Every homeowner desires a landscape perfect in form and function. A perfect landscape is a feast to both your own eyes and those of other beholders. But such an ideal landscaping project is easier said than done, especially when you have to build one from scratch. What landscape design is ideal for your particular type of neighborhood and home lot? Which varieties of trees and shrubs require less attention? What is the best layout of the plant beds?
Here are some of the important things to consider in landscaping. A compilation of the dos and don’ts can help you put up a landscaped yard that you can be proud and happy about for years and years to come.
The Dos start with planning. You need to have a plan to save on cost and effort on redesigning the landscape every now and then which becomes necessary when, say, a tree planted haphazardly obstructs the view from your window or the paving material on the walkway is washed out by the rains.
A key element of the plan is selecting the plants for your landscape. Make up your mind where to spend your money. Buying the smaller size of fast growing plants lets you spend more on larger, slower growing plants. Remember that plants, especially trees, grow tall and will crowd your house, obscure views from windows, and invite home maintenance problems like wood rot and insects later on. The idea is to plan for low maintenance. Think of how your landscape will appear from the curb outside. With the increasing popularity of outdoor living space, the backyard is getting a lot of attention lately but it’s the front yard everyone sees. So money spent on curb appeal is a good investment. This means that you have to stay ahead of the weeds. Letting weeds go to seed spells trouble in any garden. Take a little time each week to pull weeds that have popped up because it will pay off in the long term.
In the planning stage, take a cue from the surrounding area for plant selection and then follow natural access patterns throughout your landscaping. Make pathways at least 36” (1 meter) wide and use interesting textural and/or colorful elements for walkways, not plain stretches of concrete.
The DON’TS start with the need to avoid wandering, pointless curves in walkways. Don’t plant hedges or other plants too close to walkways. Doing so infringes on the comfortable space required when swinging arms, carrying packages, or other regular activities when walking up a path. Two feet of space is a good rule of thumb.
For the plants, don’t think in singles. A single plant can easily get lost in the garden. Think in multiples, preferably odd numbers. Creating swaths of color increases visual impact and reduces maintenance. Don’t force a focal feature such as a large flower bed or water feature where it doesn’t belong and looks out-of-place. Instead, let the layout of the land guide you.
Finally, don’t make visitors guess where to walk or which door to come to but rather, make the entrance to your home clear and inviting.
There is no limit to the design of deck landings homeowners can build to beautify their front yard. It all depends on your imagination, your local building codes and the purpose for which you intend to use the residential deck landing. A great option is a deck landing with a permeable walkway. If your deck is low to the ground, you have many design options for its stairs. Because low decks require only one or two steps, building codes may not require railings or landings. You may decide to set the stairs at an angle at a corner of the deck using wide steps to give the deck a contemporary look. To heighten this effect, incorporate several angles for the same set of stairs or add an additional set of stairs off another corner of the deck.
If the deck is high above the ground, railings and landings will be required according to building codes. One design idea is to use a landing to mark a change in the direction of the bottom portion of the stairs. If you use this design option, ensure the bottom portion of the staircase is not under the deck for safety. Another design idea is to create a wide walkway with permeable pavers.
Permeable walkways may be built using different building materials but these must be sustainable and allow water to flow through their surface. While other non-porous materials direct water to storm-drains, these surfaces help ground water recharge by allowing water to flow into open spaces between the materials. These porous materials also filter pollutants and solids from the water as it percolates through the surface. Permeable paving is becoming more popular among home and business owners in the past couple of years due to the innovative methods to save water. This paving option doesn’t just look good; it’s beneficial to our environment.
Consider permeable paving in large walkways or driveways and make sure that a 6-inch gravel bed is immediately below the porous material. From the top down there are four layers to permeable paving. Each of these different layers acts as a filtration system to clean storm water. The least expensive permeable paving material is crushed stone. Typically either decomposed granite or gravel can be loosely packed on top of leveled soil. Rainwater will easily be able to pass between the small pieces of stone. This is good for walkways and possibly driveways.
Ground reinforcement grids are also now available for installing permeable paving. These reinforcement grids are a mesh that assists you while installing to plant or fill in spaces in between the material, giving the paving a structure. Likewise ideal are plastic mats with cells, which are usually in the shape of circular or hexagonal cells that allow for planting or porous material between the cells.
Grass pavers are another form of permeable paving. A walkway made of grass pavers will closely resemble a lawn. Open cells within the pavers are filled with dirt and then planted with grass seed. These pavers are especially suited for residential driveways because they are designed to carry heavy loads.
Deck replacement and raised patio is about making your landscape looking good in general. Ideally, you have to replace damaged decks and raise your patio from time to time to make your front a sight to behold and expensive repairs later on. Here are some tips provided by landscape contractors to make your deck and patio look perpetually new.
Dings, scratches and stains are the most common things you’ll need to repair on your deck, and ease of repair varies widely depending on the materials you use. For certain types of decking materials, pressure-treated wood, cedar or redwood are recommended: These types of wood are remarkably easy to work with when you get a scratch or gouge on the surface. All you need to do is sand the boards until the stain, scratch or gouges disappears and then re-stain, paint or seal the deck to give it a finished look again.
Tropical hardwoods are so dense that they rarely have significant scratching issues. However, the wood reacts with any metals that aren’t stainless steel, so if your patio furniture doesn’t have a protective cushion on the foot or if other types of metal rest against the deck surface, the wood can develop unsightly black oxidation stains.
Many of the older composite materials have a brushed surface which makes sanding out any scratches easier. But these materials do not resist stains as well as newer capped composite materials. So if you have a stain that won’t come off with either soap and water or a specialized solution such as Corte*Clean Composite Cleaner, your last option is to flip over the board to the other side, or replace the board.
Many of the newer capped composite decking materials are exceptionally resistant to scratches and stains, so this isn’t an issue you should have to deal with often. But dropping a heavy item such as the claw head of a hammer can create a gouge, and dropping anything that’s very hot can also mar the surface by melting it. TimberTech, a composite manufacturer, recommends the use of a clothing iron on small scratches, to re-melt the plastic and smooth the surface. If more serious intervention is needed, board replacement is next, because most capped composite boards are one-sided.
Regular maintenance of your deck is really important not only for aesthetic reasons, but also to keep it structurally sound and free of slippery mold or algae. Most types of wood decking require cleaning and either staining or oiling every one to two years, while composite decking requires little care beyond cleaning to continue looking sharp. The cleaning and care process is different for each material.
Pressure-treated wood, cedar and redwood are types of wood decks that require the most maintenance. The best way is by cleaning, lightly sanding, and staining or sealing every one to two years. It’s also important not to let leaves or other debris pile up on your deck, since that can make deck boards slippery and encourage rot. While pipe and other tropical hardwoods are dense and strong, they still need regular maintenance just like other types of wood. You can try pressure washing, and then oiling the wood yearly to keep the color of your deck bright.
After three or four years, your once beautiful landscape project will inevitably turn into an eyesore and a liability. There’s no escaping this problem. Perhaps the pavers on the walkway become uneven or the gaps between the pavers grow wider and unsightly. Worse, your entire patio may now be leaning towards your home causing rainwater to slowly erode its foundation.
This happens to every home with a landscape attraction out front even if the landscape work was done by a good contractor. Blame it on the elements and the wear and tear brought by time as a matter of course. So it behooves upon the homeowner to look for landscaping repair and restoration. In case the landscape contractors you originally got made a shoddy job, the imperative is for you to find a team that can repair the mistakes done on your yard.
The team you need is one that can move in quickly to properly level pavers, support retaining walls, rebuild features, and everything else to make a landscape look good again. Such landscape repair and restoration undertaking must include proper base preparation and compaction, the adding of edge restraints, joint sanding and many other services that may be needed to make your landscape or hardscape stand up to the test of time. See that the landscape repair team is very passionate about the quality of service it offers to homeowners and it shows in their workmanship.
A landscape repair and restoration effort has to cover the paver patio, walkway, driveway and any outdoor living space that had gone seedy with time. The landscape contractor needs to make the pavers or walls level and closed the gaps in the pavers where unwanted weeds have begun to grow. Most of all, the contractor will replace the patio, walkway or driveway that is now sloping back towards your house, forcing water to your walls and foundation. In re-leveling your pavers or walls, see that the contractor makes sure that everything is up to industry standards as set by the Interlocking Concrete Pavement Institute for pavers and National Concrete Masonry Association for your walls and steps. This includes proper base preparation and compaction, to edge restraints, joint sands, and more. There are possible bonuses such giving clients a long-lasting, maintenance-free paver patio, walkway, or driveway that they can enjoy and be proud of.
When the landscaping repair and restoration job is done, the common procedure is for the contractor to give you a warranty on their workmanship for at least three years. That’s for your assurance that the contractor did not pull a fast one on you, which sometimes happens in this business. The best contractor is one that offers paver cleaning and sealing for those hardscapes in need. Typical applications for this service are areas where there are grills, and driveways where grease and oils are dropping on the pavers.
Some people really enjoy the look of pavers when they are wet. Some contractors also provide such extra as cleaning and sealing your pavers with a wet look application that does just that.
Ross, the President of Garden Square Landscaping, Inc., has enjoyed the design and build aspects of a landscape construction company here in Southern Chester County for 20 years. A member of the Kennett Square Lions Club, Ross gives back to the community. Ross attended the University of Delaware and is a member and certified installer of ICPI and NCMA. In addition to this as a certified instructor for both organizations he has the opportunity to instruct contractors, manufacturers, and distributors across the United States. Ross lives and works in Kennett Square with his wife and 2 children.