It’s finally that time of year when the weather warms up and we’re able to spend more time outdoors. This is almost always a positive turn of events, but it can be stressful if you are a home or business owner and your outdoor area is not up to par. Many of us let our yards and outdoor living space go during the colder months because we don’t spend much time outside. When springtime rolls around, all the snow melts and we want to start planning events or just some quality time outside, we find that we have a lot of work to do. Fortunately, this does not have to be a stressful time for you. By working with a professional and using some of our helpful tips, your outdoors area will be ready in no time!
Spring Landscaping Tips
“The less delay in addressing the needs of one’s yard in the spring, the better one’s chances are that they will have a satisfying and lush carpet of green as soon as possible,” says John Kohler of KohlerCare Lawn and Landscaping. “Spring yard clean-up is vital. Even if customers cleaned up their yard before winter sets in, there are always going to be additional leaves that need to be picked up to prevent fungus, rot or disease developing in the lawn. Twigs and tree branches that have fallen during the winter should be picked up. If an owner’s lawn has a lot of thatch in it, a good power raking in the spring will help pick up unwanted ground cover so that the grass that is about to sprout has a better supply of oxygen and will grow better, faster and thicker. If there isn’t a lot of thatch, spring is a good time for aeration for the same reason—to loosen the soil and to be sure to provide the roots of the grass get plenty of oxygen and ready access to the spring fertilizer owners should apply to their yard.”
On this note, Lee Schumacher of TDK Lawn Care, Inc. says, “The first thing you should do in the spring is to take a walk around your lawn and make a quick survey of the effects the winter had on your property. Remove any leaves that are still scattered across the lawn and check your grass for matted patches that could signal the development of snow mold. This lawn disease glues the grass blades together, which may inhibit the new grass from growing through the mat. A light raking will break up the matted grass and remedy this situation. Be careful if the ground is wet when you are raking. Vigorous raking can uproot the grass plants.”
“Spring is a great time to look at your lawn and landscape and develop a plan for the upcoming growing season,” states Ken Svoboda of Ray’s Lawn & Home Care. “Were you happy with the look of your lawn last year? Was it difficult to maintain to your standards? Did you have problems with insects, weeds or fungus? If so, spring would be an ideal time to consider a different type of turf grass. A turf grass that is less susceptible to those problems or more tolerant of drought or stress. Talk to a professional about your options.”
He goes on to say, “Of course landscape renovation is perfect in the spring. Replacing old, overgrown or damaged shrubbery and plants is best done in the spring. Landscapes planted in the spring have a much better survival rate than those planted in the heat and stress of summer. Landscapes installed in the spring also allow for more summer enjoyment.”
Most landscaping projects can be done at any time during the year. However, KohlerCare Lawn and Landscaping always advises that any projects involving leveling ground or building a space up which will involve disturbing turf and the need to reseed, adding a burm in which a person wants to grow flowers, tilling and/or adding fresh soil for a new or revitalized garden space, and placing dirt and/or decorative rock against a house’s foundation all take place as early in the year as possible to take advantage of the full growing season or to protect a home’s foundation from springtime rain. Laying sod should also be done before it gets too hot and the sod suffers from too much shock due to intense sunlight and higher temperatures.
“Spring is the time to do a cleanup on flower and garden beds as well as lawns,” says Andrew Campbell of Campbell’s Nurseries & Garden Centers. “You should trim back any ornamental grasses and trim any shrub roses you might have. This is also the time to apply a pre-emergent and build up mulch to two to three inches to help keep weeds down during the warmer months.”
Spring Landscaping Trends
“Boulder Bubblers have become very popular recently,” says Kristin Hain of Land Escapes. “The look can be rustic to modern, depending on boulder selection. A large basin is buried underground and a drilled boulder is set on top. Water is then pumped from the basin below through the boulder and trickles back down the sides of the boulder through cobbles or glass rock. This offers a great option for someone wanting the soothing sound of water without the maintenance of a pond. Boulder bubblers are low maintenance and easy for the homeowner to care for once installed. Another favorite is focusing on plant foliage, color and contrast. Of course, these three things should always be a focus when designing any landscape or garden bed. We love to use plants with gold, black or blue foliage whenever possible. Too many gardens are ‘green’, that is, contain plants with all green foliage. The problem with that is that when nothing is blooming, all you have is a wash of green, which is boring. By adding different foliage colors and textures, you create contrast that looks great regardless of flowers. Another trend Land Escapes has been using more is selected unique or unusual evergreens. Many people hear the word “evergreen” and quickly think “Yew”, “Juniper” or “Pine”. While those are all indeed evergreens, we like to walk on the wild side using others such as “False Cypress, Mops”, “Spruce, Weeping White”, “Russian Cypress on ‘Standard’, and “Arborvitae, Whipcord”.
One of the growing trends that the staff has seen at Precast Products & Landscape Village is the Pondless Water Feature. According to Jim Crawford, “Lower maintenance and space limitations make these options desirable to homeowners who want the sights and sound of the waterfall without the open water.” You and your landscaper can explore their showroom and well stocked yard where they handle a complete line of pond supplies as well as landscape material including weathered fieldstone, cobblers, and flagstone.
“Every year there are hot new trends for plants and other landscaping items, but we always advise our clients to stick with a plan that is low maintenance and fits their needs, then add in some of the trends after that’s been taken care of,” adds Andrew Campbell.
Why You Should Work with a Professional
Many homeowners may be tempted to complete their landscaping tasks on their own to save money or just because they enjoy being out in the yard. However, in most cases, it’s better to hire a professional to get the work done. “The first and probably most favorable advantage to hiring a professional is the customer’s time,” explains Ken Svoboda. “Depending on the project, an entire vacation or several weekends in a row can be spent completing a DIY (do it yourself) project. Secondly, your back, your muscles and your overall health can be jeopardized if you’re not used to the physical labor necessary. Other advantages include the expertise and suggestions for making the project an even better project and investment to your home and property. Professionals attend seminars, research trade magazines and periodicals looking for better ways to service their customers and enhance the lawn and landscape in a more efficient and environmentally sensitive manner.”
“If inexperienced, doing your own landscaping is a lot like holding a “how to” book on plumbing in one hand and a wrench in the other,” adds John Kohler. “With patience, care, time, skill, and perhaps a bit of good luck, the results might be fine. On the other hand, the results might not be so great or lead to an even bigger mess. Professionals know what works and what doesn’t, which materials, plants, and grasses are going to be best for every job and which will hold up the best over time. Professionals also know where to go to get the best materials, the best prices, and can usually complete a project in far less time than a person tackling a project on their own. Hiring a professional to do your landscaping also means having a better guarantee that the job will be done right, to the customer’s satisfaction and that there will always be someone available who knows how the original project was created so it can be maintained at its finest.”
“We see lots of people calling in a landscaper after planting for a while,” says Andrew Campbell of Campbell’s Nurseries & Garden Centers. “Then we see issues that could have been solved ahead of time if we just would have been called in at the start of the project. Landscaping is our full-time business, so we’re educated and experienced in issues like drainage, full growing season interest and sun/shade issues that the normal person might not have any idea about.”
Choosing a Landscaper
“When choosing a landscaper, it’s important to meet the landscaper one on one and tell them specifically what you are wanting to do in your landscape,” says Kristin Hain. “The landscaper needs to be experienced in doing the type of work you want. They should also be a licensed contractor, have a pesticide applicators license (if applicable), be insured and have a nursery dealers license if they sell plants.”
“If your desire is to hire a contractor, ask around,” suggests Ken Svoboda. “Family, friends, co-workers can be a great referral base for narrowing the lengthy list of available contractors. At the first contact or meeting, do you feel comfortable with the sales person? When a proposal is submitted, ask for references and follow through with questions.”
“Many landscaping companies offer a wide range of service which can sometimes mean they have spread themselves too thin and may not have extensive knowledge of specific types of work,” adds Kristin Hain. “Just because one landscaping company can offer every type of work doesn’t mean they’ll do each one well. It’s also important to consider how you plan to take care of your new landscape once the initial installation has been completed. If it’s not something you are able to or want to maintain, be sure you have someone lined up to take care of it for you. With new landscapes including trees, shrubs, perennials and materials such as mulch, regular maintenance will be required to maintain your investment and allow it to “grow”.”
Residential vs. Commercial Projects
If you’re planning both a residential and commercial landscaping project, you might be wondering if you should make different plans (or even hire different landscape professionals) to complete the two tasks. According to Kristin Hain, there is a very large difference in the two types of projects. “Commercial projects require plant choices that are more likely to withstand neglect, extreme heat and abuse and therefore you see fewer plant varieties around commercial properties. As a landscaper looking at a commercial project, we must consider city codes and planting requirements, amount of foot or vehicle traffic, irrigation, where they push their snow in the winter and excessive heat in the summer often caused by a vast amount of asphalt or concrete parking surfaces surrounding plantings. The commercial landscape is a harsh, challenging environment for any plant. Residential landscapes on the other hand often allow for much more creativity and a large variety of plant options. Typically there is irrigation installed or the homeowner can easily see that the gardens get proper water. You typically don’t have to worry about random foot traffic trampling your gardens (unless you have dogs) and homeowners are more likely to take pride in their landscape and maintain it well or hire someone to do it for them. Land Escapes loves working with homeowners who love their gardens and we treat them as if it was our own personal garden.”
Landscaping isn’t just about lawns and gardens, of course. It can mean any host of outdoor projects that improve your property or make your time outside more functional or enjoyable. Here are a few ideas.
Drainage systems are a good idea for homeowners who may have had water in their basements last spring or summer. “We’re seeing an increased interest in rain gardens this year,” says Andrew Campbell. “Rain gardens are projects that are put into place to slow or stop the water from leaving the property during heavy rainfalls. They contain plants that are designed to hold the water and give it time to soak in rather than letting it run off the property or into a person’s house through the foundation. We’re also seeing more gutter systems that run out into the yard and away from the house. These are all great ideas for those clients who have had water problems in the past.”
“Decorative concrete plays a big role in the landscape of your home,” says Tyler Buckbee of Buckbee Decorative Concrete. “You can add a stained or stamped border to enhance the driveway and have the pattern flow up your walk to the front door or a stamped or stained patio in the backyard is a great center piece to start your landscaping around. If you incorporate waterfall features and stepping stone pathways around the patio, it makes the backyard a complete paradise. Don’t forget about outdoor kitchens, they are great for entertaining your friends and family. Concrete countertops add a nice final touch to the outdoor kitchen.”
“To make your landscaping project come together it is best to decide what products or looks you want to have, then call a professional in that field and let them assist you in the design process,” adds Tyler. “Designing is one of our favorite things to do here at Buckbee Decorative Concrete. There are so many products, patterns and colors it is hard to decide which to choose from. That’s when our 10 years of experience comes into play and we find the right product for your job. Not only are there so many different products, but making sure the installation is done properly and will hold up for years is why choosing a professional is key.”
Hardscape and Outdoor
Outdoor projects that incorporate hardscape materials are great ideas to add interest, enjoyment and value to your property. To get some good ideas for what you may want, you should consider browsing a store to see what’s available. Teresa Hendricks from Outdoor Solutions says, “We offer a huge selection of decorative rock, flagstone, boulders and pavers. In addition to carrying topsoils, mulches and organic compost, we also have extended our showroom to include a large assortment of pond supplies and water features. Our spacious indoor showroom carries a variety of ceramic and zinc planters as well as birdbaths and outside we have a wide variety of products showcased including patios and firepits.” Visiting a showroom such as this is not only a great place to get ideas, but also might be a good place to visit with your landscaper or contractor so you can look at options together and they can get a better idea of your tastes and expectations.
Outdoor projects, such as pergolas, patios and porches, are always fun projects for the spring. “It’s nice to get the job completed in the spring so you can enjoy the new space for the entire summer,” says Lance Roach of JL Exteriors. “We love providing ideas to our clients and helping find that perfect project to suit their needs.” When undertaking a large project such as an outdoor addition or deck, it’s especially important to work with a professional. “We have given people advice and guidance on what to do and they will try to do a project on their own, but usually end up calling us to finish the job and most of the time we have to start from scratch,” states Lance.
“Now is the prefect time to get ahead of the rush and schedule your home or office landscaping projects,” states Andrew Campbell. “Soon, everyone is going to be calling their landscapers and they will be so busy you might not be able to schedule your project for weeks or months. Start making calls now to get into their schedule!”