<span>October 2016</span>

  • Don’t Let Halloween Jack-o’-Lanterns Ruin Your Landscape

    Halloween Jack-o’-Lanterns are able to ruin your landscape. It’s something we just don’t consider when we are preparing for the scary and fun autumn holiday. We worry about keeping landscape plants healthy and decorating our homes just right to capture the imagination. But, most of us do not stop to think about what Halloween brings to our homes, besides trick-or-treaters. Your craftily carved Halloween pumpkin is a big temptation to unwanted guests who come in various shapes and sizes.

    How to Make a Pumpkin Last Longer

    Many homeowners unwittingly make a number of big landscaping mistakes and unfortunately, one is not being aware of what Halloween pumpkins attract to their yards and homes. So, it’s good to know the best proactive step to take is to make your pumpkin last longer – this will help to discourage pests. Since you want the best Jack-o’-Lantern in the neighborhood, you’ve got to start with picking out the right pumpkin.

    With Halloween just around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about how to transform that porch pumpkin into a work of art. But before you carve up a masterpiece only to watch it wither away, it helps to understand the life and death of a Jack-o’-lantern. Pumpkins are organic, so there’s no way to stop the rotting process indefinitely. The best way to ensure the longevity of your Jack-o’-lantern is to begin with a healthy pumpkin. While there’s no such thing as the “perfect” pumpkin, there are several things you can look for to get your Jack-o’-lantern off to a great start. –

    If possible, choose pumpkin that’s grown locally because it will be the freshest. Inspect the skin, looking for gouges and/or blemishes. These imperfections might add a whole bunch of character but they promote rot, which attracts pests. Stay away from soft fruits as these are already in the process of rotting. To keep it fresh longer, understand the moment the skin is broken (when you make the first carving cut), the clock starts ticking. Organisms such as fungi, bacteria, molds, and insects are attracted to the rot process.

    How to Protect Your Landscape and Home from Halloween Jack-o’-Lantern Pests

    When you are ready to decorate your home and yard for Halloween, you need it to remain safe and pest free. Unfortunately, there are many elements which cause safety hazards to exists and also invite pests. Here are some helpful suggestions for how to protect your landscape and home from Halloween Jack-o’-Lantern pests:

    • Carve your pumpkin(s) outside. Okay, so you live in sunny, heat-breaking record Sarasota (105 days this year above 90 degrees Fahrenheit this summer), but you should carve pumpkins outside. But the mess created from pumpkin carving is a big one. Lay old plywood across saw horses on your lawn and carve away. Don’t do this on your sidewalk or driveway because the pulp is just too slippery. Lay plastic underneath to catch the pulp so it is easy to clean up.
    • Pick up all tools and organic material. When you are finished carving, be sure to pick up all the tools and organic material. Tools are tripping hazards and the pulp is not only slippery, it’s also a giant meal for all kinds of furry pests and insects alike. A slippery area isn’t something you want on your property when people are out on Halloween. Not to mention the putrid odor rotting pulp emits, which is downright unpleasant, to say the least.
    • Set insect traps all around the pumpkins. As mentioned above, once the pumpkin skin is pierced, it starts the rotting process right away. Take precautions by setting insect traps nearby and all around. While this won’t ward off all the pests, it will substantial deter insects.
    • Consider using hard shell gourds, instead. Hard-shell gourds are a winter squash, ripening in the fall and only edible in their early stages of growth. It’s best to grow and cure hard-shell gourds months before Halloween. But if you have these available, you can carve them instead of pumpkin. Cured hard-shell gourds make permanent Halloween Jack-o’-Lanterns, unlike pumpkin.
    • Compost or throw out pumpkin at first sign of rot. When you see any signs of rot on a pumpkin, it’s time to throw it out or add it to the compost pile. Do this as soon as possible because the fruit will only get softer and eventually, too soft to pick up whole. At that stage, it’s a really big mess to deal with and you’ll have to clean up after it more.

    If it’s time to update your landscape or add more features, 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.

  • Basic Saltwater Pool Maintenance

    Contrary to popular belief, saltwater pools do contain chlorine, unlike the widespread misconception purports. Suburban swimming pools have remained largely the same for decades, using nearly the same systems to keep them safe and comfortable for aquatic enjoyment. Pools were traditionally quite big, taking-up much of a backyard, but, over the last several years, the rise in popularity of saltwater pools continues to grow. These fixtures are generally smaller in size, but can be more aesthetically pleasing, and, are more healthy for skin.

    What’s more, saltwater pools, though containing chlorine, do use less chemicals than traditional swimming pools, have a lower cost of upkeep, and only need minimal maintenance. That however, does not mean any maintenance, as saltwater pools do need care just like regular pools, and also like regular, or chlorinated pools, still need attention even during the months you aren’t swimming on a daily basis like you do in the summer.

    The Difference between Salt Water Pools and Regular Swimming Pools

    Let’s face facts, a swimming pool is a wonderful creature comfort feature to have at home, but, it’s far from hands-off, maintenance-free. There are many things to deal with to maintain the quality of the water, which include regular skimming of floating leaves and other debris, rainwater pouring down, reclaimed water runoff, and more. All of these can wreak havoc with the oh-so delicate pH balance and needs to be shocked. It takes some time and effort out of upkeep, which, for many homeowners, is a welcome proposition.

    Saltwater pools don’t take care of themselves.You still have to add acid to keep the pH balanced. Just because it seems natural like the ocean — it’s not. In fact, saltwater pools have 1/10 the salt of the ocean , so they’re more like a tear drop than a good salt soak! The salt breaks down into various components including hyrdrochloric acid or chlorine gas. Regular pools don’t have that much chlorine. —

    In a regular pool, chlorine is manually added and dissolves. It then circulates through the water but must be added again manually to start the whole chlorination process over again. Salt water pools automate this task, employing a purification system that practically eliminates the need for a homeowner to buy sanitizing chemicals.

    Chlorinated pools can be converted by adding a mild saline solution, bringing the water to a mixture equal to about 1/10th to 1/12th of saltiness of Sarasota Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. Next, a chlorine generator is installed and this is what helps to maintain the water’s salt/chlorine concentration. This system uses electrolysis to push salty water over an electrically charged special metal cell, creating chlorine. The created chlorine then breaks back down into salt and the cycle repeats itself, over and over again.

    Basic Saltwater Pool Maintenance

    Though saltwater pools have less maintenance than regular chlorinated pools, these fun water retreats don’t completely free you from at-least some level of upkeep. You’ll need to stick to a regular system in order to keep it functioning well and maintain the water quality and quantity. These steps should be done once a week, once a month, and once a quarter to give your family and friends a great experience:

    • Once per week, check the water for free chlorine and pH levels. Using a strip or drop test kit, check the free chlorine level, which should test between 1 and 3 ppm (parts per million). The pH level ought to range between 7.2 and 7.6. If the pH level is off in your saltwater pool, use muriatic acid to lower its level or raise it using soda ash or sodium bicarbonate.
    • Once per month, test your pool’s salt, alkalinity, stabilizer, and calcium levels. Every month, use a strip test kit or drop test kit to test the salt, alkalinity, stabilizer, and calcium levels. Check your owner’s manual for normal readings and act accordingly if the levels are high or low. In addition, you should also test for the presence of such metals as copper, iron, and manganese.
    • Once every quarter, visually inspect the cell and clean, if necessary. Every three months, you should manually take the unit apart and visually inspect the cell carefully. You’re looking for any deposit buildup, which of course, reduces its efficiency and causes the chemical levels to become unbalanced. If you notice a buildup, then use a high pressure garden hose to spray it down and clean off the debris.
    • Every three months, check and clean the filter, pump, and skimmer. These three components are absolutely vital for your saltwater system to work properly. If any of these are clogged with debris, the system will not make as much chlorine, reducing the amount of salt generated, and therefore, putting a strain on the system. Check and clean the filter, pump, and skimmer to ensure all are in good working order and are not clogged with foreign deposits.