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What’s the Difference between Landscape Designers, Landscape Architects, and Landscape Contractors?

These broad definitions apply to the United States only. Laws vary from state to state regarding the work performed by landscape designers, landscape architects and landscape contractors. Some need to be licensed by the state; others do not. Permits may or may not be required for landscape work performed in your state or locality.

Landscape designers typically have training in landscape design and horticulture through formal education or on-the-job experience. The Association of Professional Landscape Designer’s certification program confers professional recognition to landscape designers based on experience and established standards of excellence. Landscape designers provide design concepts, landscape plans, and selection of materials. Some designers provide only design services, others work closely with contractors during installation and some provide construction services themselves as permitted by state law. Many landscape designers are also professional horticulturists. Landscape designers can provide design services for both residential and commercial clients, although many specialize in residential design.

Landscape architects have obtained a degree in landscape architecture from an accredited school. Only those who have have met their respective state requirements may call themselves landscape architects. A landscape architecture curriculum usually emphasizes site analysis, design, presentation and construction techniques rather than horticulture. In addition to the types of plans provided by a landscape designer, many landscape architects produce plans and construction -ready documents for institutional and commercial projects.

Landscape contractors perform a wide range of services, including garden and lawn installation, garden maintenance, masonry, carpentry, other landscape elements and sometimes design. Many work for nurseries or design/build companies and others have their own firms. When working with a landscape contractor, be sure to clarify the design process used, whether you will receive drawings for your review and approval, or whether you have just a verbal description of the landscape to be installed.

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Edible Flowers: Grow them in your garden — eat them in your salad.

Edible flowers add a special touch to salads. Once the salad has been tossed with dressing, pick off petals from edible flowers and toss them on top. Many flowers have a strong flavor, so use a light hand when adding them to your greens.

Nasturtium

Available in a scope of colors. Both flowers and leaves add a peppery flavor to mixed greens.

Calendula

A prolific grower, calendula blossoms grow in abundance. Sprinkle individual petals lightly on a salad.

Herb Flowers

Basil, chives, dill, fennel, and arugula flowers all add a spark of aromatic flavor and a burst of color to salads.

Viola

Whether wild or cultivated, delicately flavored violas jazz up a bowl of mesclun greens like nothing else.

Borage

Intense blue star shaped flowers add a burst of color that contrasts nicely with greens. The flower’s delicate flavor tastes similar to cucumber. Separate the flower from the stem for a softer texture.

(original post)

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7 Secrets for a High-Yield Vegetable Garden

Imagine harvesting nearly half a ton of tasty, beautiful, organically grown vegetables from a 15-by-20-foot plot, 100 pounds of tomatoes from just 100 square feet (a 4-by-25-foot bed), or 20 pounds of carrots from just 24 square feet.

Yields like these are easier to achieve than you may think. The secret to superproductive gardening is taking the time now to plan strategies that will work for your garden. Here are seven high-yield strategies gleaned from gardeners who have learned to make the most of their garden space.

1. Build up your soil.

Expert gardeners agree that building up the soil is the single most important factor in pumping up yields. A deep, organically rich soil encourages the growth of healthy, extensive roots that are able to reach more nutrients and water. The result: extra-lush, extra-productive growth above ground.

The fastest way to get that deep layer of fertile soil is to make raised beds. Raised beds yield up to four times more than the same amount of space planted in rows. That’s due not only to their loose, fertile soil but also to efficient spacing—by using less space for paths, you have more room to grow plants.

Raised beds save you time, too. One researcher tracked the time it took to plant and maintain a 30-by-30-foot garden planted in beds, and found that he needed to spend just 27 hours in the garden from mid-May to mid-October. Yet he was able to harvest 1,900 pounds of fresh vegetables—that’s a year’s supply of food for three people from about 3 total days of work!

How do raised beds save so much time? Plants grow close enough together to shade out competing weeds, so you spend less time weeding. The close spacing also makes watering and harvesting more efficient.

2. Round out your beds.

The shape of your beds can make a difference, too. Raised beds are more space-efficient if the tops are gently rounded to form an arc, rather than flat. A rounded bed that is 5 feet wide across its base, for instance, will give you a 6-foot-wide arc above it—creating a planting surface that’s a foot wider than that of a flat bed. That foot might not seem like much, but multiply it by the length of your bed and you’ll see that it can make a big difference in total planting area.

In a 20-foot-long bed, for example, rounding the top increases your total planting area from 100 to 120 square feet. That’s a 20 percent gain in planting space in a bed that takes up the same amount of ground space! Lettuce, spinach, and other greens are perfect crops for planting on the edges of a rounded bed.

3. Space smartly.

To get the maximum yields from each bed, pay attention to how you arrange your plants. Avoid planting in square patterns or rows. Instead, stagger the plants by planting in triangles. By doing so, you can fit 10 to 14 percent more plants in each bed.

Just be careful not to space your plants too tightly. Some plants won’t reach their full size—or yield—when crowded. For instance, when one researcher increased the spacing between romaine lettuces from 8 to 10 inches, the harvest weight per plant doubled. (Remember that weight yield per square foot is more important than the number of plants per square foot.)

Overly tight spacing can also stress plants, making them more susceptible to diseases and insect attack.

4. Grow up!

No matter how small your garden, you can grow more by going vertical. Grow space-hungry vining crops—such as tomatoes, pole beans, peas, squash, melons, cukes, and so on—straight up, supported by trellises, fences, cages, or stakes.

Growing vegetables vertically also saves time. Harvest and maintenance go faster because you can see exactly where the fruits are. And upward-bound plants are less likely to be hit by fungal diseases thanks to the improved air circulation around the foliage.

Try growing vining crops on trellises along one side of raised beds, using sturdy end posts with nylon mesh netting or string in between to provide a climbing surface. Tie the growing vines to the trellis. But don’t worry about securing heavy fruits—even squash and melons will develop thicker stems for support.

5. Mix it up.

Interplanting compatible crops saves space, too. Consider the classic Native American combination, the “three sisters”—corn, beans, and squash. Sturdy cornstalks support the pole beans, while squash grows freely on the ground below, shading out competing weeds. This combination works because the crops are compatible. Other compatible combinations include tomatoes, basil, and onions; leaf lettuce and peas or brassicas; carrots, onions, and radishes; and beets and celery.

6. Succeed with successions.

Succession planting allows you to grow more than one crop in a given space over the course of a growing season. That way, many gardeners are able to harvest three or even four crops from a single area.

For instance, an early crop of leaf lettuce can be followed with a fast-maturing corn, and the corn followed by more greens or overwintered garlic—all within a single growing season.

To get the most from your succession plantings:

  • Use transplants. A transplant is already a month or so old when you plant it, and so will mature that much faster than a direct-seeded plant (one grown from seeds sown in the garden).
  • Choose fast-maturing varieties.
  • Replenish the soil with a ¼-to-½-inch layer of compost (about 2 cubic feet per 100 square feet) each time you replant. Work it into the top few inches of soil.

7. Stretch your season.

Adding a few weeks to each end of the growing season can buy you enough time to grow yet another succession crop—say a planting of leaf lettuce, kale, or turnips—or to harvest more end-of-the-season tomatoes.

To get those extra weeks of production, you need to keep the air around your plants warm, even when the weather is cold, by using mulches, cloches, row covers, or coldframes.

Or give heat-loving crops (such as melons, peppers, and eggplants) an extra-early start by using two “blankets”—one to warm the air and one to warm the soil in early spring. About 6 to 8 weeks before the last frost date, preheat cold soil by covering it with either infrared-transmitting (IRT) mulch or black plastic, which will absorb heat. Then, cover the bed with a slitted, clear plastic tunnel. When the soil temperature reaches 65° to 70°F, set out plants and cover the black plastic mulch with straw to keep it from trapping too much heat. Remove the clear plastic tunnel when the air temperature warms and all danger of frost has passed. Install it again at the end of the season, when temperatures cool.

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Water-Efficient Landscape Design Tips

By taking a few simple steps when designing and maintaining your yard, you and your family can enjoy a unique, attractive landscape that saves water.

Plants

Use regionally appropriate, low water-using and native plants.

Once established, these plants require little water beyond normal rainfall. Also, because native plants are adapted to local soils and climatic conditions, they rarely require the addition of fertilizer and are more resistant to pests and diseases than are other species. Be careful when selecting exotic species, as some may be invasive, which may require more water and could displace native plants.

Group plants according to their water needs.

Grouping vegetation with similar watering needs into specific “hydrozones” reduces water use by allowing you to water to each zone’s specific needs. For example, turf areas and shrub areas should always be separated into different hydrozones because of their differing water needs.

Plan a water-efficient landscape.

If you’re designing a new landscape or rethinking your current landscape, the WaterSense Water Budget Tool can help you plan your landscape for water-efficiency. With two simple inputs – zip code and yard size – the water budget tool helps users design their landscape to use a level of water that is appropriate for their climate.

Recognize site conditions and plant appropriately.

Areas of the same site may vary significantly in soil type or exposure to sun and wind, as well as evaporation rates and moisture levels. Be mindful of a site’s exposure to the elements and choose plants that will thrive in the site’s conditions.

Place turfgrass strategically.

Turfgrass receives the highest percentage of irrigation water in traditional landscaping. Commonly used varieties of turfgrass require more water than many landscape plants. In addition, homeowners tend to over water turfgrass. As a result, landscapes with large expanses of turfgrass generally use more water than those planted with a mixture of other plants such as groundcovers, shrubs, and trees. To reduce outdoor water use, plant turfgrass only where it has a practical function, such as a play area. Choose turfgrass types that don’t use a lot of water. Select low-water-use or native grasses and those that can withstand drought.

Minimize steep slopes.

Slopes can be challenging because of the potential for erosion and runoff. If slopes cannot be avoided in landscape design, install plantings with deeper root zones such as native ground covers and shrubs to provide stabilization and prevent erosion.

Maintenance

Raise your lawn mower cutting height.

Raise your lawn mower blade, especially in the summer, when mowing too close to the ground will promote thirsty new growth. Longer grass promotes deeper root growth and a more drought resistant lawn. Longer grass blades also help shade each other, reducing evaporation, and minimizing weed growth. The optimal turfgrass height is the tallest allowable height within the recommended mowing range for the turf species grown.

Provide regular maintenance.

Replace mulch around shrubs and garden plants, and remove weeds and thatch as necessary.

Minimize or eliminate fertilizer.

Fertilizer encourages thirsty new growth, causing your landscape to require additional water.

(original source here)

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New Law Takes on “Trophy Lawns”

State restricts use of phosphorus in fertilizers and “weed and feed” products.

Homeowners have been told to limit fertilizer use, which has contributed to poor water quality, shellfish declines, and contamination of swimming areas.

A state law that limits the percentage of phosphorus in lawn fertilizers and restricts the time of year when and locations where fertilizers can be used went into effect on Jan. 1. The New York State Dishwasher Detergent and Nutrient Runoff Law was enacted to reduce the amount of phosphorus entering and degrading the water and to lower the cost to local governments of removing excess quantities.

The law applies to fertilizer application and would restrict the use of “weed and feed” products that contain phosphorus in amounts over 0.67 percent, unless a soil test showed that a lawn needed phosphorus or in cases where a new lawn is being established.

“I would like to see it go further,” Kevin McAllister, the Peconic Baykeeper, said.

The law, according to a release from Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., aims to improve recreational and other uses of the state’s waters.

Mr. McAllister said the county put restrictions into effect a few years ago, and while the state is now involved, “We’ve got to do better. . . . We have got to move beyond the trend of the ‘trophy lawn.’ ”

The desire for emerald green, dandelion-free lawns is leading homeowners to pay for excessive applications of fertilizer, he said. Those “hooked on turf,” the baykeeper said, need to learn that a healthy green lawn is possible using organic and sustainable practices that will not threaten water quality.

The State Department of Environmental Conservation states that most soils in New York already contain sufficient phosphorus to support turf grass growth without additional phosphorus from fertilizers, which can account for up to 50 percent of the phosphorus in stormwater runoff.

Phosphorus is expensive for municipalities to remove from wastewater at treatment plants — from $1 to $20 per pound. More than 100 sub-watersheds in the state contain water impaired by phosphorus, according to the D.E.C.’s Web site.

The state’s recent closure of Shinnecock Bay was nitrogen-related, Mr. McAllister said. “We have to curtail the loading of fertilizer,” he said, adding that the way we manage tens of thousands of lawns will make a difference.

Pollutants enter bays and harbors in a number of ways, but primarily through groundwater and stormwater runoff, according to the Nature Conservancy. Fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides that are used on lawns travel through the soil to the groundwater that flows into our bays and harbors. Phosphorus affects fresh water, and nitrogen affects marine waters.

Mr. McAllister said many of our water bodies have been on the state’s impaired-waters list, which is reassessed every two years, since 2006. In 2010, he said, the entirety of the county’s south shore, including fresh water bodies in East Hampton and Southampton Towns, were placed on the list for either recurring algae blooms or low oxygen levels.

The baykeeper explained that nitrogen from fertilizers triggers the microscopic plants to burst in growth for several weeks. They then decompose and consume dissolved oxygen from the water, resulting in fish and crab kills.

In addition to devastating shellfish populations, overgrowth of algae causes brown tides and interferes with swimming, boating, and fishing, too, the Nature Conservancy said. Even chemicals used on properties far inland can travel long distances underground, ultimately finding their way into bays and wetlands and onto beaches.

In the release, Mr. Thiele reminded East End residents to be mindful of the new state law, which prohibits the application of fertilizers that contain nitrogen, phosphorus, or potassium between Dec. 1 and April 1. If a product does not contain any of the three primary macronutrients, it could be applied during the winter months without violating the law.

“Banning fertilizer in the winter is not going to do it,” Mr. McAllister said. “To really see the reductions, we need to impose more restrictions during the entire year.” The spring and summer are when most homeowners are using lawn products, often as a result of “brilliant marketing” disguised as education by companies such as Scotts, he said.

Although the law also states that “no fertilizers may be applied within 20 feet of surface water,” an exception is made where there is a 10-foot-wide vegetative buffer of planted or naturally occurring vegetation — trees, shrubs, legumes, or grasses — or if the fertilizer is applied using a deflector shield or drop spreader, in which cases applications may be done within three feet of a body of water.

The law does not affect agricultural fertilizer, flower or vegetable gardens, pasture land, land where hay is harvested, the trees, shrubs, and turf grown on turf farms, or any form of agricultural production.

Mr. McAllister is concerned that the law does not apply to agricultural lands, which he said are a significant contributor of nitrogen flushing into groundwater. He said the county’s monitoring of nitrate levels in groundwater downstream from farms is “through the roof.”

The law requires retailers to display phosphorus fertilizer separately from phosphorus-free fertilizer and to post signs notifying customers of the terms of the law. It has no specific disposal requirements for lawn fertilizer containing phosphorus. The law affects organic phosphorus fertilizer, as well, but not compost or liquid compost as long as they do not contain chemically, mechanically, or otherwise manipulated manure or plant matter.

The state banned the sale of phosphorus-containing dishwasher detergents for household use in 2010. The new law prohibits the sale of such detergents for commercial use as of July 1, 2013.

Mr. McAllister said education of property owners about sustainable practices is a priority — the application, for example, of compost that is organic and slowly releases nutrients that are absorbed for growth instead of flushed. He said useful information such as “Four Steps to a Pesticide-Free Lawn” is available online at neighborhood-network.org. The website has suggestions such as mowing with the blade set higher, watering infrequently and deeply, seeding with a tall fescue blend, and using organic solutions on weeds and pests. There is also a list of companies that provide landscaping services using sustainable practices.

The Nature Conservancy suggests that homeowners replace high-maintenance sod lawns with native grasses and shrubs that require less fertilization and irrigation.

Mr. McAllister also pointed out that the natural resources of the water bodies on the East End drive the economy here. Regarding polluted, fishless waters that can’t be swum in, he asked, “What will this do to property values?”

“We’ve got to change our evil ways,” the baykeeper said. “This isn’t alarmist, it’s reality.”

(by Carrie Ann Salvi – original article at The East Hampton Star)