Monthly Archives: July 2014

The Benefits of Building a Retaining Wall

July Article 3 photoWith the heart of summer upon us, it’s the right time to get out of the city and spend some more time caring for your backyard here in the heart of the Philadelphia suburbs. Many back yards in our area could benefit from the addition of a retaining wall: a stone or concrete wall with a flower garden that gives backyards a beautiful and polished look.  Any back yard that is a little hilly, or that has a terraced look, is a likely prospect for this type of addition.

Here are four advantages of building a retaining wall.

1) Level Out and Reclaim Space

When you bought your home on top of a hill for a magnificent view of the valley, the struggles that go along with slopey landscaping didn’t come to mind. A slanted backyard makes maintaining an exposed garden difficult. Now that it’s the summertime, though, you probably want to make good use of your yard. A great way to do this is to build a retaining wall that will level out the land and easily contain your plant or flower beds.

On a practical level, a retaining wall is beneficial in that it prevents further downward slope movement. An even bigger plus of installing a retaining wall, however, is that your unused, hilly yard will be transformed into a landscaped oasis.

2) Keep Soil in Place

A retaining wall contains soil into a set spot, which prevents erosion. Without a protective stone wall, garden soil could shift around during storms, or worse yet, during flooding. In order for your retaining wall to functionally keep soil in place, it’s important that it’s constructed properly. You’ll need to make sure to check your local building codes before beginning construction, as digging under the lawn is required.

3) Reduce Maintenance  

When your garden beds are enclosed with walls, the time spent on maintenance of your backyard will automatically decrease. Additionally, retaining walls reduce weather-related upkeep by protecting soil and plants from water damage. So, think of a retaining wall as an aesthetically pleasing investment that is also the key to less landscaping maintenance in the future.

4) Lookin’ Good

When you install a retaining wall, your backyard will look so much better! The soil beds with purple irises and ferns surrounded by a natural stone wall will really enhance your backyard. The stone wall in particular creates a perfect outdoor ambience, as it appears less man-made than other materials do. Depending on personal preference and design vision, however, there are many options for the material of a retaining wall, including natural stone, wood timber, or concrete blocks.

From summer to winter, the organized patches of wall and garden beds will make your backyard look sleeker. Overall, the landscaped atmosphere of a retaining wall will really add value to your home.

 

 

How to Keep Your Summer Backyard Safe for Kids

Pool Landscaping Montgomery County PAAfter being cooped up in the house all year during the chilly winter months, kids can’t wait for summer to start. Usually, this means sandy days at the beach, sticky ice cream hands and painful sunburns. While it’s impossible to control everything that comes along with the hot season, your backyard can be a great option for summer fun and safety!

Have a patio area

A patio area really can transform a backyard. From creating a clear path to the pool or garden or making a designated space for the snack bar, it makes a difference.  According to the National Association of Realtors, most buyers would even pay extra for a house with a patio. It is a great option for adding seating to your yard and making a spot for an outdoor BBQ feast or a fire pit for s’mores.

Make sure your pool is child friendly

An inground swimming pool can make your house the place to be this summer among friends trying to escape the summer heat. Adding a fence around your pool is a key safety precaution and can make sure children enter with adult supervision. If you’re still building your pool, keep in mind having a shallow section and things like steps and railings for a safer dip in and out of the pool.

Relax in a shady spot

Once the sun is shining, most of us can’t wait to get outside and enjoy it, but it is crucial to have designated shady spots in your yard to take a break from the heat! A great option is adding a gazebo to the yard, a comfortable spot for sun-free reading or enjoying an ice pop. If you have a patio or outdoor seating area, an umbrella can also provide a refreshing and protected space. For the times when the pool can’t cool the family off enough, you may want to consider landscaping options like an arbor to provide some shade.

Keep it clean

Whether the kids are laying down looking at the clouds or running through the sprinklers, it is important that your backyard be clean for their summer explorations. Keeping up with routine lawn maintenance is essential for weed control and fertilizing. In order to keep the yard safe for kids, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends checking for dangerous or poisonous plants and keeping children out of the yard for 48 hours after using pesticides or herbicides.  Keeping the backyard safe for kids will make for fantastic summer memories and family fun!

How to Create the Perfect Lawn

Perfect LawnYou can’t get down to the nitty-gritty of landscape design before you cover the basics first. Step one: create the perfect lawn. We’ve got the tips for you to transform your lawn from patchy and withering to bright, green and ready-to-be-a-golf-course.

 

High Grass, Low Maintenance

If you’d really like extra-short grass, then you should go for it. But keep in mind that grass usually follows the same growing rule as hair: the shorter you cut it, the faster it’ll grow. There are probably other activities besides mowing the lawn that you’d like to fill your free time with, so follow the easy “one-third rule.” Cut about a third of the blade off each time to keep it neat and tidy and extend the time between mows.

The Art of Watering

More thought has to go into your watering process than you may think. The first rule of thumb is to water in the early morning and never in the evening. If your grass is wet for too long (like it would be if you watered it at night and it didn’t have time to dry before dewfall), it could gather diseases. You also don’t want to water too often – that causes thatch. Look out for the tell-tale signs that your lawn needs some H2O: a bluish tinge, hard soil, and/or footprints that stay put in the grass.

Weed Control

If you have a problem with broadleaf weeds (dandelions, clovers, or any weeds with leaves), you’ll want to go for a spot treatment method. This means for a couple of pests, bring out the pressure sprayer (mini-sized); for a patch, use a couple-gallon tank sprayer; and for a whole lawn, get a dial sprayer. Fill whatever you need with the correct herbicide. For longstanding grassy weeds, it’s a hands-on process. Get a non-selective plant killer, put on a cloth glove (and put on a rubber one underneath just in case) and get to work wiping the killer on the weeds. You can use a sprayer, but then you’ll kill everything – including your lawn.

Learn to Let Go

It’s quite possible that not every inch of your lawn is going to work easily with you. If there’s a patch that’s continually an eye-sore, it might be time to throw in the towel and use other landscaping methods to cover it up. Think shrubbery, trees, or an extension of the patio to cover the problem area and add a more attractive element to your masterpiece.

The B.L.U.E. Rankings: A Beginner’s Guide to Landscape Edging

Landscape Edging OptionsLandscaping comes with a paradox: no matter how many hours we spend encouraging grass growth, we often spend nearly as much time fighting it. After all, though a lush carpet of grass can be lovely, it’s far less charming when it’s choking our flower beds and driveways. Luckily, grass invasion has a quick fix. Not only does quality edging keep grass, soil, mulch and gravel where they should be, but it also helps landscapes look sharp and accentuates all their best features.

However, given the vast array of edging styles available, choosing just one can be difficult. With that in mind, we’ve summarized and ranked three of the most common types of edging. Even better, we’ve graded them based on four factors: beauty, longevity, upkeep, and expense. Read on for our recommendations, and use the B.L.U.E. factors to help you make your edging decision.

The B.L.U.E Rankings

3. Plastic Edging

Plastic edging is black, flexible, and affordable. However, while it can be attractive, we generally caution against DIY installations. Whether it’s installed upside down, not deep enough, or without stakes to protect against frost heave (a real concern in places like Montgomery, Chester and Bucks County), there’s a lot of opportunity for error. Additionally, because it’s a soft material, it’s often nicked during mowing.

Beauty: B

Longevity: C+

Upkeep: B

Expense: B+

2. Natural Edging

Natural edging, a narrow trench about 6 inches wide and deep, is unobtrusive and charming. For best results, the trench should be dug straight down on the outer edge, and on a slope on the inner edge. The downside: it needs to be tidied up at least yearly. The upside: with regular upkeep, a trench can last indefinitely.

Beauty: B+

Longevity: A

Upkeep: D

Expense: A

1. Flagstone, Brick or Concrete Edging

Edging made of earth-toned material like stone, brick or even concrete is an elegant and durable option- and while the basic materials and their gravel base make it initially expensive, it’s a long-term investment that won’t need to be refreshed for many years. Lay the outer edge flush with the ground for easy mowing.

Beauty: A

Longevity: A

Upkeep: A

Expense: C+

If the edging styles above aren’t quite what you were looking for, use the B.L.U.E. factors to consider materials like metal, wood, wattle, shrubs, mulch, or a variety of alternatives. Edging styles are as unique as the landscapes they complement. Use our handy guide (and your own rankings) to make the decision that’s right for you.

Creating the Right Pool For You

Pool Diving BoardDuring hot, humid summers like these you might feel like every time you go outside to absorb some vitamin D you end up drenched in your own sweat. An inground pool might be just what you need to create a yard that’s aesthetically appealing and entertaining for children and party guests. Before you get too excited and order a moat around your house with a wave pool in the back, though, there are a few things you ought to mull over.

 

Know the pros and cons of your material.

There are three types of materials used for building inground pools: concrete, vinyl and fiberglass. Concrete is the most durable of the three and has the most shape customization options, but it takes longer to install. It’s also the only type of material that allows you to alter your pool later on. Vinyl, on the other hand, is quick to install and has more color options. Fiberglass is more resistant to algae, and, like vinyl, may require less pool maintenance than concrete does if you’re building the pool somewhere with a lot of temperature variation.

Location can make or break your pool.

Wherever you decide to put an inground swimming pool is probably where it will stay. When you think you’ve found a good location for it, look for a better one. It’s definitely a plus if you’re able to see your pool from inside your house. Also, do your best to protect swimmers from unwanted debris like fallen leaves and mud by keeping flora away from the poolside and building the pool on high ground.

More customization options than you can shake a stick at.

No pool is an island. Lighting, steps, diving boards, slides, and a scale model of the Colossus of Rhodes in the deep end are a few ways to make the pool more fun for the family and make your friends jealous. Remember that fencing is required for safety and legal reasons, but it also protects your pool from winds that cause evaporation and teeth chattering.

Even with a team of experienced pool builders like us to guide you, designing a pool can seem like a daunting task. The more you understand the choices that go into the design process, the more confident you’ll be about conveying to us the pool of your imagination.

 

Steps to Make Your Patio Space Your Very Own

Landscaping, Skippack, PAIn Montgomery County, PA, it’s a beautiful 80 degrees. Now that summer is finally here, it’s time to embrace the heat and bask in our Pennsylvania sun. Comfortable and sleek outdoor space is exactly what you need!

If you already have a patio or deck and don’t enjoy the space, consider updating the area. If you don’t have a patio or deck, consider building one. Once you think about hardscape (the wood, bricks, etc. used to build your space), start focusing on the other ways that you can make your outdoor space comfortable, peaceful, and enjoyable. Here are five points to consider to make your space your own:

Patio Placement – If you’re still in the early stages of building a patio, consider carefully where you’d like to put it. Many assume patios should be right outside the back door or next to the deck. These locations are great, and are ideal for easily carrying food and cutlery in and out of the kitchen. If you have a bigger yard, though, you could think about putting a patio further away from the house. That way, you and your guests would be completely immersed in your backyard.

Patio Furniture – Furniture is one of the most important parts of outdoor space, so invest in furniture that will serve your patio’s purpose. If you want something cozy, think about a comfy wicker loveseat with some throw pillows and a small table so that you can prop your feet. If you’re planning on entertaining frequently, think about some bigger pieces, like an L-shaped couch and a table with space for food and beverages.

Patio Lighting – Sunlight is your lighting during the daytime, but what about at night? There are two major types of outdoor lighting: overhead and in-ground.

Landscape LightingAgain, think about how you want your patio space to be used. Low, in-ground lighting will provide a more intimate feel, while brighter overhead lighting is more suitable for large gatherings.

Patio Décor – As your patio starts coming together, additional décor starts to make it feel complete. A popular piece of patio décor is a fire pit, which is perfect for making s’mores during cooler weather, or for serving as a centerpiece for a get-together. You can also add a fountain to bring in the peaceful presence of water, or even a garden statue to showcase your appreciation for art.

Surrounding Greenery – While your patio is the central focus of your outdoor space, you’ll want to have an appealing view as you enjoy it. If you’re not happy with the greenery around your patio, spruce it up a bit! You can buy your own flowers and shrubbery to plant around your backyard, or you can hire a top-notch landscaper to complete your ideal outdoor space for you.

A good patio can make all the difference to your outdoor space. Hardscape lays the foundation, and details like furniture, lighting, décor, and surrounding greenery tie the space together.