The season of the great outdoors is in full swing. As we spend more time outside of our homes in the summer sun, we notice all of the outdoor projects we have put off for far too long. The sun has many positive aspects that help our landscaping grow and flourish. However, its UV rays are also detrimental to things like unshaded portions of our lawns and deck finishes. We share our favorite lawn care tips as well as guidance on choosing the right material for your deck, proper maintenance, selecting your stain, and many other important things to consider before building your dream deck.
If you’re like us, your lawn is a statement to your neighbors and can add great curb appeal. However, when the late hot summer days start to emerge, there are always brown spots that love to make an appearance. We are not the “water it until it grows back green type”, but there are some ways to help prevent the browning areas that can come from unhealthy grass.
Water early in the morning
Watering early in the morning is the best time to water your lawn. The cooler temperature prevents the water from evaporating as quickly, helping the water soak deeper into the soil and creating a stronger root. The morning sun will also help burn off the water sitting on the blades of the grass, controlling the spread of disease.
Water less for longer periods
How often do we water our lawns? To create a healthier, more drought-resistant root system, water less often for longer periods. Two to three times a week for 40 minutes each zone will help the water penetrate deeper into the soil, causing the roots to grow down into the soil instead of hovering just under the surface. Not only will this help lawn roots overtake weed roots, but in times of long hot days coupled with drought conditions, your lawn will not dry out as quickly due to the deeper root system.
Cutting and soil treatment
The last recommendation we can make for a healthy lawn is related to cutting and soil treatment. We never bag our clippings when mowing our lawns. Grass holds mostly water and some nutrients in its blades. Thus when we cut and bag the clippings, we are taking water and nutrients away from the grass and throwing it away. Why would we take the water and fertilizer we spend money on and throw them away? Buy a set of mulching blades, cover the side dump on your mower (this is usually already covered if you’re a bagger) and ditch the bag. Consequently, you will be cutting your grass and feeding the soil with nutrients and water at the same time.
Aerate and fertilize
Aerating your lawn twice a year and fertilizing with a weed and feed is important as well. We do a large weed spray with a grass safe targeted weed spray, then a weed and feed covering with a spreader in early spring and late fall to help prevent weeds from getting out of control.
Choosing the right material
Now that your lawn is looking green and lush, you will need a nice vantage point to admire your work. What better place than a deck? For those looking to build a deck, the first choice you need to consider is what material to use. Traditional woods such as redwood, cypress, cedar and pressure treated pine are great choices, but come with hefty maintenance requirements. Some benefits to having a real wood deck is the stability it offers. Synthetic decks, which we will cover next, are not as structurally resilient as real wood. Synthetic decks get sagging and bowing in areas where there is little structure under the surface. The sun in Colorado is very hot, especially if you don’t have a covered patio or are facing south. With a wood deck, the heat is absorbed more and does not reflect to your feet and surrounding areas as strong as synthetic materials.
Properly maintaining your deck
Maintaining your wood deck can be a tedious task that may need to be done yearly based on where you live and the weather conditions. Cheaper wood like pressure treated pine and fir will require bi-yearly maintenance and staining updates in order to keep the surface from rotting. Woods like black locust, balau, and black walnut have natural oils that protect them from absorbing water and will last much longer. However, the upfront cost of these types of woods are much higher. These woods have great rot resistance, deter bugs, and should last 20 years if properly maintained.
Maintaining your deck is not a huge undertaking if you stay on top of it. Don’t let it get to the point of major repairs. If you don’t have a pressure washer, we would invest in one. You can get the deck stripping attachment for almost any pressure washer nowadays and they are a lifesaver. We try to avoid painting or using a solid stain on deck surfaces to cut down on the cost of maintaining it. Paint will always peel, no matter how long it says it will last.
Selecting a stain
When selecting a stain, we recommend an oil-based stain in a popular color. Before staining, wash the deck with the stripping attachment, stripping any flakes or unwanted materials off of the surface. Next, let your deck dry and vacuum any dust or foreign particles off in preparation for staining. Once your deck is prepped for staining, evenly paint the oil onto the surface based on the manufacturer’s recommendations for coverage and coating. Repeat these steps every two years to keep water and UV rays from damaging the wood and starting the decay process.
Important things to consider
When choosing a synthetic material such as Timber Tech, Trex or Moisture Shield, be sure you understand the structural components of your deck subfloor. Because a lot of these composites are largely plastic or a similar form, they tend to droop in areas that have long periods of sun exposure. Also keep in mind that heavy furniture and grills will create a greater chance for a dip to occur without properly spacing floor joists under the decking. Most composite materials are now recommending the standard 16” spacing on the floor joists. However, some require a 12” on center construction, which will most likely require additional lumber.
It’s also important to consider the temperature of synthetic decking materials. If you love to be barefoot, it’s best to stay away from synthetic materials or have an option for shade. Synthetic materials (even if they are low heat technology) are high heat. The heat radiates off of the synthetic material and will likely be 20 to 30 degrees hotter than the ambient air temperatures. If there isn’t an option for a covered deck, consider planting a large shade tree. Personally, and across our company for that matter, we love the Honeylocust tree. Honeylocust trees are disease-tolerant and strong. Additionally, they have small leaves that make fall cleanup a breeze. We have not found an environment these trees do not thrive in. All in all, if proper precautions are taken, synthetic decks are a great way to avoid time-consuming and costly maintenance every year.
Cleaning and maintenance
Any deck is going to require some simple maintenance to help ensure you get the most longevity out of it. Avoid leave piles or debris on your deck by sweeping often. When grilling, ensure your grill has a grease catcher so that your grill mess doesn’t become a sticky mess all over your deck surface. If you live in a snowy area, it’s always a good idea to shovel snow after the storm passes so the water doesn’t sit and melt on the deck surface. Bugs are a big factor for wood on decks, whether you have a natural wood surface or the structure of your deck is wood. A natural remedy that works well for carpenter bees is a citrus spray created from a citrus fruit. Boil your citrus fruit in water for 15 minutes to release the juices and let it completely cool. Put the citrus water in a spray bottle and apply to the infested area or nest site. This is a terrific way to prevent damage and extend the longevity of your deck. Remember – any deck goes well with beer, grilling, and friends. Let’s all enjoy the rest of summer and spend some time outdoors!
Are you looking for other things to catch up on around the house? Read about some simple home maintenance items you can cross off the list https://vigeoconstruction.com/home-maintenance/