Summer Landscaping Tips

Summer is here, and we know your home garden is in full bloom. While the warm temperatures of the summer months are associated with flourishing plant life, it is easy to forget that the seasonal conditions also pose certain challenges for your greenery. Along with high heat, the lower rate of precipitation during these months can put pressure on your garden, so maintenance is as important now as it is during any other season. As such, the experts at Giovine Landscaping have compiled a list of several summer landscaping tips that will help maximize your backyard’s beauty and health.

Watering System

Although plants see less rain in the summer months, it does not mean that homeowners should be overwatering them. Overwatering can be as fatal for plant life as underwatering, so it is vital to do your watering smartly. One way to do this is to implement a drip irrigation system in your backyard. This setup allows water to penetrate the plant deeper, avoiding wasting water from fast evaporation in the sun. As opposed to a hose or sprinkler, this system infiltrates the soil rather than drenches the plant. When you do this, you want to make sure the soil receives about an inch of rain a week. This method provides a useful way to maintain your garden in the summer without racking up your water bill. 

Mowing the Lawn 

In the summer, cutting grass too short makes it vulnerable to heat damage and drought stress. So, it is important to raise the mower height to slightly above its height during the cool seasons. Cutting the grass longer also improves soil moisture and helps prevent weed growth.  At the same time, homeowners should avoid letting their grass grow too long as clipping off too much in one go can cause great stress on the plant. 

Add Some Shade

It is a good idea to provide relief for exposed plants from blazing summer rays. Simultaneously, cooling your backyard by adding shade will do you, your guests, and any pets you may have a great service. Several ways this can be accomplished include:

  1. Installing an awning.
  2. Hanging up shade sails.
  3. Building a pergola.
  4. Planting shade trees.

All of these methods decrease the amount of excessive sunlight that reaches you and your garden. Installing exterior structures is a viable option, and so is utilizing plant life to fulfill this task. Selecting the correct shade tree is an involved process but will yield great results when an adequate choice is made. 

Deal With Weeds Early

In the summer, weeds are a hassle to deal with. They will bloom anywhere from your garden to between cracks in the pavement as hot and dry conditions give them the perfect opportunity for propagation. The most vital tip for dealing with weeds is to nip them in the bud, extracting them when they are still small and low in population. When they have grown higher, they are significantly harder to remove. Additionally, if a weed species manages to dominate a lawn, it is nearly impossible to remove it afterward. Herbicides are often used to target invasive plants, but they can harm the lawn; hand-pulling is a much safer option. 

Lawn and garden maintenance is a year-round activity, but certain tasks become more emphasized during the hottest months. Incorporating these summer landscaping tips into your practice will contribute to a healthier overall lawn that will sustain itself for longer. The experts at Giovine Landscaping know that a beautiful landscape is key to a happy home, so we are eager to help you achieve the outdoor space you desire. Contact us today at (724) 316-3064. 

What is Functional Landscaping?

Functional Landscaping is key in transforming your outdoor space. Landscaping projects are exciting for homeowners— you get the chance to craft a vision for your place and elevate its beauty. Transforming your outdoor space is usually motivated by a desire to improve its aesthetics, but beyond that, landscaping changes can also serve functional purposes. This includes any backyard improvement that is not only visually appealing but also makes your life as a garden owner much easier. Giovine Landscaping has compiled a list of several functional landscaping techniques that you can implement in your own outdoor building process!

Utilizing Trees For Shade

Trees not only fill up your outdoor space with stunning greenery and other colors throughout the seasons, but they also provide shade. Planting trees can help reduce air conditioning costs, so cleverly incorporating them into your backyard layout can serve you greatly. For instance, using deciduous trees will block large amounts of solar heat in the summer, but allow it to enter in the winter. 

Living Fences

Planting a line of trees at the perimeter of your yard creates a barrier of privacy for your home, called a living fence. Evergreens are the optimal choice for year-round protection. It is important to consider how tall and wide certain varieties grow to determine if it will be an adequate fit for the job. Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis) is an excellent selection, growing 10 to 15 feet tall and four to five feet wide. However, different homes may have different privacy screening needs, which could also be dependent on the season. Shrubs like azaleas, forsythia, and lilac can make your living fence a more vibrant spectacle. At the same time that these natural barriers increase a home’s privacy, they can also block prevailing wind by either slowing it down or changing its course. 

Pathways

The value of pathways is often underestimated, but their design plays an integral role in the overall functionality of your garden. Pathways are an important piece of infrastructure that let you traverse your outdoor space. Homeowners must think about the exact location, material, and shape of their pathway so that it can aid them most in their daily routine. This means there is much room for creativity when making your selection, and your backyard paths can look visually stunning while still being practical. Maintaining the practicality of your pathway also involves making sure water does not pile up around it when it rains. As such, consulting a landscaping contractor to help you set up a proper drainage system is in your best interest.  

Mulch

Mulch will be your best friend when it comes to keeping your plants and trees healthy. It is multifunctional, being useful for moderating soil temperatures, reducing heavy raindrop impact on soil, and suppressing plant diseases and weed growth. Mulch is any material that is placed atop soil to act as a covering. There are several organic and inorganic choices of mulch, but the former can break down and provide the soil structure and nutrients in the process. Some types of organic mulches include chipped wood, shredded leaves, and pine needles. These are applied two to three inches deep around the plant or tree, and with time, will contribute to a more beautiful garden.

Rain Barrels

As you sustain your backyard plant life, harvesting rainwater can be the best way to save resources. Many gallons of usable water fall during a rainstorm, so obtaining infrastructure that can collect this untapped resource is highly beneficial. Rain barrels come in varying materials and sizes, per the homeowner’s needs, and they are always placed beneath a downspout closest to where they will be most useful in the garden. Be mindful— the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states to be cautious if you plan on using rain barrel water on edible plantings as collected rainwater may pick up pollutants as it travels from the roof. Nonetheless, it can be a great addition to your home landscape that only makes backyard upkeep easier.

Now that you’ve learned several functional landscaping ideas, you can begin planning how these techniques can be implemented in your own space to ensure it is both attractive and efficient. It is never too late to incorporate any of these strategies into your gardening practices, and luckily, there are experts at your disposal to help guide you with any decisions you are considering. From mulching to pathway-building, the contractors at Giovine Landscaping have you covered. Call us today!

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!

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.