<span>March 2018</span>

  • Pros and Cons of Running Bamboo

    There are pros and cons of running bamboo, whether you wish to plant it as an ornamental grass or use it functionally and aesthetically as a privacy fence. A common misconception about this species is it is some sort of tree; it isn’t, bamboo is actually a giant woody grass which grows chiefly in the tropics. This grass plant is characterized by its tall shoots, rising several feet in the air, with hard, hollow stems. It’s widely cultivated and can be found in many climates, even in non-native settings. Before you plant this beautiful grass, you should know the pros and cons of running bamboo.

    Pros and Cons of Running Bamboo

    Here in Sarasota, the Sunshine State lives up to its name nearly every day of the year. In the summer, temperatures can reach into the low to mid 90’s, with overnight lows cooling to the mid to high 70’s. Dew points run into the low to mid 70’s, with the relative humidity varying greatly, from the low 60’s to the 80’s and 90’s. This subtropical climate, as you might guess, is one in which bamboo thrives because it’s much like its native climate.

    Bamboos can be broadly grouped into two categories. The first is the running variety, which grows very fast and can be quite invasive if not controlled properly. The second is the clumping variety, which is slower to grow, but is easier to contain within a specified boundary. Running bamboos provide a quick and tall fence, but they may require more work in terms of containment. Some of the popular species that can withstand most weather conditions include Black Bamboo, Golden Bamboo, Meyerii and Arcana Bamboo. —Do It

    This is why it’s common to find beautiful bamboo privacy fences all over Sarasota County, as well as many other localities in the state of Florida. Though running bamboo does well in this climate, it’s wise to learn a little about the grass plant before you plant it on your property. You must also be careful and prepare before planting: like calling before you dig (Sunshine 811); preparing the soil; wetting the area; shovel a berm; fill the berm with mulch; and, water the bamboo properly for it to grow strong.

    Pros of Running Bamboo

    There are a few good reasons to choose running bamboo for your landscape, such as the following:

    • Provides a visual barrier. The biggest reason homeowners choose to plant running bamboo is because it provides a visual barrier and a beautiful one at that. It works as a privacy fence with its natural look.
    • Bamboo is a perennial. One great thing about bamboo is it is a perennial grass plant, which means it will come back each year. That’s an advantage but is also a slight disadvantage because there will be less foliage to provide privacy.
    • Bamboo is drought tolerant. Because bamboo is drought tolerant, it takes very little to care for it to keep it healthy and looking its best. This also help curtail the amount of watering you must do.
    • Provides more oxygen. Another wonderful aspect about bamboo is it actually provides more oxygen per square inch than practically any species of tree or grass. This is a big benefit for people and for the environment.
    • It helps to control erosion. Bamboo has an extensive root system, which is a much welcome help to control erosion.

    Another benefit of bamboo is it can be cut and repurposed. For instance, you might opt to cut down a section to build a table, a small gate, or an outdoor decorative feature.

    Cons of Running Bamboo

    Of course, with the good comes the bad and there are cons of planting running bamboo:

    • Leaves shed and fall off. Like many species of trees and grasses, bamboo does shed its leaves and this can be problematic, in some situations. For instance, planting running bamboo near a pool means having to skim leaves from the water as they are blown in by the wind.
    • Running bamboo is an invasive species. Perhaps the biggest problem with bamboo is that the grass plant is an invasive species. This means it will take over a larger and larger area in your yard, forcing other plants out by taking up more nutrients, sunlight, and moisture.
    • Does not provide much shade. Unless you plant a large swath of running bamboo, don’t count on it to provide much shade. Here in the Sunshine State, shade is welcome anywhere it can be found.
    • Difficult to get rid of it. Another problem with planting bamboo is once it takes hold, it is difficult to rid your yard of it.
  • Basic DIY Landscaping Tips and Tricks

    Putting a landscape design together takes a lot of preparation and know how. Unfortunately, homeowners are bombarded with media that magically transforms properties in thirty to sixty minutes, yielding stunning results that isn’t possible without the help of dozens and dozens of crew members. That phenomenon gives homeowners the misconception landscaping is not difficult. Of course, it’s often the hard way that notion is dispelled and that’s when disappointment sets-in.

    Landscaping, like anything else, is a process, and, it can be a complicated and complex one. Breaking it down to fundamentals is essential to getting the right results. By following some basic principles, do-it-yourself types can produce a great design that really impresses the eye and serves in a functional capacity.

    Where many people go wrong is going all out and going too big. It’s best to start small and work up in an incremental manner, developing on a particular theme and keeping it flush with continuity. It’s wanting the perfect design and not seeing the forest for the trees which causes mistakes to be made and that will cost a lot more time and money. Settling on a concept and executing in a step-by-step fashion will yield the best results, not trying to do it all in one shot.

    Fundamental Landscape Principles

    Professional designers blend five basic elements into each of their projects: color, or more particularly, how colors relate to one another, form, line, scale, and texture. It’s the relationship and balance between these things which serve as the cornerstones of great landscapes. Conspicuous by its absence in those five elements is function, and that’s likely why do-it-yourself homeowners focus just on aesthetics only to learn later-on that their new design is lacking. For instance, let’s take a scenario in which you install a fire pit that’s right in the middle of your yard, only to discover it’s now in a place where keeping it lit is problematic because wind routinely blows strong over it.

    Do-it-yourselfers must first learn the basic designing elements that underlie the discipline of landscape design. These fundamental elements will then serve as building blocks for learning and implementing the more advanced principles for designing a garden in the backyard. These tried and true principles are the cornerstones of the world’s picture-perfect gardens. —Landscaping,

    Another example would be placing seating on an uncovered patio to entertain, only to learn that it’s arranged in such a way that it’s right in the heat of the sun and, too far away from the grill. You have to think beyond beauty and about how some elements will serve a purpose. If you don’t plan every aspect out, you’ll be left with having to sort it out later and could even face having to completely uninstall something to correct the situation and then put it back.

    Basic DIY Landscaping Tips and Tricks

    To get started, you’ll need a game plan. Begin with your budget, because that’s ultimately will determine how big and grand your design will be. Again, start small, you can always add to it later-on and make improvements and embellishments as time goes by until you get it to your liking. Once you have a budget established, then do the following:

    • Write out a list of your needs first, wants second. Prioritize what you’d like to include and start with your must-haves. If you want to create a space that’s going to be a place to entertain, you’ll likely need a grill, preparation surfaces, and serving platforms. Then, include the things you want, after you’ve got the essentials.
    • Learn the sun and wind patterns. This is a big problem that often goes unknown until you’ve wandered into the know. Before you put anything in permanently, take some time to learn the sun and wind patterns and save yourself the grief, frustration, time, and effort.
    • Work with your yard in varied ways. Think about your entire space in sections. Put seating here, hardscaping there, a water feature over in one corner, then rearrange all of them to find the best ebb and flow. You’ll probably discover there are better ways to arrange your features.
    • Begin small. Okay, so this point has been made, but it bears repeating. Starting small is a sure way to avoid making a monumental mistake, or two, or three, or more.
    • Create around a focal point. It could be a fire pit, a waterfall, a flower garden, anything that stands-out. Work out from the focal point and keep the look and feel continuous.
    • Strike a balance. You should create a flow of color and avoid monotony. Too much of one thing will be a bad thing and too little might make something look out of place.

    Last but certainly not least, be willing to change. If something just doesn’t seem to fit the theme or is too much work to put in, then let it go and take a different direction.

  • Leaf Blower Troubleshooting Tips and Tricks

    The temperatures in Sarasota and Manatee have already dropped to some unusual lows and swung back to their averages. The weather phenomenon isn’t unexpected to those who have lived along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico in the Sunshine State, but what might be out of the ordinary is trouble with one of the most used landscaping machines, the leaf blower.

    These come in electric and fuel models, when electric powered machines fail, that’s typically a sign it’s time to buy a new one because the cost of repair will likely be near or more than a new purchase. However, that’s not the case for fuel powered blowers, which, like all internal combustion engines, may not start or stay running from time to time. Because we live in a subtropical climate, a leaf blower is one lawn care tool that gets a lot of use, not just for leaf control, but to blow grass clippings away from the patio, driveway, and sidewalk.

    Nothing can be more frustrating than to put in hours worth of work, only to reach for the last thing you need and discover it won’t start or won’t keep running. Fortunately, you don’t have to be a garden machine expert or a mechanic to get it to work again. The fixes are usually simple and straightforward, meaning you’ll be able to get back to your cleanup, which you might be doing wrong.

    Raking Leaves for Better Lawn Health

    It might surprise you to learn that what you think to be such a simple task tends to take so long to complete, raking leaves. Okay, so a combination of blowing leaves into a pile, then raking them into a bag or shoveling them into a bin. But just why, aside from aesthetics, do we rake leaves off our lawns? The answer is straightforward, a layer of decaying leaves might provide nutrients to the soil, which grass thrives upon, but leaves covering said sod will deprive it of sunlight, something very crucial to lawn health.

    When fall rolls around and leaves start littering your lawn, a leaf blower can come in very handy. It can be pretty frustrating, though, when you try to use your blower and it doesn’t operate properly. While some issues may requires professional assistance, you should familiarize yourself with some of the more common leaf blower problems so you can troubleshoot the matter as quickly as possible and get back to blowing those pesky leaves off your lawn. —San Francisco Chronicle

    Now, what about your health? Put another way, why does it take so much work to blow, rake, sack, a discard leaves in the first place? It takes a lot of time because you’re probably doing something that’s counterproductive. The most efficient way to use a rake or leaf blower is to place a tarp in the center of your lawn. Weigh or pin down all four corners, then, start in the left corner nearest your home’s exterior, and blow the leaves toward and onto the tarp. Next, do the same starting from the right exterior.

    Once the tarp is covered in leaves, cinch it up and dump the contents into a compost bin or put the leaves into lawn bags and set the bags out to be picked-up. Another trick pros use is not to fret over every single leaf that doesn’t find its way to the pile. This is why it takes so long, trying to achieve unison perfection.

    Tips for Leaf Blower Troubleshooting Tips

    Now, if your leaf blower isn’t working, start with the most obvious problem, shortage of fuel. If that fuel has sat for some time and contains ethanol, it might be “stale.” Which means it needs to be disposed of properly, don’t just dump it down a storm drain. To get your fuel and oil mixture to last more than sixty days, add stabilizer to the combination and if possible, use at least 87 octane, ethanol-free gas.  Here are some other tips for troubleshooting a leaf blower:

    • Check the fuel filter. Fuel filters can become obstructed over time and must be cleared or replaced. This is simple to do and doesn’t take much time.
    • Check the spark plug. If the spark plug is fouled and/or corroded, then it’s time to replace it.
    • Check the air filter. An obstructed or dirty air filter will cause the engine to stall or not start.
    • Check the impeller. The impeller is the “drive” of a leaf blower, performing the same functions as a fan. It if is cracked or obstructed, it won’t work and needs to be replaced.

    If the problem is with insufficient air volume delivery, or, it doesn’t blow with force, the tube might be obstructed. With the engine off and cool, remove the tube and clear it out.

  • Beautiful Pool Hardscaping Tips You Can Use

    Owning a home with an in-ground swimming pool is one great amenity. It’s not only perfect for escaping the warm summers here in Sarasota, but also to entertain family and friends most of the year. Strategically placed lighting can make an outdoor space come alive during the evening hours, adding substantially to the ambiance and the aesthetics.

    Maintaining the area around an in-ground pool can prove difficult. Keeping small stretches of grass neatly cut and hedges and bushes from encroaching is a constant challenge; and, mix in the ever present weeding, and it loses some of its glamour. Tired of the toll of maintenance, you decide it’s high time to uproot the grass, and put in hardscaping. That little change will make a big impact on your quality of life and that’s a very welcome change.

    What you don’t want to wind up doing to yourself is replacing your current set of problems with a slew of new problems. That would be nothing more than an exercise in futility and a one-way ticket to a constant reminder of landscaper’s remorse.

    About Hardscaping a Yard

    There are several advantages to replacing grass and other greenery with hardscape materials such as patios and extra water features. Chief among them is cutting out the cost of cutting grass, weeding, fertilizing and repeating the process on an exhaustive basis during the long summer. Another big benefit is reducing sanctuary space for pests and critters which can cause all kinds of problems.

    Hardscaping is an attractive feature and offers many appealing options, from a rustic stacked wall to a fully developed outdoor living room and kitchen. Once you’ve decided to create an outdoor space, you must plan carefully to meet your hardscaping goals. ‘Research really pays off, especially when you consider that a fixed object in the landscape is not going to move easily — and you don’t want to put in a lot of effort and then have your materials or design fail within a couple of years,’ says Samuel Salsbury, a member of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers and partner with Sabrena Schweyer, APLD, in Salsbury-Schweyer, an Akron, Ohio-based landscape design group. —HGTV

    You’ll also have more space to roam, usually it’s not a huge amount of square footage, but generally enough to add extra creature comforts. It will likewise reduce the “tracking inside” problem, which is nearly inevitable with small children and accident prone adults. A few more lounge chairs, a swing, or a hammock will then be possible, which will make good use of that bit of extra space and allow guests to spread out.

    If there’s enough room, it could make way for a spa, nearly connected to the pool, and just right for adult guests who want to unwind and enjoy a cool drink. Or, it could be just enough room to add a partial or full outdoor kitchen you’ve always wanted. At the very least, it gives you the space to add a wet bar and refrigerator.

    Beautiful Pool Hardscaping Tips You can Use

    To get the most out of the area around your pool, start with an initial concept and begin to qualify its ability to accommodate your plans. You’ll be able to quickly decide whether or not some of the features will work. For instance, if you do want to go all-out and install an inground spa, think about things like plumbing, filtering, and the electrical load. On the flip-side of the coin, simply additions, such as chairs will require sufficient space for guests to walk by them when occupied.

    The point of course being, keep it simple and thinks about what will be able to serve the best uses. Here are some more tips and tricks for hardscaping around a pool:

    • Keep small boundaries from the fence to the patio or deck. Though you don’t want grass to populate the space between the patio and the fence, you do want to keep it looking great and natural. Stones will work, but use the proper materials to keep weeds and other things from growing up among the stones.
    • Understand the impact of installing big ticket items. An outdoor kitchen, be it partial and small or full and big, is a great functional living and future selling feature. However, think about it in terms of the most important things, such as garbage collection, dirty dishes, and meal preparation areas.
    • Leave enough room for family pets or a garden. If you have pets, you don’t want to deprive them of all their backyard space. In addition, you could also cultivate a vegetable or flower garden.

    In addition, think about the overall flow that will be present once the pieces are in place. You want the space to have enough room to comfortably navigate and be easy to hose down from time to time.

  • How to Create a Rock Garden

    Few can deny the beauty and function of a rock garden. What’s this about function, you might be asking? Well, rock gardens are the perfect answer to what ails you the most when it comes to your lawn and landscape. Practically every home has that one area that’s really difficult to maintain. It might be a corner, a slope, or another challenging reality that you absolutely dread having to take care of from time to time. When you put in a rock garden, you won’t have the same headache to deal with, and, you’ll get the added benefit of having a great feature.

    What’s more, a rock garden is a kind of one-and-it’s-done, or, set-it-and-forget-it hardscape feature. In other words, once you put in a rock garden, you really don’t have to do much to maintain it. Rocks don’t grow, but, they do help to encourage growth. So, you’ll have to weed around it now and again, unless you put down landscape fabric.

    In addition to being easy to create and maintain, there’s the benefit of having a feature that will last for many, many years. This is one of the secrets of professionals, they know that hardscaping brings a lot to an outdoor living and entertainment space, not only providing aesthetics, but also function, and longevity.

    What is a Rock Garden Anyway?

    A rock garden is just that, its namesake explains it all, at least, to an extent. Unlike some other landscape features, rock gardens can have a very specific purpose, which is mentioned above. These hardscapes are a great way to deal with problematic areas of a lawn and are popular in sub-tropical and tropical climates. A rock garden is typically comprised of assorted sized stones or rocks, and are aesthetically arranged. This arrangement includes small gaps to allow small plants to grow through. These plants are generally less water dependent and thrive in well-drained soil.

    “A rock garden is a group of plants that look good planted among rocks,’ says Jody Payne, director of the Rock and Native Plant Gardens at the New York Botanical Garden. ‘They can include small plants, unusual plants, shady areas filled with ephemeral woodland plants and sunny areas dotted with dwarf conifers and small flowering plants and grasses.’” —HGTV

    Small rock gardens are created to mimic natural bedrock outcrops for a stunning visual effect. These were very popular landscape features during Victorian times, and, are coming back into style, in-part, because of the ease of creation, and low maintenance. These can be found on commercial properties and are a favorite go-to since they can be arranged for a particular look.

    How to Create a Rock Garden

    If you want to enhance the look of your landscape, there’s little else that’s as simple as creating a rock garden. What’s more, you don’t have to be a professional to get great results. All you need is some common tools, a little time, and of course, rocks. Here’s how you can create a rock garden:

    1. Gather the tools and materials. You’ll need a pair of leather gloves, a spade shovel, wheelbarrow, sand, landscaping marking paint, leaf mold, small gravel, limestone or sandstone, and, rocks of varying sizes. It’s also a good idea to wear heavy work boots to protect your feet while you’re excavating.
    2. Choose and mark your rock garden location. Now that you have your tools and materials ready to go, it’s time to choose where you’ll put-in your rock garden. When you settle on a spot, mark the boundaries with landscaping marking paint.
    3. Excavate the marked site. Using a spade shovel, begin to excavate into the ground, digging down at least one feet in depth, if you’re digging into a slope, putting the soil and sod aside. Should you not have a slope to dig into, you’ll have to create a raised bed, which will require digging down three feet, and building walls of limestone or sandstone. An alternative is to build a berm, which naturally slopes on all sides and promotes drainage.
    4. Put down a drainage layer. This will be where water, such as rainwater and irrigation water seep past. Using large rocks, fill up the excavated area to about one-third to one-half deep. You want it to be even, but certainly have plenty of small gaps for proper drainage.
    5. Put down the sand layer. Now, you’ll need something to support the topsoil, and that’s what a sand layer will do nicely. It should also be even, covering the drainage layer, a few inches in depth, comprised of coarse sand.
    6. Put down the soil layer. Mix together one part topsoil, one part leaf mold, and one part small gravel to create a soil layer. This will fill the excavated hole to its brim and then, it’s time to rock out with the finishes.

    You can arrange rocks to your liking and then, let it settle for at least a few days. Thereafter, you can plant flowers in the soil layer and then all you have to do is enjoy your new creation!