Outdoor Living Spaces

  1. Saving time is an important consideration in how we design our landscapes. Homebuilders are helping us by putting increasingly larger houses on smaller lots, thus minimizing the outdoor space. What I found is that most homeowners don’t necessarily want that but are limited by the available homes in their area. Smaller gardens are becoming more the norm, and people seem to sacrifice water features while emphasizing low maintenance flower beds or vegetables.
  2. New regulations in Denver continue to emphasize organic lawn and landscape practices, water conservation, and the promotion of planting native trees. Your HOA may also have new bylaws that address these topics and while not an ordinance, the City of Denver for example is certainly recommending not to plant certain species of ash as the emerald ash borer emerges in the area. Recent regulations have made it easier to be a backyard farmer. In 2011, Denver allowed residents to purchase permits for ducks, chickens, and even goats. In 2014, the city allowed you to sell a limited amount of homegrown food products under your own roof. The limits are 8 ducks and chickens and two dwarf goats of Nigerian dwarf or African pygmy species.
  3. Watering is turning into an art form and science as watering restrictions continue to tighten. More homeowners are aware of the importance of watering their trees and shrubs in winter and how less frequent and deeper summer watering schedules can actually be more beneficial to lawns than a daily sprinkler schedule.
  4. Dogscaping as a sub-discipline of landscape design is hugely popular. It seems like everyone is getting a dog now and want a landscape design that accommodates them, especially when letting them out for a pee break. Training a new puppy to go in a certain area is easier but the landscape can help create a natural place for them to do their business. Dogs will naturally patrol “their territory” and not be conscientious of “your flowerbed.” Leaving a 3-foot gap between the fence & plantings will help cut down on trampling.  If there are already well-worn paths that your pet traverses in the yard, these can be embraced and screened by tall plants or creating a gravel path. Installing a fully mature tree in new home constructions will instantly create shade space for your dog during the hot summer months.
  5. More lawn, please.  There is a general trend away from flowerbeds and rock beds and towards having more lawn to simplify the look and feel of the yard and to cut down on maintenance.
  6. Rabbit control and mitigation.  Homeowners are also asking landscapers to choose plants and vegetation that don’t attract rabbits. This may feed into the general downtrend toward vegetable gardens.
  7. Fire features are hot* (duh!) As people look for ways to bring the indoors outside into their outdoor living spaces. Fire pits, especially cast iron ones that build up and radiate heat help make a comfortable space for entertaining in the early spring (Easter) and fall (Halloween). Cheaper portable fire-pits may provide a nice fire to look at but if their material doesn’t properly radiate heat it can actually make you feel colder.  Free-standing fireplaces are also a bigger seller recently. *Important to check HOA restrictions on fire features as well.
  8. More outdoor living spaces. There is certainly a trend to give up greenspace for hardscapes, covered porches, kitchens, and seating areas
  9. Cool new products. The right innovative product can enhance outdoor living and be a cool conversation starter. The Cool Bar is a popular item. It’s a 3-in-1 coffee table, cocktail table, and cooler. With one twist it raises from its set position of a coffee table to its cocktail hour setting with an underneath cooler for ice and beverages. Another product, The Ultrasonic Pest Repeller uses a special frequency to repel mosquitoes, and judging by the reviews it seems to work. The range is designed to cover the patio area mainly. Finally, I’ll probably test out the iPower Soil PH meter to test the acidity or alkalinity of the soil. It also will measure light and moisture levels which are all crucial factors and can save you thousands of hours and money in plant material.
  10. The last frost of the year in Colorado’s Front Range happens, on average,  on  May 5th. That is a bit later than the other four-season areas so beware if you are new to Denver and don’t start gardening too early.
  11.  Organic Lawn Care usually starts with one-time fertilization in the spring which can be quite expensive but is about the same cost as the two or three treatments when using synthetic materials. Organic lawn practices prioritize the least toxic materials. Pulling weeds by hand, or mechanically using a weeder with four claws, is mandatory.   Many winter pre-emergent weed killers fall into three main categories; Fatty-acid based, essential oil-based, and citrus-based. Home-made concoctions also use vinegar and corn gluten. These work to varying degrees but are applied during winter before lawn weeds emerge.
  12. Low maintenance shrubs also fit in with the time-saving theme and there are a ton to choose from. I like a fountain butterfly bush. It’s drought-tolerant, meaning it doesn’t need much water, grows to about ten feet high and ten feet wide, and is a spring bloomer with lilac clusters.

– David Merriman

Originally published on Yourhub.Denverpost.com

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