• 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.

  • Green Environment Health Benefits

    Living in a green environment has more than aesthetic benefits. Besides being nice to look at and creating an oasis to enjoy, it also has scientifically proven health benefits. Studies conducted by government agencies and universities as well as private institutions, have found that people who live in a green or natural environment fare far better in their personal health than those who live in urban settings.

    And anyone who’s lived in the concrete jungle can anecdotally attest to the fact that big city life is a stress-filled life, from the moment the alarm clocks chimes to the end of the day, restlessly tossing and turning until exhaustion overcomes and a few hours of sleep are all that’s gained.

    Horns, lights, street noise, traffic congestion and pollution permeate the air, choking out practically all glimpses of nature. The result is higher levels of stress, increased blood pressure, more people with anxiety and other physical and psychological diseases and disorders.

    Why Natural Settings provide Green Environment Health Benefits

    Aside from the obvious, like less stress, there are other benefits of living in a green or natural setting. It’s what landscape architecture is all about. Here along the west coast of the east coast of North America, the sand, sun and surf that is Sarasota can be just as busy as life in a metropolitan behemoth. Striking a balance is key to living a better life and a natural environment helps to promote a more healthy lifestyle.

    …greener environments also enhance recovery from surgery, enable and support higher levels of physical activity, improve immune system functioning, and help diabetics achieve healthier blood glucose levels. By contrast less access to nature is linked to exacerbated attention deficit hyperactivity disorder symptoms, higher rates of anxiety disorders, and higher rates of clinical depression. —UK Daily Mail

    The natural world fits nicely into our internal clocks and appeals to our very essence because of our kinship with nature. And while we need modern technology to live better, more productive lives, we likewise need the chance to unwind and take in natural beauty to relieve the stress and be able to put away–at least temporarily–the technological advances which consume our daily lives.

    Incorporating Natural Elements into Your Home

    To take advantage of what science clearly shows, you’ve got to transform your ordinary, dull outdoor space into a place of tranquility, into a green environment that gently lulls you and anyone who visits into a relaxed state. By including some key features, you can make your yard into a veritable oasis of natural good will and beauty that will not only be a place of refuge, but up your home’s value. And those two reasons are more than enough to take on the challenge of remaking your outdoor space.

    • Give your backyard multiple functions. The largest mistake many amateurs makes when updating their space is becoming myopic. They focus too much on one aspect only to learn after it’s too late there’s no much else to the area. Divide it into different activity zones. A place to kick-back, a place to entertain, and a place to cook out.
    • Make the space really useful. Speaking of cooking out, why not add an outdoor kitchen. Take the modern conveniences outside so you don’t have to tramp in and out of the house, wasting the air conditioning or letting the cold inside. Take the opportunity to decorate your outdoor kitchen with a natural theme like a country kitchen or tropical eatery.
    • Think seclusion when you build. The whole point of being outdoors is to connect with nature. It’s also to be able to get a little privacy and solitude. So be sure to make that an important part of your outdoor living space. Lattice, pergolas, and garden walls work well.

    And if you have trouble envisioning how you’re yard will look or don’t know quite where to start, then contact the best Sarasota landscape artist on the west coast. We’ll be able to create an outdoor living space that helps you to reconnect with nature and be a great place to entertain and unwind.

  • Pros and Cons of Running Bamboo

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

    Pros and Cons of Running Bamboo

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

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

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

    Pros of Running Bamboo

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

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

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

    Cons of Running Bamboo

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

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

    Patio or deck, what’s the difference, you might ask? We’ll there is a difference between the two amenities but both share some common traits. Each will increase your home’s value and bolster its resale appeal. Both are great for the Sarasota climate and both provide a wonderful space for relaxing and entertaining. In fact, many homeowners consider their decks and patios to be extensions of their house, and can serve as a dining area, as well as a kitchen. Another similarity is both are sturdy but do require periodic maintenance (for instance, resurfacing a concrete patio or having to refinish a stained wood deck).

    Patio or Deck: What’s the Difference?

    Okay, so what’s the difference between a deck and patio and why does it matter? Well, you might believe one is inherently more costly than the other, but that’s simply not the case. You can customize a wood deckjust as you can customize a patio. And, it’s not uncommon to use the terms interchangeably. The difference between a deck and a patio doesn’t have to do with the construction materials, it has to do with the placement. A deck is typically raised off the ground, while a patio is built directly on the ground.

    If you’re a homeowner with nothing special outside your back door, you’ve probably felt the pang of patio or deck envy. You go to a friend’s house, and he has an incredible layout in his backyard. Someone is grilling, and friends and family are lounging in comfortable chairs on the patio. Everyone’s laughing and having fun, and you remember your own place and think: I want this. So how much does a patio or deck cost? And what should you know before building one? —U.S. News and World Report

    Patios generally extend from the exterior of homes or are built onto other construction features in yards. Decks also generally extend from the exterior of homes or are built elsewhere in yards, but are raised, hence the term, “floating deck.” Patios are usually constructed of concrete, pavers, stone, tile, or brick. Decks, however, are generally built out of wood, vinyl, or composite materials.  Also, decks are usually equipped with a railing system and are built on a support system.

    Deck versus Patio: What You need to Know

    As far as costs go, there’s really no hard and fast rule about which is more or less expensive. Each can be as expensive or inexpensive as desired — it depends on the material, size, customization, labor, and other factors. But, there’s more you need to know about a deck versus a patio. If you like the idea of installing both but just can’t decide which is the better choice, you’re certainly not alone. Here are some considerations to think about to make the right decision:

    • What will be the primary use? Most likely, the primary use will be a place to relax and entertain. But, if you have a pool, it’s probably better to install a patio because it won’t splinter (unless you build a deck of vinyl or composite). Just remember, a deck is built off the ground and that will play a big part in your ultimate decision.
    • How will you tie it into your house? Regardless of which you choose, understand it simply must tie or “match” your home, appearing as an intended extension. If it looks out-of-place, it won’t bring value to your home and could be a serious objection come resale time.
    • How will you fit it into your landscape? Just as a patio or deck must tie into your home’s exterior and overall theme, it should also be a good fit for your landscape, as well. If you have a wood gazebo, then a wood or composite deck will be a good candidate but if you have a rock garden, a patio will probably fit better.
    • Are you planning to add-on to it? This is an important question because some homeowners have a grand vision for the finished product. Meaning, starting with a basic build and embellishing it a few times to make it into an envious amenity. In general, if you want to add-on to it, a deck will be a better choice because it could be difficult to find the same or matching materials for a patio.
    • What’s the grade in your yard? This will be a huge factor because it will greatly influence the price, pushing it up or allowing you to save money. If you have a flat yard (as most do in Sarasota), then a patio or deck won’t be all that much different in price. However, if you have a sloped yard, a deck will be a less expensive choice because you won’t need all the specialty grading and building a patio would require.
  • How to Do a Retaining Wall Tear-Down

    You have a retaining wall in your yard and it’s showing undeniable signs of deterioration or is beginning to seriously slant as tree roots upend it and you begin to think about demolishing it. Perhaps another solution is to fix it or have the tree removed to save the decorative structure. Then, you start thinking about the expense, time, and effort it will most definitely require.

    It’s becoming more and more clear the only feasible solution is to take it down and save yourself the headache and wallet hit of repairing it or having it replaced. Now, the only problem is how you go about breaking it down without leaving a huge mess to clean-up. You want a realistic plan of action that will get rid of the retaining wall and not leave an eyesore after it’s gone.

    Well, there is a way to take it down, but it will require more than a little bit of elbow grease to get it done right. Depending on what it is constructed of, and how it’s laid out, the project will be labor intensive, which is why you might consider hiring a landscape architect and having it done by a professional.

    Assessing the Situation and Planning Ahead

    The first thing you’ll have to do is identify the problem because that will dictate your course of action. In other words, if it’s crumbling because of age and the weather elements, that’s one thing. However, if it’s beginning to crumble because of tree roots, that’s an entirely different situation. In other words, age and weather are normal and only require you to demolish the wall and cart the pieces away; but, tree roots mean a problem with the tree, which will have to be dealt with.

    A retaining wall is a wall that is constructed to contain soil to prevent it from eroding. Retaining walls are sometimes found in yards that are hilly, as the soil behind the wall creates a flat surface where flowers or a garden can be planted. Large, thin stones called capstones are often placed on top of the retaining wall to provide a decorative element. —San Francisco

    In any case, you’ll have to cover-up the area where it currently stands. Expect to find an unsightly trench devoid of green grass and perhaps a sizable amount of pests and/or critters nesting underneath. As you can see, there will be a lot more to deal with than just hammering down stones and carting them away in a wheelbarrow or hauled away in a rented dumpster.

    The Right Way to Do a Retaining Wall Tear-Down

    To get the best results and not put yourself into a bad situation, you’ll have to learn how to take down a retaining wall the right way. Just sledgehammering it or knocking it down with a rented tractor will do more damage to your lawn than necessary. Here’s how to tear down a retaining wall:

    • Find out if you need a permit. Depending on the wall’s height and size, you might have to get a permit to demolish it and have it hauled away. Should this be the case, call a professional and let someone with experience do the job for you and save you time and money.
    • Rent a dumpster. You’ll need to determine the size of the wall and how much cubic space you’ll need to hold all the debris. It’s better to rent a dumpster which is bigger than you need than rent one that’s too small and has to be emptied and refilled because that will take longer and cost more.
    • Turn off the power. If there are any electric powered features on or near the base of the wall, such as lights, be sure to turn off the power at the breaker box. In addition, think about any buried irrigation lines which might be near the base of the retaining wall.
    • Cover the immediate surrounding area. Cover any plants with a tarp or unearth them, place them in a temporary pot and move them out of the way.
    • Pry off the top. Retaining walls have caps along the top to help them stay secure. You’ll have to use a crowbar or pry bar to get it off starting at one end where you are standing nearest the top.
    • Hammer and chisel the bricks or stones. Next, you’ll have to chisel the individual layers, working your way laterally from one side to the other, and top to bottom.
    • Dig up the foundation. Using a shovel, dig up the gravel foundation and save the material for future use.

    Finally, replenish the soil to make it near even with the surrounding grass in the yard. Then, you can lay sod in the area and care for it to give your yard continuity. If there’s tree roots which are in the way, call a professional to have it removed and sod it thereafter.

  • How to Get Rid of Brazilian Pepper Trees Permanently

    The Brazilian pepper tree, or Schinus terebinthifolius, as known by its scientific name, is a tree which is native not only to the country of Brazil, but also, to other parts of South America–such as Argentina and Paraguay. It’s common here in the Sarasota area, where landscape architects avoid it and most landscape designers forego it, although it is a beautiful variety of plant.

    Some who call this area home wonder how a tree, sometimes called Florida Holly or Christmasberry, even got to the state of Florida. It was first introduced to the state for decorative purposes due to its bright green leaves and red berries, which is commonly used during Christmas time. The red berries were also dried and used in peppercorn blend cooking spices.

    What likely wasn’t widely known at the time is the tree is classified in the same family as Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac, making it less than ideal for yards where children and pets play freely. Allergic reactions, however, don’t have as a severe effect on people as do the other species in its family. Allergic reactions caused by the plant include varying degrees of skin, throat, and lung irritation.

    The reason it was probably brought to the US not only for its edible offspring so-to-speak, but because it blooms in the months between September through November. Then, during the month of December the tree produces glossy looking berries grow in clusters that are initially a green color but gradually turn bright red.

    About Brazilian Pepper Trees

    Unfortunately, there are ill effects to these native Brazilian plants. These trees do kill other vegetation by forming dense thickets and by chemically suppressing the growth of what are known as “understory plants”. Because these trees spread rapidly, they effectively wipe out other kinds and total numbers of wildlife by destroying their usual food and shelter. In addition the pepper plant damages shorelines by disturbing natural fish-breeding habitat through crowding out valuable mangroves, and shallow roots allow erosion.

    This shrub/tree is one of the most aggressive and wide-spread of the invasive non-indigenous exotic pest plants in the State of Florida. There are over 700,000 acres in Florida infested with Brazilian pepper tree. Brazilian pepper tree produces a dense canopy that shades out all other plants and provides a very poor habitat for native species. This species invades aquatic as well as terrestrial habitats, greatly reducing the quality of native biotic communities in the state. —University of Florida, Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants

    Brazilian pepper grow at a rate of up to 10 feet per year. If the tree is cut down, it will resprout. What’s more, the roots are very difficult to dig up. These trees spread through distribution by birds and animals. Resilient, it’s resistant to natural events like flooding, fire, and even drought. Because they grow near the shoreline, they are of course, able to grow in wet or dry soil, and are salt-tolerant. To top it all off, the state does not have any natural predators to keep them under control.

    How to Get Rid of Brazilian Pepper Trees Permanently

    Reading the facts above might cause one to throw up one’s hands and just decide to try to burn it out, but that will bring more trouble than it’s worth. Chemicals will probably do the trick, but of course, are a danger to children and family pets, as well as wildlife. Here’s how to get rid of Brazilian pepper trees permanently:

    1. Dress appropriately. As everyone familiar with this plant knows, it’s a prickly situation. So, dress in thick clothing, wearing gloves, and eye protection to ward off any allergic reactions.
    2. Cut into the tree. Take a chainsaw to the tree, cutting toward the base of the trunk, leaving about a 6 to 12 inches above the soil.
    3. Dig a hole around the tree. Using a shovel, begin digging a hole around the root ball, making a wide circle to ensure the whole root system is exposed.
    4. Pull up all the roots. Dig up the roots and “root” around in the hole, finding and removing any portions of the root system which may have been severed from the ball.
    5. Backfill the hole to finish. Fill the hole and then, keep a sharp eye on it for the next few weeks. If any sprouts appear, dig them up immediately.
    6. Sod over the backfill. Once the hole is packed tightly with backfill and soil, install sod over it so the area matches the rest of your yard.
  • Dangerous Indoor Plants Children and Pet Households Should Avoid

    There are seven dangerous indoor plants children and pet households should avoid. Okay, so there are plenty more than on this particular list, but these are among the most common and/or problem-prone. We recently looked at how to reduce spring yard allergens and now, we’re turning inside the house.

    People like houseplants because of their benefits. First and foremost, is their beauty, helping to brighten living spaces and make them appear a bit more natural. Also, indoor plants help to improve air quality by taking in carbon monoxide. And, it’s known caring for houseplants is therapeutic, being quite relaxing and rewarding.

    7 Dangerous Indoor Plants Children and Pet Households should Avoid

    There are a number of houseplants which can add a splash of color to your living space. Some indoor plants really add to the overall decor of a home. With the right ones, you have living accents, centerpieces, and conversation topics. But, if your household is home to children and pets, there are more than a few indoor plants which shouldn’t be grown inside. We all know just how curious pets and children are — curiosity is simply an innate trait.

    Have no fear of growing plants in your home; most are perfectly safe. But if you have inquisitive children and pets who may want to chew or crush plants, there are a few varieties to avoid: the handful of plants that can cause allergic skin irritations, stomach upsets, or worse. Some plants are more toxic than others. The good news is that most must be consumed in large quantities to cause any real damage. Often the bitter taste repels a child or pet and stops them from ingesting much of the plant. —Better Homes and Gardens

    And, that’s where the trouble lies. Combine some species of plants with curious little creatures and that’s produces a precarious situation. Just like poisonous landscape plants to avoid, there are species which shouldn’t have a place in your home if it’s also home to young ones and pets. Now, the upside is, most toxic plants require a lot of consumption to cause real problems. But, it’s not worth the risk. So, here are seven dangerous indoor plants children and pet households should avoid:

    • Peace lilies (Spathiphyllum wallisii). Peace lilies are a flowering indoor plant and are especially popular around Easter. These dark leaf, white flower plants have the additional benefit of being low maintenance. Peace lilies make  great spring decor, so they are not only beautiful, but also easy to care for. However, peace lilies have their downside — Spathiphyllum wallisii is toxic humans, canines, and felines. While safe to touch, peace lilies are dangerous when consumed.
    • Devil’s ivy (Epipremnum aureum). Also known as pathos, devil’s ivy is likewise a fairy common indoor plant. A leafy vine, these are also easy to care for but they have a particularly attractive drape. This makes them more tempting to kids and domestic pets. But devil’s ivy isn’t safe for consumption because it causes vomiting and swelling. Like peace lilies, devil’s ivy is safe to touch but definitely not to eat.
    • Sago palm (Cycas revoluta). Sago palm is an ancient species of plant and are great for improving indoor air quality. Sago palm has a distinct structure and small ones are a wonderful centerpiece or accent piece. But, Cycas revoluta is highly toxic and like devil’s ivy, it causes vomiting when any portion of the plant is ingested. Sago palm also causes diarrhea, when consumed and it’s even known to cause liver failure.
    • Caladium (Caladium). Also known as Elephant Ear, caladium plants boast a variety of bright colors, which makes it a great choice for indoor decor. Caladium’s velvet like leaves make the plant beautiful but unfortunately, a bit too tempting for curious children and pets. Consuming the leaves is dangerous because doing so causes vomiting, diarrhea, swelling, and eye pain.
    • Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima). A common Christmas ornamental plant, poinsettia is one that’s particularly bright, with red flower. It already has a dangerous reputation for causing vomiting and nausea, but unlike conventional wisdom, won’t cause death. (Many pounds of the plant would have to be ingested to be fatal.)
    • English ivy (Hedera helix). Fine vines and pointed leaves make English ivy a natural houseplant. But, this plant makes the danger list because it causes a number of health conditions, which include: rash, ataxia, vomiting, swelling in the throat, weakness, and dermatitis.
    • Cyclamen (Cyclamen). A dark leaf plant with bright-colored flowers ranging from red to white is what makes them such a great houseplant to pep up decor. But when ingested, it causes diarrhea and vomiting, so it’s not an idea choice for households with children and pets.
  • Lawn Sprinkler System Troubleshooting Guide

    With summer in full-effect, there’s no time for an unworking sprinkler system. Lawn irrigation is key to keeping the grass healthy and helping to make the landscape look its best. So, when the sprinklers don’t function, it could easily hurt your lawn.

    Brown spots might develop and spread across from one side to another, leaving an unsightly presence. So, you need to take action right away to get that irrigation system up and running again.

    Don’t worry, with just a few common tools, a bit of trial and effort, and some keys observations, you can troubleshoot and fix your lawn sprinkler system. And, you’ll probably discover one or two unknown problems along the way. The best part of this is, you don’t need to be an experienced technician, just some strategic elbow grease ought to be enough.


    Common Sprinkler System Problems

    Over the course of our mild Sarasota “winter,” there’s little to no need to water your lawn. The temperatures are typically mild and grass is dormant as precipitation levels fall greatly. As the spring months roll around, you lawn might need a little assistance and that’s where your irrigation system will come-in handy. It’s best to spread fertilizer when it will do the most good, which is just before the break of dawn.

    An automatic lawn irrigation system is the best way to keep your lawn looking fresh and green. Correctly designed and programmed, it’ll deliver the right amount of water to your yard— no more moving the sprinkler! But like any other system, it occasionally breaks down or requires maintenance. The good news is you can handle 90 percent of the repairs yourself, even without in-depth knowledge of the system. We’ll show you how to identify and fix the most common problems. —The Family Handyman

    By broadcasting healthy grass nutrients and providing ample water, you’ll get the benefits of fresh morning dew and the emergence of sunlight. Using this methodology will allow the nutrients to flow down into the soil and into the root system, providing all your grass needs to take hold and grow green. Of course, you’ll rely on your lawn irrigation system to provide your grass with the water it needs to grow a beautiful yard. If you turn it on for the first time in months, you might experience one of the following common problems: broken sprinkler head(s), main and lateral line leak(s), and/or, control panel problems.

    Lawn Sprinkler System Troubleshooting Guide

    Just like anything else involving materials and mechanics, a sprinkler system can exhibit a glitch here-and-there. The good news is, as the nearby quote explains, the majority of any problems are simple to address. If you have a few basic tools, a little DIY can-do will be enough to get your yard irrigation system back on-track, just in time for spring. Here’s how to troubleshoot a sprinkler system:

    • Titled or sunken sprinkler heads. When heads are tilted or sunken, water distribution will be unequal, even causing grass to effectively “drown.” You can fix this simply by digging around a titled or sunken sprinkler head, right the angle or pulling it up, then, carefully replace soil around it, followed by the sod.
    • Blocked sprinkler heads. Over time, obstacles might grow and block a sprinkler head, preventing it from delivering water as it should. This is a very easy fix because all you have to do is remove what’s in-the-way.
    • Clogged nozzle. Much like an obstacle, a clogged nozzle will prevent a sprinkler head from spraying water onto your grass. Turn the system off and twist the nozzle gently off the spray head. Remove the filter from the system and clean out using water. Replace the filter and nozzle, then, turn the system back on to finish.
    • Main or lateral line leaks. This is where the figure, 9 out of 10 problems can be fixed DIY style, comes into play. For main and lateral line leaks, if you’re comfortable with shutting off the system, digging up the leaking line portion, and coupling a replacement line, then do so. However, if you’re not confident in such necessary skills, it’s best to call a professional.
    • Control panel problems. When you first restart your irrigation system, it might have lost its programming schedule due to power outages or just a glitch. Regardless of the problem, consult the owner’s manual to try to pinpoint and correct the problem. You can also reset the system back to the factor settings to start over, if necessary. Should the control panel not perform properly, check the manufacturer’s warranty.
  • Outdoor Shade Awning Installation How-To

    Outdoor awnings are a terrific way to lessen the glare of the sun and reduce the amount of ambient heat coming into the home. They are also decorative and provide an aesthetic improvement to a home’s exterior, deck, or, patio. If you are thinking of adding an outdoor awning to your home, you won’t need extensive contracting experience to do so. In fact, the whole project should take no more than a few hours to complete with the aid of a helping hand.

    How to Install an Outdoor Awning for Shade

    The great thing about an awning is it serves more than one function. These can be decorative, helping to continue an aesthetic theme of your backyard landscape. In addition, awnings are a cost-effective way of reducing energy use in your home.

    Shade Awning Function

    The shade an awning provides does much to protect the surface of a deck or patio, and, also protects outdoor furniture fabric from fading and becoming frail. It offers protection from falling debris and other objects while cooking outdoors on a grill.

    Creative designers and architects can develop useful and intriguing designs for modern awning and canopy systems that incorporate shape, light, color, texture, graphics and structure, at modest cost. Most awning frames are custom made by cutting, bending and welding metal tubing, and fitting the fabric to the frame. With these custom methods, almost any shape and size can be attained and covered with awning fabric. Hence, the same surface can serve at least three necessary functions: weather protection, identification and architecture. —

    If you attach an awning to your home’s exterior to extend over a deck or patio, you’ll also be providing the same protection from the sun on your interior flooring and any furniture that’s under the sun’s rays. In addition to these functions, an awning also does much for energy efficiency. Heat transfer is greatest in windows and doors, which are notorious among homeowners for being energy wasters. During the Sarasota summer months, this is especially important, as an awning can reduce heat transfer for southern windows and doors by 55 to 65 percent. For westerly-facing windows and doors, that figure climbs between 72 to 77 percent.

    Do it Yourself Awning Installation

    Installing an awning to extend over a patio or deck is not complicated. You really don’t need the skills of an experienced contractor, but, it definitely helps to be handy with common household tools. While you won’t need any specialize tools and/or construction skills, you will need a few key things to install an awning yourself:

    What You’ll Need:

    • Helper
    • Ladders
    • Tape measure
    • Screw gun and screws
    • Caulking gun
    • Aluminum awning
    • Awning brackets
    • Drill and bits

    Once you have all your tools and materials ready-to-go, you can then proceed with the installation.

    Outdoor Shade Awning Installation Guide

    Be sure to wear eye-protection and gloves; it is also beneficial to wear a dust mask if you are pre-drilling pilot holes to secure it to the exterior.

    1. Measure once, measure twice. Measure the space where the awning will hang. Write down the width and depth of the porch. Go to a home improvement store or shed retailer and purchase an aluminum awning that conforms to your porch’s size. It is far more cost- and time- efficient to purchase a prefabricated awning than attempting to scrounge up the necessary materials from different sources, buying each separately and matching them for uniformity.
    2. Get ready, get set, go. Situate one ladder under the porch eve and the other at the end of the awning. Run a straight-line bead of caulking along the porch eve with a caulking gun. While your helper holds the awning in place, secure it to the eve with screws using a screw gun. While your helper continues to hold the end of the awning up, climb onto the roof overlooking the awning. Spread more caulking between awning and the eve. This is known as the “marriage joint”.
    3. Finish the installation. Fold the awning brackets down, if applicable, and set the bracket cleat against the exterior wall of the house. If the brackets are not attached, affix them to the awning with screws, then caulk the screw holes from both sides to prevent rusting. You may have to drill pilot holes in the exterior wall with a drill and appropriate sized bit.

    Depending on the size and type of awning you purchased and installed, it might be able to raise and lower it when desired. Some awnings are designed to retract, while others swing on hinge joints, so you can raise or lower them for maximum shade. If it is retractable or does close, it’s a good idea to secure it in the retracted or down position when a storm is forecast to approach.

  • Water Feature Maintenance Tips You Can Use

    water feature is one of the most soothing and beautiful amenities of a landscape, providing hours of relaxation. These can serve as focal points or can also be an enhancements to a residential landscape design. Water features come in a multitude of shapes and sizes, ranging from simple fountains to complex waterfalls, and must be maintained in order to keep them looking their best. Homeowners learn in a short manner of time that although water features face numerous challenges.

    Here in Sarasota, a water feature is something that can mimic a nearby body of water, like Sarasota Bay or the Gulf of Mexico. It can also be used in a way that best fits into a certain design, giving it the peace and tranquility of streaming water or a small pond. Whatever it’s size, shape, or function, a water feature must be maintained in different ways. Ponds can be a great environment for such species as Koi fish while waterfalls can spill into a swimming pool or a pond.

    Depending on its surroundings, a water feature can also be a bit of work to keep it looking great. There are many things which can make a water feature appear unsightly, from pollen and leaves, to algae and murky waters. These can range from minor cosmetic problems to major problems, such as leaking. Pests and critters can likewise be problematic for water features, as some like to take-up residence in and around them or claw to find tasty treats under stones.

    Low Maintenance Water Features

    One of the best steps to take is to choose a water feature that doesn’t require much maintenance. There are a number of low maintenance water features that look great and provide the same relaxing experience, but do so without the fuss. One is the prefabricated fountain, which can be small in size and fit nicely up against a fence or a wall. Some make great patio additions and attract birds. Self-contained bubbling containers are DIY projects that can be made in differing heights and sizes and clustered together to produce trickling water sounds.

    Outdoor water features, such as small ponds or trickling fountains, add ambient noise and tranquil beauty to your backyard, to say nothing of their ability to attract colorful wildlife, such as your neighborhood’s songbirds. While specific maintenance needs vary depending on the type and size of your water feature, several tips and strategies can help you keep your water feature running smoothly and its water looking sparkling clear. —San Francisco Chronicle

    Miniature ponds are another low maintenance water feature that can be a natural habitat for fish. Most with fish need between 4 and 6 hours of sunlight and must be installed in a place that isn’t drenched with runoff rainwater. Rain is something that can wreak havoc on the water balance and feed impurities into the water, causing an unhealthy fish environment. A water basin is an outdoor feature that contains a hidden reservoir which recycles water, making it a low maintenance amenity. Pondless waterfalls are also low maintenance features, as these too recycle water.

    Water Feature Maintenance

    Your water feature is probably under constant assault–rainwater, twigs, sticks, leaves, bugs, pollen, and even the sun can all prove problematic. The best way to keep maintenance to a minimum is to take proactive care by doing the following things:

    • Use distilled water. If your water feature is small enough, you can fill it with distilled water. If you use a garden hose and fill your feature with water, you’re introducing fluoride and calcium. These can be a real nuisance, causing moving parts to become corroded, promote bacteria and algae growth, and cause strange odors, as well as murky the water.
    • Net regularly. If there’s anything that falls into your water feature, grab your net and fish it out. The more foreign objects and debris that remain in the water, the more damage it will do, especially over long periods. This stuff is not only unsightly, it’s unhealthy for the water.
    • Change the water. Your water feature will be exposed to organic waste, such as bird droppings, and this does have an adverse impact on the water. These can produce scum, algae blooms, and bubbling foam. By changing the water at least twice a year, your feature will look better and be less to maintain.
    • Shade it from the sun. You might not think the sun to be a problem for your water feature, but it is because it speeds-up evaporation levels. It also is a source of energy to grow algae and other growths. If you place potted plants around it and/or add aquatic plants to shade at least 60 percent of the water.

    You can also prune nearby trees, especially those which produce a lot of pollen or seeds. Not only do these organic invaders cause the water balance to fall off and can be the source of an algae bloom, too much can become a problem for recycling systems.