It’s patio season
Local experts weigh in on the latest trends and maintenance tips for the spring and summer months.
Comfortable furniture is one component of pleasant patio living.
Courtesy Metro Outdoor Living
Tulsa’s four-season climate means there is almost always a way to enjoy being outside.
Whether it’s the pool you’ve always dreamed of, a kitchen fit for a restaurant, or lawns as lush as a golf course, making improvements on your home’s exterior extends living space and pays dividends when it’s time to move on.
Many factors, including the standards and home values of the neighborhood, can impact the return on investment in an outdoor living project. According to Houselogic.com, a 2009 study showed small-scale exterior projects are the most profitable at resale.
“The caution to the property owner is that they probably will not get the full value back when adding high-dollar improvements,” says Kacy Bell, president of the Oklahoma Association of Realtors. But curb appeal has a noticeable impact on homebuyers.
“More than adding value,” Bell says, “curb appeal adds to the salability of the home.”
Spring has sprung. What better time to green up the grass on your side of the fence?
The benefits of turf care go beyond aesthetics.
“A well-cared for lawn in an urban setting means environmental benefits like oxygen production and soil runoff prevention,” says Brad Johnson, president of LawnAmerica.
Mid-April is the ideal time to apply the first fertilizer treatment on Bermuda grass, which represents about 85 percent of the grass in Tulsa, according to Johnson. Knowing how much and when to apply fertilizer are the keys to effectiveness and safety.
“The typical homeowner mentality is the more fertilizer, the better,” he says, “but that’s not necessarily the case from a turf care or environmental standpoint.” Note that fescue grass should not be fertilized heavily in the summertime. Instead, Johnson suggests Holganix, a liquid, organic soil amendment that improves the soil and builds the root system.
“Culinary herbs are gateway plants because they really are the easiest plants to grow,” says Paul James, the former host of HGTV’s “Gardening by the Yard” and current marketing director at Southwood Garden Center.
According to James, herb gardens require a pot (preferably terracotta for its porous qualities), potting soil, herb transplants, about six hours of daily sunlight and occasional watering.
James recommends buyers identify the herbs they use most while cooking, then select the ones they plan to grow.
When planting, James says, “Make sure you have good root-to-soil contact and leave an inch or two of space from the top of the soil to the top of the pot.”
Also, keep in mind that many potting soil mixes can stain concrete surfaces. Use a saucer or corkboard to protect the surface of your patio.
The best way to enjoy an outdoor living space is to make a master plan and stick to it, according to Cherlyn Reeves, landscape designer and project manager for Tom’s Outdoor Living.
When designing a landscape, Reeves takes the home’s style and homeowner’s green thumb (or lack of it) into consideration. Recently, she has encouraged clients to use “more native perennials like coneflower, sage and zinnias that can tolerate Tulsa temperatures.”
Although she incorporates evergreens into most of her designs to add interest and color in the winter, Reeves says, “Designing color pockets around the door or mailbox always helps with curb appeal.” Those are the details to lay out in a master plan.
Completing your master plan could take a professional about two weeks, depending on the scope of the project. Reeves suggests implementing your plan in stages as personal finances allow.
Deadwood (no, not the show on HBO) can make a yard look like a year-round mess. But during the spring storm season, dead limbs and branches falling from trees can be destructive, as well.
“When the winds come, they will blow deadwood down,” says Tim Nall, president of We B Trees. “Once we’ve cleaned your trees out, the wind can blow through them better and won’t do so much damage.”
“Deadwooding” an average-sized yard could take a full day, but only needs to be done once every three years.
“More than likely, if no one has worked on your trees in the last three years, it’s time for a trim,” Nall says.
OK, you have the basics under control. To turn your outdoor living environment up a notch, why not actually turn it up? Josh Onley, chief technology officer at Video Revolution, admits “trying to get quality sound outside has been a challenge for years.” But new advancements offer homeowners more choices and better sound than ever before.
“We install audio systems that disappear in the landscape,” Onley says. “Subwoofers bury down in the ground and provide a warmth and a depth to the audio that you don’t generally find outside.”
Outdoor televisions also have come a long way in recent years. Even some indoor LED models are bright enough to use outside (under a protective roof, of course).
Worried about the neighbors? “We set it up so that we contain a lot of the sound in your area,” Onley says. “We never want to install something that will upset the entire neighborhood.”
“The first thing to consider when buying outdoor furniture is the size of the patio,” says Chad McMains, manager of Metro Outdoor Living. Then, consider the style that best fits the rest of your home.
Although traditional styles are still in vogue, contemporary looks are growing in popularity, in part because of the advancements in outdoor materials.
“Sunbrella is 100 percent outdoor fabric,” McMains says (meaning, it can handle sun and snow, swimsuits and spills), but it looks and feels like fabric you might find indoors.
If there is still a bit too much chill in the air, consider an outdoor fireplace. Through a company in Collinsville, Metro offers stone-wrapped, gas or wood-burning fireplaces that can be ordered and delivered in about a week. At 8-10 feet tall, they are big enough to keep you warm all evening long.
Nothing ruins an outdoor meal like spiders, ants and beetles. Mike Fulps, vice president of Arrow Exterminators, recommends a perimeter pest control service to minimize such pests on your deck or patio.
The treatment focuses on crawling insects only (mosquitos require a different game plan) but lasts an average of one to three months.
“Outdoor kitchens don’t affect the way we treat a space,” Fulps says.
But Fulps does recommend discreetly placing glue boards in your outdoor space. Glue boards trap bugs and allow your pest control service to determine which pests are most commonly attracted to your space.
“Pest control occurs in a natural environment with a lot of variables,” Fulps says. “Each program basically needs to be customized to fit the homeowners needs and living environment, whether that be indoors or outdoors.”
Now that there is somewhere to sit, how about adding a little counter space?
“Outdoor kitchens have always been popular in the southeast and on the east and west coasts,” McMains says. “But now, they are starting to come into the heartland.”
While the contents of an outdoor kitchen range from the basic grill and food storage drawer to a full-scale kitchen including a sink, refrigerator and trash compactor, most of McMains’ customers can agree on one outdoor kitchen “wow factor.” It’s the “Nugget Ice Maker” by Scotsman, which produces 80 pounds of “Sonic” ice every day.
Outdoor kitchens can require major financial and time investments. Depending on the scale of the project, weather, subcontractors and required permits, outdoor kitchens can take up to one year to complete.
“When you prepare for any remodel, you first need to prepare the utilities that will serve it,” advises Terry Johnson, president of Luna Illumination and certified electrical contractor.
Within the past two years, LED lamps have made as much progress outdoors as they have indoors. According to Johnson LED lamps run cooler, last longer, use less power and are now offered in warmer shades and various beam spreads.
Depending on the scope of your landscape lighting project, it can take anywhere from two weeks to several months to design and install. But once complete, landscape lighting will be sure to brighten up the night. Ultimately, says Johnson, “Good landscape lighting is beautiful security.”
Pools and hot tubs
What’s new in the world of pools? Salt.
“Saltwater is easier on hair, skin, clothes and eyes,” says Matt McCoy, designer with Baker Pools. “It’s also a lot easier to maintain.”
McCoy specializes in installing saltwater pools, which are compatible with home automation systems and remote automation. But, for around $2,100, Baker Pools also can convert an existing pool to operate a saltwater system with ease. McCoy says that after multiple swim seasons “you’ll come out ahead of your initial investment because of products that you no longer have to buy.”
Another popular item is a “spool.” Part pool, part spa, in-ground spools are great for small yards and year-round use.