Author Archives: kraken

Landscape Lighting

Landscape lighting can help deter criminal activity. Criminals enjoy the dark, they can strike under the cover of darkness without risking being seen or identified, not to mention it gives them the fear factor advantage. It can be terrifying to be attacked in the dark. Landscape lighting can provide enough light to deter a criminal from approaching you or your property in the dark. The additional safety elements which landscape lighting provides are truly worth way more than the cost of professionally installing landscape lighting.

Safety elements aside, landscape lighting can provide a very attractive beautification to your home or business property, which we all understand can increase the overall value of housing and business properties. When something is beautiful to look at, people tend to appreciate it a bit more. Landscape lighting is able to enhance your home’s value and your business’ overall popularity. Whether you live there or work there, your property can be the envy of the neighborhood with quality landscape lighting introduced into the overall beautification of your property.

Landscape lighting can make your property more identifiable. When your home is tastefully lit up with the help of landscape lighting, your home becomes easier for friends and family to identify. Your neighbors will also appreciate the special added quality your landscape lighting will provide. Your business becomes more readily identifiable to potential clients. Every time a client drives around frustrated because they can not locate your business, you lose money the instant they give up and return home or head toward a business they may feel is less equitable but they are already familiar with.

Landscape lighting attribute a sense of pride to your property. With beautification via landscape lighting, you are sending a clear message that you care about your home and that you care about the quality of the neighborhood you live in. The more people in a single neighborhood that represent their properties with pride and beautification, the more upscale the neighborhood becomes. Sometimes, it just takes one person to beautify their home to inspire the rest of the neighborhood to follow suit. A sense of pride that flows throughout a neighborhood is likely to increase the value of the neighborhood, regardless of how initially upscale or down scale the neighborhood starts off.

Having landscape lighting installed is not an invasive process. A qualified landscaper with ample landscape lighting expertise can install your new landscape lighting with relative ease, and since most of the work the is required, sometimes all, can be completed from outside, there is no need to move furniture, rearrange a room, or even alter your daily life.

Well placed landscape lighting is simply practical. Who wouldn’t be more comfortable walking around outside their home or business, whether it’s to their car or out to the mailbox, in better quality landscape lighting. With the additional light, you won’t be chased inside with the sun any longer. Picnics outside are more fun when they have the freedom to end naturally, not by the time of day. Burgers, hotdogs, and crab feasts are always better with family, friends, and a night of serious camaraderie. Peaceful nights on the patio are always better when there is some nicely accentuated landscape lighting illuminating your experience.

If you are interested in just exploring the possibility of landscape lighting, it is recommended that you contact a qualified landscaper to talk about your landscape lighting options. Not all landscapers can handle landscape lighting jobs, so be sure to research your choice of landscaper before committing or allowing them to install your landscape lighting. Beautiful landscape lighting can really light up your property in an attractive manner, improper landscape lighting is bound to cause headaches. Make sure that your landscape lighting expert is truly and expert before hiring. Installing landscape lighting should be an enjoyable process from beginning to end, and the end result should be a phenomenal improvement to your property.

Swimming Pool Landscaping

Plant Choices for Swimming Pools

Plantings soften the lines of swimming pool equipment, provide privacy, and help the pool area blend in with the rest of your home’s landscape. For a low-maintenance swimming pool landscaping design, broad-leafed evergreens, ornamental grasses, and ground covers are the best choices. One or more trees on the south side of the pool can provide shade on hot days without blocking the sun on cooler days. When you’re looking for swimming pool plants, avoid deciduous trees, plants that attract bees, bear fruit, have thorns or prickles, or develop invasive root systems that could damage the pool.

Fences for Safety and Privacy

If you’re going to have small children or curious pets around, a fence is vital for safety reasons. Being able to lock up the entire pool area gives you peace of mind and could save lives. The right fence design can also provide privacy. A full privacy fence is usually six feet or higher, with boards arranged in an overlapping, shadow box, or tongue-and-groove pattern. If you prefer semi-privacy that lets air and light pass through, consider a lattice or basket-weave fence.

Windbreaks and Baffles

Even a light breeze can steal warmth from a pool area. Fortunately, you can redirect chilly air currents by building a windbreak or baffle. First, start by identifying the wind currents in your yard and then use this information to decide where you’ll need to place the fence/baffle for greatest efficiency. You don’t have to use a solid wall or fence for this; dense shrubbery can also provide good protection.

Swimming Pool Lighting

Outdoor lighting is another safety feature every swimming pool landscaping design needs. At a minimum, lights should be added to the pool’s deep end, on the steps, and around the perimeter. While incandescent and halogen quartz pool lights of both 120-volt (at 300 or 500 watts) and 12-volt (at 100 or 200 watts) are still on the market, fiber optics last longer and provide better lighting.

Patios and Decks

The right paving and decking assures a safe, slip-resistant surface that’s easy on bare feet. Pavers may cost more than bricks and concrete, but they’re a better option for a swimming pool landscaping design. Not only do they allow for different patterns and colors, but they also move, rather than crack, with the ground’s movements, so they’ll last longer. Ordinary brick can work, but make sure the bricks you choose have somewhat rough surfaces, so they provide some traction. In any case, avoid using wood. When exposed to water, wood can splinter and warp over time and it’s slippery for bare feet.

Ornamental Grasses

Blue Oat Grass

Without a doubt, Blue Oat Grass is one of the most popular ornamental grasses for fall landscapes. The large, densely blue colored foliage is attractive year round, but also provides beautiful flowers from June to August. While Blue Oat Grass does well in most mild to moderate climate zones, it is also fairly drought tolerant, only needing water every 1-2 weeks. For these mild to moderate climate zones, Blue Oat Grass can also make a great winter landscape choice as well.

Fountain Grass

Another large ornamental grass, Fountain Grass is another favorite choice of gardeners who prefer ornamental grasses for fall landscapes. Fountain Grass produces beautiful green foliage through the year, but the grass turns a golden yellow in the fall, adding to your fall landscape. This large ornamental grass can reach anywhere from 1 to 3 feet at full maturity. Keep in mind that this is an excellent summer landscape choice as it also offers beautiful white to purple flowers that will last until early winter.

Big Bluestem

A beautiful, tall prairie-like ornamental grass, the Big Bluestem can reach up to 8 feet in height, so be very careful where this ornamental grass is planted. The Big Bluestem truly is one of the perfect ornamental grasses for fall landscapes as the flowers wait until late summer or early fall to bloom and the fall foliage is also a vibrant orange color. Throughout the rest of the year, the foliage remains a bluish-green. While it does not have much presence throughout the winter months, it will begin to regrow in April and become beautiful again by the early summer months.

Feather Reed Grass

A wonderful, medium sized plant, growing 3 to 5 feet at total maturity, Feather Reed Grass is another favorite among ornamental grasses for fall landscapes. This is also a favorite year round plant that grows well in almost any climate zone, although it may grow smaller in extremely warm climate zones. Flowers will occur in the mid summer months, a white to red color and will change to a beige color in the fall and into the winter months. Keep in mind that the wonderful temperament of this plant means that it can withstand excessive watering, sun or even lots of shade.

Pond Liner Defects

First of all, the reason you find thousands of pond liner advocates on the web and only a handful of professional concrete and rebar pond builds is just one simple reason: Greed. You are thinking, “Good grief, this dude is radical!” You want radical? How about this: I will give you $5 for every website that promotes and sells liners and does mention all the negative aspects of liners, compared to concrete and rebar pond construction. You, however, must pay me only $1 for all those pond liner websites who are dishonest and do not mention that the factory warranty only covers factory defects, not damage from tree roots, gophers, ground squirrels, chipmunks, rats, mice and kids with sharp objects, not to mention liner installers who do not know what they are doing.

In addition, do those websites that sell inferior, intermittent (rather than continuous use), energy-sucking sump pumps with one-year warranties tell you that you will need to pull the pump out at least once a week to clean it? An executive at Aquascape, Inc., once admitted, “…how would a customer react if he knew the truth, that they would have to pull their pump twice a week to clean it?” [Quoted from Water Garden News.] They even sell you expensive water leveler devices because they haven’t tried the new aquafills on the market.

I recently had someone argue with me about the difference in cost between a liner pond and waterfall, and a professional concrete one. A customer was given two bids: one for a liner pond for $12,000 and another for a professional concrete pond for $18,500. How can you justify a difference of $6,500? he asked me. Here’s how:

1. The project consisted of a 6 ft. waterfall cascading over a retaining wall. The liner proposal involved spilling over the top wall, which would require raising the liner on both sides to hold water. The professional approach was to notch the wall down by 3½”, tying the rebar for the waterfall into that of the wall. The waterfall would be coming through the wall rather than over the top, which is much more natural looking. The professional concrete and rebar construction carries a 30-year warranty and the liner guy only offered one year.

2. What if, after all those boulders are set in place with a bobcat, and the back and side yards are completed (meaning no more access for a bobcat), the liner springs a leak from the pressure of heavy boulders, tree roots, rodents, rats, mice, gophers, ground squirrels or chipmunks? Let’s say the hole is in an area where a boulder needs to be removed in order to patch it, how do you move it? And where is the leak? And is there more than one leak? See my point?

3. What will it cost, even if it could be done, to remove all the rock and boulders, patch the leaks, and rebuild the waterfall and pond? Less than $12,000? What if the client does not trust the patching idea and decides to rip everything out and do it right with concrete and steel? How will he get the bobcat in? See the point now?

Creative Landscaping With Plants

Green plants not only serve as a color element just as any other color, but can also be used as a neutral transitional color that ties other elements and colors together. Or in other words, as a filler or where one area of the garden transitions to the next. Natural transition is very important in garden design.

I was reminded the other day as I spoke with a client of how so many people actually overlook green as actually being a color design element in garden and landscape design.

As we talked about her project I pointed out that we now had four colors in her plan and that we needed to repeat them throughout the design to create some balance. Remember, balance and repetition are principles of landscaping. She questionably stated that we only had three colors in her design.

At first I was puzzled but soon understood what she meant. Green isn’t really a color. It’s just the medium that holds the real colored parts in place.

Now if we looked at green as just being a neutral medium, I might be able to go along with this. However, as a designer, I see it in a much different way. There are many shades of green that hold many different textures that can create such wonderful contrasts that can de designed with.

Some of the most vibrant and lush gardens I’ve ever seen have simply displayed this one color in many variations. Light greens, dark greens, yellow greens, etc. And I haven’t even touched on texture here. Even the same shade of green in different textures creates a wonderful contrast for designing purposes.

Try and picture the lushness and beauty of a dark jungle. Their beauty and contrast are generally created by the variations of shade and texture and not bright colors. Shady gardens that resemble a deep forest or jungle are absolutely beautiful in their own right.

Landscape Drains

The first thing that you want to remember when it comes to landscape drains is that you should have them put in as soon as possible, hopefully as you are installing whatever items you decide on. The biggest mistake that many homeowners make is that they wait until after they get the landscaping in to even start thinking of the drainage system that will be needed. By doing this, you may notice that after a long rain your yard has become completely saturated with water. You must remember that lawns can sometimes act like a sponge. This basically means that after your yard absorbs a certain amount of water, it will not be able to handle anymore until the “sponge” is dried out.

Having the right drain in place before you have to deal with this situation is obviously the best way to prevent it. Landscape drains will act as a way of diverting the water away from your yard, and channeling it elsewhere. The way that this is done is by strategically placing drains that will lower the water down and away from your landscape.

When you are installing any landscaping drains you will want to make sure that they remain hidden, to not detract from the image your yard is portraying. The best way of doing this is by taking all of the available options into consideration, and then figuring out which one will work best with your specific landscaping layout.

If you are looking for an excellent solution you might want to consider French drains. These landscape drains add a nice touch of quality to the outlying borders of your property. Another type of drains that are quite popular are ones that reside below the surface. These sub surface drains are installed so that after the job is complete, you will never be able to see them again. This is a wonderful option if you want to install a drainage system, and then never have to think about it again.

Landscape drains offer many positives to any home owner. In addition to the methods that they use to rid your yard of excess water, these drains will also help to cut back on the amount of moss that will grow due to moist conditions. And don’t forget that by having a good drainage system you will cut back on the chances of your basement being flooded during heavy storms.

About Outdoor Fireplace Landscaping

The flexibility of masonry materials adds considerably to the fun of working with them; you can be imaginative and creative when tackling outdoor fireplace landscaping. A concrete slab does not have to be a hot prairie playground; the surface is not limited to “smooth” or “rough”; the color is not limited to cement gray. Brick and masonry units, thanks to new developments, are no longer prosaic, uninspiring building materials.

The truth about an amateur project is that the results can be every bit as good as a job done by a professional. Both in appearance and structurally, the job you do can rate A-l on the building inspector’s card. There will be a difference in time due to the fact that the pro can work faster, but the amateur need not worry about .speed–the end result is more important than the time needed to accomplish it. The mixture for concrete, actually an artificial stone, consists of a blend of fine and coarse aggregates, each piece of which is completely surrounded and held to its mates by hardened Portland cement paste. A chemical reaction, which occurs ideally due to favorable temperatures and the presence of moisture while curing, causes the paste to harden. The water to cement ratio is probably the most important factor as far as the strength of mix is concerned. Too much water will result in a thin, diluted cement-paste that will be weak and porous when it hardens. It will not bond the aggregates nor will it be watertight. The correct water-cement paste, and this is important, produces a mix with maximum strength which is necessary for outdoor fireplace landscaping. The amateur will often use more water than necessary because it makes a more fluid mix that flows easily into the forms. Such a project may look O.K. to begin with (although there will probably be finishing problems due to excess moisture), but it will eventually be discovered to lack strength and durability.

Home Garden Decor

Decorate with pumpkins. I love to decorate with pumpkins because they offer so much flexibility and are fairly inexpensive. Small pumpkins can line stair steps or be placed along porch railings. Larger pumpkins can be carved or hollowed out and have candles placed in them. A large pumpkin can be placed in a corner of a porch or deck by itself to perk up a bare corner. You could also make a collection of gourds and pumpkins. Combine several different sized pumpkins or gourds on a hay bale. Try to keep things at varying heights to make it more visually interesting.

To continue with the fall theme use fall color leaves to make tabletop displays, garlands, or wreaths. Place fall colored foliage along porch railings and on end tables. I like to make my own wreaths using elements from nature like pine cones or twigs and branches. Grapevine wreaths are a perfect accessory for the fall. Baskets full of colored leaves or even burlap sacks filled with leaves and tied with a matching bow can be a wonderful corner accessory.

Other ways to inexpensively accessorize your outdoor decor include fall seasonal flags, door mats, or table top decor. Visit the dollar store for baskets that you can fill with pine cones, apples, or small pumpkins. For a fragrant touch, add a cinnamon broom or a pumpkin spice candle to an enclosed porch or patio.

Teakwood Garden Furniture

Indonesian teak garden furniture is a great place to start for your outdoor improvement project. Dining tables with matching chairs are very useful additions to your patio. Once you decide on the size of your table you can choose chairs with or without brass hardware. Brass is used in the construction of folding teak chairs because it will never rust. This makes the chairs easier to recline, fold and unfold, and can also help create a more intricate design. Teakwood chairs can also be made without hardware and they are just as durable. Teak patio furniture is the best investment for your outdoor garden and living space.

Teakwood is very simple to care for because the high oil content of the wood makes it very resistant to the elements and many owners leave their furniture outdoors all year. Teak oil can be used once a month to retain its luster and you can find it at your local home improvement center at minimal cost. It can be applied with a soft cloth and rubbed into the wood to produce a natural shine. You should oil your teakwood if it is outside on a regular basis to keep the nice light brown color. But, if you choose not perform a monthly application to your teakwood it will still retain is strong structure. Teakwood that is not maintained with teak oil will turn a beautiful silvery gray giving it a more rustic appeal. Furniture that is kept indoors and is oiled a few times a year will maintain a light brown color.

The tight grain and high oil content of teakwood make it resistant to the forces of Nature that can destroy other outdoor furniture. It can withstand wind, rain, and sunlight without warping, shrinking or rotting. Lawn furniture can make a dramatic improvement to your outdoor space when choosing furniture made from teak wood. You may start off with a simple teak garden bench and then add to your outdoor collection when both you and your budget are ready. But whatever you choose for your teak garden furniture it will be an investment that will last you a lifetime.

Lawn Tractor

Lawn Tractors = Small Tractors

If you need a tractor for different kinds of farmwork for less than 2 acres, then a farm tractor is the best choice for you. You can greatly reduce your manual labor, due to the many attachments that are available for lawn tractors. You will find that this can help you keep your garden in tip-top condition in much less time. In most cases, a lawn tractor up to a maximum of 7-10 HP will also have a ZTR (zero turning radius) feature to help you when working in a smaller field.

The Versatility of Lawn Tractors

Versatility is a major benefit of lawn tractors. Some of the jobs that can be completed by lawn tractors include hole digging, lawn rolling, tilling, mowing, and many other jobs. The power take off spindle makes these jobs easily possible. That is why lawn tractors are a gardener’s best friend.

Purchasing A Lawn Tractor

Choosing and purchasing a lawn tractor is much like buying an automobile. The optional accessories increase the prices of both a car and a lawn tractor. That is why you want to choose your lawn tractor and accessories wisely to ensure that you will use the ones that you are purchasing. You also want to ensure that you can try the lawn tractor in the showroom to ensure that you can attach and remove the accessories with very little effort. Test-drive the lawn tractor to make sure you can get in and out of it easily as well.

Price of Lawn Tractors

There is a large price range in lawn tractors. A smaller lawn tractor can start at $900 and go up to $6000. The Bolen 762F76 is a basic model and it is available for just under $900, while the John Deer Spin-Steer SST-16 is approximately $3300. A Poulan Pro PK1845H42ST is about $1400. These costs are for the tractor without any accessories. Accessories can make the cost greatly increase. A canopy starts at $110 and a collection bag for grass is around $300. A cart can run you anywhere from $110 to $220, depending upon the size. Now you see how the costs can quickly add up. If you are planning to use the lawn tractor for mowing 1/2 to 1 acre, then you may want to choose a stand behind lawnmower for around $350, instead of a lawn tractor.

Safely Using A Lawn Tractor

Lawn tractors are designed with a low center of gravity and that is why there is very little possibility of the lawn tractors tipping over. It is important to use the following safety precautions, regardless of the little possibility of them turning over.