Drown You Cares Away

I have built some neat backyards. Water slides through boulders, bridges over ponds, deck/patio combinations, a fishing hole you could swim in, lots and lots of pergolas, pavers, walkways, and steps–you name it. Lately we have been doing pondless waterfalls. Smaller versions of what you think of when I say “pond” but without the fish and mess and safety concerns for kids falling in.   Wait, did you say pondless?

Yep. Take a look—

Pondless Ceramic Pots, Water Feature

Pondless Ceramic Pots Water Feature

Large Mushroom Water Feature

Large Mushroom Water Feature

So with these systems we can add beauty and have a functional water feature in a limited space.  And there is very little maintenance compared to a pond that everyone should have one.  I’ve installed a few but never had the chance to hang out with the homeowners and see what it’s really like.  Busy busy busy.

I had that opportunity this weekend and a cookout.  Yes, a January cookout.  Great Idea, by the way.  It wasn’t all that cold and when night time came the fire pit was the perfect gathering place which kept the party going longer than it probably should have.

But the best place to relax was on the patio near the water feature.  Sitting in a chaise lounge, you really could really be in the moment.  There is something about the sound of water that clears your mind of all distractions and allows focus.  It complimented conversations and music alike.  Subliminally, it put all your busy-ness on hold. There is a certain calm to the sound of water.  I should put one on my desk, although I’m rarely there for long.

Pondless water feature design

Pondless water feature design

It can also look just like a mini-waterfall with plants and boulders.

But does it fit in my tiny back yard? Exactly!

Pondless waterfalls are achieved by recirculating the water after it passes through filtration and sediment control but on the surface, all you see is small stone and your choice of decor (boulders, plants, statuary, etc.).  Up at the top of the one shown here is the spillway for the waterfall, and there is a fibrous filter up there that you simply hose out if flow appears to be slowing. About once a month in summer is enough.  We do recommend to pull the pump out for the winter through that tall black spout in the picture, but we have people for that if you don’t want to mess with it.

Aquascape Inc. is a pond company in Illinois. They call themselves “The Pond Guys”  They’ve even been on TV show called “The Pond Stars”.  These guys are brilliant.  Zoologists and Construction guys who together come up with some of the most unique ways of making ponds more enjoyable.  This is one of their systems.  And I know they work better than anything else.  Take a look at their catalog for more ideas.  Most can be installed in one day.

 

Water Features are also good for attracting birds, but keep an eye on the water level.  They’ll spend hours splashing around in the basin or on top of the mushroom getting a drink.  We recommend either a timer on a hose bib set to refill daily for a certain period of time or, if you have irrigation, a zone can be installed for this purpose and set up in your controller.  Add some lighting in the splash zone and you won’t believe the look.

 

 

 

7 Deadly Sins of Landscaping

We spend and inordinate amount of time listening to how you will use the space we create. Why?  So at the end it exceeds your expectations.  We apply a lot of resources educating buyers on what works and why, how it’s built, what the construction process will look like and how they will celebrate at the end when we finally leave them alone with their new backyard paradise. Of course a solid landscape design plan goes a long way to paving the road to a more satisfying installation.

But there are a few things that every good buyer should be aware of that may not seem top of mind about Landscaping.  Along the way we have run into all kinds of “trunk slammers”, guys with a truck who did just enough work somewhere else to think they can do this cheaper and faster and not get caught. And those prices, man, they are tempting.  We charge a great deal of money to fix those blunders and we’d like to help you avoid the pain, frustration and expense from selecting the wrong landscaping company by doing it right the first time.

Here are a few things you should be asking when interviewing a prospective Landscape Designer

1.) References.
All the marketing gurus will tell you the testimonials from existing satisfied customers carry the most weight. No one can tell your story better than someone for whom it played out according to plan. That would be our customers. Getting them to do a video for the website or write a review on Google, Houzz, Angies List etc., for your review provides a broad scope of work to ensure you’re getting the best value for your money.  There is so much more to it than getting a good price. And will the design really work for you and your family or many years to come or will you always wish you had made a change?

2.) Scheduling.

Don’t give your deposit without a solid commitment to when the job will start. Any landscaper who doesn’t know the date of the next open slot isn’t doing good business. Exceptions? There are a few. Weather is the worst. If it rains for two days, it’s still too wet most times to work on day 3. If you live downhill from the neighbors, you could be getting water perking through your property for several days. Its a judgement call but your landscaper should be in contact with you daily to adjust the schedule. Material availability is another exception. Most of the time we have two weeks to get ready so that’s not going to be in play very often. Permits can definitely wreak havoc on the schedule. Otherwise your landscaper should be on top of scheduling. And he/she should be talking to you, at least a text or email before you have to call and ask what’s up.

3.) Plant sizes.
There is no rhyme or reason to plant sizes. Used to be a 1 gallon pot had a one gallon sized root ball and the plant would always be a certain size for it’s variety. Now we see pots half filled with pine bark and a tiny little thing trying to grow roots. Ask you landscaper about the size of plants being installed. It should be spelled out in your contract anyway and be aware of how they will grow to fit the landscape design you are paying for. Say, you just spent all that getting the front redone, you don’t want them growing back up over the windows in 5 years.

4.) Disturbances on you property.
Face it, it’s construction and there’s nothing clean about working in the dirt. You might see some footprints or tire marks on the driveway, sampled grass from the 100 trips to the back yard with a wheel barrow. Landscaping is a little like open heart surgery…we open up the ground, construct whats on the plan and put it back together. That doesnt happen without some foot traffic, machinery and a lot of dust. Some dirt marks will fade in time with a little help from the rain. Another option is for the landscaper to agree to powerwash hard surfaces on his way out at the end of the job. That should be in your contract if you want it done. If they aren’t going to finish by the weekend, or your job will take multiple weeks like a pool deck might, then how will they stage materials and equipment so you can enjoy you home while they are off duty? What about your neighbors?  Do we need to go visit them before we start so they aren’t angered by all the commotion?

If things work out this year we are going to video this process so you can see for yourself what you are getting into. I think the dust and disturbance is the most shocking thing homeowner don’t expect to see. Of course, it comes together beautifully in the end.

5.) Staging Areas.
Parking multiple pallets of pavers in your driveway can inhibit your use of the garage. Are you ok with that? Make sure you understand and specify what you want prior to signing the contract. Landscaping projects will certainly cost more if we have to spend hours walking to the street and hauling heavy wheel barrows of paver material to the back yard, so we like to be as close to the work site as possible. But it’s your house and if we are planning to be there a couple weeks you might want to discuss staging of materials, parking of vehicles, etc.

6.) Watering. Too Much, Not Enough? Both? It happens.
Plants come from the nursery where they are watered 2-3 times a day and live in perfect oil with extra fertilizer tossed in to make them look strong. They they go in the ground and you off to work but when you get home they are wilting. You water at the worst time of day but it’s better than nothing. Are you sure how much water you put on the plant? Did someone else from the household water too? Next thing you know there are bugs attacking your new plants because they are in shock and under stress. Plants have virtually no warranty because of this. No one can stop Mother Nature but you can work with her if you follow instructions. I’ve even seen people go a couple weeks and think things are great and start to forget to tend their new baby plants. Death ensues.

7.) No Maintenance Follow Up.
Not following up with clean ups, mulching, proper pruning (sore subject for another time) makes no sense to me. Why spend all that time and money on a beautiful plan thats executed perfectly to let it turn to a mess. A decent landscaper should have a follow up program you can enlist them to do that work. They know what to look out for and when to do things. Especially one who is Certified for Pesticides and Fertilization, which is a Maryland Law, should be able to identify weather conditions that cause fungus and disease. Plants and lawns can be sprayed to combat this natural occurrences that plants cannot defend themselves against.

The deadliest sin?

False impressions. 

At true story…Many, many years ago I worked for a car dealership as the Service Director. I had 3 franchises to worry about and one just plain sucked. This was about the time the JD Powers surveys were hitting the public. This one manufacturer got more complaints than anything in the history of surveys. Rightly so.  But, the complaints were falling on deaf ears. Those customers who weren’t happy were screaming at the top of their lungs to get some value for the money they had already spent. And the manufacturer kept sending them surveys. What else was a consumer to do? They were dinging the dealership for manufacturing issues and complaints. Hey, it was their only voice.

I was talking to different car manufacturer’s rep about this (where we had a 98% rating, so we were pretty sure it wasn’t us) and he suggested something ingenious to trick the system because low scores affected availability of cars, technical training and warranty payments. We made up a check sheet, laminated it and mounted it right on the service counter and at the cashier window. We told every warranty customer they would be getting a survey to gauge their “satisfaction” and that if they couldn’t fill it out by checking all the ‘excellent” boxes to let one of us know and we would make it so they could.

Funny thing was we still couldn’t fix the defective cars, two years later, when the new models came out, most of the “issues” were resolved. We did make that 43% rating jump up to 96% just by getting more happy people to complete the survey. Their voice was now being heard too which tipped the scales the other way.  So having few or no review may not tell the whole story, but having everyone talk about you is actually good.

I am afraid we see the same thing in Landscaping. Initially all the work looks good because its new, but if you have to pick up after your contractor, spot inconsistencies in the workmanship, are told “that’s how we do it” when you ask questions, can’t get anyone to explain how to operate the new irrigation controller or lighting timer, have to reseed your own lawn where they drove over it, or aren’t able to communicate with the crews, it might be time for a full service landscape company.

The caution here is to do your due diligence and find out what the company you are giving your hard earned money to is all about. It’s ok to ask for references. Any company who doesn’t have them readily available should be eliminated. Look for testimonies and comments on the website, Angies List, Google, Houzz, etc. to get a balanced feel for their abilities and personnel. Go visit their yard and see if they look organized.  Even read the bad comments and see how they responded to criticism.

The more you dig, the more you learn, the more satisfied you’ll be at the end.

by, John Gallagher

What this weather means for your plants and lawn in 2017

From what we’ve seen so far, winter isn’t going to amount to much. Snowfall will be light and brief, but lots of icing and warmer days in between. Here’s a snow prediction map put out by SIMA (Snow & Ice Management Association). NOAA predicts Atlantic flows which usually bend north of us following I-95 like we’ve seen so far this season.

And that looks like the story for this year.  Small storms with mostly ice and minimal accumulations.  We still think 1 or 2 storms will come up the coast parking 4-6″ of snow on us but no big blizzards this year.

SO WHAT’S THAT MEAN FOR YOUR PLANTS?

From the plants perspective, hibernation is being constantly interrupted.  Not good.  Plants are on an accelerated cycle of growth which will leave them vulnerable to freeze.  They are being tricked into growth mode by the weather.  Right now we are seeing bulbs popping up all over the place.

bulbs, winter bloomers, weather in mid atlantic 2017

What are these bulbs thinking?

Oh, and that fuzzy thing in the front…WEED!  Prepare to see a lot of them in 2017.

Weed seeds were dropped in the Fall and they usually attack in spring, but they’re out already.  Weeds will reseed again and be completely off cycle by spring, so expect a bumper crop of WEEDS!  Treating gardens with a Pre-emergent like Snapshot will provide blanket coverage of mulched beds, but you might have to pick/spray to eliminate the early risers and clean up before you apply pre-emergent .

Pre-M for lawns is a must in 2017.  

  • Application of Pre-M timing will be late March and again in May.
  • Two applications will be necessary to catch the various weeds because they have different, and now interrupted cycles.
  • Broadleaf weeds will be everywhere in the lawns this year.  Expect dandelions and crabgrass to grow like you planted it on purpose.
  • During the season, additional spray treatments to control most other weeds will be highly recommended, so be prepared to do extra in 2017.
  • A solid fertilization and weed control plan will keep things mostly under control.

 

dandylion, weed controls,

Common Dandelion

BOXWOOD BLIGHT

At the end of last season, many growers and homeowners were experiencing sudden declines in their staple foundation plants.  Namely, boxwoods. The fungus that causes box blight is known as Cylindrocladium buxicola.  the sticky fungal pathogens can be transferred by rain and overhead watering, pruning tools, pets, peoples clothing, etc.

boxwood blight, blight, fungicide

Blight noted by circular spots with brown to purple outer ring

Some of our favorites like the Wintergem and Wintergreen’s will be either unavailable or require so much care that they will not be priced well.  We are told that Korean Boxwoods somehow seem to have not been affected by the blight.  Still, substitutes are available.

Blight can spread to neighboring plants and damage occurs very quickly.  The plant will be streaked with brown stems as leaves die back.  Plants do not recover from blight.  Fungicides will help control, but will not eliminate the blight.  Fungicides can mask the problem as spores have adapted and may return requiring frequent plant inspection, especially right after a rain.  Often the offended plant must be removed and destroyed.  A word of caution:  Dumping the plant in your woods or compost pile will allow the spores to continue to thrive.

This goofy weather will be causing very unusual issues, so keep an eye on everything and consult your landscaper often.  Timing will not be typical so reaction times need to be quick.

WHAT ELSE  COULD GO WRONG BECAUSE OF THE WEATHER?

Well, the summer should be hot for all the beach goers!

Irrigation systems will need to monitored to avoid overwatering and causing fungus and disease in the heat and humidity.  3 days a week for about an inch of water is enough for an established fescue lawn.  Low volume drip is recommended for planting beds.  Newer models of

Mowing should be done at a full 3.5″ height.  Lower cutting looks neater but exposes the crown of the plant and makes it more susceptible to disease.

If you aren’t sure about your soil, a sample sent to the lab will evaluate all the nutrients and let you know what’s missing.  This can affect the balance of fertilization needed and is an important step in any lawn care program.  Typically soil tests cost about $65.

If you get all that under control, Have a Crab Feast!

blue crab, carbcakes,

Eat some Crabs!

Shovel Selection and Avoiding Slips and Falls

Best Shovels:  Plastic, Plastic, Plastic – because the tips do not scratch driveways and pavers

  • Ergonomic handles help relieve back strain
  • Larger shovels are not always better; having to make one or two extra passes across the driveway is always better than getting hurt

Ice Melter –

  • Generally, all ice melters work in the same way by depressing the freezing point of ice or snow and turning the mixture into a liquid or semi-liquid slush.
  • No Salt!  Ever!  Salt damages concrete and paver surfaces and is toxic to plants and grass if left down too long or applied excessively
  • The compound Magnesium Chloride (AMJ’s product of choice) is applied after precipitation has fallen or ice has formed when using a commercially available granular mix.
  •  Factors to consider for any anti-icer / de-icer product include (1) amount needed to be effective, (2) time needed to react and go into solution, (3) how long it will provide de-icing action (e.g., longer means fewer reapplications), (4) effectiveness of temperature range (magnesium chloride is 5 degrees F), and (5) environmental aspects such as residues, effects on plant life and effects on concrete.
  • Purchasing and use decisions should be carefully considered since anti-icing and de-icing performance capabilities of common ice melting compounds vary significantly.
  • Some companies add a color dye so you can see where it’s been spread, a nice feature
  • Once a significant melting has occurred, shoveling of the ice layer will be easier and allow things to dry out more quickly.
  • Magnesium Chloride residue on the surface will aid in slowing refreezes too, so you may use less product which is more cost effective and better for the environment.
  • Also look for new Pet Friendly products
  • Snow Shovels
  • Always use Plastic, Plastic, Plastic!

Irrigation Winterizations Happening Now

Wilkins PVB Irrigation Backflow preventer hunter_pro_c_outdoor irrigation controller

 

 

 

 

It’s time to turn off the irrigation system for this year…AMJ follows all factory recommended procedures to complete the following:

  • 180 cfm of Compressed Air regulated at 60 psi eliminates 90% or more of the water in your system
  • Heads will be free of water and avoid freeze damage to plastic gear parts
  • Set the backflow valves and petcocks to prevent freezing
  • Turn off the controller
  • Flat fee of $13.50/zone
  • 20 years of expertise
  • Call Today to Schedule  410.437.3027

Last Chance for Fall Lawn Maintenance

 

Fall Season Lawn Maintenance, by John Gallagher, AMJ

<< BA

As days shorten and temperatures descend, it becomes time to implement fall lawn maintenance to prepare your home for the upcoming winter, when your lawn goes dormant.

Fertilizing is essential during these months. Fertilization of your lawn can provide an additional nutrient boost to be stored and used during the dormancy period. Throughout the winter, roots will keep growing and utilize these stored nutrients until the spring.

When leaves start falling, blow or rake the yard clean once per week at minimum. Making sure your yard is free of leaves not only improves appearance, but influences the health of your yard. Leaves block out sunlight, which your lawn needs in the fall as it stores up food for winter dormancy.

Aeration Overseeding

Dethatching

Thatch is the tightly intermingled layer of partially decomposed grass stems and roots which develops beneath the actively growing green vegetation and above the soil surface. Thatch decreases the vigor of turfgrasses by restricting the movement of air, water, plant nutrients, and pesticides into the soil. This operation should be performed when thatch is greater than or equal to one inch in depth and only during periods of cool weather and adequate moisture.

Maintaining a soil pH between 6.0 and 7.0 will favor microbial activity and hence, break down of thatch. It is not necessary to dethatch every year, rather, only when thatch build-up becomes excessive.

Aeration

Fall is also a good time to aerate your lawn. Lawn Aeration fights grass compaction from summer traffic and promotes uptake of oxygen and nutrients.

Aeration is the process of mechanically removing plugs of soil from the turf area, thereby creating an artificial system of large pores by which moisture or plant nutrients can be taken into the soil. Aeration is employed to alleviate soil compaction and can significantly reduce thatch.

Aerators are equipped with hollow tines (usually 3–4 inches in length and ¼ to ¾ inches in width) or open spoons to remove plugs from the soil.

We usually avoid aeration in the spring because sometimes spring dethatching will bring large numbers of weed seeds to the soil surface and create voids for weeds to germinate and grow.

Power Seeding increases turf density. It improves the overall appearance and health of your yard. AMJ’s Lesco power seeder is designed to dispense the exact correct seed amount without harming existing turf.  Power seeding in fall can also help the yard recover from the heavy use from the summer and has an effect on the way the lawn will look during the upcoming spring.
The best natural defense against insect and weed damage is a dense lawn.

Winter Fertilizations

Our time tested preference is to provide a slow release Winter Fertilizer which not only provides the carbs needed for the plant to survive and continue growing roots but also store enough energy until pre-emergent controls can be applied in Spring.  The benefit is that your lawn get a nice growth spurt in the Spring, and its color comes back without the excessive height produced by Spring Fertilizations.

Call TODAY for a FREE Lawn Evaluation to discover what could be hiding in your lawn.

Storm Water Management Services for Commercial Property Managers

Completed storm water runoff area, Pasadena, MDDo you have a bio retention pond or storm water runoff control site on your property? Maybe a planted spot like this in the parking areas or around your buildings where water runs off the pavement and sidewalks during a storm? These are Storm Water Management Controls and they need maintenance.

Notably added since 2001 as an integral part of construction, you see them everywhere.  Storm Water Management is visible on nearly every project. It’s purpose is to stop the direct flow of oil, grease, trash, debris and contaminants into the Severn River Watershed and the Chesapeake Bay.  Because we are adding so many new homes, businesses and their associated parking, sidewalks, roofs and other impervious spaces, the land and plants removed during construction which had for years been filtering rain and naturally controlling pollutants are no longer available.  You might not think its a big deal but just look at the number of parking spaces in your facility that are blackened with drippings and grease.  During a storm that film of oil is washed off the surface and goes directly into the drains unless you have storm water management controls that work.
Stormwater Ecology Diagram

For a Storm Water Control area to work properly there are specific filtering elements built-in that the water entering them is supposed to encounter long before it makes it to a drain or out to a tributary.  AMJ Landscaping not only builds them by we maintain storm water management controls for both residential and commercial use.

The following is taken from the Anne Arundel County Website:

“The streams of the Severn watershed have suffered to varying degrees from the stresses of development, caused by the increased imperviousness of pavement and roofs. Rainwater that would have percolated through soil to recharge groundwater reservoirs becomes surface runoff, flowing directly to streams and resulting in excessive peak flows after storms. The resulting erosion degrades streambanks, loading the water with silt and nutrients. The natural cleansing mechanisms provided by the soil and its organisms are circumvented when runoff flows into streams, and the increased temperatures of runoff drive off dissolved oxygen in the water.”

What I am seeing is that most have failed. Due to a lack of maintenance, many are overgrown or dead or just plain clogged up. Nearly all have some sort of wash out occurring, drains are clogged with trash and debris, plants are out of control, mulched areas are barren.stormwater runoff

Since 2008 there were inspection and maintenance regulations. This has become a hot button topic lately and will result in enforcement in the very near future.  And it’s going to cost you. The EPA will levy fines AND require restoration to working order. Then they will reinspect and hit you again every 3 years if not sooner.

Do they have the manpower you ask? How are they going to get to everyone? I’ll take my chances, you say…I hear you, but I also know that the EPA is so serious about this that the County Code Enforcement Officers are being tasked with this. The little white Jeeps and Escapes are already out there.  It won’t take much for them to stop and take a look at your site.  And really, it’s your civic duty as a local business owner and manager to protect the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

That’s where AMJ Landscaping comes in. Let our Storm Water Management Team evaluate your situation, recommend repairs and get you out in front of any potential fines. Once back up to par, AMJ Landscaping can maintain your storm water management controls monthly or quarterly to prevent larger expenses in the future.

What are we looking for?
Washouts are the number one indicator that the storm water control area is not right. I looked at two sites yesterday and saw missing stone at the edge of the concrete or asphalt transition, gravel displaced, plants dying and more weeds than you canSilted stormwater control pon count. Storm drain silting overOne site even had a 10’x30′ rut two feet deep where soil stabilization had failed. That mess has clogged up an entire sediment control space and is causing a huge wall to fail not to mention that the bio retention pond is a muddy wasteland with no biological capability at this point.
.

 

 

 

 

 

The Anne Arundel County code specifies things like growth of non native plants in bio retention ponds must be kept below 12″ in height and but cut back every 6 months, whichever occurs first. Do you have documentation to show that you are not in violation? 

Stormwater Retention Pond Overgrown

The Code also states the first tier of control in control zones is the large stone at the edge. That graduates down to #57 stone and in some cases further down to pea gravel. There are specific depths and widths associated with each tier.  These act as a filter, trapping debris right at the edge of the pavement. What I saw is that stone is migrating in heavy storms and from foot traffic, exposing the filter fabric underneath and allowing the sand base to flow out and clog the main area of the storm water management control space.

After all, the purpose of these storm water controls is to stop the oil and grease and trash from public spaces getting into the bio retention pond and ultimately keeping the rivers and bay clean by allowing the soils time to filter the runoff.

This is important stuff, very few are being maintained and County Code Enforcement is being pushed by the Federal Government Dept. of EPA to fix that situation.  Other groups like the Severn River Association are actively involved too.

AMJ Landscaping Storm Water Management can provide protection for your company or building site by maintaining your existing storm water controls. They were built to exacting standards, cost you a lot of money to install and do not need to be a thorn or major expense because you failed an inspection. They are a maintenance item just like mowing or snow removal.

Call today to discuss the options, schedule a FREE site visit and be proactive. I promise it will cost less than fines and litigation.

We will talk more about this in the upcoming weeks.

John Gallagher, AMJ Landscaping

John@amjlandscaping.com

 

Acorns on the Driveway in August?

I stepped out barefoot last night with the dogs and you would have thought I stepped on a bed of nails.  I have these two big oaks on either side of the yard and these little tiny acorns were everywhere.  In the lawn between them m y grass has been fading in the heat and thunderstorms are causing disease that is hard to stay ahead of but there have been a lot of sprouts from these acorns.  Nice if I was starting a tree farm.

So what is up with all this occurring in August?  The trees are simply protecting themselves.  The big trees have been sucking up all the moisture with their extensive root systems which doesn’t help the lawn stay green.  If you have browning around the drip line of your trees that’s what is happening.  According to the National Audubon Society, “contrary to superstition, acorns falling prematurely from oak trees does not indicate an earlier, colder or harsher winter. Most acorns mature in late summer and begin to drop in September or October. However, specific stresses on the oak tree, such as a lack of water, a lack of nutrients and other environmental factors, can lead to acorns dropping prematurely”.

Here is a picture I took yesterday of another tree already dropping it’s leaves. tree drops leaves in August I read that trees begin to store up sugars for the winter when they sense a change of seasons.  That would be nice since the heat and humidity here in Maryland are overwhelming.  It’s how trees naturally protect themselves.  By dropping seedlings and acorns trees are attempting to propagate the species and reduce the amount of energy put into growing acorns.  In other words, they’ve decided to cut the cycle short to sustain themselves.  Survival of the fittest.
What can AMJ Landscaping do?   AMJ Landscaping can do clean ups to keep the yard free of acorns.  We blow the hard surfaces every week when we mow so that’s free if you are a mowing customer.  AMJ  Landscaping can bring in a certified Arborist to recommend pruning, check for bugs and disease and recommend just the right deep root feedings to add nutrients for the trees.  A combination of things is available to help the trees and shrubs in your landscape get through the nasty weather conditions we are confronted with here in the Mid-Atlantic. Once stressing though, it’s tough to turn back the clock.  Put this on your list for next spring and we’ll be ahead of it next year.

Another ugly sight this week are the bagworms.  These monsters pop out almost overnight and devour the leaves of the trees.  If you see a cocoon like the one pictured Bagwormshere, it’s best to spray it with bug killer.  Once they stop squirming, let the cocoon dry out and you can remove the cocoon from the tree.  You might have to prune off the branch if it’s already been damaged like this one.  Another thing to try is to trap them as they crawl up and down the trunk of the tree.  Using duct tape and some thick grease you can DIY a set of rings around the trunk.  Space them out about 3 feet off the ground and again at 6 feet.  This way you catch them coming and going. There are special sticky goos available at your garden center too.

If you have an automatic irrigation system, AMJ Landscaping’s Irrigation Team can provide adjustments and timing changes to benefit all the plants and trees in your yard.  We can add Drip emitters directly to specifically affected plants.  Drip also makes a great water supply for gardens!  New on the market are controllers that you can use via wifi from your phone if you want the ultimate in control.  We’ve installed a few of the Hydrowise Irrigation Controllers and the software on the phone app is really easy to use.

So what to do about the marbles all over the driveway.  Get a broom or better yet a blower and be careful walking to the mailbox…you can’t stop mother nature.

I Will Miss Being Here Everyday

This Landscape Design Project is my favorite and I will miss coming to this house every day.  I am lucky enough to meet great people and help them find answers and solutions to issues in their yards.  It a great job.  Some times we meet about a drainage issue, an irrigation problem or they have finally made the decision to revise the landscape that has overgrown the front of the house.  Lately the calls have been to add some LED lighting around the back yard.  A handful of times a year it’s something that requires a fully designed landscape plan.  Really enjoy those, especially when it comes time to add color to the full scale landscape architect’s plan.  Takes me back to when I was a kid.

Little children at the library doing crafts

Last summer I had a request for a screen room.  Seems simple enough.  I always approach projects with the mindset of what I would like to see happen if it were my house, so off I went to the drawing board.

Before photo from back of house in pasadena, md

This would be a second floor level screen room on a deck.  It had to be a statement piece, and it had to connect to an existing roof line.  Customer said,  “let’s see what you can come with…and I think I want a fire pit somewhere too, and just in case, think about what if we want to add a pool – maybe”. And there should be some way to connect it to the back yard and the customer’s home office…   Actually, all the individual elements of even a project like this are things we do anyway.  Fantastic conversation.

My mind was whirring through the litany of questions to be answered.  Second floor kitchen also means a walk out basement and that indicates the need for a transitional space and how are we going to get there from the driveway? The grade already slopes away from the house at odd angles, so there will be some machine work and landscaping to do.  Also have to renovate the irrigation to fit the new arrangement and figure out how to use led lighting to extend the length of time they can enjoy these new spaces, plus add safety.  What about the trees that are in the way, will the County let us remove them?  This thing is getting huge.  Great, here come the permit issues.  Love this stuff.  Not the customer’s problem, they just wanted “a nice screen room off the back”.  “And maybe a place for some chairs and the grill”, she added.

Two weeks later we had a design concept (yes, colored in) and when I laid this out on their kitchen table…Design Rendering - Color - AMJ LandscapingDesign Concept Plan_20150224_0001

There was a moment of silence or two, possibly some cursing under his breath, and then My Customer only asked one question, “When can you start?” I asked for some details about their lifestyle and how they thought it would look at the end so we could spec the materials and wouldn’t you know…

Thank you Pinterest?

My Customers sent me 25 different boards of ideas!  Guess they had planned this for a while.  We sorted through the possibilities over the next two weeks while permits where being processed and narrowed it down to what both made sense and was a good value.

Our carpenters had already spec’d it out with me, we had provided all the design, elevation and deck engineering drawings so we got it approved by the County pretty quickly.  Standard stuff.

Our discussions led to other non-structural details like beams and exposed ceilings in the screen room, a new door out of the home office where there was now a bow-window and finally to material orders.  Should we change the outside fixtures and what about the color of the glass for the fire pit, what about electrical and gas supplies, drainage, landscaping and can we connect power to the shed while we are at it?   So many details to cover and coordinate but possibly the most fun I’ve had.

Then, we got hung up by the weather after an October start and couldn’t complete everything until this spring but what a transformation.Outdoor Living concept brought to life

Hurdles? There was the process of getting an upgraded meter for the gas service to supply the HPC 250,000 btu fire pit burner.  All I can say is start early on that one.  Its like getting an appointment with the doctor.  Weather was definitely the number one factor.  Delivery of materials and on the fly, modifications to the grading, drainage and irrigation systems, the additional requirement of a LDL beam to open up the patio space under the deck was a brilliant call by the carpenters. The changes for material unavailability such as the under deck ceiling that no one had in the amount of square footage we needed – these could keep you up at night.  But we had daily conversations and as the Customers saw it coming to life they wanted to have more input.  That’s why we discussed progress and options, daily.  Because as it goes from paper to being alive and 3D, that is to be expected.  Talking daily and walking the site in person plus having done so much research on the front end, the Customer’s goals were very clear in terms of functionality, style and appearance.  These folks had great ideas and were certain in what they expected and that conversation every day helped keep things on track.

Maybe I should just put up a hammock in the trees.  Do you think they’ll notice if I hang out a while longer?

Want to see more?  Visit our Houzz site below and “like” the project, but here are a few sneak peeks:

Screen Room Interior Outdoor Living and Landscape pasadena md Cedar woodworking and screen room after photo

http://www.houzz.com/projects/1494333 for the most accurate chronological grouping and we have a couple of videos out on the Facebook Page 🙁https://www.facebook.com/AMJLandscapingInc/ )

Most importantly, if you have an idea in your head and need help getting it moving toward reality, send me a message.  We’ll have fun with whatever it is and I’ll make sure it turns out just as nice.—John

John Gallagher, AMJ Landscaping

Vacation Time

What’s your family doing for vacation?  We won’t tell the world but…

Picky landscaperAMJ can do a one time mowing and edging for you so you don’t have to work in the yard when you get home from vacation. Imagine you pull up after vacation and see a perfectly manicured lawn…

Call 410.437.3027 to schedule

Irrigation Adjustments

$60 is the fee to reset irrigation timing and controls for the heat of the summer.  This is when most grass gets damaged.  Avoid costly repairs and let out Irrigation Team set your system up properly.    Call 410.437.3027 to schedule

Weeds?

DandylionIf you need a spot spraying for weeds, Call 410.437.3027.   Some yards are affected by the neighbors weed patch more than others, so if you get an infestation, call right away.  Liquid and granular applications will be tailored to your lawn’s specific needs.