Spring is almost…. well… somewhere around the corner. And before long, your time will be filled with backyard barbeques and late summer nights outdoors with family and friends. For many homeowners, a new or renovated patio is at the top of their wish list and winter is the perfect time to plan if you want to use your new hardscape this season.
A patio is often the hub of a home’s outdoor environment. The shape and size of your patio may be limited by a few factors such as the style of your home, where you would like it on your property, and your budget. Here are a few things you may want to consider when you’re dreaming about your new patio:
How do you think you will use the space? Will you be dining with family or entertaining a crowd – maybe a little of both? Knowing this will help you prioritize features. An area for a dining table and a second area for comfortable seating would accomplish both things. The addition of a fire pit or fireplace would create a focal point for relaxed gatherings. Make a list of everything that you want in your new or renovated patio starting with the ‘must-have’ features and prioritize all the other elements including the very extravagant. Even if they don’t make it in the initial build, it’s nice to have a plan for where you might add these features as time goes on. And don’t overlook the old adage, ‘location, location, location.’ It may make sense right outside the back door if dining is the main focus. But if chilling out by a fire is what you’re thinking, then perhaps in a quiet out of the way corner of your property. Keep in mind that permits are often required, so be sure to ask about this when you meet with your landscape contractor.
Which materials catch your eye? Bluestone is one of the most popular materials used for patios in our area. It is strong and versatile and holds up well in our climate. Pavers, once very limited in size, shape and color, have come a long way and really allow the designer to personalize the patio to match the surrounding landscape. Permeable concrete pavers are similar to traditional concrete pavers. Permeable pavers are individual concrete pieces that fit together in a pattern. The difference between permeable pavers and traditional pavers is that the spaces between each paver, known as the joints, are designed to allow water to flow through them. The base that the paver system is built on is made up of layers of clean crushed stone that varies in size and depth, depending on the site and volume of water. These pavers are well suited for patios and walkways. They come in a wide variety of colors, patterns & textures. The benefit of using permeable pavers is that because they allow water to percolate through them they do not count against your impervious surface total, which can be highly regulated, especially on lakefront properties here in the lakes region of New Hampshire. In fact, utilizing a permeable paver system can actually reduce the overall impervious percentage on your site.
What is your budget? There are many things to consider in a budget. Material costs vary enormously. In general, natural stone is more expensive. Bricks and concrete pavers can be less expensive, depending on how complex the design or material options you choose. The addition of walls, walkways, steps and outdoor kitchens can dramatically increase the cost of the project.
What’s your timeline? Any well-thought out project takes time. There are several phases that must be planned and coordinated. From demolition to material reuse to maintenance down the road, there are many facets to address in the overall hardscape plan.
Spend some time on design websites such as Pinterest or Houzz. There are lots of great garden magazines as well. The possibilities are endless and you are sure to see something that will inspire you.
The Miracle Farms design-build process makes every customer a part of the team. When dreaming of your backyard patio design you are limited only by your imagination. Together, with the help of our talented team, we will create the perfect outdoor living space for your family to enjoy all season long while also boosting the value of your home.
So don’t wait – there’s no time like the present to give us a call and start planning your patio project.
The garden in winter doesn’t normally get a lot of attention. However, with a little time and energy during the growing season you can add some ornamental grasses that will give life to your wintertime garden as well. We know ornamental grasses accent a garden at any time of year, but they just might be at their best in the dead of the winter. They provide texture and movement in the winter landscape – elements often lacking when the rest of the garden has gone to sleep. When the rest of your landscape is taking a visual rest, the colors, textures and movement of the grasses has a beauty all its own. Many varieties do double duty by attracting birds to your winter garden providing shelter and food. Maintenance is simple – cut back in the spring before new growth appears. Honestly, we think they’re worth growing for their winter interest alone!
Why we love ornamental grasses
- Natural appearance
- Deer resistant—white-tailed deer do not eat most ornamental grasses
- Few insect or disease problems
- Low nutrient requirements
- Little maintenance, except spring cutback
- More than one season of interest
- Fast growth—most are mature size by three years
- Varied texture, from fine fescues to coarse giantMiscanthus
- An array of foliage colors from many shades of green to blue, yellow, bronze, and red, as well as several variegated forms
- Movement with the wind provides visual and audio interest, susurration—a whispering or rustling sound—that is pleasing and unique
- Beautiful effect when planted en masse
Two of our favorites that are super hardy zone 4 grasses are panicum Northwind and calamagrostis Karl Foerster. Try them in your garden this year!
If you want this in the spring…
You need to get busy planting now!
CHOOSING A SITE
There are two key things to consider when choosing a site for your bulbs.
The first is sunlight. Most bulbs need several hours of sunshine to bloom well next spring and to store up the energy they need to flower the following year.
The second thing to consider when choosing your planting site is drainage. All bulbs need good drainage. Bulbs that are planted in areas that tend to remain wet will in most likely rot leaving you extremely disappointed come spring. A heavy clay soil can be improved by digging in an organic matter like composted manure or compost.
HOW TO PLANT
There are basically two options for planting bulbs. Depending on how many bulbs you are planting (hopefully hundreds!), you can either plant a large area at one time or plant bulbs individually. If you have enough bulbs to cover a fairly large area, it may be smart to excavate the area to be planted and loosen the soil to the recommended depth (usually 6-8”) for the type of bulbs you have. Set the bulbs in the bed with the point facing up, grouped by color or randomly placed and gently replace the soil. If the soil is very dry as it has been here in the Lakes Region this fall, water it thoroughly.
The other option is to plant each bulb individually by digging each hole with a trowel or bulb planter. Again, loosen the soil to the correct depth, put one bulb in each hole, cover gently and water. This is an option – if we could twist your arm, we would make you plant bulbs in groups though. The impact is much better than a bulb here and a bulb there!
WHEN TO PLANT
Most bulbs come with instructions for a best-case scenario planting schedule. We usually miss that and go ahead and plant them anyway! You should, too! The ideal time for planting most bulbs is at least six weeks before a solid, ground-freezing frost. Planting too early may leave bulbs vulnerable to rot or fungus and planting too late may not give them enough time to root and establish themselves for blooming in the spring. A lot of what you read about ideal planting time for zones 4 and 5 will tell you late September through early October is the best time. IGNORE this rule most years! Successful spring flower displays require bulbs to be planted once we have had at least 2 weeks of 40-45 degree nights. At that point, soil temperature here in the Lakes Region should be just perfect for planting bulbs.
This part is easy! Water thoroughly after planting if the soil is dry. After that, forget about it, at least here in New Hampshire. Supplemental watering in the spring, especially after bulbs bloom, may cause them to rot.
Bulbs that you purchase to plant this fall already have next year’s flowers set inside them, so there is no need to fertilize at planting time. You can generally do without fertilizer entirely as most bulbs are not heavy feeders, but if you amend your soil with an organic supplement like compost or manure in the spring, it certainly won’t hurt the bulbs.
CARING FOR BULBS AFTER THEY BLOOM
This bit of info may help you decide where you plant your bulbs in the first place. You can deadhead the flower of the tulip once it fades, but bulbs get the energy they need to bloom the following year from their foliage. For this reason you need to let the foliage die back naturally. This can take quite a while and often looks unsightly as you plan your late spring garden. Short cuts like braiding, tying up or burying foliage before it has died back, impedes the natural process the bulb needs to go through in order to bloom again the following year. For this reason, a lot of gardeners simply cut back foliage, dig out bulbs and start over again with new ones in the fall, or dedicate an area exclusively to bulbs. That way the bulbs don’t interfere with annual and perennial plantings.
BULB EATING CRITTERS
Unfortunately, your bulb display could fall victim to hungry squirrels or deer before they ever get a chance to bloom. Tulips apparently make a nice meal. One way to avoid losing your spring display is to lay chicken wire across the planting zone. Light and water can get through and so can the flower when it grows in the spring. There are a few bulbs that are truly deer and rodent proof. They are members of the Amaryllis family, which includes daffodils. They have a toxic alkaloid called lycorine that mammals can detect and won’t eat. Other bulbs such as Allium and Fritillaria are also known to be unpleasant to smell and eat. Plant some of these in and around the more appetizing varieties and you may just be OK!
Spring Flowering Tulips
Bulbs that flower in spring must be planted in Fall. There is no getting around this requirement.
No matter how large or small your garden, almost everyone can find room for a few spring bulbs. Trust me…you’ll be delighted that you did after a cold, grey winter. There are many different bulbs to choose from, but if this is your first foray into bulbs keep it simple. Daffodils deliver!
You will get more flowers for a longer time with less care than any other bulbs you can plant. They’ll thrive just about anywhere, and they come back year after year in ever greater numbers. Over time, even a small planting of 20 bulbs will gradually become a swath of color with a hundred or more blooms. Daffodils do well in flowerbeds but will do well planted just about anywhere in your landscape. In fact, you may find that you would rather put bulbs anywhere BUT in your flowerbeds. Next year’s flower forms during the three or four weeks after flowering. During this time the plant needs its leaves to generate the nutrients to form a new flower. It’s important to leave the foliage alone until it yellows and begins to wither. At that point, you can cut the foliage or gently tug on it to pull it away from the bulb. Most people don’t want this yellowy foliage hanging around taking up valuable planting space in beds so go on ahead and plant them groups of daffodils under a tree, in a field, or against a stone wall for a natural look. Although mostly found in shades of yellow, there are beautiful shades of cream, peach and orange available as well.
Tulips are spring color powerhouses that come in every imaginable color and size. You need to plant a lot of them to make a beautiful display. Think dozens, not handfuls. Tulips almost always put on the best show during the first year, but many varieties tend to taper off in following years. If you don’t want to repeat your planting every year look for perennial tulip species that are fairly reliable year after year. Otherwise, yank them out after they bloom and start planning your color pallet for next year. Tulip bulbs prefer cool, moist springs and hot, dry summers, which is not what they usually get in the Lakes Region of NH. There are perennial tulips species that return reliably year after year, but they come with a higher price tag. Stick with those if you don’t want to recreate your display every year.
A mass bulb planting may sound like a lot of work, but it’s fairly simple. Find an area you want for your bulbs and dig a trench approximately 6”–8” deep. Planting depth is important. A general rule is to measure the height of the bulb itself and then plant it three to four times deeper than that. For a tulip bulb 2 inches high, you need to dig a hole that’s at least six to eight inches deep. Pour the bulbs in, roughly 15-25 per square foot of trench, arrange them randomly with the point facing up. Cover the bulbs with the excavated soil, press it firmly and rake over the area.
Today you can buy bulbs almost everywhere–including the grocery store and big-box chain stores. The price may be right, but most of these bulbs are undersized. And when it comes to bulbs, the bigger the bulb you plant, the bigger the bloom next spring. A bigger bulb also increases the likelihood that your bulbs will flower for more than one year. For best results, bulbs should be kept in cold storage with controlled humidity until being shipped to you. We recommend purchasing bulbs from a direct importer/catalog or local garden center.
You should get your bulbs into the ground in Lakes Region gardens in early to mid-fall (don’t wait for a finger-freezing day in late October). Tulip bulbs need at least 14 weeks of temperatures below 48 degrees. Bulbs should be planted when the soil has cooled to about 55 degrees and need the cool soil to make roots before the onset of winter. You have about 8 weeks to plant after the first frost. As long as the ground is not frozen, you can still plant bulbs.
Composting helps to ensure a healthy lawn
Why Compost Your Lakes Region Lawn?
The soil in your lawn contains living microorganisms including bacteria, algae, fungi, and protozoa. Without getting too technical lets just say that a healthy soil has lots of biological life and these organisms need organic matter (compost) to survive and thrive. This living-soil-life helps with soil health, decomposition of organic matter, replenishing of nutrients, humus formation, promotion of root growth, nutrient uptake, and herbicide and pesticide breakdown.
Your earthworm population will increase as your organic matter increases, which will help increase nutrient levels, water levels and penetration and aeration as they move through the soil.
Compost adds organic matter into your garden soil that increases the population of soil microorganisms, which in turn help control plant diseases.
The addition of compost may also provide greater drought resistance and more efficient water utilization. Therefore, the frequency and intensity of irrigation may be reduced.
When To Compost Your Lakes Region Lawn
After aerating (or even if you don’t aerate), topdress the turf surface with a 1/4″ layer of compost. The compost will settle into the soil, adding nutrition and structure that will serve the grass roots well the following season.
Then spreading an inch of compost on the newly aerated lawn will provide a perfect fall feeding, dramatically improve the organic matter content of your soil, and provide a perfect seed bed for the final step of filling in bare spots with fresh seed. And it’s easy — just have a big load of compost delivered, shovel it into wheelbarrow loads, dump them out on the lawn and then use a rake to spread it all around as evenly as possible… or call Miracle Farms if you need a hand with fall lawn services.
Next, spread new seed to fill in bare spots. Just sow the seed by hand or in a spreader and gently rake it into that wonderful compost. Don’t put down straw or other nonsense — it limits the germination and looks awful going forward.
Gently water the lawn for half an hour morning and night until the seed sprouts, which will be quick in this perfect weather. After it sprouts, cut back to morning only, and if our weather pattern shifts and we begin to get more reliable rain, you won’t need to water at all.
Will compost eliminate the need for commercial fertilizers? Not necessarily which is not a straight answer, but there really isn’t one. Depending on what nutrients your soil is lacking (or has an abundance of) certain organic fertilizer will be necessary. In addition to providing nutrients (both micro and macro), compost helps make fertilizer more effective in the soil.
japanese beetle damage on roses
So one day your roses were covered in colorful blooms and then the next day… gone! Chances are the culprit is the dreaded Japanese beetle. It’s late in the season for beetle damage here in the Lakes Region, but my knock out roses are still being devoured. The telltale sign, along with an extreme lack of blooms, are skeletonized leaves and even complete defoliation. Usually, the demons can be caught in the act. Japanese beetles also love to eat rosebuds – every last one that you’ve been anxiously awaiting.
If you are unfamiliar with Japanese beetles, they have shiny, metallic green and copper colored bodies – kind of pretty in the worst sort of way. They are roughly 3/8-inch long and 1/4-inch wide.
WHAT DO I DO ABOUT THEM?
The best defense is a good offense. Japanese beetles are the adult stage of grubs that are found in your lawn earlier in the season. A good lawn program to control grubs applied early in the spring before the beetles emerge is your best bet. Watering, fertilizing and general good horticultural practices will also help reduce the damage caused by Japanese beetles.
Inevitably though, the beetles still come and there are a couple of options to hold the major damage at bay. Spray affected plants with a pyrethrin-based insecticide the minute you notice them. This is a safe and effective control that can be used on flowers and vegetables alike. It will help to control other pests as well. To make every effort to cause no harm to honeybees with these products, do not apply during hours when bees are actively visiting the flowers.
Neem oil is an “antifeedant”, which when used early on can be an effective tool to reduce feeding. Chances are you will have to reapply either of these options if the beetles last as late in the season as they are this year.
Another helpful, but disgusting option, is to hand pick them first thing in the morning when temperatures are cooler and they move a bit slower and drop them in a bucket of water containing one tablespoon of liquid dishwashing detergent. If you are diligent about this it is a very effective way to clear your garden of these pests.
Japanese beetle traps are helpful if you have the ability to place them far from your garden. They actually have an aromatic chemical attractant that brings them to the trap so you don’t want to hang it near the plants you are trying to preserve.
Whatever option you choose – choose something fast! Timeliness and thoroughness of application are very important in controlling the damage or at the very least, keeping it to a bare minimum.