Posts Tagged tips

Fall Planting Thoughts

It’ll be Fall before you know it – which is the best time of year to plant trees.  If you have a nice pathway or driveway that could use some shade, you should consider which type of tree you’d like to plant.

Here are some trees which tend to have roots close to the top soil (meaning – don’t use them to shade your lanes or driveway):

–         Cottonwood

–         Willow

–         Mulberry

–         Beaches

–         Elms

–         Silver or Red Maples

But, if your heart is completely set on one of the above shallow root trees, you can talk to your landscaper about installing a root barrier or some such which should stop your tree from searching under your paved/established areas for water.

Additional things to consider when planting trees are:

  1. Where are they getting water from?  If you aren’t going to consistently water them, the tree may seek out water sources – like the pipes that feed your
    home.  It’s a good idea when making the large investment of a tree that you take a look at ensuring consistent watering.
  2. Can you get a tree which is drought tolerant and will dig deep for water?  It’s a better idea for your top soil if the roots will dig deep for water – but to balance that out you want a tree which won’t go too far and wide looking for water.  I’ve seen a foundation torn out by a gorgeous California Oak.
  3. What are you looking for when it comes to your tree? Do you want fruit, shade, blocking your yard from sight, something else?  Consider this before purchasing and planting your tree.

Here’s to years of shady, beauty and joy brought about by your trees.

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Summertime Dreaming

We’re back in another cold spell.  April is my least favorite month because of the fluctuating weather.  Warm days bring me hope and make me consider spring and summer.  Cold days make me grumble about having to put a jacket back on and wear socks.

But, April is a great month for us all to dream about summertime.  It’s time for you to get prepped for the heat which is coming.  What does that mean you should do?  Here are some things to make sure you put on your “to do” (or “honey do”) list:

1. Make sure the timer on your sprinkler system is set.  Your lawn should be given a bit of time to let your soil dry between watering, but you don’t want it to be too dry.

2. Check your soil quality.  Right now is a great time to loosen up any clay soil by sprinkling some Epsom salts or Gypsum over your soil, then water periodically.

3. Plant all you can! Anything which you have in pots or any starts you were planning on buying should go into the ground ASAP. You want to have them in and partially established before the heat gets too much.

4. Feed your plants. If you’ve been keeping up a mulch pile, now is the time to spread that compost over the bare soil around your trees, flowers, etc. If you don’t have homemade compost, it’d be a good idea to buy some and cover up the bare soil to prevent it from drying out.

5. Get your lawn in shape. It’s not the time for re-seeding, but you can put down sod now and get it semi-established before summer.

6. Install sprinklers. I’ve tried to maintain a lawn in Southern California with no sprinklers before. It’s physically impossible.

7. Get everything you will need to make your yard how you want it. Hanging baskets, lawn furniture, a hammock, etc. If you need to hire a landscaper start interviewing now.

Here’s to a nice warm summer, with beautiful blooms and and a fun time in your yard.

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Landscaping for Hillside Homes

As we all know, Southern California is not Florida or Kansas – there are mountains and hills EVERYWHERE.  So, if you live in one of the many gorgeous hillside homes here in SoCal, how in the world do you both approach landscaping, comply with the safety regulations inherent in living on the side of a hill, and really get to enjoy your land?

1. Think of your neighbors. 

Before embarking upon any project to improve your hillside property, consider your neighbor’s needs as well as your own.  Will you need to ask their permission to create a fenced off area on your property line?  Are you considering any improvements which will block their view?  Will any work you do erode their property?  Check to make sure you won’t be hearing complaints from those you must live near; it will make your life much easier in the long run.

2. Examine how nature beautifies hills.

Natural hillsides can be a source of inspiration for your own hillside property.  Mother Nature uses deep-rooted plants, like our native California Oaks, along with well-placed rocks, various native grasses and sensible grading to create lovely, sustainable hillsides.  Your home, however, may be on the side of a hill which mankind has already graded in a sharper, less sustainable fashion, so terracing can help make it look more pleasing to the eye and help prevent landslides.  It’s best to consult a professional landscaper on these points, as they will have some idea of the safety measures which need to occur to make your hillside land both beautiful and safe.

3. Try for low-maintenance.

Unless you love hiking, try to make sure your hillside is as low maintenance as possible.  Add steps to easily access any decks, terraced gardens, etc, so you can access the parts of your property you may want to visit or give special attention.  On the portions of your property you’d rather keep “hands off”, plant indigenous plants which will thrive without much care.  Make sure to install a variety of plants – like shrubs, trees and ground cover.  This will help your hillside retain more soil during the rainy season.

You can also install a dry creek bed in the “hands off” portions, to help prevent erosion.  Also, if you have a rock outcropping with little to no soil, check with a landscaper.  It may not be plantable and may actually be aiding the stability of your land.

4. Enjoy the view.

Install easy-to-access look out points around your property.  Think about installing a bench alongside your steps, or a deck with a particularly pleasing view of the sunset to sit and get away from it all – besides, what’s the point of a hillside home if you don’t have a chance to enjoy the view?

5. Add hardscaping.

As mentioned above, easy to traverse steps to portions of your landscape which you want to access are a great idea, but why stop there?  Install a deck with a barbecue for friends and/or family to gather and enjoy.  Add a fire pit where you can roast marshmallows or enjoy fine company.  Install a terrace with a traditional zen garden, or a vegetable or flower garden.  Add a wooden patio under a sprawling oak.  Get the most out of your land. 

If you are a more adventurous sort, add rope ladder access to your deck or terrace, to give your home a tree house feel. 🙂  Just make sure a) it’s installed by a pro and b) there’s a soft spot below to land, in case of any missteps.

6. Consult a professional.

Hillside landscaping is not a “DIY” project.  Always consult a professional landscaper knowledgable in Southern California hillsides and the appropriate regulations before embarking on your project.  Hillsides are a very special beast and you do not want to start out terracing, adding decks and steps, building a retaining wall, etc, without professional assistance.

Here’s hoping you always get the most out of your landscape!

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Preparing your yard for winter

Labor Day has been and gone, which means summer is officially over.  Even though it’s still pretty warm and very sunny in SoCal right now, it’s a good idea to get your landscape prepared for winter.  Here are some pointers on what to do:

– Prune, prune, prune!

– Remember that winter is a great time to transplant – as your plant is dormant.  So, if you need landscaping, now is a great time to either a) get with a landscaper and get next years yard planned out or b) work out what changes you want to make to your yard.

– Plant winter plants like lettuce and cabbages in your vegetable garden.  If you’re in an area which can get frost (and we get it even in the LA area…) figure out if you want to keep things which will die in the frost  (like tomatoes or peppers) and figure out your protections strategy for them.

– Things are blooming away still, so make sure weeds are cut back and bagged before they go to seed.

– The holiday season is fast approaching.  Try and get your yard cleaned up now, before that final house cleaning rush which is inevitable to having guests over.

– Remember, it’s going to start getting darker sooner, so if you’ve been considering outdoor lighting, make your decision soon, so you don’t trip over your shrubbery when trying to get to the front door of your house in the winter months.

Those are what I think of when summer ends and fall begins, what about you?

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Trees and the Heat

As I’ve mentioned previously, it’s been pretty darn hot. Lawns are drying up, sprinkler water is partially evaporating before hitting the ground and air conditioners are going full blast.

So, what does this mean for your trees?

It can be hard to tell how your tree is doing when it comes to moisture. Cheaper moisture meters aren’t very accurate and there’s no way to tell by just looking at the soil if it’s too dry. The best way to ensure your tree is doing ok moisture-wise (without waiting for the leaves to wilt) is to dig up some of the soil with a trowel or use a metal rod. You can insert the rod into the soil. If there is an unusual amount of resistance, this can indicate a lack of moisture.

Another way to ensure your tree actually receiving enough water is to water it at low pressure. Some people blast the leaves, trunk or soil for a few seconds and expect that to be sufficient. A better action is to set the hose on low and allow the water to soak the soil for a few minutes. This will allow the water to sink through the soil and get into the root system.

Finally, keep an eye out for disease or dead leaves and nip them in the bud by pruning them back. Note that summer pruning is a tricky business – you do not want to cut the tree back like you would in winter when it’s dormant. You just want to trim off the diseased or dead areas and that is literally it. So, don’t go hog-wild and hire a professional if you’re unsure about what to do.

Check out this website for awesome landscaping tips and info on summer care of your yard.

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Beat the Heat

It’s summertime and it is HOT – especially in the Greater Los Angeles area.  So, how can we beat the heat without cranking the AC too much?  Or, how do you beat the heat when you are experiencing one of SoCal’s famous rolling blackouts?

The answer: Go outside and enjoy your yard.

“What??” You may say, “That’s complete madness!”

Let me explain: since summertime in Southern California tends to last most of the year, we take staying cool while outdoors seriously.  There are several things you can do with landscaping which will make your yard more enjoyable during those long summer days.

  • Install a cover over your patio area. If you don’t have a patio area, installing one and including a shade with electrical for a fan and a fridge will make it a wonderful hang out – not only does the temperature go down in the shade, but with a cold drink and the fan going… well, who could ask for more?
  • Plant shade trees.  Summertime is when most trees are bursting with greenery.  Use this natural phenomena to your advantage and add shade trees to your yard.  A professional landscaper can let you know the best places to plant, both aesthetically and for water conservation.
  • Install a sprinkler system.  Do you remember running through sprinklers as a kid?  Or water balloon fights? Or playing with squirt guns?  Why not relive those days with friends and/or family?  Get your sprinklers going and start an impromptu cool down party with squirt guns and water balloons.  Those moments of fun can be as refreshing as the cool water.
  • Install a pool or get a blow up pool.  We talked about this in an earlier article.  A pool is a big step – lots of landscaping decisions are involved.  But, if you live in a place with long summers, it may be a great investment for you.

Here’s hoping you stay cool and comfy all summer long!

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