How to Maintain Your Yard in the Spring

As the vibrant colors of spring bloom, it’s time to maintain your yard and breathe new life into your outdoor space. A well-maintained yard not only enhances your home’s aesthetic appeal, but also provides a welcoming environment for outdoor activities. In this blog post, we’ll explore essential spring yard maintenance tips that will surely benefit your garden. 

Lawn Resurrection

Kickstart the season by raking away debris and dead grass. You will do yourself a big favor by making sure your lawn can foster new growth. Additionally, springtime is certainly when homeowners should consider aerating their lawns as it will improve water and nutrient absorption. Don’t forget to seed and fertilize bare patches as well— this will ensure you maintain a lush, green carpet-like lawn.

Pruning Your Plants

Pruning is not exclusive to the spring season, but it is a crucial task to complete regardless. Trimming overgrown branches and deadwood encourages healthy growth and establishes a good foundation for long-term health. Also, pruning flowering plants stimulates blooming and shapes shrubs for a clean appearance. At the same time, it will attract some of the helpful critters we like to see in our gardens, more of which you can read about in one of our previous blog posts. Just remember to be cautious when pruning— different plant species have different pruning needs and times. 

Deal with the Weeds

Preventing the intrusion of weeds will promote a flourishing outdoor haven for you to enjoy. To curb weed growth effectively during this season, implement these strategic practices for optimal garden maintenance: 

  1. Cultivate the soil to disrupt weed germination. 
  2. Apply a layer of organic mulch to suppress weed emergence but also retain soil moisture
  3. Embrace eco-friendly herbicides or vinegar solutions to target persistent weeds while minimizing environmental impact. 
  4. Regularly inspect your garden beds, promptly removing any emerging weeds before they can establish a foothold. 

Implementing these proactive measures not only ensures a weed-free spring garden but also enhances its overall health and vitality.

Water Wisdom

With the changing weather patterns, it’s essential to adopt a strategic approach to ensure optimal hydration for your plants. Begin by establishing a consistent watering schedule, preferably in the early morning, to minimize evaporation and fungal risks. Adjust the frequency based on the specific water needs of your plants, considering factors such as soil type and weather conditions. Invest in efficient irrigation systems, like drip irrigation or soaker hoses, to deliver water directly to the root zone, minimizing water wastage. 

Furniture Freshening

The maintenance of your outdoor furniture is as necessary for lasting comfort and visual appeal as is the maintenance of the natural aspects of your garden. Begin by thoroughly cleaning each piece, using a mild soap and water solution to remove accumulated dirt and grime. Inspect for any signs of wear, addressing issues promptly to prevent further damage. Consider applying protective coatings or sealants, particularly for wooden furniture, to shield against the elements and prolong their lifespan. Regularly check and tighten bolts, screws, or hinges to guarantee structural integrity. Given the rainfall associated with this season, it is important to store cushions and textiles on rainy days to prevent mold and mildew growth. Embracing these outdoor furniture maintenance practices not only enhances their longevity but also ensures a welcoming and stylish outdoor retreat. 

With these spring yard maintenance tips, your outdoor space will flourish in all the ways you desire. Embrace the season of renewal by implementing these strategies, and watch your garden thrive. For any further questions on how your garden can improved, call Giovine Landscaping at (724) 316-3064. Spring into action and achieve all your yard needs!

Guide to Rain Gardens

Giovine Landscaping has compiled this guide to rain gardens to educate homeowners about this eco-friendly and beautiful landscape feature.

Most people do not give much thought to how their landscaping decisions impact the environment, but this is a mistake. There are many ways your landscaping can positively impact the environment. Your landscaping decisions can have a large impact on local ecosystems, wildlife, and even water quality. Household runoff-related pollution plays a major role in polluting New Jersey rivers, lakes, streams, beaches, and drinking water. Thankfully, there is a way for homeowners to help fight against flooding and water pollution, while simultaneously adding a beautiful new feature to their landscape design: installing a rain garden. Our landscaping experts at Giovine Landscaping have compiled this guide for rain gardens, to help educate homeowners about this versatile, helpful, environmentally friendly, and beautiful landscape feature. 

What are rain gardens?

Rain gardens are plantings installed in shallow depressions, filled with native plants selected for their ability to capture, temporarily hold, and filter water back into the ground. They can be installed in both natural depressions and purpose-built human-made indentations. Rain gardens are useful for fighting flooding on your property because they collect water that flows from impervious surfaces like your roof, driveway, patio, paths, or waterlogged yard. These gardens are also beneficial for the environment because they can trap any pollutants on your property. Pollutants like pesticides, fertilizers, pet waste, motor oil, gasoline, automotive chemicals, household cleaners, and more, are held back from entering waterways by rain gardens. Rain gardens are also a beautiful and interesting landscaping feature that can be used to display numerous types of plants.

6 Rain Garden Design and Management Tips

1. Rain gardens should always be placed at least 10 feet away from your house. 

If your rain garden is installed less than 10 feet away from your home, you will risk water seeping into your basement or foundation. You should not place your garden above a septic tank or near any underground utility lines. It is best to select a spot that receives a decent amount of water and is located between two impervious surfaces, like your roof and the street, to maximize the rain garden’s effectiveness at catching water.

2. Test your selected rain garden spot to ensure proper drainage. 

A rain garden is not a pond. It is important to design your rain garden so that water drains within 12-48 hours after a typical rainstorm, to prevent mosquito breeding and other issues. Before you add any plants, you should conduct a water-absorption test. You can dig a hole in your proposed rain garden installation area that is 12 inches deep and 6 inches wide, and fill it with water and a ruler. Observing this area over a four-hour period will allow you to calculate the rate of absorption in inches per hour, to ensure the site is suitable for a rain garden. If the soil is not draining fast enough, you may need to amend the soil and/or focus more on selecting plants that will aid in absorption. For instance, adding more sandy soil to your rain garden will help it drain more quickly.

3. Your rain garden should be at least 7 to 20% the size of the impervious surface creating the runoff.  

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service recommends that rain gardens should be between 7 and 20% the size of whatever impervious surface is creating the runoff that the garden is collecting. Typically, the largest impervious surface on your property will be your roof, so your rain garden should be 7 to 20% of your roof’s size to unlock its full environmental benefit. Still, even a smaller rain garden can be a beautiful landscape feature that reduces flooding and water pollution, while also benefiting wildlife through its native plantings. A rain garden that is 30% smaller than the ideal size for your property’s impervious surface area, will still be able to handle almost 75 percent of the storm watershed from a house.

4. Pick the right plant species

It may seem intuitive to select only water-loving or even aquatic plants for a rain garden, but this is not the right strategy. Your rain garden will be dry a lot of the time, especially around the edges, so you need plants that can tolerate both very wet soil and dry soil. You will need to plant species that require different moisture levels in different sections of your rain garden. You will also need to plant species that will be able to tolerate dry soil around the edges, species able to thrive in dry or wet conditions on the slopes, and moisture-tolerant species in the center.

All of the plants you select should be native perennials because these plants generally have deep root systems that will aid in water absorption. Plant species like black-eyed Susan, false indigo, coneflower, sedge, aster, daylily, iris, sedum, and native grasses thrive inside rain gardens. Plants like butterfly weed, gaura, coral bells, yarrow, and catmint make great plants for the edges of your rain garden. You can even plant a small tree or shrub species in a rain garden, like river birch, pawpaw, or oakleaf hydrangea. Whatever species you select, be sure to select a mix of plants with varied foliage, bark texture, and blooming periods so that your rain garden is interesting and beautiful all year long! 

5. Integrate your rain garden with the rest of your landscaping.

Your rain garden will be part of your overall landscape design, so it makes sense to integrate it with the rest of your landscaping. For instance, if you have a very orderly, manicured landscape, you may want your rain garden to be planted in this way as well, so it all matches. You can also line the outside of your rain garden with other decorative plants to further integrate it. Consider using the same kinds of decorative rocks both inside and outside of your rain garden. You can also consult with our landscape design experts at Giovine Landscaping, for other ideas for integrating your rain garden into your property’s overall landscape. 

6. Make sure your rain garden gets enough water during dry periods and maintenance in general. 

A new rain garden should be watered about an inch per week during any dry spells the year following installation, to allow your plants to establish themselves. After the first year, watering your rain garden deeply, but infrequently during times of drought, is best to encourage healthy root development. You should also prune your rain garden plants according to the needs of your specific species, and take care to remove weeds and debris that threaten to disrupt your garden. You can also further suppress weed growth by adding a 3-inch layer of fine hardwood mulch. It is important to use hardwood mulch, specifically, for this task because pine bark and wood chips will be washed out of your rain garden.

Contact Giovine Landscaping

If you want to install a rain garden or make any other changes to your landscape design, please contact Giovine Landscaping so that we can help you build the yard of your dreams!

Winter Landscaping Design Tips

Winter landscaping design is an overlooked but important part of building a beautiful yard. Giovine Landscaping is here to help with this guide.

Many backyards look dull, dead, and even downright ugly during winter despite looking beautiful during spring, summer, and fall. Unfortunately, the designs of many yards fail to stay aesthetically pleasing during the cold time of the year when most plants are dormant, but this failure is not inevitable. The landscape design experts here at Giovine Landscaping are sharing nine tips to build a beautiful winter landscape for your home.

Getting Started With Winter Landscaping Design

Every homeowner landscape design journey has to start with figuring out what exactly you want to change about your property and our first tip reflects that reality.

  1. Evaluate your current winter landscaping design: The first step to improving your winter landscape is to explore it in its current state. Go take a walk around your property and examine your plantings, hardscaping, wildlife presence, and other aspects of your yard. Take note of what aspects are already beautiful and what needs improvement. 
  2. Focus on your hardscapes: Winter is a good time of year to assess your hardscape (ie your patio, outdoor furniture, sculptures, and other non-plant-based landscape features). Look at your winter yard and decide if you need more or better hardscape features. Perhaps a new fire pit, barbecue area, path, or bench will really tie your yard together. Winter brings your yard back to basics so it is a good time to consider these questions.

Winter Landscaping Design Plant Selection

Plants are the backbone of any good backyard landscape design and this fact does not change during winter. Selecting plants that will keep your backyard beautiful even during the winter months is one of the most important aspects of designing a beautiful winter landscape.

  1. Consider adding evergreen trees and shrubs to your yard: Evergreen trees and shrubs do not lose their leaves during winter so utilizing these species in your yard is a great way to maintain color and texture in your winter landscaping design plan. Contrary to popular belief, evergreen trees and shrubs come in both needled and broadleaf varieties, giving homeowners more aesthetic choices in the plants they want to use.
  2. Utilize trees and shrubs with beautiful bark: While deciduous trees and shrubs lose their leaves in winter, they do not lose their bark, and landscape designers can use this to beautify winter landscapes. Tree and shrub species with particularly colorful or distinctive bark, like dogwood shrubs and birch trees, can be even more beautiful after they have lost their leaves. 
  3. Introduce plants that flower during winter: It may be surprising to learn that not all plants flower during the spring and summer, but it’s true some plants bloom during winter. Utilizing winter flowering plants, obviously makes any winter backyard more beautiful. Homeowners who do the proper planning and research can enjoy something in their yard that will bloom for most of the winter, since some plants bloom during early winter and others during late winter. Witch hazel is a particularly beautiful genus of winter-flowing plant with several species native to North America.
  4. Utilize winter berry and fruit-bearing plants: Incorporating plants that produce berries and other fruits during winter makes your yard more beautiful for two reasons. First of all these fruits provide a pop of bright color that will contrast with white snow, grey skies, and brown dormant plants that dominate winter landscapes. Secondly, these fruits provide food that attracts birds and other wildlife bringing beautiful and interesting life to your winter yard.

Winter Landscaping Design For Wildlife

Attracting wildlife to your yard is one of the best ways to maintain its beauty through winter. Wildlife-friendly yards allow us to stay connected with nature even when it is too cold to venture outside by allowing you and your family to watch birds and other wildlife through your windows. Building wildlife-friendly winter landscaping designs on your property also helps animals survive during the winter when food, water, and shelter are scarce, this is especially important in our current age of habitat loss and mass extinction. 

  1. Provide a food source for wildlife: Wild animals often struggle to find food during the lean months of winter. Creating food sources in your yard will both help wildlife and bring beauty to your yard through the presence of that wildlife. The exact sort of food sources you should add to your yard depends on the type of animals you wish to attract, but birdfeeders and fruit/berry-bearing plants are the best way to feed wildlife. If you do install a birdfeeder, be sure to clean it weekly to prevent the spread of diseases. You should also avoid hand-feeding wild animals because this can lead them to associate humans with food which can put both wildlife and people at risk. Let your landscape do the feeding.
  2. Provide a water source for wildlife: Water, like food, is harder for wildlife to find during winter so providing water sources for wildlife in your yard will attract animals. Water sources like bird baths, ponds, and fountains can also double as beautifying water features in their own right. Water sources do not need to be that complicated to attract wildlife through a shallow bucket, plate saucer, or even a trash can lid can also be good winter water sources for backyard wildlife. 
  3. Provide shelter for wildlife: Wild animals need shelter from the cold weather just like people so providing shelter is a great way to attract them to your property. Different types of shelter will benefit/attract different types of animals. Some bird species will happily move into nestboxes while other species may need specific plants or brush piles. Research the types of birds and animals you want to see on your property so you can create the right types of winter shelter for those species. 

Giovine Landscaping Can Help

Giovine Landscaping can help you design a yard that will be beautiful during winter and all year round. Call us today so we can help redesign your yard!

Winter Yard Maintenance Tips

Soon your backyard will be covered with snow like this one. Thankfully, Giovine Landscaping has compiled this guide of winter yard maintenance tips to help homeowners maintain their property this winter.

Winter has finally arrived. Many people tend to forget about their yard maintenance duties during the winter months, but there are still important steps homeowners should take to maintain their landscapes during this season. Giovine Landscaping has compiled this guide of winter yard maintenance tips to help homeowners maintain their property this winter.

Preparing Your Lawn For Winter

Protecting your lawn is important all year round, but winter presents unique challenges. Here are a few tips that every homeowner should know so that they can get their lawn ready for the frosty conditions of winter:

  1. Rake leaves and remove garden debris from your lawn. Leaving leaves, branches, and other debris on your lawn over the winter can smother your grass, stunting its growth, or even killing it. It is important to remove any debris from your lawn before the first snowfall of the season.
  2. Aerate your lawn before the first frost. You should give your grassroots extra air over the winter by aerating your lawn before the first frost. You can use a spade to take out spikes of soil across your yard or you can rent a larger manual or motorized aerator.
  3. Fertilize your lawn with winter fertilizer. The idea that your lawn should not be fertilized during winter is a misconception. There are specific formulations of fertilizer designed to help strengthen your lawn during fall and winter. You should also be sure to apply some fertilizer before the first frost.
  4. Cut your grass shorter and stop cutting it once the temperature drops below 50°F. Lawns should be cut between 3 inches to 3.5 inches during the growing season. However, for your last final lawn mowing session, you should cut your grass to between 2 inches to 2.5 inches. It is important to keep grass short during winter to protect new growth. You should do your last grass-cutting of the year before the temperature in your area consistently drops below 50°F.

Managing Trees and Shrubs

Winter presents unique challenges for protecting your trees and shrubs, but it also offers unique management opportunities. Here are some tips for managing your trees and shrubs over the winter:

  1. Place mulch around your trees shrubs, and other woody plants. Ideally, you should mulch your plants before the first frost of the season but it is better late than never. A two-inch application of mulch provides an extra layer of protection for your plants allowing for better management of root system temperature and moisture. It is also important to not apply mulch directly to your plane’s truck or step because this can promote rot and pests.
  2. Prepare the branches of your trees for snow. Heavy snow can damage the branches of your trees. Falling branches weighed down by snow or ice can even cause injuries if they fall and hit cars or people. You should consider removing vulnerable tree limbs ahead of major snow storms as a precaution. You should also tie vulnerable tree branches together to increase their strength.
  3. Apply wire mesh to the base of small and young trees. Winter is a lean time for animals like deer. The winter-browsing of these animals can harm small trees but wire mesh can protect against the teeth of hungry winter herbivores. 
  4. Apply anti-transpirants to the leaves of shrubs and trees. It is important to help your plants maintain their water levels during winter. This is especially important for evergreen trees and shrubs that do not lose their leaves. Alternatively, burlap- wrapping can also be used to protect your plants and help them hold in their moisture. 
  5. Late winter is the best time to prune your trees and shrubs. It is best to prune most trees and plants during winter while they are dormant. Specifically, you should prune most tree and shrub species during late winter, so the wounds will only be exposed to the elements for a short time before new growth begins.

Bonus Winter Yard Maintenance Tips

Finally, here are a few more miscellaneous yard maintenance tips to protect all of your backyard plants:

  1. Take in potted plants that are vulnerable to cold weather. Not all plant species have adaptions for dealing with cold weather. If you have any potted plants that are members of non-cold tolerant species and you want them to live through winter you should move these plants indoors.
  2. Be mindful of backyard traffic. When the first blizzard of the year arrives it can be easy for people to forge paths through the snow without thinking much about the ground they are trampling. Be mindful of where people are walking in your yard and avoid trampling flowerbeds, gardens, and vulnerable sections of your lawn. A heavily trampled path will compact the soil and be slower to regrow in the spring.
  3. Avoid salt damage. Road salt is important for preventing slip-and-fall accidents on your pathways during frosty conditions, but this same salt can damage your plants by drawing water away from their roots. Utilize salt sparingly and remove extra salt by flushing out your soil with lots of water.

Giovine Landscaping Can Help

The most important thing to remember out of all our winter yard maintenance tips is that Giovine Landscaping offers lawn care and landscape design services during winter and all year long. If you are in need of lawn care or landscape design assistance please contact us.

Choosing the Right Plants For Your Yard

It can be hard choosing the right plants for your yard but it can be easier with this guide.

Whether you are beginning the task of landscaping your property from scratch, or are modifying an already landscaped property, choosing the right plants for your yard can be daunting. Many considerations need to be taken into account, in plant selection, and it can be easy to get overwhelmed by the decision-making process. Thankfully, our Giovine Landscaping design experts are here to explain everything, and they will always help you select the best plants for your property. 

Choosing the Right Plants For Your Property’s Conditions

First, you need to consider the unique conditions of your property, to help you figure out what plant species will grow best in your yard. You should then consider the yard size, soil type, geographic orientation, micro-climate, balance of shade and sun, water availability, USDA plant hardiness zone, wind exposure, pests, local wildlife, and other conditions to which your plants will be exposed. 

Some of these factors are more easily ascertained than others, but all of them are necessary in deciding which plants will thrive in your yard. Considering the type of soil to use on your property can be confusing, for example. There are numerous types of garden soil with different physical compositions, chemical makeups, and levels of nutrients. Tulips grow very well in sandy soils while rhododendrons grow best in peaty soils. You should figure out which type of soil is present on your property so that you will be able to more effectively choose the plants that will thrive in that soil. Knowing all of the other conditions of your property’s chemical and physical makeup will also be very helpful in choosing what will work best for planning out any new landscaping project.   

Plant Selection Mistakes

If a mistake is made and a particular plant does not thrive on your property, it can always be replaced, with the exception of large trees. Large trees grow slowly and can even present a danger to your property if they are weakened. Planting a large tree in the wrong environment can present a potentially dangerous situation for you and your home, so it is important to work with a professional in choosing the right place for a large tree. The tree experts at Giovine Landscaping are available to help you make the right and the BEST decisions when it comes to selecting the right landscaping for your particular environment.

Reflect On Your Needs and Aesthetic Preferences

Once you have determined the conditions of your property, you should consider the types of plants you want and need on your property. Yard plants can be split into six groups: trees, garden shrubs, vines, ground covers, perennials (flowers that come back on their own every year), and annuals (flowers that need to be replaced every year).

As a property owner, you need to figure out what you need and want from each of these categories, so that you can select the proper plants. How much maintenance will your new landscaping require? What will your yard be used for most of the time? Perhaps you have children, and you would like to utilize a turf lawn for your primary ground cover, to give them a place to play sports.  Lifestyle needs vary from person to person and family to family. Knowing what your options are, will help make your final decisions in designing your outdoor spaces.

There are many possible considerations for each of these categories. You may also have a landscape design aesthetic in mind, that involves utilizing many different plant species. If you love bright colors, you can obtain colorful annuals and flowering shrubs, or if you want more of a traditional green look, you can choose plain green varieties. If you have any family pets that will be spending time outdoors on your property,  it is essential to avoid using any plants that are poisonous to animals, to avoid any tragic accidents. 

Find Native Plants

Finally, when selecting plants for your yard, it is important to consider utilizing native species. Native species are plants that occur naturally and have evolved in a specific ecosystem over a long time. These plants have adapted to the climate, soil conditions, and wildlife in a specific environment and have helped them acclimate based on all of these factors. Native plants provide many ecological benefits. Earth is currently in the midst of an extinction crisis, so utilizing native plants can help provide resources to local species and prevent the expansion of invasive foreign species that are hurting local ecosystems. Native plants are also often easier to maintain and often require less fertilizer, pesticides, and water than foreign plant species. If you choose native plants for your property, you can save money AND the environment at the same time. 

 In order to gain the benefits of hosting native plants on your property, you first have to identify what species are native to your area and find out where you can purchase them. It is not always easy to find native plants, but you can do some research and you can try using the Homegrown National Park’s native plant finder.  This is a great resource to assist you in your search.

Giovine Landscaping

If you require assistance choosing the right plants for your property, designing your landscape, or installing your landscape design, do not hesitate to reach out to Giovine Landscaping. We can handle all of your landscape design, installation, and maintenance needs. Call today!

The Art of Backyard Water Features

Backyard water features like this pond are great features for any yard.

Backyard water features come in many shapes and sizes from tiny bird baths to giant ponds but all backyard water features bring a touch of class and beauty to any landscape in which they are present. Water features can also promote good psychological health and even help local wildlife so they are a great option for any homeowner to consider for their yard. There are of course a diverse array of water features that you can choose from as a homeowner. So today the experts here at Giovine Landscaping are counting down four water features you should consider installing on your property. 

1. Ponds 

The classic backyard pond may be the first thing you think of when you read the phrase “backyard water feature” and for good reason a pond can bring many benefits to your property. Ponds make for a beautiful addition to any yard and can also be beneficial for wildlife. Backyard ponds can be constructed above and below ground and can come in various different shapes, sizes, materials, and styles based on your needs and tastes. You also need to decide upon your priorities with your pond. 

Are you trying to create a beautiful koi pond centerpiece for your yard or are you trying to foster wildlife viewing opportunities? Your answer to this question will impact the depth of your pond, the plants you will use for your build, and whether or not you will add domestic fish to your pond. Wildlife ponds should include gradual increases in depth within the pond, native plantings in and around the water feature, and a position in your yard where they will get both shade and sun at different times of day. Wildlife ponds should also not include chlorinated water or domestic fish because these can both kill wildlife. 

2. Bird Baths

Bird baths are a simpler water feature that requires much less upfront cost and day-to-day maintenance than the others on this list. A simple bowl filled with water is all you need to attract many bird species to your yard. However, like ponds, bird baths can come in many shapes and sizes. Some are intricate fountains with built-in heaters to keep bird baths ice-free through winter while others are simple homemade craft projects. However, all good bird baths have a few things in common. Bird baths should never be more than 3 inches deep otherwise small birds will not use them. It is also important to situate your bird bath near cover so birds can escape predators. It is also essential to clean your bird baths during warm weather to avoid spreading disease to your avian guests and to prevent mosquitoes from hijacking your water feature.

3. Waterfalls

 If you have an uneven or sloped yard a personal waterfall could be a natural fit for your property. Waterfalls are not only beautiful to look at, they also provide the soothing sound of running water to your yard. The sound of running water can block out the sound of suburban noise pollution and can generate positive psychological benefits. Backyard waterfall features range in price from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars depending on the size and complexity of the waterfall but this investment can also improve your property values and even improve air quality. Waterfalls are also versatile water features because they can be combined with other features like ponds, streams, fountains, and natural swimming pools. 

4. Streams

Streams offer the natural-looking vibes of an inground ecosystem pond and the sound of running water offered by backyard waterfalls. Backyard streams can be pre-fabricated or created independently with gravel, stones, and plants. The running water of a backyard stream can also attract wildlife just like a pond or birdbath. However, just like with a pond, if you want to maximize the benefit to wildlife you should include native plantings in and around your stream and avoid using domestic pond fish. Either way, a backyard stream can beautifully tie a yard together and can also be used to extend or connect previously existing water features on your property. 

We Can Help With Your Backyard Water Features

There are many types of water features you can consider for your property, including ones not mentioned above, like fountains, water gardens, traditional and natural swimming pools, tabletop water features, wells, and more. Our experienced professionals can help you choose the best water feature for your property. If you decide you want to install any of these water features on your property, reach out to Giovine Landscaping for our landscaping design and installation services. 

How to Build an Eco-Friendly Yard

Composting is one way to maintain an eco-friendly yard!

As humans, we do not always consider how our decisions impact the broader ecosystem, but we should. It’s important to think about the consequences of our decisions on nature. Humanity is not separate from nature, and we need to do a better job taking care of our planet. Thankfully, it is not just the decisions of powerful governments and corporations that can reshape the natural environment. You and your family can actually create a positive impact on the environment through your landscaping decisions. The landscape design experts at Giovine Landscaping have gathered three tips to help you build an eco-friendly yard!

Tips To Build an Eco-Friendly Yard

1. Add Native Plants to Your Landscape

Planting greenery that is native to our region is beneficial to the environment in several ways. Native New Jersey plants evolved to survive in our region and, therefore, require less fertilizer, pesticides, and general upkeep. Planting native plants also saves you money for this same reason. By growing a garden filled with native flowers, you also give helpful pollinators like bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds an essential food source. Choosing to create a landscape of native plants on your property also creates a ripple effect that benefits regional food chains. Native plants provide food for the native insects, who in turn provide food for native mammals, reptiles, and amphibians, restoring biodiversity that has been lost to development and invasive species.

2. Water Responsibly

One of the best ways to build a more eco-friendly yard is watering your plants in a sustainable way. Thankfully, there are numerous strategies for doing so. You can consider reclaimed water solutions, such as setting up a rain barrel system to harvest rain runoff from your roof and using this water in your garden to quench the thirst of your plants. Another option is setting up a drainage system that directs rainwater runoff directly to your garden or lawn. 

If you want an environmentally friendly watering option that does not rely on rain, you can also consider installing an underground green sprinkler system with efficient sprinkler heads. Many green sprinkler systems even come with weather forecasting features to avoid waste and over-watering. 

You can also use your landscaping itself to save water and prevent water pollution. Consider allowing grass lawns to go dormant during dry summers instead of spending money, water, and time to keep them green. Installing a rain garden to capture excess runoff is also a great idea for building a sustainable yard. Not only do rain gardens beautify your yard, but they also reduce the water pollution that is threatening New Jersey rivers, lakes, and beaches. The EPA says that nearly 70 percent of water pollution originates from stormwater runoff, and that half of stormwater runoff pollution comes from household chemicals used in our yards and homes. Creating a rain garden helps stop pollution at its source. 

While not all of these tools will be right for every homeowner, all of them are powerful tools for sustainability and saving money on your water bill.

3. Avoid Chemical Pesticides and Fertilizers As Much as Possible

Another important part of building an eco-friendly yard is reducing or avoiding chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides that pollute the environment and hurt wildlife. Scientists have directly linked chemical pesticides to water pollution and the demise of frog, bat, and bee populations. 

You may be wondering how fertilizers designed to help plants grow can be bad for the environment. Nitrogen fertilizer runoff promotes out-of-control growth of algae that creates algal blooms in saltwater and freshwater. The algal blooms use up all the oxygen in the water and kill fish and other marine life, creating dead zones. Thankfully, you may not even need large amounts of fertilizer for your yard; you can test your soil to find this out. If you do require fertilizer, natural compost is an effective and sustainable solution that you and your family can make at home using yard clippings and organic food waste. Compost can then be used on lawns and gardens to promote plant growth, soil health, and environmental sustainability. 

Giovine Landscaping Can Help You Build an Eco-Friendly Yard

If you want to implement any of the above tips or improve your landscape design in any way, you should reach out to Giovine Landscaping. Our experts will work with you to make sure your yard is healthy and thriving. Call us for all of your landscape design and service needs!

Tips For Landscaping A Small Yard

Not all yards are created equal, but any yard with the proper landscaping can be an asset for your property and a stress-relieving refuge for your family. Sometimes, people fear they will be unable to do anything meaningful with a small or oddly shaped lot and neglect their landscaping design. This is a major mistake. Small yards with great landscaping design can be wonderful despite the size limitation. Small yards can sometimes even be an advantage because you can do more with your money if you are landscaping a smaller space. With all of that in mind, our experts here at Giovine Landscaping are sharing three design ideas to consider when planning the landscaping of a small yard. 

1. Define Activity Zones and Destinations 

In order to make the best use of your small yard, you should make a wish list of desired features and utilize precise site planning to maximize the available space. One way to do this is by organizing your yard into activity zones and destinations. Activity zones and destinations can be designated for different uses like relaxation, recreation, gathering with loved ones, gardening, birdwatching, cooking, or outdoor dining. Zones can then be built around different features, such as a fire pit, spa, deck, garden, hot tub, or grilling patio, by using screening plants, elevation changes, and structures. Our expert team can create points of interest that draw your family and guests into your yard and make the space easy to enjoy.

2. Make Use Of Negative Space And Create Paths 

It is important to maximize space in any yard, and this is especially important for small yards. This means keeping in mind the value of negative space. In small yards, it is essential to maintain  “breathing room” between the main components of your landscaping to avoid making the environment feel crowded, like a room filled to the brim with too much furniture. On the other hand, it is also essential to be able to use as much space as possible in a small yard. Curating the space between activity zones with organic transitions will make the elements of the design flow smoothly. 

The best way to do this, especially in narrow spaces like side yards, is with functional paths and walkways. These paths will link the different elements of your yard while also making otherwise disused regions of your property look beautiful. It is a great idea to use plants, particularly native plantings, at the margins of your property, like alongside paths and on the edges of activity zones. Native plantings are especially ideal because they minimize the amount of maintenance needed and benefit the local ecosystem and wildlife. 

3. Consider A Water Feature

A water feature is a great way to make a small yard feel larger. Babbling water features add sound to your yard and establish a new layer of sensory engagement. In small yards, water features create a sensation of depth and make your yard feel bigger. Studies also show that living near a water feature can improve mental and physical health. Water features can be built vertically along the border of your property to minimize their footprint and create your own personal mini waterfall. Plus, adding a pond to your backyard can benefit local wildlife. 

Our Experts Can Help With Landscaping a Small Yard

With these landscape design ideas, you can take a small yard and turn it into a wonderful space for you and your family to enjoy. If this blog inspired you to invest in revamping your yard, be sure to reach out to Giovine Landscaping. No matter the size of your yard, Giovine Landscaping is here to meet all of your landscape design, consulting, and maintenance needs. Call us today for a free quote!

Helpful Animals You Should Want in Your Yard

Hummingbirds are one of several helpful animals for your yard.

Your yard is more than just a bunch of plants and patio furniture. It is a living ecosystem in which numerous plants and animals interact in order to create a dynamic atmosphere for them all to thrive. As the homeowner, you are the steward of this little ecosystem and you can take actions to make your yard a better place to live for helpful species while warding off destructive pests. Here are four helpful animals you want living in your yard or garden.

Birds 

Bird song is the pleasant background noise found in most New Jersey backyards, but it is easy to overlook just how helpful our avian friends really are. Birds provide natural pest control by eating numerous insects, including those that can harm your backyard garden or even your family, like aphids and mosquitos. Larger birds, like owls and hawks, can even take a bite out of any rodent problems persisting in your neighborhood. Other birds, like hummingbirds, can benefit your garden by pollinating your plants. 

On top of all of this, birds bring beauty to your yard and can provide entertainment through the fulfilling hobby of bird watching. You can attract more birds to your yard for pest control, pollination, and entertainment purposes by putting out a bird feeder, installing a birdbath, hanging bird houses or nest boxes, and by planting native plants. For questions on your native landscaping options, contact Giovine Landscaping.

Bees and Butterflies 

Hummingbirds are not the only beneficial pollinators you want flying around your yard; bees and butterflies are essential for any successful garden. Bees, in particular, pollinate numerous human food crops that you may have in your backyard garden, including many fruit and vegetable plants. Butterflies are also very important pollinators, essential to helping flowering plants reproduce. In order to attract these two helpful insects, plant a diverse mix of flowering plants (especially native plants) and avoid the use of pesticides. If you want to attract a specific butterfly species, such as the iconic and endangered monarch butterfly, look into what flowers that specific species enjoys. Monarch butterflies, for instance, rely on a plant called milkweed for breeding and gathering nectar.

Bats

Bats are highly misunderstood animals that have been unfairly villainized for millennia. They are often associated with vampires, but the bat species present in New Jersey does not drink blood. They do eat the real vampires, though: mosquitoes. One bat can eat up to 1,000 mosquitoes in an hour. Attracting bats to your backyard reduces the number of harmful mosquitoes and other biting insects in the vicinity. 

Bats are not aggressive and do not pose a serious health risk to humans unless they roost inside your house and their droppings are allowed to accumulate. It should also be noted that less than one percent of bats contract rabies, which is much lower than other mammals. Mosquitoes, on the other hand, regularly spread disease through their bites and kill more people than any other species on the planet. To attract these nocturnal exterminators, consider installing a bat box on your property 15 feet off the ground, near water, and in a location where the box will receive sunlight.

Worms

Worms certainly are not the most cuddly critters on the planet, but they are very important for the health of your garden. Worms perform two essential functions in your backyard: they break down organic matter into compost and they aerate the soil. Worms process organic material and turn it into nutrients that your lawn and other backyard plantings rely upon. Worms improve soil by creating tunnel systems that help air and water flow more easily. This process is called aeration. Aeration helps your plants get the nutrients they need to survive and thrive. In order to attract worms to your yard, set up a compost pile and compost your plants regularly.  

Giovine Landscaping Can Help You Attract Helpful Animals to Your Garden

If you are interested in attracting these and other helpful animals to your garden, we can help! The experts at Giovine Landscaping will work closely with you to help you develop every aspect of your garden. Reach out for all your landscaping needs!

Summer Yard Management Tips

Care for your summer yard to keep it healthy!

Summer is a great time to use your backyard for barbecues, sports with the kids, pool parties, and lazy days reading on the patio. However, summer is also an important season for yard maintenance. The experts here at Giovine Landscaping have compiled six summer yard maintenance tips that all homeowners should know. 

Water Your Plants Strategically 

You probably understand that the plants in your yard, like all life on this blue planet of ours, need water to survive, especially during the hot summer months. However, it is not enough to simply water your plants. You have to do so strategically. For instance, you should water your plants during the early morning. By midday, it is too hot; the water will simply evaporate without helping your parched plants. Your lawn  needs about one inch of water a day–from either rain or human intervention–in order to stay green and beautiful. 

Homeowners also need to understand the needs demanded by their specific soil types and plants. For instance, some hearty native plants may require less water than imported species and grass lawns. Plants in containers like hanging baskets also require more water than ground plants–sometimes even two waterings a day, depending on the weather and species. You should also consider installing a drip irrigation system or soaker hose to supply water directly to the roots of your plants to save water. If you have questions about your watering strategy, call the experts at Giovine Landscaping.

Let Your Grass Grow Taller

It is tempting to cut your grass as short as possible to reduce the frequency of mowing sessions, but this is a mistake. In the summer, lawns that are cut too short are susceptible to drought. Cutting your lawn too short can cause yellowish-brown dead patches of grass to appear, blighting the green beauty of your yard. The proper height to keep your grass varies based on local microclimate. According to Rutgers University, the ideal height of lawn grass in New Jersey is within the 2½ to 3 inches range, so your grass should be left at least at this height. Cutting your grass higher reduces the stress placed on your lawn during mowing and reduces the need for fertilizers and pesticides that can be environmentally harmful. Taller grass also shades the soil, cooling vulnerable grassroots, preserving soil moisture, and shading out ugly weeds. It is also a good idea to leave grass clippings on your lawn so they can biodegrade and naturally fertilize your yard. 

Mulch And Fertilize Your Yard

Mulch is essential because it helps keep soil cool during hot summer days. You should cover bare soil with mulch to slow down evaporation, suppress weed growth, and to help maintain the aesthetics of your yard or garden. In areas of bare soil between your plants, add two to three inches of mulch in order to protect your plants. Make sure not to let the mulch actually touch the stems and trunks of your plants, though, because this could cause moisture buildup and rot. 

To create mulch, you can use compost, stones, dried leaves, or even old newspaper. It is also important to use the appropriate fertilizer in your yard during the summer months. During summer the best fertilizer option is a slow-release formulation with a lower nitrogen content, but you also need to keep in mind your specific plants and soil conditions. 

Giovine Landscaping Can Help You Manage Your Summer Yard

Your summer yard can thrive with the proper care. For all of your landscaping needs in every season, reach out to the experts of Giovine Landscaping. Call today for a free quote!