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  1. We all dream of spending a relaxing evening in a perfectly manicured backyard. Unfortunately, the cost required to landscape a yard can sometimes make that dream seem out of reach. But getting the perfect yard doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune. With a little bit of effort and a little elbow grease, you can get a fantastic yard for a fraction of what other people pay. Here are some tips to help you get the yard of your dreams, on a less-than-dreamy budget.

     

    Get a Free Landscape Design

    It can be difficult to know where to start when you want to design your yard. Instead of wasting money on trial and error, get a free landscape plan from a local nursery. Take them a rough outline of your lot, and get some professional help coming up with a design plan. Decide where you’ll add flower beds, where you’ll put hardscape, as well as get recommendations for what types of plants grow best in your area. Most people develop their landscaping a little at a time, whenever they have the money. Starting with a plan helps make sure that you only buy plants that fit nicely in your long-term design plan, minimizing waste and costly mistakes.

     

    Shop Springtime Sales

    Springtime is always a fantastic time to find good sales at nurseries and big box stores. Many stores offer significantly decreased prices on mulch, plants, seeds, as well as soil amendments. Do yourself a favor and wait until the sales start before you buy anything for your yard. Gather together ads that come in the mail and identify which stores have your desired items for the cheapest price. This will help make sure you’re always getting the biggest bang for your budget.

     

    Divide Your Plants

    Instead of spending a lot of money on expensive new plants, divide your existing plants. There are countless videos on YouTube on how to divide a plant. Put your green thumb to use and make the most of the greenery you already have. Dividing your plants not only saves you money in your budget, it helps keep your existing plants from growing too large and cumbersome.

     

    Get Free Plants from Local Neighbors

    The internet is a fantastic tool for getting free plants, especially form your local neighbors. It’s not uncommon to find a neighbor who is trying to get rid of a specific tree or plant in their yard. Oftentimes they’ll let you have the plant for free if you are willing to remove it yourself. Always check local community websites or yard sale websites and see what your neighbors are trying to get rid of before you spend money on new plants. Not only will it help get you beautiful plants at a great price, it will also reduce waste.

    Don’t be discouraged if you don’t have thousands of dollars to throw at your landscaping job. Get a landscaping plan, and shop smart. Make sure everything you buy has a purpose, and do as much labor as you can yourself. Follow these tips and in a little while, your dream yard will be a reality.

  2. Landscaping can make any outdoor space come alive. Well chosen plantings along with pavers can take any ordinary area and make it a delight. Any kind of design should make it easy to see all areas of the space all year round. This is why so many people have turned to the creation of a paved walkway. Using paving can be helpful because it offers:

    An easier pathway through the property

    • A unified look
    • An element of safety

     

    A Pathway

     

    Creating a pathway from the door to the garage or across the front of the yard can be beautiful and elegant. This is where paving is very helpful. A paved walkway creates a clear walk for people to follow from the front of the yard to the front door as well as through the rest of the yard. The walkway can be structured to help highlight many features on the property that people want to see closely such an elegant old oak tree or a lovely view from the top of a hill or even a beautiful front door.

     

    Unified Space

     

    Another advantage of using a paved walkway is that it helps create a truly unified look to all areas of the property including the backyard. Any buyer can choose pavers that tie into all of the materials that have used in the home. For example, buyers can pick a walkway made from brick or stone. This will help make the entire landscape look like a carefully thought whole and thus add a pleasing sense of unity. Adding slightly different materials can also help create a sense of contrast that stands out and helps set off the property from the surrounding landscape and makes it look wonderful from every single vista.

     

    A Useful Element of Safety

    Using pavers also helps make the space feel safer. The pavers can bring people along a safe path rather than up a route that might otherwise be too steep or subject to fierce rains. Parents can use the path to help their children learn what areas on the property are safer and what areas might be otherwise off limits without their close supervision. The pathway can also be used to help provide a walkway that makes it easier to haul materials from one part of the area to another. Carrying heavy items can be dangerous. A pathway means that the walker always has a safe area where they can place their feet without worry. This allows them to transport items in a wheelbarrow or other cart along a path that is smooth and will not have unexpected tree branches or other potential obstacles in their way.

     

    Careful attention to detail at every turn is the key to creating wonderful landscaping for all to enjoy.

  3. When you are spring cleaning the exterior of your home, restaurant, retail store or commercial business, you want to ensure that the deck work is as sparkling clean as the rest of your property. Despite this, it can be labor-intensive to scrub a composite deck and get rid of all of the grit or algae that is growing in the cracks of the wood. To get a better idea of how you can make sure your deck is ready for spring (if it is made from composite wood), keep reading.

     

    Composite wood is the easiest to clean

    When you are in the process of buying composite wood for the deck, part of the advantage is the convenience. For example, on many of the websites that sell composite wood, they give advice about how it should be cleaned, and they count this as an advantage to buying their product. Truthfully, composite wood is one of the easiest types of outdoor building materials to clean, but it does require specific types of equipment.

     

    The best way to clean composite wood

    When composite wood is purchased to be used in the outdoors, it is often touted as being affordable and also, easy-to-clean with pressure washing. Nonetheless, the settings on your pressure washer will need to be fine-tuned, or else you could end up damaging the surface of your composite wood. For example, many composite woods have a coating that keeps them from losing their luster due to sun exposure or weather. Obviously, if the pressure washer is set too high, it can remove this finish or damage it. This inevitably means that your composite wood will start to deteriorate at a faster rate and also, may lose some of its capabilities to look new.

     

    Using chemicals to remove stains and microorganisms

    When you have a serious stain on your composite wood deck, you will need professional help to remove it. Outside of the usual staining culprits such as tannins from old decayed leaves, paints or red clay mud, another issue is build up from certain types of mold, algae, lichens or other microorganisms. Despite being plant-like, these microorganisms can stain composite wood. Removing stains involves degreasers and other types of chemical solvents that require using special techniques.

     

    What to expect from full-service outdoor composite wood spring cleaning

    Before the warm weather hits, it pays to have your composite wood deck completely cleaned to remove all of the gunk that fall and winter weather bring. For example, you will need to have all of the old leaves and mud removed from the deck. After it is scrubbed, deck brighteners might be applied to get rid of mineral buildup from snow or ice removal salts. The next step is to work on any oil or grease stains that might need to be removed from the composite wood. The final stages involve removing all the remaining stains with careful pressure washing.

     

    If you need professionals to help you preserve the beauty of your composite wood deck, we are here to help. We are available to residential, retail, and commercial property owners in the Ann Arbor, Michigan area. To get started, please give us a call today.

     

  4. The latest trend in home building around the Ann Arbor Michigan area has focused on larger homes and smaller yards. When you are looking to make your yard a beautiful part of your home, but you don’t have very much square footage to work with, then you need to get creative. Here is a fun list of the many innovative and creative ways to make the most out of a small backyard.

    1. Plant a vertical garden

    A new trend in gardening has been moving up in the small backyards all over Ann Arbor Michigan. Vertical gardening focuses on the space above the ground, not below. By building a ladder type system where you can hang pots, you will find that there is much more room to grow flowers, herbs, and vegetables. This can also be a fun way to get creative with the design of your vertical garden, and match it to your own unique style.

     

    2. Create a center point

    When you don’t have a ton of room to work with in your yard area, you can put the focus on one beautiful feature. Whether you are planning on having a beautiful sculpture, a unique water feature or a magnificent plant, your whole yard design can focus on bringing attention to this main center point.

     

    3. Make the most out of your small backyard

    Your small yard space has a lot of potential. When you start thinking of the possibilities for your smaller yard, you can see all of the great things that can be done in this amount of space. A spa is a perfect example of an addition to your small yard that would allow you to host small parties in this space. You may even be able to fit in a small outdoor dining table that would accommodate many of your friends and family members.

     

    4. Get creative about your storage

    In most yards, you will see a large shed for all of the gardening equipment. When you have a smaller space, you will have to get more creative about where all of your lawn care items will be stored. There are many furniture items that will give you ample storage space. For example, there are benches made for smaller yards that will convert into storage chests. There are also decks that have floor storage built into them.

     

    5. Give your yard personality

    While you may not have a huge amount of space to work with, you will be able to slam a lot of your own personality and style into your small yard. If you are a skater, think of building a small halfpipe that would take up a big area of your back yard. If you love the beach, have some sand shipped to your yard for that beach feeling. Decorating can get fun when you put your own unique spin on things. Your friends and family will be much more likely to enjoy themselves at gatherings when they can see your own personal spin on your yard.
    When you take a look at smaller yards, there are a lot of options for this amount of space. If you take a creative approach to designing your smaller yard, you can add your own unique style into this space that will match the overall feel of your home.

  5. Each year when the last winter frost has melted, many homeowners in Ann Arbor Michigan turn their attention to the exterior of the homes. The lawn may be starting to turn a brilliant shade of green, the leaves are returning to the trees, and spring flowers may be in bloom. With the beauty of nature all around you, you may be enticed to update your yard in various ways. While some projects, such as planting annuals in the flower beds, have short-term appeal, you may be looking for projects that have long-lasting benefits for your home. The good news is that there are some excellent projects that you can do right now that will add value and charm to your home for years to come.

     

    1. Plant New Trees

    This is the ideal time to plant new trees in your yard. The next few months will be warm, providing the ideal environment for the roots of new trees to take hold in the soil. Consider planting trees farther away from the home so that they do not affect your home’s foundation. Plant them around a detached patio area to provide you with shade and to block the wind as they mature.

     

    2. Invest in a Fire Pit

    A fire pit is a great idea for homeowners to consider. Spring, fall, and even summer days and nights may be chilly at times, but a fire pit gives you and your loved ones a way to enjoy time outdoors throughout the year. You may even venture outdoors in the winter, when the weather is nicer, to enjoy sitting be they fire. You and your loved ones can drink hot cocoa, roast marshmallows, and enjoy time together outdoors bHardscapey the fire.

     

    3. Update the Deck

    A deck is an excellent addition to your home, because it can provide you with an exceptional place to relax outdoors. It can be used for entertaining guests or for relaxing on your own. If you already have a deck constructed, consider if it needs to be sanded and stained, so it can continue to provide you with value and functionality in the years to come.

     

    4. Add Garden-Style Pathways

    If you have pets and kids, there is a good chance that there are some pathways created in your grass that turn into a muddy mess when it rains. You can update your yard by adding garden-style pathways with pea gravel, stepping stones or other natural features. This will add charm to your space and eliminate the muddy paths that develop when it rains.

    You may spend ample time outdoors for many months of the year. If this is the case, then you want your yard to look fabulous. You also may be interested in making improvements that add real value to your home. Each of these thoughtful ideas are excellent spring projects that any homeowner can consider. They each have functional benefits in your yard that can improve your experience for years to come, and they also have the ability to add value to your home. Take time to analyze your current space to explore the possibilities for your yard.

  6. Even the most strictly ornamental landscape has its share of edible plants. Crabapple and Serviceberry trees are great examples in the Ann Arbor Michigan region. Of course, sunflowers of all sizes have delicious seeds to offer. As the list below demonstrates, attractive edibles can accommodate any garden niche, and some stand out as especially striking.

     

    *Trees and Shrubs

    *Fruiting Vegetables

    *Leafy Vegetables

    *Herbs

    *Vines

     

    Trees and Shrubs

    This category can include everything from towering walnut and pecan trees to small blueberry shrubs. Classic additions like apples, cherries, pears, peaches, and plums can be counted on to provide a wonderful spring show. Blueberries, perfectly suited to the acidic soil of the Ann Arbor Michigan area, even, keep looking good in fall with brilliant scarlet leaves. Keep in mind that large fruit and nut trees will be dropping some of their bounty on the ground, and this limits where they can be planted.

    Fruiting Vegetables

    In recent years, more homeowners have been adding ornamental peppers to their garden displays. Fruit colors run the gamut from white to yellow to orange to red to purple-black. Leaves can be variegated with purple. Even the plants themselves range from several feet down to virtual ground covers. With equally variegated leaves and purple and white streaked fruit, eggplants are an alternative to look into.

    Leafy Vegetables

    Many vegetables can add a nice touch to the landscape, but the two big players are chard and kale. Decorative kale features smooth or extra curly center leaves in such colors as white, purple, and lavender paired with outer green leaves. With a little care, the display can continue into winter, while the leaves provide an exceptionally nutritious meal. Chard offers a vertical form of deep green or dark purple leaves highlighted with stems and veins of white, red, and yellow. Similar to chard, beets feature green leaves permeated with red veins.

     

    Herbs

    It’s impossible to name all the eye-catching plants in this category. Easily-grown perennial chives bear spherical purple blooms on their roughly foot tall stems. Silver thyme derives its name from variegated leaves of green with white edging. It’s also topped with light purple flowers. Pineapple sage is a container-grown herb sporting elongated red flowers that are also edible.

    Vines

    With large leaves, many varieties of grape vines supply an attractive privacy screen that becomes more appealing as the grapes ripen into purple clusters. Hardy Kiwi Vines are another perennial option with masses of white spring flowers and sometimes, variegated leaves. Unlike kiwi fruits found in stores, these are smaller, sweeter, and have edible skins. Beware that Hardy Kiwi Vines can put on 20 feet of growth a year and can be invasive.

     

    Historically, edible plants were part of any decorative landscape. This practice lapsed only since the latter half of the 19th century. A new sense of practicality has brought it back to its rightful place, and with spring’s arrival, it might be a good time for you to bring it back to your home.

  7. Walk MS: Dexter 2017

    Multiple Sclerosis is a disease that attacks the body’s nervous system. It is when your immune system attacks the protective nerve coverings and eats away at them. Information flow between your body and your brain is disrupted because of this, and it can cause the body to have issues such as: pain, vision loss, impaired coordination, and fatigue.The severity of these symptoms can vary, depending on the person.

     

     

    About the Walk

    MS is a disease that is yet to have a cure. The Walk MS: Dexter 2017 program is sponsored by the premier national sponsor Novartis and the national sponsor Genentech. It is the 7th largest walk fundraiser in the U.S. The purpose of this program is to help raise money for a cure, because the money goes toward research on Multiple Sclerosis and critical care. The overall program has raised over $50 million dollars toward stopping MS each year.

     

     

    Details About this Event

    The Walk MS: Dexter 2017 program is May 20th, 2017. It will start and end at Hudson Mills Metropark. The site will open at 9 a.m. and the walk will start at 10 a.m. There are no fees for registration for the Walk MS event. The fundraising goal for this particular MS walk is $29,560. This is because this particular MS Walk of 2016 raised this much with a total of 238 people participating, and we want to out do last year!

     

     

    Together we can end MS. You can sign up as a walker, a virtual walker or a volunteer. 

    Lastly, if you have any questions about the walk, feel free to contact us!

  8. One of the most important aspects of maintaining a commercial landscape is to keep it neat and organized in a way that will draw attention. No doubt, you would have to incorporate trees in your landscape. Over time, the trees require pruning to keep them looking their best and healthy so that they can thrive during the growing season. However, it’s important to know the proper way to prune your trees. Here are some tips on properly pruning trees for your commercial landscape.

     

    Use Proper Pruning Tools

    To successfully prune your trees, it is absolutely essential to have the right pruning tools. If your trees are small, you should use hand shears that are similar to scissors. For larger trees, there are bigger pruning shears. Your tools should always be kept clean and must have sharpened blades. A dull blade can damage your trees and prevent them from properly growing or blooming buds.

     

    Make Cuts Carefully

    You should always prune a tree from just outside of the collar of the branch. Cuts should also be made carefully so that you don’t harm the tree. The cuts should also be made at a slant instead of straight. That helps the tree to breathe after pruning is done. Avoid making any cuts that are too large, especially when the branch collar can easily suffer damage.

    When you are merely shortening a branch instead of completely removing it, prune it to the lateral branch. It will help to avoid problems such as stem decay and branches growing in abnormal directions.

     

    What to Cut When Pruning

    The entire purpose of pruning a tree is to cut away any dead or diseased wood so that it can thrive afterward. In some cases, it is also for aesthetic purposes so that it can maintain a specific shape, something that is certainly considered when you have a commercial landscape. Eliminating dead and diseased branches on your trees will ensure that the plants can remain healthy or be restored to their best health.

    Always Prune at the Right Time

    Of course, you must do your tree pruning at the appropriate time of year. In the Ann Arbor, Michigan area, the best time to prune is from late fall to early spring. This time is optimal because the tree is in its dormant phase and there is less possibility of the tree being infested by insects or developing diseases. In addition, there is easier access to the branches, because the tree is bare during the dormant period.

     

    Wound Dressing

    Sometimes, wound dressing is necessary after pruning a tree. This entails adding a dressing or pruning paint to any cuts made that are larger than one inch in diameter. The purpose of wound dressing is to protect the tree after pruning to prevent issues of disease or damage done by insects. At the same time, however, many arborists believe that wound dressing can actually slow the healing process. In most cases, it is only used when a tree already has a disease to prevent that disease from spreading after an afflicted tree has been pruned.

     

    These are things to keep in mind when you have to prune trees in your landscape. You may want to practice before you do your pruning, or hire a professional to be on the safe side.

     

  9. If you’ve ever seen large puddles and rivers of water on your property, you have a problem with storm water runoff. This is the water that comes from rain storms or melted ice and snow that isn’t absorbed into the ground. This runoff might flow into a storm drain, drainage swale or the sewers, but a bad storm can leave the systems unable to handle the invading water.

    When you have a storm water management problem on your property, you can see erosion, a wet lawn, damage to your landscaping, and damage to your foundation. A soggy lawn, garden or landscaping will result in bacteria, which loves moist, wet areas. Mosquitoes can breed in standing water too. The standing water left behind by a storm can cause many issues and should be addressed as soon as possible.

    1. Landscaping Strategies

    There are quite a few landscaping strategies to help with storm water runoff before it can start damaging your home or commercial building’s lawn or foundation.

    Flow-through planters are used to filter water and infiltrate it back into the soil over time. It collects in these planters and is released over time to ensure that the area isn’t bombarded with too much water. They’re great for providing green spaces near the building too.

    Swales can be created next to the foundation to pull moisture away from the building. They are small bits of land with beneficial plants that will trap particles and manage the water runoff in order to reduce its flow.

     

    Trees can be planted in areas that end up with standing water. The trees will take advantage of the water, slow it down, and decrease erosion of the soil. The tree roots will soak up pollutants and filter the water before it’s released.

    2. Evaluating Downspouts

    After making sure the downspouts are maintained properly, the next step to runoff management is making sure they are directed away from the building. Downspouts are meant for this specific purpose, but they can sometimes be overwhelmed with water.

    Check to see where the water is puddling and if there’s an area that is being inundated with stormwater. For example, if the water is running to one drain, that drain will be unable to handle the sheer amount of water flowing there. The downspouts might need to be redirected based on how the water flows.

    3. Culvert and Drain Management

    Some properties have a drainage system in place, but the area isn’t maintained as properly as it should be. A property with a culvert or drain system has to be landscaped to remove weeds and overgrown plants. Otherwise, the system won’t work. Water will collect in puddles near the culvert or drain and back up into the rest of the lawn.

    Landscaping, proper planning, and maintenance are vital for storm water management for runoff on your property. It’s best to consult with a landscaping company to ensure that you’re doing all you can to manage the storm water and directing it back into the ground properly.

  10. As a home gardener, you will always want to ensure that your irrigation system is turned off for the winter. Winterizing is important during the coldest months of the year, because your lawn and all the plants growing on it are in the dormant phase. By the time spring is back, you will want to turn your irrigation system back on just in time for the first blooms. When the temperatures increase, you will want to use proper irrigation maintenance. Doing so will allow your lawn to thrive throughout the entire growing season.

    It’s always important to remember where each component of your irrigation system is so that when winter is over, you can more easily access them. Here are steps to take during proper irrigation maintenance when you are ready to turn the system back on.

    1. Turn Water on Slowly

    One of the most important things to remember when you are turning the water back on to start up your irrigation system for the spring is to do so slowly. This is because doing so too quickly can cause a water hammer, which is a high pressure surge of water that can happen when a valve is opened after it was off for a long time. It can lead to a sprinkler head popping off or even fittings bursting, so take care to slowly turn it back on. Valves need time to properly pressurize, which is only possible when opened slowly.

    2. Locate Shut Off Valves

    There are a few different valves that make up a sprinkler system, including the stop and waste valves and the pressure vacuum breakers, which are above the ground. Make sure you know where they are so that you can effectively turn them back on when winter is over.

    3. Turn on Valves

    You need a meter key to turn on the stop and waste valves. The valves frequently turn on at a 90 degree angle in a counterclockwise position. It’s not uncommon for them to slightly leak when they are first turned on, but that should stop after a few moments. The pressure vacuum breakers turn on with two ball valves situated at either side of the vacuum breaker valve. When it is in the parallel position, it’s on, and when it is in the perpendicular position, it’s off. Turn it at about a quarter to turn this valve on. Remember to turn each valve slowly to avoid a water hammer.

    4. Check Individual Sprinkler Valves

    Check each of the sprinkler valves and remove the sprinkler head from each line before turning on the valves. It can prevent a water hammer if the valve is turned on too fast. Check for any leaks in the sprinkler lines. There is a manual screw on the side of most sprinkler valves if you prefer taking the time and turning each one on individually.

    5. Check Each Sprinkler Station and Set Timer

    Inspect each sprinkler station to ensure that none of the links are broken. Any broken sprinkler heads should be repaired or replaced. You can also make adjustments to their spray patterns. Afterward, set the timer for the times when you want your lawn to be watered.

    If you have any concerns or confusion about properly turning your irrigation system back on after winter, feel free to contact us. A professional can ensure that you get it back up and running efficiently.