Choosing Landscaping Software

Many types of landscaping software come with a multitude of features that make landscaping design seem as easy as watering flowers. While they may not induce greenhorns to grow green thumbs overnight, landscaping software brings design ideas to virtual life by giving realistic visual representations of landscapes to the do-it-yourselfer’s mind. But before you grab the first piece landscaping software you see, test drive several brands to determine which one best suits your working style and addresses your needs. You might want to download a demonstration version of a popular landscaping software from the Internet or help yourself to a free trial. Some even come bundled with your favorite gardening or landscaping magazine.

Not all software is created equal. Some are equipped with features you might not even need, while others have a confusing interface that could leave you pulling your hair out instead of the weeds in your garden. When choosing a landscaping software, consider its ease of use, performance, reliability, documentation, graphics, tools & features, and quality of technical support.

Landscaping Software Must Have an Easy-To-Use Interface

Does the visual layout of the interface seem easy to follow? Can you intuitively figure out which buttons to press or menus to click without having to consult the manual? If using the software is a piece of cake compared to programming your old VCR, then you’ve got yourself a keeper. An intuitive interface allows you to concentrate on the task of designing a landscape by taking the guesswork out of using it. Look for software with an interface that resembles the ones you are familiar with, such as a Windows-like interface. The workspace should sport an uncluttered look and be big enough to accommodate pictorial prototypes of the landscape of your dreams.

Landscaping Software Should Perform

Does it take ages for the software to generate an image of the landscape you’re trying to create? When you click and drag images to the work area, does it remind you of the other meaning of “drag”? Don’t waste your time on landscaping software that takes longer to process commands than it does for a garden worm to complete a half-meter crawl across your flower bed. Nothing zaps your enthusiasm more than being saddled with a slow program that leaves you waiting in breathless anticipation instead of gasping with awe. While you’re at it, make sure that your system meets the hardware requirements of the software. Never assume your Pentium II-powered 64MB RAM-equipped clunker would pass for a machine with the required “Pentium 4 processor, 128MB of RAM, and 16MB video graphics accelerator.”

Exterminate Landscaping Software If It’s Full Of Bugs

Did the landscaping software “freeze” after you’d clicked and dragged one shrub too many into your virtual backyard gazebo? Wouldn’t you give anything to be able to decipher the cryptic error messages that the software flings at you every time you attempt a walk-through view of your property? The only bugs that you should be worried about are the kind that destroys your vegetable garden in the summer, not the ones that require a $39.95 upgrade or an 80-cents-a-minute call to a technical support hotline to fix. To be on the safe side, purchase software from companies that offer a reasonable money-back guarantee.

Avoid Landscaping Software With Limited Graphics Capabilities

When you needed an eastern white cedar gazebo, were you forced to settle for something that looked like a shrunken carnival carousel? Do the drag-and-drop images blend seamlessly with other parts of the landscape? The premise of using landscaping software is to give you an accurate visual representation of your landscaping project while allowing you to balance unbridled creativity and design pragmatics. This is generally accomplished by providing the user with a wide selection of smoothly-integrating images of real-world hardscapes and softscapes. Some programs even allow your fantasies to run wild by including images of peculiar or hard-to-find landscaping materials. The latest versions of landscaping software now carry as much as 2,000 sample plants, terrain, and building materials for custom landscaping.

Landscaping Software With All The Bells and Whistles May Confuse and Befuddle

So, you think the 3D walk-through and plant finder database are cool but do you really need to fiddle with plumbing and electric outlets? Don’t be tempted to pay more than $100 for a landscaping software package that does just about everything except air your compost. Chances are this kind of software that would be useful only to professional landscape designers or those who know their CAD from sod. Choose landscaping software that generates cost estimates every time you add a feature, such as a deck or a patio, to give you a budget reality check from time to time. You may also want to try landscaping software that includes a growth-over-time or plant-aging feature, a nifty capability that lets you see whether that black oak you want to plant now will go from “stately and elegant” to “hazardous and obstructive” in 15 years. Features such as 3D walk-through and plant encyclopedia are standard in most landscaping software packages, so you are unlikely to end up with a badly angled pool cabana or make the mistake of planting azaleas and cherry trees side by side.

Special shout out to our friends over at Granite Northwest Grading & Paving for helping us with this article.

Doing Your Own Landscaping Edging

When it is time to do your landscaping edging, this is a simple task, but it can be done a number of ways, depending on what you like and how much time you want to invest. Some people use a plastic border, which you set into the ground on the edge of the beds of plants, and this remains there as a permanent edge, blocking the dirt from shifting. You can also get similar store-bought borders which are made from metal, stone, wood, and a variety of similar materials, and you put them into place like miniature fences.

Another way to do landscaping edging is to cut a groove into the earth along the edge, using the end of a sharp shovel, and then this little miniature trench forms the edge of the boundary line for you and helps to catch any mulch or soil that tries to shift itself over the line. This kind of edge works really well if you do a nice job of mulching next to it, because the cover of mulch can help to stop grass and weeds from growing across it and blurring the line in your design, where you define the flower bed borders against the lawn or path or patio.

There are also power tools, and those that are not powered but are manual, to help you trim the landscaping edging, and these work the same way a pizza pie cutter works, by rolling along and chopping what stands in the way of the blade. You can use these as attachments to many other machines like tillers, weed eaters, or lawn movers if the one you have allows you to add on such customized attachments to let it serve more than one purpose. And you can buy electric or gas powered edgers, and these are good if you are doing lots of the edging work, so professionals usually have one of these, especially if they are edging at a place with a lot of sidewalks against grass, to keep the area looking trim and neat.

Ideas For Landscaping a Hill

One of the most common ways to add beauty to your property is to take advantage of the spaces that are for the most part unused and wasted. For instance, if the area is too steep you won’t use it very much, so you might want some ideas for landscaping a hill to make it both useful and good looking. But there are some special things you will want to take into account before starting to design or do this kind of a landscape project because you have to deal with forces of nature that are not going to give you much room for negotiations. These include gravity, water erosion, and sunlight and rain.

If you are going to work on a hill, ideas for landscaping a hill have to include planning for the gradual deterioration of the hill, as rain and gravity pull it down. This could wreck your landscape, or it could even create a hazard below if you have used boulders, walls, or timbers in your design. Some people just avoid the whole issue by planting hillside with juniper bushes, which cling and spread like a gigantic mass of roots netting the dirt on the hillside and clamping it down tight. Juniper is attractive, is a sturdy low grown covering evergreen, and will retain the hillside without you having to worry about things like cutting the grass. But once it is in, it will be almost impossible to get rid of, so don’t use it if you plan to have gardens or other things later on, on your hill.

Other ideas for landscaping a hill include terraces. Terraces are a good idea, and these are done by creating staircase looking flower beds on the hillside, as deep or shallow as you like, and stacked close or far apart. You cut out some of the dirt to make a shelf, and this shelf is where you plant. You can use timbers, stones, or mounded earth to form the borders of these beds, and also you can leave some space for walking around them to visit your plants or to make your way up the hillside.

When you plant anything on a hill, check the sunlight and make sure that you get the right amount at the right times of day for the plants to be healthy and happy. And consider rainfall as one of your main ideas for landscaping a hill because you can use it to irrigate your landscape if you direct the water to where it is needed, and you can also notice where it comes down in a cascade, and either use this for a waterfall feature or do something to keep it from cutting a line down the middle of your design.

Have fun with it, because landscaping on a hill is easy, and once you get the basic pattern cut into the earth and have your materials hauled into place, it’s all downhill from there, pretty much.

Sheds – Practical Additions To Your Home And Garden

Homeowners often need storage space beyond what they have in the basement or attic.

Perhaps keeping garden tools in the basement is not very practical? Maybe the garage is already brimming with boxes full of things? An easy solution is to build a shed somewhere on your property. It doesn’t cost much, and you can easily build it yourself if you put your mind to it. However – an even easier solution is to simply get a readymade shed. These can be delivered completely from the factory to your home, and once there, the truck driver will lift it with his crane and place it where you want it. Done and done.

That leaves you with the choice of a shed. What size do you need? Are you looking at wooden sheds – steel or plastic sheds for easier maintenance? Is this to be used as a garden shed, with space for a few tools and a lawnmower – or do you plan on setting up a small workshop in your new shed? It can be a cheap and practical way of getting a little space for household repairs or for hobby work, such as woodworking, metalworking, etc. Perhaps you even need to have heating and water installed in your shed, to be able to do the things you want.

Let us look at materials then – the principal building material of your new shed, that its. The traditional choice is wood, with cedar sheds being very popular. When it is fresh, cedar is a nice brown color – which it will retain if oiled frequently. If not, it will slowly turn a beautiful silver grey. This also looks very good. The thing to make sure of when getting a wooden shed is that it must be properly constructed in order to last as long as possible standing in the rain and snow. This means that rainwater must not be able to gather in holes or crevices, or on surfaces – but should run straight of the various wooden parts. Rain gutters would be a sensible addition to wooden sheds. Wood is probably the most aesthetically pleasing – which is well worth the maintenance in my opinion. But if you don’t want to bother with painting or oiling your shed now and then, you might want to look into plastic sheds.

These can also be very decorative, and can even have an artificial wood grain structure, making them look almost like the real thing – but without the maintenance. A drawback to some types of plastic is that it tends to become brittle over time, due to exposure to sunlight. It should still last for many years though, and will of course not have the problems with moisture that wood has. If you need something sturdier than plastic, and more fireproof than wood; then steel sheds could be worth looking into.

Again, low maintenance is a strong selling point, since metal sheds are often supplied with tough powder-coated or electroplated finishes. Some are coated with vinyl, which makes it possible to get an artificial wood look – just like with plastic sheds. Steel can be a good choice if you need your shed to be fireproof or theft-proof. Nothing deters a thief like steel plating! A drawback to steel sheds is that they tend to become rather hot in the summer.

Unique Landscaping Ideas For Your Yard

Your yard can be a real expression of your personality if you know what to do. However, finding the right sort of landscaping ideas can be difficult at times. If you are having trouble coming up with unique landscaping ideas for your property, why not give some of the following ideas a try? Some of them may work for you.

Have a round patio installed in your yard. This is a particularly good idea if you do not have a very large property. A round patio is easier to fit into a small space. The flowing, circular lines of a round patio give your whole yard a more organic feel.

Show off your sustainable ideals by using reclaimed or recycled materials in your yard. This is a great way to decorate your property in an environmentally friendly manner. Use reclaimed wood to build decks, furniture, and planter boxes. Reclaimed stone or brick is a great material to use anywhere in your yard.

If you live in a dry or arid climate, xeriscaping and rock gardens are great, unique landscaping ideas. Xeriscaping involves the use of desert plants that do not require as much water, rather than thirsty, water-intensive species. Using native desert plants reduces your need for water and helps make your yard blend in with the native landscape.

An infinity pool is a clever way to add visual appeal to your yard. In a standard swimming pool, the edge of the pool is clearly marked. An infinity pool, on the other hand, is designed so that the rim of the pool is concealed beneath the water. This creates a beautiful visual effect. You can also find smaller infinity pools that can be used in your garden.

Your landscape does not have to be flat! Try making use of levels in your landscaping. This is a particularly good idea if your property already has a slope to it. Instead of trying to level out the slope, use the difference in elevation to your advantage. Have a sunken garden in your yard, or install terraces for your plants.

Use every corner of your property to its best effect. Create a secret hideaway in a forgotten corner of your yard. Instead of letting these areas become overgrown, add a small patio with some furniture so that you can use this space as a hidden place to get away from it all.

Everyone loves to cook outdoors, and adding a fire pit to your yard makes this even more enjoyable. You can also just use it to enjoy a small bonfire on a warm summer night. If you have a covered patio or deck, think about installing a covered fireplace on it.

Plant fruit trees in your yard to increase the amount of fruit you have during the summer. Make sure that you pick varieties that are hardy enough for your climate.

Any of these unique landscaping ideas will help you add something special to your yard. Give them a try, or come up with your own.