Category

Landscaping Tips

  • 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.
  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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 News.com

    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.
  • Lawn Equipment Summer Preparation Tips

    Now that summer is definitely here, the heat and humidity will be radiating throughout the next several months. With it come those afternoon storms that water our lawns and make the grass grow. That means having to mow about every week, along with edging, trimming, and blowing away clippings. It also means that your lawn equipment will get a big work out and it ought to be in the best condition to handle all that use.

    If you’ve looked at the prices of new equipment, you probably know these items are not cheap. The good news is, with just a bit of preventative maintenance and care, you can get your lawn equipment in good condition and extend its life. It doesn’t take a mechanic or a lawn machine expert to do these things. What’s more, this preventative maintenance comes at a very low cost, because you’re only going to need a few inexpensive items.

    How to Get Your Lawn Equipment Ready for Summer

    When you take your mower, line trimmer, edger, and leaf blower out, even if you regularly change the oil, the engines will still develop a build-up of gunk and that not only wears down their longevity, but also, decreases power while consuming more fuel.

    Even if you changed the oil in your mower frequently last year, starting off a new season with a fresh oil change is a great place to start your tune up. Consult your mower’s manual to determine how to drain the old oil, and replace it with oil of a similar viscosity. —NAPA Online

    Over time, this will cost you money because you’ll have to buy more fuel and mix. To get the most out of your lawn equipment, do the following and it will work well for many years to come. After all, lawn maintenance is a never-ending, albeit seasonal, task.

    Lawn Mower

    Most of us just pull the mower out, pour in a bit of gas, pull the cord, walk behind it, and then shut it off a put it back. Doing so over the course of many months, even years, allows engine build-up and part failure. So, wheel your lawn mower out and do the following:

    • Change the air filter. The air filter provides much needed flow to the engine to keep it running. Check the air filter on your lawn mower and replace it if necessary.
    • Change the fuel filter. Over time, the fuel filter can become clogged, so, check it before you start the engine, and replace if needed.
    • Change the spark plug. Spark plugs generally last a long time. If it’s been awhile since you’ve checked it, then it’s probably time to replace it with a new one.
    • Clean off the undercarriage. The undercarriage collects a whole lot of debris and it builds-up over time. That affects its performance, so it’s wise to clean the undercarriage.
    • Sharpen the blade. Blades dull as they are used and should be sharpened periodically. Doing so will make mowing easier and a bit quicker.

    Line Trimmer

    Gas line trimmers are powerful and allow you to move freely about without being tethered to an electrical cord. Just like a lawn mower, these rely on much of the same parts so, to service your line trimmer, do the following:

    • Replace the air filter. Just like the mower, your gas powered line trimmer is equipped with an air filter. Check it and replace it if necessary.
    • Replace the fuel filter. Fuel filters also become clogged after much use and can cause the engine to sputter and shut off. Check and replace the fuel filter when needed.
    • Replace the spark plug. Remove the spark plug and if it has corrosion on it, then go ahead and replace it.
    • Adjust the idle speed. This is a good time to check and tweak the idle speed.
    • Replace the line. Even if there’s a lot of line left on your machine, it’s a good idea to replace it with fresh, new line.

    Edger

    Edgers allow you to make aesthetic cuts, to square and line along walkways, driveways, street curbs, and more. You can do the following preventative maintenance to keep it running at its best:

    • Check the belts. Your gas powered edger has several belts on it. Check each one for signs of wear. Should any of them be loose or cracked, replace them.
    • Check the spark plug. Unfasten the spark plug and check it out. Replace it if it is corroded or faltering.
    • Check the air filter. Pull out the air filter and rinse it off it if possible. Should it be blocked, then replace it.
    • Check the oil. You should always check the oil, not only for the amount but for its state. If it’s been awhile since you’ve changed it, do so now.
    • Sharpen the blade. Remove the blade a sharpen it if it is dull.

    Leaf Blower

    The leaf blower is a workhorse, and, it needs regular attention to keep it running healthy. Before you begin to use it, do the following things:

    • Check the air intake. If it is blocked, clean it to allow air to pass through.
    • Replace the spark plug. Take the spark plug out and inspect it.–replace it if needed.
    • Clean the muffler spark arrestor screen. You can hose the spark arrestor screen off if it’s caked with gunk.
    • Clean the carburetor and surrounding space. To keep the engine running efficiently, clean the carburetor and the space surrounding it.
    • Check the fuel filter and line. Just like your other gas powered equipment, you should check the fuel filter and line and replace if needed.
  • Use these Yard Cat Repellents to Protect Your Landscaping

    Yard cat repellents — what does and doesn’t work? The fact of the matter is, cats are unpredictable. The all-too-familiar felis catus or domestic cat, shares many behaviors with its wild cousins. Cats are a product of domesticated wildcats (and their big cousins). The largest being panthera tigris or tiger, panthera leo or lion, the second, panthera onca or jaguar, the third and panthera pardus or leopard, being the smallest of the big four. All share many of the same traits, which makes keeping cats out of your garden or landscape a challenge. But, this doesn’t mean you can’t keep felines from wreaking havoc. You can use certain methods to create cat repellents for your property.

    Why Cats are Attracted to Yards

    Cats are known as curious creatures. And, these four-legged furry felines certainly live up to their reputation. By their very nature, cats love to explore. Although cats are said to have nine lives, your landscaping might not enjoy the same durability. Cats are attracted to gardens and landscape features for a variety of reasons. One such attraction is the presence of prey items, such as rodents. Squirrels, mice and more prove too tempting to ignore. Another attraction are trees. Even the most messy trees in a yard are great for climbing.

    Cats can benefit homes by keeping away rodents and insects, but many people do not like cats in their yard. If you want to keep cats out of your yard, there are many humane ways that do not harm them or involve removing them from the neighborhood. Keep in mind that what might work for one cat, might not work for another, so be willing to try more than one solution. And, if you know the cat’s owner or caretaker, ask them for advice and assistance in keeping their cats close to home. —SPCA

    Flowering plants are likewise a big attraction. Some cats like to nibble on certain plants. And, if this isn’t enough, koi fish in a pond are a prime motivator. Then, there’s the presence of other cats. Unlike lions, which live in prides, most large cats (jaguars, leopards, cougars and more) live solitary lives. So, when a cat picks up a scent of another feline, it can lead directly to your yard. To keep neighborhood and even feral cats at bay, you’ll have to use different techniques.

    Effective Yard Cat Repellents for Your Landscape

    While it’s difficult enough to make your dog and yard coexist, it’s not much easier to cat-proof your garden, landscaping or outdoor space. To be the most effective, you’ll have to employ a variety of methods. After all, cats are well-known to be independent and individual personalities. That means what works to keep one cat away might not work with another. Here are a few yard cat repellents you can try out:

    • Chicken wire galore. Before you start conjuring ugly images in your mind, we’re not talking about installing chicken wire as a barrier fence (though that is a good cat repellent option). Place chicken wire right on top of the soil before planting. Cats do not relish walking on this tactile surface, making it an effective, preventative measure. Best of all, you can cut small holes using wire cutters to plant flowers, vegetables and more.
    • Motion-detecting sprinklers. Aside from jaguars, most cats do not like water. This is probably due to the fact their fur isn’t water-resistant. So, cats avoid getting wet because they’ll feel waterlogged. Use this to your advantage by installing motion-detecting sprinklers. The trick here is to find the sweet spots where the devices are the most effective. When honed, trespassing felines will receive a short burst of water.
    • Ultrasonic devices. Sticking with technology, you can also use ultrasonic devices. If you’ve ever had a kitten or cat in your household, you know startling noises make felines jump and scatter quickly away. Best of all, you won’t hear any noise because the range isn’t audible to humans.
    • Non-toxic scents. Speaking of the difference between animals and humans, scent is another weapon in your arsenal against cat intruders. Humans have approximately 5 million scent receptors, while dogs have between 100 and 300 million. Cats have about 80 million scent receptors. So, non-toxic scents, such as cayenne pepper, black pepper, coffee grounds, and orange peels, all work well.
    • Catnip plants. Another alternative is to create an attractive, dedicated space. By growing catnip and catmint (nepeta cataria, which is a hardy mint family perennial herb), you’ll create a temptation diversion. Simply grow this in one area of your yard and garden in another space. Catnip and catmint serve as a good deterrent.

    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.

  • Using and Choosing a Leaf Blower

    It’s the time of year when every week or two, you have to put on an old tee shirt, step into a pair of comfortable worn out pants, and make your way to retrieve lawn mower, line trimmer, lawn bags, and a leaf blower.

    What many people make the mistake of believing is if they buy a blower or blower-vacuum combination, they’ll never have to do anything else again. What’s more, the amount of time needed to cleanup lawn trimmings and leaves will be dramatically reduced. While it’s true that leaf blowers/vacs are great tools to making cleanup more efficient, they do not have a miracle button to press that magically does the job.

    It’s also true that these landscaping tools will help to put the finishing touch on your lawn work, be that cleaning up fallen leaves, to blowing away grass clippings after mowing your lawn. The bigger the machine is, the more power and features it will have, generally speaking, which means that it will be a more versatile tool which will lend a helping hand in more ways than one. The key is to use your leaf blower in the way it was intended to get the most out of it.

    Using a Leaf Blower the Right Way

    Okay, so you’re probably thinking that using a leaf blower is no more difficult than just picking it up, starting it up or turning it on, and then point and shoot. However, anyone that’s used a leaf blower at least one time knows that it’s quite possible, probable, or even nearly inescapable, that painting one’s self in a corner is a reality. In other words, people pick up their blower and/or vacuum, start it and then blow leaves in one direction only to have to try and keep from blowing the ever growing pile away from itself. Wind is another factor that can cause leaves to be carried from one end of the yard to another.

    Leaf blowers are versatile machines. They can take the raking out of autumn cleanup, and also double as driveway sweepers or snow clearers. Some models vacuum; others bag mulch, clean gutters, or spray trees…their power serves a purpose: Blowers are the easiest way to quickly gather big messes of leaves into manageable piles. —This Old House

    To make yourself more productive and get those leaves up in a faster manner, start by placing a tarp in the center of your lawn, pinned down at all four corners with a stake or held down with rocks or bricks. Then, start at the left corner nearest your home and move to the center, blowing the leaves onto the tarp. Do yourself a big, huge, monumental favor and do not fuss over every single leaf because that’s extremely counterproductive and it will cost you a lot of frustration and time. Once you’ve gotten the first corner space cleaned up, cinch-up the tarp and empty it into a composting pile or into a trash bin.

    Then, go to the other corner nearest your home and repeat the process. Do the same for the corners nearest the street, toward the center. While this will leave some leaves sprinkled across the lawn, those will be very easy to rake into a small pile and dispose of in the same manner as the other four piles.

    Choosing a Leaf Blower

    Having the right machine on-hand means choosing a leaf blower that truly fits your needs. Size and scale are quite important, meaning that if you have an average sized yard, you don’t need an industrial sized model. Most all blower-vacs will require some form of hearing protection, even the electric can be loud enough to cause your ears to hurt. There are a number of models and their versatility, as well, as power source, will be the deciding factors:

    • Electric blowers. These come in corded models and cordless models. If you choose a corded model, ensure that you have an extension cord that’s long enough to reach beyond the borders of your yard. Cordless models will be more convenient because of their mobility, but will have less power and battery drain will be in-play.
    • Gas blowers. These are among the most powerful, also the most noisiest, and will emit fumes. These models typically take a mix of gas and two-stroke oil, which means you’ll need a gas can and bottles of the right oil. Because these have an engine, you’ll have to keep the air filter clean and occasionally replace the oil filter and spark plug.
    • Combination blowers, vacuums, mulchers. These models are quite versatile but not necessarily as powerful as their gas cousins. In addition, you’ll find that these can easily clog when vacuuming and the mulching might be slow and tedious.
  • How to Keep Pond Predators Away from Your Yard

    You took the time and effort, not to mention, incurred the cost, of putting a wonderful and beautiful landscape feature into your backyard. It’s an eye-catching water feature that is home to fish. You do what you can to keep them healthy, which includes keeping the water feature in its best condition and feed them regularly.

    One day, you notice something that’s a bit odd, and, it’s also unnerving. You go out to throw in a bit of food and it occurs to you that there are fewer fish in your pond. At first, you think just perhaps, a few expired, but then you can’t find them anywhere. Slowly, it begins to become quite apparent that you’re dealing with a problem.

    Something is poaching your pond fish and you have to deal with it. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot that can be done about pond predators, but that’s certainly to not say that you’re helpless. Pond predators not only eat fish, they also do other harm to your water feature. Needless to say, you’ve first got to identify the source of the problems and then take action. The good news is, that you have a few options to exercise to keep your fish safe and to keep your water feature in its best condition.

    Types of Common Pond Predators

    It might be disheartening, but your beautiful water feature, home to colorful fish, is a magnet to differ types of predators and other problematic creatures. However, you also have the benefit of attracting creatures that will help to protect your pond. If you see these creatures around your landscape water feature, you have a helping hand in combating some problem predators and other harmful things that have an adverse impact on your pond.

    A backyard fish pond provides a tranquil centerpiece, but predators, ranging from birds to raccoons, threaten the fish population if you don’t protect the pond. Shallow ponds are more susceptible to problems because predators have easier access and the fish have fewer place to hide. No matter the depth of your pond, you can limit access or scare away predators before they get your fish. —San Francisco Chronicle

    Frogs are one such amiable amphibian. When you see a clump of slimy balls, those are tadpoles, which you ought to welcome in your pond. Tadpoles are helpful because they will hatch and swim about, eating away at the algae, which is a good thing. Snakes aren’t likable or wanted by most people, but these slithering reptiles eat mice and other pests that you certainly don’t want to be on your property. Then, there are dragonflies, who feed on mosquitoes, which are a nuance and can carry disease.

     

    Ways to Keep Pond Predators Away

    Even though heron are a protected species and raccoons are quite clever, there are ways to keep pond predators away. If you take a few preventive measures, you’ll be able to amply protect your pond and its inhabitants. Here are a few things you can do to predator proof your pond:

    • Install decoys as deterrents. You can keep raccoons away with an alligator decoy and birds from feeding on your fish by putting-in a heron decoy. Raccoons won’t go into the water if they see what they think is a live alligator, while herons will pass by because they see another heron already staking a claim.
    • Put-in netting to cover your pond. Netting works very well to deter pond predators and is retractable. It’s best to cover your pond in the early evening to protect your fish overnight because dusk and nighttime are when predators are often most active.
    • Set alarms nearby, surrounding your water feature. There are alarms equipped with motion sensors and emit a high-pitched sound, along with flashing lights, to send predators scampering away. The most effective ones can operate during the night.

    Two More Ways to Keep Pond Predators Away from Your Landscape Water Feature

    Of course, there are other creatures you don’t want on your property and especially not in or near your pond. One is the raccoon, which are very dexterous, despite the fact they don’t have opposable thumbs. Though raccoons aren’t fond of the water, they will get wet, if it means snagging a nice meal. Another creature that poses a problem to the well being of your fish are birds, particularly heron, which are a protected species here in Florida.

    • Use repellents to keep predators at bay. There are a number of predator repellents you can spread around and nearby your pond to keep problematic creatures from feeding on your fish. These drive squirrels and raccoons away and can be reapplied after rain.
    • Provide your fish with hiding places. Another way to protect fish from predators is to have floating hiding spots. Aquatic vegetation not only enhances the look of your pond, providing a more natural habitat, but also provides places for fish to hide.

    Fencing is also something you can install to keep predators away and even domesticated animals.