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How to Pick the Right Floor for Your Garden Room

Article By: Billy Goodnick

Every room needs a floor, and outdoor garden rooms are no exception. Paths, decks, patios, overlooks, trash can storage pads, lawns, ground cover plantings … they’re all floors. If you can walk on it, store something on it or roll around on it, I call it a floor. 

The simplest, least expensive floor material is the dirt that comes with a property. Unfortunately, the problem with an all-dirt garden floor is, well, it’s dirty, even downright muddy when wet. It does have one redeeming trait: It’s dirt cheap. But it’s highly likely that you’ll have to choose something other than dirt for most of your garden. How to decide, given all the options? As with any design decision I make, I look for practicality, beauty and sustainability. 

As the saying goes, form follows function. So first consider how the surface will be used and what’s the most appropriate material to support that use. 


Loose materials for more casual spaces. I consider loose materials like crushed rock, graveland shale (also bark mulch) when I want an informal garden pathway or lounging area. They usually cost less and require less labor than other materials, and you don’t have to be a master builder to make them look good. But because these materials can be movable after placement, you’ll need to do some maintenance to keep them from wandering off.

Hard materials for more formal areas. On the other hand, hard materials such asflagstone, brick, tile, concrete and lumber lend themselves to more “civilized” applications like patios, decks and entryways. These generally withstand a lot of traffic and can easily be cleaned with a broom, a washing down (preferably not in water-scarce climates) or an electric blower, if that’s your tool of choice.

Visual appeal. But we seek more than just utility. The first thing we notice in a garden is its visual appeal and sense of style — not how easily ketchup stains can be vanquished. Take cues from the materials and finishes of your house as well as influences from the natural environment.

Environmental impact. Think about where the materials originated, whether they come from recycled sources and whether they are permeable. If you don’t know, ask.

Cost. For most of us, cost is the elephant in the room. The best advice I can offer here is to notbe penny wise and pound foolish. I’ve found time and again that a bit more expense (sometimes a lot) on the front end assures that you’ve selected the best floor for the job, the one least likely to come back and bite you later. 

7 Materials for Outdoor Floors — and How to Use Them


Stone. Stone is enduring and elemental, taking many forms. Where a naturalistic style is most appropriate, irregular slabs of flagstone edged with dainty ground covers look right at home. In formal dining terraces, geometric shapes solidly mortared to a slab are a practical solution, assuring that the stones stay in place and provide a level surface. 

When it comes to selecting the right stone for your project, consider not only the color, but also its surface texture. Too smooth and it might present a slip hazard; too irregular and you’ll have a hard time leveling a table (or walking in 6-inch stiletto heels — not a problem for me).

Stability and safety are paramount concerns, so be sure to set the stepping stones on a well-compacted base with some of their mass underground to keep them from tilting and moving around. Check that pathway stones are large enough and ergonomically spaced so you can land on them without having to delicately dance from one to the next.

The color of the stone should harmonize with the exterior of your home, other garden hardscaping and natural elements. You’ll find a wide range, from nearly black to gray to white, and browns including rusty oxide-infused shades.

Brick. Brick is another durable flooring material that can express the aura of a classic garden. If the visible foundation of your house is brick, use the same brick as a walkway border to bind the house and the garden into a coherent composition. Or you can unleash your artsy, bohemian style by creating random patterns and infusing the design with random sprinklings of other materials, like stone or decorative tiles.

If you’re the one responsible for rolling the trash cans from the side yard to the curb every Thursday evening, you’ll be happy you passed on a pea gravel path and went with a continuous ribbon of mortared brick.

The color palette for brick requires additional design decisions; colors include a range of nearly black through gray, brown, red and some yellowish tints. Although individual bricks are rectangular, there are endless patterns to experiment with, including traditional running bond, herringbone, basket weave, radial spokes, gentle curves and whimsical layouts that look like someone pounded down one too many beers at lunch.

 

In formal situations brick is laid on a compacted bed of masonry sand or mortared onto a solid slab of concrete. This approach ensures that the brick will not subside or shift, a critical detail under tables and chairs. For paths the standard approach is to set the outer edges of brick in a solid concrete base, pave the inner surface with brick set on well-compacted mason’s sand and then brush more sand into the joints to lock them into place.

For shady, moist areas where moss can cause slip-and-fall accidents, be vigilant about choosing materials, like brick, that can withstand a strong blast from a hose or deep scrubbing with a coarse broom.

Caution: Where the ground freezes, loosely set brick can heave, making the path uneven and possibly dangerous. And steer clear of mature trees with surface roots.

 

 

 

 

Tile. Tile, like brick, offers a broad palette of styles, ranging from crisp, contemporary forms to old-world Mediterranean. Because tile is thin and unable to bear much weight on its own, it is always mortared to a solid foundation. Be careful to avoid slick surfaces, since they can become dangerously slippery when wet.

 

Concrete. Square foot for square foot, concrete is a smart long-term investment. It starts off in a semiliquid state, meaning it can assume any shape. If plain old sidewalk gray isn’t your style, concrete can be textured and colored to look like stone, seeded with pebbles, pocked with rock salt or stained with intense pigments to create bold designs. One problem with traditional concrete, though, is it’s impermeable; it sheds water rather than allowing it to percolate into the soil where it can do some good.

Decking. A contractor friend of mine calls wood decks “dry rot in slow motion.” He’s pretty spot-on. Traditional wood decks, regardless of how much waterproofing sealant you apply each year, will eventually succumb to nature’s forces (or termites). 

But if you’ve got a sloping property, need a level surface for outdoor entertaining and want to avoid the expense and disruption of building retaining walls, decking is the way to go. Since you’re not likely to add on to the deck once it’s built, now is the time to decide how it will be used and make space for all the furnishings you want. 

To avoid the effects of weathering and decay, consider building with manufactured plastic lumber made from recycled bottles, plastic bags and wood scraps. It comes in standard lumber sizes, connects with screws and doesn’t rot, making it ideal for rooftop getaways. 

 

Loose materials.Although they might seem like a low-budget cop-out,loose materials like gravel, crushed rock, compacted shale and decomposed granite can be an inexpensive yet elegant choice, especially whenedged by a richer material, like stone or brick. Advantages include permeability, low cost and ease of installation.

However, these materials are more likely to be displaced, especially if water passes over them. And gritty, sandy materials are the last things you want to track onto your hardwood entryway. One of my favorite design treatments for upgrading crushed rock paths uses enriched thresholds and intersections of stone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plants. In addition to inert materials, there’s all the living stuff. Once again, your choice should be guided by the intended use: Active recreation, for example, calls for the evenly mowed surface of a tended lawn.

Another consideration is how “at home” a lawn is in your climate. Where rainfall is dependable and plentiful, you needn’t be too concerned about using potable water for irrigation. And there are lots of organic approaches to lawn care, so you can avoid the old-school arsenal of chemical sprays and treatments that can be detrimental to beneficial insects, wildlife and groundwater. But in arid climates, more and more people are going lawnless to help conserve water as well as lower their dependence on fossil fuels for mowing and edging.

 

Meadows, with their tussled, just-got-out-of-bed appearance, are ideal for creating a rustic feeling — and can attract a diversity of beneficial insects and other cool things for kids to discover. You can walk through them or mow romantic, sinuous paths to explore. If you don’t need to wander through the space, any combination of ankle-high perennials and ground covers can provide color and an open expanse that will carry the eye across the garden.

Breathe Easier with Houseplants


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Photo: The Peace Lily via Build Direct Blog | JJ Harrison. I live near an old-age home that spews black dust. I jokingly tell people that those are the “outgoing patients,” but whatever the cause of the dust is, I know it affects my home’s air quality and wish I could breathe a little easier around it all. 

I’ve always known that trees clean the air, but I’ve never really considered the benefit of having house plants for the air-purification qualities. I’m thankful that I’m getting wise to this option. 

These days, I’m looking into such things as quality-of-life improvements that aren’t just good for me, but good for my soul, in all aspects of life, and soon I’ll fill my place wit a few great plants. 

Houseplants and Science

Now, this isn’t just garden fanatics reporting improved air quality with plants. NASA is on the plants-for-better-air stunt too. Yeah, the space guys.

It turns out that, back in the ’80s, NASA did a study on common houseplants to see which ones offered the best air purification effects for the space station. Whodathink it, right? You can read that study right here

In fact, we know what plants work with what kinds of air pollution. Got tobacco around the house? Time to get a peace lily. Did you have new carpets installed that are off-gassing? Dun-dun-dah-duh! It’s Spidey(-plant) to the rescue.

So, needless to say, leave it to NASA to get all sciency about it. Apparently pots that are 6-8 inches in diameter are the best ones for the job, and of course there had to be a math equation somewhere in it too: You want one plant per 100-square-feet of space. Let that be a lesson to you for buying a big house, huh? “Oh, honey, no, we’d need 31 plants for the 3,100-square-foot home. Are you gonna water them?”

Popular House Plants

Here’s just a partial list of all the plants that have been helpfully compiled on Wikipedia:

  • Dwarf Date Palm (phoenix roebelenii)

  • Boston Fern (nephrolepis exaltata “bostonienis”)

  • English Ivy (hedera helix) – a great way to make a big statement while nixing formaldehyde

  • Spider Plant (chlorophytum comosum) – another great formaldehyde filter that’s great for the not-very green thumb

  • Golden Pothos or Devil’s Ivy (scindapsus aures or epipremnum aureum)

  • Peace Lily (spathiphyllum ‘mauna loa’)

  • Chinese Evergreen (aglaonema modestum)

  • Bamboo Plam or Reed Palm (chamaedorea sefritzii)

  • Snake Plant or Mother-in-Law’s Tongue (sansevieria trif asciata ‘laurentii’) – another formaldehyde killer for those who don’t like to fuss with their plants.

  • Gerbera Daisy or Barberton Daisy (gerbera jamesonii) – here, you’re winning with beautiful flowers and by filtering benzene and trichloroethylene

  • Pot Mum or Florist’s Chrysanthemum (chrysantheium morifolium)

  • Rubber Plant (ficus elastica)

  • Cornstalk Dracaena (dracaena fragans’massangeana’)

  • Janet Craig Dracaena (dracaena deremensis ‘janet craig’)

  • Warneck Dracaena (dracaena deremensis ‘warneckii’)

  • Weeping Fig (ficus benjamina)

It’s wise to get a range of plants that can filter a number of toxins. We’re talking really noxious things like benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene, toluene and ammonia. The right combination of plants and you can end a whole lot of badness in the air around you. For plants, it’s like air-candy.

The trouble is, not all of these plants are safe in homes with pets or kids in them. If you think your cat’s bound to nosh on your peace lily, then on peace lily for you.

Luckily, lots of other plants remain on the list!

Questions to Ask

Even still, there are lots of considerations to look at when you’re considering air-filtering plants for your space. How big can it grow? How much light does it need? How water-needy is it? Does it play well with others?

If you or those you love have lung ailments, or you live in a polluted area, or you’ve just moved into a home that’s off-gassing all the new construction, then plants are a NASA approved way to improve both your health and beautify your living space.

Take a little nature indoors and maybe it’ll be as good for your soul as it is your lungs.

(You are reading an article originally posted on Build Direct Blog)

Greenhouses | A History

Outdoor living spaces are the top of mind as Spring continues to be sprung. The same goes for gardens, whether you’re starting one, or continuing to care for one. An element that takes in all of these is the greenhouse. So, in celebration of the greenhouse, here’s guest writer (for Build Direct Blog) Amy Moczynski to outline the history and function of greenhouse. 

Photo: Greenhouse via Build Direct Blog

Now that you’ve filed your taxes and the warmer weather is creeping its way into your neighborhood, you might be thinking of home improvements that will make your yard a top-notch outdoor destination. If you spend a lot of time out in your flowerbeds, or are looking to grow more exotic and warm climate plants for the first time, that tax refund might be better spent on a greenhouse. 

Early History of the Greenhouse

Greenhouses date back to about 30 A.D. when Roman emperor Tiberius built one of the earliest known greenhouses out of tiny translucent sheets of mica (glass had not yet been invented). The first practical greenhouse was designed by French botanist Jules Charles in 1599 and they gained popularity in the 17th century England. During this time period, greenhouses were seen more as a status symbol than something to use for practical growing purposes. Elite “orangeries” as they were called were constructed as an expansion of the home with a solid roof, glass walls and even a stove for heating. These buildings were status symbols and often used for entertaining.

America’s first recorded greenhouse was built by Andrew Faneuil in 1737. Faneuiil was a wealthy Bostonian merchant who used his greenhouse primarily to grow fruit. The greenhouse gained popularity slowly, and greenhouses were built primarily for the wealthy. George Washington even had a greenhouse at Mt. Vernon so he could grow and serve pineapples to his house guests.

Greenhouses and the Industrial Revolution

By 1825, greenhouses became wildly popular and their style began evolving. Many used furnaces to heat the air and some were built primarily for the wealthy by south-facing windows, a design concept that is still used today. In the 20th and 21st centuries, aluminum, fiberglass, polyethylene and PCP building materials have made greenhouses more cost effective and practical than greenhouses of the past, making them available to more than just elite homeowners.

In addition to the different types of materials used to construct greenhouses, they come in several styles. While most greenhouses are freestanding, there are attached greenhouses that provide gardeners with easy access to water and electricity. The A-frame greenhouse is great for regions that get a lot of snow, but depending on the size of the greenhouse, there can be limited head room and ventilation.

Styles of Greenhouses

While more decorative than an A-frame greenhouse, the gothic arch greenhouse is more challenging to construct. However, this style of greenhouse is good for regions that receive a lot of precipitation throughout the year as the sloped roof prevents rain or snow from accumulating on the roof. The span roof greenhouse is probably the most widely used greenhouse style and can be considered the most practical. The layout offers room for the gardener, and most varieties are large enough to fit a wheelbarrow, making transporting supplies easier.

A difference in styles isn’t the only thing that can make one greenhouse stand out from the others. Greenhouses can be made from a variety of different materials, including glass and plastics. The frame of the greenhouse can also be constructed from wood, plastic, aluminum or steel, letting homeowners mix and match the materials used to construct their greenhouse. More important than the material used to construct the frame is what a homeowner uses to cover their greenhouse.

Photo: Traditional Landscape by Pasadena Design-build HartmanBaldwin via Build Direct Blog 

Materials Used to Build Greenhouses

The material used to cover a greenhouse will dictate how much light is allowed in, as well as how much heat can escape. Glass is the traditional covering for a greenhouse, mostly due to its strength and ability to retain heat better than plastic. Clear glass allows plenty of light to enter into the greenhouse, but frosted panels can help break up the light rays to allow the light to more evenly distribute among the plants. 

An alternative to glass as a greenhouse covering is plastic, usually either film plastic or rigid plastic. Rigid plastic coverings, which can be fiberglass, acrylic, or polycarbonate, are shatterproof or shatter resistant depending on the type of material chosen. They also retain heat well and allow light to pass through the materials. One advantage over glass is during the warmer months, a rigid plastic greenhouse requires less cooling than a glass greenhouse of the same size. 

Film glass coverings offer a tremendous advantage over glass coverings because they are only a fraction of the cost. While they only last typically three to five years, film glass coverings can heat as effectively as glass. Film plastics also offer an additive that lets condensation run down the covering material as opposed to dripping on the plants in the greenhouse, which can help prevent plants from being exposed to contaminated water.

Connected to a Proud Tradition

So when considering new additions for your backyard, think about investing in a greenhouse to connect your home to a long line of luxury and opulence. In addition to creating a shared connection with wealthy and noble figures in history, greenhouses also provide the opportunity to create a great exotic growing environment. They can allow you to grow varieties of plants that aren’t native to your hometown and provide a year-round growing environment. Plus, they can add a look of opulence to your traditional backyard. 

 

(You are reading an article originally posted on Build Direct Blog)

Garden Design for Small Spaces

By now, most people in the northern hemisphere are digging in their yards to make their environments beautiful for summer. Garden design is challenging whether you have an acre or a few hundred square feet, but smaller spaces seem to be especially so. It’s easy to get intimidated and overwhelmed with choices when you’re a new gardener.

The very first thing to think about is what you want your garden to do. Is it an outdoor living area for entertaining or relaxing? Do you want an outdoor kitchen? Will the yard produce food or do you just want ornamentals? How much maintenance can you put in each week? Do you need privacy? Once you have a purpose, you can begin to fill in the blanks with details.

Photo: via Build Direct Blog

Tailor Your Garden to Your Outdoor Living Space

Here in New Mexico, walled courtyards are popular, leading right out from the home’s living area. Roomy ones hold full kitchens, fireplaces, built-in seating, fountains and hot tubs, while less spacious areas have a small table with café chairs. I have seen everything in between, too!

Frequently, the perimeter of a larger courtyard is planted with native and drought tolerant species. Low plantings keep the space open to reflect the expansiveness of the high desert and to keep our 13,000 foot mountains in view. Container plantings of ornamentals are used as accents and focal points, and there may be a small tree on each end as a frame. Flooring is flagstone, or sometimes a small grassy area has been planted. A dining table with chairs or a full set of patio furniture allows for various entertaining scenarios. That’s very basic in an area where everyone has an acre of land. The courtyard might be 600 square feet, and it becomes an extra room in three seasons. 

Photo: via Build Direct Blog

In town, the courtyards are very small and need privacy fencing. An entry gate is installed in a traditional eight-foot high latilla fence. Lush vines are grown over it to extend its height, create a garden and offer more privacy. Flooring is concrete, flagstone or small pavers, and gardening is done in containers if there is no more space to dig into the ground. Maybe there is a bench or a small chair and side table. The courtyard becomes more of an entryway than a main living space, but everyone here tries to take advantage of our wonderful climate in even the smallest way!

Vegetable Gardens and Flower Gardens – The Perfect Borders 

If you want to grow food, you don’t need much space. Vegetables and herbs can be mixed in with a flower border – lettuces and greens in front, and climbers going up a trellis in the back. Or remove the flower border completely, and just plant vegetables, herbs and fruit!

Many varieties have now been cultivated to grow in pots, since the food growing movement has spread to the cities. Don’t be afraid to try your hand at growing food, no matter how small your space. Everyone can have a container with food in it, even if it’s a recycled 5-gallon bucket. A few large pots won’t take up much of a footprint, and with upright supports they will hold tomatoes, beans, cucumbers and squash. Smaller containers are good for shallow rooted plants like lettuce, kale, chard, spinach and herbs.

Native Plants Means Low-Maintenance

If you need a low maintenance garden, native plants are the best choice. They only need the watering that nature provides, and they are already use to the soil in your yard. They need no soil amendments, and they are acclimated to the local climate, so they don’t need to be fussed over.

Also consider slow-growing plants, and install a drip irrigation system with a timer for automatic watering. Several inches of decorative mulch will keep down weeds and keep in moisture to further reduce your workload. Even a few well-placed flowering trees and shrubs can add enough greenery without a lot of work.

Piece by Piece

Envision your garden and yard space after considering your personal needs. Put it together piece by piece, or if it’s small enough, spend a weekend digging and planting. Any small space can be beautified with a little planning and a few good plants.

 

(You are reading an article originally posted on Build Direct Blog)

Benefits of Container Gardening

There are personal and environmental benefits to gardening in containers. First, it’s a good way for beginners to start small. A pot with a few plants in it is less intimidating than designing and executing a garden of any size. Instead of figuring the best place for a garden, digging up the lawn and planning heights, food production and bloom time of flowers, you can fill a pot with soil, plant some ornamentals and food, water it in and be done!


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Photo Credit: Eclectic Patio by Dallas Media and Blogs Sarah Greenman

You have control over the size of your garden, and there are fewer decisions to make. There is less maintenance for a container garden, too. I spend hours weeding, dead-heading flowers, checking for bugs, harvesting and dragging hoses from here to there (I know – the garden writer without an irrigation system! Blasphemy!). When containers are clustered in one spot, all your supplies and chores are also in one spot. 

Container Gardening | Take Notes

Growing only a few plants also lets you study them. If you make notes about their performances, you can expand your gardening knowledge each year, and you may eventually be inclined to dig up some lawn for a bigger garden with more varieties. On the other hand, you may never get the gardening bug, and containers may suit your needs to garden minimally!

If you only have a small outdoor living area, containers are perfect for having a bit of greenery in your life. It’s a bonus to get food, herbs and cut flowers from your deck or balcony. Containers can even be part of the design, so a small collection can be a tastefully designed art project. 


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Photo Credit: Modern Patio by New York Architect Resolution: 4 Architecture

Portability of Container Gardens

Being portable, containers can also be moved around. They can be brought in for the winter or placed for a special event. 

As for the environment, it’s important we grow our own food, especially in urban areas. As Monsanto creeps into our gardens more and more each day, we need to retain our independence by growing our own food, saving seed and sharing with out community. Even one pot with one tomato plant in it is a way to fight back. Anyone with a smidgeon of space can grow a little bit of food. If you’ve never grown your own food before, you’ll be hooked on the freshness and flavor!

Saving Water

Containers also save water. Instead of a sprinkler showering a garden and its surrounds, you can put the right amount exactly where it needs to go. The same stands for fertilizers (organic, of course). Instead of broadcasting them over spaces where there are no plants, you can give a container planting exactly what it needs. 

Self watering containers gauge when plants need water then delivers it to them. Alternatively, you can set up a drip system to cover a series of pots that are close together. That is the most resource efficient way to water. And you don’t have to think about it. Put your system on a timer, and you won’t have to think about it. That’s great for the gardener without a lot of time to spend fussing over a garden. 

The best containers are recycled or upcycled. See the author’s ‘container garden’ Pinterest board for recycling and irrigation ideads!


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Photo Credit: Traditional Outdoor Planters by Other Metro Wayfair

One for Every Porch or Balcony

Container gardens makes a lot of sense, from the need or desire to grow food in a small area to accommodating disabled and elderly people to saving resources with efficient water systems. Soon we will see a small garden on every porch or balcony!

(*You are reading an article originally posted to Build Direct Blog)

Spring Gardens Are Blooming! Here’s What to Do in April

Colder climates may still be shrugging off winter, but most gardeners are excited to be back to work by April. Dry summers in California and the American Southwest call for drought-tolerant plantings and water-wise practices. Butterflies signal spring’s return in the Great Lakes region and elsewhere,while flowering native trees make their presence known in the Northeast. In Texas and the Southeast, warming temperatures mean everything from herbs to vegetables to annuals can be sown from seed. Here’s what to do in your garden, by U.S. region, this April.

 

Rocky Mountain Gardener’s April Checklist

Photo: Lake Irene Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park via Flickr user KrossbowPlanting is the name of the game in the April garden. Plants in all forms can be installed as soon as the soil is warm and workable. In the meantime attend to the last of the spring cleanup chores and get your lawn in shape for the coming season. Enjoy the symphony of greens that’s being played right now by all of the emerging new foliage.

Plant bare root plants. Roses, clematis and young fruit trees are commonly available for sale in our region this month, as well as asparagus, rhubarb, strawberries and grapes.

Bare-root planting is an economical option that comes with a small window of time to implement, so take advantage of the opportunity. Select plants that have not leafed out yet with a well-developed, healthy root system (not dried out or rotted). Plant them as soon as possible – if not immediately – after purchasing and keep them moist until the root system is established. 

Transplant or divide crowded perennials when new growth emerges. Summer and fall bloomers like asters, hummingbird flower (Zauschneria spp), Maximillian sunflower (Helianthus maximiliana), gayfeather (Liatris spp), tall garden phlox (Phlox paniculata), coneflower (Echinacea spp) and ornamental grasses may need attention.

A plant with a dead center or a lack of blooms last year may indicate that it needs to be divided. Here’s how:

  • Use a sharp spade to dig out the plant with as much of its root system as possible (6 to 12 inches beyond the drip line).
  • Remove some of the soil from the root ball and pull or chop it into large sections that include both stems and roots.
  • Replant the divisions – or share them with a friend – and water thoroughly.

Plant cold-tolerant annuals in containers as a colorful welcome to spring. Good flower choices include pansies, violas, English daisies, snapdragons and sweet alyssum. Prep any previously used containers by cleaning them thoroughly with a solution of one part bleach to nine parts hot water. Fill your pots with a growing medium made specifically for container gardens, one that’s lightweight and well draining yet moisture retentive.

Cut back woody perennials and subshrubs to within a few inches of the ground. These include Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia), Powis Castle Sage (Artemesia), bluemist spirea (Caryopteris spp), butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii), leadplant (Amorpha canescens), rabbitbrush (Chrysothamnus nauseosus) and St. John’s wort (Hypericum spp). 

Sow cool-season vegetable crops directly into the ground once the soil temperature is at least 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Plant potatoes, peas, Swiss chard, kale, turnips, carrots, spinach, radishes, onions and lettuces. Keep frost blankets and cloches handy to protect seedlings from the inevitable April snowstorms.

Get your lawn off to a good start.

  • Core aerate your lawn before fertilizing it mid month. Leave the plugs on the lawn to decompose and add nutrients to the soil.
  • Overseed thin lawn areas with high-quality grass seed when the soil temperature reaches 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Rake the area to be seeded to expose the soil, then scatter the seeds in a dense, single layer. Cover the seeded areas with a scant ¼ inch of compost and water thoroughly. Keep the area evenly moist until the seeds germinate. 
    • Note: do not use preemergent weed controls, such as corn gluten, in areas that have been newly seeded.
  • Tune up your lawn mower and sharpen the blades. Sharp blades not only make your job easier (especially if you’re using a push or reel mower), but a crisply cut blade of grass is less susceptible to disease infestations than one that is torn and ragged from a blunt mower blade.

Install plant supports – such as circular cages, loop stakes and grow-through grids – to support tall, floriferous perennials once they come into bloom. Placing supports now will allow the plant to grow into and through the structure with a more natural appearance. Peonies, catmint (Nepeta spp), baby’s breath, delphiniums and tall varieties of yarrow (Achillea spp) are all good candidates for support.

Rocky Mountain Gardener’s October Checklist


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Photo: Bev’s Colorado GardenOctober is the beautiful bridge month between autumn and winter. The days are noticeably shorter, bright and cool. October is a busy month in the garden, the time to prepare for the harsh cold and snow of winter while enjoying every moment you can spend outdoors.

Winterize Water Features

The freeze-and-thaw cycle of winter weather can wreak havoc on these valuable garden assets. To minimize the damage:

  1. Drain, clean and store or cover freestanding fountains and water pots.

  2. Remove plant debris from ponds and set up a bubbler (a submersible pump with a short piece of pipe attached to the outlet) to keep some of the water surface free of ice.

  3. Disconnect pumps to recirculating waterfalls, especially if the water volume is fairly low. Ice buildup can divert water and cause problems. Moving water will also make your pond colder, which may be an issue if you have fish.

Prepare for Snow

If you haven’t had frost or snow yet, you will soon. Early snow tends to be heavy and wet, and can damage plant – especially those that haven’t shed their leaves yet. Keep a broom handy and be ready to sweep snow away to lighten the load on tree and shrub branches.

Winterize Your Watering System

Frozen pipes or components can be costly and inconvenient to repair. To prevent this:

  1. Drain your irrigation system and insulate the backflow preventer.

  2. Remove hoses from faucets and drain them. Store hoses and sprinklers in a handy location for winter watering.

Remove Leaves From Lawn Areas

Leaves left on lawn areas will compact under the snow, smothering the lawn and contributing to disease problems like snow mold.

  • Use leaves whole or shred them with your lawnmower or a commercial shredder.

  • Add them to your compost pile now or stockpile them for future use.

  • Use leaves as mulch, 4 to 6 inches deep. Apply now to new planting areas to maintain soil warmth and permit better root growth, apply to bare soil areas to prevent erosion, or apply after the ground has frozen to prevent frost heave and premature soil warming in spring.

  • Keep leaf mulch 6 inches away from the bases of trees and shrubs to prevent damage from rodents.

It’s important to remove any diseased foliage from the garden completely – don’t compost it.

Amend the Soil

Planning to install a new vegetable or flower garden next spring? Now is a great time to prepare the soil. Use organic amendments to increase water-and nutrient-holding capacity and to improve aeration and water flow. Adding amendments now allows you to work in the garden while the soil is relatively dry, thus preventing the potential for soil compaction that can occur if you try to do it during the wet months of early spring. Come springtime the soil will be ready to plant:

  • Amendments must be mixed well into the soil – spade or rototill to a depth of 6 to 8 inches.

  • Composts and aged manures work best for sandy soils; sphagnum peat or wood chips are ideal for clay.

  • Incorporate 3 cubic yards of amendment per 1,000 square feet of soil. That’s about 8 cubic feet of amendment for a 10-foot by 10-foot area of soil.

  • Mulch the bed with a couple of inches of leaves or shredded wood to help prevent soil erosion during the winter.

Enjoy Puttering

Pull weeds and spent annuals, plant bulbs and harvest herbs and cool-season veggie for hearty meals. Most of all, spend time with family and friends surrounds by nature’s October glow!

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Give Your Turf the Fall Tune-up It Deserves

Photo: Turfmutt.comYour lawn probably has taken a beating this summer – family gatherings, fetch with the dog, and kids’ games and toys have likely been working together with heat and drought to make your grass gasp for a breather. If you lawn is in need of a little TLC, you’re in luck – fall is the best time to revitalize it so that next year’s grass is the greenest and healthiest it can be.

Know Your Grass

There are cool season and warm season grasses, and several varieties in each category.

  • Cool Season Grasses: Kentucky bluegrass – fescue – perennial ryegrass; are better suited for cooler climates, are most productive in spring and fall, sometimes take more irrigation and are generally mowed higher than warm season grasses due to their erect growth habit. 
  • Warm Season Grasses: Bermuda – St. Augustine – big bluestem; grow best in warmer climates, are typically more drought tolerant and are often mowed at lower heights.

Be sure to check with your local lawn experts for specific recommendations for turf grass in you area.

Fertilize

In the fall, fertilize your lawn with an NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium) ration of 3-1-2 or 4-1-2. The ratio doesn’t need to be exact, but do try to get a product with similar amounts. Plan to use approximately 1 pound of fertilizer per 1,000 square feet of lawn and always follow the package directions. Applying too much fertilizer will not help your grass and, in fact, may damage it.

Dethatch

Thatch is the buildup of dead roots and stems that develop between the soil and the green grass blades. If you have just a little buildup, you can use a hard rake or a dethatching rake to remove the dead grass, but if you have more than ½ inch you will need to core aerate in the fall or the spring.

Core aeration uses rentable equipment to remove plugs of soil, increasing the soil’s ability to receive water, air and fertilizer. If your buildup is thicker than ⅔ inch, you will need to not only core aerate but add ⅛ to ¼ inch of organci matter like compost or peat. Water in well. 

Control weeds

September and October are the best months to control perennial broadleaf weeds like clover and dandelions. These weeds are busy taking in sun and nutrients to get them through the winter months, so that means they are open to receiving weed killers as well. 

If you have just a few weeds, pull them out by hand, but more numerous weeds may require additional tactics or chemicals – either organic or non organic. As with fertilizers, always follow the package directions when applying any chemical to your lawn to avoid damaging it and the surrounding plants. Don’t worry about any bare spots left by weed removal; your healthy grass will take over those areas in no time.

Sow grass seeds

If you have large bare areas left by weed removal or simply need to establish a new or extended part of your lawn, mid-August to mid-September is the best time to sow grass seeds. Always check with your county extension office or trusted local nursery about the best times to sow seeds in your area, however.

Before you sow, be sure you have prepared the soil correctly to get the best results. Till the soil at least 6 inches deeps, add ½ to 1 inch or so of compost or peat, rake the soil smooth and sow the seeds. Water in well and keep the soil consistently moist until after the new growth emerges, or about 6 weeks.

 

8 Flowers That Dazzle With Fall Color

Although springtime seems to own bragging rights to the most profusely blooming flowers, autumn is not far behind. Now that we’re done with the scorching summer months, it’s time to kick our fall gardens in gear by adding some dependable bloomers in autumnal tones, offset by brilliant blues and purples. Most of these flowering plants will work well in many areas of the country, but be sure to check with your local nursery professionals to choose the best varieties for your area.

Photo: Heather Lacey | Gardening She Knows 

Purple Sage (Salvia spp)

The salvia genus offers a wide range of plants that feature those enviable purple fall blooms. This coloration makes it a perfect foil for more fall-hued plants, like rudbeckia and Red Hot Poker. Because there are a wide range of salvias with varying heights and sun requirements, be sure to check with your local nursery to make the best choice for your garden. Great varieties to consider are: Salvia leucantha, Salvia farinacea and Salvia guaranitica.

  • USDA zones: 8 to 10; colder climates can use purple sage as an annual
  • Water requirement: average
  • Light requirement: full sun to dappled shade
  • Mature size: 18 to 48 inches tall
  • Bloom time: summer to fall
  • Planting tips: plant in spring or fall and prune back after the first killing freeze
Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)

This staple in the summer-to-fall garden features sunny daisy-like blooms with dark centers on top of tall, coarse stems. Although it’s attractive to birds, bees and butterflies, all parts of this plant are poisonous, so be aware of this if you have small children or pets that frequent your garden. Black-eyed Susans pair beautifully with mums, ornamental grasses and Autumn Joy sedum.

  • USDA zones: 5a to 10a
  • Water requirement: average to low
  • Light requirement: full to partial sun
  • Mature size: 3 feet tall
  • Bloom time: summer to fall 
  • Planting tips: plant in spring or fall and remove spent blooms. Prune after the first killing freeze and mulch during winter
Fall Aster (Symphotrichum oblongifolium)

Asters are time-honored plants in the fall garden, and with their profusion of purple daisy-like blooms, it’s easy to see why. They are deer resistant and are attractive to bees, butterflies and birds. They also are a great companion plant for ornamental grasses and other flowering perennials, such as rudbeckia.

  • USDA zones: 4a to 9b
  • Water requirement: average
  • Light requirement: full sun
  • Mature size: 2 to 3 feet tall
  • Bloom time: late summer to fall 
  • Planting tips: plant in spring or fall and pinch back growth regularly throughout the summer to encourage a tight-growing form. Cut back after the first killing freeze and mulch lightly over the winter
Red Hot Poker (Kniphofia spp)

This unusual plant features stunning red and yellow flower spikes a top slim green stems and leaves, creating a dramatic focal point in the fall perennial bed. Red Hot Poker is also very deer resistant, while at the same time being attactive to bees, butterfiles and birds. Pair it with the blue or purple tones of Salvia leucantha or fall asters.

  • USDA zones: 6a to 10b
  • Water requirement: low once established
  • Light requirement: full sun
  • Mature size: 3 feet tall
  • Bloom time: Late summer to fall 
  • Planting tips: plant in spring or fall and prune back before the first killing freeze
Chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum spp)

Nothing quite says “autumn” like mums, with their multipetaled flowers in shades of russet, cream, orange, yellow and pink. These mounding plants are perfect for edges of borders and beds as well as containers, and combine well with Black-eyed Susans, Mexican bush sage and fall asters.

  • USDA zones: 6 to 10
  • Water requirement: average
  • Light requirement: full sun
  • Mature size: 3 feet tall
  • Bloom time: fall 
  • Planting tips: plant in the fall, cut back after the first killing freeze and mulch lightly over the winter
Autumn Joy Sedum (Sedum “Autumn Joy’)

Also called stonecrop, sedum comes from the succulent family of plants, so you already know it’s low maintenance and drought tolerant. If you’ve never grown this plant before, you will be delighted with its fleshly leaves and broccoli-like blooms that start out green, changing to pink and finally bronze as they age. They will look spectacular when planted with other drought-tolerant plants, like succulents, ornamental grasses and flowering perennials.

  • USDA zones: 6 to 11
  • Water requirement: low
  • Light requirement: full sun to partial shade
  • Mature size: 2 feet tall
  • Bloom time: late summer to fall 
  • Planting tips: plant in spring or fall and remove flower stalks when they are done blooming, new growth resembling tiny cabbages will emerge in the spring
Blanket Flower (Gaillardia pulchella)

Blanket flower is a reseeding annual that features trustworthy blooms in shades of red, yellow and orange, making it a perfect addition to your fall-hued garden. Great for meadows and wildflower gardens as well as for perennial beds and borders, blanket flower pairs beautifully with ornamental grasses as well as rudbeckia and salvia.

  • USDA zones: as an annual, it will fare well in most all zones
  • Water requirement: average to low once established
  • Light requirement: full to partial sun
  • Mature size: 18 to 36 inches tall
  • Bloom time: summer to fall 
  • Planting tips: plant in spring or fall and let seeds fall to the ground when the plant is done blooming, remove spent flower stalks after the first frost
Rose (Rosa spp)

You only thought roses were just a springtime feature in your garden, but if you care for them properly, some of the repeat bloomers will give you a dazzling fall display as well. Pair them with ornamental grasses and other flowering perennials, like Mexican bush sage (Salvia leucantha)

  • USDA zones: 2 to 10, depending upon variety
  • Water requirement: average, but may need supplemental water during extreme heat
  • Light requirement: full to partial sun
  • Mature size: 2 to 4 feet and taller, depending on the variety
  • Bloom time: spring, summer and fall intermittently
  • Planting tips: plant in late winter or early spring, and prune hard around Valentine’s Day
    • to promote more fall blooms, fertilize with a rose fertilizer in the first part of September and again in October, and give the bushes a light trim in late summer.

 

 

September 2012 Newsletter

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American Cabinet & Flooring, Inc. – September 2012 – Newsletter

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American Cabinet & Flooring is a proud carrier of KraftMaid Cabinetry

Featured in House Beautiful’s 2012

– Kitchen of the Year –

KraftMaid Cabinetry House Beautiful's 2012 - Kitchen of the Year -

Kraftmaid Cabinetry teamed up with Chicago based kitchen designer Mick de Guilio for House Beautiful’s 2012 Kitchen of the Year. The 1,000-square-foot kitchen was on display through Friday – July 20, 2012 – at Rockefeller Center in New York City. It represents transitional style and features a Butler’s pantry sporting dove white painted Sedona cabinet doors with glass doors and matching interiors. The asymmetrical kitchen includes cabinets of varying heights that incorporate Slate stain contrasted by polished nickel hardware. All of the doors and drawers feature KraftMaid’s soft-close Whisper Touch System. 

“The Kitchen of the Year showcases the best of kitchen design and inspires homeowners with ideas they can bring into their own home,” said Kate Thompson, lead KraftMaid designer on the project. The design did leave many dreaming about bringing the Kitchen of the Year to life in their homes. Well, dream no longer! Thanks to The Suffolk ReStore and KraftMaid one homeowner will have the opportunity to make the Kitchen of the Year cabinetry their own. As Kitchen of the Year came to an end, KraftMaid donated the cabinetry to the ReStore of Suffolk County, NY; which will sell the cabinets and donate the proceeds. The sale of the cabinetry will raise over $24,000 for Habitat for Humanity, giving one lucky individual the kitchen of their dreams and providing support to families in need.

KraftMaid Cabinetry in House Beautiful's 2012 - Kitchen of the Year -

American Cabinet & Flooring is a proud carrier of KraftMaid Cabinetry. Come visit our design center and meet with one of our talented Design Specialists to get your remodel project started today!

 

Nine Whimsical Touches to Wake Up the Garden

9 Whimsical Touches to Wake Up the Garden

As the August heat started to wilt everything outdoors, ask yourself how you feel about this season’s garden. Do you love every inch of it, or does all of that dead headed, pruned perfection leave you wanting more? It’s time to have some fun in the garden, and this is the perfect time to start playing around and planning for next year.

September is a great time to plant new trees, shrubs, and fall bulbs, and as everything starts to wither on the vine, you can spend your time painting the shed, building window boxes, adding trellises, bringing in a statue, changing up the plan, putting out birdseed in funky feeders and scooping up outdoor furniture and decor on clearance. Here are nine fun elements that will get your gardening mojo flowing again. 

  1. Vertical Delights: today’s vertical gardens can take on all sorts of graphic designs. You can even create a sign, a painterly composition or spell out a monogram with plants on the wall.
  2. Cutouts: heart shapes entice visitors to pass through your garden doors.
  3. Unexpected Color
  4. Sneak a Design into the Plan View
  5. Wall Planters: classical statuary plantings with Medusa-like ‘dos made of succulents bring a giggle to a fence or wall.
  6. Birdhouse Villages: the only thing more fun than a single birdhouse is a swinging singles birdhouse community.
  7. Embellish the Shed: you can go over the top with a shed in a way you can’t on the main house. Have some fun with color and accents such as barn stars, window boxes, trellises and climbing vines.
  8. Surprising Scale: oversize items become eye-catchers when placed strategically in the garden.
  9. Kooky Statues: place a statue in a spot where people will delight in stumbling across it.
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