July 2019

  • Getting Rid of Grass Between Patio Stones

    To get rid of grass between patio stones, you’ll have to apply a bit of elbow grease. During the spring and summer, it’s practically impossible and downright frustrating to keep weeds and grass from sprouting-up between patio stones. Because we are in a subtropical climate and there’s plenty of rain during the spring and particularly during the summer, grass grows at an impressive and infuriating rate. Mowing quickly becomes once a week chore and all the while, grass is growing around and between your patio stones.

    Because there’ no real room to work, you can dig down and pull it out by the root. An alternative is to pull up the entire hardscape feature, spray the area with a grass killing herbicide, and, then covering the whole area with landscape fabric, only to reset the patio stones. That’s simply too much effort for such a trivial aesthetic annoyance, but, there are other ways you can make your patio a grass-free zone.

    Ways to Keep a Patio Clean

    One ill side-effect of grass growing around and between patio stones is that’s it’s organic matter. It runs its life course, then, withers and dies. Unfortunately, the decay attracts pests and can cause discoloration. This leaves it looking worn, dull, and just plain unsightly. The best way to keep your patio clean is to do the simplest thing on a regular basis: sweep it. Use a broom to sweep it off on a weekly basis, in combination with a leaf blower to make the task easier.

    Persistent weeds find a way to grow even in small places, such as cracks or gaps in your patio and driveway. Because of the small space, you can’t simply dig up the entire weed roots and all. A combination of weed removal methods gives you options to control the unwanted weed and grass growth. Consistently killing the weeds eventually reduces the number of weeds that try to grow in the area. With chemical and manual weed control methods at your disposal, you can get your patio and driveway back in shape without those pesky weeds. —San Francisco Chronicle

    If it looks dull, you can bring back its vigor with a little elbow grease. Use a garden hose to spray it down and then scrub it with a long handled brush and dish-washing liquid. If there are black and green spots, this is probably mold and mildew. Use a combination of bleach and water. Once scrubbed, spray the patio down again to rinse and repeat the process, if necessary. It might take two or three times to see results. With a little work, you’ll have a great looking surface once again, though, the grass will probably still be a problem.

    How to Get Rid of Grass between Patio Stones

    The truth of the matter is, grass will continue to grow up between patio stones until it is dealt with at its source. The only way to do that effectively is to do what’s mentioned above — pull up all the stones, spray herbicide, lay down landscape fabric, and then reset the stones. The good news is, all you need is a few things: a weeding knife, herbicide, plastic bags, sand, wheelbarrow, shovel, broom, and garden hose. For faster results and to take advantage of the time of year when grass is going dormant, do the following to get rid of grass between patio stones:

    • Clear the patio off completely. Remove anything that’s on the patio to have ample room to work and to avoid any tripping hazards. This is a good time to sweep the patio off, if you haven’t already done so to clean it.
    • Use a weeding knife between stones. This will be a time consuming job, but a necessary step to get rid of that unsightly grass. Dig down between the cracks and joints with a weeding knife, cutting into the roots. Pull clumps of grass up by hand, along with the roots.
    • Carefully discard of any pulled grass. When you pull the grass up, don’t just toss it aside or lay it onto the patio, because you could be spreading more seeds to spur more growth. Place everything you excavate into plastic bags to avoid this mistake.

    Two more Ways to Get Rid of Grass between Patio Stones

    • Spray into the joint with herbicide. Once you’ve cleared all the joints and cracks of grass on your patio, you can then spray herbicide into those trouble areas to help kill any remaining seeds and roots. Give it as much time to work as recommended by the manufacturer.
    • Brush sand between the cracks to prevent future growth. Spread sand over the surface of the patio with a shovel, then brush it into the joint and cracks using a broom. Spray the entire surface down with a garden hose, forcing the sand to compact. Repeat the process until the sand is level with the surface.
  • How to Troubleshoot a Pool Pump

    Here in lovely Sarasota, a swimming pool is a common home amenity. Because of the long, hot Florida summers, pools get a lot of use and that means having to maintain them so they remain enjoyable and safe. Some homeowners opt to hire a service to keep their pools in good swimming condition while others prefer to do it on their own.

    Regardless if you hire a service or maintain your pool yourself, there will be one or more unfortunate times when you have problems with the pool pump. For this reason alone, it’s good to know how to troubleshoot a pool pump so you can try to fix it on your own.

    Basic Swimming Pool Maintenance

    Every pool owner knows it’s very important to keep the water and surfaces in good condition. Unfortunately, that can present some big challenges. For instance, rainwater, while completely natural, is harmful to a pool. Rain does contains acids, powerful enough to throw-off pH balance and that’s not all. It also compromises the effectiveness of chlorine. Diluted chlorine cannot work effectively. What’s more, rain water is contaminated with runoff, which includes wild and domestic animal waste, fertilizer, pesticides, and more.

    A pool pump creates pressure within the pool, which, in turn, forces the water through the filter. Thus, the water gets purified. It removes dirt, debris, and foreign materials from the pool, filters the water, and pumps back fresh and clean water. Occasionally, pool pumps unexpectedly cease working or stop to function as required. As a result, the pool water develops turbidity, gives out a stink, and gets a soapy texture. —Do It

    To combat this and more, you need to regularly perform basic pool maintenance. You must routinely check your pool water to ensure it has the right pH, total alkalinity and calcium hardness levels. Chlorinate your pool with the appropriate amount, too little and it won’t be effective, too much and it will be uncomfortable for swimmers. Shock your pool weekly but don’t go overboard. Also, add algaecide, skim the water, empty the skimmer baskets, and scrub the walls and floor. In addition, always keep a lookout for signs your swimming pool needs resurfacing.

    How to Troubleshoot a Pool Pump

    While all this regular, basic pool maintenance will go a long way to keeping your pool clean and enjoyable, it won’t completely prevent problems with the pump. Over the course of its useable life, the pool pump will have one or more issues. When it does experience one or more problems, the water won’t pass through the filter to be cleaned. That’s why pump issues can’t wait and need to be addressed as quickly as possible. So, here’s how to troubleshoot a pool pump to combat the most common problems:

    • A leaky pool pump. By far one of the most common pool pump issues is leaking. Because of its many parts, component failure causes leaking. This is usually attributable to a worn out impeller housing o-ring, failing shaft seal, bad thread sealant, and/or shrunken threads on the discharge pipe. The good news is, all of these parts are expensive and can easily be replaced.
    • The pump doesn’t pull water. A pump that won’t pull water out of the pool is typically either clogged or affected by a suction line air leak. Check to see if there is blockage in the skimmer and pump baskets, as well as the impeller. Clear away any debris you find to resume normal operation. Should this not remedy the situation, check the suction line for leaks and patch them.
    • The motor won’t start or shuts off. Another common pool pump problem that causes a lot of frustration is a motor that will not start or turns off unexpectedly. The reasons for these issues are generally either electrical wiring or overheating. This work is best left to an experienced professional to fix.
    • Weird noises come from the pump. During normal operation, your pool pump will make some noise. However, if it’s abnormal, you should question why. A vibrating noise can be silenced or damped with a rubber pad. Another noise occurs during cavitation when the pump is starved for water due to a clog or a leak. A screeching or grinding noise could indicate bad bearings.
    • The pump only pulls in air. A pool pump is supposed to be totally air-tight. This way, it can take in water and not air. Although tiny leaks are common, larger ones will cause the pump to take in air rather than water because air is lighter and has less resistance.

    If it’s time to update your landscape or add more features, like a new swimming pool, 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.

  • Avoid these 5 Messy Trees in Your Yard

    The five messiest trees to avoid in your yard will save you a lot of time and frustration (that is, if you opt for alternatives). Previously, we’ve explored some great landscaping tips specifically for Florida homeowners and this will cover some of the worst offenders. Pitch, leaves, foul odors, and more offensive and messy characteristics are something you should avoid in your landscape. And, there’s plenty of reasons why.

    Avoid these 5 Messy Trees in Your Yard

    Messy trees are difficult to deal with and their many inconveniences will last their entire lifetime. Just like all those poisonous landscape plants to avoid, there are some tree species you simply don’t want on your property. Sure, these messy tree species all have their good qualities. But, if said qualities are actually redeeming is another matter entirely. We choose some trees for practical reasons, such as being native species or for delightful shade.

    Almost everyone loves a beautiful tree. They offer us shade and sometimes fruit in the summer and windbreaks in the winter. In the spring they might produce lovely flowers, or maybe some brilliantly colored leaves in the autumn. Like every pretty thing though, trees require maintenance. They need to be trimmed and pruned when their branches hang low, and someone has to clean up after they have shed their flowers, leaves and other baubles. —Den Garden

    For instance, water oak (Quercus nigra), part of the red oak group, provides a good amount of shade. And here in sunny Sarasota, that’s certainly a wonderful and much-appreciated quality. But, water oaks only live about 60 to 80 years. Although that seems like a long time, in the world of trees, it’s not overly impressive. What’s more, water oaks possess little to no immunity to rot here along the Gulf Coast. So, if rot appears, a water oak won’t survive, unlike live oak, which possess a rather healthy immune system.

    In addition to those downsides, any tree species, whether it’s water oak or another, which are notoriously messy, won’t be a selling feature if you decide to list your home for sale soon or in the future. If there are any known messy trees on your property, anyone familiar with them will know the species are problematic. Not to mention, your neighbors, who might also experience some of the unpleasantries messy trees discharge. With that stated, you should avoid these five messy trees in your yard:

    • Eastern white pine trees (Pinus strobus). The eastern white pine species are deciduous and that means they are notorious for dumping leaves in great quantities. But even more messy is another characteristic of eastern white pines — dropping pitch. If you’ve ever had this sticky pitch on your hands or fingers, you know it’s not at all a pleasant experience. The solution is mayonnaise (its vinegar ingredient acts as a solvent, which removes sticky pitch from your skin).
    • Maidenhair trees (Ginkgo biloba). The female of this particular species is well-known as a dietary supplement. But it holds a less well-known characteristic that you don’t want to deal with in your yard. Resembling maidenhair fern, it is a beautiful tree but its females are sloppy. They drop fleshy, foul odor, golden balls all over the place and the cherry tomato sized fruit-like product is quite slippery. So, if you must have a maidenhair tree, plant a male and avoid the awful mess females unleash.
    • Sweetgum trees (Liquidambar styraciflua). This tree species gets its name from its seed pods which resemble gumballs. But that’s certainly where the similarities end. Those round seed pods are hard and worst of all, spiky, making this a very high maintenance tree. The horsechestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) is another heavy maintenance tree, along with the American sycamore (Platanus occidentalis) or buttonball trees.
    • Honeylocust trees (Gleditsia triacanthos). Some of these tree species are podless but others are not. And, it’s the latter which is problematic, to say the least. The ones producing flattened seed pods are cumbersome because the droppings are very difficult to rake up. But another species, Gleditsia triacanthos, doesn’t produce these bothersome seed pods and are commonly found along roads and in parks.
    • Northern catalpa trees (Catalpa speciosa). Unlike honeylocust trees, the northern catalpa produces not only bean-like pods, it also produces large leaves. And, it litters those bean-like pods and large leaves all over your yard. While it is true the leaves are beautiful, when they come down on your grass and wither, they are downright hideous. An alternative to this species is the southern catalpa (Catalpa bignonioides), a less messy tree.

    If it’s time to update your landscape by removing and planting new trees, 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.

  • 7 Common Landscaping Mistakes Homeowners should Avoid

    While there are some great Florida-specific landscape tips to use there are seven common landscaping mistakes homeowners should always avoid. These cause a yard to look awkward, cramped, uneven, and sometimes confusing to the eye. At the very least, it can produce an amateurish effect, appearing as though it’s out-of-place and out of sync with the home it surrounds and even itself. But, by avoiding the most common landscaping mistakes, you’ll have a much better looking yard and wonderful curb appeal to enjoy.

    The Five Basic Landscape Design Elements

    Landscaping is done within the parameters of five basic elements: color, texture, form, line, and scale. Color is divided into four categories: primaries (red, blue, yellow), secondary (green, orange, violet), tertiary (a mixture of primary and secondary, and, neutrals (white, silver, and grey). In general, texture is represented by a mix of fine and coarse textures to break up any monotony. Forms come in six types: oval, upright, columnar, weeping, spreading, and broad spreading.

    …we can find pretty much anything we want on the Internet and from watching a huge variety of do-it-yourself cable programming. Yes, there is so much data at our fingertips that it doesn’t take too long before we have the confidence to believe we can do everything ourselves. One of the areas where folks feel most tempted to bypass the advice of professionals is in the creation of gardens and landscape design. It’s very true that gardening is an extremely rewarding endeavor and the feeling of accomplishment that comes with creating a beautiful space is unmatched, but there are still some key guidelines to consider. —University of Tennessee Extension

    Line is typically found in features like pavers winding through an outdoor space or surrounding a fountain. It can also be represented in other ways but it’s all about direction and it can easily been overdone. While line is greatly important, right angles are not the best fit for residential landscapes. Scale is in relation to balance and should be in-line or relative to the size of your home. In other words, a landscape should not overwhelm but complement, your house.

    7 Common Landscaping Mistakes Homeowners should Avoid

    The fact of the matter is, bad landscaping will not only hurt your house’s curb appeal, it will present a real challenge when it comes time for resale. It only takes people 7 to 10 seconds to form an impression of a property the first time they see it. What’s more, just one out of every ten people are able to imagine a property in a different way than it appears. So, it’s clear why proper landscaping is so important. Here are the seven most common landscaping mistakes homeowners should avoid:

    • Little to no planning. Without sufficient planning, you’ll likely put a hodgepodge together that doesn’t look natural and presents poor aesthetics. Take time to plan your landscape before diving into installation and the effort will certainly be worthwhile.
    • Planting too near trees. It’s unfortunate but factual — planting too close to trees is a bad idea. Roots do wreak havoc and it isn’t always good for plants to grow and thrive. Besides these reasons, there’s really no need to plant right next to trees.
    • Too much of the same thing. It is very tempting to plaster your landscape full of your favorite flowering plants because it’s just so beautiful. But, doing so is a huge mistake because it will dominate your design and drown out everything else. It’s also downright boring to do this, so don’t deluge your yard with the same thing over and over again.
    • Too little space between. Sure, it’s completely okay to cluster plants together as the alternative leaves too much space between single plants. But those clusters should not be clustered together. Plant clusters but still leave space between them so they do not appear choked and overgrown.
    • Planting the wrong plants. Poisonous plants, messy trees, and out of zone plants are all big time no-nos. Learn your zone (Sarasota County is USDA Plant Hardiness Zones: 9a, 9b, 10a, 10b) and choose plants and trees that thrive in these zones.
    • Letting weeds take over. When you install your landscape plants and features, you aren’t finished with the project. While the hard work is essentially over, maintenance begins and continues. Don’t let weeds ruin your pretty landscape.
    • Forgetting about critters. Another thing you need to do is to protect your landscape from harmful insects and pests. Learn which are most problematic and use preventative measures to keep them out of your yard so you can enjoy your outdoor living space.

    If it’s time to update your landscaping, 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.

  • Wrought Iron Fence Installation Guide

    When it comes to fencing, there are a number of choices: wood, wrought iron, wire, chain-link, iron, and vinyl. Within those types of materials, there are many more varieties, and, plenty of differences in function and/or aesthetics. A fence can be used for containing, or, simply for looks. Many homeowners like the look of wrought iron because it’s classic, as well as simple and stylish. Wrought iron can be found around historic parks and public buildings, museums, and residential homes precisely because of its qualities.

    This type of fencing offers extraordinary durability, but, it must be properly care for over its lifetime. Unlike other types of fencing, wrought iron is manufactured with heavy welds, so, it’s chosen not only for its beauty, but its strength. What’s more, it comes in a variety of styles and heights, and, is ideal for creating a barrier that you can still see through. Wrought iron can be installed into the ground or even on top of concrete. If installed the right way, wrought iron can also be installed on hilly ground, slopes, or in cut-sections.

    Choosing the Right Fencing

    As mentioned, wrought iron is very durable, built to last a lifetime, allows you to see through it, and, has an elegant look. However, wrought iron isn’t at-all ideal for privacy. If you need a fence for privacy, then wood and vinyl are good choices. Both wood and vinyl provide privacy while clearly marking boundaries. If you are set-on wrought iron fencing, you might not know that it comes in different styles, and, that it can be sold unpainted or painted.

    Wrought iron fencing provides a sturdy, stylish addition to a yard while also offering some function, such as containing a pet to a certain area. You can add it to the border of your yard or use it to dress up an otherwise dull area. In some cases the fencing is installed around a concrete porch to create an enclosed space. —San Francisco Chronicle

    The great thing about a wrought iron fence is that it provides a very strong perimeter for any residential yard, or, along a large, unimproved space. Homeowners enjoy its ability to keep kids and family pets close to home, while simultaneously keeping neighborhood dogs and strays off their properties. Wrought iron is considered to be medium security, though, a 6-foot fence will provide more security than a 4-foot fence.

    Wrought Iron Fence Installation Guide

    Before you start the installation process, be sure to check local fence codes and have utilities clearly marked, unless you have an to tear down an existing fence. You should also measure the area at least twice to ensure you purchase the right amount of fence materials. In addition, take some time to clear fence path of any obstructions. Once you’ve done these things, then, you’ll need the following tools: a post hole digger, spade shovel, level, hack saw, tape measure, drill-driver, hammer, string line, wheelbarrow, concrete mix, ground stakes, and gravel.

    1. Mark the installation line. Hammer stakes into the ground along the installation line. Then, stretch string line along each stake to have a clear installation line to follow as you put the wrought iron fence up. Make sure that the line is still within your property line at this juncture, before you begin the actual installation.
    2. Dig holes for the posts. Using a post hole digger, excavate the support post holes along the installation line. Each hole should be at least 6 inches in diameter and 2 feet deep. It’s best, though, to increase this to about 8 inches in diameter and 3 feet deep. This will provide more support strength.
    3. Mix the concrete and set the posts. Mix the concrete in a wheelbarrow, following the manufacturer’s instructions. Be careful when mixing the concrete because if it’s too watery, it won’t cure correctly, and too little water will also be a bad result. Right after the concrete is mixed together, place the support posts into the holes, one-by-one. Then, pour in the concrete mix. Let it dry for as long as recommended by the manufacturer.

    How to Install a Wrought Iron Fence Final Steps

    1. Fasten the fence sections to the posts. After two or three days, it’s time to fasten the sections to the posts. Use a drill-driver and screws to fasten the fence sections to the posts, one at a time. As you go, be sure the railings are lining-up to make it look right.
    2. Hang the gate and attach the latch. Once all the fence sections are fastened to the posts, you’ll only have one part left — the gate. In most instances, it’s advisable to wait a few or more days to hang the gate, if applicable. When you do hang the gate, be sure to check it for levelness so it doesn’t swing in one or the other direction when unlocked.

    After your wrought iron fence is fully installed, you can then plant flowers around it, or, another type of softscaping.

  • Stained Wood Deck Refinishing Guide

    When you first installed your wood deck, you couldn’t believe just how beautiful it looked and are thinking back to how much use it would get in the evenings and weekends. Now, you’re trying to remember the last time you actually stepped onto your deck and can’t remember when you fired-up the grill last. Needless to say, if you’ve not regularly using your wood deck, it’s being neglected by default. Sure, you’d love to restore the deck but are apprehensive about tackling such a big project on your own.

    Fortunately, it doesn’t take a lot of specialized skills or tools to refinish a stained wood deck. You’ll only need a few supplies and tools, as well as a helping hand or two to get the job done right and look great.

    Ways to Improve Your Deck

    Before you refinish your deck, you’re probably thinking it’s time for some changes. Perhaps you don’t like the furniture or decor and just want a change for something different. Whatever the case, there are ways to improve your deck and remake it into an outdoor oasis that’s ideal for relaxing and entertaining friends and family. For instance, you can clean it up, refinish the stain and then replace the furniture.

    Remember how excited you were the day you finished building your new deck? The smell of fresh-cut wood, the warm, even color of the new deck boards, that summer afternoon spent admiring the fine details that made yours the best-looking deck in the neighborhood. Now years later, you hardly notice the deck as you amble across it to take out the trash. Yes, the colors have faded, the wood is gray and there may even be some mildew. Well, don’t despair; this is a love affair that’s easily rekindled. It takes just a few days, mild cool weather, some cleaning and stripping solution and a few minor tools to get that old relationship right back where it started. —The Family Handyman

    You can also hang a swing to give it a rustic look and provide a place to relax. In addition, you might consider putting in a fire pit that doubles as a table for guests to gather around and eat. You might even replace the grill or can install deck lighting to make it really attractive.

    Stained Wood Deck Refinishing Guide

    To get the best results, you’ll have to use the right materials, supplies, and tools. Otherwise, it won’t look as good as it could and will have to be completely redone. The trick is to take your time and go step-by-step. If you rush through the process, you’re likely to miss something and the results will certainly show.

    What You’ll need to Refinish Your Deck

    • Drill-driver or hammer
    • Screws or nails
    • Pry bar
    • Boards
    • Deck wash
    • Eye protection
    • Gloves
    • Scrub brush
    • Garden hose
    • Sander and sandpaper
    • Broom
    • Brush and roller
    • Paint tray
    • Stain

    With your tools, materials, and supplies ready-to-go, you can now refinish your wood stained deck, by doing the following:

    1. Clear off the entire deck. Remove everything from your deck, no matter how small it is. It’s especially important to clear it off so you can inspect the entire deck for any damage or things in need of repair.
    2. Make any necessary repairs. You’ll probably find a screw or nail or two that’s sticking out from the wood. Use a drill-driver or hammer to refasten screws and nails. If these are corroded, then replace them. Should boards be warped, replace these with new planks.
    3. Clean the surface thoroughly. Use deck wash, a garden hose, and scrub brush to clean the whole surface thoroughly. Make sure the entire surface is clean and then let it dry for a day.
    4. Sand the whole surface of your deck. Now, you need to sand off the old finish. While stain will not peel like paint, it will fade and you need a new surface to apply another coat or more of stain. Don’t go crazy, just sand off most of the existing stain.

    Final Stained Wood Deck Refinishing Steps

    1. Clean the deck off again and allow to dry. Clean the deck again to get rid of all the dust and debris, then, allow it to dry. You’ll probably have to broom it off once more before staining the wood.
    2. Apply as many coats of stain as necessary. Using a brush, roller, paint tray, and stain, apply the first coat to the wood. Let it dry completely and do not step on the surface until the first coat is dry. Then, apply one or two more coats of stain to complete the refinish.

    Once the last coat is dry, you can put the furniture and any decor back onto the surface — be careful not to mar or scratch the wood. The stain will last about five years if you periodically clean the deck.