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Cedar Vs. Composite: Decking

In the Pacific Northwest, with our long summer days and mild temperatures, having an outdoor area in which to read or entertain is a gift. One way to greatly expand your options for living space is to add a deck to your home.  Once the decision has been made to add a deck the next decision to consider is decking material.

Natural Wood

The first option is natural wood. It makes for a beautiful natural-looking deck. In the PNW we can use our native cedar.  It is warm to the touch, and natural oils in the wood resist warping and cracking under weather damage. The natural look of cedar complements the landscape and if left untreated will fade to a soft silver-grey. The lifespan of this type of deck is easily 20 years.  Alternatively, sustainably grown tropical hardwoods can be used.  They are more expensive than cedar, but some are so dense they sink, therefore they can last forever.

 

However, natural wood decks need routine maintenance. A yearly cleaning with deck cleaner to keep dirt and mildew at bay will extend the life of your wood and enhance the natural wood tone. Keep debris such as leaves and pine needles from piling up and allow your deck to dry out completely by moving planters, pots, benches and tables around routinely.  This will extend the life of your deck longer than one that stays damp. Along with an annual cleaning, the deck will need to be painted or stained to withstand all our rain and occasional snow to prevent the wood oxidizing and losing its rich luster.

 

Composite/Synthetic

An alternative to wood decking is a composite material made of different types of plastic, often with a hard PVC surface.  Most contain some degree of recycled plastic and wood fibers (sawdust). This is a great option if you are looking to use recycled and eco-friendly products. These are extremely low-maintenance materials. There is no sanding or staining required and they are easily cleaned with water and soap.

 

There are very few downsides to a composite deck, and some manufacturers even have a 20-year warranty if not a life-time guarantee. However, some products look more plastic-y and feel cold to the touch. They also get very hot in the sun. The color options have improved over the years but if you decide to paint your house, better match it to your deck. The other downside is a composite deck costs significantly more than the price of a cedar wood.

 

The pros and cons of decking material are really between how much work you want to do and how much you wish to spend up front. Keep in mind adding a deck adds great value to your property and to your own enjoyment of your home.  With a Pacifica free consultation, we can review options for your home and help you decide what design direction will maximize your enjoyment of your home with your family and friends.

Evenings By the Outdoor Fire

Summer has drawn to a close here in the Pacific Northwest, but that does not mean we are ready to head indoors!  Living in a temperate region, we often welcome lovely early autumns.  The peace of a crisp evening, a warm beverage, perhaps a s’more or two, and the warm glow of a fire is wonderful way to bring in the new season.

You have options when considering adding a fire feature to your landscape.  There is the simplicity of portable or in-ground fire pits in which you only need to add a few logs to create the perfect glow:

A full gas or wood-burning fireplace to keep the whole family warm:

An outdoor kitchen with a wood fired pizza oven for a fun dinner option:

Or something in between:

 

Adding fire to your outdoor living space extends the time in which you can enjoy your garden.

Here are a few things to consider:

Portable fire pits are the most space and cost efficient.  They also allow a more versatile use of space, as they can be moved out of the way when needed, e.g. for a large party.  An in-ground fire-pit is a close second, though you can’t move it around!

Gas or wood burning is another decision.  Gas burns cleaner than wood and the ease of flipping a switch for an immediate fire is very alluring.  Built in fire pits and fireplaces require a gas line.  For a large gas fireplace the often need to be run from the meter and thus can raise logistical and price issues.  Weigh this against being able to use your fire during burn bans and knowing you are not contributing to particulate emissions.

Call Pacifica Landscapes and we will help assess the situation at your home.  We will light you up with our ideas and the warmth of our presentation is sure to inspire!

 

 

 

 

7 Ways to Keep Weeds from Taking Over Your Garden

Photo of perennial garden and walks

Along with the beautiful, long, and sunny days of summer, come a few less than welcome guests: weeds. Taking care of them can be a daunting task. If you’ve ever tried pulling weeds out of planting beds or the lawn, you will know that they have decidedly earned their name. Removing them can feel like an exercise in futility. But don’t fret, there are ways you can successfully keep them at bay.

We’ve collected a few useful tips for keeping your garden blooming and thriving with minimal stress.

 

  1. Let sleeping weeds be
  • All gardens contain weed seeds, but only weeds in the top inch or two of soil get enough light to trigger germination and growth. Digging brings hidden weed seeds to the surface, so assume weed seeds are there ready to erupt every time you open a patch of ground.
  • Dig only when you need to and immediately amend the disturbed spot with plants or mulch.
  • In lawns, minimize soil disturbance by using a sharp knife with a narrow blade to slice through the roots of dandelions and other lawn weeds to stop their feed source rather than digging them out. Keep in mind that weed seeds can remain dormant for years.
  1. Mulch
  • Mulch benefits plants by keeping the soil cool and moist and depriving weeds of light. We always recommend organic mulches, which you can find at your local nursery.
  • Some light passes through chunky mulches, and often you may find that the mulch you used was laced with weed seeds. Replenish the mulch as needed to keep it about 2 inches deep (more than 3 inches deep can deprive soil of oxygen).
  1. Weed
  • Commit to a weeding schedule. This will keep maintenance manageable.
  • There is an old saying “Pull when wet; hoe when dry”, which we think is wise advice with weeding. After a rain storm, equip yourself with gloves, a sitting pad, and a tarp for collecting the corpses. An old fork will also help because there’s nothing better for twisting out tendrils of weeds. When going after bigger weeds, use a fishtail weeder to pry up taprooted weeds, like dandelion.
  • If weeding large areas, nothing beats a shuffle hoe. Make sure to keep the edges sharp.
  1. Chop
  • When you can’t remove weeds, the next best thing is to chop off their heads. With annual weeds, dead­heading buys you a few weeks of time before the weed “seed rain” begins.
  • Use pruning loppers to take down tall weeds, or you can step up to a string trimmer equipped with a blade attachment to cut prickly thistles or brambles. No matter which method you choose, chopping down weeds before they go to seed will help keep them from spreading.
  • If you have a steep slope with blackberry shrubs, do not tear them out! Blackberry shrubs have deep and strong root systems that do an excellent job of retaining slopes.

  1. Mindful Watering
  • Water the plants you want, not the weeds! Put drought on your side by depriving weeds of water.
  • Placing drip irrigation beneath mulch efficiently irrigates plants while leaving nearby weeds thirsty. In most climates, depriving weeds of water reduces weed-seed germination by 50 to 70 percent.
  1. Keep Soil Healthy

    Enriching your soil with organic matter every chance you get can help your garden down the weed-free path.
  2. Call Pacifica

Lawn Care! How natural lawn care can be simple and easy…

Pacifica Blog Post

 

LAWN CARE:

The natural cycle of cold weather grasses in the PNW is to go dormant in summer. A year round green lawn is a social and cultural phenomenon, not a natural one, maintained through forcing growth with water and nitrogen.

The desire for verdant green lawns probably stems from the gardens of old English stately homes where an open sward lay in front of the home.  Adopted into the suburbs for its connotations of wealth, leisure and comfort, lawns in the United States now receive more chemical applications than all agricultural lands combined.  For a more natural lawn try this…

 

Spring

  • Mow frequently
  • Do not mow more than ⅓ of the blade, and no shorter than 2”

 

Summer

There are two schools of thought regarding summer lawn care… here are both, you decide!

  1. Let your lawn go brown. Water once a month to keep the roots alive. Lawn can be dormant for three months without damage. This will save greatly on water, but some weed invasion will occur.
  2. Keep watering to keep your lawn green. Lawn is still dormant so use very little or no fertilizer. If you do use fertilizer, make sure to use slow release.

 

Fall

  • Lawn starts growing again with cooler weather and increased rains. Fall is a good time for intensive lawn management. Mow as needed and aerate annually each fall. Overseed to develop a thick sward before winter when the grass goes dormant again and the moss invasion commences.
  • Lime – If fertilization does not seem to work your soil could be too acidic – add lime to balance the soil pH. This can be done every 2 – 3 years.

 

Winter

  • Winter is time to leave your lawn alone. Do not mow and do not fertilize.

 

WATER IS THE MOST IMPORTANT FACTOR FOR THE SUCCESS OF YOUR TURFGRASS.

Once a lawn is established it will require about one inch of water per week between May and October. During the hottest weeks of summer the lawn may require 1 ½ ” – 2″ of water per week. Encourage deeper root growth by watering less often, but deeply. A lawn that sheds water quickly will need to be watered in several shorter cycles. Lawn areas are commonly over watered and improving water distribution and application timing can usually save significant amounts of water. The best time to water is early morning to reduce vaporization and evaporation. As a rule of thumb, watering during periods when “dew” would be expected to appear naturally will minimize fungal infections (Red Thread, Rust) caused by water standing on the leaf surface for long periods of time. If you use an automatic irrigation system be sure to adjust the timer throughout the year. In running your system, make sure you have programmed the proper duration and frequency of your watering cycles (as necessary for your soil type, slopes, plantings, and exposure to sun and shade). Watering needs in your landscape will change as weather patterns change during the season, and from year to year as your plantings mature or are modified.

SIGNS OF INADEQUATE WATERING:

  • Blue/gray tint
  • Brown spots

When walked on, footprint stays for more than 30 seconds.

New Lawn, bluestone steppers and trees

Conscious Gardening: Best Water Conscious Gardening Techniques

Conscious Gardening
Best Water Conscious Gardening Techniques

It’s August and it’s dry (or at least it is suppose to be), and gardening with water consciousness in mind is a must. Knowing the best ways to do this can be tricky, so here is our guide to help you, and your garden, through times of drought.

Water only when plants look like they need it. Remember, most plants die from over-watering, not under-watering. Use your favorite garden tool (trowel, shovel, or soil probe would all work well) to examine soil moisture depth. If the top 2-3 inches of soil are dry, it’s time to water. Also, remember to water your plants deeply, but less frequently, to encourage deep root growth and drought tolerance.

Use a rain barrel or buckets to capture rainwater from your downspouts for use in watering your garden. If you are feeling really inspired, keep a bucket in the shower to catch water as it warms up or runs, and use this water to water plants. To up the ante even more, you can re-route gray water (from your clothes washer or dishwasher) to outdoor areas to use for irrigation.

Keep a layer of organic mulch on the surface of your planting beds to minimize evaporation of moisture and suppress weed growth, which competes for water.

Keep plants well-nourished so they’re prepared to survive drought stress. Local nurseries and garden stores have an abundance of resources on soil amendments, just ask!

If you are planning ahead and thinking about next gardening season and want to add or replace a flower or shrub, choose water conscious plants adapted to the Pacific Northwest. Some of our favorites are Amaryllis belladonna, Artemisia, Ceanothus and Sedums.

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An Inside Look at the Landscape Design Process: Fun and Collaborative

An Inside Look at the Landscape Design Process:

 Fun and Collaborative

Our design process starts with an on-site consultation with Baxter where you’ll discuss options and ideas for your property. He’ll be able to outline a prospective budget before the design process starts.

We work collaboratively in our office.

Stacey our head designer and Baxter work together and with other designers to develop the outline for a unique and complete design to enhance your home and living area.

We believe collaborative designs produces the richest outcome for our clients.

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