Retaining Walls, Pathways, and Patios – Oh My!

Retaining Walls, Pathways, and Patios – Oh My!

Enhance the comfort and beauty of your yard with hardscaping

Hardscaping is probably not a term you use very often, but it’s actually a common facet of landscaping. In fact, you probably have some hardscaping elements in your yard.

The “hard” in hardscaping refers to the non-living or inanimate elements in a yard’s layout. In contrast, “softscaping” includes all living matter including plants and flowers, trees and shrubs, plus soil, mulch, and of course grass.

Natural stone, wood, gravel, concrete (precast and pour-in-place), interlocking brick, and composite are the most common hard materials used in the creation of fencing, retaining walls, waterfalls, ponds, patios, pathways, and more.

Standard inclusions in virtually any property are walkways, a driveway, decking, and fencing. However, many home owners opt to upgrade at some point, either to add new features to their existing landscape or simply to update outdated elements.

So how do you decide what features to add or change and which materials to use? When we consult with our clients, we consider several variables including specific goals, personal style, the style of the home and surroundings, and budget.

One of the primary goals that hardscaping can help address is added privacy. You can achieve this by adding a fence line or panels, a wall(s) or even just creating a privacy screen on one or both sides of your deck or patio. To soften the overall appearance, consider combining hardscaping elements with tall shrubs or ornamental grasses that can also enhance privacy.

Another common goal is expanding outdoor living space. Options here are dependent on available space and budget, and can range from a small deck to a multi-tiered patio with an entertainment area, bar, built-in kitchen, pool, pond, waterfall, and/or fire table with seating.

Natural stone retaining walls are a great solution for adding depth and visual interest, or dealing with a steeply graded yard or uneven grading around the perimeter. Armour stone is a popular choice for creating retaining walls as they are large, but natural and create visual impact.

Pathways to and around your home can add visual appeal and can also create visual separation and definition of gardens. Although poured concrete is the standard for walkways between the driveway and front entrance, explore other options like flagstone, interlocking brick, decorative pavers, or even materials generally relegated to the backyard like wood or composite.

If there are areas around your home where grass doesn’t thrive due to inadequate drainage or poor sun exposure, adding gravel and stepping stones can improve the appearance while also making navigation around those areas easier.

A couple caveats before you get started

  1. Even if you plan to add hardscaping in phases – say, the patio first, and then a pond and retaining walls over the next couple years – it’s best to create the whole plan at the outset so that you can be sure everything will work together when the entire project is completed. Short-term oversights can lead to long-term headaches.
  2. Think about drainage and environmental issues when adding immovable objects like a patio or a wall. Consider incorporating a means of collecting runoff water for use around your yard.
  3. Balance is best. You can create contrast with various sizes and shapes. Use two to three different complementary materials in your project. And most importantly, don’t overdo it with hard elements in your yard. Mix hardscaping with softscaping for best results.
  4. Ensure your design is appropriate for your lifestyle. If you have young children, maintaining an open, grassy area is probably a good idea. If you’re older and want a low-maintenance yard, you might opt for more hardscaping and drought-tolerant plants.
  5. Choose the right materials for your style. Whether your taste is modern, traditional, or somewhere in between, some materials are going to suit your style better than others, so choose carefully.

Hardscaping can add so much beauty to your yard and enjoyment to your outdoor living space. Just be sure to plan ahead for best results. Of course, sometimes it’s all just too daunting. A Touch of Dutch Landscaping and Garden Services can consult with you to create and implement a plan and design that meets your needs and fits your budget. Contact us to get started.

Spring Clean Your Pond or Water Feature

Spring Clean Your Pond or Water Feature

If you’re lucky enough to have a pond and/or water feature in your yard, you’ll be positively itching to start enjoying it again this year. But before you fire up the pump(s), a bit of maintenance is needed to ensure the health and longevity of the water feature and its contents.

The maintenance required on an annual basis, while important, is not terribly difficult. A basic cleaning and simple test of moving parts and related components is typically sufficient. A more thorough cleaning (outlined further below) is only required every three to four years, or when your water feature has accumulated a significant layer of sludge on the bottom and water is quite dark and murky.

The standard preparation can usually be done toward the end of April, but you want to be sure that any risk of heavy frost has passed. Significant frost could damage water feature components and place undue stress on pond fish, if you have them.

When ready, begin by removing protective covers and netting, cleaning as necessary and storing until fall. Then remove any aeration and heating devices used in the winter, as well as accumulated debris from the pond and water feature reservoirs.

Check all hoses and lights for function, replacing as necessary. Clean out the skimmer net and biofall filters. Then connect and test the pump to ensure proper water flow, filtering, and circulation.

CARING FOR YOUR KOI

If you have Koi or Goldfish in your pond, this spring cleaning will affect them too. While Koi are very hearty fish, there are some precautionary steps you should take to minimize stress and ensure a healthy, safe transition into the warmer months.

While cleaning your pond, you’ll have to temporarily displace the fish. Essentially, you want to avoid the shock caused by moving fish into water that is radically different – in terms of temperature or composition – than the water they’re coming from. We usually suggest to store the fish in a small tank and use the water from the pond to fill the tank to avoid shock or stress to the fish. We’ve included a link at the bottom of this post to an Aquascape video for more information about proper handling of your pond fish.

TIME FOR A DEEP CLEAN?

Every three to four years, you’ll need to deep clean your pond or water feature. In addition to the annual cleanup steps outlined above, this may also involve partial or complete water change, some scrubbing or power washing of components, and maybe even some specialized maintenance products.

For information about pond fish health and general spring pond cleanup, watch this video from Aquascape.

Of course lawn, garden, and pond cleanup is never easier than when you hire professionals to do it for you. Call us to schedule your lawn, garden, and pond maintenance.