Thursday, June 16, 2011

Grow the Most With Compost

In my Landscape Design specifications I often prescribe a soil blend that includes organic compost, and having it be worked into the existing soil around the newly planted areas as a great way to ensure that the soil has good fertility and the new plants can draw ample nutrients from the soil, and may properly root in and thrive.  There is a world a difference that can be seen in landscapes that have had amended soils and compost blends worked into the plant beds.  However, there are some perennials that will thrive and show better form and flower in less fertile soils (i.e. Silver Mound Artemesia, Gold Moss Sedum, and Oenothera Primrose).  Here is a great resource for planning landscapes for "30 Tough Sites" in your plant selection.  (

I am not going to break down the process and benefit of composting here.  There are plenty of articles and information found elsewhere online about why and how you compost in your own back yard, i.e. here, here, here, and here.  So I won't give you "the dirt" here.  But we have a little compost operation going on in our back yard, where we take kitchen waste and mix it with our yard waste, we aerate and churn, and we are steadily creating our very own batch of compost. The bin is slowly getting filled up and it has become sort of a family project.

In fact, my daughter makes a point to lift up the bases on our back yard "wiffle ball field" in search of earthworms to be added to the compost bin on almost a daily basis.  She is 5 years old, and evidently is too young and precious to know that searching for and picking up worms (or most other bugs) is "gross" and might get you teased at school.  She is quite the little helper!

turning over 2nd base on the worm hunt.

found one!

got it!

the haul.

into the compost bin you go.

my cute little worm.

If you don't have a compost bin brewing in your back yard, you can refer to these sites for hauling your yard waste where they will turn them into compost.  Ramsey County, Hennepin County, Dakota County, Washington County, Scott County.

More Design...

Also, here are some more plans that I have been working on recently, one with a few variables in place to see if there are some options that are more appealing than others in terms of the extent of the design.  This one has limited access into the far back corner of the property behind the pool due to a septic drainage field.  Therefore, a row of boulders would be needed to level the access road into the back yard in order to move in the materials for the fireplace.  Otherwise, only a smaller machine could get back there and the fireplace would be slightly more limited.  However, it might lend an opportunity for a cool fire pit design right off of the pool deck for a slightly more rustic poolside fire pit/campfire grill feature.

There is a local company whom I have talked with on a couple of occasions creating these amazing campfire pit features that can easily be built with a modular block system wall.  I love these.  Maybe not with *all* of the features and add-ons, but I love the look, size, and usability of these features.  Check 'em out at  

All the best!


Monday, June 13, 2011

Hard at it.

Dear Friends & Fellow Landscape Enthusiasts,

It's been a busy summer once it has finally gotten here.  So far it has been the busy kind of busy, and not the raging successful kind of busy. But there is a lot of hopefulness and optimism out there as we keep trying to transform the drab, tired old landscapes of the greater Twin Cities into new, peaceful, blissful places for people to connect with the outdoors and to see the new-found splendor of their home with a beautifully compatible landscape.  We are on a mission to make this happen and to help homeowners find a good value in it, with a crew that is the most compatible to their needs.  We are also here to help good landscape contractors take that next step forward as a company, as we can team up with them, when needed, to help them offer high-caliber design for their clients.

Being a Landscape Design Firm does have it's challenges this time of year, as so much of our week is spent traveling between job sites or on client appointments, leaving a mere spare afternoon, late evening, or weekend to get all caught up on our designs.  If there was only a way I could work and design in a mobile office that follows me wherever I go.  Oh, wait.  I might have found the solution!

Actually, I commend his ingenuity and strive to get as much done as possible for his clients, but I don't think that being in a fully equipped van and try to crank out quick, same-day or even same-hour plans for each client is the best solution to offer.  I don't think that offers your best design capability.  Landscape Design is the kind of art form that merits an ample amount of time investment on the design side of the equation, in a deliberate process, as a direct correlation to the monetary investment that the client is preparing to spend.  (i.e., as a homeowner, you would not necessarily want your new koi pond, patio, outdoor kitchen, pergola, and garden borders that will cost you $47,850, to be designed in 60 minutes in the back of a van parked in your driveway.  Would you?  Well, maybe. But is that going to get you the best, most thoughtful, most creative, most unique design?  Is that going to be the distinct design that captures a comprehensive vision of what your home and lifestyle distinctly demands?  Well, maybe.  Or, maybe not. Likewise, I don't think that you can charge $500, or $1,000, or $1,500, or $2,000 on a carefully crafted design, based on 15 years of expertise and experience, for a 60-90 minute session in the van.  Those types of designs take hours and hours, and we value or time based on the hours invested in the process.  Those types of designs merit that type of time investment, as a viable component of our business.)  

Another problem would be that if I owned that van, I would be *living* in it.  "Living in a van down by the river!" as the comedy sketch by Chris Farley on Saturday Night Live went.  Or, at least living in a van in my driveway!  At all days and hours of the night, I would be in there, trying to take on far more than I should try to handle, and demanding far too much in the design process with my self-critical tendencies.  I have way too much O.C.D. for that to be a good idea.  But again, I totally admire somebody who is willing reinvent themselves to the needs of their clients, and to adapt themselves in order to make the best of their business and thrive.  Kudos.

At any rate, this is the busiest time of the year and I should not pause too long for this blog entry and get back to work.  It has been a challenging year continuing to get Landscape Design Studios headed further through the clouds and headed toward the stars, as Jack and I try to keep on a good pace and keep our meaningful, best-foot-forward design approach in process.

There are also some graduation parties and plant replacement warranties to get in check as we get into the summer.  Sometimes those irrigation systems do more harm than good in getting a landscape off to a good start, or the little hungry bunnies or voles decided that they liked the little salad bar I left for them that winter.  But, it happens, and things need to get put back together just a little after the first or second year.

We are here because we love design, and we love to see thoughtful, inspired landscapes happen.

All the best,


Here's a couple of design samples that I have worked on, in getting a pool landscape up toward its potential: