Friday, August 31, 2012

Happy Labor Day!

Dr. Dan's Landscaping & Architectural Design wishes you wonderful holiday weekend!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Will You Labor on Labor Day?

When you think of Labor Day, you think of end of summer picnics, a day on the water, back to school prep and relaxing.  But for the typical gardening aficionado it means the beginning of the fall playing season.  In coastal Virginia we still have quite a bit of heat to deal with, but the days are shorter and the nights are cooler, making it the perfect time for planting and perfecting your landscape.   

Now is the time to get your lawn in shape.  We've had a wet August and September is the perfect time to plant grass or lay sod.  The conditions are perfect for the growth of grass.  If you do plant grass, remember to let it grow to a taller height before mowing.  Two and a half to three inches is optimal.  Fertilize your lawn as well.   Select and apply the proper fertilizer for your grass type.

Because the soil is warm, September may just be the best time of the year for planting trees and shrubs, as well as perennials and bulbs.  It's the perfect time to redesign your landscape or extend the variety and number of plants in your landscape.  One thing to keep in mind when planting a fall landscape, watering is still important.  Even though the temperatures are cooler and the sunlight shorter, you need to continue to water on a regular basis through the fall.

Fall is transplant time.  Be sure you transplant correctly and at the right time.  Transplanting can be touchy, so consulting with a professional may be your best bet if you're a novice.

It's not too early to start cleaning up your landscape and preparing for the winter months.  Cut back those plants that are done with their bloom season.  Add a layer of mulch to keep the new plants warm and to refresh the look of your landscape.

And when you're done, enjoy a cold glass of Sweet Southern Iced Tea.  Don't forget to add a freshly picked mint leaf or two from your herb garden.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Hurricane Season

Although Hurricane Season has officially been in effect for awhile now, it's usually late August when we really  start to consider what things need to be done to protect our homes.  The list below is a good one and was borrowed from the LSU Agricultural Center.

The biggest risk to homes, away from the coast, is flying debris, therefore picking up items from your yard as a storm approaches is a good first step.

Hurricane winds can turn movable items into missiles that cause damage or injury to anything or anyone they strike. If a limb or a lawn chair propelled by 100-mile-per-hour winds break a window or smash through your roof, the damage then is complicated by rain and wind that rush into your home.

Here are some tips for preparations you can complete yourself to protect your home:
  • Make a list of items to bring inside in the event of a storm. Then use that checklist to help you remember anything that can be broken or picked up by strong winds, and make sure those items are brought inside or secured before a storm hits.

  • Check your yard for debris, and keep it picked up. Hurricane winds can pick up anything that’s not secured, and even trash and debris can cause damage to things they hit.

  • Keep trees and shrubbery trimmed. Make trees more wind resistant by removing diseased or damaged limbs. Also, strategically remove branches so wind can blow through. You may need the help of a license arborist to complete big jobs, and it’s important these chores are done well in advance of a storm, so you don’t have piles of debris or trimmings lying around.

  • Clear clogged rain gutters and downspouts, and make sure none of them are loose. Hurricanes often bring long periods of heavy rain. Providing clear drainage will help prevent flooding that could result if water can’t run off.

  • If you don’t have impact-rated hurricane shutters, cut half-inch-thick plywood panels to span each opening (well in advance, if possible), buy long mounting screws or specialty hardware and drill the mounting holes into framing (not just in trim or brick veneer) in advance, so you can cover the windows and doors quickly. Be sure to mark which board fits which window to save time, too.

  • Keep in mind that tape does not prevent windows from breaking. Taping windows is not recommended and really can just take critical time from more effective preparedness measures. The only thing tape might do is to help reduce the scattering of broken glass. It’s important to buy the supplies you’ll need well ahead of time. Well ahead of time, buy the items you’ll need to board up windows, tie things down and take other measures to protect your home. When a hurricane threatens, supplies are quickly sold out at many stores – and the stock generally may not be replenished until after the storm.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Just Peachy

When I think of August and summer fruit harvesting, I think of peaches.  After all, August is National Peach Month.  Biting into a super ripe peach, juices dripping down my chin, on my hands, over my wrist and all the way to my elbow.  It's all part of the love for my favorite fruit.  While nothing beats a freshly picked peach, the recipe choices are abundant.  Everything from appetizers, salad, main dishes, desserts and even beverages.  Peaches are plentiful in August and so are the ways to use them.

If you want to start your morning with peaches, consider Peach Pancakes.  This simple recipe from the folks at will certainly bring a smile to the faces of the peach lovers in your home.  Make sure to save some peach slices to top them with, too.

By now, most of us have tried that pre-made Peach Iced Tea, but when peaches are plentiful then it's time to make it fresh.  Not trying this made from scratch recipe from Food Network would just be wrong!

If Iced Tea is not your drink, then a peach smoothie might be just the thing to tempt your taste buds.  Taste of Home's recipe is delicious and the small amount of effort is more than worth it.

Need that adult kick in your beverage.  Crank it up a notch with this Peach Mojito recipe from MyRecipes.  That perfect blend of peaches, mint and rum will make you feel like you're in Cuba, relaxing by the Caribbean.  

If you're hosting a little get together and Peach Mojitos are the drink of the night, why not whip up a batch of  Fresh Peach Salsa and tortilla chips to completely keep the peach theme going.  Southern Living's recipe will have your guests liberally tossing out the compliments.  

Peaches have a perfect spot in salads.  One of my favorite salads is a good caprese.  The Refined Chef has a great caprese salad, smartly referred to as Georgia Caprese.  Try it out for a new take on a well known favorite.

The flavors of peaches and pork mingle well together.  This Roasted Pork Chops and Peaches dish from Real Simple is sure to be a hit during peach season.

Seafood, particularly fish, also compliments a good peach.  Real Simple is on target once again with this Gingery Salmon with Peaches recipes.  Your grilling skills will most assuredly win kudos when this recipe makes an appearance on your table.

And now for dessert!  Can I just say that I LOVE peach cobbler.  A warm bowl of cobbler topped with a cold scoop of homemade vanilla ice cream may just be my favorite dessert in the entire world.  An August without it is just incomplete on so many levels.  This recipe is from Big Red Kitchen and it's easy, quick and delicious.  (You're on your own with finding the right vanilla ice cream.)

It's National Peach Month. Celebrate! From the words of those Classic Rock favorites, The Allman Brothers, Eat a Peach!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Creating From Nature

On rainy days, as summer starts to creep away and thoughts turn to cooler days and even cooler nights, ways to bring the outdoors inside also mingle through our minds.  This weekend, during a particularly rainy spell, I searched for ideas that would do just that...bring a touch of nature into my home.  I thought I'd share a few of my finds with our readers.

If you've got some blank walls, this simple wall art project from Dishfunctional Designs uses only a few materials and will provide you with original artwork, with minimal expense.  Offbeat Home describes a similar project.

If you've got an area of your house that needs some cool, but minimal lighting then this idea from Crafts Warehouse will probably make the top of your list.  It's another easy way, but will definitely start a conversation with your guests.

Create a beautiful piece of fabric art to wear or hang. Try DIY Sun Printing!  This tutorial on Garden Design tells you exactly how.

Turn ordinary candles into a showcase for colorful fall leaves.  They will turn your table into instant art.  Better Homes & Gardens will show you how.

There are so many beautiful ideas to be found.  Take some hints from the work of others, and come up with your own unique was to beautify your indoor space with outdoor items.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Taking a Bite Out of the Mosquito Population

They are the peskiest of pests, and they are at their height of peskiness during August.  But there are ways to  control the population in your yard.  It's not only their itchy bites that are problematic, but there is also need for worry over the diseases they carry.

Armed with the right knowledge, you make it a fair fight and hopefully come close to winning the battle against these annoying summer visitors.
It's a well known fact that mosquitoes need water to breed, so the first step to reducing the population is to eliminate their breeding sources.  There are many areas in  your yard that provide these areas to mosquitoes. Some are obvious and others are not so obvious.  It's not just standing water, it's also overly moist areas of soil, mulch and leaf debris.  Find the sources, eliminate them and you will see a huge decrease in the mosquitoes occupying your yard.
Find the areas in your yard that are not draining properly.  After a strong rain, do you have areas where water stands for more than a couple of days?  If you, you will need to regrade these areas to allow the rain to drain properly and absolve the puddling problem.  These areas are perfect for mosquito breeding, and should quickly be addressed.
Identify all the items in your yard that hold water.  This includes birdbaths, the drainage saucers under your potted plants, pet bowls, and any other items that have the ability to hold water.
If you have an ornamental pond in your yard, be sure to keep the water moving.  Use an aerating device to keep the water movement to prevent mosquitoes from laying eggs.  If you keep fish in your pond, be certain to add some fish who will dine on mosquito larvae.  These include common goldfish, killifish and guppies.  They are known to eat larvae and are community fish and will live gracefully with your other pond dwellers.
A pond with no fish will benefit with the addition of gambusia affinis or mosquito fish. Because they are aggressive toward other fish, they have to be the sole inhabitants of your pond. About one inch long, they look like guppies and have a ferocious appetite for mosquito larvae.  One thing to be aware of is that they will also ravage the dragonfly larvae in your pond, which will happily feast on the mosquito larvae, although not at a rate even close to the mosquito fish.

Most people don't think about their gutters when thinking of breeding grounds for mosquitoes.  A collection of built up leaves in your gutters stores just enough water to make these areas an optimal spot for mosquitoes to leave their larvae.  Keep the gutters clean and be sure there are no clogs.
If you've got a swimming pool, then you'll want to ensure it's chlorinated properly.  Don't let the chlorine levels drop or mosquitoes will be sure to make it a new home.

To keep the breeding mosquitoes away from your yard, be sure and keep your grass mowed.  Mosquitoes like to hang out in the weeds during the day and if the lawn is tall and the weeds are many, the mosquito population in the evening will certainly show it.

Now that we've told you what does work, let's discuss what doesn't work.

Bug zappers. They kill other bugs, but don't count on them for mosquitoes.  Mosquitoes are not attracted to bug zappers.  Period.

The most important way to control the mosquito population is to limit standing water.  Be aware of the spots in your yard that could attract mosquitoes and do what's necessary to alleviate the problem.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Landscaping for Privacy

Separation.  Seclusion.  Concealment.  Solitude.  Quiet.

Neighbors on top of you.  An adjacent eyesore.  The buzz of a busy street.  Yes, these are the things that can keep you out of your yard, and out of what could be your own retreat and possibly the best part of your home.  There are many ways to create that private space, to camouflage ugly and to bring more welcome sounds to your yard.  The first step is to determine the main problem, the second is to come up with a plan, and then you need to implement the plan.

There are several ways to add privacy to your landscape.

Perimeter plantings.  If your home is too close to your neighbor and can't be in your backyard without seeing them, then chances are the right trees and shrubs will make a difference.  You might want to accomplish this by planting in clusters.  Plant groups in odd numbers.  It creates a more natural look.  If cluster planting doesn't appeal to you, and you want more of a living screen, then you may want to consider a mixed border.  A mixed border includes both shrubs and trees, but with a more linear planting style.  Mixing plant varieties keeps pest infestation down, too, by giving your landscape plant diversity.

If you have a very small townhouse or condominium yard, then your yard may consist of a deck or patio and just a small amount of green space.  If this is the case, planting in containers can often work best.  Arborvitae and bamboo, both excellent choices for creating a sense of privacy, do very well in containers and can also add style to your landscaping when the right containers are selected.

Fences and walls instantly add privacy, but they don't necessarily create the feeling of a backyard retreat.  To break up a plain fence, add some evergreens for the winter and some flowering plants to give it color during other seasons.

Another way to gain privacy is to create a separate "room" in your backyard.  You can do this by adding plantings or small walls around a deck or patio.  The addition of  a pergola will give your "room" a roof that can be accessorized with fabric and lighting to turn the space into what could become the favorite space of your home.

If it's noise that's bothering you, you can always buffer it with plants.  But to really camouflage noise, whether it's traffic or the sound of an AC unit, the best solution is to cover it with a more pleasing sounds.  Fountains and water features can perfectly accomplish the task, and also bring visual beauty to your space.  There isn't a more peaceful sound than moving water  Be sure and listen to a variety of options to discover what will work best for you.

When it's privacy you're looking for, the possibilities are there.  Bring a touch of privacy to your space.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Lighting It Up.

One important, but often overlooked, element of a complete landscape design is lighting.  When you make the decision to illuminate your landscape, you are using light for a variety of reasons.  Landscape lighting has functional and a visually stimulating purpose, with different goals.

Functional lighting is important in terms of landscape use and security.  When adding lighting for security, it's important to do so tastefully and with balance.  It should illuminate quietly, but provide safety and security to the homeowner and to guests navigating through your landscape in the evenings.   

When deciding where to place landscape lighting, consider targeting walkways, pathways, steps, water features, pools, decks, patios and any areas that might be considered a tripping hazard.  Keep the brightness low, but a touch of drama, done correctly, will make your landscape the envy of the block.

Pool lighting.  The right lighting is important in the pool and around the pool.

Subtle landscape lighting.

Dramatic lighting.

Simple, yet elegant light choice.

Walkway Rope Lighting

Deck Lighting

Patio Lighting

Whimsical and fun

Back porch lighting

Romantic nights