Is It Your Year for a New Yard?

The start of a new year always brings a bevy of resolutions – and according to the Home Projects Council,  a top priority among do-it-yourself homeowners in 2014 is landscaping their front or backyard.

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Landscaping is the top project for homeowners in 2014

If you’re one of the many handy homeowners thinking of taking on an outdoor overhaul this spring or summer, here are some helpful resources to get you started:

Home Landscape Inspiration:

Landscaping How-Tos:

  • How to Plan a Landscape Renovation
  • How To Install Patios/Walkways and Retaining Wall systems

Be sure to let us know on our Facebook page or in the comments section below which landscaping project you have planned for 2014!

Set Your Sights on 2014 Landscape Trends

Avid gardeners and outdoor enthusiasts use the long winter months to plan gardens and landscape improvements. If you’re ready to think spring, check out these top landscape trends and begin a little landscape planning of your own.

Modern Geometry

The sleek lines and simple shapes of mid-century modern style continue to influence fashion, home décor and the outdoor landscape.

RINN™ Padio™ 14 paving system

  • Set plank pavers — or circle- or square-shaped patio stones — a few inches apart in a bed of grass, mulch or aggregate to showcase their silhouette.
Square patio stone

Square patio stone

  • Make traditional patio bricks, like the Holland Permeable paving system, everything but by laying them in a bold running bond (shown below). Added bonus: You can use this system as a component in storm water management to minimize runoff.
Running bond paver pattern

Holland Permeable paving system

Bright and Contrasting Colors

According to “Green Scene,” a report from the Engledow Group, color is one of the most important components of a landscape plan.

  • Choose bright pillows, cheery planters or painted patio furniture to give your outdoor living area a fresh appearance from season to season.
Kingston Plus paving system

Kingston Plus™ paving system

Holland Plus™ paving system with Highland Stone® edger

Holland Plus™ paving system with Highland Stone® edger

“Natural” Beauty

Mother Nature rules when it comes to retaining wall design, with consumers and designers clamoring for functional, low-maintenance products inspired by the look of real stone.

Natural Impressions® Flagstone wall system

Natural Impressions® Flagstone wall system

Brisa® Random wall system

Easy Heat

Products that allow easy installation of permanent fire features are hot, hot, hot!

  • Build your own fire pit using the Fresco™ square or circle fire pit kit. These easy-to-assemble kits include a metal insert and are sure to enhance any outdoor hangout. Purchase a cooking grate attachment and invite the neighbors for a cookout!
Fresco Square Fire Pit Kit

Fresco™ square fire pit kit

Find more inspiration for your home’s landscape by downloading our 2014 Landscaping Collection catalog or visiting us on Facebook.

What’s Your Retaining Wall Style?

It’s widely known that landscaping can add value, beauty and functional living space to a home — but that’s not all. According to the Professional Landcare Network (PLANET), homeowners also value personal expression and creativity when it comes to their landscape.

Here’s some information to help you choose a retaining wall system that suits not just your landscape needs, but your style — from vintage to contemporary to traditional.

Rough-Hewn Charm

For a more natural-looking landscape, ask your landscape contractor or home improvement store associate for a concrete retaining wall system with rough-hewn (also referred to as split or distressed-split) or tumbled blocks. These systems offer a time-worn look and feature rounded edges or exposed aggregates.

Fresco wall system

Fresco™ wall system

Style idea: Combine rough-hewn or tumbled walls with candles and a fire feature to create a cozy outdoor retreat.

The Fresco™ wall system is a versatile, tumbled product that handy homeowners and contractors alike can transform into fire pits, planter walls, benches and more. (Click here for more DIY Fresco wall system project ideas.)

Grill surround featuring Fresco and Brisa wall systems

Fresco™ and Brisa® wall systems

The Highland Stone® wall system can be used to build outdoor projects of all types, such as grill surrounds or seat walls. It’s popular with residential contractors because of its versatility and availability in multiple heights.

Highland Stone® wall system

Highland Stone® wall system

Highland Stone® wall system

Highland Stone® wall system

Distinctive Look of Stone

There’s a variety of retaining wall systems with face styles inspired by the look and color of natural stone.

ChiselWall wall system

ChiselWall® wall system

Style idea: Stone-inspired walls and flowers in soft hues add elegance to any home’s landscape.

Natural Impressions® Flagstone wall system

For do-it-yourself landscapers, the Natural Impressions® Flagstone retaining wall system resembles courses of flagstone. The ChiselWall® retaining wall system looks like hand-chiseled stone.

For professionally-installed retaining walls, the Brisa® Random wall system has the look of split limestone in varying heights and sizes.

Brisa® Random wall system

Brisa® Random wall system

Traditional Style

More traditional concrete retaining wall systems are manufactured with a straight or beveled face.

The Windsor Stone® retaining wall system features a beveled face. It has long been a best-selling block because it looks great in any landscape, is easy to install and is widely available through home improvement retailers and landscape dealers across the Midwest.

Windsor Stone wall system

Windsor Stone® wall system

Style idea: Set a traditional wall system apart from the rest by adding finishing touches such as caps, curves — or both.

For more ideas on which wall system will best enhance your home landscape, view our full selection of Anchor™ retaining wall products. And don’t forget to tell us which style is your favorite in the comments section below!

Fire Features for Any Yard

Bonfire season is here! To celebrate the arrival of fall, we’re showcasing fire pits and fireplaces that fit spaces — and budgets — of all sizes.

Portable Fire Pits

Portable fire pits can be accommodated by spaces large and small, and don’t require the commitment of a permanent feature. Plus, they are commonly available at home improvement stores and other retailers, often for under $75. We love how the portable fire pit allows this front courtyard to transition from sunny summer afternoons to chilly fall evenings.

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Fresco™ wall system and Slaton Plus™ tumbled paving system

Permanent Fire Pits

For homeowners who are dedicated to having a fire feature as a built-in landscape element, permanent fire pits provide function and allow creativity.

Brisa® wall system

Permanent fire pits can be placed in-ground or above-ground, and can be created in circle, square/rectangle and other shapes to complement their surroundings. Some require professional installation, while others come in do-it-yourself fire pit kits.

The Brisa® wall system fire pit and seating wall in this backyard create a cozy post-hot-tub gathering spot and offer a beautiful view from the raised patio.

Brisa® wall system and xxxx paving system

Brisa® wall system and Slaton Plus™ paving system

Brisa-Fire-Pit-Detail

Outdoor Fireplaces

If you’re looking for a fire feature that truly sets the stage for entertaining family and friends (or curling up with a good book), look no further than the outdoor fireplace.

Stone Age fireplace with Highland Stone wall system

Stone Age fireplace with Highland Stone® wall system and Britton™ paving system patio

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Stone Age fireplace with Brisa® wall system and Britton™ paving system

Outdoor fireplaces offer a variety of veneer options, including brick, pavers and even natural stone. This means your outdoor fireplace kit can be customized to fit your desired style, and will instantly transform your backyard into the ultimate getaway.

Be sure to let us know which fire feature is your favorite in the comments section below. And if you’re planning to add a fire pit or fireplace to your home’s landscape this season, check out our 5 Tips for Planning a Fire Pit to get started.

Give Your Landscape a Late-Summer Edge

Rivers Edge™ Edger

Anchor™ Rivers Edge™ Edger

August is a great time to walk your landscape and plan a few late summer improvements. One easy upgrade is to install concrete edgers. Here’s how to get started.

Easy Impact

Edging products are easy to install and can be used to redefine an existing garden, create a new planting space (it’s never too early to think about planting fall bulbs) or to create a barrier to keep the flower bed mulch out of the grass. Edger products are also readily available — at big box stores, garden centers and landscape dealers. Use our Where to Buy tool to find an Anchor™ retailer in your area.

Creative Choices

Concrete edgers come in a variety of styles. The traditional bullet edger is a classic, smooth-topped product that fits any garden. Other edger products feature textured surfaces that look like natural stone. You might choose a subtle hue like cream or tan to blend harmoniously into the landscape, or a bold color like charcoal or red to complement your home’s exterior.

Getting Started

Installing concrete edgers is the perfect do-it-yourself project because there’s minimal digging or tools involved. Most edgers are around 12 inches long and weigh 9 to 12 pounds each, so they’re easy to lift and transport.

Tamper

A tamper is one of the tools you’ll want to have on hand for your edger installation.

A few days before you start digging, call 811 to confirm where underground utilities are buried and lay out a pattern with a garden hose or string. For step-by-step instructions, download How to Install Edgers.

You can learn more about landscape edging products at www.anchorblock.com. Whatever inspiration you find to make your landscape dreams come true, tell us about it in the comment section below or on our Facebook page.

How to Keep Weeds and Pests Off Your Paver Patio

Anchor Slaton Plus Paver Patio

Anchor™ Slaton Plus™ Paving System

Your paver patio is a place for you, your family and your friends to enjoy the great outdoors. That’s why it can be frustrating to discover that weeds or insects have crashed your dinner party.

Why It Happens

Interlocking concrete paving systems feature open spaces, or joints, between the individual units. The joints make pavers a practical choice for climates like Minnesota’s, where the soil expands and contracts during extreme changes in weather.

However, those joints can also act as a welcome mat for unwanted guests:

  • Surface weeds occur from soil blowing or being tracked onto the surface of the pavers and settling in the joints, allowing a seedling to grow.
  • Moss thrives in shady locations that stay damp or wet for extended periods of time.
  • Ants love to mine in the sand used under the pavers and between the joints — especially in sunny locations.

How do you keep your outdoor guest list under control?

Weed killers, ant powders or moss-killing fungicides are quick ways to get rid of patio pests, but because these are more “reactive” solutions to the problem, you might consider using a special sand or sealer to prevent pests from appearing altogether.

Polymeric sand can be used as the final jointing sand during paver installation. The sand fills the joints between the pavers while the polymer is activated by misting the surface with water. Once the polymer dries it forms a hard but flexible joint, which keeps ants and surface weeds at bay.  Be sure to follow the directions closely when using polymeric sand, though, as it can stain your pavers if not properly activated.

Joint-stabilizing sealer is another way to lock sand into your paver joints. Applying the sealer involves flooding the paver surface and allowing the liquid to seep into the joints. As it dries, the sand locks into the paver joints. Sealing can also protect pavers from stains or sun exposure because it fills not only the joints, but the pores in the pavers themselves. When applying sealer, have a paint roller or neoprene squeegee on hand to help you coat the surface evenly. If the sealer pools, it can leave stubborn shiny spots on your pavers.

Either of these products can be found at your local home improvement store. To find more concrete paver maintenance tips, visit us online at www.anchorblock.com.

5 Tips for Planning a Fire Pit

Freestanding wall and fire pit installed using Brisa® wall system

Thinking about adding a fire pit to your outdoor space? You’re not alone. Ninety-seven percent of architects polled by the American Society of Landscape Architects said fire pits and fireplaces are in demand by homeowners. Before you buy the marshmallows, consider these tips to make your project a success.

Know Your Codes

Check your city and county codes. There are communities that have banned fire pits; other cities allow fire pits but have special requirements or permits for use.

Call Before You Dig

Before digging, call your utilities company to avoid hitting underground utility lines. In Minnesota, call “Gopher State One Call” at 1-800-252-1166.  If you live outside Minnesota call 811, a new, federally-mandated national “Call Before You Dig” number created to help protect homeowners and professionals.

Find the Perfect Spot

Consider safety first when choosing a location for your fire pit.

  • The fire pit should be at least 25 feet away from hanging branches, fences, sheds and garages.
  • Don’t locate your fire pit upwind of where you’ll be seated or where the smoke will blow into your windows — or those of your neighbors.
  • Don’t place a fire pit in an enclosed area, as fumes are harmful without proper ventilation. Learn more fire pit safety tips from Anchor Block Company.

Have a Seat

Plan your project with the end result in mind. If that means endless evenings with family and friends gathered around the fire pit, think about seating. Freestanding wall systems are permanent and attractive ways to add seating and extra space to set a drink or the bag of marshmallows.

Choose Wood or Gas

The sounds and smells of a crackling fire are undoubtedly nostalgic, but to some people the reality of a wood burning fire pit – storing wood, staying vigilant about open flames, properly extinguishing the fire – isn’t as enjoyable as the convenience of a gas flame.

Consider an insert that converts your fire pit to a propane (LP) or natural gas fire pit. There are many products available for gas fire pits, including logs, lava rock or volcanic stone and even remote control starters.

Are you ready to get started planning your fire pit? You can learn more about fire pit products, including do-it-yourself fire pit kits built with Fresco™ and Hudson Stone™ retaining wall systems at www.anchorblock.com. Whatever inspiration you find to make your landscape dreams come true, tell us about it in the comment section below or on our Facebook page.