Landscaping Protection Tips for the Winter

Do you slave away in your front yard during the summer, pruning every bush and painstakingly manicuring every blade of grass three times a week? If you are deeply in love with your landscaping, then you are probably a little dismayed when winter rolls around.

Winter officially begins on December 21, but it’s best to begin planning for the cold weather while it’s still warm outside. If you take the proper measures, you can protect your lawn from the elements and shield your plants until the spring.

Salts and Oil Sprays

Salt is a common remedy for melting ice on driveways and sidewalks after a hard freeze. However, if salt falls anywhere near plants and shrubs, it can seriously damage the roots.

When you’re applying salt to your walkways and driveway, use it carefully and stay away from nearby plants and shrubs. If your plants exhibit yellow or brownish tones come spring, salt may be the culprit. Opt for sawdust or sand to melt ice instead to sidestep this potential catastrophe.

Deciduous shrubs and trees are susceptible to mites and other overwintering critters. Using a miscible oil spray during the colder months is a great way to protect your plants from such insects. Only apply miscible oil spray when temperatures are over 40 degrees F., and never spray the oil within a 24-hour window of a deep freeze.

Pruning during the Winter Months

Many people believe that plants don’t need pruning during the winter, but this is not entirely true. Some plants must be pruned during the colder months so they bloom when spring arrives. If you have summer-flowering bushes such as hydrangeas or hibiscus flowers, they still need intermittent pruning during the winter.

Leave deciduous trees alone for the majority of the winter months, but remember they will need a little TLC as the seasons change. Remove deadwood from the trunks to encourage growth and protect your trees against deadly fungal diseases.

Protecting New Plant Growth

Late winter is the best time to plant new flowers and add to your existing landscaping. In most areas, the month is mild enough to support plant growth. Take care to select the right flowers, however. Good choices are snapdragons, petunias, or other flowers called “annuals” that start their life cycle in cooler months.

The trick is to plant the annuals in highly enriched soil. Ensure there is adequate room for drainage to keep the flowers protected from overwatering. Also, pat on an extra layer of mulch to protect your flowers from the elements until spring arrives, and stake new plants to keep them shielded from wind damage.

It’s also wise to check your sprinkler system often during the winter season. Cold weather can wreak havoc on water lines, so it is vital to run your sprinklers and check each sprinkler head for proper water output.

If you take a few simple steps to protect your landscaping during the winter, your yard will be healthy, happy, and ready to bloom when spring finally rolls around.

 

Landscape Lighting for Smaller Spaces

We often dream of expansive backyards filled with lavish greenery, ornate fountains, koi ponds and babbling brooks. But, some of us barely have enough yard space to hold a garage-store BBQ and a hand-me-down patio set. Should you abandon your dreams of a beautifully lit landscape if your space and your wallet won’t allow it? Never!

Your backyard may not look like it was designed by Rockefeller, but that doesn’t mean you can’t add a few elements to make you feel like a king—even if your castle is far from reality. Outdoor lighting at any scale gives an outdoor area much-needed attention and can make you feel cozy and comfortable as well.

Small Houses and Small Yards

If you own a small house, add some lighting to your outdoor area to make it feel like an additional room of the house. Do you entertain in the space? Guests will appreciate the space and consider it an extension of your home if it is properly lit. Solar-powered lights are inexpensive and work well to light pathways or steps leading to a patch of grass where guests congregate. Additionally, if you have any special features, even if it is a cute bird feeder, consider lighting it to add interest.

Patios

If your patio is your only oasis, you are not out of luck. Low voltage or solar lighting provides an adequate amount of illumination without overpowering the area or hedging into your neighbor’s property. Avoid strong spotlights or harsh beams. Install lighting on railing posts or on post caps lining your patio stairs.

Globe patio lights are a beautiful design element for any patio. If your patio is on the large side, consider a single globe light that stands on its own or can be floated in a pool for an extra effect. If space is a concern, use smaller globe lights strung together and extend them in different directions above the patio to create a beautiful ambiance at night.

Porch Light

For all the homeowners or renters out there with miniscule backyard space, there is still hope. Most people have porch lights which help to illuminate the outdoors whether they own a balcony or a one-acre yard. Consider a light that provides maximum illumination for guests and for safety, but also unites the outdoors with the indoor decor to further exemplify your design style. Install the light high enough to illuminate the area but not low enough to glare in people’s faces. Look for lights that cater to your design style like modern, contemporary, mission-style, or Southwestern. Even something as insignificant as a porch light can uplift your outdoor space regardless of how small it is.

You may not own a 10,000 acre estate, ripe with well-landscaped grass and prize rose beds, but you can still make your small space your own with a little effort. Get creative and think outside of the box when it comes to your landscape lighting. Sometimes good things really do come in small packages.

How to Choose a Professional Landscape Designer

All professional landscape designers are the same, right? Well, not necessarily. All will vie for your business, but not every designer will be the best fit. And some may even be scam artists in disguise.

Proper preparation is essential to prevent potential mishaps and legal issues. If you do your research in the beginning, you will enjoy a seamless experience in the end.

Licensing

Every homeowner wants to hire a landscape company that is licensed, but do you know what to look for? There are several different licenses and each hold a different meaning. Check your state requirements. Every company should have general liability insurance and carry additional certificates as defined by the state in which they do business. Insist the company shows you their certificates of liability and make sure they carry adequate insurance.

Complaints and Reviews

Companies may add testimonies to their websites but they may be fabricated. Ask for references. Contact previous customers and ask them if they are happy with their end result and whether they would recommend the company. Take a look at their landscaping and see if it meets your level of quality. Ask the references if the company communicated with them throughout the process and their opinion on the level of reliability. Inquire about any hidden costs or overages and how they adhered to the time limit of the project. Check with your local Better Business Bureau for any complaints as well.

Fixed vs. Estimated Costs

An estimate is not the same as a fixed price contract. Some companies will offer an estimate to get you to agree to its services and pull the old “bait and switch” at the last minute. Request a final proposal that specifies final pricing.

Remember that you get what you pay for. Don’t be dazzled by excessively low prices. It costs money for a landscape company to pay for labor, materials and equipment. If a company quotes you a low price, the difference may not be coming out of its profits, but in the level of quality and materials.

Get everything in writing before you sign. A contract should specify materials, time limits and final costs and anything else you deem necessary.

When you compare estimates, remember the phrase, “All things being equal.” Each estimate should contain the exact same materials, time limits and scope of work. If one condition is different, you are not comparing apples to apples and you risk dealing with less-than-qualified contractors.

Guarantees

Does the company offer any guarantees? Does it stand behind the value of its work? Not all companies offer guarantees and some offer only partial guarantees. When you compare, read the fine print. Look for a promise of 100% satisfaction with no stipulations.

If you perform the research prior to choosing a landscape designer, the process is sure to be seamless and enjoyable. There are many reputable companies that will create a beautiful design within your price range and parameters. You just have to roll up your sleeves and do a little legwork to find them. Good luck!