How to Spend More Time Outside, Even When It’s Hot

Soak in the shade and actually enjoy these hot Kansas summers with a brand new covered deck or patio!

Summer in Kansas is no joke! With temperatures already topping one-hundred degrees, it might seem like the perfect time to settle into a comfy chair inside and crank the air conditioning up a touch higher.

But if you love being outdoors and want to spend as much time in the sun as possible, we have a few tips for you.

Be Prepared!

There’s an old adage in the hiking community that says: there is no bad weather, there is only poor preparation. While that might be a bit of a generalization, there is truth to it. Being prepared for the challenges super hot days bring can help you enjoy your time outside more.

What should you do to prepare? We have a few ideas:

Tip 1: Plan your time wisely. Maybe you want to get up a little earlier so you can soak up the early morning sun, rather than waiting until the hottest part of the day to venture outside. Maybe consider a sunrise walk or having your morning coffee on the deck, then going inside once the thermostat starts to rise.

Tip #2: Stay hydrated. This might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s easy to get distracted and not drink enough water. When the temperatures get this hot, it’s vital to drink water—not caffeinated or alcoholic beverages.

Another great way to stay cooler is to use water on the skin. Try misting your face with cool water or splashing cold water on your wrists and hands. If you’re going to be outside for awhile, stock a cooler with ice and water, and throw in a few frozen washcloths (washcloths you wet with water then freeze). When you need a reprieve, place the frozen washcloth around your neck or on your scalp. It might be a temporary reprieve, but it will feel amazing!

Tip #3: When possible, opt for shade. If you can, stay in the shade. This can mean spending time under a tree, on an enclosed deck or patio, or under a wide-brimmed hat.

Be Flexible

As much fun as summer can be, sometimes it’s important to just admit that being outdoors for too long, without the proper equipment, isn’t ideal. Be flexible with your plans. Be willing to move a get-together indoors or reschedule for earlier or later in the day, if necessary. Remember that you can’t enjoy the sun if you’re not feeling well.

Make Plans for Following Years

Since it’s been so hot already this summer, you might be thinking about ways to make future summers more enjoyable. We’re here to work on those projects with you! So pay attention to how you’re using your outdoor space, and which improvements would make it even better. We’ve worked on great options for Johnson County families that have helped them enjoy the outdoors more, even in hot weather. One option is to invest in a covered deck. We can start from scratch, with a custom-built deck. Or we can simply add a covering to your existing deck.

A few covering options include a pergola, a retractable shade or awning, or curtains. These options would also work well for a covered patio. Each has its own distinct advantages and challenges, depending on your budget and your space. We’d love to show you what will work best for your unique situation—so get in touch when you’re ready!

 

 

 

Questions You Should Always Ask Your Landscape Architect

landscape architect

Questions You Should Always Ask Your Landscape Architect

The idea of hiring a professional landscape architect to turn your outdoor space into the space you’ve always wanted can be overwhelming. Where do you start? What questions should you ask? What research should you do prior to calling different companies?

Don’t worry—we’re going to break it down for you.

First Things First: Plan

We’ve said it before but we’ll say it again: before you hire a professional to make improvements to your lawn and landscape, you should be thinking about what changes you’d like to make. Do you want a retaining wall? New outdoor lighting? A water or fire element? Are you ready to expand by adding a gazebo or an outdoor kitchen? Or are you looking just for landscaping?

When you have an idea of what you might want, the next step is to determine—roughly, not down to the exact penny—you budget. This will help you understand how much you can get with the money you have available, but it will also help the professional you choose know how to prioritize your budget.

Once you’re clear about what you want and how much you’ll pay for it, think about a few other things. Like how much of your own maintenance you are comfortable doing, and how often you want the company you hire to perform services. Having a few parameters around what you expect, and what you feel comfortable with, will help when you start having conversations with different providers.

Now It’s Time to Talk

Here are a few considerations as you take the leap from thinking about hiring a professional to interviewing candidates:

Tip 1: Contact more than one landscape architect. Like all other services, it’s important to compare your options so you can start to get a feel for how different providers work. Ask for referrals from family and friends you know and trust; they’ll point you in the right direction, and that’s a great start. You can also check with your local chamber of commerce. Church and civic organizations can also provide valuable insight into a company’s involvement in the community.

Tip 2: Come prepared. It’s not a test—but it’s a good idea to come with a few prepared questions, especially when those questions are really important to you. For example, if you’re on a strict budget, you want to be sure to remember to discuss that. Or if you want an outdoor kitchen, you want to be sure the potential landscape architect has experience in that area. Coming prepared means you’ll be able to ask everything you need to know.

Tip 3: Don’t be afraid to ask follow up questions. Your prepared list of questions is a good start. But don’t be afraid to let the conversation expand so you can learn as much as possible about a potential service provider. Ask open-ended questions. For example, ask “tell me about an outdoor kitchen you recently worked on, including a challenge you faced and how you found solutions,” rather than simply asking, “do you do outdoor kitchens?”

Ask About the Entire Team

Chances are you won’t meet everyone at a company that makes their work for you possible. But that doesn’t mean you can’t ask how things work behind the scenes. It’s important to ask about communication preferences. For example: “if I have an issue, how should I get in touch with you?” or “If I reach out, how long should I expect to wait for a return call and will it be you who calls back, or someone on your administrative team?”.

We’re always available to chat about your projects—and we share information about our business, our community, and our staff on our Facebook page. We think it’s important to do this, so you can get to know us. If you’d like to learn even more or you’re ready to get started on a new project, we’d love to work with you. Please reach out if we can offer options or assistance.

Which Outdoor Landscaping Improvements Will Increase the Resale Value of My Home?

Which Outdoor Landscaping Improvements Will Increase the Resale Value of My Home?

The housing marking in Kansas City is hot right now. Homes are selling for higher prices and showings abound as soon as a new property hits the market. But what if you’re not ready to sell right now? What if you’d rather stay in your place a bit longer and make improvements that will increase the resale value even more?

If that’s you, read on to learn about some outdoor improvements can increase the resale value of your home once you are ready to sell.

Your Outdoor Landscaping Matters Most

Not surprisingly, Consumer Reports says that improving your landscaping is the number one way to increase the resale value of your home. Zillow even says that adding the word “landscaping” to your sale listing can add 2.7% or more to the sale price.

Why? Curb appeal! Your front lawn and whatever features it includes, whether that’s shrubbery, a flower bed, or something bigger like a water feature, give a potential buyer a first impression. And that first impression can’t be changed. When your lawn and landscape is well-maintained and attractive, a potential buyer will think that the inside of your home is also well-maintained, tidy, and attractive.

Of course, we’d recommend working with a landscape architect or landscaping firm to make sure your outdoor space is ready for potential buyers. But if you choose to do the work yourself, focusing on a few key things will give you the best return. One of those things is to mulch with dark-brown or black mulch. You should also mow your grass to the appropriate height. Another important task is to trim foundation hedges so that first-floor windows are clear.

Think About Your Outdoor Landscaping Lighting

Adding new or improved lighting to the outside of your home can have a dramatic effect on your resale efforts. According to Zillow, listings that included the words “outdoor lighting” sold 3.1 days faster and for 1.6% more than other homes (on average).

We specialize in outdoor lighting and would welcome the chance to help. But if you’re DIYing your way through selling your home, there are a few things you can consider first. Those include path lighting, spotlight lights, or solar options to make the most of your efforts.

Making the Most of Your Outdoor Space

If you have an outdoor living area like a patio or deck, an outdoor kitchen, or a fire or water feature, be sure that those areas are working and staged. It’s important to show potential buyers how the space is intended to be used. But it’s also important to keep your personal “stuff” out of that space. Too many personal touches, like personalized decorations, can work against you by making it difficult for potential buyers to see themselves using the space.

If you’re working with a team on the sale of your house, we’d love to be part of it. Reach out for a consultation or a discussion to see how we can help you net more when you sell your home.

Did You Have a COVID Garden? What to Do Next

Did You Have a COVID Garden?

One of the results of the Coronavirus pandemic of 2020 was the rise of home and backyard gardens. Most often supplemental gardens (those used not as sole sources of food, but as supplemental supplies) and often container based rather than in-ground, these COVID gardens gave people something productive to do.

But, as COVID fatigue set in—and as temperatures plummeted during winter—the shine that these gardens once had might be a bit scuffed. If you built a garden last year and want to change things up a bit for the upcoming season, here are a few ideas to make the most of your space.

New Year, New Gardens

If you planted a garden last year by purchasing or building container gardens, you likely remember how those crops fared. Did your tomatoes grow tall and leggy but produce few fruits? Did your watermelons fizzle? Make notes about each crop you planted.  Pay attention to placement in your garden, your watering habits, and the results.

Chances are, you can rotate your crops this year to better leverage your space. If your containers are portable, consider place where you’ll get optimal sunlight; if you cannot move your containers, take some time to determine where sunlight falls in your space and for how long, then follow the guidelines set out for each crop. For example, tomatoes have different sunlight needs than green beans.

Consider Adding New Elements

If you know what you’re planting, whether that’s vegetables or flowers or a combination of both, and you have the space, you can consider adding other elements to your garden. Some communities reimburse homeowners for environmentally friendly garden elements, like rain barrels or butterfly gardens. You could also add a hardscape, like a patio, or a water or fire element.

Combine Garden and Outdoor Living Concepts

One outdoor trend, according to Veranda, is the return of the cutting garden. Another is a more seamless integration of outdoor and indoor spaces. You can breathe new life into your outdoor space by considering these trends. For instance, use a currently barren corner to plant zinnias or sunflowers—and then use those cuttings to decorate both your patio tables and in your indoor bouquets.

Another option is to expand your garden and add seating elements. This can be as easy as adding a bench so you can sit and enjoy the fruits of your labor, or by building an umbrellaed dining area complete with countertops and an outdoor oven.

Do you have big plans for your outdoor space? We’d love to hear about them. Share on our Facebook or shoot us an email.

 

2021 Outdoor Living Trends

The new year is traditionally a time to take stock of what we value most in life. For some, that means making resolutions to be healthier or to spend more time with family. For others, it means setting financial or professional goals.

This year, as we move from the unique year that was 2020 and into 2021, we have a chance to reflect on having spent more time at home and with family. And as the seasons turn from winter snow to spring sun, we can plan for the improvements we might make to our homes and outdoor living spaces to better accommodate our current reality of staying close to home.

To that end, let’s take a look at what design and industry experts are naming top outdoor living space trends for 2021.

Year-Round Outdoor Living Spaces

Like some of Kansas City’s most popular outdoor dining spots, our own outdoor spaces can go from summer-only to (almost) year-round with the addition of elements that help temper the elements. Think heating elements to warm up on cold or cooler nights, like portable heaters or built-in fireplaces, as well as additional areas of shade to make being out in the sun less harsh. Retractable shades and umbrellas are perfect options, especially when paired with fans to help circulate the air.

Lighting Makes a Difference

Because so many people are entertaining more in their outdoor spaces, the lighting in those spaces has become more important than ever. Whether your space needs to illuminate a border or path (or driveway) or you want to spotlight your favorite trees or foliage, a custom plan to place just the right lighting in just the right spots can turn your outdoor living space from ho-hum to brilliant.

Extending Your Living Space

You’re likely familiar with the idea of extending your living space by making your outdoor space look and feel more like the rooms inside your home. But because we’ve been spending so much more time inside, people are thinking more about making the outside not only more livable, but more beautiful. Think about it—our gardens, front lawns, and back yards have been our view for the past year and will likely continue to be this year. Why not make it a view you love?

Maximizing your view can be as simple as rethinking your gardens; but it can also be an elaborate project, like adding a water element or finally building that retaining wall. Regardless of how simple or how involved your project might be, we’d be honored to help you make your outdoor living space the perfect space for you. Visit us on Facebook or reach out to learn more.

 

The Benefits of Utilizing Salt for Snow and Ice Prevention This Winter

Salt: it’s our oldest food seasoning, an essential nutrient for good heath, a relaxing and therapeutic addition to a hot bath, and, in some religions and cultures, part of rituals and deeply held beliefs.

It’s also what we dispense on roads in winter to keep them safe for travel even when there’s winter weather. Why? There’s science behind the importance of ice prevention and winter-weather salt procedures. Salt lowers the freezing temperature of water and melts ice because heat is generated when salt is in contact with water. This chemical reaction is what results in decreasing temperature and, therefore, melting (rather than solid) ice.

Because of this, it’s a common practice ice prevention by salting roads before a storm or to use salt to melt ice that’s accumulated on sidewalks and roadways. Doing so has been proven effective; according to the American Highway Users Alliance, salting roads decreases collisions by up to 85%.

Use Salt for Snow and Ice Prevention

But it’s not just roads that get icy or snow packed. Sidewalks, driveways, and parking lots need attention, too. Some of this is easy to do on your own. By keeping a container of commercially available salt and salting before the snow or ice hits, you can prevent dangerous conditions.

What kind of salt is best to use?

What differentiates table salt from ice melt isn’t the chemical composition of each. The salt you buy to spread on your sidewalk is the same, structurally, as the stuff you shake into your bowl of soup. What’s different is the size. Table salt is small and fine while commercially available rock salt/ice melt is larger and coarse. This means you could, technically, use table salt to keep ice off of your sidewalks. The question is, would you want to?

It’s Natural, So It’s Safe. Right?

The answer to that question isn’t a simple yes or no. Yes, salt is a natural mineral. But just like having too much in your diet can lead to unwanted and dangerous health conditions, using salt incorrectly or in excess to remedy winter weather conditions can also have unwanted consequences.

It’s important to take care when sprinkling salt. It can adversely affect metal, for example—and if you’re salting your driveway or parking space, this means that it can affect your car or other vehicles. Simply put, the more your vehicle is in contact with salt, the more rust you can expect. You can also track salt into your home via boots, which means it might embed in your carpet.

Think Globally, Act Locally

There are other considerations, to be sure. And many of those factors affect you and your neighbors, both on local and global scales. The truth is, damage to infrastructure sometimes occurs when using salt. In fact, it’s estimated that damage due to corrosion costs between $3.5 to $7 billion dollars every year.

These concerns don’t mean we shouldn’t overlook the benefits of using salt for snow and ice prevention. But it does mean consulting with professionals to understand which salt is best to use, to determine best practices in application and frequency, and to ensure that it’s being used in the most economically and environmentally favorable way.

We can help with all those questions and we’d love to discuss this with you before the first flake falls this winter! Reach out to start that conversation.

Essential Landscaping Tips for Preparing Your Olathe Lawn for a Rapid Spring Bloom

3 Essential Landscaping Tips for Preparing Your Olathe Lawn for a Rapid Spring Bloom

We’re not the only ones ready for Spring, are we? It’s not just the warmer temperatures that make us so happy this time of year; it’s also the riot of color that comes from fields of Spring blooms. If you’re looking for insights on how to encourage rapid Spring blooms in your own backyard, read on.

Start With a Clean Slate

First things first: you can’t have a glorious bloom of new growth if your yard and gardens are full of debris and dead remnants of seasons past. Take the time to clear away old growth—remove any remaining leaves, random branches, and anything else that’s settled in over winter’s colder months to make way for new growth. If you do so early enough, Spring’s new buds have a clear space in which to bloom, and you’ll be able to see the shoots break ground!

Don’t forget about your trees and shrubs, either. This is the perfect time to trim and prune—but to do that, you have to be sure your tools are in optimal shape, too. Take the time necessary to scrub blades and metal tools with soap and water. Wooden handles can be revived with an application of mineral spirits. Looking for nifty storage options to keep your tools handy and in their best shape? There are tons of options here.

Dig In: Give Your Soil Some TLC

It all starts with healthy soil, and ours needs some attention now that it’s Spring. Turn it over (use a pitchfork to break it up, pull soil from beneath to the top, and turn the current top layer under. Add compost (either your own) or commercially prepared fertilizer. Compost adds vital, necessary nutrients to the soil, but be wary: it takes at least a couple of weeks after adding compost for soil to be ready for new plants.  If you prefer commercially prepared fertilizer, remember that different fertilizers are best in various seasons. Learn about fertilizers best used in Spring here.

Get Ready

It’s a bit too soon to plant everything outdoors—temperatures will still dip, which is dangerous for tender roots and shoots. But it’s the perfect time to start many plants indoors. Starting from seeds and nurturing the plants indoors mean you have a private set of seedlings ready when the you know the weather will stay warm. And take advantage of this time, too, to build new beds and raised garden structures, if that suits your space. This prep work now will make it possible to enjoy what often seems like a too-short Spring window of perfect weather—and perfect landscaping conditions.

Want help with your Spring plans? Looking to make your space the one you’ve always dreamed of? If so, reach out and talk to us!

Spring and Summer Native Plants for Your Olathe Landscape

Be honest…have you spent more than a little bit of our snowy winter thinking about the glorious garden you want to grow come Spring? How about new ideas for your lawn? Or maybe you’re daydreaming a way to incorporate a few new WOW! elements this year?

Some of us might still be chipping ice from our sidewalks, but now is actually a great time to think about your warm weather landscaping plans. And even if you didn’t find the time or inclination to plant last Fall, planning for Spring and Summer is still an achievable goal. This is especially true if you want to include native Kansas plants in your Olathe landscape design.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Native Plants

You’ve heard the saying “bloom where you’re planted,” right? Thing is, not all plants bloom equally. But native plants have an advantage because they’re uniquely suited to the soil and conditions in our area.

By definition, native plants are those that occur naturally in a region in which they evolved. They’re part of the ecosystem and play an integral role in providing food for insects and small animals. Studies actually show that without native plants, some species of insects and animals might cease to exist.

Native Plants Bring the Birds to Your Yard

Another bonus: birdwatching! Planting native plants can actually draw birds to your yard—and you can choose different plants to attract the bird(s) of your choice! Use the handy tool here—just enter your zip code and scroll through which native Kansas plants attract the bird (or birds) you’re hoping to attract.

Native Plants Help the Planet

Not only are native plants naturally beautiful, but they are ecological workhorses, too. When a plant is native to an area, it requires less intervention to flourish: you water less and use less fertilizer. You also have more time to just sit back and enjoy being in your outdoor space, because native plants require less maintenance.

Curious about which native plants to include in your space? Get in touch and ask us. We’d love to help you create a lawn and landscape tailored just for you.

 

Retaining wall considerations

Do I Need a Retaining Wall?

First things first: what is a retaining wall? Simply put, a retaining wall is a barrier that holds in place earth that would otherwise erode or collapse. Retaining walls can be small DIY projects or larger-scale and professionally constructed. Retaining walls can be constructed from a range of materials and can vary in size, shape, and design.

Why Would I Want a Retaining Wall?

There are two main reasons to consider a retaining wall. First, because it’s physically necessary to correct a slope, prevent erosion, or otherwise level the earth in your yard. These retaining walls serve a functional purpose. In residential settings, retaining walls are necessary when there might be an abrupt separation of ground elevation. Reasons a retaining wall can be necessary include sunken patios, walkout basements, and other hardscapes. Aesthetics are the second consideration. Retaining walls can create tiered gardens or flowerbeds, which add visual interest to otherwise ordinary spaces.

Best of Both Worlds

Of course, landscape and hardscape elements can be both practical and beautiful. This is certainly the case with retaining walls, and is an important reason to work with a landscape architect when considering the installation of a retaining wall.

An expert landscape artist with retaining wall experience can help determine construction specifics as well as design aesthetics—meaning experienced landscapers will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of various materials, placement, and size.

Details Matter

Remember that there are specific considerations in determining if you need a retaining wall, some of which you might not know until you consult with an expert. Among those considerations: the slope of the earth at the location and the current drainage situation at the location in question, type of soil, and weather conditions (such as freezing).

As is the case with so many projects, building a retaining wall can be a DIY project for some, but working with an expert familiar with retaining walls and  your geographical area ensures that the retaining wall built will be not only attractive, but will also function as intended.

Ask the Right Questions

Knowing whether or not you need a retaining wall is more involved than just knowing you’re ready to build, and working with a professional landscape and construction company can help ensure all considerations: practical and financial, logistical and aesthetic, are fully researched and planned before construction begins.

Curious about retaining walls and your options? Contact us to learn more.

Olathe Landscapers

What Does an Olathe Landscaper Do?

Have you ever wondered why you need a professional landscaper—or have you been curious about what, exactly, a landscaper does and what makes some Olathe landscapers more successful than others? Some of a landscaper’s job duties might seem obvious: they take care of landscapes, right?

Right! But there’s more involved in that than you might think. Read on to learn more.

A Landscaper Is Your Yard’s Best Friend

A landscaper’s primary job is to cultivate and care for lawns, gardens, and other landscapes. This isn’t a one-size-fits-all job! It encompasses planting flowers, planting and mowing grass, preventing and pulling weeds, and building and repairing structures, and more.  Successful landscapers are also life-time learners and understand that each of these tasks is dependent upon a unique set of circumstances. Circumstances can vary by region or because of space or budget. All of this means that the best landscapers are curious and flexible and enjoy learning new things.

By specializing in native Kansas grasses, plants, and flowers, your Olathe-based landscaper can leverage plants that thrive in our unique climate. By doing this, they can help you cultivate a vibrant, healthy, prolific lawn that will be the envy of your neighborhood.

Traits of Successful Landscapers

Landscapers love being outdoors; after all, it’s where they spend most of their time. Because the weather (especially here in Kansas) is always changing, they have to be flexible. It’s important that landscapers are willing to work in all climates and conditions. The best landscapers are voracious learners; they might have to learn to safely use new or different tools, understand how weather and the seasons affect growth patterns, and know other local resources to tap for best results. Landscapers must be comfortable with constant physical activity because they’re usually on their feet and always moving around.

Olathe Landscapers Do More than Mow Lawns

Sure, most landscapers mow, mulch, prune, and fertilize. But others offer a full suite of services including irrigation design and building, hardscape design and building, natural stone installation, river rock installation, drainage solutions, finish grading, sod grading, and retaining wall planning and installation, just to name a few things.

Landscapers are People Too

This tip is true, no matter the position: the best people make the best landscapers. When you trust someone with your lawn, garden, or backyard kitchen you want to know they are diligent, knowledgeable, honest, and responsible. We believe the same, so you’ll find everyone you speak or work with here is friendly, helpful, and eager to make your experience one you’ll rave about to family and friends.