<span>June 2019</span>

  • 5 Ways to Improve a Pergola

    A pergola provides shade and enhances the look of almost any outdoor space. It’s great for entertaining and relaxing. What’s more, there are many styles from which to choose, so there’s something for practically every backyard. If you have a pergola or plan on installing one on your property, you can opt for the minimal look and function or dress it up with some improvements. For those who prefer the latter alternative, there are five wonderful ways to improve a pergola.

    Pergola Alternatives

    Homeowners who are considering a pergola might also be interested in something else. For instance, a new deck or patio, or even a combination of two of the three features. Of course, a new deck cost estimate and considerations will be in order, just as with a new pergola or a patio addition. Either a deck, made of wood or composite is a great feature to have because it typically helps to boost a home’s resale value. A patio will do much the same, as will a pergola.

    A pergola is the perfect way to add character to an exterior space while serving a functional purpose. Sizes can vary, from a simple pergola that accents a growing garden to a larger scale one that covers a seating area to create a true outdoor room. Pergolas also come in many different styles and colors, so you can design one that enhances your home’s architectural style and landscaping. —HGTV

    Another option is to install a swimming pool, which will be accompanied by a deck or patio. Whatever you decide, you should know about all the unexpected landscape, outdoor living improvement costs you’ll experience. This way, you won’t under budget or miscalculate and incur surprise expenses when you take on a landscaping or outdoor living home improvement project. Also, be honest about your own DIY skill set. If you aren’t confident you can do it on your own, hire an experienced professional. This will save you a lot of time, effort, and money.

    5 Ways to Improve a Pergola

    Installing a pergola or improving an existing pergola is a terrific way to enhance your outdoor living space, providing a focal point and useable entertainment feature. Many homeowners opt to “dress up” their pergolas so they get even more enjoyment out of the feature. Here are five ways to improve a pergola you can incorporate into your own outdoor living space:

    • Outdoor furniture. Although this makes the all-too-obvious list, it’s definitely worth including. The addition of comfortable, outdoor furniture transforms a pergola into a true living space. You can place outdoor furniture in a floating arrangement, providing improved traffic flow, better visual appeal, and more leg room, for you, family, and guests.
    • A new barbecue grill. Also making the same all-too-obvious list is a new barbecue grill. That’s just right for cooking out and if you are so inclined, you can go all-out. Consider upgrading from just a grill to a complete outdoor kitchen, complete with some preparation space, a refrigerator, utensils, and dinnerware. If you do place a grill under or near your pergola, be sure to take fire safety into consideration. Additionally, make sure to place the grill where it won’t cause a smoke problem for family and guests.
    • Hang privacy curtains. Another great addition to a pergola is privacy curtains. These not only keep prying eyes away but also are great for reducing sun exposure during the summer or any other season of the year in west-central Florida.
    • Install a multi-use fire pit. If a grill isn’t your fancy or you want something else for lighter cooking, install a multi-use fire pit. These are great for cool evenings and also serve as a table and gathering feature for family and guests. These can be used for light meals and a place for plates, as well as drinks.
    • Install cooling fans and misters. Here in sunny Sarasota, there’s many hot and warm days and nights. It can be downright uncomfortable during the summer months but you can provide some pleasant relief by installing cooling fans and misters. These create a cool, comfortable space, almost regardless of the weather.

    If it’s time to update your landscape or add more features, like a new pergola, just go ahead and 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.

  • Landscaping Tips Specifically For Florida Home Owners

    Landscaping in Florida is different from just about anywhere else in the country, especially down here in Sarasota and the rest of the southern part of the state. Along with all the colorful, exotic plants we get to incorporate into a backyard design, the tropical climate and endless amount of sunshine also means doing things a little bit differently when it comes to basic backyard maintenance.

    Generally speaking, what mostly defines the climate here in Florida is the heat. Freezing temperatures are rare and the soil is often swampy, sandy, and not terribly ideal for growing certain plants that might be common in backyards in other places around the country. In addition, our coastal location along the Gulf can also bring about salt spray and different variations in wind pressure, which undoubtedly poses additional challenges to anybody who lives close to the water. But with landscaping playing such a big role in the curb appeal of your home, finding new and affordable ways to overcome all the obstacles Florida’s tropical weather presents is essential to making sure your yard stays in tip-top shape.

    If you’re looking for ways to add flair to your Florida home, try following these basic landscaping principles, which in many ways, are unique to where we happen to live:

    Limit fertilizer use

    With all the tropical storms we get in South Florida, rain water can often wash away any fertilizer you add to a yard, consequently pushing it into nearby bays, rivers, inlets, and lagoons. The result can also be harmful to those of us who love spending time in or out on the water, so reducing fertilizer use is a huge deal to those of us who call Florida home. In fact, Tampa and much of the surrounding area has even enacted strict regulations that directly relate to fertilizer management, so it’s best to leave it to the pros if you’re looking to fertilize your yard.

    Use sun-friendly plants

    If you’re looking to add more plant life around your Sarasota home, opt for plants that can withstand the hot Florida sun. Various palm trees, beach sunflowers, and countless ornamental grasses are all perfect drought-tolerant options that can spruce up your yard while surviving those scorching Sarasota summers.

    Reduce your grass

    If you’re looking for ways to enhance your lawn but also want to minimize maintenance, find ways to reduce the amount of grass. Install gravel pathways, stones, and even some water features, which not only help limit routine maintenance, but also add a little character and charm to your yard as well.

    Be careful not to overplant

    If you’re new to Florida, you’re probably not use to how quickly plants grow in a warm tropical environment. So as you’re adding new plants to your backyard, try to keep in mind how big certain plants will get as they mature, which will come in handy when it comes time to trim and maintain your yard in the future.

  • DIY Yard Mosquito Control

    Now the weather has heated-up here in beautiful Sarasota, it not only means more days to spend on the white sand beaches and barbecuing on the grill, it means it’s time for an effective yard mosquito control system.

    Why Mosquito Control is Necessary

    There are several common problem pests for infestations around the house, but, one that’s most troublesome, and sometimes dangerous, is the mosquito. These annoying insects prey on people and pets alike, leaving itchy bite marks on the skin. The good news is, you don’t have to suffer again through the summer because there are effective DIY yard mosquito control options at your disposal.

    Summertime means time for those pesky, disease-bearing mosquitoes and a fresh approach to getting a handle on natural mosquito control systems. Yes, systems, because it takes more than one earth-friendly method to manage mosquitoes and keep them from consuming people and pets. Some people prefer hiring an exterminator, but they can be expensive and they use toxic chemicals on lawns and flowers which may harm pets and people alike. Do-it-yourself mosquito exterminating with natural products will rid the garden of these pests and provide healthful mosquito control throughout the summer. —Natural

    While some will criticize DIY mosquito yard treatment alternatives, there’s really no way of completely eliminating these pests. This is because these small, midge-like flies are big in reproducing, with females laying between 100 and 300 eggs at a time, laying as many as 1,000 to 3,000 over the course of a lifetime. And, although the average lifespan is just 2 to 3 weeks long, when there are scores or hundreds of mosquitoes reproducing,  that’s certainly enough to cause a big problem.

    DIY Yard Mosquito Control

    Another challenge with common yard mosquito control products is these do not often treat the conditions necessary for breeding. Like keeping pond predators away, it’s more about controlling the outdoor environment than combatting swarms head-on. In other words, it’s not enough to spray repellent onto the skin and/or into the air, because it will eventually evaporate. You need to take proactive steps for truly effective DIY yard mosquito control:

    • Purchase a bat house. So, you’re probably thinking you’d rather not trade mosquitoes for bats, but, you’ll discover it’s a great swap to make. Mosquitoes come out to feed during dawn and dusk. Bats are nocturnal and also fly out to feed at the same time, particularly in the evening. Bats also feed on moths and other insects and help facilitate pollination, making them quite useful around you yard.
    • Remove standing water. One of the biggest contributors to mosquito breeding is our own bad habits. We typically ignore standing water and it’s in this natural element mosquitoes breed and thrive. If there is standing water anywhere in your yard, you can bet mosquitoes are present and multiplying. Stagnant water is the largest culprit, but, practically any water, even very shallow, will attract mosquitoes.
    • Keep yard grass cut short. Keeping the grass short in your yard is another way to fight mosquitoes. They can take refuge in tall grass and the taller grass, the more moisture is trapped, perfect conditions for those small, midge-like flies. A word of caution, don’t cut your yard too short or the grass will wither and die. Keep in mind, this is just one proactive steps you can take of several more for mosquito control.
    • Remove any unnecessary items. There is probably one or more unnecessary items in your yard. It could be just about anything, including an old tire acting as a plant bed, a tarp, or another object. Anything that can retain water will attract mosquitoes. Also, be sure to keep gutters clean so mosquitoes don’t have another place to breed and hide.
    • Tie tarps down as tight as possible. If you cover your grill, boat, or even firewood (though not so common in Florida), with a tarp, know this can be a prime breeding spot. This is because rainwater can pool on a tarp; so, ensure it’s tightened down to ward off mosquitoes.
    • Treat your yard with insect repellent. Even if you use all the suggestions above, mosquitoes can still be somewhat problematic. Another step to take is to treat your yard with insect repellent yourself on a regular basis, following the manufacturer’s instructions.

    In addition to these steps, you can also light citronella torches for added protection. Another trick you might try if you’re a person who “attracts” mosquitoes, is to place a clothes dryer sheet in your waistband. These contain benzyl acetate, benzyl alcohol, ethanol, limonene, and/or other chemicals. Dryer sheets have been proven effective in keeping gnats away, but, there’s plenty of anecdotal accounts these work with mosquitoes, too.

  • Killing Off Tough Lawn Weeds DIY Style

    Killing off tough lawn weeds is, well, tough. Weeds are a bane many homeowners suffer from in their landscapes. These problematic plants pop-up from the ground time and again. You pull them out, spray them, and do whatever you can to rid your lawn, garden, and landscape at-large from them, yet, they continue to creep up from the soil, ruining all your hard work. What’s even more frustrating is that it’s an ongoing battle that drains your energy but you still persist because you are committed to having a great outdoor space.

    The truth is, there are many effective ways to control weeds–notice the phrasing doesn’t include a “forever” verb or adjective–but some work better than others. That’s because killing off tough lawn weeds is an ongoing fight. You can only control weeds in so many ways, and, if you do it right, you won’t inflict harm on the rest of your lawn. Remember, there’s no perfect solution and some of the remedies you’ve found will not only kill weeds, but the plants you want to protect.

    Weeds are not only unsightly, they are a drain on your landscape’s resources. Just like the plants you want to grow and enjoy, weeds fight for land, soil, water, and other nutrients, which means less is available for your lawn. This is why you fight weeds and continue to do battle, to protect your lawn, but it comes with a lot of commitment. It’s not necessarily cheap, though it isn’t expensive in most instances, but, killing weeds is time consuming. The good news is, there are ways to effectively kill off weeds to cleanup your landscape.

    Not All Organic Solutions Work

    As mentioned above, not all weed control solutions work. Some are downright harmful, even though they may render results, they also do damage to your lawn and/or garden. Sure, you can boil water and pour it over weeds, but, even if you don’t scald your skin, you won’t be able to pour with precision, and, those nearby plants can also be harmed. You can also pour vinegar on weeds, but, here again, it’s not a great solution. The reason for this is that store-bought vinegar contains only 5 percent of acetic acid. However, to be effective, you need about 20 percent.

    Nothing ruins your garden or yard like weeds, those uninvited guests that rob your plants of space and nutrients. So murder those weeds most foul, but without harmful chemicals that can do you in, too. —House Logic

    There are more organic ways to control weeds, but these too can often be harmful to plants and grass. What’s more, you won’t find a household product that’s nearly as effective as a chemical herbicide. Those products are specifically designed to do the job without causing harm to your grass and plants. When you use household products, you’re taking an ineffective short cut that’s generally a waste of time.

    Killing Off Tough Lawn Weeds: Dandelions and Japanese Knotweed

    Weeds come in a variety of types, which means that there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution. You’ll have to identify the weeds in your lawn and garden one by one in order to know what controls will work best. So, let’s look at four of the most common types of weeds and ways to kill them off:

    • Dandelions. These weeds are very common, and, quite difficult to control. Dandelions are a perennial, not an annual, so, you can’t get rid of these in the same way. Unlike crabgrass, which is an annual, dandelions won’t be effectively controlled with a pre-emergent herbicide. This is because dandelions have a long tap root, which means you can’t simply pull them out of the ground and expect results. If you pull dandelions out, you’ll leave that long tap root behind, which means it will just grow back. Grab a bottle of Weed-B-Gon and pull up those dandelions, then, spray it into the hole to kill the root.
    • Japanese knotweed. This is so ubiquitous that it can be found all over the country, and, so difficult to control, it actually decreases property values. Like dandelions, Japanese knotweed has a serious root, making it difficult to control. The method for killing this weed is to pull it out and treat the hole with chemicals. If you’re dealing with a large patch, smother it with layers of old carpet.

    Killing Off Tough Lawn Weeds: and Bittersweet and Crabgrass

    • Bittersweet. Like dandelion and Japanese knotweed, bittersweet is problematic because of its roots. You can cut it down, but not with a chainsaw, because it will cause the weed to be broadcast. One way of controlling bittersweet is to cut it down, then pull it out by digging up as much of the root as you can. It might still grow back, so, you’ll have to revisit it and pull up any re-emerging roots.
    • Crabgrass. Post-emergent herbicides work well on crabgrass, but, be careful not to spray any other plants or grass. Like some other weeds, crabgrass can grow in large patches, so, you’ll have to keep on it to keep control.