<span>July 2017</span>

  • Preparing a Pool for Strong Fall Storms

    Preparing a pool for fall is a necessary task in the Sunshine State, though the temperatures remain quite warm, the rain will continue. It’s a familiar trend that happens every year; and, for residents in coastal retreats, like Sarasota, it’s not only the inconvenience of having to dodge morning drizzles, daytime sun showers, and evening downpours, it’s also being prepared for the remainder of hurricane season. Running from the first day of June right through the last day of November, it’s the months between September and December when tropical activity is at its height.

    Even if your pool is strategically protected from falling leaves and debris by a birdcage, that doesn’t protect it from rain flooding. For homeowners with completely exposed pools, you already know your old, trusty pool leaf skimmer will be put to good use over the next several weeks.

    With peak storm season now upon us, leaves and other common debris won’t be your only concern. Heavy rains, tropical storms, and even Category 1 hurricanes can cause a lot of damage to your home, your landscaping, and, to your pool. Getting ready now will save you time and money later.

    Proper Pool Maintenance and Safety

    As the days become shorter, combined with more daytime cloud cover and cooler overnight lows, that warm water will cool off, especially as the month of October ticks off the calendar. You and your family won’t be able to enjoy your pool much longer but just because you aren’t splashing and swimming about doesn’t mean you can ignore it.

    Keeping sufficient water levels in your pool provides the important weight to hold the sides and bottom in place, especially when heavy rains that accompany most storms raise the local water table. Never empty your pool. Pools that have been emptied may experience serious structural problems and could even be lifted off their foundations. —Sun Sentinel

    If you’ve not kept-up the pH balance, now is the time to get it balanced out right. You’ll also need to test your deck or patio to ensure it’s properly draining water away from your home and pool to the yard. Most have built-in drainage systems, but as the years go by, they might become clogged. With all the excess rain, you could easily mistake a clog for increased amounts of rainfall. Take a garden hose and spray your deck or patio to test its drainage and address any problems right away.

    One thing homeowners might be concerned about is flooding. If a big storm is on the way, it might not only overfill their pool but be too much for the drainage system, causing water to enter their homes. Since most pools have about three inches of room between the top and the water, this isn’t usually a reality. However, if a tropical storm or hurricane is moving toward your home, you might want to drain it a bit more. Have a professional do this because if you drain it too much, you risk damaging your pool.

    Preparing a Pool for Strong Fall Storms in Florida

    In addition to storms which are known to be coming your way, you’ve also got to think about those random pop-up downpours which deluge your pool with more than water. Here are some tips about what you ought to do to prepare for inclement weather:

    • Trim trees now. Those trees which are regularly littering your pool with leaves will drop even more debris during big storms. Before the storms begin to hit, trim those troublesome trees to keep larger objects from falling into your pool, which can introduce enough debris to clog your system.
    • Store unanchored objects away. Prior to a storm hitting, particularly ones of tropical strength and stronger, put your outdoor furnishings into storage. If you don’t have room but a concrete pool, gently place them inside your pool. Should your pool be vinyl or fiberglass, find a different storage place.
    • Clean the filtration system. This is a good time to go through every part of your filtration system. Those daily rain storms will put a lot of stress on it and the system ought to be able to handle more than usual. Go through all of your filtration system and replace anything that’s worn-out or damaged.
    • Turn off the electrical system. If there’s a tropical storm or hurricane approaching, it’s best to turn your system off. You can remove any foreign objects and debris after the storm passes, then turn your system back on.

    In addition, after a big storm passes, be sure to balance your pool again by super-shocking it. Super-chlorinate your pool to restore its pH balance as flooding will carry more chemicals, making the water a health risk. Never swim in a pool that’s been exposed to heavy storm flooding as it will likely contain pesticides and herbicides, even animal waste, all of which, are health hazards.

  • Spring Deck Preparation Tips You Can Use

    Decks are a wonderful amenity to have at a home. They provide dedicated space, functionality, and aesthetic qualities which make them a great choice to have, but they must be maintained. Decks are actually one of the highest wishlist items on the lists of homebuyers’ precisely because they are so enjoyable. These spaces offer a place for outdoor living and entertaining, from casual family dinners, to cook outs with friends and neighbors.

    Over time, the majority of wood decks begin to show their age. Planks begin to warp, paint peels, and uneven areas are not uncommon, not to mention stairs that start to bow from years worth of use. The weather elements definitely take their toll, even here in sunny Sarasota. The salty air is yet another damaging component, along with inclement weather. While this environment is ideal for year-round outdoor recreation opportunities, it does take its toll.

    Spring will be here before you know it, just about eight weeks away. That gives you ample time to address any problems to revive your deck so that you can take full advantage of all it has to offer in just a few weeks. Because the weather is so mild, you’ll have the benefit of working in very pleasant conditions in brisk, invigorating weather.

    Assessing the Condition of Your Deck

    The very first thing you ought to do is take the time to really inspect your deck. Unfortunately, that means having to almost completely clear it off, but, you ought to be thorough to ensure that you’re not missing anything. To do this, after you’ve cleared your deck of furniture, potted plants, and everything else, sweep it clean, brushing away fallen leaves and dirt. After sweeping, use the broom or another item to clear out the spaces between the floor planks to promote water runoff. Then, clean it with soap and water to reveal any problems lurking under the debris.

    Before you clean, make repairs. Replace splintered and rotted parts, and sand down any rough spots. Be sure to use stainless-steel or weatherproof fasteners, not drywall screws or plain steel fasteners, which rust. If you haven’t checked your deck for structural soundness, now is a good time. —Popular Mechanics

    Start with the obvious, make a list of problem areas, and also look for more subtle things, such as rust, mold, mildew, and the ground underneath. You might discover pests have built a home right under your feet and have burrowed a way in and out of your home. If you do discover mold has set-in, then use a bleach mix to get rid of it. Thereafter, you can truly find those problem areas, and might find that it’s time for a pressure washing, a new coat of stain, a new coat of sealant, or a combination. Typically, wood decks require re-staining or re-sealing every two to four years to keep them in good condition. This is a good time to change the color of stain, if you so wish.

    Steps for Preparing Your Deck for Spring

    Once the deck is clean, you can begin to make necessary repairs. This is the time to consider composite choices, ones that are specifically designed to withstand the outside elements and don’t need to be replaced periodically. This is also the ideal time to give your outdoor furnishings a once-over, clean them down, and allow you to assess their condition.

    While replacing planks and stairs might be in order, there are more things you can do for preparing your deck for spring:

    • Check underneath. No matter if your deck is elevated a few feet in the air or sits on risers that just separate it a few inches from the ground, you should be aware of any potential problems. While pest infestation is one, a sinking deck presents a real safety hazard if it isn’t fixed.
    • Carefully go over each nail, screw, or bolt. Should you find any nail or screw head popping-up, do your feet and the feet of your family and friends and countersink it. You don’t want to step on one of these, especially if when in sandals or worse yet, barefoot.
    • Consider making changes. This is the time to add-on to your deck or make other modifications. If you do want to expand it, do so in a way that compliments your landscaping theme and doesn’t take up precious space. You might also change the coloring, add built-in bench seating, or other amenities to enjoy. These could be a built-in storage bins for pool toys.

    Protect your deck’s surface from things you put directly on it, like potted plants. Place plastic directly underneath potted plants to prevent water, plant food, and other things from dripping onto the wood surface. You can also take this occasion to either replace your furniture or change-out the chair cushions.

  • 10 Sun-Thriving Shrubs You Can Use in Your Landscape

    Shrubs range in size from small to medium and are a woody plant. These differ from trees because of their multiple stems and short height. Shrubs make a great addition to any landscape because they can respond very well to renewal pruning. Depending on their growing conditions, plants can become shrubs or trees and most shrubs do not exceed 20 feet in height. Some shrubs only grow to between 4 feet to 6 feet and can be clipped as topiary, making them grow more densely. Shrubs grouped together in a shrubby habitat are typically species that are either deciduous or evergreen.

    Of the many species, shrubs can thrive in certain climate environments, ranging from shady and cool to completely exposed to the full strength of the sun in warm climates. Here in Sarasota, there’s certainly no shortage of sunlight and summers are quite warm and balmy. Hydrangeas, for instance, like morning sun, but don’t do as well when exposed to a lot of sunlight through the day. These prefer shady conditions during the afternoon hours when the sun is at its hottest. Red Japanese barberry shrub is another species that likes sun in the morning, but grows best under shade during the long sunny hours of spring and summer.

    Some Shade Loving Shrubs

    Other species don’t perform well under sunlight but do thrive in the shade. Kalmia latifolia or mountain laurel is just one example. Found throughout New England, mountain laurel its natural habitat is woodland areas, where it thrives because it is shaded under larger trees. These sprout glossy, evergreen leaves and colorful flower clusters, which make for great landscape additions. Kerria japonica or Japanese rose is another shade loving shrub that is deciduous and blooms yellow colored flowers. Climbing hydrangeas are curious because they tolerate shaded areas, but do well when exposed to a reasonable amount of sunlight. Florida might prove to be a bit too much for these, if you are able to strike a balance.

    Shrubs that grow best when exposed to morning sun are often categorized as needing “partial sun.” This is because these plants often can’t tolerate hot, afternoon sunshine. Many have broad leaves that scorch easily, or prefer cool soil. On the other hand, they still need some sun exposure to bloom and grow. —San Francisco Chronicle

    Emerald and gold euonymus both do well in shaded environments but also need sunlight to be healthy and look their best. Pieris japonica or Andromeda shrubs emit a strong odor, so you either enjoy the scent or are repelled by it. This is an evergreen with a bonus, Andromeda produces flowers. Carol Mackie Daphne is in the family of climbing hydrangeas like shade but do need sunlight to grow healthy. Carol Mackie produces aromatic flowers, making it a great choice for landscape beauty.

    10 Sun-Thriving Shrubs You can Use in Your Landscape

    Though there are a number of shrubs which do well under shady or partial shade conditions, there are species which do well under direct sunlight. Here are ten shrubs that thrive in the sun:

    1. Gold mound spirea. This shrub not only thrives under the sun, it also has wonderfully colored flowers, making it a great choice for a landscape in the Florida climate. The foliage is typically gold during the spring season, turning yellow during the summer and then red in the fall months.
    2. Flamingo Japanese willow. This reddish-pink shrub takes a shape that’s much like that of a flamingo. It also does well in the sun but needs the right care to look its best.
    3. Forsythia. This yellow flowering shrub is one of the first to wake from winter when spring begins to arrive. Forsythia likes sunlight and proves so with its early flower blooming.
    4. Flowering quince. Having multiple colors such as orange, flowering quince can also be pink or red. It thrives in the sun and is a flowering shrub.
    5. Diablo ninebark. During the summer and spring months, this shrub is one that produces dark foliage and does well in sunny conditions.
    6. Mock orange. This white, fragrant flowering shrub is one that does well in the sunlight. The smells it produces ranges from sweet to more interesting aromas.
    7. Weigela Florida. This shrub grows 6 feet to 10 feet in height and produces, pink, red, or white flowers during the spring and first part of summer.
    8. Fothergilla bush. Also commonly called “bottlebrush,” this shrub will grow under shade or partial shade, but it performs best and looks most beautiful when it’s exposed to the sunlight.
    9. Doublefile viburnum. This deciduous shrub produces white flowers and grows 10 feet to 12 feet in height, with a larger spread.

    Oakleaf hydrangea is another flower producing shrub that loves its sunlight. These shrubs grow in height and spread ranging from 4 feet to 6 feet and their summer white flowers become pinkish-brown as the fall months roll off the calendar.