Water Features Can Transform Your Backyard

How do you take a boring backyard and transform it into something special? Add a water feature. Water features can transform the ordinary into something incredible as well as hide road noise creating a peaceful and tranquil environment. So all you have to decide is what kind of feature you want. Here are some of the options.

Fountains
Garden fountains are one of the easiest water features to add to your yard. Most home improvement stores and garden centers will carry do it yourself kits. Choose from a large variety including stand alone fountains and those that hang on your wall. All you have to do to install it is position the fountain, fill it with water and plug in the fountains pump. If you want to get creative, you could even make your own fountain out of new or old pots, a little bit of plastic tubing and a small water pump.

Ponds
Ponds involve a little more work but are still easy to do in the hands of a competent do it yourself. Once again, kits are readily available from your home improvement or garden center. To put in a pond you will have to first dig a hole in a suitable location. Ponds are normally only a few feet deep but it is still a lot of work to dig out all of that soil. Next you will either line the hole with a flexible pond liner or insert a formed hard plastic liner. Then add rocks and a pond filtration system. After treating the water, you can then add plant life and even fish if you so desire.

Waterfalls
If you want more than a basic pond, you could try installing a waterfall. This installation is a little more complicated and you might want to consult a professional landscaper. It does take some experience to plan out the flow of water on a waterfall.

Waterfalls are also an excellent feature to add to an existing swimming pools landscaping. They will make an ordinary pool a sight to behold.
With all of the options, it can be hard to decide what type of water feature to add to your yard. Go over your options and choose the type that best fits your budget and your do it yourself experience level.

Landscaping Lessons – proper Placement of Trees In Landscape Design

Landscaping and landscape design goes beyond just creating beautiful designs. As a professional designer, it’s not only my job to create designs but also to envision every possibility of the mature landscape in years to come.

And while most elements will remain what they are for years to come, the one thing that most do it yourselfers and some professionals overlook is the space that tiny little sprouts will occupy when they become mature plants and trees.

Trees serve a number of obvious purposes in the landscape. Creating shade, wind blocks, noise reduction, boundaries, and focal points are just a few. Once I have established where I’ll need trees for these purposes in a design, I have several other considerations before I can designate their permanent home.

Planting without considering the space that the mature full grown plants and trees will occupy can become more than just an inconvenience. It can be costly.

Things to consider.

Around Play Areas
A shaded canopy over play areas, sand boxes, etc. may be desired for shade from afternoon sun. However, you need to consider the mess that birds and other critters will drop right into your childs’ play area if the canopy extends over it.

The solution to this is to place large shade trees a distance from the area in line with the travel of the sun. If you know the trees you plant and how far the mature canopy will extend, you can still plant for shade without exposing your kids to unsanitary conditions.

Around Pools
Keeping a pool clean is hard enough without a mess of leaves and branches. And while most pool areas are sunny locations, it is sometimes desirable to have a space near the pool where one can escape the sun.

Unlike play areas though, you may not want to shade the entire pool landscape from the afternoon sun. Therefore you shouldn’t plant large shade trees in direct line with the travel of the sun. Design as to create a shady area to one side or the other. This is also another spot to eliminate top rooting trees around concrete. Evergreen types are usually your best bet for around pools.

Roots And Concrete Footings And Foundations
While infrequent deep watering as opposed to frequent shallow watering will help deter top rooting trees, some trees are still determined to seek out other sources of water which may be on the surface or moist areas under structures.

The seeking roots of large trees are a powerful force that can break sidewalks, foundations, and even lift walls out of place. This is the biggest and most costly mistake I see. Know your landscaping trees before you plant them next to your home.

Under Power Lines
Know what’s overhead.

Property Lines And Easements
This one can make enemies out of neighbors.

Underground Utilities, Sewers, And Septic Tanks
Besides the roots being able to break pipes and lines, you don’t want to have to move or destroy a mature tree to fix a leak. Locate lines and plant away from them. Some trees can spread out much further underground than they do up top. Know whatís underground.

Perspective
You need to keep in mind the mature size of trees in proportion to the size of your home and other landscaping elements. Large trees can dwarf a small home and small trees can look like shrubs placed around a very large home. Know the mature size of trees and keep them in perspective.

Hiding or  framing a home
Consider the view from the street and other areas and consider the purpose of your trees. If you wish to seclude your home, you don’t need much thought for that. However, if you only wish to frame or accent your home, youíll again need to consider the mature size and placement of your plantings.

Parking Areas
Here’s another opportunity for birds and critters to make a mess of things. If possible, plant in accordance with the travel of the sun. And once again, know the mature canopy of your trees.

Usefulness And Cost Effectiveness
If you’re going to make an investment in landscaping, look for ways to make it work for you. Placed properly, large trees can shade your home and reduce your cooling costs and vise-versa. You can intentionally create shade for your shady garden, screen and divide areas, reduce noise, and a world of other applications if you just give it some thought.

Landscaping On A Tight Budget

It is possible to have an appealing, unique look to your yard without investing thousands of dollars every year in order to do so. Practicing some basic conservation rules can help you to save money and still make your yard look great.

One great new innovation that is all the rage is the art of xeriscaping. As water becomes ever more valuable a commodity, many homeowners are seeking to conserve their water costs by choosing plants that do not need very much water in order to survive. These plants are available in many different varieties, and they will add a splash of color to your yard while still saving you money. Know which plants tend to use a lot of water- cedar hedges, for example, are the landscaping equivalent of the sports utility vehicle. Don’t plant any if you are concerned about your water costs!

Another way to save money on water is to include a material in your planting that has good water retention qualities. Peat moss, for example, is very cheap. When you mix it in with the dirt and bone meal while planting your new flowers or hedges, any water that goes near the area will be soaked up and retained for later use as the plant’s needs dictate.

As with many other areas of budget concern, the best way to stay within your means when it comes to landscaping is to do the job yourself. This means everything, from picking your plants to weeding and pruning. With the information age in full swing, though, it is not hard to educate yourself well on all the different tasks specific to your yard.

When it comes to weeds, you are probably going to have to expect a few. If you wage a campaign against your weeds, and this is especially true of your lawn, you are going to end up spending a lot of money and time on various chemicals and treatments, processes which, in the end, may end up doing more harm than good. Be content with some weeds on your lawn, particularly if they have some aesthetic appeal, such as clover.

Donít be afraid to skip the nursery and buy your plants at a box store. A lot of the time, the plants you buy at a big store that carries many varieties of items will cost much less than those at the local nursery. These plants will not have been tended as carefully as the nursery plants, but with some care taken in the planting and tending, they will probably grow to the same levels in terms of appeal as will the plants which cost more but took less time initially in tending. Most do-it-yourself gardeners like to maximize their time outside anyway, so the extra attention these plants may need will help to increase the time spent on your hobby.

One of the best ways to keep a low budget in your landscaping is to limit your green space. Smaller lawns, and less flowers mean less materials needed for the upkeep. Watch what you use as your replacement, though- some types of landscaping rocks (such as lava rock) can be incredibly overpriced. Bark mulch is a fairly inexpensive option, but again, you have to be willing to invest a little extra time into its containment and maintenance.

A Few Little Landscaping Ideas

For the person who wants to give their garden a face lift they have some options available to them. These options will range from simply adding new plants and other garden accessories to your garden to hiring landscaping firms. You could look at some landscaping ideas before you begin any major sweeping changes to your garden however.

By looking at these landscaping ideas first you have the ability at hand of seeing what items you might like to have in your garden. These ideas will also let you see how you can reasonably change your garden (no matter how big or small) into one which reflects your personality.

One of the best ways to finding good landscaping ideas is to look at magazines which deal with this area of gardening. You can also get lots of ideas for a great looking garden from exhibitions which are sponsored by landscaping firms. As these places are always on the lookout for new clients they will have the most current ideas and trends featured in their exhibitions.

There may be instances where you will have the opportunity of buying items which can help you develop an idea around which your landscaping ideas can develop. As the key to a great looking garden depends on how all of the items in the garden meld together you will need to think about where all of the items should be placed before you start transforming your garden.

This is vital for your landscaping ideas to come out in the way that you want. You can solidify the look of the garden by sectioning your garden out. This sectioning out can be done on a piece of paper or you could use one of the many landscaping software programs. These programs will allow you to see how various ideas can be incorporated together.

As the program will give you a rough working idea it is even better if you look at each part of the garden and see how you can change the gardens look. Now if you feel like it you have the chance and ability of making sure that every bit of the garden shows some interesting item, feature or plant in the various seasons. This seasonal garden look is just one of the many landscaping ideas that you can try out.

There are many different landscaping ideas that you can try out. While many of these ideas may require you to spend loads of money there are others that you can try. These different landscaping ideas whether they are simple or complex ideas all have the same end goal in sight, and that is to make your garden look unique.

Landscape Design – Well Balanced Home Landscaping

Balance is a principle of all art forms, design, and even landscape design. It implies a sense of equality. And while there may be just a little more to it, this is how I explain it to make it easier for first timers and do it yourselfers to understand.

A garden, landscape, or any form of equal proportions would naturally feel and look balanced. However, most gardens and landscapes are not exact or symmetrical in shape and form. They’re asymmetrical and abstract in form and are often without any natural balance of their own. So landscaping often relies on other elements to create balance and harmony through unity.

Many times, a lack of balance is directly related to a lack of repetition. Repeating alike elements such as plants or rocks throughout the landscape will help unify different areas to each other. As little as one repeated matching plant group, color, piece of decor, or hardscape can accomplish this.

A lack of balance is also created by placing too many or all non matching elements throughout a landscape design. This can sometimes seem cluttered and unkept when it grows in. In the beginning of your design, plan for less, place just a few matching plant groups throughout the garden, and keep decor matching and to a minimum. You can add more later.

So many of the questions that I receive about landscape design deal with the shape of a design . Shape is unique to each design and will ultimately follow all necessary paths and your visions. However, any shape or form can be filled with elements and still be either dull, void, loud, cluttered, and unbalanced. Balance isn’t necessarily dependant on shape. It can be but generally it’s not. So don’t get too hung up on trying to even things out entirely by shape.

Landscape design is an art form and so it deals with “all” the same principles that other art forms use. Repetition, unity, and balance are all principles of art that go hand in hand with each other.

Architects use repetition in design by making doors, windows, fixtures, trims, etc. the same sizes, shapes, and styles. Imagine how your home would feel if every door, door frame, window, and fixture  were of different sizes, shapes, colors, and types. It would be uncomfortable and chaotic.

And so it’s the same with landscape design.

In order to create balance, appeal, and even comfort in a landscape that is lacking, we need to create some form of consistent repetition. As little as one matching element placed on opposites can create a sense of unity and consistency.

It’s easiest and most often created in the softscape (plants, ornaments, lawn, decor, etc.). However, it should be considered in the hardscape (walks, driveways, necessities, fences, walls, raised beds, boundaries, etc.) of your drawn design plan.

Landscape Can Drive Up Home Values

The look of your lawn and garden may be the first and perhaps the most lasting impression people have of your home and property. Landscaping plays an essential role in enhancing its beauty and increasing the value.

Fortunately, homeowners can turn their own landscapes into works of art at an affordable price.

In recent years, many companies have begun to introduce more varieties of bagged rock and mulch. A new line of decorative rock and stone from Vigoro offers landscaping enthusiasts 26 varieties of bagged products in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and colors.

Decorative landscaping stones and mulches are not only an excellent way to beautify and accent garden beds, ponds, driveways and walkways, they also provide natural benefits to the soil and plants. These benefits include controlling and reducing erosion, retaining moisture, controlling weeds and insulating the soil.

Here are a few tips on choosing and applying mulch:

  • Choose mulch that is long lasting and not easily washed away.
  • Pick mulch that has a loose structure to let water pass through quickly.
  • Apply mulch in late spring. This helps reduce soil temperature and save water.
  • Apply fine mulches one to two inches deep. Coarse or fluffy mulches should be put on three to four inches deep.
  • Apply mulch evenly and level it with a rake or your hands.
  • Wet thoroughly after applying mulch.
  • Pull mulch a few inches away from plant stems and tree trunks.

To further control weeds and keep plants healthy, there’s a new mulch called Vigoro Mulch with Weed Stop. It’s the first to contain pre-emergent herbicide, controlling unwanted weeds for up to four months yet allowing bulbs, established flowers, shrubs and trees to thrive. This mulch is certified by the Mulch and Soil Council as only containing natural forest products.

Japanese Gardens – Basic Design Questions That Should Be Addressed

As westerners, we are often compelled to try to control and plan all design aspects of what we want when constructing something. We try to anticipate every little detail so we don’t make a mistake. Although you will still need to organize and draw out your Japanese garden design, plus determine the shape of your landscape and what you desire for your garden, you should also allow yourself to “go with the flow” and let it “speak to you” as your garden takes shape. In other words, allow for improvisation and ideas to emerge rather than being rigid in sticking to your original design plan.

Before any work begins within the yard itself, a basic garden plan should be drawn up to help you formulate your ideas and the placement of elements. There are several questions you need to address to help with this process:

  1. Do you already have an existing garden in the area where you wish to incorporate a Japanese garden style? If so, what type of garden is it (flower garden, English garden, rustic wildflower garden, etc.)?
  2. Will you be able to integrate your current garden into the new Japanese garden plan? What aspects and features will remain and what will have to be moved, replaced or  removed entirely?
  3. What style of Japanese garden are you most interested in – tea garden, courtyard garden, stroll garden, pond and island garden, Zen rock garden or a combination of two or more? For very small areas, you will most likely stick to only one style. For those that have a large landscape, you can have your choice of any of the styles to suit your desires and landscape area.
  4. How large is the area of the site that you are considering using? Does it have natural hills and valleys? Are there any elements, such a stream, already present? Take a good visual view of your selected site and note down all the details on paper. Take measurements as well, so you know the exact area size you will be working with.
  5. What elements and features are important to you? For example, do you wish to add a waterfall, water basin, or a rock arrangement? Would you like one small area to feature a Zen garden? Is a stepping-stone pathway that leads to a gate appealing?
  6. Will you be building this garden by yourself or will you have help? The size, design and amount of work to create your Japanese garden will affect this answer. Obviously, building a very large stroll garden by yourself would take forever and be impractical.
  7. If you plan to use large boulders or plant more mature trees (rather than saplings), how will you get them into your garden? Is there room and access for large machinery to help with placement? Keep in mind boulders and large trees are extremely heavy.
  8. Will your garden be formal, semi-formal, or informal (rustic)?
  9. Many Japanese gardens are actually built around a theme. Do you have a theme in mind for your garden? An example of a theme would be a miniaturized version of “The Bridge To Heaven”, which is a marble and stone bridge that spans the famous Dragon Beard Ditch in China. This bridge was built over 600 years ago to allow the Ming and Qing emperors to cross over on their way to the Temple of Heaven. Your theme could even revolve around a smaller replica or area of an original famous garden of Japan. Read books and view photographs of existing gardens to get some ideas.
  10. What do you want to achieve with your garden? Will it be used primarily for meditation? Do you wish to incorporate a strolling pathway with new visual delights beyond each curve? Do you want the invigorating sounds of water, such as a waterfall or fast moving stream? Will it be a place to sit quietly and contemplate nature? Understanding the concept behind the garden design is important.

In conclusion, these types of questions should be contemplated carefully and answered thoroughly before you begin to put your design down on paper, otherwise you could end up with a garden that holds no meaning for you or your visitors. A Japanese garden should have a “reason for being.” What are your reasons?

Is landscape fabric absolutely necessary in landscaping?

Landscaping fabrics are by no means an answer to a no maintenance landscape. I know a lot of folks are under the impression that they can simply buy it, place it, cover it, and forget it. Forever.

First. There is no such thing as a no maintenance landscape. In many instances landscape fabric can make your life a lot easier. However, there is an upside and a downside to using it. And as with most everything else, proper installation and maintenance is required if you intend to use it.

Landscape fabrics have their applications. They aren’t necessary in all applications but might be preferred  in regards to the type of groundcover you use.

Our company uses weed barrier in 95% of the designs we create. It’s the nature of our business as we use decorative rock as the preferred groundcover around here. When using rock for groundcover and path work, it’s necessary to have a separator between the soil and groundcover. Otherwise, you’ll have mud rocks by the first rain storm.

In theory you should be able to use almost anything as a separator. I’ve seen do it yourselfers use anything from plastics to newspapers and cardboard boxes to old carpet remnants. Of course, as a professional, I can’t use or even suggest something like this to my clients. You’re on your own there.

Now personally, on any given project, I would much rather do away with fabrics altogether. I prefer to create living soil planting areas that are mulched and tended rather than being covered and forgotten. However, some areas are simply too large to apply this method and some folks just outright prefer to cover an area with decorative rock.

Both mulched living beds and rock beds underlain with fabric will require some work to keep them beautiful. Neither is maintenance free. As long as there is wind, rain dirt, and blown in seed, there will be something for you to do in your yard.

When we create a design using landscaping fabric and rock, I make the client aware of a few things. 1) There will be blown in seed and dirt. 2) Something will have to be done about it to keep it from accumulating. I assure them that with the quality of fabric we use, nothing will grow in from the bottom. However, we have no control of what blows in on the top.

Spraying the unwanted weeds with herbicide will take care of the weed problem. However, this does nothing for the dirt, leaf, and plant particles that are hiding under your rocks. And if you allow these to accumulate, they’ll continue to accumulate and you will never get rid of them. So periodic maintenance is required even if you do use landscaping fabric.

Periodically using a blower on your bedding areas will slow down the accumulation of dirt and in some cases eliminate it altogether. How easy and thorough this is depends a lot on the type and size of rock you use.

Small pea gravel accumulates and holds onto dirt, and is harder to clean than rock of a 1 Ω” + nature. Not only does it hold onto dirt but has a tendency to be blown all around when being cleaned with a blower. Pea gravel works well for paths, walkways, and smaller areas but I donít recommend it for covering larger areas.

As far as using landscape fabric under bark and mulch covered beds? In many cases this can actually be easier to take care of than living beds or rock covered areas as it can easily be picked up and replaced every few years. This will keep your landscape always looking new without having to blow dirt or mulch beds.

Remember. There’s no such thing as a no maintenance landscape. Landscape fabrics can make things easier in many applications but like everything else, they require a little bit of keeping up. No, they arenít necessary in all landscaping applications. However, I believe you’ll find them to be your best choice for many groundcover applications.

Lawn Mower Maintenance Tips

Lawn mowers need to be properly maintained so it will be able to function whenever you take it out of the garage. Here are a few maintenance tips you should know about that will be very helpful.

The best time to clean a lawnmower especially those that are powered by small gas engines is between the months of October and November. This is because fall is coming and if this is not drained, chances are this will not start when spring comes.

To do that, you should run your motor dry. If there is some gas in the tank, take it out and put this in your car’s tank. This will not cause any harm to your car and this is much better than throwing it away.

If you don’t heed this warming and leave gas all winter, you will have to deal with the sticky stuff resulting from the evaporation of the old gas. So just think, you can do this the easy way or the hard way.

A month or two before spring comes you should also consider an oil change for your lawn mower. You can do this by simply draining the old oil and then putting in a new one. Some people don’t change it annually but you should do so every two years.

The air filter of the lawn mower may also get clogged. Although it is not that expensive to replace, you can save money by cleaning it using a light brush or blowing through the holes using some air. That way you don’t have to change this for a new one and save money for something else.

Unlike the air filter, spark plugs have to be replaced regularly. You can buy these from the hardware store, open the lawn mower and replace these with new ones. Before you buy this from the store, be sure you know exactly what the plug specs are because certain brands use different kinds.

The mower blades will get dull over time and you have two options. First, replace these with new ones or sharpen it yourself. You just have to buy a blade sharpener and then work this at the correct angle. The nice thing about the sharpener is that you can also use for axes, hoes and shovels.

A lot of people tend to ignore the underside of the lawn mower. But did you know that this can also make you miss certain spots later on when you mow the lawn and also make it difficult to start the engine? This is why you should also pay some attention to the under carriage and you can clean it using a paint scraper.

It wouldn’t hurt to do take some preventive measures for your lawn mower knowing that the cost of a major repair will be much more expensive. By draining it, cleaning it and replacing a few parts, your lawn mower will be just as good as the day you bought it.

The lawn mower is the best machine to have so your lawn is cut evenly. In some neighborhoods, fines are imposed to those who do not follow these guidelines so if you want that to happen to you, make sure you lawn mower is in good condition all the time.

How to use Feng Shui outside your home

It is fun to decorate your own house but sometimes, simple decorating can even lead to a very bad Feng Shui. It is understandable that we like to decorate our house to reflect our mood and taste; however, we will like to let you know some of the basic points to cover when decorating your house. The suggestions below are not a complete list of Feng Shui in your home but merely some essential steps to improve the Feng Shui in your house.

First, go to your house’s main entry and stand facing out from your house. Make sure that there is no Poison Arrow pointing to your main entrance. Poison Arrow can come in many forms. It could be a straight road heading straight to your house or a big tree directly outside your house. If you are facing this situation, you should relocate your main door away from this poison arrow or simply just plant a few trees to block this poising arrow.

From the back door, if the land at the back of your house is higher, that is good for you because you have the support of the ‘Black Turtle’. If there is a hill behind your house, that is excellent. If the land behind your house is low, if you are on a hill top for example then you need to install a bright light and shine it upwards to lift the receding Chi energy. You should also place a tortoise at the back of your house if possible.

Looking out from your main door, the land on your left side garden should be higher then the right side. The left side symbolises Dragon and the right side represents Tiger. You should not let the Tiger be stronger then the Dragon or it will create problems for you in your house like arguing, family disagreement and so on. To rectify this, try to plant tall trees on your left hand side of the garden so the Dragon energy can be stronger then the Tiger. You should also plant a lot of leafy trees on the left hand side of your garden. Try not to have a garden water feature on your right hand side of your garden especially if you are married. By having water fountain on your side of the garden, it may cause a lot of married issues like sex scandals and third party relationships.

When you are opening your house main entrance door, there should be no mirror facing the main door. This is to prevent good energy, luck and wealth from flowing out again. It is also not good when your back door is facing the main door in a straight-line method. This has the same effect as a mirror. Good energy will flow into your house and then flow out from your back door. You need to capture this good energy in your house and donit let them flow out from your house..