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Gardening & Patio

Gardening & Patio

Taking Care of Your Soil

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Soil is one of the most important parts of your garden. Whether you are looking to plant a new flowerbed or grow tomatoes, your soil quality will determine your success. There are several methods that people use to create excellent soil mixtures and maintain them. Finding the best ways to improve your soil will help you to quickly accomplish your goals.

home-gardeningWhy You Should Plan Ahead:

Gardening is not as easy as it looks. There are a lot of factors that go into designing a proper garden. Soil conditions take time to establish and planting too early or in the wrong space can hurt your plant’s survival rate. Taking the time to plan your garden up to a month in advance can help you to create a garden that you can be proud to call your own.

Understand the Importance of Drainage:

According to Cornell University, plants prefer soil that is well-drained. Being able to control the moisture levels within your soil has a huge impact on how healthy your plants are. Both over- and under-watering are dangerous and can affect the life of the plant.

The best way to ensure the plants are getting the right amount of moisture is to understand how drainage works. When the soil is drained of excess moisture, the plants are able to take as much as they need to be happy. Avoid planting your garden in areas that are heavily affected by rain or have hard layers of top soil. Break up soil as much as possible before introducing your plants so that water can easily flow through the soil.

Testing Your Soil:

There are actually several tests that you can perform before planting to see if your soil is ready. This can take a lot of guess work out of the equation and help you to ensure that your plant will be in the ideal living space. Things like pH levels can have a huge impact on how well the plant thrives, and different plants prefer different levels. Even testing the soil for compaction levels can help you better plan your garden’s soil according to Organic Gardening.

Make a Special Space:

Ensuring that only your plants will grow in the area you have set aside for your garden is important. Invasive plant species can take nutrients from your garden and ruin your well-thought-out designs. Killing off any existing vegetation is a crucial step to starting a garden. This can be done by simply putting black tarp over your designated area.

Keep Up with Soil Maintenance:

Once you have established your soil and planted your garden, you will need to maintain the soil in order to keep it healthy. This can be done in a number of different ways. Many gardeners find that starting a compost pile and leaving two to four inches of organic matter on your soil at all times is beneficial. Others may find success if they only periodically check the moisture levels of their soil or have it tested. Find a method that works for the plants in your garden by doing research in advance and then following through.

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Gardening & Patio

Caring for Your Patio

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As most home owners know, caring for a home isn’t easy. From basic maintenance like vacuuming and dusting, to major projects like redoing the bathroom or cleaning out the garage, home ownership takes time, commitment, and, often, a sense of humor.

While the interior of our homes may be more than enough to keep us busy, ignoring the exterior can more than compromise your house’s aesthetics. This is particularly true when it comes to the patio.

modren-patio

Love Your Patio:

Americans have long loved their patios, particularly during the summer months or in states where it feels like summer all year long. A place to congregate with the family, enjoy the great outdoors, and host parties, patios have become synonymous with seasonal fun.

According to the National Association of Home Builders, this love experienced its biggest boom during the decade between 1995 and 2005. In 1995, only 35 percent of homes had a patio; by 2005, this number was 46 percent. A well-cared-for patio can not only offer you enjoyment, but it can also increase the resell value of your home.

Cleaning Bricks, Killing Weeds:

Two of the most important things you can do to keep your patio in tip-top shape are cleaning the bricks or flooring, and killing the weeds. For bricks, using a pressure washer combined with dish soap may be all that is needed. Some people also prefer to add in moss and mildew remover.

On the weed front, weed killer and good ol’ fashion tugging may get the job done, but it’s also recommended that you use polymeric sand – this will prevent weed growth between the patio stones.

Caring for Patio Furniture:

The surface of your patio may be important, but nothing makes a patio look shabby faster than dirty patio furniture. According to Good Housekeeping, lawn chairs can be cleaned a variety of ways. Resin lawn chairs can be brightened with ¾ cup of bleach, 1 tablespoon of detergent, and a gallon of warm water. Apply this mixture with gloves and let it remain for fifteen minutes before rinsing it off.

Picnic tables, or furniture made of unfinished wood, can be scrubbed down with a mix of one cup of ammonia, a half-cup of vinegar, and one gallon of water. A mildewed umbrella may also be cleaned with three-quarters of a cup of bleach, a squirt of liquid dish washing detergent, and a gallon of water. Not all umbrellas should be bleached, however if yours has acrylic prints, check the tag for instructions.

Wicker furniture can be cleaned with soft-brush vacuum systems. If the wicker is old, however, it may need to be sanded, stripped, and repainted in order to look new.

Adding Flowers:

There may be nothing that makes a patio pop more than colorful flowers. Adding the right flowers can make a difference between beauty and bug-infestation.

According to Better Homes and Gardens, tropical plants – because of the vibrant color patterns – often ascent patios best. These plants include the flowering maple, the angel-wing begonia, the angel’s trumpet, and canna.

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Gardening & Patio

Great Additions to Your Garden

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Your garden is a backyard oasis — a place of sanctuary that you work and relax in. Make it a showpiece that everyone will love to get lost in by adding beautiful accents such as water features, benches and accents to delight the senses. Add beauty to your garden in a variety of ways and you’ll increase its timeless, appealing allure.

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Fountains:

Who doesn’t like the serene sound of trickling water? Add more zen to your outdoor oasis with the strategic use of water features. With a garden that has a backdrop of flowing water, you’ll be amazed at how hypnotic the space can get. HGTV says to ditch the boring and go with a bold, eye-catching color such as orange or blue, highlighted by a bamboo spout to complement the natural surroundings. Add in some water lilies as well to keep the temperature regular and combat the growth of algae. If you’re unwilling to go the full-on fountain route with pumps and filters, take the easy way out and fill several small pots with water, adding decorative stones and water plants for effect. Place stepping stones across a pond for a whimsical feel. If you’ve got some cracked or broken ceramic pieces you’ve been trying to find a use for, glue them in a mosaic pattern onto small and large flower pots for a gorgeous effect.

Benches:

No matter what type of bench you use in your garden, you should provide a dry, stable footing on which it can rest, such as an existing patio, gravel bed or paving stones, advises Better Homes and Gardens. For the ultimate in functionality, incorporate a bench that doubles as a storage unit for your gardening supplies and outdoor seasonal decor. If you are trying to stay away from the wood look, try some stacked cement blocks and capstones, adding a durable, woodsy quality to the surrounding area. For a bit of shade, place your bench under a pergola complete with vines and seasonal floral accents. Add decorative garden accents like ceramic kids, fairies and frogs to the mix but give them a weathered look through application of an aged faux finish.

Walkways and Flowers:

Encourage guests to explore your garden with a meandering cobblestone or flagstone walkway. Go for a rustic, natural look by placing the stones haphazardly. Add a small wrought iron table and chair for relaxing with some lunch and lemonade on a warm spring day. For gardens on a hillside incline, a few steps made out of stone can guide visitors to the garden, with a welcome of spruce evergreens flanking the sides. Potted plants placed strategically throughout the garden can add further dimension and texture. Just be sure to reign it in and not go overboard. Line walkways with plants, wildflowers and hedges to add greenery and definition. Better Homes and Gardens advises giving your garden a contemporary look by breaking it up into sections that flow. Colorful flower beds punctuated on either side of a walkway and in some corners of the yard offset by green grass can provide various points of interest as well as a unique design that does not feel overwhelming.

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Gardening & Patio

Taking Care of Your Fountain

taking-care-of-your-fountain

Trickling fountains are a fantastic addition to an outdoor oasis that can include anything, from a pool and patio area to a garden with quaint benches. When you maintain your fountains regularly, they look beautiful. Neglect them, and they start to become an eyesore. Algae, lime, calcium and minerals can build up over time, giving your fountain a dirty appearance. If you don’t change the water and clean the mechanical unit once in awhile, you can inadvertently contribute to its failure. Give a little attention to your fountains, and your hard work will pay off.

taking-care-of-your-fountain

Fountains in the Wild:

Your outdoor fountain should get plenty of water refreshes on a regular basis due to rain. However, in times of drought, you may have to change out the water to keep it fresh and avoid stagnation, which can attract mosquitoes and other bugs. You also don’t want that slimy green algae to invade your gorgeous fountain, so regular cleaning is a must. If birds like to enjoy your water fountain that doubles as a bird bath, extra care needs to be given to ensure droppings don’t pile up. Check the water level every week, making sure the pump is completely submerged; otherwise, it can work overtime and burn out. Use distilled water if possible, suggests SF Gate, so minerals don’t build up. You can even get your kids in on the fountain maintenance. Have them take a scoop and bucket and get out any twigs or leaves that may be in the water, as these can look unsightly and even clog the pump. When your fountain sports a layer of grime, take a half hour or so to give it a thorough cleaning. First, suck out the dirty water with a wet-dry vac, then follow that up with a good thorough scrubbing, says This Old House. Infuse your fountain with some fresh water and add a clarifier that will help to prevent excessive algae growth. Adding a scale and stain remover is also a good idea. This will save you some work the next time you have to clean. Avoid adding chlorine, as this places too much stress on the pumping system. If the algae is out of control and nothing else works, add just a few capfuls of bleach to the water and run it through a cycle.

Fountains in the House:

If you’d like to bring this tranquil setting into your house, a decorative tabletop fountain can add a touch of relaxation and zen to your day. However, if you have shiny stones and rocks within your fountain, these can get coated with slimy algae that can really start to smell if you don’t wash them regularly. Dismantle the fountain once a month or so, depending on size, and hand-wash all components and decorative rocks with a mix of vinegar and warm water. Add fresh water and a smidgen of bleach to keep algae and bacteria away.

Cleaning your fountains is a small chore that won’t take up too much time yet will pay off in the long run with a little dedication. You’ll not only boost the appearance of your indoor or outdoor fountain, but you’ll also contribute to its long life.

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Gardening & Patio

The Important Questions Every Homeowner Should Ask a Landscape Gardener

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Finding a list of companies which provide landscape gardening services in the Perth area is easy enough, but finding the right one for your outdoor living project may prove to be a bit more difficult. Before you sign any contracts with a landscaping company, it is important that you receive thoughtful and reassuring responses to the six questions below.

Why Did You Enter into the Landscaping Business?

Some landscaping companies may have entered into this space because they enjoy running their own business while others love being outdoors and have a passion for creating gorgeous outdoor spaces. The reason behind why they do landscaping will give you an idea of how committed they will be to your project.

landscape-gardener

What Sort of Training Have You Had?

A lot of landscapers will have learned their trade through years of experience and practice. Many of them will have explored additional training to support their craft, while others may not have. Training is important, but the real indication of the quality of work they will provide will be revealed through their portfolio.

May I See Your Portfolio?

If the landscape gardener has a website, they will likely have a large portfolio online showcasing the beautiful outdoor living spaces they have designed and built for past clients. Before you become enamoured by the work they can produce, be logical about your approach when viewing their portfolio. Focus on projects which are be similar to what you will want to have done in your own backyard when assessing the quality of the landscaping artist’s work.

The Contract

Once you have narrowed your landscaping options down to a handful of potential companies, it is time to start discussing the contract. The contract you sign should cover a number of aspects of the job, including:

When Will You Start the Project and When Will It End?

It is important that you know exactly what day the landscaper will arrive and start getting down to work. The end date will likely be an estimated end date and may vary due to a number of factors, such as:

  • The weather;
  • The availability of contractors; and
  • Unforeseen issues which may arise.

What Work Is Included in the Cost?

Do not assume that mowing, weeding and post-project clean-up is included in your contract. Make sure that the contract is as detailed as possible so that your garden will meet your expectations. For example, if you want your fruit tree to be pruned back to a certain diameter, specify what that is in the contract.

What Is the Cost Breakdown?

Every service you are provided with will have a price tag attached to it. Ask about whether you are paying for the entire job or if you will be charged by the hour for the services. Be sure to include a “not to exceed” statement within the contract for each service so that you do not receive a large and unexpected bill at the end of the project.

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