Cedar Decking, Pine Decking Or Ipe Decking

Decking is one of the most popular home improvements a homeowner can make and 85% of homeowners on average will actually add one or more in the lifetime of their purchase. The deck boards are a very important part of the decision making process for this project with many choices now available. In the past the choice had predominately been pressure treated pine but now with new technology the choices are abundant. Let’s take a look at several wood decks and the reasons for and against them.

Cedar Decking, Pine Decking Or Ipe Decking & Why

Pine has been a popular choice for many reasons. Readily available, this wood is pressure treated to ensure insect control and resistance to decay. Earth friendly properties of this wood include the fact it produces less energy and air/water pollution than other building materials. Pine is four times stronger than plastic and is fairly easy to install with no special tools required. Southern pine is comfortable under foot when the sun is out compared to the blistering temperature of many composite or artificial decks. The drawbacks of course are the chemical outpetrol and replacement of this deck is usually 10-15 years if annually maintained.

Cedar has gained popularity due to its density and rich warm tones.

This decking requires no chemical treatment for insect resistance. The price is about twice that of pressure treated lumber and also widely used. This deck requires stainless steel screws but no pre-drilling. Lifetime is about 9-20 years with regular maintenance, must purchase clear grade. The wood properties are equally earth friendly as the pine decks. You can span more board in cedar than you can in a composite deck board due to strength. The downAutumn is it may still be too soft for outdoor application and the clear grade is very pricey to purchase.

Ipe has a growing demand mainly due to it’s strength, it has a janka hardness of 3680 compared to Cedar at 350.

This gives you an idea of just how hard this exotic hardwood is. Ipe also known as Ironwood is originally from South America, Central America and parts of the Caribbean. This hardwood has been used in many commercial applications such as the boardwalk in Miami for its resiliency and longevity. Naturally resistant to insects, mould, fungus and decay, Ipe also has a fire spread rating same as concrete. Lifetime of this material is over 40 years with no treatment. If you apply a UV inhibitor to this deck you can get over 100 year life expectancy. This deck will require very little maintenance and you and your future generations can actually enjoy more time entertaining and relaxing and less time maintaining your deck area. This wood product provides all the same benefits as above plus more. The cost is also more than pressure treated lumber and this board does have to be predrilled due to the density of the board but the longevity will more than make up for the initial labor as you will not have to remove and reinstall a new deck in 10 -15 years.

Compare Cedar Deck to Ipe Decking

 

When it comes to decking, both cedar decking and ipe wood are very popular choices. However, when it comes to long term sustainability, appeal, and value, nothing compares to ipe decking.

The reasons for this can be found in the hardwood themselves. Ipe lumber is denser than Cedar decking. This density is very important to take note of. Because ipe wood is extremely dense, an ipe deck will be more resistant to mould, mildew, rot and decay. On the other hand, cedar wood is much softer than ipe. To prove this, all you have to do is compare the Janka Hardness scale. Basically the Janka Hardness measures the force that is necessary to penetrate a piece of wood decking. When comparing cedar to ipe, you will find that the Janka Hardness of Cedar is significantly lower than that of ipe. This is important because your deck ages, gets used, and is subject to the elements, a cedar deck will show more wear than an ipe deck.

You should also know that cedar can show knots, imperfections, and without proper maintenance will perform poorly over time. However, ipe wood, thanks again to its extreme density look better and less worn over time. Of course, it’s a good idea to use proper decking oil for the first and second year and, depending on the environment, you may be able to treat your ipe deck every other year. Cedar, on the other hand requires increased maintenance and more attention because it is softer and subject to common problems found with mediocre decking.

When you compare the look of ipe to cedar, you have to consider the future. Cedar can often turn from that welcoming and rustic red-reddish-brown to a greyish and sometimes darker look. On the contrary, ipe wood, if left untreated will age gracefully to a silver-like patina.

Another reason why ipe decks are a better choice is because, when it comes to insect and decay resistance, by far, ipe is vastly superior. Mould, mildew, and insects like termites have a much easier time thriving on cedar sapwood and some less than acceptable heartwood. However, due to the natural oils and dense nature of this premium hardwood, an ipe deck more naturally resistant to those common decking problems.

Ultimately, for many people, the bottom line is important. Yes, cedar is generally cheaper than ipe. But, as the old saying goes, “You get what you pay for.” Over time, the return on investment of cedar deteriorates just like the wood does. Ipe decking on the other hand has a much greater return on your investment because of less maintenance and treatments. Also, the likelihood that you’ll have to significantly repair or totally replace a cedar deck is much greater than if you spent the time to invest in ipe decking.

By far, when you take into consideration the facts, ipe wood is better than cedar wood. Of course, you must always work with a professional deck builder and lumber company before you move ahead with your deck building plans. Best of luck building the deck of your dreams!

Decorating the garden with Tillandsia

Decorating with Tillandsia

Are you a gardener with small space woes?  Do you aspire to gardening greatness, but don’t have the best luck keeping your plants alive?  Or, are you just tired of the ordinary, and looking for something a little more exotic to add to your collection?You may want to look into a little genus called tillandsia.

Actually, “little” is isn’t quite correct.  Tillandsia is a genus in the Bromeliad family including well over five hundred different species—a huge group of plants native to Central and South America.  Tillandsia are better known by their common name, air plants, since they quite literally grow in the air. This is because tillandsia are epiphytes, a type of plant that uses its roots to anchor itself to larger plants and structures instead of in the soil.  In fact, epiphytes don’t need soil at all—they rely on unique structures in their leaves to absorb all of the nutrients they need from the air around them.

When placed among your other house or garden plants, tillandsia have no problem standing out from the crowd.  Most species feature wiry and wild curling leaves, and when in flower, boast incredibly vibrant blooms in shades of royal purple, hot pink and fuchsia, and red.  Even the leaves of a tillandsia can change to a deep red during flowering. When the flower is spent, the plant begins producing pups at the base, creating clusters of bushy and interesting foliage over time.  You can add to the natural interest of the plant by taking advantage of its soilless growth habit when putting it on display.

Tillandsia have become very popular in the home and garden in recent years

Probably owing to the many creative ways you can showcase them in your décor.  With tillandsia, you can truly turn your plantings into works of art. Since it doesn’t require soil to grow, it also doesn’t require a traditional planter that you’ll have to hang or keep on a shelf and keep watered, allowing you to create a much more interesting green display.  Whether you’re making a living curtain, mounted tillandsia frames, a dining room centerpiece, or terrarium, your plantings will draw attention and give your home or patio a warm tropical feel.

Here are some air plant displays we really love.  You can create these arrangements with purchased containers, or just dress up an interesting item in your home with some greenery.  To attach tillandsias to your containers or other displays, you can use fishing line, twist ties, or even glue:

An unexpected table centrepiece arrangement from Southern Living.

An exotic alternative to the traditional holiday wreath from The Rainforest Garden.

The mounted tillandsia frames featured on Poppytalk use wire to hold them in place.

Apartment Therapy has a lot of ideas about how you can display your air plants—we particularly like the idea of mounting them to a piece of driftwood or petrified wood for a natural and one-of-a-kind piece of wall art.

Curbly features a list of tillandsia arrangements, including some exceptional vertical gardens, a dramatic Spanish moss display, and an air plant hanging garden that illustrates the variety of containers you can use to create a living curtain.

Though your air plants won’t need very much attention, you will have to water them from time to time. 

You will need to soak your tillandsia in a shallow tub or sink of water for two hours every other week.  A quick rinse every few days will allow the plant to take in the water it needs in between long soakings.  After soaking, you can shake them off, allow them to dry, and return them to your display. Tillandsias prefer very humid environments, so you may want to mist yours a few times a day. Be careful not to overwater them as this can very easily kill them.  Don’t allow your tillandsia to sit in pools of water—maker sure it has fully dried before placing it back in bowls and vases to prevent water from sitting at the bottom. Do not use softened water or distilled water on your tillandsia.

Keep your tillandsia in a bright, but filtered spot.  You can fertilise your plants by adding a very small amount of water-soluble fertiliser to your soaking water, but do not over fertilise.  Apply fertiliser, at most, once a month, and use it at quarter strength. Tillandsia experts recommend skipping the commercial fertiliser and using aquarium or pond water to soak your plants.

Garden Decking Care

Garden Decking

In recent years, garden decking has become one of the most popular and cost-effective ways to improve both the appeal and the practicality of gardens. Timber decking in particular has shown itself as a practical and easy-to-work solution. Indeed almost every gardener, if you are a downright beginner or an experienced home handyman, can create a useful and attractive area of wood decking and around the country there are many holiday areas where caravan decking has been used to create a pleasing feature that also adds useable space.

In these environmentally conscious days, it makes good sense to choose garden decking that comes sustainable sources, so look out for FSC-approved timber decking that has been pre-treated to give many years of reliable all weather performance. Remember too that lichen growth can make a wooden surface slippery in wet weather, so choose wood decking with a grooved surface for extra safety, especially when considering caravan decking which is often laid in exposed coastal areas.

One of the great benefits of timber decking of course is that it is relatively easy to work using simple DIY tools and equipment. This means that any garden decking project should not be beyond the reach of most average homeowners. Caravan decking however is often installed with steps and at a raised height to reach the doorways so it may pay to call in more expert help to install this type of wood decking.

Pick garden decking carefully

Garden decking is especially suitable for use on uneven, damp or wet ground as well as on both level and sloping sites. All sorts of timber decking kits are readily available and most incorporate different kinds of wood decking boards as well as stairs, railings and balustrades. For the creative gardener, there are also kits with pergolas and panels leading to many design possibilities, both at home and for caravan decking. Design flexibility is the key.

One of the most appealing aspects of garden decking is that it can be readily combined with other garden features and hard landscaping to create a timber decking feature that will become the centrepiece of any garden setting, whether in the traditional country cottage or the stylish contemporary home. Many gardeners use wood decking to incorporate planting schemes, ponds and decorative statues and of course the same is equally true for caravan decking installations although perhaps on a different scale.

The fact that garden decking is lighter and easier to handle than traditional hard landscaping materials like paving, bricks and blocks, and because timber decking needs no specialised contractors or wet trades, there is usually far less work involved when constructing a wood decking or a caravan decking. This is especially advantageous when building any raised areas too, as the entire structure will be less heavy.

However you look at it though, what makes all kinds of timber decking so useful is its exceptional versatility and ease of use. Just about anyone can create a pleasing and practical design that will give useful extra space for all kinds of entertaining and recreational activities yet at a surprisingly modest cost.

Mildew on composite decking?

Mildew on composite decking?

We built a deck (2 1/2 years ago) primarily out of “Choice Deck” composite decking (spindles are wood). Last year we noticed black mildew on the floor and pressure washed it w/a soap specifically for pressure washing decks, mildew, etc. This year, it looks real bad, with mildew spots all over the floor decking. we love having composite, but though it would fairly maintenance free, aside form regular cleaning. It gets full sun, so never has standing water on it.

What is the best way to clean it AND how can we prevent this from continuing to happen? I’m afraid bleach will ruin the color.

The retailer didn’t talk us into it. We have built wood decks before and chose composite this time because many of our friends and family members have had composite decks for years and love them. None of them have this problem, or we would have reconsidered.

We don’t mind hard work and do maintain our home. That’s why we want it to look nice and CLEAN. I know decks need to be cleaned, we don’t mind doing that. I know that some mildewing is normal, but this mildewing is excessive, so we want to make sure we are cleaning it properly to avoid additional staining.

Honestly, it gets full sun all day from the back…there are no trees near our house.

Maybe we got a bad batch…

Growing Asparagus

Growing Asparagus

Growing asparagus takes time and patience. Gardeners and growers can expect to wait about two years before their first asparagus harvest, but many feel as though the perennial winter crop is worth the wait. An asparagus plant can live up to 20 years, produces attractive ferns, and will yield about half a pound of asparagus each year. For those who love this green veggie that is a great source of fibre, iron, vitamin C and vitamin B6, these plants are worth the investment of time and work.

How to start

How you start your asparagus plants will set a precedent for their health and crop yield for the next 20 years. It is important to choose your growing space carefully. Make sure the plants will receive full sun exposure and the soil drains well and warms up quickly in the sun. If the soil does not drain well the roots could rot in the ground. Make sure all the weeds and grasses are pulled from the area.

1-year-old asparagus crowns can be bought from your local nursery and are usually only sold during the first weeks of spring. When it is warm enough that your soil is workable, you can plant your asparagus plant.  Some growers choose to soak the crowns in compost tea for about 20 minutes before planting to enrich the crowns with beneficial nutrients.

Prepare the soil by digging trenches 10-12 inches wide and 8-10 inches deep. Mix your garden soil with a generous helping of compost and fertiliser, and fill the trenches with about 4 inches of the mix. Place the crown in the trench and cover the crown and roots with completely with the garden soil, just a few inches to start. Place the crowns at least 12 inches from each other along your garden bed or crop row. As the weeks go on and the shoots start to grow, continue filling in the trench a couple inches at a time until it is completely full. Make sure the soil is loose and lightly watered.                                                                 

Maintenance 

During the first two years, be sure to carefully remove weeds from the area as often as possible and use mulch such as shredded leaves and straw to smother weeds. Lightly water the plants regularly and keep the shoots covered with newspaper or mulch if expecting a frost in the night.  For the first two years, do not harvest any shoots. They need to be able to grow into ferns for the first few years to establish deep, healthy roots.

When the fronds start to yellow in the Autumn, cut them back no more than an inch from the ground and remove completely from the area. Leaving the dead fronds could risk harboring asparagus beetles and other pests’ eggs and diseases in the garden. For the first few years, it is beneficial to fertilise the plants during the spring before the shoots start to grow. After the fourth year, only fertilise after the crop has been harvested.

Harvest

 Harvesting should not take place until the third year in the plants’ life. During these early years, you will be able to enjoy the attractive, lacy green ferns that will flourish in the spring and summer. The third year, you will finally be able to enjoy some fresh asparagus! Harvesting your asparagus shoots when they reach the desired height of 5 to 7 inches high, and before the tips start to loosen, will ensure the best flavor and texture. Diameter will vary and should not be a criteria for when to pick the asparagus. To harvest, cut the asparagus at ground level, and enjoy! During the first year of harvest, it is best collect only 4 weeks’ worth of asparagus, and in the following years the harvest can last about 8 weeks. Once the harvesting season is over, allow your plants to develop into ferns, and start researching great new asparagus recipes for the next spring.