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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Using Hardscapes to Enhance Your Outdoor Lifestyle

Our beautiful climate offers a unique opportunity for homeowners and Valley residents to expand their lifestyle to the outdoors and really take full advantage of the gorgeous weather months that we have here.  We see more and more people adding hardscapes such as patios, outdoor kitchens and eating areas, walkways, conversation pits and ramadas along with traditional landscape elements like plants, trees, flowers and lawns.
 
Pavers 
 
The traditional concrete patio is being used less and less because of the reflectivity of the concrete and the heat load it creates around the home.  The trend is to use concrete-paving blocks, usually referred to as pavers.  Pavers are more porous than poured concrete; they let water and moisture pass through and when wet they act as a coolant.  Another great feature of the pavers is the variety of textures, colors, shapes, and patterns that can be used with great flexibility.  Other choices for patio materials are flagstone, various kinds of tiles, and other natural stone; however, pavers are the most popular. 
 
Installation of pavers should be done on an “ABC” gravel base layered with sand and then compacted with a vibrating plate.  It takes a diamond-blade wet saw to cut the pavers if you have to make cuts for size and shape  It does take considerable skill to get grades and compaction right so you don’t live with drainage problems, so it’s advisable to use an experienced paver mason.  Pavers can be accented with flagstone, other types of stone, and even tile. 
 
Built-in BBQ’s and Full Outdoor Kitchens
 
These are becoming extremely popular in outdoor landscapes. Many designs include hot plates adjacent to the BBQ, wood ovens, smokers, refrigerators and sinks.  BBQ counter tops are often covered with flagstone or various types of tiles, with the sides covered with stucco, faux stone, and tile to blend with the rest of the outdoor design scheme.  When space permits, homeowners enjoy conversation and fire pits that can be above ground or sunken with masonry benches softened with outdoor pillows.  There are so many exciting elements available now, even water features with fire and water.  Many yards now have more than one conversation, seating or patio area.  There may be a covered patio attached to the house, a freestanding ramada away from the house, with the BBQ in another area all together.  There are as many different design concepts as there are homes and homeowners. 
 
Other considerations for an enhanced outdoor area include:
 
Walkways around the yard are an important design element that serves many practical, architectural and ornamental functions.  They can be made with pavers, concrete, flagstone and stabilized granite that is crushed granite with a binder that “stabilizes” the rock when compacted. 
 
Outdoor lighting and accessories like pottery and wall art add a polished touch to your living area. Low voltage lighting is also a popular option.  And if you really want to spoil yourself, add an outdoor music or entertainment system.  
 
February (Spring) Gardening Checklist: (That’s right spring)
  • Plant spring vegetables at the end of February or beginning of March: asparagus, beets, carrots, corn, cucumber, eggplant, green beans, herbs, jicama, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce, mustard, okra, bok choi, parsnip, peppers, radishes, spinach, squash, swiss chard, tomato and turnip.
  • Watch freezing temperatures and cover frost-sensitive plants as needed.
  • Apply pre-emergent herbicide to prevent spring/summer weeds.
  • Finish pruning roses and deciduous trees. 
  • Trim deciduous ornamental grasses such as fountain grass or deer grass.
  • Prune citrus trees as needed.  Plant new citrus now.
  • Prune grapes and berry bushes.
  • Prune and plant desert shrubs and trees. 
  • Acidify lawns and all plants with First Step Soil Acidifier.
  • Fertilize lawns with slow release Par Ex 32-3-8. 
  • Fertilize deciduous trees and shrubs with slow release long-term fertilizer such as 18-10-22.

Watch for aphids, spider mites and other insects.  Spray with Neem oil as needed. 

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