Ranch Landscaping Tips And Tricks

The Ranch landscape appeals to our senses of rural beauty, nature and living in a slower time. Ranch properties usually have vast acreage, old buildings that might have been built at different times and land uses that have changed considerably over time.

Often times, the sheer scale of the rural landscape can be overwhelming for the average landscape contractor, landscape designer as well as the owner who no longer works the land but uses it for rest and retreat.

The prospect of maintenance, care, and management of a Texas Horse Ranch, Farm or Estate can be overwhelming. The approach is two-fold and should be one of the phased management and implementation of landscape design.

Comprehensive Management Plan

A comprehensive management or maintenance program for a ranching landscape defines zones of management, prioritizes tasks and determines if various maintenance areas should be expanded or deleted altogether to make the job of maintenance much more manageable.

Defining zones of management for ranch landscaping would look something like this:

1) the most intense and highest maintenance takes place around the perimeter of the house. These include weekly tasks such as mowing, shrub pruning, and weeding.

2) The next zone might include bi-weekly or monthly maintenance tasks such as weeding and pruning around less used walk, patio or pool areas for entertaining. Both zones one and two should receive regular fertilization, mulch and have an irrigation system as well.

3) the next zone might include biannual spring and fall clean-up such as fields that are seasonally mowed, shrub brush edges that need regular thinning out or filling potholes in the entry road all categorized as spring and fall clean-up.

Simply by organizing tasks by their intensity, a zone of management and time of year for tasks to be done a yearly maintenance schedule of tasks and budgets even the largest estate can be created and brought into reality.

Master Plan Design for the Ranch Landscape

Because many rural landscapes have been built at different times, with many different pieces, a Master Plan Design can be a tremendous help in providing cohesiveness and unifying even the largest property by its various uses.

It can be a very rewarding process in piecing together farm history of the past with the present. Below are design approaches utilized on large ranch properties to create cohesiveness:

Approach to the House-the first impression up the gravel, dirt, or long paved drive is the entry to the home in the rural landscape. A colonnade of oak or fruit trees along one or both sides of the drive can be a wonderful approach lending order and accentuating the length of the drive and size of the property.

1. Windbreaks strategically placed in patterns can provide a sense of scale and shelter to the entry approach as well.

2. Lawn-Landscape-Garden-Orchard-Woodland-start to define the landscape

And give it some structure as well. As referred to above, the closer to the home. The more intensive the maintenance, as one gets further from the home the less Intensive maintenance should become.

3. Outdoor Fountains the wonderful sound of water and appeal of the rustic rural fountain. These may need to be built in a simplistic manner, easy to maintain, or only for use during social events. Materials might include old stone, brass or copper weirs.

4. Outdoor Kitchens-covered open outdoor kitchens that before air conditioning was built as not to heat the house in the summer. Materials that reflect the home can be repeated such as matching roofing or molding details giving it a county nostalgia feel and creating unity with an old farmhouse.

5. Walkways-similar to English Gardens, walkways of gravel, limestone chips and reused brick or stone from the original construction can lead around the property and link to arbors, benches, or swings.


Protect your Local Wildlife by Planting a Habitat Garden

Wildlife in the natural environment is often in need of basics like water, food, and shelter. The destruction of waterways, forests and wetlands has placed great pressure on native wildlife. Land clearing threatens the survival of wildlife all around the planet by limiting natural food sources and destroying habitat.

By planting a habitat garden, you are creating space for wildlife to rest, find food or water, and perhaps even rear their young. Growing a habitat garden is exciting, and it is rewarding to know that you are doing something to protect your local wildlife.

The first step is to understand the natural environment of your area. The purpose of a habitat garden is to enhance your local environment and attract local wildlife. Spend some time researching the plants and animals that make up the ecosystems of your area. Take a walk in the forest, woodland, or along the beach. Learn about the environmental threats in your area, and find out which animals need protection.

Remember that animals need to feel safe in the space you create. Dogs, cats and other domesticated animals can be a threat to wildlife and will keep them away. Keep this in mind and chose an area that is safe from predators. It is also important that you are committed to maintaining the area without the use of chemicals or pesticides. Pulling weeds by hand will be much better for the wildlife and healthier for you too.

Water is the Key to Life

Water is the Key to Life
Water is the Key to Life

All creatures need water to survive. In much of the world fresh water is difficult to find. Rivers and creeks may be polluted, or your area may be suffering from drought. A habitat garden needs to begin with factoring in water for the wildlife who will come to visit. Water may be the major attraction for animals coming to your garden.

If you have space, why not create permanent ponds or billabongs. This will provide a constant source of water for wildlife. The larger the water source, the more animals you will find in your garden. Large shallow ponds are ideal for water birds, while a pond with an island in the center will allow a safe nesting site for many bird species. Lizards, turtles, frogs and many insect species all increase when there is water available.

For the small garden, why not try a pond above ground using an old bath or plastic tank cut in half. If you build some rocks and logs up to one side of the pond, you will find even your old bathtub becomes a lively ecosystem of frogs and insects.

Choose Plants Very Carefully

Choose Plants Very Carefully
Choose Plants Very Carefully

Deciding which plants to grow in your garden can be difficult and it is wise to research carefully. The first question is do you have room for tall trees or only for a small shrubby garden? Next, think about the wildlife you are trying to attract to your garden refuge. Nurseries can help you with information on plants that provide food for wildlife, or attract bees and butterflies.

No matter the size of your garden, diversity is the key. Animals have a range of different foods they require to survive. Wildlife also need plants for building nests for their young. By attracting small insects you will attract lizards and birds that feed on these insects, and so on up the food chain. Try to mimic nature and add different layers of plants, from trees to understory and ground-cover plants.

Rocks, Hollow Logs, and Dead Trees

Rocks, Hollow Logs, and Dead Trees
Rocks, Hollow Logs, and Dead Trees

Wildlife is often in need of shelter. This may be a shelter for a period of winter hibernation, or perhaps a safe place to build a nest and raise their young. Building a habitat garden requires you to think about the needs of your wildlife.

Creating shelter for animals in your garden is easy, just add a few extra elements when you garden. For example, place old wood logs around plants or garden beds to create a space for lizards to hide. Add rocks into your garden beds and you will find those same lizards eagerly using them to soak up the morning sun.

Hollow logs are used by many different animal species to shelter from the elements or to build a home for their offspring. Dead trees that are no danger to buildings can also be left standing for your wildlife. Old trees are used as nesting sites for birds or may contain hollows used by possums and other tree-dwelling mammals. They will also be used by predator birds, as they allow a high spot to perch with a clear view.

In Australia, these trees are used by Kookaburra’s and Tawny Frogmouth Owls. I have found it useful to cut some dead trees at about 2 meters from the ground and leave the trunk standing for as long as possible. These tree stumps are used by many birds, and even goannas, as they search the area for food.

A Habitat Garden is a Constant Source of Entertainment

A Habitat Garden is a Constant Source of Entertainment
A Habitat Garden is a Constant Source of Entertainment

As I write this article, my habitat garden is alive with wildlife. A goanna sun himself on a rock, a swamp wallaby chews weeds, and many birds can be heard calling as they fly past. I am lucky because I have two acres of land to work with and live in a rural area with a diversity of wildlife. I am continuing to improve and enlarge my habitat garden and aim for greater diversity in the future.

Diversity can be achieved in a garden of any size and shape. If you remember to provide a source of water, a variety of plants, and a few extras like rocks and logs, you will find it easy to create a beautiful habitat garden. This helps to support local ecosystems and provides wildlife with a safe place to visit. The added benefit to you is a life of constant entertainment, as you watch the animals enjoying your garden.

Landscape Yard

How To Keep Your Garden Pond Clean

Many of us know how pleasant it is to sit by the clear pond on a summer evening and enjoy the chant of birds. After all, the ideal surface of water gives a charge of the most positive emotions and soothes the mind. But, such garden ponds, even without fish and other pond water organisms, have to be cleaned of pollution, as otherwise, it will turn into a swamp with a lot of mosquitoes and murky water, which smell not that pleasant.

Dealing with poor waterproofing

Dealing with poor waterproofing
Dealing with poor waterproofing

Sometimes pond pollution may be caused by a violation of the waterproofing system. Subsidence of the soil or wrong preparation of the concrete slurry can cause cracks in the fundament. The concreted bottom or walls can crack, and soil begins to fall through the cracks.

To eliminate this problem, you need to drain the pond, clean the cracks and cover them with sealant in two layers. For large damages, it is necessary to clean them and cover them first with mastic, and then with a second layer of sealant. But such repairs are not a guarantee that the concrete foundation will not crack again. The most reliable way to eliminate leaks is to harden the walls and bottom with a layer of plastic.

Pond algae control

Pond algae control
Pond algae control

The algae, which are floating on the surface of your pond are one of the main problems, which has to be treated thoroughly. The water surface begins to turn green because of the growth of small algae. There are many types of aquarium algae, and all of them worsen the color of water, but do not harm its inhabitants. Removing algae from the pond should be carried out regularly – chemically, biologically, or mechanically.

If are wondering how to remove algae from the pond without harming fish, it’s better for you to use a mechanical method. To do that, remove the algae by using rakes, winding, and pulling them ashore.

The biological method also won’t harm your pond inhabitants. This method involves planting along the shores of the basin, which helps to create shadows and other adverse conditions for the growth of algae. The chemical method is more radical and involves the use of special substances and ponds chemicals – algaecides or dyes.

Usage of filters

Oase Filtomatic Pond Filters
Oase Filtomatic Pond Filters

Cleaning ponds and basins applying special filters is the most convenient and effective way. It is enough to put a cleaning filter on a pump and remove it from dirt. There are filters created for ordinary mud, large debris and silt, and biofilters with an ultraviolet lamp that prevent the reproduction of harmful bacteria and fish diseases.

The process of cleaning water with filters covers suction and filtration of green pond water through skimmers, with the removal of silt located on the bottom and surface of the pond.

Cleaning with the help of pond vacuum cleaners

Cleaning with the help of pond vacuum cleaners
Cleaning with the help of pond vacuum cleaners

How to clean a pond by applying fewer efforts? It is possible if you use a special pond vacuum cleaner, which collects garbage, both from the surface of the basin and from the bottom. Pond cleaners suction liquid, filtrate it through a special filter and withdraw already purified water through the hose located on the other side.

Removing the sludge from your basin can be carried out with the help of a bottom vacuum cleaner, which resembles the usual, but without a lack of an internal cleaning filter. The bottom vacuum cleaner sucks water inside into the bag and is automatically switched off when filled. Then you need to release the silt from the bag.

How to prevent the accumulation of silt and mud?

How to prevent accumulation of silt and mud?
How to prevent accumulation of silt and mud?

If you regularly remove silt and algae from basins applying the methods described above, this will serve as a guarantee of purity of the water surface and the health of inhabitants. But if the pond is heavily soiled, you should drain the water completely. Don’t forget to relocate your fish and other inhabitants before that. Then remove dirt from the bottom, algae, and mud applying flow strength of water, and then fill it with clean water.

Sometimes silt may rise from the bottom, and the water in the pond darkens or becomes green, due to the activity of fish or water pressure. To prevent this, you can add special chemical compounds, which will make the silt plunge on the bottom.

Feed inhabitants properly

Pond fish feeding
Feed inhabitants properly

You may be surprised, but your pond purity level depends on the organisms and animals, which live there. If you have fish, you should buy them only high-quality feed. This will help you prevent the growth of algae and reduce the amount of salt on the bottom. Every time you feed the fish, you have to get assured they eat all the food. If not, the leftover food will accumulate on the bottom promoting algae growth and creating silt.

How to not overfeed your fish? If you observe the leftovers floating on the surface that will be the sign for you to reduce the amount of feed you are giving away.

Pond winter times care

Pond winter times care
Pond winter times care

The question of wintering the inhabitants is solved, if your pond is large, fish won’t be threatened. But, if you are an owner of a small pond, fish should be moved to a home aquarium.  Winter times care involves removing mud, preventing freezing of the entire water surface.

To prevent the accumulation of harmful underwater gas and access to oxygen in ice, it is sufficient to make one large hole in the ice and make sure that it does not freeze or lower the special heater. Small pond owners should drain the water for winter.

When winter times are over, it is necessary to check the wiring and pump. Remove the mesh from the surface, if you used one, get rid of mud and clean the pond.

You can also put the barley straw in the pond. It releases useful chemicals that help to prevent the growth of algae. Don’t forget to remove leaves and debris every day. Getting rid of twigs and grasses regularly will ensure the water purity of your pond.


4 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Deciding to Remove a Tree

Being a homeowner is a difficult task, especially when you also have a backyard to worry about. It’s hard enough caring for an entire house, but when you add in its surroundings as well, that’s when things get truly complicated. However, with a little ambition and a lot of determination you can improve anything you want.

What to Consider

One main issue that you are faced with when your property has a lot of green space is removing trees. It’s no secret that the process itself is one that requires a lot of work, but there are more things that go into it than the actual sawing. Here are the four main questions to ask yourself before deciding to remove one.

Can You Remove It Yourself?

The first and most important question to pose when deciding to chop down a tree is whether this is something which you can pursue on your own or not. There are many factors that go into this, such as height, age and species, available yard space, tools, and so on. Consider these when making your choice.

Depending on size, as well as wood thickness and many other factors, you might need to call in an expert to cut it down for you. Unless you have extensive knowledge on the topic, cutting down a tall one is a risky business. You will require either a handsaw or a chainsaw to properly fell it.

Take out a wedge at the right angle and in the right direction to guide the fall. If you do this right, it might even start to descend right away. If not, proceed to saw it off completely. You can even yell “timber” at the top of your lungs for the full effect, but remember that this is a hard task to complete. Thus, don’t be afraid to call for professional backup.

However, according to HGTV, removing the stump is certainly something that you can attempt on your own. Smaller stumps are easier to take out, while larger ones require a lot of grinding down. But with the right clothing and machinery, you will succeed in this endeavor. And the best thing about it is that you will cut down on costs considerably.

If you decide to go about this DIY style, you must have the proper equipment for it. Safety goggles and a helmet are a must, as is proper footwear. Even if you’re not a pro yourself, buying work shoes specifically catered towards lumberjacks will definitely improve the quality of the process. Find additional info on which logger boots are best for this task and get started on your project.

Is It Damaging to Nearby Structures?

4 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Deciding to Remove a Tree
4 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Deciding to Remove a Tree

A tree that is causing structural damage is one that absolutely needs to be removed from a property. The plant can do this in a few ways. Either its roots are so extensive and thick that they completely modify drainage patterns, or it can even cause rot to eaves and lift the entire walk off if it’s positioned too close to the house.

One of the most dangerous species is the silver oak. Their massive roots block water, causing it to stay trapped in the yard instead of being flushed away. Cutting just the roots weakens and hurts the tree, which means that it will have to be taken out completely for both its sake and yours.

Furthermore, an ill-placed woody plant can also impede the property from being used to its fullest potential. This is also damaging in its own way, which thus means that it should ideally be removed. However, if you can work just fine around it, then you might want to consider letting it live and perhaps even using it as support for a swing set or some other type of decoration.

Can the Space Be Used Better?

4 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Deciding to Remove a Tree
4 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Deciding to Remove a Tree

Even if the tree isn’t necessarily stopping you from using your property fully, the space it occupies might still serve a better purpose. For example, if you need to come up with some extra leeway for storage, a shed is a good option. But the area is already landscaped and designed to the tiniest details, so you can’t possibly squeeze in something new.

Removing one placed in a strategic position helps clear up just enough for you to pursue other projects. But there is also another way to use that area better, and that is by adding in a new, more desirable species. Depending on the geographical region you live in and it’s climacteric particularities, some plants are better suited than others.

Putting in a healthier option will help both your yard and the environment overall. You might think that your DIY gardening projects are too small to make a difference in the world, but they are actually an important step towards better living for everyone.

How Long Has It Been There For?

4 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Deciding to Remove a Tree
4 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Deciding to Remove a Tree

If you put the tree in yourself and now have found a better use for that area, then it’s safe to assume that it can be easily taken down without any repercussions. The only aspect to worry about in this case would be your family’s emotional attachment. But if the plant came with the property, you will need to consider something else, namely its age.

If it stood the test of time for a century or more, it is an invaluable piece of flora. And these kinds of things do in fact happen. For example, the oldest tree in Great Britain was randomly discovered in a small churchyard in Wales. Thus, who’s to say the same thing can’t happen in your own backyard?

To avoid cutting down a potential national treasure, you will need to call in an expert to perform an assessment. And even if it isn’t irreplaceable and invaluable, its old age will determine how you should go about the entire removal process more precisely.


The very first thing to consider in any home improvement endeavor is your ability to do it all by yourself. Depending on the complexity and size of the situation, you might do just fine, or you might require to call in a professional for assistance. In the case of tree removal, the circumstances that influence this are the plant’s size and species.

But there is more to take into account. Is it damaging your property and any structures on it directly? Is it stopping you from using that space in a more prolific manner? If the answer to any of these is yes, then it’s time to take it down. But if you can somehow integrate it into your landscape ideas, then you will be able to keep it.

Finally, it’s important to assess any seemingly old trees that you didn’t plant yourself. They might be unique for the area and even declared as a protected species. Although the chances for that are small, it can still happen to anyone, so make sure to check everything before chopping it down.

Landscape Plants

How To Use Landscape Plants To Design A Beautiful Yard

Everyone knows it is a bad idea to put water plants inside of their desert garden. That is a recipe for complete disaster. The same thing is true when it comes to many other kinds of plants – numerous rock garden plants will fall over when they are planted into loamy, rich garden beds and many prairie plants will not survive in waterlogged soil.

So how can you know whether or not a plant will not only survive in your landscape but also thrive? It all comes down to having the right plants in the right place. The following are some of the best landscaping ideas Houston has to offer.

How To Use Landscape Plants To Design A Beautiful Yard
How To Use Landscape Plants To Design A Beautiful Yard

The first thing you need to do is carefully analyze the environmental conditions of your landscape – its soil composition, shade and sun patterns, planting zone and microclimate – and then choose plants according to how they can thrive in a certain spot in your yard.

Native (indigenous) plants offer a low-maintenance, drought-resistant, hardy, and beautiful landscape. Since these plants have evolved in a specific region over the course of thousands of years, they are well-suited to the area’s climate, hydrology, and geography. Fewer pesticides and no fertilizers are required by native plants compared to non-natives and lawns. They also require less water, which helps to reduce air pollution. These plants also provide shelter and food for butterflies, birds and other forms of wildlife.

When using native plants, it is still very important that they are grouped together according to having similar needs when it comes to soil, water, and sun conditions. Master gardeners often recommend that you create microclimate zones so that your least thirsty plants are located on the edges of your garden and the ones that need the most water are closest to your house.

Using these kinds of hydro zoning techniques can save you money on water and installation costs since less irrigation will be required. You will save money on your energy bills also. When there is more water in your soil next to your house, during the summer it will result in increased evaporative cooling, which will make your patio area and house cooler. This is what is known as the oasis effect.

With this modern gardening design philosophy, plants are matched with the landscape and then placed in areas where they will thrive naturally – without the gardener having to add too much input. This results in having a landscape design that is easy to maintain.

Benefits of Having the Right Plants in the Right Places

How To Use Landscape Plants To Design A Beautiful Yard

How To Use Landscape Plants To Design A Beautiful YardWhen the right plants are put into the right places, it several things occur due to you providing the plants with practically ideal growing conditions:

  • Plants are established, grow and bulk up quickly
  • Plants experience steady top growth and healthy root systems are produced
  • Plants are able to withstand attacks from diseases and insects. When plants are in the wrong place it results in their immune systems being compromised, and they are ripe for becoming infected whenever a bug or disease comes along.

The largest investment you make when making sure you put the right plants in the right places happens before you ever place your trowel in the soil. With this concept, the key to success is proper planning. When you invest more time into planning before planting, you won’t have to spend as much time maintaining your plants. You will be gardening green and smarter – and save money as well.

Begin With The Hardiness Zone

Check the USDA Hardiness Zone to find out if plants you are considering can survive your region’s winter weather conditions. Many gardeners try pushing the envelope when it comes to the hardiness zone and try growing plants from a warmer zone.

They try planting the questionable survivors in a backyard that is sheltered or perhaps in a bed close to a southern wall of their house, where the temperature doesn’t drop as low in the winter. However, to ensure success, your landscape design should be filled with plants that can survive in your zone.

Assess The Lighting Condition

There are some plants that need to have full sun in order to thrive, while others need shade. To get the best gardening results, make sure you are familiar with the type of light that is offered by your yard.

To determine this, watch the sun hitting your landscape areas one day. You should ideally check this every hour and take notes. Then when you run across a plant tag that states “partial shade,” you will know whether or not your yard provides those conditions.

Consider Your Soil

How To Use Landscape Plants To Design A Beautiful Yard
How To Use Landscape Plants To Design A Beautiful Yard

Plants are going to need very specific kinds of soil if they are going to grow best. One great thing about your soil is that you can often change it with the addition of amendments.

For example, you might make slow-draining clay soil more porous so it drains faster with the addition of organic matter, such as compost. Alternatively, you can even make an entirely new kind of soil across your landscape through the building and then filling raised beds, which can also bring some handy hardscaping to the area in question.

When you put the wrong plant into the wrong type of soil, your results will be mixed at best. In the very worst case, your plant will die. In the best possible case, it will survive but produces lackluster results.

Every kind of soil is able to accommodate its own group of plants. Prior to being the agent of large-scale change in your soil, look up what kinds of plants will grow in the very soil that’s already there. You can possibly create that attention-grabbing landscape using those, or you can turn to a landscape professional or business for advice and suggestions.

Size Matters Up

Plant tags are something that tells you just how big plants might grow in the most ideal of situations. You should plan like this, siting your plants in a corresponding fashion, allowing each of them sufficient room for growth both outward and upward.

When placed appropriately, taller plants might create a useful privacy screen or even become a strong backdrop against other plantings. However, when placed improperly, they can become an eyesore. On the other hand, plants that are not big at all might get dwarfed by

Embrace Both Texture And Color

When you pick plants, keep in mind both flower and leaf color, so you can figure out whether it’s going to clash or blend with your existing hardscaping or landscape. One simple path to success here in terms of color is designing using hues all in one color family. This works particularly well for a front-yard garden, where you might want to put your best foot forward to both visitors and passersby.

Scattering same-color clumps through your planting areas is another goof-proof way of going about it. This is called a color echo. Don’t neglect to look up bloom times so you can plan for constant color from the start of the gardening season to the end. Install a bit of drama into your landscape by adding contrasts among your plant and leaf textures.

Be Smarter Than Wildlife

How To Use Landscape Plants To Design A Beautiful Yard
How To Use Landscape Plants To Design A Beautiful Yard

Many gardeners eventually deal with some form of critter issue. It could be tunneling voles, strolling deer, or hopping rabbits, but whatever it is, it can wipe out your landscape design, turning your gardening work into a wasteland of stubs and stems.

You can’t likely win every battle, but you can usually be smarter than wildlife. The installation of hardscaping, such as fencing, puts a physical barrier up which limits the access of wildlife to your gardening space. However, fences aren’t always practical choices, much less affordable ones, in huge backyards or formal frontal spaces.

Picking plants that critters don’t like is another way to outwit them. Rabbits aren’t supposed to eat coralbells, but if they do, you might want to ditch them for something that your local bunnies don’t find as palatable. Landscaping businesses or professionals might know certain species of plants to use if you live in that area. In the long term, you’ll spare yourself many hours of stress and even save money that you might have otherwise spent on replacement plants.

You’ll have more breathing room in other categories of various plant selections. However, if you put a big tree in an improper place, you’re going to have problems with your hand later on. A lot of homeowners wind up paying for a tree with dangerous overhangs to be curtailed or just brought down altogether.


5 Tips for A Functional and Sustainable Landscape

As children, we all imagined traveling down the rabbit hole to enter the imaginary world of Wonderland. Talking caterpillars and grinning cats accompanied by mysterious and beautiful landscapes.

Alice’s Wonderland consisted of lavish trees and larger-than-life flowers which as an adult seems pretty hard to recreate. Unlike Wonderland, our environment is subject to climate change and differs across the world.

Creating a sustainable landscape that thrives is achievable but does need some time and planning.

Our beautiful climate is changing, and we need to help restore nature to lower our impact on the environment. We are giving you 5 tips to help you conserve water and energy, reduce waste, and minimize your carbon footprint.

Before You Start

5 Tips for A Functional and Sustainable Landscape
5 Tips for A Functional and Sustainable Landscape

Make sure you research your landscape and know about existing soil and vegetation. Watch out for uneven surfaces and areas with poor drainage.

Determine your environmental goals and assess your budget. If you don’t go in with a clear vision and accurate budget, you may sell yourself short and not complete your project.

Ways to reduce long-term costs and go green include; using permeable surfaces, creating an on-site rainwater tank, keep existing plants and, grouping plants with similar needs.

Eat Me

Hydroponic Plants
Hydroponic Plants

If you’re determined to spend less in the upcoming year, why not grow your own food? Instead of outsourcing your fruit and vegetables, grow organic versions at home.

Not only will you be saving on grocery bills, but you will also be encouraging yourself to lead a greener lifestyle. When they are growing in your backyard it is hard to resist them. Also, their vitamin content is at its highest level when picked straight from the garden.

There are plenty of eco-friendly edibles that require little maintenance and water supply. Garlic is a great root vegetable that is easy to plant, requires minimal maintenance and won’t be disturbed by animals. Mulberry trees are as easy to grow as they are to eat. These fruit trees are generally drought tolerant but can use a little integration in the dry season.

Tomatoes are great additions to your garden, and all you need to do is make sure they get enough sun and support for their stalks. If you plant basil next to your tomatoes, it can help improve the flavor as well as repelling pests.

Salad greens like lettuce are easy to grow and harvest. Plant with rich, loamy soil to create a rapid growing leafy green. To harvest, simply cut the base of the head with some scissors or a knife, and watch it regrow. Shout “Off with their heads!” before cutting for the best result.

TIP: Involve your children in the setup and maintenance of your organic garden. Not only will it get them away from their screens, but it will help create healthy habits which they will pass on to other generations.

Drink Me

Create DIY drip irrigation system
Create DIY drip irrigation system

Choosing when to water your garden can alter the effectiveness of the water used as well as the health of your plants. Watering your garden early will mean less water is required for the best result. This is due to the colder temperatures in the morning which will help your plants absorb more water.

Overhead sprinklers aren’t the way to go unless you have a large lawn. Using tools like soaker hoses or using efficient drip irrigation techniques enables you to get straight to the roots while still maintaining dry foliage.

This is one of many ideas to create a more sustainable landscape without the involvement of hand watering may which may be tried and true but can be very time-consuming. It’s best to leave hand watering to smaller gardens and plants in containers.

The type of soil and mulch you use in your yard can also affect your water usage. Don’t waste your money on sandy, water-repellent soils.

TIP: Don’t use just grass. Covering a large outdoor area with only grass can up your water consumption. Instead, break up your grassed area with stone or rock features in your design. Not only does this reduce the water needed, but it is also cost-effective and adds a dynamic, eye-catching outdoor space.

Feed Me

mulch materials and reduce weeds
mulch materials and reduce weeds

Like us, your garden needs nutrients to help it grow and flourish. There are many soils, fertilizers, and mulch available on the market, but it is important to choose your garden’s food wisely.

One way to improve your soil is composting your kitchen and garden waste. This saves you money and helps you reuse unwanted scraps.

In certain circumstances, you may need to use chemical fertilizers however it’s important to note that they are made from non-renewable sources, including fossil fuels. Not to mention, chemical fertilizers can change the PH balance of your soil which can contribute to the release of greenhouse gases.

Mulch balances soil temperatures and can reduce water evaporation rates by up to 75%. Placing a generous layer of mulch on top of your exposed soil will also help reduce this evaporation.

TIP: Invest in an accurate pH level testing kit. By testing your soil regularly, you can pick up any inaccuracies in your garden. Having a healthy pH level is critical to your plant’s ability to absorb nutrients.

Light Me Up

Best garden lights solar and LED
Best garden lights solar and LED

Adding lighting to your garden can help create certain atmospheres and really finish off your space. Unfortunately, traditional halogen outdoor lighting can be extremely harmful to the environment due to the large amount of non-renewable energy they use.

Use lower wattage bulbs to provide illumination rather than higher wattage which will wash out the stars and shine into your house. There is an abundance of low wattage LED lights on the market that range from classic to contemporary designs. With the price of these bulbs on the decline, they are an excellent option for your garden and can cater to all your design needs.

Solar powered lights are another alternative to traditional lighting and are very environmentally sound. These lights are great to light up paths and add some flair to your garden. However, it is important to note that the more sun the solar panels get, the brighter the light will be. It is important to keep these panels in full sunlight, and this can be harder in the colder months.

So, you’ve decided on your lighting type, where do you put them? While lighting can be placed pretty much anywhere, there are some key areas to focus illumination.

Paths – Lighting up your path will make walking more secure for yourself and your guests. It’s not necessary to have high illumination, keeping it simple with some downlights will prevent glare and not blind anyone.

Steps – Lighting steps are imperative for safety. Lights can be placed on the risers or the treads.

Outdoor Living – Areas like decks, patios, gazebos & pergolas are essential areas that need to be lit. Whether it’s to illuminate the entire area or to accentuate specific elements in the structure.

Walls – Lighting up a wall can create drama and in some cases act as a centerpiece for your landscape design. Washing or grazing an outdoor wall will complement colors and textures on your wall. Alternatively, adding fixtures like sconces can create a subtle yet sophisticated touch.

Re-Use Me

Don't Throw Out Broken Pots
Don’t Throw Out Broken Pots

Recycling and reusing old materials is a wonderful way to minimize your impact on our environment while saving some coins in the process.

Utilizing recycled site materials such as excavated rocks and timber can add flair to the garden. Call up some construction companies to see if they have some freestone or materials ready to take.

Some creative recycling ideas:

  • Using plastic water bottles as plant protectors.
  • Use plastic pipes to help stalks stay upright or create tunnel structures.
  • Reuse tins for a rustic plant pot.
  • Do up an old bathtub for container gardening and use it as a veggie patch.
  • Upcycle old pallets as furniture. Add some cushions and rugs for a festival-inspired garden.
  • Use your old tires as planter boxes
  • Release your inner artist by using broken china for a mosaic feature piece.
  • Create beautiful-looking planter pots from old newspapers.

TIP: Recently renovated? Use spare wood to create some planter boxes or even some outdoor seating.

Extra Tips

  • Use native plants. These types of plants are used to the climate and weather changes around you. However, try to avoid natural weeds that may spread into vegetation.
  • Plant lavender. Lavender is an amazing addition to any garden as it has a fantastic scent and can be used for many homemade items such as lavender oil and wardrobe fragrances. Lavender doesn’t require much water and is nectar-rich which is great for bees.

Final Thoughts

Don’t settle for an artificial garden filled with fake grass and strong chemical fertilizers. Create a safe space for your family to enjoy and interact while helping the environment in the long run.

Grow your own vegetables, minimize your water usage, use homemade fertilizers, purchase environmentally friendly lighting and, recycle old, unwanted materials to create your custom garden…

We hope you can use some of these tips to create your perfect Wonderland. Although your garden might not pop up overnight perseverance and dedication is key, along with a little bit of madness.

Landscape Yard

Bar Shed: Unadulterated Entertainment in Your Very Own Backyard

We all need that one special place we can claim as ours, a special retreat where we get away from the hustle and bustle of our daily lives and chores. A man cave is one such place, a typical male sanctuary, specially equipped so guys can do whatever they please, undisturbed by outside life and without upsetting any female sensibilities in the house.

Now, we are witnessing a new trend: man caves are being transformed into bar sheds. There are many options and designs on how to make and style them and here’s a little overview of their history and main characteristics.

The history and purpose

The story began in the UK’s Community Gardens where people with a flair for gardening got a chance to grow fresh fruits and veggies. They built backyard sheds to store gardening tools and possibly have a refreshing drink or two after gardening.

Slowly, this led to neighboring gardeners getting together to exchange experience and bar sheds were born. When smoking was banned from all interior spaces in 2007, the bar shed trend started to spread outside the gardening circle and the UK itself, becoming a sort of a global phenomenon.

The purpose of a bar shed is especially crucial for married men. It’s their way to create a space where they can feel free like they were in their bachelor days, where they can come and go as they please. There, they don’t have to watch their manners and behavior and no one asks for explanations.

For them, this is a way of establishing their masculine identity and expressing their true nature. Anybody who has some specific hobby, interest, or passion will want a space to indulge in it undisturbed, and a bar shed seems perfect for it.

The design and equipment

Bar Shed: Unadulterated Entertainment in Your Very Own Backyard
Bar Shed: Unadulterated Entertainment in Your Very Own Backyard

The general trend is to incorporate elements that display masculine aesthetics. Wood and brick are commonly preferred choices and offer endless possibilities when it comes to combining them with other materials, such as metal or glass. As for the standard equipment, guys usually go for accessories such as refrigerators, wine coolers, kegerators, vending machines, and beer taps. There’s a strong accent on sports memorabilia, musical gear, pool, and poker tables.

There are also fun and creative design interpretations of guys’ favorite movies or comics, so bar sheds are styled so they recreate scenes from them, such as the command bridge of Enterprise from Star Trek or the Batcave.

Another must-have element is a bar area with a classic bar and stools, glassware, and a place of storage. The type of glasses depends on what kind of drinks you plan to serve and as for storage. There are two options. One is a classic shelf, but a much more convenient and stylish way is to make an over-bar glass rack.

Building choices

Bar Shed: Unadulterated Entertainment in Your Very Own Backyard
Bar Shed: Unadulterated Entertainment in Your Very Own Backyard

The whole point of a bar shed is to detach yourself from the family house and neighbors as well since privacy and peace of mind are a priority here. So, the best location seems to be the far end of your backyard. If you already have a garden or tool shed, you can easily make it your own DIY project and transform it into your man cave haven.

If you’re starting from scratch, with some experience and necessary tools, this too can be your next great project. If not, consider buying pre-made sheds that come in all shapes and sizes and then give them a personal touch on the inside.


Bar Shed: Unadulterated Entertainment in Your Very Own Backyard
Bar Shed: Unadulterated Entertainment in Your Very Own Backyard

There’s no doubt that a great bar shed cannot exist without good music and passionate cheering for the favorite sports team. Therefore, the essential entertainment equipment of any decent bar shed is a high-quality media center. Nowadays, in the modern age of technology, network media streamer seems like the best solution. All you basically need is a stereo system and a large LCD TV mounted on the wall and you can kick back with a remote in your hand and enjoy the music or a match.

It could be a real logistical challenge to install all the gear, so your best option is to hire genuine experts, as these Brisbane-based TV installation pros, to make sure everything is done safely and to the highest standards.

No rules

Bar Shed: Unadulterated Entertainment in Your Very Own Backyard
Bar Shed: Unadulterated Entertainment in Your Very Own Backyard

Your bar shed is your unique opportunity to decorate it any way you find fit because essentially, there are no rules. It’s a blank canvas where you can display your love of sports, art, inspirational messages and quotes, fine cars, and music. Add some warmth and charm by hanging Christmas lights inside and a neon sign “Open” on the outside, so your friends know it’s time to rock.

This is your territory so you make the rules about what goes and whatnot. Put up a rules board and make it a source of fun and jokes: no politics, no farting, no chicks but yes to dirty jokes and laughter!

And finally, get a padlock on the door or one of those high-tech smart locks that only you can open using your smartphone. Whatever you choose, keep the rest of the family out because otherwise, your bar shed will become everyone’s shed.

After all, this is your special and private place so anything that keeps your spirit up and inspires you deserves a chance. At the end of a hard day, treat yourself to a place of freedom, fun, solitude or good times with your best mates.

Bar sheds are the last bastions of masculinity and one place where men can truly be just guys enjoying chats, drinks, football games, or indulge in their hobbies. There are endless possibilities when it comes to their bar shed design. It can be a full-on man cave or a multi-purpose shed that serves both as a backyard party bar and a barbecue venue. While wives usually have the monopoly over the whole house design, they commonly don’t have a say about what ends up mounted on the wall of their men’s personal spaces.


Eye-Catching Small Trees and Shrubs for Your Yard

As the owner of a typical city garden – small, long and narrow – I’m always on the look-out for trees and shrubs that provide interest year-round and do it without taking over the garden.

A few weeks ago, landscape designer Marion Jarvie came to my rescue (and to those of us who packed the Civic Garden Centre’s floral Hall) with her lecture, Trees and Shrubs: New – Unusual – and Small. Her slide presentation highlighted some wonderful new plants that would fit right into a small garden.

Here are some of the trees and shrubs that caught my eye:

Abeliophyllum distichum Pink forsythia
Abeliophyllum distichum Pink forsythia

Abeliophyllum distichum Pink forsythia: I have long lusted after the great white forsythia, (not a forsythia at all, but a fragrant Korean relative) and now there’s a pink form. With a perfectly rounded shape and growing four feet in diameter, Abeliophyllum distichum is hardy to Zone 4 and produces fragrant pink blossoms. What’s not to like about this little gem? For best bloom, Marion advises pruning hard right after it flowers.

Acer negundo
Acer negundo

Acer negundo ‘Flamingo’ Variegated Manitoba maple: Who would have thought that a Manitoba maple would be on a list of small trees? Topping out at under 30 feet, this maple tree features variegated leaves that bud out a clear pink and white in spring, green with white variegation later in the summer – and it’s hardy to Zone 5. It sure beats the Manitoba maples that typically line the streets of Toronto.


Acer japonicum
Acer japonicum

Acer japonicum ‘Shirasawanum’ (syn. ‘Aureum’)Full moon maple: I first saw this small maple tree on Kathy Renwald’s Calling All Gardeners television program (pre-HGTV), and have been trying to track it down ever since. (Why do nurseries make it so difficult to find such beauties? Luckily, Vineland Nurseries lists it in their catalogue.) Growing only 20 to 30 feet tall, the full moon maple features soft green leaves that are beautifully rounded in shape. According to Marion, it will grow in semi-shade – always an issue in city gardens.

Berberis koreana
Berberis koreana

Berberis koreana ‘Red Tears’ Korean barberry: Long banned in Canada because it was thought they were a host to wheat rust disease, barberries have now been removed from Agriculture Canada’s hit-list. (Berberis vulgaris was the real culprit.) Fairly large for a shrub, ‘Red Tears’ produces seven-foot sprays of arching branches covered with bright red berries in fall and winter. “Like an old-fashioned Victorian lampshade,” is how Marion describes it. As if that’s not enough, this barberry has bright autumn foliage.