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  1. You’ve daydreamed about the perfect backyard, the perfect storefront, or the perfect patio for some time. Your dreams are shaping up into what could be a solid reality. Now is the time to make it happen – but first, consider these seven simple things you should think about before designing your dream landscape.

    1. What are you starting with?

    Evaluate first what you already have. Are there any landscape features already in place? If so, will they need to be removed or incorporated? Will grading or digging be required to achieve the desired look? If the area in question has features you do not like, such as a steep hill or existing trees, how could these be incorporated or altered to fit your vision? Considering these factors will aid in the planning process.

    2. Consider plant hardiness.

    If your dreamscape involves lushly planted gardens, do a bit of research on the types of plants you wish to include. Ann Arbor sits near the boundary of USDA plant hardiness zones 5 and 6. Choosing perennial plants (those that return every year without the need to be replanted) well suited to these zones will keep your garden looking great for years to come.

    3. Consider time expenditure.

    After installation, some landscaping features require regular maintenance. The most labor intensive are water features such as ponds, fountains, and swimming pools (filters must be cleaned, water parameters monitored, and chemicals applied). Some plants also require special care (fast growing bushes must be trimmed, ornamental and fruit bearing trees should be pruned, and roses dead-headed to remove spent flowers). Research these items or ask your landscaper so you know what you are getting yourself into.

    4. Count the cost.

    Before planning your garden area, decide on a maximum budget. As you learn the cost of each item and feature you desire, determine the total. If you exceed your budget, you will need to reduce costs by removing a feature or finding a cheaper alternative.

    5. Check local codes.

    Permits may be required for some decks and outdoor structures. Also, if your neighborhood has a homeowner’s association or you live in a gated community, there are often guidelines that must be followed, such as building fences, decks, and pools to certain specifications.

    6. Solve landscaping problems with creative ideas.

    Use internet sites as well as respected landscaping magazines to research ideas for your project. You may encounter solutions you never thought of for turning that hill into a terraced garden or filling that shaded corner with plants that will thrive.

    Designing your own landscape can be a demanding task, and implementing your design is even more daunting, but this is a task you don’t have to tackle by yourself. If you live in or around Ann Arbor, Michigan, contact us today. Our landscaping professionals will walk you through every step, allowing you to live your dream that much sooner.

     

  2. Whether it was a harsh winter or not, there are certain things you’ll have to do to your landscaping before spring officially arrives. When it warms enough for being outdoors working in the yard, you might be tempted to jump directly into your gardening. Unfortunately, there’s a transition phase between winter and the gardening of spring. Consider these landscape tips as a preparation for spring.

    1. Winter Clean Up and Lawn Care

    While you might have done a good job at cleaning before winter hit, there’s likely some work to be done in the yard. Clearing debris like broken branches, twigs and left over leaves, are a priority for spring. If you didn’t clean as much as you should have in the fall, now is the time to clear the rot or mold that could have developed.

    It’s a great time to rake your lawn. Even if you raked all the leaves, the grass can become matted due to snow depending on your area. It’ll give you a chance to assess the grass too. While raking the grass to allow it to breathe, check for signs of blighted areas. While caring for your lawn, aeration can help to loosen a compacted lawn. When you find bare parts of the lawn, add some seed to that area. Spring is the time to fertilize the lawn too.

    2. Tree and Shrub Damage and Pruning

    In the spring, you’ll want to do a perimeter check to see how the trees and shrubs fared through the winter. High winds, snow, and ice can really destroy some trees and weigh down shrubs. Broken or bent branches should be cut immediately. When trees and bushes emerge from winter to spring, they’ll take that time to heal from trauma. A clean cut heals better than a rip or torn branch.

    Make sure you understand the types of shrubs and plants you have before trimming and pruning. This task should be done to some trees and shrubs, but not on others. When a shrub has buds that can appear on the new wood, these are the shrubs you’ll want to prune. You’ll get a short, full shrub for the summer. This also means it’s time to prune rose bushes and climbing vines. Some flowering bushes or shrubs should be pruned only after they’ve flowered, so you can see where the dead parts are located.

    3. Equipment Inspection

    From the blades on your lawn mower to the sharpness of your cutters, hedge trimmer, and spades, it’s important to check and maintain your landscaping equipment. Add fuel to the lawnmower and chainsaw. Any equipment with a motor should be checked to ensure the lines aren’t frayed or torn.

    This is the time to check the sprinkler system too. Make sure none of the lines have been damaged. You can hire a professional to test and repair the system if you’re not comfortable doing it yourself.

     

    Before you can think about planting, there’s a transition phase between winter and spring where you should be cleaning from winter and preparing the lawn and garden for the coming warmth. These landscape tips should help make that transition easier.

     

  3. Winter is on its way out and spring is nipping at your heels. As much as you can’t wait for those warmer days, you are concerned about how to prepare your lawn for spring. The good news is spring preparation is fairly simple and straightforward. Once you clean up the last traces of winter, plan your battle attack against crabgrass. Don’t forget to have your lawnmower sent in for servicing, though, or you’ll be knee-deep in an overgrown lawn. Then, aerate and fertilize your lawn to ensure strong, healthy growth, and a breathtaking lawn.

     

    Blow Winter Away

    The colder months have left reminders of biting winds and snowy days behind on your lawn. Unfortunately, all of that debris and snow isn’t good for spring foliage. Needless to say, the first step to spring lawn care in Michigan is cleaning up the leaves, twigs, and snow. Be sure to use a lawn rake rather than a garden rake to remove surface debris without damaging the delicate new growth below.

     

    Crabgrass Attack

    The part of spring you dread is the invasion of crabgrass. Rather than wait for the first peek of the hated weed, take an offensive stance and prevent crabgrass and other weeds from ever gaining a foothold. You can choose from a number of herbicides, including all natural ones, to protect your lawn. Simply wait until the forsythia blooms drop to spread the herbicide and get a jump start on the crabgrass assault.

    Spring Mower Maintenance

    The first warm day is a sign it’s time to bring the lawnmower out of the garage and prepare it for the long seasons to come. Begin by sharpening the blade (if you didn’t do so at the start of winter). It’s also advised you take your mower in for servicing to ensure you don’t fall behind in your lawn care in Michigan. After that, you should be prepared to keep your grass in picture perfect condition.

     

    Growth Mania

    The beauty of spring is the emergence of plants, the bedazzling blooms and the awakening of the planet from her long summer. Unfortunately, all that growth can lead to compacted soil which in turn prevents health growth. Fortunately, you can avoid this by aerating your lawn or loosening the soil to allow the roots to breathe, absorb water, and receive nutrients. In short, if you don’t have an aerator, you may want to invest in one to keep your lawn healthy and happy.

     

    Nurturing the Growth

    Plants need a lot of nutrients in the spring because of all the energy they put into growth. As such, this is the ideal time to fertilize your lawn and gardens. In fact, for a healthier lawn, you may want to look into organic fertilizers that provide natural foods for your beloved plants. Just keep in mind, you will have to fertilize again as part of your lawn care in Michigan, so store some aside in your garage to keep your lawn care efforts easy and simple.
    Spring is right around the corner, but that’s no reason to start fretting about your lawn. In fact, you can have your lawn ready for the warmer months in a few steps. Clean up the last traces of winter, aerate your lawn, and spray herbicide to prevent a crabgrass invasion. Finally, have your mower serviced to ensure you have the most beautiful lawn on the block.

  4. If you’re thinking about adding an outdoor fireplace to your backyard and are considering the benefits of having one built on your property. Some of the advantages of constructing this versatile and attractive element could include:

     

    Warmth and Relaxation

    Sitting by a crackling fire is a great way to spend time in the outdoors during cooler weather. The entire family would not be quite so housebound in the fall and winter and would be able to relax and enjoy the fresh air and cozy backyard surroundings in comfort. Add hot chocolate, fresh coffee, apple cider, local wines, or hot toddies to the mix for even more comfort.

    Ambience

    An outdoor fireplace would add so much to your backyard. It would look attractive and be more welcoming to your guests and relatives during outdoor gatherings. Other surroundings such as flower beds and benches could be built to match. It would look great right on your patio, in the middle of the backyard, or even nestled in a corner of your lawn.

    Culinary Opportunities

    A fireplace such as this would give the family ample opportunity to cook their snacks and meals in the great outdoors. Hot dogs, s’mores, and other simple foods would be a snap over the open flame. If the fireplace is equipped with the proper equipment, other foods such as burgers, steaks, shish kabobs, and seafood could also be prepared. Add special wood chips to the flames to promote even more flavor in your favorite outdoor dishes.

     


    Promote Quality Time with Family and Friends

    An outdoor fireplace would lend itself to unique gatherings, special occasions, and romantic encounters. During cooler days and evenings, the family would be more apt to meet at this new structure to converse and bond. These moments could become treasured times to spend with close friends, children, and older relatives. It could become a focal point for cool-weather birthdays, anniversaries, and holiday parties. This is a great way to extend your living space, especially if your house is not very large, or if you need room to entertain larger crowds.

     

    Increase Property Values

    Adding a new fireplace to your backyard would increase your property values. Realtors love this type of addition, because it can be a huge selling point for buyers. Even if you decide never to sell your home, you will know that you have increased its value just by having this simple structure built. Just by adding this structure to your property, it will inspire you to find more ways to improve your residence.

    As you can see, adding a fireplace to your outside living area will provide you with so many positive benefits. Being able to sit outside and enjoy the moon and stars on a crisp, clear evening is a priceless benefit. The gatherings at your home will be treasured, and you will be creating real memories for friends and family alike. Everyone will want to be included in these fun and friendly social events.

  5. Properly landscaping your Ann Arbor Michigan home can significantly improve its curbside appeal and overall value. In fact, the right landscaping designs can also play a major role in preventing soil erosion, water damage at the building foundation, and many other costly issues. If your outdoor areas are flood-prone, erosion-prone or simply in need of better organization, a retaining wall could be the best functional and aesthetic addition to consider.

    How These Walls Can Improve Your Ann Arbor Michigan Property

    Retaining walls serve the functional purpose of holding back ground and ground materials that are naturally predisposed to moving downwards, whether due to their positioning, slope or loose nature. In a sense, these structures can be considered as being man-made dams for solid runoff. With the right design, it’s possible to stabilize landscapes that are both sloped and subjected to an inordinate amount of water.

    Create Different Elevations

    In terms of overall yard aesthetics, these structures are also good for creating different elevations. This design strategy gives the space greater depth and visual appeal. This can be especially beneficial to the overall landscaping scheme when building upon a flat, empty landscape with little variation in texture and features.

    Different Options In Wall Materials

    When adding one of these structures to your Ann Arbor Michigan property, it’s important to learn more about the different materials options that exist, as well as the benefits and drawbacks of each. Given the diverse range of applications for these walls, it’s also vital to select materials that are optimally suited to your purpose. A wall that is built solely for the purpose of preventing erosion or run-off will likely need to be comprised of different materials than one that is primarily intended to enhance overall outdoor aesthetics. Among the most popular options are:

    • Wood
    • Mortared/Cast-In-Place Designs
    • Segmental Walls

    Functional Retaining Garden Wall

    Wood

    Wood is among one of the cheapest options available and it can be used to construct attractive structures that blend seamlessly with all other landscaping features. One thing to note, however, is that wood has a notably short lifepsan in this application. As the wood in these walls begins to decompose, the integrity of both the structure and the usable outdoor space will gradually decrease.

    Mortared Or Cast-In-Place Designs

    Mortared or cast-in-place walls are incredibly attractive and very popular. These are offered in a vast range of veneers, including bricks and flagstones among many others. If you want to enhance the style and texture of your outdoor areas, this is definitely the way to do it. Cast-in-place designs are far more durable than wood and can be used in multiple applications.

    Segmental Walls

    Segmental walls provide a similar level of durability, but they can be less costly to build and far easier to maintain. These have an interlocking design that’s sufficiently flexible for repairing grading and sloping issues. Walls like these use similar construction techniques to those used in the Pyramids of Giza and the Great Wall of China. As such, they’re virtually guaranteed to last.

    Establish Your Landscaping Design Goals

    Before attempting to add in any element as permanent as a new retaining wall, be sure to determine just how you want to allocate your outdoor space. Temporary and semi-permanent design elements can always be removed or moved around to accommodate changes in your outdoor entertaining habits or other outdoor uses and features. Working with a reputable landscaping company is always the best way to get a solid, seamless landscaping plan that will both protect your property and enhance its value.

  6.  

    Spring is almost here, and lawns and gardens are beginning to awaken all over. You may be wondering, however, which garden plants are right for you? Consider the following questions to choose plants that will benefit your landscape.

    1. What is the purpose of your garden?
    The answer to this question will determine much about which plants you choose for your garden. Do you wish your garden to produce delicious, organic food, or do you simply want a lovely ornamental garden of interesting flowering plants? Many people now incorporate both of these features using a technique called edible landscaping. Rather than planting rows of vegetables, food producing plants are incorporated into garden beds alongside ornamental and flowering plants.

    2. How much sunlight does your garden receive?
    Different plants require different amounts of sunlight to survive. So, is your yard sunny or shady? Most landscapes are comprised of a combination of both. Consider how much sunlight each area receives before placing your garden plants. Those identified as sun-loving plants will need 6 to 8 hours of sunlight per day; shade or partial sun plants can survive on 5 hours per day or less.

    Sunny edible plants include:

    • Tomatoes
    • Herbs
    • Peppers
    • Corn

    Shade tolerant edibles include:

    • Potatoes
    • Lettuce
    • Rhubarb
    • Garlic
    • Spinach

    3. Do you want a low-maintenance garden?
    Many people love to come home to a well-landscaped yard and relish biting into home grown vegetables. However, today’s hectic and busy schedules leave little time for nurturing plants. If you want a beautiful edible landscape in a hurry, try these suggestions.

    Choose perennial edibles. Perennial plants come back every year. This saves you the time of purchasing new plants or growing from seed.

    There are only three common perennial vegetables. These are:

    • Rhubarb
    • Asparagus
    • Artichoke

    However, there are many other edible plants that will compliment an ornamental landscape.

    • Top Hat blueberries are a dwarf variety that grows only 2 feet in diameter. Plant these among or in place of more traditional shrubbery.
    • Dwarf fruit trees are small enough for any yard and usually produce full sized fruit. You can find dwarf varieties of apples, pears, figs, pomegranates, and more. These trees will be laced with lovely flowers each spring.
    • Strawberries make a wonderful ground cover and can be planted between existing plants
    • Passionflower is a native vine that produces an edible fruit in the fall. It resembles the clematis and will bring a tropical feel to any trellis.
    • Grapes are easy to grow and the long-lived vines can handle cold weather. Grapes do well on a sturdy fence in full sun.

    If you live in or around Ann Arbor Michigan, feel free to contact us about any of your landscaping needs.

  7. Beauty and practicality are the watchwords for landscape design in 2017. Homeowners want their landscape to be beautiful enough to turn heads. Here are some landscaping ideas and trends to consider:

     

    Environmentally conscious gardeners choose plants that require little maintenance, such as self-sustainable plants that can thrive from rainfall. Plants that require less attention, like dwarf shrubs, decreases costs to the budget as well, making it an obvious choice. This goes for grasses that don’t need much work as well.

     

    Fruits and Vegetables

    The popular choice of turf grass has been replaced by vegetable and fruit gardens. Most kinds of turf grass, after all, need a lot of care, such as mowing, regular watering, fertilizing and aerating. Moreover, at the end of all that work it still can’t be eaten. Fruits and vegetables are not only edible but can be planted in ways that are very aesthetically pleasing.

     

    Some gardeners plant their edible plants among flowers, and it’s important to know which flowers can exist happily with stands of lettuce or tomatoes. Azaleas and rhododendrons, for example, poison the ground around them, as do walnut trees.

     

    Natural Materials

    Walkways and walls are moving away from the use of fake rocks and are more often being constructed from real stone and wood now. This wood is often found in old buildings that are no longer in use, such as barns and warehouses. Old railway ties are used to decorate pathways and make the frames for raised garden beds. The good thing about repurposed wood is that it’s already acclimated to the weather.

     

    Water Features

    Of all landscaping ideas and trends, water features add a sense of peace to any landscape and do not have to be showy or expensive. They can range from water bubbling in a copper pot to a spectacular wall of water that pours down into a pool.

    The 2017 landscape looks to be environmentally friendly and easy to maintain even as it loses nothing of its beauty and ability to give pleasure.

  8. How Much Mulch Do I Need For My Residential Landscape?

    The process of placing mulch on a residential landscape can be done quickly and efficiently if proper procedures are implemented during the prep phase. Each procedure is vital and makes typical mulching tasks around plants and trees easier.

     

    Consider Each Mulch Option

    If you want to boost curb appeal by using mulch in key areas around your

    property, you must fully understand how each product is sold. At most stores, mulch is offered in one bag or in bulk; typically, bagged mulch for residential landscapes can cover about two cubic feet, and bulk mulch is suitable for one cubic yard.

    Because different mulch products contain unique blends, the variety that you select can influence how many bags you’ll need. The most popular mulch options include:

    • Economy mulch
    • Dried mulch
    • Cedar mulch

    If you pick an economy blend for your yard, you’ll get a bag of low-end material that can typically cover about a yard of landscape for $19. This option is worth considering during situations when curb appeal isn’t important, as economy mulch doesn’t have a professional appearance. If your landscape lacks curb appeal, any dried mulch will make the yard stand out. The price of dried mulch varies; however, a bag of dry material for a yard of landscape usually costs no higher than $36. Cedar mulch is the most expensive option; most retailers sell this blend for about $47, which is also enough mulch for a yard. When compared to the other blends, cedar is the best practical option since it lasts longer. This is possible because cedar is a heavy mulch material, so it doesn’t scatter around a yard when strong winds impact an area.

     

    Use Strategic Mulch Methods

    In order to cover key locations effectively and efficiently with mulch, you must tackle the entire process strategically. According to experts, one cubic yard of material can completely conceal weeds in a 324-square foot area that has a depth of an inch. However, if you need precise results, you can figure out how many cubic yards of a product is required for a space by multiplying the square footage by the depth of the mulch. When you have the total, you can determine how much mulch you’ll need by dividing the number by 324.

    Because different residential landscapes have a unique layout, certain procedures must be implemented to make key spots stand out. For example, when mulch is applied in an area where a new bed is found, you must place two to three inches of the material on the ground to produce professional results. If a bed isn’t new, you’ll only need to pour an inch of mulch on the landscape.
    If you need to enhance your property by working with a company that hauls landscaping products, carefully determine how much mulch you’ll need in advance. Then, place a tarp on the ground so that the driver will know where to dump the mulch. The tarp will also make the process of removing stray pieces of mulch easier.

  9. Perfect landscaping requires consideration of both hardscaping and softscaping elements. Hardscaping the use of man-made materials that are unlikely to change over time. Softscaping is the use of natural elements creating the right ambiance to the property. If you are thinking of changing your softscape elements, follow these tips.

    Trees

    The choice of the perfect trees allows you to create a relaxed atmosphere. With so many trees being claimed by Dutch Elm Disease, now may be a good time to plant some new trees. If you are thinking of planting trees, then make sure to choose ones based on the surrounding climate.

    • Trembling Aspen – Its beautiful yellow fall leaves perfectly compliment its gray bark. This tree thrives in most conditions growing very rapidly.
    • Linden Basswood- This tree usually has multiple trunks near the ground adding to its immense beauty. It finishes with a lovely full crown. Gorgeous flowers turn to fruit in the fall. This tree is particularly lovely because of its bright red buds in the early spring.
    • Northern White Cedar- This tree stays evergreen throughout most of the year. Its needles will turn brown, however, in the winter. Planting a row often reduces heating costs, because they serve as a great windbreak.

    Shrubs

    Choosing the right shrubs adds visual interest to the landscape. They can be used to divide areas in large yards into smaller areas that are often easy to hardscape. Plant a row of shrubs as a privacy fence. They also make a great backdrop to other plants. When you are choosing shrubs, consider these choices:

    • American Bladdernut- Those property owners with a dark corner will find that the paler colored leaves on this shrub help bring natural light to dark corners.
    • Blueberry- This beautiful shrub comes in two different varieties. The highbush has beautiful leaves that change colors throughout the different seasons. The low-sweet shrub makes an outstanding ground cover. Both produce berries that are edible.
    • Chokeberry- Property owners who are looking for a quickly spreading shrub need to consider the chokeberry. Red and green leaves emerge in the spring before turning bright green in the summer’s heat. As the cool days of fall arrive, they turn a beautiful golden yellow.

    Vines

    Many owners overlook the use of vines. They grow quickly making an interesting addition while owners are waiting for trees to mature. Vines can be trained to climb almost anything. Softscape maintenance is easy to perform on vines. It is easy to control their height and width with pruning. When considering vines, think about these choices.

    • Greenbrier- One of the most versatile vines to grow as it thrives in almost any soil conditions. This vine produces yellow leaves in the fall which may hang on until December giving drab winter landscaping a much needed boost.
    • Moonseed- This vine can be trained to climb, but it also makes a great ground cover. Property owners who have wet areas particularly love this vine that has blue-black berries and beautiful yellow leaves in the fall.

     

    We would love to discuss the particulars of your softscape maintenance and landscaping needs with you. Please call us today in Ann Arbor Michigan.

     

  10. Mulch Tips

    As the weather warms and homeowners and landscapers become active, many questions begin to arise when it comes to mulching landscape beds.  Information contained herein provided by Michigan State University (MSU) Extension.

    Why mulch?
    Mulch can provide a range of benefits for landscape beds. Here are just a few:

    • Conserve soil moisture. Mulch reduces evaporation from the soil surface and helps to ensure that water reaches plant roots instead of going back into the atmosphere.
    • Reduce soil temperatures. In a research trial in southwest Michigan, we found that 3 inches of wood chip mulch reduced midday soil temperature by 18 degrees Fahrenheit.
    • Add organic matter. As mulch breaks down it adds organic matter to the soil, which aids in the soil’s ability to retain important plant nutrients such as potassium, magnesium, calcium and iron.
    • Weed control. Mulch can help to control weeds, reducing the need for herbicides or hand-weeding.
    • Neatly applied mulch can improve contrast between beds and lawn, providing a cleaner-looking edge.
    • Avoid lawn mower blight and string trimmer trauma. Providing a buffer between mowers and weed wackers reduces the likelihood of trunk damage to trees.

     
    How much mulch should I apply?
    Deeper is not always better: 2 to 3 inches of mulch is adequate to get the maximum mulch benefit in most cases. If a site already has mulch from last year, a thin, 1-inch top-dressing is more than adequate. When mulching perennials in the landscape, take care not to spread mulch over the crown of the plants.

    What’s the best material to use for mulch?
    To a large extent, the “best” mulch material is in the eye of the beholder. Most organic materials such as ground bark, ground wood chips or shredded leaves can provide the key benefits of moisture conservation, weed control, thermal insulation and organic matter addition. Therefore, cost, aesthetic appearance and availability are often the deciding factors. Inorganic mulches such as rock or shredded tires do not need to be replaced, but do not add organic matter to the soil.

    What about lawn clippings as mulch?
    Lawn clipping are a poor choice for mulch since they tend to mat together and impede water penetration if they dry out. In addition, they are unsightly and can produce an unpleasant odor as they decompose. Michigan State University Extension says a better alternative is to compost your lawn clippings and then use the compost in your garden or as a top-dressed amendment before you apply mulch. Or use a mulching mower that returns the clippings back into your yard.

    Is it true that mulch can “tie-up” soil nutrients?
    In theory, organic mulches that are low in nitrogen, such as wood chips, can reduce soil nitrogen availability during the process of microbial decomposition. In reality, we see little evidence of this in trees and shrubs. We monitored plant nitrogen in landscape shrubs and found no difference between plants without mulch and those that were mulched with pine, hardwood bark and wood chips. In fact, in a couple of instances, the mulched plants had increased plant nitrogen. The one case where nutrient tie-up could be a concern is with annual bedding plants since they have limited root systems.

     

    SOURCE:  Michigan State University Extension, Departments of Horticulture and Forestry by Bert Cregg,