<span>August 2014</span>

  • Daffodil Growing Care For Beginners

    Daffodils make wonderful indoor or outdoor plants. Up north and in the plain states, daffodils are sometimes used to bring a breath of spring indoors during the winter. But here in sunny west-central Florida, with very few days near freezing, you can enjoy this beautiful bulb practically anytime of year. Distinguished by their yellow, white, and orange flowers, usually with six tepal and trumpet-shaped corona, these are popular plants which go back to antiquity.

    You can grow daffodils indoors or outdoors and some people prefer to start their growth cycle inside and then transfer the flowers to an outdoor garden after some weeks.

    About Daffodils

    Part of the bulbiferous geophytes, daffodils or narcissus poeticus, have been around mankind for quite some time. In fact, these plants go back to ancient civilization. What’s more, the origin of its scientific classification remains a mystery to this day. However, it is known these plants are toxic. Like other dangerous plants children and pet households should avoid, daffodils contain the alkaloid poison lycorine.

    Daffodils bring cheer to the spring garden with abundant flowers in hues of yellow, white, pink, and salmon. Varieties are available in a range of sizes and forms. Flowers may be single or double, grow singly on a stem or with multiple flowers per stem, and height varies from 6 to 20 inches. Daffodils grow best in areas with cold winters, cool springs, and cool summers. Choose varieties that mature at different times to extend the bloom season. Unlike many spring-flowering bulbs, daffodil bulbs are not eaten by mice or voles. —

    When ingested, daffodils are known to cause acute abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting. Additionally, ingestion of daffodils can also cause trembling, convulsions, paralysis, and even death. They are known to have been a method of suicide in the ancient world and remained so through later centuries. So, it’s best to keep these plants out-of-reach of children and pest, if grown indoors or even in an outdoor garden.

    Daffodil Growing Care for Beginners

    Daffodils, part of the genus narcissus, are perennials. This means they generally live more than two years. Like other perennial plants, daffodils will grow and bloom during the spring, as well as the summer, then die over the fall and winter months. When spring arrives again, daffodils will come back to life and repeat the cycle. If you want to enjoy the beauty of daffodils, but are new to these plants, you just need to know a little daffodil bulb care for beginners:

    • Plant seed pods in a pot. You can purchase a “kit” or daffodil seed pods from a nursery. Be sure to inquire about the size of the pot so the roots have plenty of room to take hold. Place the pot near a window, where the plant can receive sunlight. But, do not place it in direct sunlight as this can burn the plant’s foliage. Direct sunlight also causes the blooms to lose their color and fade away quickly. The room temperature should remain about 70 degrees. Place a drain pan below the pot to catch the runoff water.
    • Check the soil regularly. About once or twice a week, gently poke your finger into the soil to detect the amount of moisture. If the top inch begins to feel dry, water the plant. After watering your daffodils, check the pan for water about every half hour for one to two hours. Empty the tray to prevent the soil from becoming too soggy.
    • Prune the plants when needed. When the blooms begin to fade, gently snip any spent flowers just beneath the base. Do not remove the remaining stems because these will continue to absorb energy from the sun and nutrients from the soil.
    • Fertilize about every two weeks. Use a soluble balanced fertilizer but do so only about every two weeks after the last of the flowers fade. This is especially a good practice for transplanting into an outdoor garden. Be sure to check the fertilizer for its strength so the daffodils do not receive too much.
    • Transplant the flowers to an outdoor garden. Now, you can transplant the flowers to your outdoor garden. Plant in a well-drained spot, with filtered sunlight exposure. You can place daffodils in direct sunlight, but the flower colors will fade quicker and die off sooner. Allow the leaves to die back on their own, in a natural manner.
  • How to Prep Pinewood Lumber to Use as Decking

    Pinewood lumber can be used for many applications. After pine is cut, the wood can be assembled into a piece of furniture, made into a derby car, fabricated into another form, or be used as decking. However, it must be painted, varnished or lacquered to preserve the finish to keep from rotting. Regardless of the final product, pinewood is susceptible to not only rot but to stains and other markings. Sealing pinewood and drying it properly will protect it. Although pine can be purchased pre-treated, some adventurous do-it-yourself types enjoy prepping the wood.

    Pinewood Deck Benefits

    Like any other material, there are different ways to customize a wood deck to really make it your own. Homeowners have many choices when it comes to deck materials, such as redwood and composite. But pinewood is also a great choice because of the benefits it offers. Unlike other types of wood, pine is significantly less expensive due to its ubiquity. It’s also easy to maintain, when properly treated. This is why so many homeowners choose pressurized, pre-treated pinewood. True treated pine can last between 10 and 15 years, with minimal maintenance.

    For many reasons like durability, low-cost and safety, treated pine decking is becoming more and more popular. The attempt to make decks long-lasting, economical and safer lead to the evolution of the science behind treated pine. Many people might prefer redwood or cedar for their deck but using treated pine you can have the same benefits or even more, and it is a lot cheaper than the other options. —Do It

    Pine also boasts a rustic aesthetic, with its many knots and rough edges. What’s more, pine is very eco-friendly. Even when treated, pine doesn’t pollute and can safely be burned at the end of its lifespan. A huge advantage pine has over other types of wood is its ability to absorb less heat and remains cool. That alone is a great combination to have during those long hot, summer days in Florida. Besides, installing a deck is just one of many fall landscaping ideas.

    How to Prep Pinewood Lumber to Use as Decking

    It is best to purchase pre-treated pine lumber for your deck but you can prep the wood on your own, if you like. The advantage of buying pre-treated is the wood is pressurized, maximizing the treatment applications, causing the lumber to last longer, even under heavy use conditions. But, you can prep it yourself by doing the following:

    • Place all the pine in one room. Choose a room or space that is dry and dust free as possible. You can use a garage, shed or another type of climate controlled space. It’s got to be free of floating debris and well-ventilated.
    • Begin to prep the pine lumber. Lay newspaper out over a table, then set the pinewood lumber or assembly on the newspaper. Leave the paint, lacquer or varnish to dry on the bare pinewood. Do not attach any metal or plastic hardware at this juncture or you may smudge the finish.
    • Apply paint, varnish, or lacquer. Consult the label on the paint, varnish or lacquer for the manufacturer’s suggested drying time. Be sure to apply two to three coats, allowing each ample time to dry.
    • Wait until the treatment dries completely. Set a timer to go off for the appropriate time — this may be as little as 30 minutes or as long as 48 hours. Do not rush the process or it won’t result in a lasting deck board product.
    • Test the pine lumber to ensure it’s ready to-go. Gently touch the pinewood with the tip of one finger after the timer has sounded. If it is tacky, allow to dry longer and check periodically until the finish dries completely.
    • Build your base and install the pinewood over it. Once the pinewood is treated, you can then build the deck base, using whatever material you prefer. It’s usually best to go with wood but you can also use other types of materials. When the base is complete, you can install the pine on top of it to finish.

    If it’s time to update your landscape or add more features, like a new deck, don’t hesitate to contact us. We are a full-service, professional landscape design company and serve all of Sarasota, including near Bayfront Drive, around Rolling Green Golf Club, along Longboat Club Road, and elsewhere.

  • Ways to Improve Your Deck

    If your deck looks a bit worse for the wear and the life seems to be zapped out of it, you can give it a makeover with some smart improvements. Homeowners love their outdoor spaces, when the weather permits. Regardless of where you live in the country, chances are excellent your deck takes a beating year in and year out. Even though it might be built of sturdy materials, designed to withstand the elements, that doesn’t make it impervious. Over time, said elements will exact a toll, starting with minor but noticeable signs of wear and expanding into unavoidable, unsightly, problems.

    The good news is, that in the majority of cases, unless the damage is extreme, the structure can be saved. It might not be one-hundred percent salvageable, but, you’ll have quite a bit to work with to rebuild. If your deck looks worn but the structure is intact and not compromised, you can elect to refurbish your deck to save money. This will allow you to keep the current configuration, while giving it some long lasting protection to keep it looking great for many years to come.

    How to Clean a Wood Deck

    The truth of the matter is, if your deck is built of actual wood, it will need attention from time to time. To cut down on replacing parts, you ought to clean it about once a quarter to six months. Do this with plain soap and water, using a broom to brush it clean. This will significantly extend its longevity, and, will also reduce the amount of work to refurbish it periodically. The best time to clean your deck is during the spring, when pollen is at its peak. Doing so will reduce the amount of food sources for mildew to grow.

    Outside decks are great additions to any home, whether they are in the back yard or set up like a veranda. However, there are always a few things you can do to improve your deck, in regards to both safety and overall aesthetics. As well as enhancing your railing, you can also set up screening, provide safe passage, include a small garden, have built-in seating and use the surrounding nature as design elements. —

    When you do clean your deck, take the time to do it right. First, clear it off completely, leaving nothing behind. Next, inspect every square inch of the structure to identify any problem areas. You might discover a bit of rot in a corner, or, find pests camping underneath. When you’re ready to clean it, use a commercial cleaner appropriate for the materials. Once clean and dry, then apply stain-sealant to give it added protection. It ought to look new when you’re finished.

    Ways to Improve Your Deck

    After you’ve revived your worn deck, you might take it a step further and make a few improvements to add more flare and function to your outdoor living space. Here are a few ways to improve your deck:

    • Replace the furniture. This is a quick and easy way to completely remake the space inexpensively and smartly. You’ll be able to change the style, color, and seating arrangement, just enough to completely transform it into something else. For a bit more function and style, choose a table with an over-sized umbrella for shade.
    • Hang a swing. Hanging a swing not only provides a nice aesthetic touch, it also gives the space more function, and fun. A swing is a great place to sit and unwind, gaze out into the evening sky, and have a conversation.
    • Put in a planter. This is a feature you might not have considered, but it’s actually a great way to add more visual appeal while providing a subtle dividing line. By building a planter from the same wood material, or, even choosing something that complements yet provides a bit of contrast, you’ll have a dedicated section for a dining area, lounge seating, or whatever you’d like.
    • Add a built-in bench. If there’s one thing that’s true about most decks, it’s that only a portion of all available space is utilized. Add a built-in bench to the rail and provide more seating, along with a more stylish look.
    • Install an awning. No, not one of those retractable things, but something that provides shade. It could even be a vine-wrapped pergola. Something that offers a little escape from the sun and has a wow factor.

    For the really adventurous gourmet, a new outdoor kitchen is a great deck improvement feature. It doesn’t necessarily have to extravagant, just offer the basics of what you need — a grill, landing and work area, and, serving area. Before you start this improvement, it’s best to be in-the-know about prevailing wind conditions, have plenty of light for the evenings, and be situated where it’s convenient to get in and out of the house.

  • Floating Deck and Fixed Deck Pros and Cons

    You’ve been doing a bit of home improvement lately, turning your focus to your yard to create a more functional, aesthetic outdoor living space. Now, you’re thinking about building a patio or attached deck and have stumbled onto the concept of a floating deck. After mulling the options over a bit, you decide a deck is a better choice as it fits your design.

    The question becomes whether to install an attached deck, one that’s connected directly to your home, or a floating deck. As with most landscaping and home improvement projects, the choice isn’t easy and you’re wondering which is right for you, your home, and your lifestyle.

    The answer really lies in what you’re trying to accomplish. The purpose of the feature will be key to which one you ultimately choose. You’ll have to take many things into consideration, particularly things like how long you plan to be in your home and what you’ll need to actually build your deck.

    The Difference between an Attached Deck and a Floating Deck

    Let’s start with the most fundamental difference between the two structures. An attached or fixed deck is precisely what it sounds like, it is attached directly to your home. A floating deck, though, is not attached but it doesn’t really float. The name is a bit misleading; and, even though it evokes the notion it’s portable, it isn’t. A floating deck can be placed anywhere, even right outside your home, it just isn’t physically attached.

    Comfort, elegance and living space make a deck one of the best home improvement investments you can make. According to the annual Remodeling magazine “Cost vs. Value Report,” you’ll get back nearly 75 percent of what you pay for a deck if you sell your home within the first year after the deck is built. That investment can vary widely, from around $15 per square foot installed for pressure-treated Southern yellow pine decks to more than $30 per square foot for cedar and redwood. —This Old House

    One of the reasons people choose this kind of feature is because they can put it practically anywhere in their yard. Some opt to build theirs around one or more trees. Others build theirs as a base for a pergola. Some construct the feature to extend an existing attachment to their homes. Still other homeowners opt to build a floating deck partly or fully around a water feature. In other words, they use it as both a functional space and as an expanded focal point.

    Pros and Cons of Floating and Fixed Decks

    Of course, with each type there are pros and cons. Here’s what you need to know about each to help you decide between an attached structure and a floating feature:

    Floating Decks


    • Ability to install where it’s most convenient. You’ll be able to choose the location and the height off the ground is a bit more flexible.
    • You can build it out and expand on it more freely. With this kind of deck, shape is only limited to the imagination.
    • It can’t damage your home if it’s damaged by weather. Because a floating deck isn’t attached directly to your home, it can’t pull away and damage the exterior of your house if it’s damaged by high winds or other forces of nature.
    • Easier to build for the DIY types. Since the feature isn’t directly attached to your home, you won’t need as much skill to build one yourself.


    • Usually requires more maintenance. Because these kinds of decks are typically close to the ground, you’ll probably have to deal with weeds growing-up under and between the planks.
    • May not bring a high return-on-investment. If you’re going to be selling your home in the future, this could be a selling feature or one that’s a turnoff because it isn’t extending from the exterior of the house.
    • Susceptible to damage from surrounded natural features. Should it be built around one or more trees, it could become damaged if a tree is damaged by weather or dies. Roots are also a possible problem.

    Attached Decks


    • Seamlessly continues the flow from the interior of your home to the exterior. This is a big plus, especially for the grill gourmet because the kitchen is always nearby.
    • Usually further off the ground and away from trees. This means not having to battle weeds growing-up from the ground and less probability of being damaged by a falling tree.
    • Ability to enclose in screen. Another advantage of a directly attached deck is being able to screen it in and make it pest proof.


    • Expense. An attached deck will probably cost more.
    • Permitting. Because the structure is added to your home, you’ll need a building permit.
    • Requires more skill to build. The average DIY homeowner won’t necessarily have the skill set to build it.

    Regardless of type, both are great features. What’s more, you can opt for composite material to give it increased longevity.

  • DIY Water Feature Freeze Protection Tips You Can Use

    Depending on where you live in the country, be it in sunny Sarasota, Florida, or up north, you’ll experience freezing temperature during the winter months. In places like the Sunshine State, although infrequent, cold snaps cause temperatures to fall to at or below freezing, which typically happens in the months of January and February. What’s more, in places like Sarasota, said freezing temperatures generally last no more than a day or two and the mercury rises steeply in some instances with wild swings.

    Of course, in the northeast and midwest, freezing temperatures are present during most of the winter, and, are not at all unusual. This means nearly regardless of your location, your landscape will have to survive through freezing temperatures.

    During the winter, we often here about ways to keep plants, pets, and pools safe through freezes. However, not much attention is paid to water features. And, the absence of reminders can easily lead to an unpleasant and expensive reality of having to make repairs. These can range from quick fixes to all-out replacement, depending on the severity of the weather.

    Types of Damage Water Features Experience During a Freeze

    As the nearby quote states, damages sustained from freezing conditions to a water feature can range from minor to major. Depending on the severity of the temperatures, exposure level, and length of exposure, pumps can freeze, causing them to seize up, and, pools or ponds containing fish can freeze over, trapping noxious gases, causing fish to die.

    Even in the warmest locales in the United States, nighttime temperatures may occasionally dip into the thirties. When they do, your outdoor water features are in danger of freezing over. A frozen feature may lead to broken seals and a faulty pump, so a little cold weather preparation will certainly pay off. Because each water feature is different, there is no standard set of rules for cold weather protection. However, arming yourself with a few nearly universal tips and tricks will help keep your water feature pumping for years to come. —San Francisco Chronicle

    Other types of damages caused by freezing conditions can be a break in the integrity of a structural water feature, such as cement or ceramic wall. When this happens, it might lead to small leaks, which eventually grow larger and larger. The ensuing compromise can even lead to outright collapse or breaking apart, and can be a very costly situation to fix.

    DIY Water Feature Freeze Protection Tips You can Use

    With temperatures falling steadily, water features, such as fountains, pools, ponds, and waterfalls will be at-risk for damage from freezes. The best way to protect such hardscaping is to be proactive, not waiting until sustained cold grips. Here are some ways to protect water features from freezing conditions:

    • Remove any plants. If there are any plants on or near your outdoor water feature, it’s best to move them to a warm place where you can water and feed them as needed. If possible, this makes for a better choice than trying to cover them before the real cold hits.
    • Allow the water to run. If you’re in a location such as Sarasota or Manatee County, freezes will likely only occur for a few hours. Let the water continue to run and the motion will prevent hard freezing, which, in prolonged periods of freezing temperatures, could harm the pump.
    • Install a de-icer. For water features with fish or ones that have running water, a de-icer will do the trick. Running water that’s warm enough will continue to swirl and that will provide shelter for fish. A de-icer will also keep the water from freezing over solid, which can cause a lot of damage. Choose a machine that fits your size water feature for the best results.
    • Drain, flush, and cover. If a de-icer is not a viable option or you don’t want to exercise that alternative, then it’s best to drain the water completely. Flush out the system by pumping out any remaining water, disconnect the pump and water supply, and cover the entire feature. You can also stuff insulation over the pump before covering it with a tarp. Or, store the pump in a warm, slightly damp location to keep seals from drying out.
    • Check the water feature periodically. On occasion, lift the cover to see if any snow or ice has melted and run back into the water feature. If it has, drain it out because if it fills and then freezes, it will probably expand enough to crack the feature.

    While these steps will help to protect your water hardscape during the winter, other methods should be completely avoided, like adding chemicals to the water. This is not a good idea because you don’t know how the water or the feature itself will react. In addition, chemicals could wreak havoc with the filter and pump system.

  • Replacing a Wood Deck with Composite

    Homeowners looking to increase their outdoor living space might elect to install a deck. It can be elevated to offer a seamless transition from the interior to the exterior, or, dropped down. Depending on your home, you’ll have different options and this is where you’ll decide between a installing composite material or wood. The great thing about composite is its longevity, but its cost means that you’ll have to be quite careful with the planning and installation.

    Having a deck means having a dedicated space to enjoy and entertain, and, because these are often elevated, and provide visual aesthetics. It makes a great space for outdoor living, particularly for cooking-out on the grill and enjoying refreshing, cool drinks. Some homeowners also add coverings, which can be made of different materials, while others opt to enclose their decks with screen. No matter the look you’re going for, you can add a substantial amount of living space onto your home.

    The good news about decks is these is the return on investment. Decks are worthwhile when it comes to ROI because buyers are eager to use them, and, it’s reflected in the numbers. On average, decks retain up to 68 percent to 80.5 percent of investment value. Those are certainly impressive numbers, and, you’ll enjoy the versatility these provide. Even better news is the time it takes to install a deck, which is significantly less than other outdoor living projects.

    Wood Decks vs Composite Decks

    People choose composite decks because of their longevity, durability, and clean look. However, when cost is a big factor, wood is typically the choice because it is less expensive. An investment in a composite deck is a good one, particularly when you install it the right way. It’s quite important to note that composite decks should have small gaps between the boards to allow run-off as standing water will eventually seep into the material. If the boards are not gapped, they can develop mold, mildew, swell, and can fail.

    Thermal expansion is always something to be aware of when dealing with plastics. Most climates temperatures fluctuate enough to cause an issue with how the decking is spaced from summer to winter. Composite decking is less stable than wood so it tends to grow and shrink across the length of the boards as it heats and cools. Proper spacing will allow some movement without buckling. —

    One of the biggest benefits to composite is that some manufacturers offer hidden fasteners, which provide a more elegant look, eliminating screw heads that are commonly seen in wood. There are manufacturers that also produce hollow deck boards, but these have open ends, which can be attractive to pests, and collect leaves, dirt, and other debris. To make these secure spaces, end caps are sold, but this increases the installation cost.

    Replacing a Wood Deck with Composite

    Just like wood, composite must be properly staged and installed to reduce labor and cost. Always be sure to check measurements at least twice to reduce wasted material. When you are ready to replace your wood deck with composite, you can reuse the framing and just replace the boards. If the framing is in good condition and you want to install composite, follow these steps:

    1. Remove the wood boards. In general, wood boards are fastened to the frame with screws through the boards, usually sixteen inches on-center. Use a drill-driver to unfasten the screws and pull the boards off one-by-one. You can then recycle the old wood boards or repurpose them.
    2. Clean and re-treat the frame. With the frame fully exposed, give it a good brushing with a broom to get rid of any cobwebs and dirt. Spray it down with a garden hose if necessary and let it dry. Then, treat the frame with water repellent and let dry for as long as directed by the manufacturer if needed.
    3. Measure and make the first cuts. Using a tape measure, find the width or length of the frame and add an extra 2″ inches. Then, cut the composite with a circular saw. Be sure to follow the old rule of thumb, “measure twice and cut once.”
    4. Install the first composite board. With the first board cut to 2″ inches longer than the framing, slide it under the flashing attached to your home. You can use a putty knife to lift the flashing in order to shimmy the board under it.
    5. Fasten the first composite board to the frame. With the first board in place, under the flashing, you can now install the hidden fasteners as recommended by the manufacturer. If the material doesn’t come with hidden fasteners, you’ll simply drive screws through the composite into the frame.
    6. Install the remaining boards individually. Depending on the manufacturer, the composite will have different fastening systems. Some hook boards together while others are fastened to the frame in another way. Follow the manufacturer’s installation guidelines and be sure to leave small gaps so water doesn’t pool on the composite.