Friday, November 28, 2008

Spokane and the Beauty of Spring Drainage

Landscaping and hardscaping in the Spokane, Washington region is a little different than you might expect from Washington State. We don’t get the rainfall of cities like Seattle. On the other hand, we do get snow. This means that our landscaping projects (and yours) have to be ready to deal with a big spring melt – lots of water at once, instead of drips and drops throughout the year. Proper drainage is the key. This is especially important with hardscapes, where the water travels along a stone or concrete surface before it hits the dirt.

Drainage can go wrong in a whole bunch of ways, but in many cases we can divide them into two basic categories. First, you get insufficient drainage when water pools and collects where it shouldn’t. If this happens on a hardscape it will eventually wreck the stone or concrete you used. This may take some time, but when it does, the material is often expensive to replace. If it was bearing a load, that creates a whole new set of problems.

Poor drainage can quickly destroy soft landscaping features by ripping soil out, drowning grass and creating impromptu muddy pools. Sometimes this is easy to see, as you see a torrent of water snake down during the first major thaw. Watch out, though: Other instances can be hard to identify. In these cases, soil erosion sneaks up on you. If you finished a landscape with rolls of sod, the water can well up underneath, loosening it. You’ll find out when great chunks of grass die, or float away during the first heavy storm.

Less well-known is the problem of excess drainage. Yes, you can have too much of a good thing, especially in dry seasons where every drop of water counts. This problem comes from a combination of deep slopes and sandy or rocky soil. This can also happen when a hardscape directs all of the runoff away from your green space. Excess drainage dries out the soil over time, killing plants and turning dirt into dust.

The best way to fix poor drainage is to get a professional to check the slope and runoff on your landscape. He’ll sculpt the land to direct water into a natural drainage area, or build a drainage area for you. In many cases, we use crushed rock to let runoff drop back into the water table without pooling in the surrounding soul. If excess drainage is the culprit, retaining walls can reduce the slope, and new soil can absorb water more readily. No matter your problem, contact us for drainage landscaping jobs in the Spokane area and we’ll be able to keep the water from bothering you.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Half of Landscaping is Cleaning Up

It’s true. Landscaping is messy work. There’s a lot of digging and dirt. Sometimes you have to use big machines. Sometimes, when you need your garden at its greenest, you even need to handle a bucket of crap (fertilizer!).

That’s why one sign of a skilled landscaping company is the ability to perform a thorough cleanup of the site. Over the years, we’ve gotten this down to an efficient routine, to the point where we now offer landscaping site cleanup as a separate service. You should consider hiring a professional for this in a whole bunch of circumstances. These include:

Heavy Landscaping Materials or Other Stuff: Extra rocks don’t just roll away by themselves. If you’re doing landscaping yourself, you’re often in a bit of a bind. If you use a short estimate on materials it may force you to take another trip to the landscaping materials yard. If you overestimate, you’ll have to move the excess. While people are usually only too happy to reclaim unused materials, some of this stuff is difficult to move, and if you do it wrong, may wreck the earth, especially when you’re talking about big boulders. This holds true for some pre-existing features too, such as rocks from other projects and tree stumps.

You Screwed Up Your Own Landscaping: I hate to say it, but some of our jobs are “911 calls.” People get into landscaping with a lot of enthusiasm, but soon discover they’re not the types to figure it out from books and TV shows. In this case, professional help lets you finish the job and get rid of materials you don’t need in one go. Now the question of whether you screwed up is subjective in some cases (though it’s obvious when you mess up a water feature, because that just gets messy). To know for sure ask yourself useful questions, like “Do my guests come inside even when I’m having a backyard barbeque? Do my kids weep when I ask them out to play catch? Are the curtains always closed? Has by significant other made a joke about my landscaping skills recently?” These will reveal the truth.

It’s Time to Sell Your House: If you’re about to sell your house, consider getting a professional to do a thorough cleanup and perform minor fixes to your existing landscape. Most people attend to the yard last, and at best, just get their own stuff off the lawn. The fact is that many of the broken down gardens and crumbling retaining walls you see in any home for sale could be easily fixed and add thousands of dollars in value to the property.

If you fit in one of these categories and live near Spokane, give us a shout!

Friday, November 14, 2008

All about Shale

When most people think of shale they immediately envision the gray, thin layers of shoreline rock by a lake or river. It’s beautiful, but it doesn’t always go with local homes and the surrounding landscape. That’s a huge misconception. The truth is that shale has an incredible amount of variety, and you can usually find a type to match your project.

Shale’s variety comes from its origins. Shale is what is called a clastic rock. That means that it’s composed of other minerals that have cemented together due to natural forces. Shale is a clastic sediment – it’s made of bits of other broken rock. Shale comes in many, many colors because it’s composed of the materials that eroded and cemented in a particular region. It shares this origin with sandstone, but unlike it, shale is finer-grained.

People often worry that because shale really is made of particles of other stones it will rapidly erode in damp weather. Part of the misconception comes from the fact that most shale comes from watersheds where the elements have already left noticeable wear. Shale strength and texture is based on how old it is. Younger shale hasn’t been exposed to as much heat and pressure, so it’s coarse and not as firmly cemented.

Keep in mind, however, that all shale took millions of years to reach its present form. It didn’t get smoothed out right away. If you want your garden path to outlast all of recorded human history, maybe you have cause to worry, but most of us have far more modest goals!

Want to give shale a try? Start with our Wood Stone. You can use it as a wood substitute because thanks to shale’s properties, it absorbs water in much the same fashion as wood. If you like it, see if you’d like to build it into a Water Feature - Our Specialty.