The Skinny on Landscaping

June 24, 2014 at 2:05 pm (Education, The Whim) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I wrote an article for a website that didn’t get used.  It happens sometimes, no biggie.  But this particular article is one that I did a great deal of researching before I wrote and actually talked to professionals that I know personally.  So, I want to share the blogger’s version (which means I’ve dressed it down and added my two cents where I otherwise would have held my tongue a bit).

The Skinny on Landscaping and Outdoor Projects

(DIY vs. The Contractor on the most common outdoor ventures)

Everyone loves a good do it yourself project. Pinterest and the TLC channel have made them more popular than ever. Home Depot and Lowe’s are certainly your helpful neighborhood DIY Home Project instigators and dare I mention the keeping up with the Joneses mentality amidst a major recession.

However, there are projects that are just not do it yourself friendly and with all the handy books, websites, and television channels, it’s hard to know which are for you and which warrant a good old fashioned contractor – especially when we’re dealing with our lawn and garden.

Re-Sodding Your Grass

before sod

Actual “before” photo of our front yard.

Landscaping is the most commonly chosen as a do it yourself renovation. Ironically, people hire companies to mow their lawns, weed their gardens, and trim their hedges, but when it comes to things like re-sodding their grass, more often than not, they opt to do it themselves.

Despite the process being fairly simple, though, most landscapers will encourage customers (and friends) to hire out a company. You might assume it is so they can get more business, but they are honestly advising this in your best interest. A landscaper can get grass at a discounted rate, already has the equipment on hand, and are experienced and efficient.

Tito Ortega of Ortega Lawn Care recommends calling your local landscaper for any grass project

“over a full pallet. For what someone pays for a pallet of grass, soil, and renting tools they don’t have, I charge more or less the same and all they have to do is pick up the phone. And I provide a warranty, plus informational packets on how to care for it properly.”

I had his help when I resod my own lawn after an extensive plumbing project in my front yard and can vouch for his sentiments. The process is easy, sure, but we still had to rent tools. I had to pay regular Joe Schmo prices for my grass – instead of fabulous bulk prices that businesses have access to. Over all I felt all sorts of useful, my grass is beautiful, but I didn’t really save any money by doing it myself.

Pruning Trees and Shrubs

A lot of people prune their own trees and shrubs, but Gardener Joe in Washington State of PangeaGardenscapes.com encourages tree owners to call a professional. Many do-it-yourself sites, such as http://www.diyornot.com, propose the opposite, reporting that even after you purchase the sheers and appropriate tools you’ll still save 56% on just the first pruning.

Yet, Gardener Joe has some advice concerning that:

“Many people try to keep plants small which never works. A plant is programmed to grow to a mature height. Many times people buy a plant not understanding the maturity of said plant. Also topping a tree and some shrubs are a no-no. I belong to plant amnesty and if you check out plant amnesty.org it has many examples of different plants. So in my business I offer garden coaching services. I show how to prune and why. As well as my garden class I give once a month at our local library.”

So if you arplantamnestye going to trim your own trees and shrubs, do the research and know your plant. Otherwise, spend the extra dime to call a professional who can teach you about what you have in your yard so you can help your plants live long, healthy lives for the expense you’ve already put into having them there in the first place.   Many people prematurely kill off plants that would have lasted for generations by cutting them back too far and not giving them the appropriate room to grow.   Homeowners who plan to stay in the same place for thirty plus years should be very conscientious of this issue, otherwise they’ll find themselves spending thousands more over the lifetime of the property than they would if they spent a little bit up front consulting someone.  For more tips, follow Joe’s Facebook Page.

We trim our own shrubs, but not our own trees. The danger factor isn’t worth the risk when you’re talking about limbs falling from the heavens onto things like your car or the roof of your house. Even with the shrubs, I see Gardener Joe’s point. We did some research into ours and learned how to take care of the shrubs we inherited with our house – when the old owners came by for a visit they gasped, “We could never get them to bloom like that when we were here.” According to a lot of professional landscapers and truly green thumb kind of people, many people think they are over or under watering when really they are trimming the hedges incorrectly. Save yourself the cost of new plants every few years and have a professional teach you how to do it right – whether that professional is from the pages of a book or has been hired to come out and talk to you by appointment.

Building a Fence

You may need to call a contractor for planting new grass and trimming trees, but you’re probably looking for what you can do yourself. It’s far more cost efficient for you to mow your own lawn and weed your own garden, but the other best DIY option for outdoors is to build your own fence. Everyone should get that experience in before they die and it’s definitely worth the savings on your wallet.

Most landscapers and handymen will charge you roughly 30% more than the cost of materials. That’s about the difference of an $800 fence and a $1200 fence, just to have someone else do it. Though quality work might be worth that, there’s nothing worse than looking out at a fence you paid too much for that doesn’t look quite the way you’d like.

My husband was extremely busy with work the year after Ike and the hurricane had taken down our whole side fence. We hired sP1000295omeone to take care of it because we had three dogs and needed it up sooner rather than later. We shopped around, we called the most affordable handyman, he had good reviews online. My husband still complains about that fence. We overspent and the fence boards are spaced too far apart. It drives us crazy. Last year, when a tree took down another section in the opposite corner of the lot, we built it ourselves.

The most cost efficient of fencing options is a neighbor friendly fence, where each neighbor takes on the cost of the panels that face their yard and each section alternates. I’m especially partial to these because I had one growing up. It makes the most economical and hospitable sense. Get to know your neighbors, be old-school, built it together.

No matter what your project, remember to research materials and processes, be realistic about your abilities and your time, and call around for multiple quotes. Weigh the expense up front against the lifetime expense of the plants or space in question, and plan carefully.

Of course, this is primarily a book blog, so I have to share my favorite DIY Landscaping books, which are pretty much gardening specific because I’m a gardener.

The Complete Book of Practical Gardening
Small Gardens
Square Foot Gardening by M. Bartholomew
Low Maintenance Gardening
Herbs and the Kitchen Garden by Kim Hurst

To read articles that DO get used by Money-fax.com, check out my Freelance Writer page and follow the links.

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Music To Write To

January 19, 2013 at 12:42 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , )

writing-and-musicEvery writer has their zone, and sometimes the zone changes.  Due to the nature of my sucky laptop, I’m prone to laying prostrate across the floor so I can pile things on the charger to make it stay plugged.  Currently, said pile consists of my husband’s bible, my journal, whatever book I happen to be reading, and a Noah’s Ark statue of my daughter’s.

It’s not a comfortable way to write, but I’ve made it work… with music.

Nothing reminds you of college like being too poor to buy yourself new tech gadgets, laying on the floor writing half the day, and eating sandwiches off chipped plates while laying and writing.  So, when writing this way, what other music would I listen to than the artists of my so-called youth?

I bought this album as a wide-eyed freshman in college.

I bought this album as a wide-eyed freshman in college.

David Ramirez, Tito Ortega, and Christine Hand were all musicians that filled my college years.  (Select any of those links to check out their music on Amazon.com)  All former students of the university I attended, they often performed in the coffee shop downstairs from my dorm room.  That coffee shop was where I journaled, talked, did homework, came up with story ideas, avoided homework, made friends, hung out with friends, and inhaled a whole lot of sugar and caffeine.  And it’s where I fell in love with these artists and their wonderful contribution to the musical world.  I’ll take them with me everywhere forever.

That’s a long term commitment as far as music loving goes.  As a moody listener, there are a lot of musicians I’ve outgrown over the years.  Some songs just aren’t the same when you’re not twelve, or eighteen, or a newly wed, or whatever it was you were when you were in love with something that just can’t move you anymore.

Girl on a String

Click here to download from iTunes.

Christine Hand will grow with you though.  At least, she grows with me.  We’re roughly the same age, went to the same university for awhile, have liked the same guy, and though we’re in no way the same, I feel like whatever music she has out that’s ‘new’ in the moment, always falls in line with my own existence.  Her latest album has a beautiful maturity that I hope I’ve reached.  It definitely puts me in the mood to strive to write with that same beautiful maturity.

In addition to Christine’s own songs, there is a Bob Dylan cover on Girl on a String.  Who doesn’t like Bob Dylan? And who doesn’t like hearing his songs performed well?  This album can feel comfortable sitting on your shelf with the likes of Norah Jones and Joni Mitchell, and like John Mayer at the Crossroads concert playing with the likes of B.B. King and Eric Clapton, you’ll be impressed with how well she fits right in and holds her own with the greats.

dallas does eaglesChristine Hand plays along side her husband, my friend, Adam Jones, and her father.  The dynamic is pretty neat, but I’m a sucker for family bands, as you’ll see if you ever check out my cd collection from the ’90s where I thought Rebecca St. James was the coolest for bringing her brother on tour with her and I was distraught to discover that the White Stripes weren’t married anymore.  I’m also a long time fan of The Jackson 5 and a completely head over heels for the fact that Nine Inch Nails moved on to become How To Destroy Angels, only to include Trent Reznor’s wife.

Check out Christine’s website here: http://www.christinehand.com/

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Live Shows at Half Price Books Humble

March 6, 2012 at 10:59 pm (Events) (, , , , , , )

So, if you follow my blog at all, you know I’ve been coordinating events for Half Price Books in Humble, which by the way is a complete blast! In February, Christine Hand came to town and serenaded the store for two hours (Friday, the 24th between 7 and 9 pm).

Adam Jones and Christine Hand Jones at Half Price Books Humble for a Live, Free, Unplugged Show

For those of you unable to make it, or who don’t know who Christine Hand is, you should know that the very next day, she discovered her Bob Dylan cover was being played on the radio in Dallas.  I happily brag about this to let you know that we book great musicians, and when you hear about Half Price Books having live artists in the store – you should definitely take time to stop by so you don’t miss a rare and great opportunity to meet the artists of the future!

If you did miss that last performance, no worries! I’ll do my best to make it happen again.  And as a sign of good faith, my lovely customers, I’ve booked Tito Ortega for March!

Tito Ortega is another Dallas local making a special trip down to Houston to play at the Humble store.  He, too, writes his own music in a fun, low-key and soothing style.  A testament to his great songwriting is the fact that Eric Tipton, a recent contestant on The Voice, did a cover of his song Something Beautiful on his cd Straight From the Couch (that album is a personal favorite of mine, check it out here: http://www.myspace.com/erictipton).

Check out Tito’s site at TitoOrtega.com, and follow him on twitter @titoortegamusic.

We’ll see you at the show on March 24th (Saturday) 7-9 pm! Come ready to enjoy an intimate show and purchase digidownloads or cds.

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