September 17, 2013 Off

Retaining Wall – Built Right!

By in Retaining Walls

     At Blue Dot Landscaping, we build retaining walls the correct way. This article will show you the basics of building a retaining wall that will last. Note the first attempt by this homeowner’s original contractor did not work..     

 Poorly constructed retaining wall         Poorly constructed retaining wall          

    We take pride in our work with over 20 years of experience in the landscape construction business.  Every single one of our hardscape projects completed over the last 20 years is still there and is still working.  This includes stone walkways, driveways, patios with pavers, and much more… in addition to retaining walls.  What keeps us in business is the ability and the desire to complete every job the right way. Blue Dot Landscaping likes to see its clients pleased with their projects…. not just upon completion…. but for many years to come.

Excavation

After removing the cheap and poorly built concrete block wall, our task was to build a 70 feet long  retaining wall overcoming a difference of 5 feet between the two levels.  The upper level created a nice outdoor area for the homeowner overlooking a river.  The lower level abuts a river.  Yes, we said ‘river’ twice.  This river, as most do, sometimes rises and causes erosion problems.   We wanted to build as sturdy as possible the retaining wall in order to prevent any new failures.   We assured adequate foundation that would support the future structure. That was done by excavating a 4 ft wide by 2 ft deep trench, at the base of the retaining wall. That trench, filled with properly selected drainage material, forms the leveling pad, on which the wall lays. We made sure that the foundation soil was compacted until no movement was observable with a passing of the compactor plate tamper. All loose and soft materials that couldn’t be compacted were removed.

Excavation          Excavation

    To prevent mixing the soil with the drainage material we wrapped non-woven filter fabric over bottom and top. Geotextile filters retain soil particles while allowing seeping water to drain freely. We choose proper drainage aggregate – #57 stone – to fill the leveling pad. Used the flat plate tamper to assure that the leveling pad was densely compacted. We always use precision instruments as transit level to ascertain level.

Laying out that first course is the most crucial step of the process to insure accurate and acceptable result. We checked the blocks for level and alignment. We made sure that the blocks were in full contact with the base. The level was checked and re-checked.

first block of retaining wall

Laying the first layer of the block retaining wall

An important step was filling with drainage aggregate any openings in and between the segmental units. We back filled the first course with #57 stone : 36” wide and up to height of the segmental retaining wall unit.

backfilling the retaining wall

Backfilling the retaining wall

We used AnchorTM Diamond Pro Stone Cut retaining wall blocks; dimensions: 18” L x 12” W x 8” H; weight: 86 lbs; color: earth blend. The units had a lip on the bottom rear side to lock the blocks together and create a step effect.

 

   Building up, we placed and moved the segmental retaining wall units to the lips to establish proper setback. In the same manner as the first course we back filled the successive courses: used drainage aggregate to fill openings in and between units, placed drainage aggregate behind and up to height segments, compact.

         

    A major and important part of any retaining wall is geogrid.   We installed Stratagrid  SG200 – This type of geogrid reinforces the wall with its high molecular weight and high tenacity polyester yarn. The yarns are precision knitted into a dimensionally stable network of apertures providing tensile reinforcement capacity in both principle directions. A black UV stabilized saturation coating provides further chemical and mechanical benefits.  It provides a LTDS of 1919 lbs/ft.

geo grid

Installing Geogrid

First we made sure the drainage aggregate was level with the segmental blocks. The soil reinforcement needed to be install at a proper elevation and orientation. Then we cut geosynthetic reinforcement and installed with strength direction perpendicular to wall face. Placed segmental unit on top of the geogrid and established proper setback. We locked the geogrid between two blocks.We ensure that the reinforcement material was not seamed or overlapped.

    After cleaning off the last layer we installed segmental cap units as a finished touch. Covered the drainage aggregate with non-woven filter fabric, added topsoil, and finished the grade at the top of the retaining wall.

At the bottom, along the wall face we used non-woven filter fabric to wrapped aggregate stone 2 feet in diameter. After topsoil placement we had the wrapped stone and first two courses of the retaining wall below the ground.

 

To secure the top grade we used erosion control fabric, laid out sod and planted ground cover.

          

       The final product was an 8 ft tall (5 foot above ground and 3 feet below), 70 ft long  retaining wall that weights 252 000 lbs.  We really believe this will last a very long time… river or no river.

See our retaining wall page.

 

Update:  It happened – the most rainfall we’ve had in 100 years.  Look how high the river water rose…

tate25

3 Days later – YAY!

tate27
Written by Rich Regan - Blue Dot Landscaping - Visit Website

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March 24, 2013 Off

The Real Dirt about Spring

By in Lawn Care, Seasonal

Spring is here! Although it may not feel like it just yet, the temperatures will be rising soon. Therefore, it is important to be proactive and get your lawn ready for the season.

Whether you are beginning a large outdoor project, an edible garden, or planting one plant, the first thing you should do is test your soil. A soil test is perfect for you to know what nutrients are already in the soil. As plants need specific nutrients to grow properly, soil tests will show you nutrients you have, as well as, test the pH of the soil. Soil tests also provide recommendation for fertilizer or lime application, which will optimize the growth of your specific plants. It is recommended that those in the Upstate should conduct a soil test in very early spring (i.e. RIGHT AWAY!). Upstate soil has a habit of being a tad bit acidic, so application of lime is most always needed. The breakdown and absorption of lime takes a while; therefore, one should plan in advance.

If you do your homework while deciding what to use in your landscape, you can reduce the amount of work in the long haul. If you choose plants that are appropriate for your yard and climate, you will reduce the amount of fertilizer and lime needed, as well as, the amount of watering the plants will need. Native plants require less attention, as they can survive on rainfall alone. Droughts are not uncommon in our area, which is why it is important to brainstorm other ideas to protect our natural resources. Some ideas to reduce wasting resources include managing run off and increasing infiltration of rainwater back into the soil.

For those of you who maintain your own lawn, your lawn mower and other equipment need to be maintained annually. Cleaning and lubricating your motor are things that should be done seasonally. Dirt can cause damage and deteriorate the life of your equipment. Other procedures that should be done to help your equipment’s efficiency include:
• Cleaning the underside of the deck to prevent clogs
• Checking for leaks
• Installing new spark plugs
• Cleaning fuel tank
• Changing oil filter
• Sharpening your blade

If you maintain your equipment, you will be able to maintain your landscape! If you just don’t have time for all the work that your lawn needs to reach its fullest potential, hire professionals! We are here to make your life easier and give you the lawn you’ve always dreamed. Not in our area? Check out a list of our approved landscapers in other areas!

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March 13, 2013 Off

Covered with Groundcover!

By in Landscape Design, Planting

Groundcovers can be the most beautiful way to solve some serious landscaping issues. Groundcovers are plants that grow low to the ground and spread quickly to cover areas of land. All of these types of plants are recurrent and evergreen. In order to be an effective groundcover, a plant must be to durable and fast growing. The most popular groundcover is grass, but this is not always the solution to all land areas. When grass is difficult to grow or maintain, other groundcover plants can give you the uniform look you desire. When considering groundcover plants, the grower must be aware that unlike grass, these plants should not be walked on.

Groundcover plants can be an excellent tool for solving many landscaping problems, such as, erosion, shady areas, extreme wet/dry locations, and areas where grass is unable to grow. As with all plants, the location of desired growth should be considered before planting. Depending on the plant, extreme shade or sunlight may be needed in order for the plant to thrive. The necessary moisture level of the soil depends on the type of plant you intend to grow. It is important to research the many types of groundcover plants to decide how well it will thrive in your particular area. Other various considerations may include but are not limited to: size, effect, rate of growth, climate, land type, etc.

 

In order for the plant to create good root systems, one should initially take care to prepare the soil. Persistent weeds should be cleared because it is difficult for these particular plants to compete. A depth of eight to ten inches of soil should be worked on with a two inch layer of compost or manure to improve water retention or drainage, depending on the type of soil. A comprehensive fertilizer, such as 10-10-10, should be assimilated in six to eight inches of soil, if no soil test is used as a guide. Groundcover plant death is usually the result of inadequate soil preparation.

Groundcovers can typically be planted during any season although planting during the summer can be difficult. While planting in fall or spring allows the plant the opportunity to build strong root systems due to natural rainfall, planting in the summer involves frequent and sufficient watering.

Spacing the plants is an important factor to resolve landscaping issues. The most effective way of groundcover planting is to use staggering rows. Ideally, you want the area to be completely covered by the end of the third growing season. Spacing the plants too far apart may allow weeds to pop up and gradual coverage as opposed to the rapid coverage you may desire. Close planting is unnecessary and can cause problems as plants mature due to increased competition.

Weeds are a detrimental issue with groundcovers. In order to regulate weeding, you may choose to install a two inch layer of mulch. On areas where your major concern is erosion, you should use course netting in order to establish growth.

Success will also be dependent on adequate watering. The amount of water needed differs between various plants. Wilting may be the sign of failure, so this should never be allowed. Pruning can be an excellent way to improve groundcovers, and should be done in early spring before new growth occurs. Depending on the type of plant, clipping, removing old growth, and rotary mowing may be essential to encourage dense new growth.

Be advised that groundcovers can take up to two years to establish dense area. Water and fertilization are key to creating rapid growth. You should begin fertilizing four to six weeks after planting along with three to four more applications over spring and summer months, ending in September. Comprehensive fertilizers, such as 12-4-8 or 16-4-8 should be applied at a rate of one pound of nitrogen per 1000 square feet. Use this formula to regulate the amount of fertilizer to use for per growing area:

(Area of Bed ÷ 1000 sq ft) ÷ % of nitrogen in bag of fertilizer

Groundcovers are such an effective way to improve situations where landscaping issues, such as erosion or low grass growth, occurs. Depending on the type of groundcover plant you choose, you may have beautiful vines and other gorgeous flowers to adorn your “ugly” spot.  Not in our area?  AATex can work with you to create an awesome design to fix your problem areas!

Written by Rich Regan - Blue Dot Landscaping - Visit Website

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January 10, 2013 Off

It’s time to prune your Crape Myrtle – Tips on pruning

By in Lawn Care

Why do homeowners and landscapers like crape myrtles?  Crape myrtles make beautiful flowers that last all summer, have gorgeous peeling bark, and are graceful all on their own.  Crape myrtles are the perfect plant for South Carolina and the southeastern states because this plant favors our hot, sunny climate.  Our area allows the plant to grow to tree-size proportions.  This plant should be planted in a large area, so there is room for it to grow and spread.  Once in the ideal location, these trees can develop naturally without the owner chopping off the top, which has become somewhat of a conventional routine for those owners of crape myrtles.

Crape myrtle Deutsch: Kräuselmyrte

Crape myrtle Deutsch: Kräuselmyrte (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are many reasons to prune your crape myrtle: space, misguided routine, etc.  Although severe pruning will not harm a healthy crape myrtle, many people believe that in order to encourage flowering, you must heavily prune.  That is simply not the case.  Although light pruning will yield larger flowers and excess blooms, heavy pruning is unnecessary because flowers form on new growth.  Because new growth occurs in the spring, it is best to prune in late winter or early spring to stimulate development.  To boost a second bloom, you should prune flowers directly after they wilt in the summer.

 

If you choose the right cultivar, or the size and shape, you may have little to no pruning to do, as it will not outgrow its boundaries.  There are many cultivars in different sizes and colors: the 3 to 6 feet is considered dwarf and the 4-15 feet is considered semi-dwarf.  These varieties make it easier to select the right size plant for your specific place.  ‘Acoma’ (white flowers), ‘Hopi’ (light pink), ‘Comanchee’ (dark pink), ‘Zuni’ (lavender) and ‘Tonto’ (red) are some of the crape myrtles that mature between 5 and 15 feet.  These types are also resistant to powdery mildew, a fungus that affects and distorts the leaves. ‘Hope’ (white), ‘Ozark Spring’ (lavender) and ‘Victor’ (red) are some of the compact crape myrtles between 3 and 6 feet. Unfortunately, the compact crape myrtles are affected by the powdery mildew.

The first step to developing tree shape is to remove all ground level growing limbs.  You should “limb up”, or remove lower, lateral branches, a little less than halfway up the height of the plant.  You should remove branches that are rubbing against each other and shoots that grow into the center of the canopy.  Remove lower branches as the tree gets taller.  Some basal sprouting may occur, whether or not the tree is being pruned, and should be pulled up when succulent.

Manageable height is something that will require moderate pruning, which is why it is important to consider space when choosing a cultivar.  Eliminate all twiggy growth back to lower growing side branches, which will help give the plant a constant appearance.

Once the crape myrtle becomes mature, the seeds will drop and the plant will bloom.  Therefore, it’s unnecessary to remove the seed heads in late winter or early spring before growth begins unless they are in reach.

If you have an old crape myrtle in a space meant for something much smaller, consider all of your options.  “Limbing” up can be a solution for a tree that is interfering with cars, people, and doors or windows of a single level home.  If the tree is too close or leaning on a building, you can remove one of the major trunks.  A couple of other options to resolve a problem myrtle in a spot where you would like a compact plant are:

  1. Choose a dwarf cultivar that will require little to no maintenance.  Dig up the problematic plant and replace with new cultivar.
  2. Each year, prune the stems back approximately six inches above ground each year.

It is important to immediately prune dead or defective branches.  Or else, pruning should include the removal of lateral branches, small twigs, or central branches in order to allow sun and air while the plant is dormant.

The best thing for you to do in any case is to plan before planting.  Creating the right environment for the right cultivar can save you a lot of time and effort in the long run.

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September 27, 2011 Off

Retaining Wall Design

By in Retaining Walls

Thinking about adding a retaining wall to your landscape? These features can be used simply for decorative appeal or they can provide a real service. Either way, you want your wall to be structurally sound from day one or you will find yourself dumping money into repairs a lot faster than you think.

There is an art to retaining wall design and installation, so much so that installers can opt to become nationally certified in their craft. An expert retaining wall installer has to intimately know the characteristics of your landscape and soil in order to design a wall that will last. From the soil profile and the condition of the ground water on your property, an installer can get an idea of what your wall should look like, both in terms of materials and function. Of course, he or she will also work with you to achieve a desired look and price point. Without an expert in charge of designing and installing your wall, you could face the evil duo of structural failure: tilting and cracking. No material — whether it be wood, concrete, or brick — is safe from these problems if the wall is not installed correctly. Your trusted installer should be very familiar with lateral earth pressure, sliding bases, overturning, and soil bearing.

You may require little of your wall, perhaps just a “sitting wall” that can accommodate guests as they gather on your patio. Or you may need your wall to keep soil from naturally collapsing from a slope. Whatever you need to get from your retaining wall,  having it built to last  will be an investment in improving your landscape.

Written by Rich Regan - Blue Dot Landscaping - Visit Website

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September 26, 2011 Off

Drip Irrigation Systems and Their Benefits

By in Landscape Irrigation

Drip irrigation systems benefit you and your landscape on many levels. You may think this method is used only in desert regions, but they are popping up more frequently because installation and design are relatively uncomplicated and they have a lot to offer both do-it-yourselfers and professional landscapers.

So how does drip irrigation work? This slow, precise method of water delivery is like a leaking faucet — drop after drop of water drips directly on to the soil. The soil soaks up the water before it has the chance to evaporate or run off. When water hits the soil, it heads directly for plants’ roots, where it is needed most.

Aside from the application, there are many benefits to having a drip irrigation system installed. Because the water is going to specific locations where moisture is needed, you will find that the amount of water used to irrigate is decreased and this can lead to savings on your water bill. Also, you have complete control over when and where the water is going, as well as how much water is being used. You may see a difference in  your plants’ appearance as they are undergoing less stress from variances in soil moisture. Furthermore, you can give individualized attention to each plant’s needs and you can water all of your plants at once. Because you are not watering every square inch of soil, you should see a decrease in weed growth.

And, generally, drip irrigation systems are less expensive to install. Talk to an experienced professional and find out if drip irrigation can benefit your landscape.

Written by Rich Regan - Blue Dot Landscaping - Visit Website

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September 25, 2011 Off

Lawn Care: Lime Important to a Heathy Landscape

By in Lawn Care

You may not be aware of this, but the soil in your yard is most likely sour. And a healthy lawn finds sour soil a difficult place to grow. “Sour soil” refers to its chemical make-up and most yards in the Upstate have acidic soil, making them “sour.” In a nutshell, what is making the soil acidic is hydrogen ions. For the growing grass and plants in your yard, this means a lack of calcium and magnesium. Imagine all those hydrogen ions sucking up these beneficial elements. Unfortunately, high acidity can make getting other helpful nutrients hard for your plants. The best way to determine the acidity of your soil is to take a sample to the local County Extension office, run by Clemson. The good folks there will test your soil and tell you exactly how sour it is.

You can “sweeten” acidic soil with lime. Lime application is a crucial aspect of lawn care because it is an alkaline — a compound of calcium and magnesium (and you thought those were just good for bone health!). These elements help reverse the negative impact of acidic soil. Lime is not a fertilizer, but an important ingredient to making your soil more plant and grass-friendly. In addition to lowering the acidity of the soil, lime also makes detrimental elements, such as iron, less soluble and harmful to plants. Also, it helps plants take in necessary nutrients, especially phosphorous, making your fertilizer more effective. And lime increases good bacteria activity, which is great if you are using compost.

Some well-meaning gardeners can get a little over-zealous with lime application. In this case, too much of a good thing is a bad thing and over-applying lime can be just as harmful as never applying it at all, making your yard too alkaline, and your plants and grass unhealthy. Also, there are many types of lime and some are caustic. There is an art to its application and nothing should be done until your soil is tested. An experienced lawn care team can help you with determining how much and what type of lime you need, as well as when and how to apply it. Your yard is your little piece of the world. You want to make it as sweet as you can.

Written by Rich Regan - Blue Dot Landscaping - Visit Website

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September 24, 2011 Off

Aluminum Fencing Benefits Homeowners’ Wallets

By in Fencing

When it comes to fencing a yard, homeowners face the dilemma of which fence will be the most durable, cost-effective and beautiful. Aluminum, wood and wrought iron are all able to provide a clear marker for property lines and can be great for keeping pets and small children safely enclosed in the yard. But not all fences are created equally. The choice can lead some homeowners into a war between their heart’s desire and their wallet’s reality.

Aluminum fencing is a more cost-effective and lower maintenance way to have the classic style of wrought iron. It will showcase and protect your home, but it will not bust your budget. The number one maintenance problem with wrought iron is oxidation. Aluminum fences are rust proof and have a special powder coating to ensure a high quality paint finish. Also, aluminum is far less expensive in both up front material cost and long-term maintenance. Keep in mind, too, that wrought iron fencing rarely comes with a warranty, but most aluminum fencing manufacturers provide warranties, many times for the life of the fence.

Having a wood fence is also a beautiful choice for your yard and is much less expensive than wrought iron. It is also less expensive than aluminum…initially. Wood does not rust, of course, but it is an organic material that will eventually succumb to the elements. Over time, the maintenance of a wood fence with the reseals and replacements, the insecticides and fungicides all add up and make wood fencing a high-maintenance option and, at the end of the day, a less cost-conscious choice.

Aluminum fencing is a great choice for the homeowner who is watching his or her bottom line. With low maintenance and many style and color options, designs and styles are many and can be tailored to fit any taste and landscape.

 

 

Written by Rich Regan - Blue Dot Landscaping - Visit Website

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September 23, 2011 Off

Four Grasses to Give You a Beautiful Lawn

By in Grasses

Upstate South Carolina is located in what is known as the “Transition Zone” for growing grass. This zone, stretching from the central east coast to the eastern border of New Mexico, is considered the toughest place in the country to grow quality grass. The “transition” refers to climate zone. We are in the more southerly part of this zone, but we still have winters that can be hard on warm season grasses while summers may get too hot for cool season grasses. So what does all this mean for you and your chances to grow a beautiful lawn? You may want to consult an experienced landscaper, but there are four grasses that do well in our neck of the woods.

Zoysia is a hearty grass that usually starts with sodding, as the seeds can be hard to come by. This warm season grass will go dormant in the winter, but does not look dead during these months. Zoysia comes in many varieties and is tolerant of the shade.

Bermuda is another popular warm season choice for many homeowners. However, this type of grass loves full sun and does not do well in shade. The common variety is indigenous to our area, but there are many varieties to choose from and you may wish to use a hybrid seed that will give you a more disease and pest resistant lawn.

Centipede is another option for a warm season grass, but less common. You can choose to plant seed, sprig, plug or sod your lawn to get this grass established. Centipede is a good grass for those who want a beautiful lawn, but do not want a lot of maintenance.

Fescue is the cool season grass of the group and it tends to stay green for at least ten months out of the year in our area. There are several varieties of fescue, but if this is the grass that appeals to you, be prepared for a beautiful, but high maintenance lawn.

Having a beautiful lawn in the Upstate may seem like a tough decision and a lot of work, but there are experts who can help you determine which grass will not only look great, but thrive in your yard.

Written by Rich Regan - Blue Dot Landscaping - Visit Website

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September 22, 2011 Off

New Plants — In the Fall?

By in Planting

While many folks associate new plants with spring, there are many who feel fall is a great time to establish new plants in your landscape. You may be hesitant to plant this time of year because of early cold snaps and because you may not see your neighbors doing it. But there are many benefits to adding new plants to your garden now, so don’t be afraid get a jump start on beautifying your garden.

New planting in the fall is good for you! Of course, fall in the Upstate is different than fall in Vermont, but a good rule of thumb is to place your new plantings in the ground about six weeks before the first hard frost.You can enjoy the cooler weather and time outside as the days grow shorter. There are also good sales on plants this time of year. Just make sure any plants that you purchase are nice and healthy.

Fall planting is good for the plants too. The soil is still warm in the fall and this encourages roots to grow. With some of our milder winters, root growth may continue throughout the winter months. Fertilizing your fall plants is not recommended, as it causes roots to grow too quickly and the new growth will not be established enough to survive the first frost. But when spring time rolls around, the roots will continue their growth at a more accelerated pace. The bottom line is that plants you installed in the warm soils of fall have a head start compared to those planted in the cool soils of spring.

Plants established in the fall are, naturally, not threatened by scorching heat spells and less likely to wilt during long periods of drought. As the temperature turns milder, danger from pests and disease decreases as bugs are starting to hunker down for the winter and lower humidity makes the environment inhospitable for disease organisms. And, of course, cooler temps mean fewer weeds and this is always welcome news in the garden.

Landscapers with experience in new plantings can help you determine which plants will work well in your yard this time of year. They can also help you determine where to place them and give you tips on maintenance — or they can do it for you! With a little planning now, you can reap the benefits of fall planting for months to come.

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