What's Up Blog - Green Spaces Landscaping
Oct 29

Wild- Life Friendly Water Features

By Audrey | How to Guides

Ryan Smith of Redfin explains the many choices you have when creating a wild life friendly yard by adding a source of water for our animal friends.  Habitat destruction is the main challenge for wild life.  We have to learn to co-exist as all types of animal encounters are increasing due to habitat loss as animals struggle to survive in a world we are rapidly changing.  A link to the original article is at the bottom of the piece.  

If you’re looking to upgrade your backyard garden or patio, consider the addition of wildlife-friendly water features. A small or large wildlife-friendly water feature will attract animals that will keep your backyard landscape flourishing. It can also be a delightful and mesmerizing centerpiece for your garden and a source of entertainment for your family and visitors. These water features don’t have to fully replicate a natural one but can be designed and shaped to look modern and contemporary. Most importantly, the water features should aim at attracting wildlife of all varieties, creating food sources, potential shelter, and protection for fauna.

When thinking of backyard water features, many assume that it’s a complicated and expensive affair, but this is far from true. A water feature doesn’t need to be a huge landscaped pond, an overflowing towering fountain, or an expensively constructed wall of water. It can be as simple as filling a small dish sunk into the ground, providing the wildlife animals with the essentials that they need.

Here are some backyard water features that will encourage the presence of wildlife:

Create a Shallow Drinking Hole

All living things need to drink water to survive and the cheapest and most simple option to bring water to the garden is a shallow drinking hole. This provides a vital drinking reservoir for wildlife animals. All that is needed is a little sand, a large plant pot dish, and some inspiration. Use a clay dish because it is more aesthetically pleasing than plastic, though using such a porous material will mean that the dish will require filling more often.

Find a dish approximately 30 to 50 cm in diameter and between 5 and 10 cm in depth. Then, scoop out an area of soil so that the rim will lie perfectly flush with the soil surface. A tiny amount of sand in the hole will prevent stones or other sharp objects from puncturing the dish. Additionally, planting around the surrounding area will allow creatures to approach the watering hole with the safety of cover. Smaller plants look best due to the dish’s small size. For example, heucheras, hostas, and even small ferns will create a beautiful looking oasis that will instill intrigue and mystery into the garden.

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Use Bird Baths to Attract Wildlife

A bird bath is another excellent wildlife-friendly water feature idea. The birds will come in large numbers since they love to splash and play in the water. A bird bath is also easy to install and comes in all sorts of sizes and materials. Bird baths encourage wildlife animals to come to your backyard as well as birds that are native to your region. Stone and concrete baths are the most popular. A visit to a local cement/stone yard provides the best assortment and choice. For the colder climates consider a bird bath heater. This device keeps the temperature of the water just above freezing and gives birds a place to drink when all other water around them is frozen solid

However, a simple and easy bird bath that feathered friends will both drink from and use to keep their plumage in tip-top condition can be made at home.

A shallow dish bird bath can be constructed using only a large clay pot, a metal dustbin lid and a small bag of pebbles. Place the dish away from overshadowing trees and turn the dustbin lid upside down. Then, rest it on the pot so that it’s sturdy and can hold water. After that, tip the pebbles into the dish for both looks and weight before filling with clean water. A bird bath, in particular, will need its water regularly changed. This is because it will not only provide a drinking source for birds but will also help them rid their feathers of oils and dirt. With careful maintenance and the provision of food, all kinds of winged creatures will flock to the garden for food, drink, and bathing.

Create a Backyard Waterfall

A waterfall is a very appropriate feature to include in a wooded, rocky area of your backyard. The waterfall size depends on the scale and space of your garden. It can be built to give quite a realistic effect. By using larger stones and smaller pebbles and rocks of varying size and color, you can create a visually stunning effect. A small water pump, filter, and re-circulating pipes are also required to build the waterfall. Aquatic plants such as lily pads and some koi fish or goldfish can then be introduced to attract more wildlife animals. The water pump helps keep the water circulating and well-aerated for the fish to thrive and multiply.

Waterfalls can be tricky to install as the running water needs a well-designed and watertight path for worry-free, continuous operation. Consulting a professional landscaper with experience is the wisest choice. Waterfalls are wonderful addition to an otherwise simple pond. It can even be an even more fabulous addition to a swimming pool. A wildlife-friendly waterfall significantly contributes to a magnificent landscaping design.

Build a Small Pond with a Fountain

The easiest way to attract wildlife is using a pond. In the wild, the animals all flock to the pond to quench their thirst,  so if you have one in your backyard, a small pond with a fountain will give them the same feel.

A simple pond with a fountain can be created by sinking a large plastic tub, available from most garden centers, into the ground. After that fill it with water and seat the solar-powered fountain in a place where it can be energized throughout the day to provide the calming and gentle noise of trickling water. Use sand in the bottom of the hole for the plastic tub to ensure that large stones or sharp objects will not puncture or scratch the surface. This helps avoid leaks that will be difficult to fix later. Meanwhile ensure that the rim of the watertight container sits flush with the soil surface, allowing creatures’ access to drinking water and making it easier to disguise the perimeter.

Like the shallow dish, planting should complement the surroundings. Use small plants that will provide cover for animals yet not hide the feature from view. For example, towering irises are ideal.

Create a Free-standing Statuary Fountains

A free-standing statuary fountain is an eye-catching feature and can create a focal point in your backyard. However, the fountain does more than simply provide beauty. Many songbirds, butterflies and other wildlife are drawn to the fresh, clean water gracefully flowing from the fountain. Some fountains are constructed with a traditional birdbath design, while others offer cascading water through naturalistic rocks, ceramic pots, or Old World sculpture. Wildlife animals seek out these sources of flowing water, boosting the visual beauty and appearance of your garden space.

Installing a backyard fountain with multiple levels and cascading streams of water is an optimum choice as animals are attracted to running water and won’t be able to resist this sanctuary you have designed for them.

A fountain works in a natural way to maintain the levels of humidity, without creating mildew or condensation. The humid micro-environment surrounding your garden fountain will be an oasis for the wild animals, particularly if you live in drier climates, like Tucson;

Build a Stream

Incorporate a stream in your backyard which flows into ponds. The stream will be a rich source of water for creatures that may live in the area. Therefore, it will attract bees, butterflies, moths, and other insects as well as birds and reptiles. The advantage of having a stream as a water feature in your garden is that the water is always in motion. This means it will cleanse itself in the normal course, keeping cleaning costs are low. Additionally, keeping the stream stocked with fish will help keep the mosquito population manageable.

There are also beautiful water plants that can be grown around the stream. Some can be in pots or planted directly into the bank. Planting some flowering shrubs will attract bees and wasps, which all can drink from the stream. The stream may be built up into mounds on the sides, making it appear deeper than it is. Mounds make good homes for lizards and beneficial snakes.

Remember, though, to choose the right wildlife-friendly water feature for your backyard. Consider the kind of garden you have. The water feature should blend in with your entire yard. Choose a style and design that would enhance rather than overpower the other elements in your backyard. Do your research. Consult an expert landscaper who has the skill and eye for a well-balanced design before you make a decision.

Finally, reflect on your budget. You want your wildlife-friendly water feature to be beautiful, maybe grand, but you don’t want it to put holes in your pockets. Overall, wildlife-friendly water features are such a great asset that enhances the appearance of your backyard.

To see the original article follow this link: Backyard Water Features for Wildlife

https://www.redfin.com/blog/backyard-water-features-for-wildlife/ 

May 15

Looking for climate change info, teachers find propaganda

By | Science-and-Nature

When science teacher Diana Allen set out to teach climate change, a subject she’d never learned in school, she fell into a rabbit’s hole of misinformation: Many resources presented online as educational material were actually junk.

“It is a pretty scary topic to take on,” said Allen, a teacher at Sanford Junior High School, in southern Maine. “There are some pretty tricky websites out there. You kind of have to be an expert to be able to see through that like, ‘Oh, no, these guys aren’t telling you the truth.’”

There are materials produced by climate change doubters, lesson plans developed by the oil industry, and countless other sites with misleading or outdated information. The Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness Network , funded by federal grants, reviewed more than 30,000 free online resources and found only 700 acceptable for use in schools.

“There’s a lot of information that’s out there that is broken, old, misleading, not scientifically sound, not sound technically,” said Frank Niepold, a climate education coordinator at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The Heartland Institute, an Illinois-based group that dismisses climate change, in 2017 sent thousands of science teachers copies of a book titled “Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming” The book, attributed to the group’s Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change, misrepresents the near-universal consensus of scientists and the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that global warming is real and man-made.

Teachers across the country describe struggles finding trustworthy materials to help them teach climate change. (May 15)

Another resource, a set of six lesson plans on understanding climate change, is available online from the Canada-based Fraser Institute, which counts the Charles Koch Foundation among its financial supporters. The lessons claim that mainstream climate scientists have made selective use of data and that it’s a matter of debate whether human-generated carbon dioxide emissions have contributed to climate change, saying “the issues are far from settled.”

“Our history is full of examples where ‘common knowledge’ was discarded in favor of more correct hypotheses,” the lesson plans say. Among them, it lists, “Are diseases caused by evil spirits? Are natural disasters caused by angry gods?”

And: “Does smoking pose a threat to your health?”

Also vying for educators’ attention are classroom-ready materials made available by the oil companies. ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell and other companies have invested heavily in promoting science, technology, engineering and math education in K-12 schools. Such materials are used widely to teach topics related to energy, but critics say they can mislead by not addressing the role of burning fossil fuels in global warming.

For teachers in cash-strapped schools, it can be hard to pass up the free handout materials.

Melissa Lau, a sixth-grade teacher in Piedmont, Oklahoma, attended one of the training sessions put on regularly for teachers by the Oklahoma Energy Resource Bureau, which is funded by the oil and gas companies. She kept the $50 stipend and the tub full of science equipment she got from the group but she tossed its illustrated lesson plans featuring the character “Petro Pete.”

In a book available online, Petro Pete has a nightmare about everything that would be missing from his life if there were no petroleum products, from his toothbrush to his school bus.

“I get free beakers and cool things like that,” Lau said. “But the curriculum itself is borderline propaganda.”

A spokeswoman for the industry group, Dara McBee, said their materials align with Oklahoma standards, which do not reference climate change, and they are intended to supplement what students learn in school.

Kevin Leineweber, a science teacher at Cascade High School in Clayton, Indiana, said he is skeptical about resources sent to him, including oil industry materials, but some colleagues are less so. At a districtwide science meeting a couple months ago one elementary school teacher expressed excitement about receiving unsolicited materials on climate change in the mail, to help introduce the topic to students. After talking it over with Leineweber, the teacher tossed the mailing of unknown origin.

“I’m just like, ‘Oh, jeez,’” Leineweber said.

The oil industry materials have the effect of pushing climate change to the periphery, Charles Anderson, a professor of science education at Michigan State University.

“The school systems of the country are so fragmented and under-resourced that they have no choice but to turn to people like the oil industry who offer them free stuff,” he said.

Climate change education varies across states, and often from one classroom to the next. The Next Generation Science Standards, which emphasize climate change and how humans are altering the planet, have been adopted by or served as a model for most states. But many teachers report that they shy away from the topic not only because of issues with materials but also the political sensitivities, and uncertainty over where to introduce an issue that crosses so many disciplines.

Diana Allen, 48, said she began to see it as her duty to teach climate change even though it’s not required under Maine’s science education standards.

For her lesson plans on climate change, she turns primarily to other teachers, pulling resources they have vetted and shared on an email thread overseen by the National Association of Science Teachers. Other teachers have turned to the National Center for Science Education, which posts free climate change lessons and has a ”scientist in the classroom ” program.

Many educators say that climate change as an area of instruction is still so new that textbook publishers have not caught up enough to provide useful materials.

“I have a Ph.D. from Stanford in biochemistry, and it’s still hard for me to source stuff that works in my classroom right,” said Kirstin Milks, an Earth science teacher at Bloomington High School South in Indiana.

Milks helps train educators on how to teach climate change. In their applications, many teachers display a sense of urgency in their applications, she said.

“I think we all are in that same boat of understanding that this might be one of the most important social justice issues of our time, one of the most important environmental issues of our time, one of the most important political issues of our time,” she said.

Sometimes educators have to push back against what their students are taught in other classrooms.

Leigh Foy, a science teacher at York Suburban High School in Pennsylvania, said a social studies teacher at her school has told students for years that climate change is a hoax and he could prove it with an experiment. He would fill a cup in the classroom with ice and water, mark the water level, and show students it didn’t rise as the ice melted. The problem, Foy said, is his lack of accounting for the difference between sea ice and land ice or the expansion of water as it gets warmer.

“This is just an example of what we’re up against,” Foy said.

Teachers who have gotten themselves up to speed on climate change often say they make it a primary goal to help their students identify untrustworthy materials.

Sarah Ott, who teaches physical science to eighth-graders in Dalton, Georgia, dedicates a section of her class to climate literacy. In one April class, she discussed how to identify misinformation, highlighting materials including a petition signed by more than 30,000 purported scientists that dismisses the dangers of global warming.

“These people are fake experts and this is being used to mislead people,” she told her students. “So we’re going to be learning about misinformation and ways for you to spot misinformation. And this is a great skill because you’re not just going to use this for science. You’re going to use this for all of your subjects.”

____

Associated Press writer Sarah Blake Morgan contributed to this report from Dalton, Georgia.

May 15

Teachers grapple with climate change: A pretty scary topic

By | Science-and-Nature

When science teacher Diana Allen set out to teach climate change, a subject she’d never learned in school, she fell into a rabbit’s hole of misinformation: Many resources presented online as educational material were actually junk.

“It is a pretty scary topic to take on,” said Allen, a teacher at Sanford Junior High School, in southern Maine. “There are some pretty tricky websites out there. You kind of have to be an expert to be able to see through that like, ‘Oh, no, these guys aren’t telling you the truth.’”

There are materials produced by climate change doubters, lesson plans developed by the oil industry, and countless other sites with misleading or outdated information. The Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness Network , funded by federal grants, reviewed more than 30,000 free online resources and found only 700 acceptable for use in schools.

“There’s a lot of information that’s out there that is broken, old, misleading, not scientifically sound, not sound technically,” said Frank Niepold, a climate education coordinator at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The Heartland Institute, an Illinois-based group that dismisses climate change, in 2017 sent thousands of science teachers copies of a book titled “Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming” The book, attributed to the group’s Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change, misrepresents the near-universal consensus of scientists and the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that global warming is real and man-made.

Teachers across the country describe struggles finding trustworthy materials to help them teach climate change. (May 15)

Another resource, a set of six lesson plans on understanding climate change, is available online from the Canada-based Fraser Institute, which counts the Charles Koch Foundation among its financial supporters. The lessons claim that mainstream climate scientists have made selective use of data and that it’s a matter of debate whether human-generated carbon dioxide emissions have contributed to climate change, saying “the issues are far from settled.”

“Our history is full of examples where ‘common knowledge’ was discarded in favor of more correct hypotheses,” the lesson plans say. Among them, it lists, “Are diseases caused by evil spirits? Are natural disasters caused by angry gods?”

And: “Does smoking pose a threat to your health?”

Also vying for educators’ attention are classroom-ready materials made available by the oil companies. ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell and other companies have invested heavily in promoting science, technology, engineering and math education in K-12 schools. Such materials are used widely to teach topics related to energy, but critics say they can mislead by not addressing the role of burning fossil fuels in global warming.

For teachers in cash-strapped schools, it can be hard to pass up the free handout materials.

Melissa Lau, a sixth-grade teacher in Piedmont, Oklahoma, attended one of the training sessions put on regularly for teachers by the Oklahoma Energy Resource Bureau, which is funded by the oil and gas companies. She kept the $50 stipend and the tub full of science equipment she got from the group but she tossed its illustrated lesson plans featuring the character “Petro Pete.”

In a book available online, Petro Pete has a nightmare about everything that would be missing from his life if there were no petroleum products, from his toothbrush to his school bus.

“I get free beakers and cool things like that,” Lau said. “But the curriculum itself is borderline propaganda.”

A spokeswoman for the industry group, Dara McBee, said their materials align with Oklahoma standards, which do not reference climate change, and they are intended to supplement what students learn in school.

Kevin Leineweber, a science teacher at Cascade High School in Clayton, Indiana, said he is skeptical about resources sent to him, including oil industry materials, but some colleagues are less so. At a districtwide science meeting a couple months ago one elementary school teacher expressed excitement about receiving unsolicited materials on climate change in the mail, to help introduce the topic to students. After talking it over with Leineweber, the teacher tossed the mailing of unknown origin.

“I’m just like, ‘Oh, jeez,’” Leineweber said.

The oil industry materials have the effect of pushing climate change to the periphery, Charles Anderson, a professor of science education at Michigan State University.

“The school systems of the country are so fragmented and under-resourced that they have no choice but to turn to people like the oil industry who offer them free stuff,” he said.

Climate change education varies across states, and often from one classroom to the next. The Next Generation Science Standards, which emphasize climate change and how humans are altering the planet, have been adopted by or served as a model for most states. But many teachers report that they shy away from the topic not only because of issues with materials but also the political sensitivities, and uncertainty over where to introduce an issue that crosses so many disciplines.

Diana Allen, 48, said she began to see it as her duty to teach climate change even though it’s not required under Maine’s science education standards.

For her lesson plans on climate change, she turns primarily to other teachers, pulling resources they have vetted and shared on an email thread overseen by the National Association of Science Teachers. Other teachers have turned to the National Center for Science Education, which posts free climate change lessons and has a ”scientist in the classroom ” program.

Many educators say that climate change as an area of instruction is still so new that textbook publishers have not caught up enough to provide useful materials.

“I have a Ph.D. from Stanford in biochemistry, and it’s still hard for me to source stuff that works in my classroom right,” said Kirstin Milks, an Earth science teacher at Bloomington High School South in Indiana.

Milks helps train educators on how to teach climate change. In their applications, many teachers display a sense of urgency in their applications, she said.

“I think we all are in that same boat of understanding that this might be one of the most important social justice issues of our time, one of the most important environmental issues of our time, one of the most important political issues of our time,” she said.

Sometimes educators have to push back against what their students are taught in other classrooms.

Leigh Foy, a science teacher at York Suburban High School in Pennsylvania, said a social studies teacher at her school has told students for years that climate change is a hoax and he could prove it with an experiment. He would fill a cup in the classroom with ice and water, mark the water level, and show students it didn’t rise as the ice melted. The problem, Foy said, is his lack of accounting for the difference between sea ice and land ice or the expansion of water as it gets warmer.

“This is just an example of what we’re up against,” Foy said.

Teachers who have gotten themselves up to speed on climate change often say they make it a primary goal to help their students identify untrustworthy materials.

Sarah Ott, who teaches physical science to eighth-graders in Dalton, Georgia, dedicates a section of her class to climate literacy. In one April class, she discussed how to identify misinformation, highlighting materials including a petition signed by more than 30,000 purported scientists that dismisses the dangers of global warming.

“These people are fake experts and this is being used to mislead people,” she told her students. “So we’re going to be learning about misinformation and ways for you to spot misinformation. And this is a great skill because you’re not just going to use this for science. You’re going to use this for all of your subjects.”

____

Associated Press writer Sarah Blake Morgan contributed to this report from Dalton, Georgia.

garden work
May 01

Gardening- Simple Way to be Happier and Healthier

By Audrey | Uncategorized

So you know you should have about 150 minutes a week to stave off or reduce many chronic conditions likecardiovascular and diabetic issues. You know a sedentary lifestyle isn't ideal. Not to mention the boost you get , mentally, from physical activity.
Research has shown that you are significantly happier, feel better about yourself and others when you are more physically active by even 10 min a day.

the benefits of being in a natural environment are also well documented to relieve stress, lower heart and blood pressure rates. This is on top of a happiness boost.
A new study has tied this up in a neat package for us, as if we didn't know, the answer is gardening!
Trying to get in the recommended 150 minutes of exercise per week can seem daunting — that’s a lot of time at the gym! But what if you could reap the emotional and physical benefits of working out through a favorite activity, like tending to your garden?
A long-term study from the CDC, using data collected from across the world—China, Texas, North Carolina—tracked something called “leisure time physical activity.” These were activities done in varying weekly amounts, like dancing, gardening, walking or other physical activities. They compared it to the risks of various forms of death, including cardiovascular disease and cancer.

The study is unusual because it took place over a long period; eleven years, and the large number of participants, at nearly 90,000. The data came from the National Health Interview Survey, an annual event done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Compared to a sedentary lifestyle, doing these things for only 10 to 59 minutes a week led to an 18 percent lower risk of all-cause mortality—basically, less chance of dying during the survey period. More physical activity even further decreased that risk; 150 to 299 minutes of physical activity each week led to a 31 percent decrease in all-cause mortality.

But what if you find it hard to do that activity anymore. The spirit may be willing but the flesh is worried about a fall or how heavy the bag of mulch might be. How much better would it feel to have some expo help, who could follow your instructions as well as offer advice and enough brain that you don't have to worry?
David, at Green Spaces can work with you in the garden. He has the education and experience not only in Gardening but in working with many different ages and abilites in the garden. No matter your functionality, if you want to get out in your garden, David will help you do as much of as little as you want. You can call David, directly at 623 485 9158 or contact through the website.

Gardening has been previously linked to positive health changes; a big comprehensive review of previous studies found that gardening is linked to a decrease in depression, anxiety, and body mass index, along with increases in quality of life, life satisfaction, and a sense of community. Gardening has also been linked to huge benefits for the elderly, citing a reduction in falls, reduction in stress, and even reduced need for medications.
There are too many benefits to getting out in your garden, to be ignored. So, let's go garde. David, takes away any worries about your physical  abilities or knowledge gap.


 your text here...

Apr 13

Yes, People Do Notice Your Landscape and Lawn

By Audrey | Landscape Trends

Lawns and yards are more important than many people might realize.

According to a survey done on behalf of the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP), 79 percent of people  say a lawn is an important feature to consider when buying or renting a home. These potential home buyers or renters are looking at homes and noting the size (and, of their lawns.

Strangely enough lawn size was even the number one priority for millennials on a ranking of home features, according to the survey.  Bet they are also  paying close attention to all the lawns they pass. So if you think no one is noticing your lawn and landscape, your are probably wrong. People do notice, and they definitely care, according to these statistics.

New data from home real estate site Zillow says outdoor fixtures and landscaping  such as an outdoor kitchen, a fire pit, or an outdoor fireplace can get home sellers as much as 24.5 percent above asking price when they sell their homes. A well-kept lawn and yard is important, as are well-planned landscaping projects.  

These outdoor features can directly increase a home’s value.  That means you could get back your landscaping investment, when you sell, maybe even more..  Outdoor home updates don’t need to break the bank either.  Something as simple as a picket fence, landscape planting or a patio can give home sale prices a small boost.

In the NALP survey, more than half of people said they spend time in their yards at least once a month; almost half say they entertain there as well. So not only could you benefit when you sell, you will have a nicer outdoor space to be in the meantime. 

So if you don't want to get out the mower and rake for your own piece of mind, maybe knowing that a poorly maintained yard could actually lose money when it comes time to sell the house is a motivating factor. 

Remember, you don't have to do the work yourself. Leave a comment or contact us if you need help with your landscape.

Apr 13

What Landscaping Projects Can Make Your Home More Valuable?

By Audrey | Landscape Trends , Spring

You already know that home improvement projects can add to the value of your home and some projects are just for you and won’t add to the resale value of your home.

So, I would suggest that in your own home, you should consider what you would find most useful.  Don’t just install a landscape project because it can add to your resale value.  The market changes quickly and what is a must have this year can be passe by the time you want to sell.  If you chose something you need or want at least you will get the use out of it, until you decide to sell.  If it adds to your resale value, you’re in the bonus round.

Landscaping can turn an ordinary home into an extraordinary property with the right use of design to show off the home and make it an organic part of the landscape.  Imagine Frank Lloyd Wright’s waterfall house, without the water features.  You get the idea.

However, even adding a desirable feature can turn resale value up a notch or two.  But which projects are desirable?

If you are considering a landscape project, you might want to read this list of desirable features as compiled by Zillow, the real estate website.  These are the landscape projects that made the biggest impact on resale value. There are a few surprises.

Zillow identifies the home improvement projects that can help a home get a higher price at sale time, effectively increasing their value, and several outdoor projects were on the list—including some surprising ones.

This list is based on identifying keywords in listing of homes that eventually sold for more than their asking price.  The methodology isn’t perfect, but it gives us an interesting glimpse. It isn’t as if a landscape project will magically transform what your home is worth.

Number one out door project that resulted in a home selling for more than the asking price is an outdoor kitchen: Homes with outdoor kitchens mentioned in their listings sold for 24.5 percent above asking price.

Next most valuable features, in order of value are solar panels, outdoor lighting, an outdoor fireplace or pit, and a rooftop deck or balcony. All were featured in homes that sold for more than 15 percent above ask price.

 Other outdoor features were fire pits, hot tubs, picket fences, and pergolas.

So keep this list in mind while you are planning your outdoor projects this year.  Now these are all additional features that assume the rest of the lawn and landscaping is up to snuff.  Obviously, if your entrance needs help or your plants are overgrown or your lawn a bit of a mess, you need to start there and not with a fire pit if you are hoping to add to your home’s value. Plus these landscaping updates can definitely make for a more comfortable outdoor space whether you are selling or not.

Are considering a landscape project this season? Leave a comment below or contact us for ideas.

home-landscape lawn
Apr 10

6 Steps to Easy Lawn Repair

By Audrey | How to Guides , Spring

Winter Did a Number on Your Lawn.  What Now?

Its spring time, you look outside and see that winter has not been kind to your lawn.  Its matted, has some brown spots, maybe some bare spots, what to do?

It's not hard to fix a damaged lawn. It takes a few tools and a bit of effort but here are the steps that will insure success.

How to Avoid Lawn Problems

The best defense is to keep your lawn healthy by fertilizing and topdressing with organic material.  You can check out our Organic Lawn Care Program here.

Mow your lawn correctly, that is regularly and at a height of about 3 inches, and aerate it periodically to discourage thatch buildup and soil compaction.

Spring time is a great opportunity to rid your landscape of small bare, thin, or weedy patches that occasionally develop in certain areas. And repairing lawn isn't as difficult as it might seem.


A Critical First Step - Start Now

The most important step in lawn restoration is to deal with any problems as soon as possible so the damage doesn't spread. Weeds will rapidly fill in bare lawn areas if you don't fill in  that space promptly with new grass. Before you start, know that lawn repair is a three-part process.

  1. Figure out why it occurred and fix the issue
  2. Decide on how you will deal with the bare patch 
  3. Implement and maintain your solution

Tool List

  1. Rake
  2. Grass seed
  3. Topsoil or compost 
  4. Water

Optional Tools

  • Lawn roller
  • Seed spreader
  • Lawn mower

Step One

Figure out why you have bare patches.

This can be as simple as  road salt, dog urine, something left on the lawn over the winter or something that doesn't seem to have an obvious cause.  Consider if this is something that is an on going problem that could be fixed by doing something differently or is it a systemic problem that is going to keep happening anyway.  As in could you place containers on a hard surface rather than the lawn or do you have bare patches because that is where the snow gets piled because there is no where else for it.  

The reason this matters is because if you can avoid having to patch your lawn each spring, isn't it worth a bit of thought?

Weeds

Step Two

Decide on how you will deal with the bare patch.

Consider replacing lawn areas that continually need to be patched with a perennial or  bed or a mulched or hard surface. While it will cost more than patching, it may solve a continual problem that is more efficient in the long run and certainly more attractive than grass in a problem area.

If you decide to patch you will need to decide on seed or sod.  Both have their own advantages and disadvantages.

Grass Seed Pros

  • Inexpensive
  • Easy to apply
  • Requires little care (depending on weather

Grass Seed Cons

  • Takes time to germinate
  • Takes time to fill in
  • Weeds can get in
  • Eaten by birds

Sod Pros

  • Instant lawn
  • Filled in immediately
  • Healthy strong plants should resist problems once established 

Sod Cons

  • Can be hard to get
  • Need to patch a larger area
  • May not blend in with existing lawn
  • Will need extra watering until established

Step Three

Implement and maintain your solution

Repairing bare patches using seed

To repair lawn patches, you can over seed with new grass seed. In Ontario do this early in the spring, so the cool-season grasses have time to develop strong roots before they have to face summer.

  1. As soon as you can walk on the lawn without leaving foot impressions lightly rake up winter debris and fluff up the grass. Expose bare soil of the repaired lawn area, so the seed will have direct contact with the soil. Remove and discard any poor grass and weeds within the area. Keep the remaining bare soil free of debris.
  2. Use a garden rake to rough up the soil between the grass plants. This, and the stubble of the freshly mown grass, will make a good seedbed for the new seed you're adding to the lawn repair area. Invest as much time and effort in preparing the soil in this small lawn repair area as you would for an entire lawn. Dig in organic matter and granular, slow-acting fertilizer. Rake the soil smooth and level.
  3. Sow seed thickly in the lawn repair area. Use a variety that corresponds to the surrounding grass if possible. Otherwise, use a mixture of grasses such as annual rye grass and fescues. Sow seed at the rate recommended for new lawns and lawn repair. This compensates for reduced germination as some seed falls into existing grass, not on the soil. Roll the lawn repair area lightly or if it is a small area, pat if down with your hands.
  4. Top dress it with topsoil or a layer of compost. Spread a thin layer of topsoil, peat moss or poly spun garden fabric over the lawn repair area that you've just patched with seed. This protects the seed and, later, the sprouts. More importantly, by covering the soil, it reduces moisture loss. A constant supply of moisture is the key to good germination for a repaired lawn.
  5. Water frequently.
  6. Mow the new grass when it reaches 3 inches in height.
Repair bare patches using sod

Laying sod is the quickest and easiest way to patch a dead or damaged lawn area. You can lay it any time during the season. The only factor is how much you will need to water it to compensate for any lack of rain until it is established.

  1. Keep the sod moist until you plant it.
  2. Prepare the soil the same way you would for patching with seed.
  3. Keep the area an inch or so below grade so the new grass will be level with the lawn.
  4. Then cut a piece from the strip of sod to conform to the repair site.
  5. Firm it onto the soil, placing its edges snugly against the surrounding lawn. Walk on it to settle it into place.
  6.  Water deeply and often.

Fixing a Problem Area

There are as many solutions to a problem area as there are problem areas.  Each one has its own opportunities and issues.  Make a list of what the problem actually is.  There is a reason your grass doesn't grow well there.  It could be foot traffic, lack of light, poor soil, a pet's favourite area.  When fixing the grass isn't the answer consider whether the answer is a different plant or a different surface.

  • Is it an area that needs a structure for storage?
  • Would a perennial or other flower bed be attractive during the season and still be able to be a snow holding area in winter?
  • Should the area be mulched or made into a hard surface?
  • Can you be more creative in the use of the area?

If you are in the Smiths Falls, Merrickville and Perth area, we would be pleased to provide a free consultation to discuss how we can help.  You can leave a comment here, schedule an appointment or give us a call

thermometers
Mar 23

Temperature Change Land & Ocean

By Audrey | Environmental News

How ocean and land temperature has changed to 2016

Global warming

Global warming is a long-term rise in the average temperature of the Earth's climate system, an aspect of climate change shown by temperature measurements and by multiple effects of the warming. Wikipedia

The temperature of the earth is rising and that makes our weather more intense.  Regardless of why you think it is warmer, it is a reality that we have to deal with.  We need to plan and organize our lives to deal with more extreme weather.  That means stronger and wetter storms, hotter and dryer droughts, colder and snowier winters as well as out of season weather.

Mar 13

Spring Garden Checklist

By Audrey | Spring

Spring Cleanup in the garden can be fun and inspirational but it is hard work too, especially if we have been kind of a couch potato over the winter.  So here are some easy to follow steps to save your back and your time by making this process as efficient and pain-free as possible. 

Spring Cleanup Like a Pro

A Free easy to follow Do It Like a Pro Guide to Spring Clean up.

Make a Plan

Yes, I know it sounds pretty basic but in our eagerness to get outside and start moving after a long winter we often forget to plan our attack and end up wasting time, effort and sometimes money.  So make a work plan. 

writing
Naturalized Lawn

Stay Focused

We don’t want to get bogged down right now with all your great ideas and plans for the season; concentrate on cleaning up and getting things ready to grow.  After you can take a look and decide on which of your ideas will make the most sense to implement.

Divide the Work into Manageable Clumps

Break your plan down into manageable bites.  You know the limit of your time, attention and physical effort.  Plan within that.  If it is 15 minutes, then divide the work into sections that can be done in that time.  If you have more time or feel like doing more, you can always do another section or 2.

garden work
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Get the Right Tools, in Good Repair 

Make sure you have the tools you need to do the work and they are in good condition.  It is so frustrating to be on a roll and find out that someone hid the spade or the fork or the head of the rake is so loose that it is useless.  A trip to the store just means you’ll be distracted and have to push yourself to get back at it. 

Keep Them Sharp

 Tools need to be sharp.  Your hand clippers, spade, shovel, trowel and weed digger need to have a good edge.  Usually, you can do this with a sharpening stone, if you don’t have a grinder.   Just follow the angle that is already on the tool.  There are lots of inexpensive pocket sharpeners to help keep an edge on busy days.  If the edge is too damaged for a hand stone, a grinder is needed to take out nicks or you could consider a replacement. 

Pruners- bypass
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Blade sharpener

Start in the Planting Beds

It is easier to start cleaning up in your planning beds and throw everything on to the lawn or a tarp.  Consider dividing your yard waste at this point so you don’t have to move it twice.  You will probably have stuff for the composter, garbage and municipal pick up or for transporting to an approved site for yard waste.  Use separate piles for each and keep larger branches in their own pile for ease of collection.  I use tarps for collecting debris on the lawn but some people are happier putting it directly in whatever bag or container your municipality accepts. A tarp is useful to wrap everything up if you have to transport the debris yourself.

Soil on Tarp
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Man digging

Steps in Efficient Spring Clean up

Do them in this order for the most efficient work.

Planting Beds Spring Clean Up Steps

  1. Cut back brown or dead foliage
  2. Rake out debris from all planting beds
  3. ‘Fluff’ the soil gently
    • This means dig the top few inches up with your garden fork and sift gently.
  4. Remove any weeds

  5. Divide and replant perennials as needed.
  6. Edge beds
  7. Fertilize
    • my preference is for blood and bone meal - worked into the soil
    • An organic liquid nutrient is also very beneficial.
  8. Re-mulch
 Garden Fork

Spring Pruning Only if Necessary

  • Pruning for shrub health
    • Broken or crossed branches
    • Water sprouts- branches that grow straight up without branching
    • Branches with too many growing points like clawed finger caused by injudicious previous pruning
  • Thinning or rejuvenation that wasn’t done in the Fall but may be urgent now due to plant size or other garden aesthetics.

NOTE – Pruning of Spring flowering plants or those that flower on last year’s wood (ex; mock orange, viburnum, weigela )will have reduced flowers if you prune now but in some cases it may be necessary.

Grass- care, Naturally

  1. Aerate
  2. De-thatch – gently
  3. Rake out (soil plugs)  and rake up (dead grass)
  4. Choose one of two options depending on the condition of your lawn
    1. Option One :Over-seed and fix bare spots. 
    2. An application of fertilizer specifically formulated for seed and root development is an option.  
    3. Option Twp: Suppress weed seeds by applying corn gluten meal
  5. Fertilization is general, should not start until after the 2nd cut of the season or early June in zone 4 or 5.


Fan Rake

You Can Always Just Rake the Lawn

If you are happy enough with your lawn, you can just rake to remove debris and help the grass stand straight after being flattened by the snow and ice of the winter.  This will let it use the sun's warmth and light to better purpose. You also end up removing some brown dead grass, so your lawn looks greener.

Mar 13

How to Prune Shrubs and Small Trees

By Audrey | How to Guides

How to Prune Ornamental Shrubs

 For ornamentals in Zone 4-5       

Guiding Principles of Plant Friendly Pruning

  • Prune to enhance a plant’s natural beauty
    • To make it feel less oppressive, tidier, cleaner
    • To reduce size somewhat, depending on the type of plant.
    • Selective pruning will reduce the bulk of the plant and taking off a fewer lower limbs of a tree is okay
  • Prune to maintain plant health, vigor and longevity
    • Remove dead/diseased parts
    • Remove limbs that will rub and cause a wound to let disease and insects in.
    • Remove sucker type growth as it weakens the overall tree structure and impedes vigor
  • Prune to remove hazards
    • Blocking line of site for vehicular traffic
    • Weakened limbs that would be prone to fall in a storm

Major Pruning Mistakes

  • Ornamental trees should never, ever be topped, meaning the top cut off.
  • Shrubs should very rarely be sheared (except real topiary and formal hedges).
  • Stripping all of the side branches off of a mature pine or any other tree or shrub, is also not acceptable. Stripping is not to be confused with selective thinning, which can also make shrubs and trees look open and Oriental.

How to Prune so Your Plants Don’t Look Like They Just Lost a Bet

You need to know about 2 types of pruning cuts.

Thinning and Heading

There are two types of pruning cuts, thinning and heading.

Heading - Use heading to create a bushier plant. A heading cut is pretty much just cutting off the tip or end of a branch, twig, or stem.

The next spring growth is stimulated at the tips of cut branches. Shearing, topping and pinching hedges are heading cuts. Good for hedges and chrysanthemums. Not too good for most shrubs and trees.

Thinning - Use thinning to lighten up or remove density from a plant. 

A thinning cut removes the branch back to another branch or twig, or to the ground. Most pruning consists of thinning cuts. It forces new growth in existing branches and spreads new growth more evenly throughout the plant. Thinning cuts will let light inside, allowing for green growth inside and not just dead looking twigs.  It also means that if you need to reduce the size of the plant at some point, you would still have a plant that looks reasonable.  You would have branches to cut to if you choose to reduce the size.. It also stays “neat” longer and looks natural.

Pruning by Habit

The Three Growing Habits of Plants.

Prune to enhance the plant’s natural shape or “habit”.  Plants have one of three basic habits.

  1. Cane Growers
  • Plants that renew themselves by sending up new branches – called canes – from the base.
  • They are generally tough plants.
  • Spireas, forsythias, roses, bamboo, kerria, weigela are all very hardy plants in this category. 

How to prune a cane-growth habit plant.

  • Take a good, hard, long look at your shrub.
  • Envision what it should look like. 
  • Consider what is your desired result? 
  • Hold that in your mind throughout.
  • After each planned series of cuts, stand back and re-evaluate.
  • Take out all dead, disease or dangerous wood. Always do this first.
  • Plan to take out about 1/8 to 1/3 of the plant
  • Start with the biggest and oldest, as well as a few of the weakest canes.
  •  Remove the whole branch all the way to the bottom or base of the plant.
  • Do this every year to keep the size controlled.
  • Pick out a few of the worst canes that rub or cross each other, that look sick or go the wrong way (that is, start at the outside, head back through the center and out the other side)
  • Remove ugly branches (usually too straight).
  • Generally prune to:
  • Open up the center.
  • Tidy up the top with thinning cuts.
  • Cut back anything hanging on the ground
  • Leave a growing point.  Meaning cut a short distance about a twig, branch or node. Cut to a side branch or bud.

  1. Mounds
  • The plants look like mounds and are medium-tough plants.
  • Found in mass planting.
  • They have small leaves and supple branches. In general, yur goal is to neaten them up or make them smaller. These poor things are the usual victims of those who want to just cut them into balls with hedge shears and be done with it.  Ouch! People like to shear them --- please don’t be one of these perpertrators.! Examples of mounds are abelias, escallonia, barberries and Mexican orange. These are easiest to make and keep small so there is no excuse for the bad haircut.

How to prune a mound habit plant.

  • Locate the longest, most unruly branch.
  • Grab the tip with your left hand.
  • Follow the branch down into the interior of the plant with your right-hand pruners, and snip it off two inches to one foot below the general surface level (TOP) of your shrub.
  • Cut to a side branch or bud, if possible. (Grab & Snip method)
  • Do this all over your shrub until it looks miraculously tidy and shorter, but natural.
  • These shrubs often benefit from taking out some of the old canes at their base. This opens up and renews the shrub.
  • Any dead wood or weeds should also be removed.

  1. Tree-Like
  • Best left to get big.
  • These shrubs are the hardest to do and should not be overly pruned.
  •  Good selective pruning can open them up and make them look less dense and over powering
  • Branches can be trained around gutters/eaves troughs, rather than amputation of limbs. Certainly a more aesthetic approach.
  • Tree-like growth habit plants have rather stiff branches, usually. Examples of tree-like growth habit plants are Rhododendrons, Andromeda (pieris), magnolia, deciduous Viburnum, camellia and witch hazel. Most of these plants just need all the dead wood taken out.

How to prune a Tree Like habit plant.

  • Never remove more than 1/8 total leaf surface in one year.
  • It stresses them or it can cause a watersprout-rebound effect-Yuck
  • Just remove any dead or diseased wood.
  • If you still want to do more
  • Take out suckers (straight-up, skinny branches from the base and trunk of the shrub or tree).
  • Take out any big crossing, rubbing branches and double leaders (two main top branches with a narrow branch-crotch angle) on trees.
  • Take back or remove any branches hanging on the ground, if only up ½”.
  • Take out the worst of the smaller crossing, rubbing branches, choosing the healthiest and best placed branch to remain.
  • Prune to shorten or completely remove the worst wrong-way branches that start from the outside of the shrub, and go the wrong way back into the center and out the other side. Sometimes a side branch of the shrub, and go the wrong way back into the center and out the other side. Sometimes a side branch has a smaller branch that heads too far up into the next “layer”, or goes too far down. You can cut some of these off to add more definition to your shrub’s branches.
  • If you have two parallel branches rather close together, it may look better to remove one.
  • If you, have three parallel branches you may want to remove the center one. This will make things look nicer.
  • Before you finish, stand back and look
  • If necessary, you may shorten a few  branches on tree like shrubs (not trees). Cut back to a side branch.

 

Hints and Tips

On many shrubs and trees, especially tree-likes, you want to fix things slowly over three to five years. Do some now, come back next year. “Wander, ponder; and prune,” the old saying goes. Pruners always stare at their shrubs, trying to locate unwanted branches, imagining their shrubs without this or that branch, seeing how it will grow next year --- seeing what needs to be done. Much like a haircut, it’s easy to take it off, hard to put back on. Know when to quit.

If a plant is really too big, you may want to move it, remove it go ahead, be ruthless!) or renovate it (not dealt with here). But try real selective pruning first!

Helpful Lists

Mounds (Grab & Snip) Spiraeas, Hollys, Escallonia, Japanese Holly, Box Honeysuckle

Cane Growers (Cut canes to the ground) Roses, Oregon Grape, Kerria, Weigela, Wild Oregon Grape, Nandina (Heavenly Bamboo), red-twig Dogwood, Buddleia (Butterfly Bush), Hydrangea, Bamboo, Deutzia, Forsythia

Tree-Likes (Thin-out, many small cuts) Elderberry, Manzanita, Kalmia, Deciduous Azaleas, Pieris (Andromeda), Rhododendrons, Enkianthus, Huckleberries, Lilac, Viburnums (Leatherleaf, Doubl-File, Highbush Cranberry, Winter, Snowball) Spindletrees

pruning

Picture courtesy of plant amnesty