Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Defining Landscapes4less

  Landscapes4less is the motto of Douglas Larson Gardens. To put it simply, we provide higher quality landscaping, gardening and lawn maintenance services for less money. Far less. We do it by keeping our overhead costs low and focusing on high quality craftsmanship. We are a small company that takes pride in our work and our ability to have a strong market presence without having to gouge customers in order to make our financial ends meet. We never compromise when it comes to quality.  Having not to return to make repairs keeps our costs lower.

   Your savings can be found in our pricing structure and other key elements that have worked well for our company and for our clients.

  Standard Industry Pricing

  Standard product pricing in the landscape industry is 2.5-3 times wholesale cost of a product.  This is in addition to labor costs, equipment and delivery costs, disposal costs and also fuel surcharges.
This means that the sale of a tree that costs a landscape company $150.00, will be marked up to between $375.00-450.00 not including delivery, labor, equipment costs and fuel.

  Our Product Pricing

  Although our products are installed also with delivery, labor, equipment and sometimes fuel charges, our mark-up from wholesale is far less.  Our mark-up is 60% or 1.6 times wholesale cost of product. The comparison to the tree mentioned above is $240.00 or 45% less expensive.  When you add this savings across the board on a full landscape project, the savings will be very significant.
I will publish a list of some of our products prices as a comparison at the end of this post.

  Other Elements that Keep Costs Lower

  One of the biggest money wasters from a clients perspective in landscaping is Plant Guarantees. Plant guarantees are issued as a measure to protect against death of a plant, shrub or tree. Although generally less than 10% of plants ever planted die within a year of planting, some people are still unwittingly willing to allow for an additional 45% mark-up (including labor and other charges) on a plant in order to secure a replacement in the event that it dies.  A contractor must calculate not only the cost of replacement but also the labor time, equipment and fuel that it will require to make a replacement of a dead plant. Because of this, we have adopted the policy of only issuing guarantees on labor or craftsmanship in the installation of a plant, shrub or tree. This craftsmanship guarantee costs you nothing additional. All plants are inspected by the client before installation. If any of them appear weak they are discarded. If you're still uncomfortable without a guaranty, we will consider providing warrantees on trees that are planted in groups.

  Sweat Equity

  Another way to keep your costs down is to provide your own sweat equity into projects. We have worked with  hundreds of clients, both men and women who have added their personal touch to the installation process. Sweat equity can be performed alongside or independant of the crew. Sweat equity projects can include any type of labor and are most usually exercised in tasks such as planting, mulching, wheel-barrowing soils or sand, stripping sod or even installing brick.
Every hour spent is considered a 1/2 hour of labor cost savings.

  DIY'ers Pricing

   Most Landscape Contractors are unwilling to work with DIY'ers because they feel that they are enabling the disslocation of their own industry to the homeowner market.  We see  it an entirely different way at  Douglas Larson Gardens.  We have found that although DIY'ers are quite capable of installing even the more advanced project types such as walls, patio's and water gardens, even they are sometimes challenged to the point that they require a little on-site mentoring. We are more than happy to assist them in any way we can. In addition, we guarantee up to 10 hours of free on-site consulting, mentoring and/or training to any DIY client that hires us to both design a project and also supply the projects materials. DIY'ers are a great source of referrals, and for that we support them all the way.

Product Price Comparisons (product only. not including labor, delivery, equipment or fuel charges)

Quantity  Product Description        Industry Price   Our Price  Savings x 10 units

1 Yard      1.5" River Rock Mulch       99.00               57.60           $  414.00
1 Yard      3/4" Limestone Base           76.31               44.40           $  323.10
1 Yard      Pulverized Black Dirt         32.31               18.80           $  135.00
1 Ton        12-36" Field Boulders       165.00              96.00           $  690.00
1 Yard      Hardwood Bark Mulch        50.87              29.60           $  212.70
1  20ft       Strip plastic edging              27.50              16.00          $  115.00
80 sf         Chilton Flagstone              1369.50           796.80          $5,727.00
40 sf         Anchor Charleston Brick    368.50            214.40         $1,541.00
36 sf        Anchor Dia wall block        689.04            400.32          $2,887.00
10-1 gal   Perennial Flowers               162.25              94.40          $   681.00
5-2 gal     Flowering Shrubs               309.37             176.00         $1,333.00
3-15ft       Maple Tree                       1856.25            1080.00        $7,762.00
3-8ft        Norway Spruce Trees        2887.50            1680.00       $12,075.00

There you have it.  If your landscape project included all of these items, you would save $3,389.50-33,895.00 by hiring Douglas Larson Landscaping. That's "Affordable Excellence."
Call (612) 702-3569 Today!

Services Offered

For more information on our services, click on the preferred link below.
If you have any questions regarding any of our services you can contact us by phone at 612-702-3569 or via email at landscapes4less@gmail.com

Gardening Services

Design Services

Consulting Services

Lawn Care Services

Tree Spading Services

Snow Removal

Lakeshore Preservation

Water Features/Koi Ponds

Paver Patios

Retaining Walls

Friday, March 15, 2013

DLG Retaining Walls

With over two decades of experience as a full service landscape contractor in Minnesota, Douglas Larson Gardens has become a perennial choice for those that seek "Affordable Excellence".
A project installed by DLG is always one of quality, creativity and lasting beauty that adds to your enjoyment of life as well as to the value and functionality of your property. Our landscapes are naturally unique, with personalities that befriend their surroundings and compliment local topography. Our knowledge and experience, coupled with that of industry affiliates when needed, gives us a range of skills and services that can see any size project to a timely and satisfactory completion.

We offer free, on-site initial consultations. Call us Today to schedule yours. (612) 702-3569

Retaining Walls

This slope, steep as it is, will be retained with plantings
  The three main things that I tend to point out to clients regarding retaining walls is that they are not always necessary, they can be quite costly and there are often other options. Typically people believe that if they have a steep slope somewhere on their property that it needs to be contained or else it may collapse and damage surrounding structures or even worse, cause injury to someone. The fact is that most slopes are held together quite well by root systems from trees and plants that make their home on a slope. In addition, even freshly placed soils on existing or newly formed slopes can be managed by the introduction of erosion control type plants.
A low wall for seperation
When steep slopes end at a border such as a driveway, sidewalk or lawn, consider installing a low wall made of stone, timbers or boulders that is just high enough to be visible through your cars rear view mirror or at a height comfortable for sitting. This approach can cut your cost of a retaining wall by 50-80% allowing you to either use more costly and elegant materials and/or to focus more on your hillside planting budget.

  If you're at the point where you have your heart set on adding a retaining wall but you are sure that you don't want it to overpower it's surroundings such as the one shown below, try terracing.
Too big-will fail
Terraced walls can provide space for plantings, vegetable gardens or other more functional uses such as patio's or walkways. Terracing breaks up the visual impact that a large wall may impose on its surroundings. It can also reduce the need for back-fill soils as the walls are installed only as high as the grade demands at each interval. In addition to these benefits, terraced walls tend to be more stable, cost efficient, safer and also easier to repair.
To decrease the amount of retainment material that you'll use, you can also slope soils between walls.

Boulder Walls
Terraced walls are beautiful


Boulder walls are the most common retaining wall installed today. Boulders are everywhere and easily attainable. The application of their use compliments our natural topography and balances well with most types of home construction. Boulder walls are stable when properly installed but can be subject to erosion by heavy rains.
Because boulders are all different in size and shape, boulder walls are built more as a puzzle than as a pattern.  Although boulders within a wall are connected together in a limited way, they are not as durable in their construction as that of a modular block wall.

Modular Block Walls

Modular blocks are solid concrete blocks that interlock with one another through overlapping and alternating seams while using built-in mechanisms such as lips and protusions or external mechanisms such as pins and clips to lock them together and secure them in place. Modular blocks come in different heights, lengths and styles. The latest technology in modular block development has been in the use of colors, facia textures, patterns (such as ashlar) and freestanding wall blocks that have two or more outward facing sides. The height of the wall determines the size of the block needed.
Modular walls are very stable and durable when properly constructed. The recent introduction of resins and fibers to the concrete mixture has added to the longevity of modular blocks as compared with the introductory product models of the1980's.
Modular blocks are priced to be a mid range choice for retaining wall applications. Because of the advancements in modular block technology and its ever increasing popularity due to its resemblence to natural stone, modular block has found a permanent place within the landscape construction industry.
Ashlar Pattern

Douglas Larson Gardens uses brands such as Belgard, Anchor, Interlock and Rockwood in it's applications. A well-constructed retaining wall should have a deep, well compacted base and good drainage.
With the advent of the multi-faced block has come the pillar block. Pillars are quite easy to assemble and can also be affixed with lighting or used as footings for posts in the construction of pergolas and arbors.

Natural Stone Walls

Natural stone walls differ from boulders in that they are sedimentary stones rather than glacial. These natural stones such as limestone, bluestone and sandstones are harvested out of quarries in Minnesota, Wisconsin and New York.  Most natural stone types come in flagstone (thickness less than 3") which is used for patio's and other flooring applications and block stone, which is used for constructing walls, natural steps and masonry applications such as veneer.
Chilton Limestone (Full Color)
Walls constructed with natural stone follow the same construction guidelines as modular block walls. Stone walls comprised of stones that are five inches or less in thickness should not exceed 4 feet in total wall height unless terraced. With natural stone wall construction there is only minimal interlocking of the stones as they are placed upon one another in a zig-zag, overlapping pattern. There are no pins or clips to hold them in place. They are virtually free-floating as the lean gently back into the hillside.

Oftentimes sand or other more permenant materials such as mortar or concrete is used to bind the stones together. We find that using a sealer binding agent in the sand beneath and between the stones creates the nicest look and provides good annual protection.

Natural stone can be expensive in its applications. However, nothing proves its longevity like natural stone that has stood the test of time.

Natural stone wall construction is only limited by availability of product. Constructing stone walls requires an artist who has advanced training in constructing walls of this nature.

Bigger stone means faster installation


Alternatives to Retaining Walls

  Earlier in the article we mentioned the idea of planting a slope with erosion control type plants.  Another method is to randomly place boulders known as "outcroppings" into a hillside and incorporate plantings in and among them. The photo (left) shows outcropping stone being effectively used as wall stone.
Outcropping applications are beautiful and very natural looking-costing just a fraction of what a retaining wall would cost.

Some of the greatest plants for erosion control are; Sumacs, Elderberry's, Gray Dogwood, Euonymus and native grasses. To see more plants for erosion control click here.

Basalt Outcropping

For a free on site consultation and estimate
call Douglas Larson Gardens
(612) 702-3569

Thursday, March 14, 2013

DLG Paver Patios

  With over two decades of experience as a full service landscape contractor in Minnesota, Douglas Larson Gardens has become a perennial choice for those that seek "Affordable Excellence".
A project installed by DLG is always one of quality, creativity and lasting beauty that adds to your enjoyment of life as well as value and functionality of your property. Our landscapes are naturally unique, with personalities that befriend their surroundings and compliment local topography. Our knowledge and experience, coupled with that of industry affiliates when needed, gives us a range of skills and services that can see any size project to a timely and satisfactory completion.

We offer free, on-site initial consultations. Call us Today to schedule yours. (612) 702-3569

The following is a brief list of paver applications that we provide from the standpoint of what the latest trends are and for the exceptionalism that our projects personify.

Paver Patios

Add an outdoor fireplace
Trendsetter's such as ourselves have taken paver patio designs from ok to "oh wow" with the introduction of artistic inlays, circle and square patterns, integrated fireplaces, seating walls, stairs and classy, fully functional outdoor kitchens.

Outdoor built-in barbeque station

Douglas Larson Gardens uses brands such as Anchor, Belgard, Borgert and Interlock. We freqently mix different shapes or colors of brick to create different patterns and to highlight flow. With the standard industry price markup on materials at 150% above cost, projects such as outdoor kitchens, fireplaces and other cutting edge design features are most usually considered out of range for your average homeowner. However, with our much more conservative markup of only 60% on materials installed, our customers find themselves being able to afford twice as much as they may have otherwise expected.

This "Affordability" also makes more common project types cost half of what is normally paid in material price, making your money advance you further toward your design goals. This is "Affordable Excellence". 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

DLG Ponds & Water Features

  Water gardens and waterfalls have become one of the most sought after installation services that Douglas Larson Gardens provides. Whether you're considering a koi pond, a smaller wading pond, a trout pond or just an over-flow rainwater catch pond, you can rest assurred that we have designed and installed many of each kind with much variety and customer satisfaction.

Small wading pool with waterfall. The kids love it!
Our focus in water garden creation is always that of a "functional natural balance" involving a design goal centered around utilizing proven intallation techniques, implementing the latest technologically advanced components and incorporating indigenous materials that take their complement from surrounding structures and local topography. Plants and the natural use of plants in our waterscapes have also always been a primary focus.

Although true koi ponds are said to work best with a concrete bottom, the climate and sometimes extreme temperature variations experienced in Minnesota can create severe damage to concrete lined ponds. Because of this and the heavy cost of maintaining concrete ponds in the Midwest, we prefer the more flexible and cost effective approach of rubber liners.
Key Elements to a Healthy Pond

Every water garden, pond or waterfall will be invaded with algae, especially those that are lacking in key elements which keep ponds clean and healthy. The more of the following elements that you can incorporate, the healthier the water garden will be and the faster it will recover from algae blooms.
Skimmer Box Filter
1. Filtration Systems.
There are a lot of pond filtration systems on the market. Filters, skimmers, bio-falls units, external filters and even external pumps with filters attached are affective in treating water. Most of the systems that I install include a skimmer (water flows in, passes through filters and exits through pump) and Biofalls units. Bio-falls units receive the water pumped from the skimmer, through an additional set of filters and then out into the pond, usually down a waterfall course.

2. Biomedia and Bacteria.
The introduction of bacteria to a pond is crucial. Bacteria competes with algae in a pond for available nutrients caused by fertilizers, decomposing plant and animal debris and even fish food. The higher the population of bacteria, the less algae you will have. Bacteria is available in powder and liquid forms and is used intermittently throughout the season with Spring and Fall being the periods of heaviest use.  In order for bacteria to successfully colonize, bio-media (anything bacterium can attach itself to) becomes necessary. Bio-media can be anything from gravel to plastic tape or balls. Traditionally in my water gardens I use gravel as a pond bottom base anyway. Because of the gravel introduction there is little need for additional biomedia.
Water Hyacinth

3. Pond Plants.
In order for pond plants to be effective in keeping water clean, their root systems should be in direct contact with the water. One way to promote this is to use screened-sided plant pots. Another method is to use floating plants such as water lettuce and water hyacinth, which have un-contained root systems. These plants float on the water and receive their nutrients (like bacteria and algae) from the water. Its a good idea to have water plants on all different depths of the pond. Waterlillies and lotuses are the plants of choice for the deepest part of the pond but try not to place them in areas where water is flowing heavily.

4. Fish
Pond Fish such as koi and goldfish are beneficial also. They will eat algae from off of rocks and larvae from undesirable insects. Pond fish can be expensive but also very tame and friendly, soon becoming familiar with their owners voice, rushing to the ponds edge for a tasty handout of fish food, lettuce, peas or their favorite-watermelon. Some koi species can grow as large as four feet and easily out-live a human. One famous koi named "Hanako" was owned by many individuals throughout her lifetime. Hanako was supposedly 226 years old upon her death in 1977, based on examining one of her scales. Because of their inability to survive in sub-zero temperatures, their introduction to the waterscape ecosystem should only be considered when you have also secured a winter home for them.

6. UV Light Sterilizers & Ionizers
UV lights and Ionizers are a fairly recent introduction to the pond industry. Their arrival came with high expectations and much anticipation. Before the use of devices such as these, pond owners and installers alike were constantly fighting algae invasions and finding the prospect of ever having a clean and clear pond a fleeting one at best. Algaecides are expensive. They can cost up to $200.00 to treat a small pond and that cost could be exacerbated by not having the prime elements that I am naming here, incorporated into the system. Much to the shagrin of skeptics and algaecide manufacturers, UV sterilizers and ionizers have worked miraculously in treating ponds succeptible to unwanted algae growth.
UV Sterilizer
UV Sterilizers are the antibiotic treatment of the pond. The UV sterilizer consists of a tube, which has a UV light housed within. A pump (sold seperately) is attached to the light assembly, pushes water through the tube, which is blasted with UV rays. The water emerges out the opposite end, dead of both algae and any beneficial bacteria that was in the water. The unit is expensive but well worth the money. You should expect to pay $600-700.00 for the unit and an accompanying pump. The units bulb lasts up to three years with continued use. In most cases the unit will provide crystal-clear water year around.

Pond Ionizer
Ionizer's are 2nd genereation sterilizers.  The benefits it has over the UV sterilizer is a reduced cost, no parts to replace, no pump required, it's virtually invisible and best of all it is also adjustable in its output. The unit consists of a electric controller component that attaches to a post or a tree. A copper head, attached to the controller by a long wire that dangles into the water inside the skimmer unit of the pond. When turned on, the water passes between the two fingers of the copper prong and it gets ionized. The water's ions are reversed, effectively killing algae within the water. The Unit cost is $450.00. The unit can be turned up when algae is more prolific and adjusted based on pond size and water volume. This unit is only effective on ponds with moving top water created by a skimmer-housed pump.

7. Circulation
Circulation of pond water is a vital element of a healthy ponds ecosystem. Circulation, or the movement of water is essential for the elimination of insect larvae such as mosquito's that can only develop were water is placid. Circulation prevents pockets of nutrient-rich, algae promoting water from forming and becoming the seed bed for algae proliferation. Water flow is attributed to the systemic spread of good bacterium and nutrients on which they feed.
Proper circulation can be accomplished by the addition of fountains in a limited form but is best achieved through the addition of waterways, streams and falls that join the pond upon descent.
With regards to UV sterilizers and Ionizers, without moving water these components are rendered useless. A skimmer unit placed at the ponds edge will pull water toward it, clearing top-water debris from the pond and filtering the water as it passes through the component.

Pricing a Pond
Ponds are a lot like cars in that the more amenities it has, the bigger and deeper it is, the more gallons of water (and electricity) its pumps consume and the more components to curb maintenance, the more costly it is.
The following is a list of components and labor tasks involved in pond construction with a full filtration system.
  • Excavation of soils
  • Disposal of soils (best to use them for waterfall building)
  • Sculpting of pond contures and levels
  • Installation of underlayment fabric (protects liner)
  • Installation of EPDM liner
  • Installation of Skimmer unit, Biofalls unit and connecting piping
  • Installation of pump
  • Installation of rocks or boulders
  • Installation of gravel
  • Placing of UV or Ionizer unit
  • Placing of electrical outlet (Done in advance)
  • Sculpting of waterfall dirt
  • Installation of falls liner
  • Installation of waterfall rocks and gravel
  • Add water
  • Turn on pumps
  • Enjoy

At Douglas Larson Gardens we are proud to say that we can install any size pond. From a small, elegant and inviting entryway waterscape to a giant mega-falls like our state record sized 85 ft cascade in Darwin Minnesota. Lets us give you some ideas and options.


DLG Tree Spading

Wanna add some instant impact to your landscape without spending any more than you would planting a typical 2" balled and burlapped tree?  Our tree spading affiliates can deliver a 25 foot tall White Pine, Norway Pine (Minnesota state tree), Spruce, Maple or Birch for the same price as a 2" nursery purchased and planted tree.
The average cost for a 20-25 ft spaded tree going anywhere in the Twin Cities metro is $600.00
Thats an amazing price that can get even lower when you purchase in bulk.
Lets compare prices.
A 10ft tall balled and burlapped Maple tree with a 2.5" caliper trunk adds up this way;
  •  Cost of tree (Sugar Maple) $530.00 (industry average)
  •  Labor to plant tree              $150.00
  • Delivery of tree to site         $ 75.00
  • Total cost for tree                $755.00
Balled and Burlapped Trees

Have you heard of Sleep/Creep/Leap?
That is what a balled and burlapped tree does over a three year period after being planted. The first year it sleeps because in the digging and burlapping process the roots are sheared heavily. Hence, the tree will experience very little growth the first year. During the second growing season, the tree then experiences minor growth as it grows new roots it begins to creep. The third year, the tree leaps in growth.

A 20 ft tall Spaded Maple tree with an 8" trunk caliper thickness and a 52" root mass adds up like this;
  • Tree cost       $200.00
  • Tree Spading $400.00 (delivery included)
  • Total Cost     $600.00
Transplanted (spaded) trees tend to Creep & Leap as the majority of their established root system goes with them.
White Pine

The only drawback to  spading as compared with planting a balled tree is the lack of warranty. Spaded trees are not warranteed because of the watering requirements for the trees after planting are usually left to the homeowner, to be performed daily for a period of days or even weeks. In addition, the occurrence of death to the tree due to the act of spading is low, especially when proper season, temperature, soil matching, proper transport preparations and watering techniques are employed.

Call us today for a tour of available trees and an on-site consultation.

DLG Lakeshore Restoration & Protection

  There are three main types of lakeshore approaches. There's the one that protects the lake bank from erosion known as rip-rapping, where the interlocking rip-rap material (usually boulders) protect the shoreline from high waters, heavy wave action and damaging ice production and thawing. The second, more environmentally friendly approach is the introduction of indigenous plants and the root systems that come with the colonization of such plants as a means to thwart soil erosion at the shoreline without incorporating rip-rap. The third approach, which I term PlantRap, is a combination of the first two. In the PlantRap approach, the goal is primarily to either keep soils that are above the rip-rap from washing away or to filter run-off before it can reach the lake water and contaminate it by adding plantings as a buffer between lawns and rip-rapped shorelines.
Example of no filtering area
   Rarely do I meet a lakefront landowner who is welcome to the idea of planting the entire shoreline with cattails and bullrush's in order to be eco-friendly. No, although in principle it may be whats best for the lake, lakefront properties are purchased for their functionalities such as swimming, beaching and the viewing of wildlife and water activities which make this approach unrealistic in most cases.
Example of good filtering area
Most of the damage that has occured to our lakes here in Minnesota is due to fertilizers from farm run-off and the introduction of invasive plant and fish species. However, if your lakeshore property has a lawn that abutts to the shoreline and that lawn is fertilized with phosphorus based chemicals, you are likely to be contributing to the debasement of your lakes ecosystem and it's natural ability to heal itself. When invasive species such as Eurasian Millfoil have already infected a lake, fertilizing lawns not only benefits lawn growth but also advances these invasive species.

  So what's the solution to your lakeshore problem?
Our approach is simple. If you already have a filtering area between your lawn space and the lakeshore, than rip-rap can be installed alone. A filtering area consists of a planted area or a non-lawn area of four feet or more depending on the size of the plants root systems within the filtering area. If you have a lawn space that abutts to the shoreline, we suggest creating a filter area or swaling the lawn surface to move the run-off water to a filter area.
An excellent filtering area

  How does one install rip-rap?
The size of the rip-rap pieces (usually boulders) are determined by three things.
  • The position of the property in relation to prevailing winds.
  • The amount of drop from the top of the bank to the waters surface.
  • The steepness of water depth from the bank

The more wind- the more damaging the waves will be in times of high water. The wind also effects the damage caused when the ice breaks up in spring. High wind areas should never use anything smaller than 16 inch boulders at waterline height.

Drop from bank to water
The DNR recommends that the rip-rap extend 4 feet out into the water for every 1 foot of drop from the top of the bank (foot level) to the water level.

Water Depth
The more the water drops off, the more material will be needed to extend the rip-rap into the water to meet the 4 to 1 ratio without the rip-rap collapsing.

When is the best time to install shoreline protection?
Unless there is zero access to your lakeshore, summertime is the best time for shoreline restoration projects. In the case of limited access, smaller sized rip-rap can be hauled in by power wheelbarrow or a Dingo machine. For zero access situations, one should consider a heavily planted shoreline as an option to an on-ice winter installation that will not always give you the finished results that you may expect.

How does a shoreline get installed during the winter?
A company will transport rip-rap over the ice and pile them up on the ice and the bank. When the ice melts, the rip-rap material falls into position. The underlayment fabric (woven barrier between the bank and rip-rap) is normally preplaced in the fall, in advance of winter.

Can a beach become a filtering area?
In short, No.  Unless there are plants that can absorb the nutrient run-off before it enters the lake, there can be no real filtering.
An example of grass at the edge laden with large
amounts of fertilizer run-off. The excess which
cannot be absorbed goes into the lake.
The enjoyment of our lake homes is very dependant upon the water quality of our lakes. Please keep in mind when considering lakeshore restoration projects that most lake contaminations are non-reversible and leave behind a legacy of mismanagement and abuse of which, we cannot expect the future generations to be responsible for.

Introducing wildlife invites wildlife