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3 Things to Consider This Landscaping Season
There are some new ideas floating around the landscaping world nowadays. The general thinking is shifting gears to environmentally safe practices instead of the traditional landscaping. There are three assets of landscaping design that will be reoccurring in 2015; two of them being newer ideas to the landscape community, and one of them being an idea that has been used before.

1. Sustainable Landscapes
According to the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), sustainable landscapes are “responsive to the environment, re-generative, and can actively contribute to the development of healthy communities. Sustainable landscapes sequester carbon, clean the air and water, increase energy efficiency, restore habitats, and create value through significant economic, social and, environmental benefits.
Sustainable landscapes also include materials that require less maintenance. With required maintenance comes the usage of fossil fuels, which obviously uses precious minerals from the Earth, and emits dangerous gases into our ecosystem. Using plants that are native to the area will greatly decrease the amount of maintenance required. Sustainable landscapes also celebrate the locality of place through locally sourced hard elements; stones and other hard features. This helps with water run-off, which has also become a growing concern in the landscaping world. There are several ways to utilize natural water run-off, and one of them is the design and usage of a rain garden.

2. Rain Gardens
A rain garden can be defined as a shallow depression that is planted with deep-rooted native plants and grasses near a runoff source (downspout, driveway, etc) to capture rainwater runoff.
Why plant a rain garden you may ask….
The Rain Garden Network explains that rain gardens help keep fresh rainwater out of the sewer system and reduce pollution and preserve our water systems. This runoff is untreated and carries with it pollutants like oil, salt, fertilizer, pesticides, pet waste, transportation chemicals, sediment and all sorts of other things that shouldn’t be in our freshwater. They then go on to explain that the plants, mulch and soil break up the pollutants and make them inert, not harmful.
Here in the Spokane/CDA area storm water runoff is a growing concern because its sewers carry both storm water and wastewater, creating what is known as ‘combined sewer overflow’, then spilling into the Spokane river and making the river unsuitable for recreational use and hazardous to surrounding ecosystem.

3. Bringing Inside, Outside
Many people design their outdoor spaces for recreation use and to entertain. One way they do this is to bring indoor living to the outdoors. This practice has been popular for many years and I think will remain popular in 2015. You can set up a full kitchen with stove/grill and dining area, an outdoor cocktail bar, a fireplace, couches and chairs. The ideas go on and on. Don’t forget to install the necessary lighting and buy furniture that is made of durable fabrics. And don’t only make the area beautiful to look at, design it so that you can use it to relax! It’s not always about playing host. Design a space that is comfortable for you to escape everyday life! You won’t regret it.

Why Aerate & Overseed? Why test soil pH?

Many people are looking to improve the quality of their lawns and aren’t sure how to go about it. There are many things you can do to get the desired results you want, but most don’t do the few simple things that can make the difference between an average lawn and a lush green lawn. Like the vegetables and flowers we plant, soil quality is huge to the health of grass. To get the lawn you desire, you must focus on the quality of the soil.
The first step is to test the pH levels of your soil. For optimal growth, the soil must be around 7.0. pH levels are measured on a scale from 1 – 14, with numbers below 7 being acidic(sour), and numbers above 7 being alkaline(sweet). If the soil is acidic, then you can apply lime or gypsum to neutralize the soil. On the other hand, alkaline soil can be neutralized by the application of sulfur. There are some indicators that you can use to determine the pH levels of your lawn by just looking at your lawn. Crabgrass is one of the most common lawn weeds and it haunts many homeowners. It seeds itself and spreads in the spring, then sprouts out of the ground in summer. Crabgrass prefers acidic levels in the soil. Therefore, if you have lots of crabgrass, you most likely need to address the pH levels of the soil. Conversely, dandelions are an indicator that your soil has alkaline levels. Addressing the pH levels of your soil is one of the fundamental steps to increasing the quality of your lawn. Maintaining neutral pH levels will promote grass growth and eliminate most of your lawn weeds.
The next step in acquiring the lawn you want is to observe the level of soil compaction. Soil can become compacted from many things. Heavy machinery (ie. lawn mower, excavator), people walking over the soil, and animals walking over the soil are all examples. Soil compaction can be defined as the process in which a stress is applied to the soil, causing it to be less likely to absorb air and water. Affected areas are more vulnerable to excessive water run- off and soil erosion. Air and water are also crucial to the growth of the roots of grass, therefore affected areas also are likely to not foster a healthy lawn. Burrowing animals, which also help restore air and water to the soil by digging small penetrations through the soil, find dense soil as a difficult environment and another ingredient for a healthy lawn is lost. In order to correct compacted soil, the process of lawn aeration must be completed. It involves making holes in the soil by poking or extracting a small plug of soil. This allows the air and water to penetrate the soil and make contact with the root system of the grass. This also allows the soil to absorb more water, preventing run off and erosion.
A lawn may be a good candidate for aeration if it:
-gets heavy use — people and children often walk on it, pets and wildlife often walk on it
-was established as part of a newly constructed or renovated home or complex. Often the soil can become compacted by the traffic of construction equipment.
-dries out easily. Compacted soil cannot absorb water.

Aeration will allow soil to absorb water and air, promoting growth.

The final step that we will discuss in assuring a healthy lawn is overseeding. The concept of overseeding has been around for a while, but is still new to most home owners and property owners. Overseeding is simply the process of spreading seed over an existing lawn. Some say this step will improve the quality of your lawn more than anything else you will do. A blade of grass has a short lifespan, 6 to 8 weeks or 45 to 60 days. One of the methods of maintaining a healthy, green lawn is to keep the lawn young. Overseeding is the easiest way to do this. Not only will overseeding keep the lawn young, it will also fill in spots where the grass is thin.
If you follow these steps and complete once a year or once every two years, you are going to guarantee yourself that healthy lawn you’ve always wanted.