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 Clean Up – New Hampshire
Spring is the season of growth, renewal, and repair. Winter’s cold, snow, and ice disappear, leaving chaos behind. A spring clean up will help your turf and landscape recover from winter and look beautiful again.
This service includes:
- Removing fallen branches, twigs, and winter debris from all established lawn and landscaped areas
- Power raking lawn areas to eliminate residual winter problems and over seed as required
- Edge all established beds
- Inspect shrubs for damage from snow and/or plowing and prune as needed
- Sweep and remove gravel and sand from edge of lawn, driveways, and walkways
Mulching – Neatly mulched beds improve the appearance of any landscape. But beyond its appearance, a layer of mulch provides many other benefits. Mulch protects the plants’ root systems, slows the erosion of topsoil, and helps to prevent weeds and retain moisture. At the same time a granular pre-emergent weed control in all the beds to aid in reduction of cool season weeds growth.
MFL uses a bark blowing machine. Very few of our competitors offer this service. The advantages of having mulch blown is that there is a lot less clean-up and we are on your property for at least half the amount of time as hand spreading. It is more efficient, allows mulch to be spread more evenly, and has a more consistent finished look. The machine gives us the capability to spread up to 100 yards of mulch per day.
Tree and Shrub Fertilization
Deep-root feed all the ornamental trees shrubs and perennials with a slow release organic fertilizer, which is spread around the root drip zone and allowed to release slowly into the soil to encourage root and shoot growth. The fertilizer also consists of super phosphate which is the element needed to create strong flower buds and aid in the prolific flowering of trees, shrubs and perennials. This is also done at the time of spring cleanup to allow longer lasting results and time for absorption into the soil and therefore the plants.
Dethatching is essential to maintain a lush, healthy lawn. Thatch is the layer of built-up plant material between the green top growth and the roots of grass plants. A thin layer of thatch, ½”,is normal, even healthy. A layer of ½” or more, prevents air, light, and water from reaching the turf’s root zone. We use professional power rakes to comb out the right amount of dead materials which is then raked up and removed. This is not a ‘pretty’ process but is necessary for improved fertilizer absorption, a better root system, and a green, healthy lawn.
Lawn Mowing Service
Mowing on an as needed basis to maintain a 2 ½” – 3” height, not to exceed 7 days between mowing to maintain a neat, clean appearance, weather permitting. Weed whacking around all buildings, planting beds, utilities, trees, etc. Blowing off all walkways, drives and patios to remove clippings, leaves, and debris.
Lawns need regular fertilization to keep the grass growing and weeds out. When done properly, it has a major positive impact on lawn appearance. We use a five step semi-organic fertilizer application and a one time lime application. This promotes root growth, aids in the recovery from foot and equipment traffic and pest damage, reduces and controls weeds, and replaces nutrients lost to leaching.
This is a customized garden program to care for the lawn and landscaped areas of your property.
- Keeping beds edged and weeded
- Perennial and annual care
- Prune dead branches or unruly growth on shrubs in landscaped areas
- Inspection of landscaped areas for insects and disease and advise clients
- Monitor the irrigation system to make sure coverage and quantities are adequate
- Raking and maintaining beaches
- Meets your ongoing landscaping needs and offers services that other landscapers just can’t match
This service generally runs from May – October.
Extraordinary Landscape Design – Build – Maintenance – Lakes Region of New Hampshire by Miracle Farms Landscape Contractors and Property Management Services – Moultonborough NH . Contact Us Today: (603) 253-9292
USDA Hardiness Zones
The record warm temperatures that we are currently having in Moultonborough and the Lakes Region in general, may have you thinking about your garden instead of more traditional winter activities that should be happening now. Have you spent some time browsing through plant catalogs or garden design websites? Well, before you type in your credit card number and hit the “purchase” button on your keyboard hoping that the gorgeous blooms in those pictures will pop up in your garden this year, be sure you have read all of the fine print associated with the plant of your dreams. Most important of all of the information is the hardiness zone for each plant. What is our “zone” here in Moultonborough, NH and why does it matter when it comes to your garden?
The US Department of Agriculture produces a map for gardeners based on the average of low temperature readings taken from weather stations throughout the United States. The idea is to give the garden industry a way to communicate the cold hardiness of landscape plants. On the tags found on most plants, trees and shrubs, you will often see “hardy to zone ___”.
This is a great clue as to whether or not the plant is likely to survive in our area. In Moultonborough and most of the Lakes Region of New Hampshire we are somewhere between a zone 4 and 5. Your zone will have the USDA number and either an ‘a’ or a ‘b’ attached, with ‘a’ meaning that you are on the colder end of the zone and ‘b’ indicating that you are in slightly milder territory. The more protected and sunny a spot is, the more likely it is that a zone 5 plant will survive. And conversely, in a more exposed area it would be a safer bet to stick to zone 4 materials.
Winter is always slow to let go here in the Northeast. It may even still be snowing in April in some corners of the Lakes Region, but a good start to the gardening season involves getting your flowers early and acclimating them to spring’s uncertain temperatures so they are ready to explode into color as soon as possible. The last frost date varies from April 15 to May 15, but the number of nights below freezing will become fewer and fewer as April proceeds. Gardeners are often notorious for “pushing the zone” and trying a plant that isn’t necessarily hardy for their zone. Sometimes you get lucky and find the perfect spot where an unlikely plant just thrives! When our green thumbs start to itch early in the season we often start with container plants so that if Mother Nature sends a late season frost, we can easily move our plantings under cover. If you just can’t control yourself and dare to put them in the ground, just be aware that you may need to cover them if very cold temperatures are predicted.
Here is a list of some of the annuals we often start with that will generally tolerate spring’s cold and still flower all summer!
- Supertunia® Picasso in Pink® Petunia
- Superbena® Sparkling Ruby Verbena
- Superbells® Frostfire Calibrachoa
- Snow Princess® Lobularia
- Butterfly and Vanilla Butterfly® Argyranthemum
- Surefire® Red & Rose Begonia
- Diamond Frost® Euphorbia
- Señorita Blanca® Cleome
- Flirtation® Pink Diascia
- Illusion® series Ipomoea
AND THE WINNER IS… 2017 PERENNIAL OF THE YEAR
The Perfect Perennial for Lakes Region Gardens
Asclepias tuberosa – butterfly weed
With all the ”buzz” about bees and butterflies, BUTTERFLY WEED is an excellent plant choice for the 2017 Perennial of the Year. Known for its ability to support insects and birds and serve as the primary caterpillar food for the beloved North American native Monarch butterfly, it puts out 3 months of tangerine/orange blooms on perfect little upright shrubs 24” tall and wide.
Hummingbirds, bees, beneficial insects, and other butterflies also love the flowers, which are laden with pollen and nectar. They grow best in full sun, are deer resistant, and tolerant of wet or dry soils. They are hardy to zones 3-9, and native throughout almost all of the Eastern states.
Since Asclepias tuberosa is a native prairie plant, butterfly weed is quite comfortable in meadow gardens, native plantings and wildlife sanctuaries but is finding its way into more formal to semi-formal urban gardens. Plant it in large masses, for an unrivaled display of eye-popping orange. Butterfly weed pairs well with summer blooming Phlox, Hemerocallis, Liatris, Echinacea, Salvia, and most of June/July sun-loving perennials.
The Perennial Plant of the Year showcases a perennial that is a standout among its competitors. Perennials chosen are suitable for a wide range of growing climates, require low maintenance, have multiple-season interest, and are relatively pest/disease-free. If you are looking for an excellent perennial for your next landscape project or something reliable for your gardens, make sure to check out the Perennial Plant of the Year™ archive list. At Miracle Farms we often chose plants on the list of past Perennial of the Year winners to be reliable bloomers year after year.
Here is the list we often choose from:
Previous PPA Perennial Plant of the Year winners:
- 2016 Anemone × hybrida ‘Honorine Jobert’ (windflower)
- 2015 Geranium ‘Biokova’ (dwarf cranesbill, hardy geranium)
- 2014 Panicum virgatum ‘Northwind’ (tall switch grass)
- 2013 Polygonatum odoratum variegatum (Solomon’s seal)
- 2012 Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’ (Siberian bugloss)
- 2011 Amsonia hubrichtii (blue star)
- 2010 Baptisia australis (blue false indigo)
- 2009 Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’ (Japanese forest grass)
- 2008 Geranium ‘Rozanne’ (cranesbill, hardy geranium)
- 2007 Nepeta racemosa ‘Walker’s Low’ (catmint)
- 2006 Dianthus ‘Feuerhexe’ (aka ‘Firewitch’) (cheddar pink)
- 2005 Helleborus x hybridus (hellebore, Lenten rose)
- 2004 Athyrium niponicum pictum (Japanese painted fern)
- 2003 Leucanthemum x superbum ‘Becky’ (shasta daisy)
- 2002 Phlox paniculata ‘David’ (garden phlox)
- 2001 Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’ (feather reed grass)
- 2000 Scabiosa ‘Butterfly Blue’ (pincushion flower)
- 1999 Rudbeckia fulgida sullivantii ‘Goldsturm’ (black-eyed Susan)
- 1998 Echinacea purpurea ‘Magnus’ (purple coneflower)
- 1997 Salvia x sylvestris ‘Mainacht’ (aka ‘May Night’ ) (wood sage)
- 1996 Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’ (beardtongue)
- 1995 Perovskia atriplicifolia (Russian sage)
- 1994 Astilbe ‘Sprite’ (dwarf astilbe)
- 1993 Veronica ‘Sunny Border Blue’ (speedwell)
- 1992 Coreopsis verticillata ‘Moonbeam’ (threadleaf coreopsis)
- 1991 Heuchera micrantha diversifolia ‘Palace Purple’ (coral bells)
- 1990 Phlox stolonifera (creeping phlox)
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.
We love our new fire pit area and anticipate enjoying many evenings using it with family and friends.
Chris and his crew did such a great job and they did indeed deliver more than we expected. We look forward to working on another project with you soon – hopefully next summer!
In order to maintain a healthy lawn, your soil requires water, air, and nutrients. Lawns become compacted with normal use including foot traffic and lawn mowing. All lawns need aerating at some point, but depending on the conditions and use of your lawn, your soil may require aerating more or less often than typical.
Lawn aeration is the process of mechanically removing 2”-4” soil plugs and small portions of thatch from the lawn. Lawn aeration relieves soil compaction and improves the ability of roots to grow deeper into the soil and expand. Aeration is generally recognized as the best way to improve air and gas exchange, along with water and fertilizer intake. Lawns that receive this care will be healthier, easier to maintain and have fewer pest problems than lawns that are neglected. It is preferable to aerate your lawn in the fall when new root development is more prevalent.
You should be able to see the ‘thatch’ layer, as it should be about 1/2″ thick or so just underneath the grass and above the dirt. “Thatch” refers to the non-decomposed layer of organic material between the soil surface and the living grasses. When thatch build up becomes too thick, the turf’s roots cannot receive proper airflow, nutrients or water. This leads to thin, patchy, and yellowing grass. This is when aeration becomes necessary.
Some homeowners have trouble determining if unhealthy grass is due to soil compaction, thatch buildup, or another issue, such as poor fertilization. Let Miracle Farms help you to determine the best plan to get your lawn in tip-top condition. Don’t have time to aerate your lawn, or have a large property that needs aeration? Our lawn care experts would be happy to provide the help you need!