Rain purifies the air, and cleanses the ground. It can be polite, or a terrible force of nature to be feared. New hardscape designs always include a drainage plan, and installers meticulously carry out those plans.
On a driveway, rain combined with improper drainage leads to erosion and possibly even wash outs. These unacceptable safety hazards drive the meticulous nature of designers and installers when it comes to drainage plans. I consider this to be a reactive behavior in construction. Continue reading “Rainwater Collection Systems for Driveways”
On a recent trip to Ojai, CA with family I noted something beautiful: desert landscaping in a raised planter bed lined with local boulders. The shopping center on West Ojai Ave., Hwy 150, incorporated the local horticulture as a design theme throughout the shopping center. It really worked for me.
The crisp green Agave plants arranged in a harmony outside the store, and a subtle winter rain brought out the scent of maple from the deciduous trees overhead. The sharp yellow leaves speckled the ground and I noticed inlaid cast-metal leaves in the pavers, to remind guests and residents of this most regal autumn season’s dressings. The drizzle of rain didn’t detract from the dessert plants as one might expect, as the darkened soil enhanced the Agave’s color. Continue reading “Xeriscape: Water-Defying Landscaping”
In the world of home investment, swimming pools are a questionable feature. While useful for family get-togethers and outdoor excursions, many consider pools to be a liability which lower the value of the property. Many home owners and property investors choose to fill swimming pools, eliminating the need for maintenance and liability concerns.
Crews can remove a pool using several different techniques including semi-permanent pool covers, partial removal, and complete removal of the concrete or fiberglass structure. Figure 1 shows a Genesis crewman filling a swimming pool with clean dirt, completing a partial pool removal.
Several factors to consider when deciding whether to fill an in-ground swimming pool:
Evaporation. Uncovered pools constantly lose water through evaporation, which increases the water bill.
Chemical Reduction. Most swimming pools require the use of hazardous chemicals (when concentrated) to keep the pool clean.
Injury Liability. If someone becomes injured in the pool, insurance companies usually hold the home owner responsible. Remove the pool, and remove the liability.
Leaks leading to failure or repairs. If the pool develops a crack and leaks into the subsoil, erosion could cause the pool to fail. If the leak is caught before an accident occurs, a repair can still be costly.
Partial removal, as in figure 1, means the demolition of the pool floor, while leaving the side walls intact. This allows water to pass freely to the water table and avoid flooding. If the home is sold after the pool filling project, the partial structure in the yard should be revealed to the buyers. Future construction and landscaping in the area may depend on the knowledge of buried structures.
Complete removals involve the demolition of the pool floor, side walls, plumbing, and pool motors. This most costly option takes the property back to square one. While the hole gets filled with clean dirt, also consider adding nutrients to the top soil. This aids in plant health for future landscaping. Starting from scratch (literally) allows home owners to create a landscape to match their tastes and styles, a genuine expression of pride in ownership.
Whether transformed into a Japanese garden, or play area for the grand-children, the gained square footage from filling a pool can add both monetary and intrinsic value to the home. We’re sure you’ll love the results.
Contact Genesis today for a free in-home consultation. We’d love to help you traverse this important decision which affects your property. Reach us toll free at 888.389.5533, or visit our free estimate page.
Steep hillsides pose some of the most difficult challenges to driveway paving installers.
If not installed correctly, natural forces and seasonal weather could cause the driveway to fail. These failures not only damage the driveway, but also any structures or vehicles down-slope of the failure.
Several construction techniques ensure the driveway lasts for years to come. Figure 1 above outlines several of the features including reinforced concrete headers, geo-textile, and drainage mats to protect against erosion from seasonal rains.
Reinforced concrete headers hold up-hill pavers in place, while reducing forces on downhill soil and pavers. The entire driveway is set on a layer of compacted subsoil and class two base, but these concrete headers extend below both these foundations. An independent layer of base supports this rebar-enforced header. This crushed granite foundation ensures water or moister won’t affect the header, and also protect against soil movement.
On the uphill side of this header is a drainage mat to protect against erosion from seasonal rains. A combination of geo-textile and plastic matting. This feature directs water away from the driveway towards a drainage gutter. If water is NOT directed off the driveway, the flow can accelerate and wash joint sand from driveway stones. Once the joint sand is washed away and water begins flowing under stones, driveway failure is eminent. Drainage mats, along with a few installation trade secrets, protects the driveway from destructive water flow. Furthermore, this water runoff can be collected and used for landscaping in the future. Some technologies that collect this runoff are rain barrels and detention basins with water safe plants.
Geo-textile materials also increase the endurance and lifespan of steeply sloped driveway installations. While air and moisture pass freely through the material, soil, roots, and pests have difficulty passing through this barrier. This ensures the pavers remain level years after installation. The geo-textile also helps prevent soil movement and keeps silt out of the crushed granite base.
Genesis prides itself in displaying it’s technical success in steeply graded paving projects. Licensed heavily enough to build cities (see list below), Genesis is more than prepared to take on challenging projects like the driveway in Figure 2. With the experience, man power, and certifications to serve, we’d love to bid on your project! For a free in-home consultation call us at 888.389.5533, or visit our free estimate page.
Families in the United states use about 400 million gallons of water a year, 30% of which goes towards outdoor uses. That’s about 120 million gallons of water a year that nobody drinks or showers with. (via EPA.gov) In another study sponsored by the California Department of Water Resources, data shows that 54% of California households use more than the theoretical irrigation requirement (view pdf). This monumental waste factor reduces the availability of drinking water and adds to California’s water sustainability problem. (Check out this article by Time U.S.)
California instituted several programs to curb urban and residential water usage, such as the “Flex Our Water” campaign http://www.saveourh2o.org/. Many of the tips and best practices include using localized plants, creating a water plan, and maintaining water systems.
Artificial Turf represents an alternative solution to curb outdoor water use and maintain the beautiful green lawn cherished by homeowners.
In the past, artificial turf found it’s home in sports arenas. Recent product advancements bring the synthetic ground-cover into residential spaces. Artificial turf used to create fake-looking lawns spotted from a mile away, and were not generally considered a wise design choice. Softer and more realistic than ever, it’s hard to tell the difference between artificial and real grass in a side by side comparison. For me the secret is in the thatch.
The term “thatch” describes the organic material in natural grass that builds up over time. Lawn clippings, dead grass, leaves, and sticks from nearby foliage make up this organic ground cover. Artificial turf generates no waste and requires no maintenance, but also contained no thatch. Until now.
Responding to market pressures, manufacturers began creating synthetic turf with thatch included (see figure 1). Coming in brown, green, or both, the thatch looks full and healthy.
The reader may ask, “Ok, so it looks alright. But how does it feel? Isn’t artificial turf plastic and hard?”
The reader would be right. Synthetic grass used to be hard. Advances in product manufacturing, however, make synthetic fibers softer than ever. An artificial lawn can actually be softer than a real lawn. Un-watered lawns become crispy, but artificial turf stays soft and green 365 days a year without pesticides, fertilizers, or water.
Environmental impacts of synthetic grass often concern home owners. Does this new style of turf hurt the planet?
Artificial turf excels in many areas of environmental sustainability including water runoff, protecting native soil bacterias, and recycle-ability.The perforated backing on artificial turf allows water and air to pass freely through the grass. This would sustains the natural organisms in the soil, and avoid flooding during rainy seasons. Also, the gravel and sand base which supports the grass helps maintain the flow of oxygen through air and water to the soil. The gravel absorbs water more quickly than native soil and helps reduce water runoff and flooding. Manufacturers often use recycled materials to make synthetic grass, and artificial turf can be recycled after it’s life in service. What a great list of features!
California offers big incentives for switching to artificial turf. The SoCal WaterSmart $1 /sq.ft. rebate for turf replacement includes artificial turf and permeable paver installations. Visit the site to learn about the rebate system and how to take advantage of it: socalwatersmart.com
If you’re interested in learning more about artificial turf, or want to install at your home, visit genesisturfworks.com or call 888.389.5533. We’d love to share our enthusiasm about this wonderful product!
According to archaeological evidence, the first farmers began to “landscape design” about 12,000 years ago. Yep, agriculture is a form of landscape design, and so is gardening. The first men and women who walked the earth were part of a complex ecosystem, one that required enhancement to supply human needs: food, shelter, and comfort. This farming lifestyle shaped culture, defined history, and produced today’s diverse world of unique peoples.
Today the art and science of landscape design bears slight resemblance to it’s humble beginnings, surpassing our ancestors’ wildest predictions. A variety of outdoor spaces are now designed for human needs; homes, public spaces, and vast parks are all designed and engineered for human pleasure. These spaces are created not for food or shelter, but for enjoyment and to preserve the cultures and traditions of the past. Integral to these landscape designs are the plants and materials chosen to define these spaces.
Michael Pollan, world renown author and food journalist, explores the human psychology of plant selection in his book Botany of Desire (2007). His four categories of plant selection are:
1. Sweetness (apples)
2. Beauty (such as a rose garden)
4. Control (Pollan uses the potato and other agricultural crops for this example)
These desires drive designers and home owners to select the “best” plants to put in outdoor spaces. Sometimes these plants are invasive species, such as apples. Other times plants are selected for their unique abilities, such as climbing vines. In a perfect world each home owner would select plants that are the most colorful, bear the sweetest fruit, and adapt to the environment they are placed in. Unfortunately, that is not the world we live in.
Booming populations and drought concerns introduce conflict to the landscape design industry. Los Angeles and Las Vegas are two cities at risk of water shortages. Las Vegas is slowly sinking because of strain on the water table below the city. Los Angeles, demand having already exceeded it’s natural water resources, currently pipes water from hundreds of miles away and even submitted plans to pipe water from the Great Lakes. Statewide water concerns led California to introduce the Save our Water initiative. The state of water usage for these cities in five years is difficult to judge. One thing is for sure, landscape design is no longer a “bed of roses”.
Individuals seeking a soothing backyard retreat face a conflict: waste water on a lush creation, or endure scorching temperatures and prickly plants?
For the resolution let’s turn to a father of native plant selection. Jens Jensen, making a name for himself in the early 1900s, studied landscape architecture and pioneered the use of native plants and materials for outdoor designs. He created gardens and parks that communicated meaning about the structures, open spaces, and swimming pools his work surrounded. His secret? A philosophical outlook and an understanding of natural beauty. In his own words:
A true expression of native talent is not found in the pompous gardens of large estates. For true expression you must look in the simple gardens of the common folk. Here is found a true art that has grown out of the soil and out of the heart of those people. They belong! They fit! They tell the true story of the loving hands which created them.
Genesis maintains a list of native-friendly and complimentary plants for use in landscape design. These plants are beautiful, conserve water, and many are drought resistant. Here are a couple luscious examples of native Southern California plants proving that water savings and beauty can exist in the same backyard. For a free in-home consultation call us at 800.287.5400, visit our contact page at genesisstoneworks.com/contact, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.