!


Horticulturist, Sandra Vultaggio

Horticulturist, Sandra Vultaggio


Frankly, everyone loves the first sight of bright cheery flowers that tell us winter is finally over. Well, such welcome flowers grow from bulbs planted in the chilly weather of fall — late October and November.

For planting ideas, we spoke a while back with Sandra Vultaggio, Horticulture Consultant, who had some wonderful tips on planting bulbs.




When to Plant Spring Bulbs

Waiting until the soil temperature in fall has dipped to about 55°F is ideal. Usually this corresponds to overnight air temperatures cooling to around 40 – 50°F.


Which Bulbs to Plant in Fall

Deer-Proofing Your Garden 

Deer-Proofing Your Garden

“We have a considerable deer population on Long Island,” says our own Dave Stockwell. “And we agree wholeheartedly with Sandra who recommends choosing bulbs that the deer tend to avoid.”

Such plants she recommends includes daffodils, allium (ornamental onion), hyacinth, grape hyacinth and crocus. 

“And though not actually bulbs, you can venture into some of the other tuberous perennials like peony and tall bearded iris as well,” adds Sandra.




Grape Hyacinth: “We often use these beauties to make lovely edging to other spring flowers,” says Dave. 

Grape Hyacinth: “We often use these beauties to make lovely edging to other spring flowers,” says Dave.


Crocus: These delightful plants are often the first flower you see in spring. And they return year after year.  

Crocus: These delightful plants are often the first flower you see in spring. And they return year after year.


Best Soils for Bulbs

Sandra adds that bulbs grow nicely  in many different soil types. But the one site they don’t do well in is heavy, poorly draining soils. Ideally you should plant in soils that are organically rich, slightly acidic, well-drained “sandy loams or loamy sands.”


Spacing the Bulbs When Planting

If you are not using a landscaping firm like Deck and Patio to do the planting, it’s comforting to remember that all of the spacing information, etc. is provided as part of the growing instructions for each bulb. 

Planting depths even vary between varieties, depending on if you have a large “trumpet” variety, or the small ‘Tete A Tete’ varieties, says Sandra. Most bulbs will enjoy a sunny garden, but will usually perform well in a partially sunny garden as well.


Should You Compost

“Compost is not necessary to layer on top. If you feel your soil is lacking organic matter, you will be better off incorporating compost into the top 6” of soil before planting,” she adds. “Mix bonemeal or superphosphate with the soil at the bottom of the planting hole, or incorporate it into the soil around each bulb’s planting hole.”

What Tools Will You Need

As far as tools go, adds Sandra, to make the job easiest is to buy a bulb planter. “This is a metal garden gadget that you stick in the ground, pull it up and out comes a cylinder of soil. Place the bulb, right-side up into the hole, and cover back up with soil. If you don’t have a bulb planter, and garden trowel will do just fine.”

Short on time? Dig larger holes and place a few bulbs in each hole so the flowers come up in clumps, she says.


Ms. Vultaggio’s Spring Garden:   ‘Tete a tete’ daffodils brighten the horticulturist’s spring yard. 

Ms. Vultaggio’s Spring Garden:  
‘Tete a tete’ daffodils brighten the horticulturist’s spring yard.


Spring Flowers Inspiration:

Spring Flowers Inspiration:

We also asked Ms. Vultaggio what inspires her about spring flowers. She concluded today’s tips with: “Audrey Hepburn said ‘To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.’ I agree that when you plant this little brown bulb in the soil, you plant the hope that you’ll see it break ground and bloom in the spring.”


Tulips, Tulips, Tulips:  

Tulips, Tulips, Tulips:

Note from Deck and Patio: Ms. Vultaggio’s comment on Audrey Hepburn reminds us that one of the episodes on the actress’s series on world gardens covered tulips and spring bulbs.

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 — and that they are one of the horticulturist’s suggested bulbs.




By |2021-10-28T10:54:11-05:00October 28th, 2021|Backyard Maintenance, fall maintenance, Gardening, Landscape Planning, Landscaping, Outdoor Living, Seasonal Landscapes, Updating Landscape|Comments Off on Landscaping: As Leaves Start to Fall, Think Spring!
Go to Top