Category Archives: Outdoor Living

Get a Head Start on Planting Your Garden, Even if It’s Snowing

“It may be January, but now is a good time to start planning your garden and other plantings for the Spring.”

Denise Buck & Ed Johnson – DC Metro Realty Team

How To Winterize Your Deck

“Most of us enjoy our outdoor living spaces in nice weather, but are you taking care of it in the winter months?  Here are several steps that can be taken to help it survive the winter weather and look great when you get ready to use it again in the Spring.”

Denise Buck & Ed Johnson – DC Metro Realty Team 

Winterize your deck

The bracing winds of January are blowing in and with them the fresh promise of a new year. But depending on where you live, those same winds can also bring harsh temperatures, snow and ice. While the inside of your home may be protected from the winter elements, the exterior of your home is very much exposed. If your home features a wooden deck, it will need special attention this season. Here are some tips on how to winterize your deck and keep it looking its best year-round.

Clean Your Deck Thoroughly

To prepare your deck for winter, give it a good cleaning with a pressure washer. Doing so will not only remove ingrained dirt and grime, but this also helps you uncover any areas of decay. If you spot portions of wood that remain wet after other parts of the deck have dried, poke them with a screwdriver to test for rot. If the wood does not splinter and feels spongy, it may be compromised. Now is also a good time to look for any damage to your deck caused by insects.

Additionally, consider applying a water-repellant finish to your deck once cleaning is complete. Doing so will help protect against damage caused by damp winter elements, such as ice, snow, sleet and rain.

Repair Loose Boards

Once you give your deck a good once-over, repair any loose boards or damaged wood. According to the North American Deck and Railing Association (NADRA), you should check for loose nails and screws, secure any that need tightening and replace any that may have fallen out. Also, your deck should appear even without any sagging and should not sway or move when tested.

Cover Your Deck

One way to prevent the majority of winter elements from settling on your deck and damaging it is to use a deck cover. You have many options when covering a deck. You could hire a contractor to build a permanent roof over your deck. Alternately, for a temporary fix, you can cover the exposed woodwork, using plastic tarps found at your local home improvement or hardware store.

Store And Protect Outdoor Furniture

If your deck is fully outfitted with outdoor furniture, now is the time to protect it. Clean your deck furniture, just as you would your deck itself, using a pressure washer to remove stubborn dirt and grime. Once cleaning is complete, bring any furniture cushions and fabric coverings indoors. NADRA also recommends taking the time to store all deck-related chemicals (including cleaning solutions) away during the winter months.

Remove Ice

When inclement weather deposits accumulations of snow or ice on your deck, they can become quite heavy and place an extra burden on the structure itself. If you are able to remove the snow, shovel it in a pattern that’s parallel to deck boards. Also, use a plastic rather than a metal shovel to avoid scratching the wood.

To remove ice, use a melting compound. Several different formulas are available. Choose the one specifically designed for the type of wood or composite material out of which your deck is constructed. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and safety precautions when using these compounds.

Originally published by American Home Shield

Your Guide to Choosing Patio Stones

“It’s amazing all the choices you have today when picking out Patio Stones. A Patio can be a great addition for outdoor living, and may not cost as much as you might think. Especially, if you want to do it yourself. It also, enhances your homes appeal if you’re looking to sell in the future.”

Denise Buck & Ed Johnson – DC Metro Realty Team

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Are You Making One of These 7 Landscaping Mistakes?

“You want to make your yard look nice so you start planting flowers and bushes and then you realize it doesn’t look like the magazines you’ve been reading. Check this article out to see if you doing some of these.”

Denise Buck & Ed Johnson – DC Metro Realty Team

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Last-Minute Ideas for Stylish Winter Container Designs

“Great Ideas for holiday themed containers that don’t take long at all.”

Denise Buck & Ed Johnson – DC Metro Realty Team

Tree Roots vs. Sewer Pipes: 5 Ways to Win The Underground Battle

“More than once we’ve had friends and neighbors contact us on how to deal with tree roots.  It’s no fun and it can be expensive.  Here are some great tips from ‘American Home Shield’ on how to avoid and work through the problems.”

Denise Buck & Ed Johnson – DC Metro Realty Team

Tree Roots in drain pipes can be a major problem in the home. Learn the best tips to killing tree roots in your sewer pipes.

Mature trees add so much beauty to a neighborhood, especially in the springtime when they are in bloom. The natural shade is lovely. But did you know tree roots can be a terrible adversary for your sewer pipes? Everyone loves trees, right? But sewer pipes are important too, for obvious reasons. There must be a mutually beneficial answer. Here are some some important things to know about how roots can wreck your pipes and what to do if you have a problem.

Preventing Tree Roots in Sewer Pipes

1. There’s no denying the natural attraction – The water and nutrients flowing through your pipes are the things tree roots crave. Even a tiny crack or a loose joint can release vapors that attract roots like an aphrodisiac. Roots can work their way in to these openings and continue to grow until eventually they form a root mass that could totally block the pipe, causing the content to back up into your house. Tree roots are the number one cause of underground pipe damage.

2. The telltale gurgle: catch the problem early – Just like many household problems, it is best to catch the problem early. The longer you wait, the more expensive and extensive the repair solution might be. When your sewer pipes first start to clog, you may notice a gurgling sound in the toilet. You may have slow drains you clear out again and again, but the clog keeps coming back. You may notice that the toilet gurgle and slow drains occur in conjunction with water backing up in the bathtub or around your washing machine. These are all warning signs that there could be a “root meets pipe” conflict going on underground.

Roots in a blue sewer pipe
3. Uh-oh, the roots are winning. Now what? – In most communities, homeowners are responsible for the underground pipes that lead from their home out to the municipal pipes that are often underneath the street. The pipes under your property are called the lateral pipes. To prevent problems from happening in the first place, you can have a sewer line specialist route out your drain regularly at a relatively minimal charge. Or, you can attempt to block the direction of the tree root growth. If you have a minor problem, there is a potential DIY solution you can try. A half-cup of copper sulfate, which is available at most home improvement stores, can be flushed down the toilet. This is toxic to tree roots, but in small amounts will only travel so far up the root system, usually not causing damage to the tree. But because it is really hard to know exactly where the problem is and how extensive it is, it is almost always a good idea to call a professional to diagnose the problem and recommend a course of action.

Long pipe inside ditch
4. Who do you call: plumber or sewer line specialist? Either a plumber or a sewer line specialist is a good place to start, but there are differences. Not all plumbers deal with sewer lines, and once it is determined that roots are the “root cause” of the situation, they may refer you to a sewer line specialist. Or, if you are sure it is an underground sewer pipe problem, you can start with the sewer line specialist or one of the “rooter” companies.

Root wrapped around pipe
5. What type of solutions can you expect? – Pipes, get ready for your close up … most professionals will want to diagnose the problem by snaking a special camera to where the blockage is to get a good look. Talk about a long “selfie stick!” Sometimes, they will even share the photos with you. This will help them see how big the root mass is and how much damage has been done to the pipe. They can then open up the pipe by treating the root with chemicals or with a mechanical routing device that chops up the roots and gets things flowing properly again. If they determine that the pipe is so damaged that you will need it replaced, there will be digging involved and it will be a bigger, more expensive job. It’s not pretty, but this happens to many homeowners. The good news is brand-new pipes will likely be a longer-lasting solution. Underground pipes are made out of different materials. Older clay pipes are more susceptible to root invasion. Metal pipes are heavier, making them harder to deal with, and sometimes have loose joints. The more preferred modern material for underground pipes is the lightweight and less penetrable plastic.

Now that you know what to look for and what to expect, you may be able to prevent big problems or at least know how problems might be fixed. Trees and pipes co-existing. It’s a win-win!

For more ways to protect your home, check out more from the blog.


Prepare Your Home for Trick-or-Treaters

“Is your house ready for Trick or Treaters?  You can make your home spooky, but don’t forget they still need to be able to make it to the door without a lot a trouble.”

Denise Buck & Ed Johnson – DC Metro Realty Team

Your home might not need a costume on Halloween, but it does need to be ready for any neighborhood ghosts, goblins or witches who drop by for a treat. If you plan to participate in the festivities, here are a few helpful tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics and National Fire Protection Association to help ensure that trick-or-treaters have a safe, yet haunted, night.
By Brenna Malmberg, originally appearing on HOUZZ

7 Drought-Tolerant Perennials for Your Home Garden

“Ever noticed that during the hottest part of the Summer, some plants look better than others?  Well, here are some that really don’t need a lot of care or watering.”
Denise Buck & Ed Johnson – DC Metro Realty Team
During the summer, when your lawn and garden is in danger of drying up in the sun, plant these resilient flowers to liven up your yard.

Garden plants need water to survive, but some plants need less than others. Plants that require less water are often referred to as drought-tolerant or drought-resistant varieties and are good choices for gardeners. Keep in mind that just because something is labeled as drought tolerant doesn’t mean that it can get by without any water at all; all plants need adequate moisture to grow. Additionally, not all plants will thrive in all areas, so be sure to choose plants that are suited for your particular growing zone and soil type. Here’s a list of some drought resistant choices that you might want to consider for your area.

Related: Help Your Lawn Through Drought and Dry Weather

Hosta perennial

Hosta is a perennial that can grow in sun or shade. Known for their easy care, hostas have showy leaves and come in a variety of sizes with white or lavender flowers. When choosing a spot, remember that hosta plants prefer well-drained soil.

Rosemary perennial

• Rosemary is a drought resistant perennial and herb with spiky leaves that adds interesting texture as well as a nice fragrance to the garden. Fresh rosemary leaves are especially good in potato, pork, chicken, and soup recipes. Other drought-tolerant herbs that grow perennially in some parts of the country are thyme, sage, and oregano.

Day lily perennial

• After they’ve bloomed in the spring, daylilies are another perennial that appear to be high maintenance but actually require minimal water and care. Daylilies come in many of colors and go dormant in the winter.

Lantana perennial

• After Lantana plants are established, they don’t require much water when compared to many other blooming plants. Lantana can grow in gardens or in containers, and are classified as annuals or perennials, depending on the region. The flower clusters of Lantana are often shades of yellow, light purple, and pink, and may change as the plant matures.

Oakleaf hydrangea

• Oakleaf and Panicle are two hydrangea varieties that are considered to be relatively hardy, drought tolerant plants. Both produce large blossoms that add beauty outdoors or when cut and brought inside.

Salvia perennial

Salvia is a drought tolerant annual that produces long-lasting blooms in shades of red, blue, violet, pink, and white. Salvia is actually related to the herb sage. These plants work well in garden beds, borders, or in containers.

Black eyed susan perennial

• Black-eyed Susan is a classic, popular flower that doesn’t require a great deal of water. It’s ray-like petals contrast with a dark center for an intriguing color combination.

Easy Way to Take Care of Your Perennials

Even if you choose drought resistant plants and shrubs, they will still require some maintenance and it’s important to care for them properly. It’s usually best to water plants and shrubs consistently for the first few weeks after planting to make sure they have enough moisture to get established and to make sure they don’t dry out during the fragile post-planting period. After that, it’s generally best to water perennial plants deeply as needed, instead of frequent shallow watering, during their first summer season to help the plants develop a deep root system, which aid plants in tolerating extended dry periods. It’s also helpful to mulch around the bases of plants and shrubs each year to help lock in moisture. Check with your local garden center to see which drought tolerant varieties grow best in your zone, and how to care for them.

Originally published on American Home Shield

Lounge Spaces That Keep the Party Going Outside

“There is just something about relaxing outdoors that makes it even better.  And with these ideas, it’s really not that hard or expensive.”
Denise Buck & Ed Johnson – DC Metro Realty Team
August is a time to savor the last precious drops of summer with alfresco meals and laid-back afternoons before the start of fall. These 10 homeowners know how to enjoy lounging outdoors and have created their own resort-like spaces for spending lazy weekends, making it hard to ever leave their backyards, patios, porches, decks and courtyards. Get inspired by these fun and fresh design ideas to create an outstanding outdoor room of your own.
Originally published on HOUZZ by Janet Paik

7 Ways to Rethink the Shrub

“If you have any type of yard to maintain, shrubs are a great option.  But why not get a little creative for a change and do something interesting.”
Denise Buck & Ed Johnson – DC Metro Realty Team

Shrubs are ubiquitous throughout our landscapes, many times making up a significant bulk of greenery in the garden. Often used as low-maintenance and long-term plantings around a home’s foundation or as a low walkway edge, these woody plants can do so much more.

Whether you utilize their unusual characteristics, prune them into tight forms or design with them for wildlife, you can get creative with shrubs for a more interesting and unusual garden. Here are ideas for rethinking the basic shrub.