Normally we build ponds and waterfalls for the enjoyment of our more “civilized” customers. In other words, humans.
Boulders, sand and liner
This project, however, was built less for civilized folk than it was for the wildlife that inhabited the rolling hills around this country home built by Northfield Construction. After finalizing the shape of the pond we covered it with a liner that is made for ponds and water features. We then had mason sand and over 60 tons of glacial boulders hauled in to spread over the liner. As organic matter accumulates in the sand it will support plant life, which in turn will play a role in creating a healthy ecosystem within the pond itself. The sand also helps protect the liner if the local deer decide they want to wade in a ways for a short drink.
A sandy access to the pond
Designing and landscaping small spaces is one of my favorite things to do. I tend be be somewhat of a private person myself, so I enjoy creating intimate, private spaces. There is something therapeutic about being outside, yet having that feeling that you are still “in your room”. Sort of like relaxing in your den or your favorite chair after a long day. There are a lot of things to consider when landscaping a small space, but I will hit a few of the basics
A well designed space can be the difference between actually enjoying spending time in the space, or just looking at it from your window, wishing you would have spent your money on that new hardwood floor. .
The first thing to do is to ask yourself some questions. Don’t forget to consider practicality as well as esthetics.”What am I going to use the area for? Entertaining? Do I just need a place to put my grill or do I also want room for patio furniture and a hot tub?” Questions like this will help you determine the size, the location (a grill would normally be close to the kitchen, for example) and how you will access it. What features would you like to see? How about a water feature, such as a pond or bubbling rock? Do you want a paver patio, a deck, or just a small area of grass? If you need a walkway will it be flagstone, pavers, or any of the new concrete products available? In the photo above, the large piece of flagstone to the right of the sidewalk is where the future grill goes. The two large boulders integrated into the sidewalk and the flower pots do nice job of framing the door to the three season porch as you approach the entrance.
Just like a room in your house, your outdoor room also has walls, a floor, and a ceiling. The walls could be a hedge, your house, a fence, or even a low flagstone wall. The ceiling could be an arbor, the canopy of a large tree, or even a starry night sky. The floor, can be composed of any number of things, including a patio, a walkway, planting beds and even your lawn. Consider how you want to incorporate these elements in to your space to create your outdoor room. In the job we did in the photo at the left, the walls are a lattice fence, the house, and a small detached garage. The openness of the lattice-work creates privacy without feeling too boxed in and also serves as a screen from a neighboring daycare center. The raised planting bed could also be considered part of the wall. The ceiling is the canopy of a shade tree, and the floor is combination of a paver patio, some lawn, and flagstone leading to the patio.(Click on photo to enlarge)
Don’t be afraid to consider breaking up your room into into smaller segments. This can create interest and also give you the feeling that it is actually a bit larger by creating depth. Make sure you keep it in scale, however. For instance, don’t use pieces of flagstone in your walkway that are too large, or a plant that that has large leaves instead of one with a finer texture that will look better in a narrow planting bed. In these photos I used a walkway, raised planting beds, and a small patch of lawn to break up the space.
In the lower left photo (seen from the 3 season porch in the upper photo), the boulder in the foreground and the trunks of the Pagoda Dogwood in the background break up the space and add a feeling of depth.The Pagoda Dogwood forces your eye to follow the sidewalk around it to the entrance, adding an illusion of a larger area. The wooden steps you see are actually quite close to where I was standing when I took this picture.
Right: A little serendipity never hurt anybody! This small, old stature my client picked up is combined with a birdbath. You can find them hiding on a low stone seat-wall in among the ferns.
If you would like help on a landscape design for your home, just give me a call or e-mail me and I will be glad to help.
Posted By Doug Grove, Grove Landscaping, Northfield, MN
When renovating the front of a home, a very important part of the project is the front, or main, entry. This can be especially true when the home is located on a corner lot with more than one choice to get to the front door.
I designed this project it so that from no matter which side you entered the property, it would lead you to the front door. The first thing I did was eliminate the sharp angles and long straight lines and switched the concrete sidewalks to pavers, which softened the look. The long paver pathway (which comes from the driveway on the other side of the house) was installed in a running bond pattern, will be passing through a garden, making the 80 foot long ”journey” to the front door more pleasant than, say, a concrete walk cutting through the lawn.
The front walk coming from the street also needed more character and some softening up, which we accomplished by installing the paver walkway in a soft “S” line.
A curved entry softens the approach to the front entry
We added a small entry patio and installed a seat stone in it , which helps draw attention to the front door, and also helps separate the two walkways with the change in brick pattern.
Those doggone walnuts. On one hand, they are one of our most valuable hardwood trees, but on the other hand they can be a real nuisance in the home landscape.
Walnuts release a chemical into the soil called juglone. Juglone is present in all parts of the tree, but can be especially high in the roots and walnut hulls. The highest concentration in the soil is directly beneath the canopy of the tree, but it can be present in lesser concentrations anywhere the roots are present (which can be out as far as the tree is tall). The presence of juglone can also be affected by soil type, with sandy well drained soils tending to have less of it present.
Juglone is toxic and even fatal to some plants, while others don’t seen to be affected by it. Affected plants show signs of wilting, yellow leaves, stunted growth, and eventual death of the plant. More than once I’ve been at a customer’s house examining problem plants and sure enough, there was a walnut tree close by.
So, what’s the solution?
1) Susceptible plants can be planted in above ground containers or raised beds. If you build a raised bed, make sure you line it with plastic so the roots won’t grow up in to the soil or you’ll have the same problem all over again. Make sure you rake up any leaves or hulls that end up in the bed.
2) Cutting down the walnut tree can be a good long term solution, but the decaying roots will still release juglone into the soil, and it could be several years before the juglone is out of the soil.
3) Plant susceptible plants as far from the drip line as you can. The farther the better.
4) The most obvious solution is to install plants that are more resistant to juglone. The thing is, there hasn’t been any proven method of determining which plants are truly resistant. Any research I found on plant tolerance was based on simple observation. I compiled the following list of tolerant/intolerant plants using my own observations over the past several years here in Northfield and checking out the university extension sites of Cornell, Purdue, Michigan State, University of Minnesota, Ohio State, and the Morton Arboretum.
Just because a plant is listed as tolerant is no guarantee that it will grow under a walnut tree. You’ll find that many plants labeled as “tolerant”on one list are listed as “non-tolerant” on another list. Therefore, I prefer to list the plants that have been “observed to be more tolerant” or “less tolerant”. This list is compiled of plants that matched my own observations with the above extension sites, plus plants that they had in common with each other.
Plant tolerance to walnut toxicity: Common observations.
More tolerant: Catalpa, Eastern Red Cedar, Eastern Larch, Hemlock, Elm, Locust, Red Maple, Sugar Maple, Redbud, Poplar, White oak, Red oak, , Hawthorn, Beech, Sycamore, Ohio Bucke
Less tolerant: White Birch, Hackberry, Linden, Pine (in general), Black Alder, Magnolia, Norway Spruce, Crabapple, Apple, Silver Maple, Serviceberry, Arborvitae, Basswood (Linden)
More tolerant: Some Viburnums, Juniper. St Johnswort, Euonymus, Forsythia, Honeysuckle, Ninebark, Cotoneater, Potentilla, Sumac, some rugosa roses, Juniper, Mockornge, Forsythia
Less tolerant: Azalea, Rhododendron, Black and Red chokeberry, Hydrangea, Mugo pine, Potentilla, Cotoneaster, Yew, Lilac
More Tolerant: Ajuga, Hollyhock, European wild ginger, Astilbe, Bleeding heart, Foxglove, Sweet woodruff, Geranium, most Grasses, Daylilies, Siberian iris, Bee Balm, Phlox, Jacob’s ladder, Solomon’s seal, Lungwort, Sedum, Tiger Lily, Violet, Trillium, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Coral Bells, Coral Bells, Hosta, Siberian Iris, most tulips and daffodils.
Less Tolerant: Columbine, Lilies, Paeonies, Buttercup, Rhubarb, Chrysanthemum, Blue Indigo
Farmer’s Almanac has always been known for its long range forecasts and homey advice on any number of things. But it also contains a lot of other information, such as gardening tips, tide tables, moon phases, astronomy and articles on farming. It has been around for over 225 years, making it the longest running periodical ever. This web site is fun to “poke around” on. It has something of interest for everybody. If you like to throw a line in the water now and then, check out their “Best days to fish”.
You can also check out the weather history for any given day all the way back to1946.
April and May will be much cooler and a bit drier than normal.
Summer will be cooler and drier than normal. The hottest periods will occur in mid-July and early August.
September and October will be cooler and drier than normal in most of the region.
MARCH 2012: temperature 25° (2° above avg. east, 6° below west); precipitation 1.5″ (2″ below avg. east, 2″ above west); Mar 1-11: Flurries; mild, then cold; Mar 12-18: Snowstorm, then sunny, mild;Mar 19-24: Showers, warm;Mar 25-27: T-storms, then sunny, cool; Mar 28-31: Rain and snow, cool.
APRIL 2012: temperature 39° (2° below avg.); precipitation 2″ (avg.); Apr 1-4: Showers, then sunny, cool; Apr 5-9: Scattered t-storms, warm; Apr 10-11: Rain to snow, then sunny, cold; Apr 12-17: Rain and snow showers, cool; Apr 18-21: Sunny, turning milder; Apr 22-30: T-storms, then sunny, cool.
Annual Weather Summary: November 2011 to October 2012
Winter will be colder than normal, especially in February. Other cold periods will occur in mid- and late December and mid- and late January. Precipitation and snowfall will be below normal in the east and above normal in the west. The snowiest periods will be in early and mid-December, early to mid-February, and mid-March.
Temperature and Precipitation November 2011 to October 2012
Every year I get several calls from my customers asking something like this, “What’s that slimy stuff growing in my bark mulch? It looks like a dog threw up in my shrub bed!”
With the rains and heat that we have had this past summer came some pretty strange, slimy looking stuff appearing in the shredded bark mulch in a lot of planting beds. Don’t worry…it’s not an invasion of the War of the Worlds, and a dog hasn’t thrown up in your flower bed. It’s something called slime mold (AKA dog vomit fungus), and usually appears in mid to late summer, or any time there are extended periods of heat and high humidity. The mold normally starts as a yellowish slime, morphs into a tan “powder puff” (poke it with a stick and you will see the reproductive spores puff out. Just don’t do it to more than one unless you want to spread the spores), and finally to a dark brown dried blob.
They’re only dangerous if you hate looking at really gross things. They are harmless to plants, and will eventually disappear on their own. If you want to speed this process, rake the mulch to promote drying them out. Unless you’re having company. Then, grab your shovel, scoop it up, and use it for a great practical joke.
In Minnesota flagstone (or limestone) can be used to make beautiful, naturalistic retaining walls. The only thing is, the wall can break apart if the limestone is not the right kind for building walls. Different quarries have different grades of limestone, and they can vary greatly greatly in quality. This limestone wall was built by a previous homeowner out of a “local” limestone from a quarry nearby. He probably got the stone for the right price (free)! After a few years, it began to crumble and fall apart and it had lost its structural integrity and was starting to collapse. The reason is that it is a soft limestone, which absorbs moisture. Because of that, the freezing (expansion) and thawing (contraction) action of the ice crystals in the limestone due to our our Minnesota winters caused it to break apart, crumble, and eventually start to collapse.The best material for flagstone walls is found in Wisconsin. Because of shipping costs and the extra labor it takes it to make a good limestone wall, the cost of replacing a wall of this size can be a stretch on the budget.
After we explored different alternatives, the client decided on a block wall with a weathered look, and colored to match the brick on the house. Because of the location, we had to bring in a backhoe to remove the old wall and excavate for the new wall and step system. Because the wall was located next to a well head, the excavator had to be extra careful not to hit the main water line going in to the house.
I added a few curves in the wall to soften the look, and added a planter at the top of the steps.The steps were also made out of the same material.
There is more to building this wall than just stacking the blocks. We had to install an anchoring system behind each wall to prevent the wall from getting pushed out by water pressure (officially called hydrostatic pressure), along with gravel and tile for drainage.
We added steps along the house, along with some planters. A small landing gives an opportunity to change the direction of the steps to lead up to the back yard, and also gives it a more restful look.
Written and posted by Doug Grove, Grove Landscaping, Northfield, MN
Last fall’s apple crop was the best ever on our apple trees. We had more than we could ever use, even after giving away several bushels to our friends and our church. I have two Harrelson reds and a Honeycrisp apple tree at my home, which is a 3 acre hobby farm. I’ve had them for about 10-12 years and we’ve had some good yields and bad yields. Unfortunately, for the first few years, the bad years far outnumbered the good ones. The Honeycrisp in particular seem to be susceptible to all sorts of damage. I’ve had to learn the hard way how to get best crop that I can from them, and I’m still not sure I got it right, but the yields are improving!
I’m not an apple expert, but this is what I did to get a nice crop of apples:
- Apple maggots have always been my biggest problem. For the first time ever, I trapped Apple Maggot flies to monitor the population and keep the numbers down. I put up sticky traps to trap the apple maggots and also to monitor their occurence on a weekly basis. Each trap is a 4-5” red plastic hollow ball that you put a sticky glue on and hang on the apple tree. I put 3 traps in each tree. Evidently the flies think it is an apple, and they try to lay their eggs on it and get stuck. In this way I could check their weekly activity and relative population to help me determine how often I should spray them. In addition to monitoring the flies, the traps did help to keep the of maggot fly population down a bit.
- I waited until the first week of July to start spraying, (when the maggot flies begin to hatch). A number of different sprays work, as long as the directions are followed for timing and amounts to use. Make sure the spray is registered for fruit trees, and are effective against several types of pests. Make sure you DO NOT spray the trees when they are flowering! It will reduce the bee population which is so vital to pollinating the flowers. (You’ve probably heard about the decline in bee population anyway). A combination spray of insecticide and fungicide also improve your crop, although all I used was insecticide.
- I stored the apples in our downstairs refrigerator. The inside of any refrigerator is very low in humidity, so I d
ouble bagged the apples in plain plastic grocery bags. I added just I bit of water to each bag and tied the top shut and made sure the temp was just above freezing. I removed any apples that had bruises or cuts, so they wouldn’t cause the other apples in the bag to ripen too fast and possibly rot. In mid March, I still some Harrelson Reds in our downstairs refrigerator and they were as good and crisp as the day I picked them! Once they start to loose their crispness, they make great apple crisp!
Mary Jo and I were in Wheaton IL. a while back to see our daughter Mary Beth, who just graduated from Wheaton college. We stayed at a Hyatt Hotel in Oakbrook on the campus of McDonald’s corporate headquarters. (Also home of Hamburger University, where new McDonald’s managers and owners get trained. No joke). We had just checked out and I happened to notice this tree. I didn’t think much about it, until I saw this sign in front of it. (See picture)
That's me at 6'2"+ under the tree!
It is 150 years old, 73’ high, has a 176′” trunk circumference (That’s a 56” diameter)! Normal Buckeyes are 30-50’ tall.
The hotel was required to be built a safe distance away to protect the tree’s root system. The tree is fertilized and watered regularly, and cared for by arborists.
Championship status is given only to native and naturalized trees in the United States. Winners are determined by a point system based on the trunk’s circumference and the height and the crown spread of the tree.
The following has nothing at all to do with plants, bugs, or landscaping, but it’s great advice for us all. I have this hanging up in my office; its author is unknown.
The most destructive habit: Worry
The greatest joy: Giving
The greatest loss: Loss of self respect
The most satisfying work: Helping others
The ugliest personality trait: Selfishness
The most endangered species: Dedicated leaders
Our greatest natural resource: Our youth
The greatest “shot in the arm”: Encouragement
The greatest problem to overcome: Fear
The most effective sleeping pill: Peace of mind
The most crippling failures disease: Excuses
The most powerful force in life: Love
The most dangerous pariah: Gossip
The worst thing to be without: Hope
The deadliest weapon: The tongue
The two most power-filled words: I can
The greatest asset: Faith
The most worthless emotion: Self Pity
The most beautiful attire: Your smile
The most prized possession: Integrity
The most powerful channel of communication: Prayer