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Plants and Falling Leaves

“If you want to greatly diminish spring pond maintenance,” says Bill Renter, Deck and Patio’s Outdoor Living Expert, “now is the time to take a few steps to prevent too much debris from accumulating before winter sets in.”



To get some tips on how to protect our ponds, pond expert Dave Kelly at Aquascapes Inc. (St. Charles, IL) offers this advice:

“The best idea is to put up pond netting before the leaves fall,” he says. “But if you didn’t do that in time, you can use a long-handle pond net to scoop down to the bottom and pull out leaves and other debris.”

Ideally, put your net in place before leaves begin falling. Then, simply pull it out when they’ve all dropped. You can tent the net so it doesn’t sag into the pond when it gets weighted with leaves, say experts at Aquascape Inc.

Kelly also suggests trimming back and removing dead foliage from aquatic plants to help remove excessive organic material that would otherwise decompose in the water feature.



Since some debris will make it into your pond no matter how hard you work, Aquascape recommends adding a cold water bacteria treatment, which has concentrated strains of beneficial bacteria that works well below 50 degrees (F).  Dave Kelly recommends adding it routinely to help maintain water clarity and quality.

Caring for Pond Fish in Fall

You can — and should — plump up your darlings to survive winter hibernation, by gradually increasing how much you feed them as temperatures start to drop. When pond water gets below 59 degrees, use fish food made for cold water. As the temperature continues to drop, gradually reduce the amount you feed them.

Once temperatures go below 55 degrees, says Dave Kelly, the metabolisms of pond fish slow way down. And when pond water gets down to 50 degrees, do not feed the fish any more. Their systems shut down in the colder water, and food sits inside them and rots. They get very sick and diseased from this.






When it comes to Fall’s bounty, Mother Nature’s harvest — rich with gorgeous plants, fruits, vegetables and even berries — is perfect for decorating yards and front door entries.

For ideas in what makes the best outdoor displays, we spoke with horticulture buyer Alison Caldwell at Hicks Nurseries (Westbury, Long Island).

“Come Fall, it’s all about hardy mums, winter pansies, and ornamental grasses such as Maiden Grass or Fountain Grass,” she says. “Also, switch grasses start to set their seed heads about now and get a great Fall color.”

Caldwell adds that grouping interesting plants together in combo planters present a bigger punch of color and interest: beauties like Montauk daisies, with their white petals and yellow centers, hardy mums (also ideal for mass plantings on their own), and ornamental peppers. Of course, cabbages and kale are great options, which she says can last all through winter, if the weather isn’t too bad.

“Changing out your petunias or other summer annuals with Fall colors offers a great welcome at your front door,” says Caldwell. “Mums are ideal for this. It’s also common for people to decorate their mail posts with corn stalks or add hay bales around.”

Other tips: wheat sheaves can look great on an entry door, pumpkins in different colors can be mounded together in a planter on the veranda, or, if you’re crafty, you can make a wreath of small gourds and autumn berries for your door.

Post (here or on Facebook) your own ideas for using Fall’s harvest to decorate outdoors.












To get the lowdown on the best trees to plant for fiery Fall color, Deck and Patio spoke with Angelo Puleo, Nursery Division, Bissett Nursery (Holtsville, NY).

“One of the most popular and widespread deciduous trees that produces bright reds in autumn is the beautiful Maple tree,” says Puleo. “In particular, we recommend Sugar Maples, and, of course, Oaks for great Fall red color.”

Puleo also recommends the Cleveland Select Pear for robust color. Like the Oak and Maple, it is also hardy and can withstand most winds and storms, including ice storms —a real plus in our neck of the woods.

“In Spring, the Cleveland Select bursts awake in beautiful white flowers, and in the Fall, its leaves offer up a deep orange-y-red blaze of color,” he says. Another option is the Crape Myrtle tree, which, as Puleo admits, is not quite as brilliant as the other trees, but it does offer an attractive reddish-orange color. When the Crape Myrtle finishes flowering in the Fall, it also pods-up with berries, and attracts such delightful visitors as the Yellow-rumped Warbler, a sweet little visitor who feeds on these berries after insects are gone.

In addition, when it comes to smaller trees, Deck and Patio designers often consider Japanese Maples in landscaping plans; red-leafed versions of this beautiful tree offer degrees of red from Spring through Fall. Planting them in early Fall allows for new root growth in time for Spring.

Note: Be sure to ask experts at an established nursery or landscaping firm which variety of maple, etc. will produce red leaves in the Fall, as some varieties offer up a blazing yellow instead. Not that there’s anything wrong with that… that’s just for another blog post.







Beautifully situated on a bay off the Atlantic, the backdoor of this home is set high above ground. In order to bring the outdoor space up to the same level as the home, Deck and Patio’s Outdoor Living Expert, Bill Renter, and his team divided the deck into three levels leading from the door, down to a new freeform vinyl pool and beautiful deck surround. Considering the vistas open to this home, maximizing them was an important factor in every part of our design.

Stepping out onto its first tier, a deep seating/lounge area offers panoramic views of the bay’s inlet. Sophisticated drama was added by framing the deck with attractive vinyl railing that doesn’t obstruct the view. Like the deck’s composite decking, the railing can last for years with little or no repair.

When we build a deck, we emphasize proper space planning in order to allow room for tables, chairs, barbecues, food pep areas and other features that make outdoor living enjoyable.

Bill thought that the particular decking we chose was also a good option to use around their pool because this manufacturer’s product provides a stable, firm, slip-resistant surface.











With temperatures hovering close to 80 during September, summer has lingered here on Long Island. And while most have already closed their pools, a few diehards are squeezing every bit of enjoyment out of them. Most agree, however, that the time has come to close the pool down.

To the uninitiated, closing a pool takes a few steps, says Deck and Patio’s Outdoor Living Expert, Bill Renter. To get a full picture of what’s involved, our team spoke with a pool contractor who works with Bill on a regular basis — Michael Truehart, CSB, owner of True Blue Swimming Pools in Deer Park.

“In climates like the Northeast,” says Michael, “the most important reason for closing a pool is pipes and other pool equipment can freeze in cold months. Part of what we do is administer a chlorine shock, or algaecides, or phosphate remover to the pool water. Then the pool/spa equipment is taken apart and cleaned, drained of water, and underground pipes are blown out so no water can freeze in them.”

Because our changing seasons cause a lot of falling twigs and leaves especially in the Fall, a pool cover is imperative, says Michael. “We don’t recommend a plain tarp cover that sags under the weight of rain collected on it. We suggest a mesh-type cover that allows rain to seep through it. This does require another step: lowering the pool water level to about 12-18 inches below the coping. Then, as rain water seeps through the mesh cover, the pool can accommodate it.”

Our own Bill Renter adds that he finds these mesh covers, such as the Loop Loc brand, are also important to help ensure that no one gains access to the pool when it’s unsupervised. The mesh covers are very taught he explains. “A plain tarp type cover that holds water on it will collapse if a pet or child walks on it. But mesh covers, with strong straps to hold them in place, allow for water to drain through into the pool.”

“These covers are so taught, they act almost like a trampoline,” confirms Michael.







Collecting the water at the lower level of this lovely water feature (stream and waterfalls) is a pondless reservoir. The Aquascape RainXchange reservoir was designed by Deck and Patio to seemingly disappear into the gravel instead of being collected.

“Instead of an above ground pond, the stream and waterfall water is totally collected below ground. This rainwater harvesting reservoir acts as a ‘green’ maintenance-free source for the water feature that can run from March through December, 24-7,” says our Outdoor Living Expert, Bill Renter. “City water is not used. The water is harvested totally from rainfall on the roof of the house. Gravity alone collects it into pipes.”

The pondless system is also valued for safety reasons. With no above-ground collecting pond, our clients, who have three young children, preferred this system. The four-foot-high-by-eight-foot-wide waterfall spills into a large landing area, and then travels down a narrow stream, around the side of a lounging patio where it disappears behind evergreens into our pondless reservoir.

This water feature’s harvested rainwater not only supplies the stream and waterfall, but it can provide water for plants during droughts — helping to keep things green (in every sense of the word): Come rain or come shine.

Anyone watching the fabulous new reality series on NatGeo WILD — Pond Stars — will have seen this very Aquascape RainXchange system highlighted in its first episode.








The owners of a very large property on Long Island’s North Shore asked The Deck and Patio Company to plan a new destination pool large enough for volleyball. Also, because the pool area would be a distance from the house, they wanted the ability to cook by the pool, as well as have a place to relax — bug free.

Deck and Patio’s plan included:

  • 50-foot-long and 26-foot-wide pool (approximate),
  • spillover spa, waterfalls,
  • 800-square-foot pool house with a 20-by-20 screened room and bathroom
  • elegant Travertine patio, and
  • outdoor kitchen with natural stone facade
  • outdoor shower.

However, our comprehensive plan came in way over budget for the clients. They declined our bid and sought estimates elsewhere. We were thrilled when they came back to us, because, in the end, they loved our ideas. Their judgment must have been right, since the completed project won a 2010 International Silver Pool Award from the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals (APSP) the very next year after winning a 2009 Bronze Pool Award from the Northeast Spa & Pool Association (NESPA).

When designing the pool house, our Outdoor Living Expert, Bill Renter, consulted with a good friend and architect, James DeLuca. Their collaborative effort inspired a building that is in keeping with their home’s overall elegance,which inspired the reverse gable.

Bill Renter also worked with Outdoor Lighting Perspectives to create the stunning nighttime scenes.








Design/Build: 1980s’ yard is updated by Deck and Patio into new millennium landscape


Foyers and entrance halls make strong first impressions of our homes’ interiors, as well of our tastes. However, the real first impressions are happening outside.

For this project showcase, the couple was modern in their thinking as well as their style, and they approached our Outdoor Living Expert, Bill Renter, seeking an innovative and modern look for their property.

Our finished custom landscape brought their outdated exterior landscaping into the new millennium, and more in keeping with their sense of style and views on life.







Updated Gardening: If your plantings are over 10 years old, they are probably way overgrown; any original landscape design has long faded when plants have grown practically into trees. Here, fresh new plants, mixed with moss rock and river rock alongside the waterfall, make a beautiful impression.







Updated Gardening: If your plantings are over 10 years old, they are probably way overgrown; any original landscape design has long faded when plants have grown practically into trees. Here, fresh new plants, mixed with moss rock and river rock alongside the waterfall, make a beautiful impression.




Outdoor living enthusiasts already know them as the ‘top three pond builders in the world.’

For those unaware of their talents, the time has come to meet Greg Wittstock, Ed Beaulieu and Brian Helfrich — Owner, Vice President, and Construction Manager, respectively, of Aquascape Inc. (St. Charles, IL).

Why? Here’s the buzz. The trio’s gifts for creating beautiful water gardens recently came to the notice of a television producer, and the new reality series — “Pond Stars” — was born. Each episode will feature the trio going about their day-to-day activities of designing and building water features for all kinds of people and situations.



Whether one fits into the category of already loving one’s backyard, or just wanting to love it, this series will be filled with the inspiration you hanker for. Having spent time with them at a recent waterscape event, Deck and Patio’s own Bill Renter came home convinced their series will do for backyard retreat lovers what Forensic Files is doing for crime puzzlers, and Dance Moms is doing for, well, pushy Moms.

The premiere episode, “Time for Turtles,” has Greg, Ed and Brian rushing to complete two projects: the first for an environmental center where the pond will be used as an outdoor classroom for an upcoming kids camp.

Will they get in done in time? Will the kids see the center’s rescued turtles happy and secure in a water garden? Of course! The fun is seeing them do it…under pressure…with maximum difficulties, all the while informing us of how a backyard retreat gets created.

Perhaps one way to show how enticing the episodes will be is to feature several Deck and Patio ponds, where we’ve used the stars’ own Aquascape products and expertise. So mark your calendars. “Pond Stars” premieres Tuesday, September 9th, 2014 at 10 p.m. EDT on NatGeo WILD.









“I have, as it were, my own sun and moon and stars, and a little world all to myself.”
Henry David Thoreau, Walden

At one time, enjoying something as relaxing and restful as reflections in a pond was occasioned by a lake-side holiday or visit to the mountains. However, with the growth in popularity of backyard escapes/oases, homeowners, in increasing numbers, are bring that experience home.

Indeed, there is something mystical and restive in pausing alongside pristine still water. It is especially restorative to study the reflections of the surroundings that such water throws back — including distant delights like the clouds and the moon.

As a student of nature and avid outdoor enthusiast, Deck and Patio’s Outdoor Living Expert, Bill Renter, believes that water features such as man-made ponds, when correctly designed, positioned, and constructed, can provide a transforming experience in one’s life: a ‘little world all to oneself’ to paraphrase Thoreau.

The following two projects are such examples.









October 2014
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