Designing your backyard patio is a pretty fun project, but there is a lot to consider when you get into the details. There are a few essentials to consider in your design that will make your Des Moines backyard patio into an outdoor escape you’ll never want to leave.
Outdoor Kitchen & Food Prep Space
One of the most common requests for landscape designs is to incorporate a dedicated area for grilling. Our design pros have a lot of experience, and tons of ideas for how to incorporate an outdoor kitchen space into your yard, even in small spaces.
Ideally, your outdoor cooking area should be easily accessible from the indoor kitchen, so you can quickly pop in and out for whatever you need. A whole outdoor kitchen might be more than you want or have space for, but you’d be surprised what sort of innovative ideas our designers can come up with to create a super functional and beautiful food prep space near the grill.
Living & Seating Spaces
People love to congregate together! Whether it’s just family or the whole neighborhood, you’ll want to make sure you have enough space for everyone. A designer can create a layout for your landscape design that will maximize your seating options while maintaining beautiful design and highlighting the features of your yard.
Even if you’re working with a smaller yard, a designer can help you create multiple defined outdoor spaces. A dining space with a table and chairs near the grill is a top priority, and a living room or family room space with comfortable seating is ideal for relaxing. It’s always nice to have a lounging space where you can soak up some vitamin D and watch the kids play, or even a private and secluded space where you can sit and meditate or enjoy a quiet cup of tea.
Shelter From the Elements
We usually get outside to enjoy the natural environment, but sometimes it’s nice to have a little shelter from the elements as well. A landscape designer will work with your yard and consider our climate, prevailing winds, and sun positioning to give you protection from the elements.
Whether it’s with umbrellas, strategically planted trees for shade, a patio with a full roof, or an elegant gazebo, a designer can create shade and wind protection that blends seamlessly into the overall design of your landscape. With a little something between you and the sky, you can still enjoy your outdoor space when the weather is less than ideal. Watching the rain from a covered gazebo can be a cozy way to spend a Sunday afternoon!
Having a fire feature in the backyard extends the day, making your yard inviting and comfortable, even after the sun goes down. Firepits and outdoor fireplaces are available in endless styles and variations now.
A landscape designer can show you a variety of ideas and designs that could fit in with your design style. Whether you prefer sleek and ultra-modern gas-powered firepits, a more traditional style wood-burning fire ring, or even an outdoor oven, our designers can work a fire feature into your space.
Not into a firepit or a fireplace? Torches can give you a similar ambiance and are available in many different styles.
Integrating lighting into your landscape is a subtle way to make a huge impact. A landscape designer will work in lighting that matches your style and highlights the assets and focal points of your landscape and home.
Twinkling string lights make seating areas feel cozy and warm. Decorative overhead fixtures add an element of art to covered patio spaces and are the perfect finishing touch to really anchor a covered space. Discreet path lighting and accent lighting invite you to explore your yard after dark and highlight the best features of your home and landscape.
Seeing the different elements of your space lit up after dark gives you a whole new perspective on your space, and a new reason to fall in love with your home!
Keeping these ideas in mind will help you design the patio space of your dreams for your family to enjoy for years to come. If you’re not quite sure how to put your design onto paper, get in touch with one of our professional landscape designers! We can help you nail down a design, and come up with a plan to make it happen.
When you plan your landscaping, you are planning for the long term. You want everything, especially border edging, to last as long as possible—no matter what Mother Nature throws at it. Since landscaping is often one of the most significant investments you’ll make in your property, it can feel like you’ve wasted money if products break down, decay, or start to look dingy after just a few years.
There’s a wide variety of products you can use for border edging. Here are the pros and cons of a few of the most common edging options available, and what we recommend for the longest-lasting hardscapes in Iowa.
Plastic edging is a very affordable option, and it comes in a variety of colors and styles. However, plastic edging is a true case of “you get what you pay for.” Plastic edging degrades very quickly when exposed to the elements. Sun fades its color and weakens the material while snow and freezing temperatures make it even more brittle. Then it starts to crack, break, and look bad in just a few seasons. The plastic edging looks cheap, and it only gets worse with time. While plastic edging may seem like a great deal, you’ll be replacing it pretty frequently, and cleaning up all the bits and pieces from your yard can be difficult. We don’t recommend plastic edging to anyone.
A clean-cut line of spade edging looks fantastic. It’s minimalist, it’s definitely the most affordable option, and it allows strong landscaping to stand on its own without distraction. However, it is a high-maintenance approach. To keep it looking nice, it needs to be cleaned up at least once per year, and perhaps a second time depending on how crisp you want to keep the edge.
Metal edging products are very utilitarian and leave very clean lines. With that said, they’re not particularly attractive or creative, and they don’t bend well. These products are most useful in straight lines for commercial applications and utility areas of your home.
Natural Stone Border
One of the best and longest-lasting options is a natural stone border. Natural stone has a classic, timeless look, and fits into any landscape beautifully. As edging, natural stone is extremely durable, and weather and sunshine won’t drastically affect the look or texture. If you’re going with stone, avoid soft stone, like Iowa Buff, as it will discolor and degrade very quickly. Choose a dense stone that will stand up well to wear and tear over time.
Stones that are at least 6″ wide and 2-3″ thick are the best for durability. If you have areas that see regular traffic from lawn equipment, like around pathways and patios, choose larger stones. Natural stone can be cut to custom sizes and installed end-to-end for a tighter or looser fit, depending on the look you’re going for.
Paver stones are also a top option for landscape borders. These days, there are so many varieties, styles, sizes, and colors available to choose from! They’re also very durable and will last for a very long time. Similar to stone, we recommend larger and thicker pavers—at least 6 inches wide—for high-traffic areas.
When it’s time to consider a new landscaping project, you need to know the basics of how to work with a landscape professional. What is the consultation process? How long will it take? And how much is all of this going to cost?
Our resident landscape expert Keegan Lare, shares his advice on what to expect when you work with our professional team here at Ted Lare.
The First Step: The Phone Consultation
After you call in to start a project, we organize a phone conversation with one of our designers. This typically happens within 24-48 hours of the initial call, depending on what part of the season we’re in.
During this call, we answer any questions you may have, and we try to get a feel for the projects you’re looking for. If it seems like a solid fit for both sides, then we schedule an on-site consultation at your home or your business if it’s a commercial job.
Next Steps: The On-Site Consultation
We usually meet for up to an hour to check out your residence and discuss our initial thoughts on your project.
We charge $200 for consultations in the Des Moines Metro area, but this $200 gets credited back to you if we do the work. Depending on the complexity of the job, we may charge additional design fees to account for some of our design time. This will all be discussed on-site and agreed upon before we move forward. You will also receive that amount back in credit if you decide to carry out the project within the first year.
Most importantly, the on-site consultation is a time for you to ask questions, so don’t be shy!
Common Questions during the Consultation
Here are some of the questions you can expect us to discuss with you when we visit your property for the first time.
What are your goals?
In general, we like to ask homeowners what their top 3 goals are for their outdoor spaces. These goals help us focus on what is most important to you and allows us to develop a plan that meets your aspirations.
How do you live?
We’ll also ask for general information about your lifestyle. For example, how big are the gatherings you expect to have on your new patio? What does a typical weekend look like for you? Do you love the sun, or prefer to hang out in the shade?
What are your tastes?
Any images that show your taste in materials (patios, walls, etc.) always help us get an idea of what you like. Providing any previous plans for the property also helps us save time creating a base plan from scratch.
What is your budget?
Discussing a budget range is very helpful so that we know any limitations on the project. We’ll generally give options with different price points, as clients find it beneficial to have a few choices.
Information Gathered for Design
When at your site, we capture all the data we need to create an initial design. This includes several photos of the yard and home, critical measurements of the space, and information on accessibility, powerlines, and obstacles.
This process can be quick or rather extensive, depending on the existing conditions of the location. New homes without a lot of previous installations are easy to measure and capture. Older homes with many existing hardscapes and plantings can take longer to document.
We try to respond with design ideas and a preliminary budget within two weeks of the first meeting, but this time frame depends on the complexity of the project. If there are many construction elements to design and price out, it may take longer.
After we provide you with an initial design, the decision is in your hands on how to move forward and set a schedule. Often there are different phases of work to choose from, such as tree removal, garden preparation, installation of hardscapes, etc. We are happy to do it all at one time or phase it in over a few years. Usually, it makes sense to do as much construction as possible in one trip to limit the cleanup expenses involved in multiple trips over several years.
Once the project scope of work is agreed upon, we work to schedule the project in the near future. If it is a simple planting, it may only be a few weeks before we can complete the work. If the project involves a lot of construction, it might be a few months before we can start a project. Once we start a job, we see it through to completion. Our install crews are some of the best around and you will love working with them.
The landscape consultation process is often that simple. For a small fee and in short order, you can have professional designers guide you towards your ideal renovation. If you have any further questions on the landscaping process, or would like to start a project, please don’t hesitate to contact Ted Lare Design & Build. We would love to hear from you!
Getting in our daily serving of vegetables can be a challenge, and when your produce from the supermarket tastes less than stellar, it can be even harder. Having delicious, fresh edibles straight from the garden makes getting your daily servings a whole lot easier. With a patio garden, you’ll have all of the best garden flavors as close as possible to your kitchen— you’ll barely even need to leave the house to pick tomatoes straight from the vine! Get your fresh produce from plant to table in record time by growing your favorite flavors on the patio.
Container Gardening with Vegetables: Gardening trends are always evolving and vegetable gardens are not immune to the growing understanding of the “best” way to go about growing your freshest flavors. These days, our homegrown produce isn’t limited to rows upon rows in a garden bed in the backyard. You can grow food just as delicious in containers, mixing up your gardening routine to something a little more convenient.
Container gardening has lots of advantages that make the most of their space. This growing style offers simpler upkeep, is easy to place wherever is most convenient, reduces the amount of work needed, and often even boosts the flavor of your edibles!
Best Patio Vegetables: Patio gardening has traditionally been confined to little plants, like herbs. While herb gardens are still a valuable part of your patio garden repertoire, there’s so much more that you can do just outside your door! Container gardens are surprisingly flexible and there are lots of ways to bring beautiful and functional edible gardens to your home:
Herbs For edible garden beginners, home chefs, and those that like to keep things simple, herb containers are the perfect place to get started. They are low-maintenance, filled with delicious herbs that will elevate your cooking to the next level, and are adaptable to fill your balcony, patio, or windowsill with lush and fragrant foliage ready for the picking.
Each plant has its own unique set of needs, but many of the most popular herbs are happy growing in a smaller container and don’t grow to an unmanageable size. Simply ensure proper drainage, use good quality potting soil, and find a watering schedule that is right for your plants. Then, get ready to enjoy their delicious flavors in your cooking!
There are lots of herbs that pair well together in dishes and in containers for growing, as they have similar needs. We love the fragrant and lush look of rosemary, oregano, and thyme together for a Mediterranean blend, or a combination of basil, parsley, and mint for a container for more temperate homes.
Tomatoes These are one of the garden staples that simply can’t be forgotten when putting together your patio containers. We’re lucky that this delicious vegetable staple absolutely flourishes in containers, making it easy to care for and perfect for the patio. You’ll instantly be able to taste the difference between your homegrown tomatoes and those you pick up from the supermarket—and these lush plants dripping ruby jewels of produce for you makes for a pleasant addition to your backyard.
Determinate tomatoes are the best choice for containers because of their more compact growing habit that doesn’t require as much maintenance to keep upright. These plants ripen quickly and need only a little support from a trellis or cage. Choose from a variety of sizes for all of your snacking, salad, and sandwich needs.
The key to impressive tomato flavor is consistent watering. Keeping the soil evenly moist, but not waterlogged, will give you produce that is the envy of your whole neighborhood. Try using self-watering containers for a stress-free way to keep your plants hydrated, or develop a schedule that has you checking your plants regularly in the mornings.
Peppers Given the right love and care, some peppers actually grow better in containers than they do in the garden, thanks to their need for warmer soil temperatures. Bushy plants with small, delicate—and brightly colored, ornamental-looking—fruits are perfect for container growing.
Keep your peppers in a sunny spot where they can soak up all the heat that they can. Especially important for hot peppers, a little heat is important while they are growing to bring out the spice in them! Keep your peppers well hydrated to help them make the most of the constant heat and exposure.
Don’t be shy to repot your peppers as they grow and flourish into gorgeous mature plants. With a pot that’s a little bigger than normal, you’ll have a much easier time keeping their roots well hydrated even in the hottest days of the summer. For the best, tastiest, and prettiest pepper results, fertilize with a water-soluble fertilizer every 1-2 weeks.
Leafy Greens There’s nothing quite as satisfying or healthy as a fresh, crisp serving of greens from the garden. Favorite leafy greens, like lettuce, spinach, and kale, are extremely popular options that really fill out a container garden. Not only will you enjoy the easy access to get them into your kitchen, but you’ll also love that their proximity to your home in containers discourages backyard critters from nibbling away at them before you have the opportunity to!
Most leafy greens are vegetables that prefer growing in the cool season, thriving in the spring and fall, but diminishing in the heat of the summer. These vegetables are perfect for grazing on and pulling a little bit to eat at a time rather than harvesting it all at once.
These greens grow with roots that are shallow and spread out, so planting them in a fitting, wide, and shallow container is ideal. This is a great way to add visual interest to your container garden, too, with a bit of a new size and dimension to enjoy. Plant lettuce, spinach, and kale with lots of sunlight so their broad leaves can soak up the rays. Plant with good quality soil and in a container with drainage, and keep them consistently moist for the lushest and tastiest results.
Bulbs Bulbs do most of their growing work underground, so bulb edibles aren’t naturally the first option people think of with their container gardening. However, they’re actually a perfect fit for containers, which actually keep them very low maintenance and just as delicious. Onions and garlic are great container garden options as they are key ingredients in so many of our favorite side dishes.
Plant garlic in the fall, with a bit of time to get established before the first fall frosts arrive. If you missed the fall planting, you can still plant in the spring, but you won’t get to experience end results that are nearly as big. Make sure that you use new, bagged soil and not recycled soil from the garden with your garlic so that you will have fewer problems with pests and disease. Place the container in a sunny part of your patio and watch it flourish with very little work from you!
While you can plant onion from scratch it’ll be much more worth your time and patience to start from sets. Plant them in a large and wide container so that you can get more harvest, and keep consistently moist.
Vegetable gardening doesn’t have to be an overwhelming task and you don’t have to commit large parts of your landscape to gardening to be able to enjoy the most delicious produce. You can have a source of tasty, fresh edibles that are good for you and your family and bring unparalleled flavor to your kitchen. With plants that grow lush, green, and often adorned with beautiful produce, you won’t even need to sacrifice aesthetic to have it all this summer.
With a camera in everyone’s pocket, social media within our fingertip’s reach, and a world of people a click away, it can feel a lot more difficult to live a private life. We’re so plugged into our lives around us and surrounded by technology and media that the only place we can actually relax is in our homes. While a little peace and quiet is wonderful to enjoy in our fast-paced lives, nobody wants to live their life indoors. Having a private escape on your property can be the perfect way to enjoy what your yard has to offer, without worrying about prying eyes. Below are some ideas on how to create your own private sanctuary in your backyard.
Hedges and Privacy Screens: Planting hedges and privacy screens are a beautiful and all-natural way to add a little bit of functional privacy to your home. Their dense growth creates a lush curtain of green that shields your yard while allowing you to enjoy the outdoors. You’ll get all the function of a fence or barrier, but with a much more aesthetically pleasing shade of green.
Hedges don’t just screen your home from the outside giving privacy, but they can also act as a stylish, multi-purpose feature by providing a sound barrier from the hustle and bustle of the outside world, allowing you to create an atmosphere of peace and quiet right outside your door. Not to mention, they also work great as a buffer from winds and snow, which can not only be a benefit for those of us who like to spend more time outside, but it can also help to lower heating costs when the weather cools.
Growing Your Own Hedges: While there are many different styles and types of hedges that you can grow, planning the best fit for you is important. The first step toward starting your own hedge at home actually begins with planning, so that you can choose the look and function that works for your backyard oasis. Working with one of our expert designers, we’ll find the most tailored look for your style, home, and interests. Here’s what to consider when planning:
What space do you have? Start off by planning where you want your hedge to go. You might want to have a hedge capture your whole yard, but some yard layouts might call for a partial hedge instead. Measure the total length and consider how wide you’d like your hedge to be to have the numbers you need to get started.
What do these measurements mean? How many plants you use and how close you plant them depends on both the plant’s growth habits and the density of a hedge that you want. For some plants you could need up to 3 layers, planted only 1’-2’ apart to create a dense look. Other plants may only need to be planted in one layer and require spacing 6 ft apart. Often a combination of plants is best, for a unique look and more color and texture through the year. Our designers are familiar with all of the most popular varieties and which species is the best choice for the look that you want.
Which plant to choose? The first decision is between deciduous and evergreen shrubs. While there are tons of exciting types of deciduous plants to choose from that offer a stunning array of seasonal colors, they do lose their leaves – and therefore some of their density – in the winter. Evergreens offer an identical look no matter the season, and won’t sacrifice density at any time of year.
Hedge How-To: For a professional and polished final look, our landscaping experts are a fantastic resource to make sure that your project looks as good as you imagined. If you’re a bit handier, though, it can be easy to plant your own hedge. For homeowners looking for a stress-free experience, hiring the pros is a great solution, and for those that like to be hands-on throughout their projects, we’re happy to help you make your hedge happen. Here’s how to plant them yourself:
1. For a manicured look, mark your hedge line. Use a stake at each end of the line and tie a string between them to mark a straight line. To keep each plant placed precisely, measure and mark your string with the distances that you want to place plants at.
2.Dig your holes as deep as the plant’s root balls.Take the plants out of the containers or casing you purchased them in the holes for planting. If they look root-bound, gently work the roots to loosen them. Fill in the holes and water your new hedge plants to help them to settle in and start growing.
3. Adding mulch around your plants will help them to thrive. Mulch is temperature regulating and helps to keep moisture levels more consistent for a healthier plant, but also helps to make your hedge look more polished.
4. You can “train” your hedge into the right shape with some careful pruning once they are growing well. Simply trim down the tops and sides a few times annually to keep your plants healthy and in line.
Favorite Hedge Plants: There really is a wealth of different options to choose from when picking your hedge plant. Shrubs exist in nearly every shape and size, so there’s a plant for nearly every style. These are some of our favorite hedge plants that you’re bound to see thriving in Iowa neighborhoods:
Boxwoods These evergreens are known for being dense-growing and very low maintenance. You can find them in many sizes ranging from 3’ to 9’ tall, and you can trim them into different shapes to suit your style. These shrubs boast bright green foliage that darkens slightly in the winter months. While they are known to attract useful bees to your yard, they also keep out other wildlife like deer, keeping your whole garden protected from other kinds of prying eyes.
Arborvitae Known for their elegant looks, these hedges are a perfect option for hedges that highlight each individual plant with more generous spacing. These tall and narrow cone-shaped trees come in a wide assortment of varieties, some of which can grow up to 30’ tall. The local favorites are the Emerald Green Arborvitae and the Holmstrup Arborvitae – both favored for their beautiful foliage that is both hardy and disease resistant. The name “Arborvitae” actually translates from Latin to mean “tree of life,” and these plants prove it with a long life of up to 50 years, even in our sometimes harsh conditions. Pictured Above Right: North Pole Arborvitae Via Plant Finder
Korean Lilac & Common Lilac Lilacs are a great choice for adding a floral touch to your hedging needs, covered in clusters of small flowers, usually in shades of white or purple, or variegations of both. Not only beautiful, they’re also wonderfully fragrant and add a delightful, relaxing note to the atmosphere of the backyard. Plus, those same gorgeous and fragrant blooms are favorites of hummingbirds and butterflies alike! Pictured Above Left: Korean Lilac Via Plant Finder
Dwarf Burning Bush For truly captivating color, look no further than a dwarf burning bush for your hedge. The gorgeous, green summer foliage transforms to radiant red for the fall, truly setting the season in your landscape. They also look particularly fantastic when paired with evergreens for a cool contrast with the appeal of year-round coverage. Pictured Above Right: Dwarf Burning Bush Via Monrovia
Privacy Planting Screens: Although a hedge is a nice place to start when adding privacy to your backyard, a more beautiful and complex solution is a privacy planting screen that has several varieties of plants. The combination of plants will create a more diverse mix that provides more color, height variations, and seasonal interest.
Most planting screens would incorporate multiple trees, shrubs, and perhaps ornamental grasses and perennial flowers. Below are some images of planting arrangements we have done in the past. One of our friendly designers can help design and install a more complex project for you, such as this.
Berming: Another way to create privacy is to change the elevation of the land. Given enough space on your property, you can add black dirt and re-shape the land to increase the height of your yard, allowing for more privacy. Typically we would then plant a privacy screen on top of the rolling berms to create an immediate planting screen. If you have an expansive area, these berms also have a lot of visual interest by themselves, giving you the feel of a rolling manicured golf course.
Getting a moment to ourselves shouldn’t be that difficult, so it’s wonderful to have a little spot of quiet solitude right in our own yards. Whether you want to plant your own or need help from our landscape and design experts to create some much-needed privacy, come in today to ask how you can turn your backyard into a private getaway.
If hardscapes are the bones of a landscape, plants are the heart. Filling our yards with greenery, blooms, trees, and shrubs allow us to give life to our homes and customize the colors and textures of our design. For novice gardeners, there can be a lot to think about – from methods of planting to soil testing to USDA hardiness zones. That’s why we put together our guide to planting in Central Iowa. It’s full of advice for planting and maintaining vibrant, healthy plant life, leaving you with a garden that you don’t just love looking at, but that you love working in, too!
Determine the Conditions of Your Planting Area
When it comes to your garden, your property is a canvas. Even if your home came with a garden, it’s always possible to restore and re-imagine an outdoor space. When re-planting a garden from scratch, every garden project always turns out looking more true-to-vision if there’s a plan for the layout of the area before we break ground.
Before creating a garden layout, it’s important to assess the conditions of your desired planting space. You can start with a spiral notebook and a pencil and begin to take note of the different aspects of your yard. As you work through these components of the property, you can begin to form priorities about which aspects you want to remain the same, which you want to change, and which elements you’d like to move before you consult with a Ted Lare Design Build specialist. Take note of the following:
Shade – The shade areas of a property can be difficult to change, and unless you have a strong desire to remove a tree, it’s often best to work with the existing gradations of shade and sun when creating your layout. To help visualize the area, use your pencil to sketch a rough layout of the property and shade in areas with different darknesses to denote areas of full sun, part sun, dappled shade, part shade, and deep shade. Later on, this will help you to choose plants suited to the shady areas you have.
Soil – Soil is an amazingly complex component to every garden and so much of our planting success depends on our ability to match plants to the soils they’ll thrive in or amend the soil to suit the needs of our plants. A few things to consider when getting to know your soil:
Soil Types – From clay to peat to loam, the quality and structure of the soil dictates important features like moisture retention, drainage, and organic matter content. Soil amendments and mulch can help with correcting problem soil.
Soil Temperatures – Iowa occupies USDA zones 4 to 7, which is a pretty broad variation! In Central Iowa, we sit in zone 5, but we typically recommend using zone 4 plants.
Iowa Soils – Typically you will find your yard consists of black soil form the original farmland, or compacted dense clay from the development of your neighborhood. Digging several holes in your yard 12 inches deep will tell you what you have to work with. If it is rich black soil, you are lucky and do not have to do anything to your soil before planting. If it is dense clay, we recommend amending your soil with black dirt and compost.
If you’re just establishing your garden for the first time, you have a big job ahead of you. Once you’ve completed your assessment of the area and decided how much of your space you want to develop into a garden, it’s time to make some decisions. This is a good time to get a Ted Lare Design Build landscape designer involved. Our experts can handle this part of the project to make sure your garden layout reflects the result you want. This will involve:
Removal and Soil Prep – Before you can create planting beds, you need to remove the old soil, sod, and debris in the way. Our team will clear out the material you don’t need and prepare the soil for planting.
Hardscape Design – You’ll want to discuss all the hardscapes you hope to incorporate, whether now or in the future, with your designer. That includes patios, pathways, retaining walls, water features, fire pits, decks, and pergolas. Our team has a lot of experience building each of these fixtures, and our designers can help you prioritize which hardscapes will have the biggest impact within your budget.
Locate All Trees – Well-maintained, mature trees enhance the appearance of all landscapes. Your professional will design your garden strategically around your trees so the final look works with them.
Fill Planting Beds – When it’s time to fill the planting beds, our experts take a strategic approach. We want to create structure in our design by planting shrubs, then create attractive green spaces with our choice of grasses. After that, we’ll plant perennial flowers that will become the foundations of our color palette, and then accentuate with annual flowers.
While flowers and cover crops provide most of the fine details of our garden designs, larger plants also establish structure and framing of the overall space.
Ornamental trees create framing for the area, and can have extra benefits like shade, edible fruit, and added privacy. Shrubs and trees both have excellent potential for attracting wildlife, like our many beautiful native birds!
Planting trees and shrubs may seem daunting, but the process is generally not as involved as you might think and our garden professionals are more than equipped to assist you. Simply select a tree that works with your design, and before you know it, our team will have it planted and staked for you, ready to grow big and tall.
When choosing perennials, USDA zone is the most important factor to make decisions by. While our region of Central Iowa is considered zone 5, zone 4 plants have a much better shot at surviving our winters, especially if you live out of town where there’s less wind protection. We have tested a lot of these plants, so consult our Garden Center staff for more information on plants that work in Central Iowa.
Working with Wide Open Spaces – While urbanites with fenced properties may be happy with a few shrubs and trees to liven up small to medium properties, those in rural locations may be working with much larger territory to cover. Planting a forest in our backyards could be cumbersome, to say the least, so how do you fill in those acres best?
We’re big believers in the beauty of our native prairies. Prairies teem with important wildlife, and we love a field of wildflowers in the summertime. Consider establishing a prairie on larger properties to bring eco-friendly, rustic beauty to your acreage.
Low Maintenance Gardening and Planting
Planting a garden is a big job, and if you’re planting annuals, it’s a job that will need to be done every year. The key to consistency is enjoying the work. We’ve found the best way to take pleasure in gardening is to work with plants that work with, not against, the specifications of our properties.
Time-Saving Plants – Especially with larger properties, caring for many plants at once can quickly become overwhelming. Including a significant population of low-maintenance plants that require little upkeep can free up an enormous amount of time, allowing you to focus more time on the more demanding plants you can’t live without. Planting shrubs, perennial flowers, and annual flowers from potted containers, rather than growing plants from seeds, will also save time and allow you to enjoy some color during the planting season right away.
Effort-Saving Plants – Even if a plant variety requires very little upkeep on paper, a variety that isn’t naturally adapted to the Central Iowa climate or your soil conditions will end up demanding a great deal of effort once planted. Choosing native plants that thrive in our state will save you from taking on an exhausting uphill battle.
Maintaining Your Garden’s Beauty
Once your dream garden has been planted, the maintenance begins. Keeping notes on the needs of each of your plants can do wonders for simplifying the care schedule for your garden. Give some thought to these major maintenance areas when developing a care strategy:
Watering – All plants will require varying degrees of moisture to thrive. Manage thirstier plants with a quality natural wood mulch, and consider irrigation systems for gardens with large populations of delicate flowers. Your plants will need the most watering care the first year and then will need less time the following years, except in drought conditions.
Drainage – Sometimes the problem isn’t getting enough water, but having too much of it. If your downspouts don’t have proper drainage, you run the risk of flooding your garden during downpours. Consider installing a drainage system for your downspouts to route your rainwater where you want it to go.
Weeds – While there are ways to plant strategically to fight weed competition, it’s nearly impossible to eliminate weeds altogether. Using new, sterile garden soil at the time of planting will allow a head start on weeds by reducing the population of weeds in the seedbed, however, it is ideal to keep a weed pulling schedule and scout for new weeds every few days. Pulling a newly sprouted weed is always easier than dislodging an established one. They also have a much lower probability of growing back. After watering, weed management is the most important part of landscaping maintenance. If you let them go, your hard work and investment will be slowly destroyed.
Pest Management – When thinking about pest control, don’t just think small. While it’s always a good idea to have horticultural soaps and other natural solutions on hand for invasive insects, the pests that can do the most damage in the least amount of time are much larger. Deer-proofing your yard can save you from the devastation of waking up to a completely destroyed garden. Inspect fencing for small gateways, which can allow rabbits to come in and feast on your precious flowers and edibles, as well.
Patios are so much more than another entry into our homes. A well-loved patio becomes an extension of the home, and for many of us, our favorite part. Patios can be an urban retreat into nature, a refuge for winged wildlife, a gourmet dining experience, and a place where childhoods are made – all in one day. In many ways, how we build our patios dictate a lot about how we’ll build our memories with family and friends. By building our dream patio layout, we can enjoy the absolute best moments that homeownership has to offer.
Our backyards are the setting of some of our fondest memories, serving many purposes. They are a place to gather, a place to relax, and a place to enjoy our own personal piece of nature. Landscaping sets the scene for your outdoor lifestyle, customizing your space for the way your family lives, dines, and plays, and it’s amazing how a fresh change in your backyard layout and materials can make your entire property feel brand new.
Outdoor Dining on the Patio
On those perfect summer days, we all love to take our meals outside and dine al fresco. Creating an outdoor space for enjoying meals with family and friends is one of the best investments you can make. Whether you’re clinking glasses with friends on the Fourth of July, hosting a barbeque birthday party for the little ones, or just enjoying a glass of wine and a bowl of cherries with your sweetheart, it’s always better on the patio.
Outdoor Dining on a Budget
While it’s a wonderful thing for your outdoor dining area to be all decked out, you can achieve a similar mood on a budget with a few small changes. A bistro set with an elegant table and chairs adds character and charm to small patios. For larger spaces, an outdoor dining set with an umbrella gives your patio a restaurant feel and some shade when needed. Hang overhead string lights for enchanting evening parties. Plant flowering shrubs around your patio border and install standing planters of annuals to surround your guests with color.
For the outdoor dining enthusiast, an outdoor kitchen is a must-have feature. Today’s outdoor kitchens are available in materials that can be matched to the style of your home and patio, with high-end features like pizza ovens and wine fridges. Complete your outdoor kitchen with an outdoor dining room to complete the experience. Warning: your friends may never stop asking when you can host them next!
For some of us, our backyards are sacred places. They’re a hideaway from our busy lives and a place to sit peacefully, meditate or read a good book. They are a relaxing location to reconnect with nature and enjoy the sights, smells, and sounds of the outdoors. Even a yard that’s little more than a fenced-in patch of lawn can be transformed into a natural paradise with a few the right design and installation team.
Adding a water feature to your backyard truly adds a new element to your outdoor living space. A water feature can be purely decorative, like a natural stone fountain, or a ready-made habitat for frogs and fish, like a pond or waterfall. The sound of softly babbling water is nature’s background music for a relaxing day in the backyard.
Garden Paths & Seating
There’s something whimsical about a cobblestone path to lead you through a garden. Stone strikes a balance between the visually appealing and the practical, and can be used in so many ways. Stone steppers organize spaces while keeping the natural aesthetic of your garden, while larger vertical stones and boulders provide endless options for outcropping, seating, and decoration. Wherever your garden path leads, a garden bench, swing, or conversation set is the final touch to give you a cozy little spot to enjoy your backyard oasis.
Over 429 bird species call Iowa home, and your backyard is a convenient spot to observe them in action. If you’re a natural birdwatcher, a few changes in your backyard environment can bring more feathered friends into view and keep you comfortable for hours of observation.
Attracting Birds to Your Backyard
For some of us, outdoor time is for the birds! Coax them in by creating a bird-friendly environment. Plant different varieties of ornamental trees around the yard, which will appeal to a broader range of bird species, or native plants to attract familiar faces. Some birds get territorial over their preferred birdfeeders, so it’s a good idea to spread out several feeders with assorted seed to reduce competition. If you don’t have a water feature, a simple pump fountain or birdbath offers birds a place to refresh themselves – a delightful sight to watch!
Birdwatching from the Patio
Birdwatching is a waiting game, so your ability to birdwatch goes only as far as your ability to sit comfortably. A place to relax in the shade will allow you to stay vigilant without getting too much sun in your eyes, or your skin! Make sure your backyard’s best viewing spot is complete with comfortable outdoor furniture, an outdoor-friendly coffee table for beverages, and a good pair of binoculars.
Family Leisure on the Patio
Childhood should take place outdoors as much as possible. Spending time out in nature and away from technology gives you and your children or grandchildren a space to unplug, bond, and make new memories. Many of your favorite summer vacation activities can be recreated right on your property without losing any of the magic.
Backyard Activities for Kids
Kids love the outdoors as much as adults do, but they need a stimulating environment to let their imaginations run wild. Within safe view of the patio, installing an outdoor play structure or swing set gives them a chance to interact, pretend, and get some exercise in the fresh air. An in-ground pool makes for a whole new level of fun for all ages, and secures your home as the place to be on hot summer days. Encourage a love for nature by letting kids paint birdhouses or make DIY birdfeeders to incorporate in the backyard environment.
Backyard Activities for Families
The moments we spend with many generations of family at once are the ones we remember our whole lives. Kids, parents, and grandparents may not have the same taste in movies, beverages, or music, but the natural setting of your backyard is a place where none of that has to matter. While roasting hot dogs and marshmallows around the fire, we can put the focus on storytelling and togetherness. A round of board games on the patio table opens the air for laughter. The patio also makes a great referee stand for a pickup game of badminton or soccer.
Building a Family-Friendly Deck or Patio
When there are active kids in the picture, the less time we have for for deck and patio maintenance. Using low-maintenance materials and furniture makes messy activities, like tie-dying and foam fights, a stress-free affair to clean up. To create an atmosphere of warmth in the evening, try adding string lights or an LED lighting system around your patio seating. Cap things off with beautiful flower planters with colorful annuals and a porch swing or hammock to add a fun, whimsical feature for relaxing and chatting for everyone in the family.
Patios are so much more than another entry into our homes. A well-loved patio becomes an extension of the home, and for many of us, our favorite part. Patios can be an urban retreat into nature, a refuge for winged wildlife, a gourmet dining experience, and a place where childhoods are made – all in one day. In many ways, how we build our patios dictate a lot about how we’ll build our memories with family and friends. By building our dream patio layout, we can enjoy the absolute best moments that homeownership has to offer.
Houseplants have evolved. From something you shove in a corner and dutifully care for out of guilt, into living and breathing trendy decor statements. Now very much in vogue, there are so many new opportunities to choose a houseplant that is not only stylish, but also matches your aesthetic and lifestyle. Each one of these plants have unique features that have earned them tons of attention on Pinterest, Instagram, and in the top decor magazines. Here’s our “must-have” list of popular houseplants:
Fiddle-Leaf Fig: Even the New York Times loves and adores this trendy plant, calling it the “It Fig” when the fiddle-leaf graced its pages. The king of trendy houseplant decor, this plant features lush and tropical glossy leaves and a modern style that adds major style points to bright, airy rooms. First popular with the daring interior designers that brought it indoors, it has become increasingly popular and is now embraced by everyone that is on-trend, from Millennials to stylish homeowners. Bold, a deep green, and proud, the Fiddle Leaf Fig is the instant focal point of a room. They aren’t subtle, but just one is all you need to create a signature look.
Beauty isn’t always effortless. Fiddles have also earned a reputation for themselves as picky and finicky, needing just the right light, attentive watering and maintenance, and an aversion to being moved around. They’re famous for their big broad leaves, but these can need a bit of TLC to really make the plant the statement piece that you want. This bold beauty is definitely worth the effort you put in, but fiddles are best suited for plant owners that are confident in their abilities.
Snake Plant: Known commonly as Snake Plant, the Sansevieria is getting more and more popular by the week. One of its main draws is its striking vertical appearance and squiggly growth pattern, which makes it an ideal choice for adding personality to tight spaces that other plants might not fit. Not just convenient for corners though, the sleek lines on this plant bring an architectural flair to your home, along with air-cleaning properties. You’ll love having the presence of a plant to help make the winters easier to manage, but you’ll also love this plant’s ability to clear up airborne toxins like benzene, carbon dioxide, and xylene.
This plant doesn’t need a green thumb, meaning that it’s a great fit for anyone that falls in love with its beautiful lines. They’re drought-tolerant, thrive in nearly any light level except too much direct sun, and don’t need to be transplanted often. Keep their leaves wiped down from dust to have them looking their best.
Air Plants: For those who love decorating with plants but don’t have a lot of space to spare, air plants (also known as Tillandsia) are anything but your grandmother’s houseplant. They come in hundreds of shapes, textures, and sizes, all with a totally unique style. Because they grow without soil, creative and DIY plant lovers have taken to these plants enthusiastically, choosing to display them in stunning arrangements and designs. From tiny glass terrariums and cases to living driftwood sculptures, this is the most on-trend plant for people who embrace their plants by styling them in creative ways.
Air plants are practically designed to be experimented with, and with a little bit of nontoxic glue, you can make a living sculpture out of nearly any Tillandsia species. Take one home and you’ll have a conversation starter that will thrive with minimal care. While they don’t need soil, they still aren’t able to absorb everything they need through their pores and will need regular water baths. Mist them daily, but you might want to consider soaking them in water and allowing to drip dry every few weeks to keep them looking their best. Drip dry your air plant upside-down to prevent water from forming mold at the base of their leaves. With minimal care requirements and a unique living habit that opens a world of possibility, it’s easy to see why these plants are taking over the interior design world.
Zebra Plant: We’ve seen succulents rise in popularity over the years, but the trend isn’t stopping, and people are starting to focus in on particular varieties of succulents and their unconventional looks. Zebra plants, also called Haworthia, are miniature and slow-growing plants that are some of the coolest-looking and trendiest succulent species around. They’re easier to care for than their other succulent relatives, and they look sharp in any display with their namesake crisp white lines running across the plant.
Needing bright and direct sunlight and very little upkeep, these petite plants are perfect for sneaking into your decor in unexpected places, from cute terrariums to mounted on fridge magnets. These plants stay quite small even after years of taking care of them, so find a spot for them that you can be sure that you get lots of opportunities to view them up close to appreciate everything about them that makes them so noteworthy and trendy.
Boston Fern: Some people still picture the fern as a Grandmother’s plant, meant for stuffy houses full of antiques, but we’re excited to prove you wrong and show just how on-trend and fashionable these plants actually are. While the plant variety is prehistoric, these tough plants help you out by pulling startling numbers of toxins from the air, and their leafy and bed-headed appearance gives them a unique charm that we’ve embraced once again. Perfect for the vintage-inspired designer and the modern decorator alike, adopting this plant is the perfect way to stay up-to-date with today’s design must-haves.
If you don’t want to clean up any dropped leaves, some other ferns might be better options for you, but we still love the old-fashioned charm of the Boston Fern. Thriving in well-lit rooms, these plants need regular watering and a little humidity to look their best. This plant will love you back with its powerhouse air-cleaning ability and retro charm.
Houseplants are an essential part of so many interior designs and it’s easy to imagine how you can build them into your home design. The world of plants is so diverse, there’s a trendy plant for any home, any lifestyle, and anyone. Fill your home with these lush green beauties to instantly freshen the look of any space.
When the weather is beautiful, we all love to gather on the deck or patio to soak up the sunshine and enjoy the fresh air. But when the fun is over and it’s time to go inside, our decks and patios stay behind – through rain, sleet, snow, and anything else our Iowa climate decides to throw at it. A deck made from weaker materials will need consistent maintenance to look its best. That’s why, when building a deck, we recommend using high-performance materials that will end up saving tons of time and money down the road.
How “Maintenance-Free” is a Maintenance-Free Deck?
A maintenance-free deck isn’t going to clean up the dishes and lawn toys for us, but it will serve us well by standing up to the elements. Unlike treated lumber or cedar lumber, which is susceptible to mold and insects, and requires frequent re-staining, “maintenance free” decking requires very little upkeep in comparison. Maintenance-free decking options should all stand up to inclement weather, need no staining, and should be easy to clean with a pressure washer or hose on those days when the dog or kids cross paths with a mud puddle.
Maintenance-Free Deck Materials:
There are lots of decking materials out there, and while many have lots of low-maintenance perks, there are a few drawbacks to consider when choosing the material for our outdoor spaces.
Composite Decking is a lower-maintenance material than treated wood, but it’s certainly not maintenance-free. Composite is a blend of wood fiber and plastic, which reinforces the wood to stand up to the elements for longer. However, because the material still contains natural fibers, it will eventually show its age and begin to crack, cup, and develop mold issues. We should always go with high-quality composite decking if we take this route, as we truly get what we pay for in terms of color, appearance, and durability.
PVC Decking is another option that has gained enormous popularity recently as more and more folks have taken interest in vinyl plank flooring. Vinyl has a lot of benefits; it requires no staining or painting, it’s durable for high-traffic areas, and it’s very water-resistant. However, vinyl decking is a much better choice for covered decks than open patios, as it can be temperamental in extreme temperatures! Because vinyl is made from polyvinyl chloride, which is a plastic, it can warp and melt in extreme heat and can burn bare feet on hot days, so keeping it out of the sun is best.
IPE or Teak Wood is a high-end natural wood product. This material is ultra-dense and can last for 25 years, but looks just like regular treated wood. This option is perfect for those who like the look of natural wood decking and don’t mind investing in high-quality, durable materials.
If you have an outside space that does not need to be elevated with a deck, building a low-maintenance patio is a great way to use your outdoor space. The new paver and natural stone options available today are virtually maintenance-free. Many of our material providers offer lifetime warranties on the pavers themselves, which allows you to invest in your outdoor space with peace of mind. From time to time, the joints between the stones will need to be re-sanded to look their best. Generally, the smaller the paver joint, the less the joint will need to be re-sanded. Joints can now last over 10 years when properly installed by our experienced landscaping teams.
Maintenance-Free Deck Design Tips:
Once your custom deck or patio is built and looking great, a truly maintenance-free deck will need some maintenance-free finishing touches to make it look its best.
Try outdoor furniture made from recycled plastics. These environmentally-friendly materials are easy-to-clean and are available in finishes that mimic the look of wood.
Add tall planters in coordinating colors to bring life to your deck design.
Complete the design with outdoor cushions and lighting. Bistro string lights offer beautiful, warm light to evening soirees and outdoor cushions make the space feel comfortable and inviting.
If completing your design is fuelled more by stress than inspiration, never hesitate to ask your landscape designers. As experts in our fields, we pride ourselves on creating cohesive looks for your design, start to finish, and we’d be happy to help you select winning options to tie everything together.
Designing and building a patio or deck is a big step, but the result is an outdoor space to enjoy for years to come. For those of us with busy lives and big families, a low-maintenance deck or patio guarantees all the pleasures of outdoor living without the hassles. That means less stress, and more time to focus on making memories together.
Homes are where we let dreams happen. A new home comes with a new start, and a new chance for your surroundings to reflect your family’s style. Home is the place we go back to every day, where we build our futures, and where we feel safest – it makes sense that we’d want to shape them to fit us and our needs.
New homes can also be overwhelming. With so much hope and expectation, it can be tough to know where to start. It’s important to keep in mind that there’s no rush. There’s a lot to be enjoyed about moving into your new home, and you don’t want to rush through the milestones. You don’t need to go from bare dirt to a prize winning garden in one month. Setting goals is important, but so is the process.
Getting Started with New Landscaping:
As you make plans for the construction of your new home, it is important to also think about the outdoor spaces as well. As you select the size and layout of your home, think about how much space is left on the lot and how you want to shape the outdoors of your home. Think about the activities you want enjoy and how your new yard is going to accommodate them. If you like to play sports in the backyard or are entertaining the idea of a pool area, then you want to create or preserve a large level lawn area for these activities.
Here are some general questions you can think about as you plan the build of your new home:
What direction do I want the backyard and frontyard to face? Think about shade and sun, wind direction, and the existing views at different lots you may be looking at.
Do I want the backyard to be shady or sunny?
Will there be enough room on the sides of the home for lawn equipment to access the backyard?
Will we want a privacy fence in the backyard?
Are there views from the home you want to preserve?
Are there other views you want to hide or screen with plantings?
What size of patio or deck do you need? Consider everyday activities with family and other occasions where you might want more space?
What outdoor functional features do you want to include or plan for in the future? (firepit, outdoor kitchen, pool areas, shade structures, additional patio space)
Spend a little time with your family talking about all of your wants and dreams for your new outdoor spaces included with your new home. Then spend a little time prioritizing these different items on your list. Similar to the indoors of your home, you may need to trim some items off the list as budgets are developed for your new landscape construction.
As you get started building your new home, you will want to get a reputable Landscape Designer involved during the building process. Our design team is the perfect resource for any new homeowner looking to get started. We’ll help you navigate the planning, design, and execution stages to guide you towards your dream yard. If you are looking for a truly unique design, try to get a designer involved early in the building process as you are budgeting for all of your expenses. We can help with generating ideas for your outdoor spaces and shaping your own ideas into conceptual designs for construction.
Steps to Landscaping your New Home:
It can be overwhelming to landscape your entire home. Here are the steps we recommend to prioritize your new home landscaping.
Budget for Sod and Irrigation
Assess how much you want to spend on the new landscaping for your home.
Pick a Landscape Designer to work with and obtain Estimates for Hardscapes (pool, patio essentials, retaining walls, paths, etc.), Tree Plantings, and Planting Beds.
Review estimates for proposed work to see what fits your budget.
Revise hardscape and planting designs to fit your initial install budget.
Continue to refine the design and material choices as construction approaches
We recommend trying to get as much of the heavy construction installed upfront, such as patios and retaining walls, during the initial home construction. These items are much easier and less costly to install before your lot is sodded.
Tree plantings are also nice to get started early as well, as they will take a while to grow into large shade trees. Other than that, the front planting will most likely be required by your development. Hardscapes, Front landscaping, and Tree plantings are the areas to focus on first. Other items are easy to take care of down the road.
Preparing for New Plantings & Sod:
A vibrant and beautiful garden is impossible without good soil, and setting a good foundation is a great investment in making your gardening and yard maintenance easier for years to come. With a new home you’ve got a great opportunity to set this foundation – without any landscaping in place you can address your soil before you get started with anything else.
Some developers try to cut corners by leaving you with very little black soil, scraping it off and leaving a frustrating and unworkable amount for you by the time you move in. As you sign contracts with your home builder, ask questions about black soil depths in the lot and what is expected after the final build. The deeper the black soil the better, as you will have to water your lawn less and any new plants will thrive in black soil, compared to compacted clay. Four inches of black soil is the absolute minimum you’ll need for a healthy lawn, but of course more is better and even required for things like gardens and flower beds.
Even if you’re confident you’ve received the promised top soil, it can be a good idea to supplement additional black soil while everything is exposed, especially for areas you plan to plant during construction or later down the road. A full dump truck of black dirt spread across your front foundation will make a big difference to your future plantings installed with your new landscaping. We recommend having 12” of black soil for planting bed areas if possible.
Landscaping Design for your New Home:
The toughest exercise in self-restraint can be planning your hardscaping and waiting until you have a confident idea of what you’d like your yard to look like before you start laying down permanent fixtures.
Our landscape experts are the best source of knowledge to help set your plans and designs in stone. We can help you through the entire process, from preliminary planning and conceptual design all the way through final construction. All of our designers have years of experience and the creative vision to help you build the new home of your dreams. Our detailed plans will let us help you do it right the first time. By taking the time to do it right, you can make the most of your opportunity to design a perfectly-customized outdoor space. When you are ready to start planning the backyard of your dreams, get in touch with your design team to get started.
Ted Lare Design Build specializes in Des Moines Landscaping Design and Installation.
We cover a wide range of Central Iowa. We have installed landscapes for many years in all areas of the Des Moines metro, including West Des Moines, Des Moines, Waukee, Clive, Urbandale, Johnston, Ankeny, Altoona, Indianola, and Norwalk.