What is the design process?

The design process starts with an idea, vision or list of what you want in your yard. The job of a client is to outline your desires and budget for your designer.  The job of the designer is to listen, look and study the landscape then incorporate your goals into your site. This may require a range of meetings and site visits depending on the complexity or hands on nature you may wish to have on the design.

Step by Step Through the Design Process

Conceptual Design

The design process begins with the conceptual plan. What is a conceptual plan? It’s the cohesive vision of the designers understanding of the site and your ideas and needs for the landscape.  The designer will present their complete vision of the landscape to you.

during the design process you can expect a visualized plan
A visual of what the conceptual plan or visual may look like during the design process.

Revision Process

Design revisions take place after the designer has presented the conceptual drawing.  During that meeting you and the designer will discuss your thoughts and the other possibilities of the site. This is also a good time to discuss costs again.

Final Plan

The revision process end with the final plan. This will be the construction document that will be used by the builders to construction your yard. This plan should only be deviated from if there is an unforeseen circumstance. If by chance during construction process has begun, you feel something must be added or removed at which time your final construction cost will change.

Visualization and Construction Details

Depending on the complexity of the features in your landscape you may wish to have the designer develop detail drawings of specific features or a digital 3D model to assist in the visualization of the feature. This will happen prior to construction during the design process.


After the design process has been completed there may be some final changes with guard to materials and cost or a phasing plan. After all the kinks have been ironed out and the budget has been accepted, it’s demolition time.

A Few Christmas Tree Reminders


Looks like Oregon is in for another successful Christmas tree season, still reigning as the #1 supplier of Christmas trees, despite a national shortage as reported by CNBC. While we are all for bringing a bit of the outdoors in, there are a few things everyone needs to remember to celebrate the season safely. Otherwise, you may end up in the next YouTube Christmas Tree FAIL compilation. No one wants to be the lady in the high heels. Follow our Christmas tree safety tips to avoid an unexpected holiday fire.


Christmas Tree Safety Tips

Keeping a Christmas tree fresh and moist is the secret to safety.

  1. Using a traditional reservoir type stand is the most effective way of maintaining freshness and minimizing needle loss. Fresh, green trees are also the least susceptible to catching fire.
  2. The base of the Christmas tree should ALWAYS be submerged in water. This too works to prevent fire.
  3. Get the right tree stand. It should be able to hold 1 quart of water per inch of stem diameter. It also needs to be large enough to hold the trunk without shaving off the sides. The outer layers of the wood are the best at soaking in water and should not be removed no matter what.
  4. Although you may be tempted, don’t put the tree next to the fireplace. It can dry out quickly and become a fire hazard. Same goes for next to a vent or heater. Christmas tree placement is key. Also avoid placing lit candles near the tree.
  5. Using smaller lights helps prevent the death of the tree. Miniature or LED lights are best. Look for cheap LEDs on Black Friday, or seek out an estate sale, I’ve found Christmas decor galore via estate sales, usually in spectacular condition.
  6. Lights out is for everyone – including the tree. Don’t forget to unplug the Christmas tree each night.

Tree Experts – Landscaping, Tree Planting, and more

As Oregonians, we are proud of the Christmas tree industry and support local growers and suppliers. Want a Christmas tree you can plant when the holidays are over? Give us a ring and we can help you figure it out. We are experts in plant care, maintenance, landscape design, and more; working in Portland, Beaverton, Lake Oswego, Hillsboro, Oregon City, Gresham, and more. Give us a call to talk about your landscaping needs.

How To Winterize Portland Landscaping

Many Portlanders believe winter is the time to hide indoors, hibernate, and wait out the long, long rainy season. We say, not so! There is plenty you can do to winterize Portland landscaping, making everything in your yard healthier and prettier come spring.

Teo next to the All Oregon landscaping van. Matching shirt and all.
Teo next to the All Oregon landscaping van. Matching shirt and all.

How To Winterize Portland Landscaping in 7 Steps

  1. Prep and winterize the irrigation system. We’ve seen many types of irrigation systems in Portland, but one thing never changes, if water is left inside then freezes and expands, you are in for a costly repair bill. Consult your specific irrigation system or let us send Chewbacca (AKA: Teo) out to help you winterize it. As our go to irrigation system expert, he can “blow out” the system and ensure no lingering water is left behind.
  2. Give the lawn a little TLC. First, rake up any leaves and yard debris. It can be used for mulching (see step 7). Then trim the grass to a slightly shorter length of 1.5 inches. Short grass will let all the rainy moisture escape a bit sooner, thus avoiding lawn problems associated with too much moisture.
  3. Put the soil to the test. We can’t recommend this enough. Collect a soil sample and take it to a nearby nursery to have them test it. Portland soil often contains a lot of clay which can put a damper on drainage and cause some plants to drown. Soil test result will allow you to research the best way to add compost and other needed nutrients to your soil.
  4. Keep up on care for year-round plants. Popular Portland plants like hollies, azaleas and other native species often stay green year round. For these plants continue the usual maintenance, like pruning branches that are growing across each other. Treat any insect problems, and keep an eye out on the amount of water it’s receiving – you know just in case there is a long dry spell in Portland. Can we say, unlikely?
  5. Do a little deadheading. A lot of Portland landscapes take advantage of how well hydrangeas and other flowering plants grow in the area. Deadheading refers to getting rid of the flower remnants, or the “head” of the flower. Make sure to take care of this on any flowering plants.  
  6. Plan on pruning – a little! Many plants become victims to over pruning in the winter. Homeowners or maintenance companies hack away the yard with electric clippers, giving little or no
    Mulch is a must.
    Mulch is a must.

    thought to how this harsh pruning will affect the flow of nutrients to the plant(s). Our best advice, prune gently! Remove any crossed branches and open up space near the heart of the plant. If you are uncertain, always call an expert (like us), we know all the ins and outs of popular Portland plants, flowers, and shrubs.  

  7. Make it last with mulch. In the fall, the Portland area has so much to offer in the way of creating your own mulch, that we don’t even recommend buying it. Collect leaves, grass clippings, and other fall yard debris to make your own mulch – here’s how. Don’t mulch until you’ve completed the first 6 steps, it helps protect the soil better that way. Think of mulch like the insulation in your house, it offers a protective barrier, evans temperatures, and helps keep invasive weeds and such out. All good things.

Whew, now that that is all done, head indoors for a nice warm cup of apple cider and prepare for the holiday season. With the yard looking so nice, maybe even consider a turkey roasted over the fire pit?

Winter is the Best Time to Plan a Landscape Overhaul

We feel like a broken record saying this year after year, but it is really true, winter gives both you and our landscape design team more than enough time to develop a one of a kind landscape for your Portland property. See some of our past designs for inspiration, then give us a call to speak to a designer today!

Fire Pit Thanksgiving – Banish the Oven this Year

Outdoor LivingCooking outdoors is a favorite pastime of many Americans, especially Oregonians, and so is Thanksgiving! Why not combine them with a fire pit Thanksgiving? If you’re looking for a unique way to spice up the Thanksgiving feastival, and have a few extra layers of warm clothing, fire roasting your turkey will surely give your family and friends something to talk about. Below is one of our favorite ways of cooking a turkey in a fire pit and requires minimal maintenance once it’s roasting. Ready the waterproof layers and try something new this Thanksgiving.

Five Steps to Cooking Turkey Outside for a Fire Pit Thanksgiving

  1. Prep your turkey however you like, stuff it, wrap it in bacon, shove herbed butter under the skin. Whatever it is you like to do to your bird have at it. Wrap it in a few layers of cheesecloth and wrap it again in 3-4 layers of aluminum foil. If you have a dutch oven big enough you can always throw the turkey in there with some potatoes, onions, garlic and anything else that you like, provided it fits with the lid completely closed.
  2. Start up the fire pit and be sure you have plenty of coals, you will need enough to thoroughly surround the bird. Start them early and get them in that perfect cooking state.  Use a metal tool (that won’t melt) and dig a hole in the center of the fire pit if it’s big enough or in the ground next to it if necessary. It will need to hold the turkey with a thick layer of surrounding coals. Try and use all wood in order to impart the flavor into the turkey but you can always supplement with briquettes if needed.
  3. Once you have a good amount of coals glowing, use a shovel to create at least a 2 inch thick bed in the hole. Be sure not to put a lot of ash in or you will be sorely disappointed in a few hours and your Thanksgiving blunder will no doubt be talked about for generations. Place the wrapped turkey on the bed of coals in the center of the hole. Fill in the sides and completely cover the turkey with more coals and insulate the top with a layer of dirt or a lid if you have one.
  4. Go enjoy your family and cup of apple cider, then be sure to check the fire pit occasionally to be sure it’s still hot and moving along. A 12 lb turkey will take about 3 hours, then add another 15 minutes for every 2 lbs extra.
  5. When the time has come, excavate the turkey and enjoy.

More Recipes for a Fire Pit Thanksgiving

If you’d like to try another way of cooking with wood fire, take a look at this video, though we would not recommend soaking your spit in a chlorinated pool. That is just strange.

Or, if you’re feeling extra adventurous, take a look at A Campfire Thanksgiving Dinner! for a full menu of thanksgiving dishes that can be cooked over a fire.

If you plan on cooking some of your Thanksgiving meal outside over a fire pit or in your outdoor kitchen, we’d love to hear about it. Feel free to share with us in the comments or on Facebook.


Attract New Birds to Your Backyard

attract new birdsWith millions of birds living in the Pacific Northwest it’s easy to think that all of the vast tree friendly neighborhoods in Portland, Beaverton, Lake Oswego, Sherwood, West Linn, Aloha and more would be home to a bird population far more diverse than our human population. Oddly, it’s not true. Expect to see a robin, crow, starling or sparrow, and probably not much else unless you put in some real effort. Many reasons impact where certain birds can be found; not all birds call trees home and many of those that do are territorial and migratory. While birds that typically nest on the ground find the city and suburbs dangerous, lurking with pets and people. All of the urban development in Portland isn’t helping either, it destroys bird living and nesting areas and forces many species to move elsewhere. Luckily, there are a few tactics you can try to increase the diversity of birds in your backyard.

How to Attract New Birds 

The most important thing to remember when trying to attract new birds to your yard is that new tactics will attract new birds. Here are a few that have proven successful time and time again.

  1. Bring in the birdhouses – While a bird house seems like the 3rd grader idea to bring new birds to the backyard, the reason why birdhouses work is commonly misunderstood.  Common birds have already discovered places to nest in the area, which is why there are so many of them. Research the preferences of different birds and build a birdhouse accordingly. A birdhouse that is appealing to an uncommon bird will offer a new nesting site protected from predators and weather, thus a way to sustain life in unfamiliar territory. 
  2. Make a bird buffet – One of the easiest ways to attract new birds is to add new foods. Look up what sorts of seeds, nuts, fruits or plants are most attractive to new birds and then stash them around the yard in bird feeders. It shouldn’t take too long for new birds to arrive and investigate.
  3. Even birds like waterside dining – Not all birds won’t eat from bird feeders, but all birds need water. A good, large water source, or many smaller ones, will give birds or all types a reliable place to find water. Birds have keen hearing, and moving water will be heard  from greater distances. Consider a bubbling bird bath or full fledged water feature if birds are your thing.Water Features & Pools
  4. Behold bird friendly landscaping – Yes, this is a thing. Bird friendly landscaping features native plants with thick coverage to offer familiar shelter for regional birds. To make plants even more effective, choose trees and shrubs with seeds and fruits the birds will enjoy as a natural food source. On a budget – an old Christmas tree makes great shelter for birds if you have a place to keep in the yard. A side note – native plants also help to create a drought resistant landscape

After you’ve tried one or all of the above, be patient and watch your yard closely. Despite loving the new food and water, they may still be in and out of the backyard at first. The longer food, water, and shelter are available, the more birds, and likely uncommon birds you’ll see for longer periods of time. Trust us. 

Bird Friendly Landscaping in Portland

All Oregon Landscaping provides native plant expertise, water feature design and build, and any other landscaping to help you enjoy the birds in your backyard. We work in Portland, Beaverton, Lake Oswego, Sherwood, West Linn, Aloha and more. Give us a call to talk about your backyard plans, or tell us how you’ve been able to attract new birds in the comments!

By Rennett Stowe from USA (Backyard Bird FeederUploaded by russavia) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

What to do With all Those Apples: Make Homemade Cider!

800px-Apple_orchardLong before the pumpkin spiced latte became the fall drink of choice, the beverage that signified the start of autumn was apple cider. It dates back to at least 55 BC when the Romans first arrived in England and discovered the people there enjoying a drink made form the apples that grew plentiful in the region. This beverage is made from the juice of apples that have been crushed in a cider or fruit press, a machine that is rarely seen today but was once commonplace. While it’s certainly easier to head down to the local market and pick up a jug of cider, there is something satisfying about homemade cider and if you happen to have an apple tree, it’s a great way to use those apples before they go to waste. Best of all, you don’t need to track down a cider press to do it. Here is an easy and fun way to make your own, with equipment you already have or is easy to find.

Easy Homemade Cider with Spices

The best cider comes from a mix of tart and sweet apples. If you don’t have a variety in your yard don’t worry, you can supplement with some from the local supermarket or farmstand. Ultimately, it’s up to your personal taste, if you like sweet cider, use all sweet apples or if you have only tart
apples and don’t want to buy extra, you can always add sugar.

What you’ll need for 1 gallon of homemade cider:

  • 18 – 20 appleshomemade cider
  • 1-2 Cups of sugar (optional)
  • 4 Cinnamon Sticks
  • 30 Allspice Berries
  • a large stock pot
  • spice bag
  • big spoon
  • potato masher
  • strainer
  • cheesecloth

Instructions for Making Homemade Cider

  • Wash the apples, quarter them, place in a large stock pot and cover with water. Be sure your pot is big enough to hold everything with about three to four inches of space at the top. If you don’t have a pot big enough, you can cut the recipe in half or do it in two batches.
  • Tie the cinnamon and allspice in a spice bag and place in the pot.
  • Boil for an hour, be sure to check often and gently stir each time.
  • After and hour, taste a little to see if it’s sweet enough. If not, add the sugar and stir.
  • Cover, turn the heat to low and let simmer for two more hours.
  • Remove spice bag and mash the apples with a potato masher and let cool. You can speed up the process by placing the pot in an ice bath if you are impatient.
  • Line a strainer with doubled up cheesecloth and pour the mixture through it into a large bowl. Use the cheesecloth to wrap the pulp and squeeze out any remaining cider.

You now have homemade cider! To store, simply keep it in the refrigerator for up to a week and enjoy hot or cold.

What is your favorite thing to do with the apples from your yard? Do you have a different, or superior apple cider recipe? Feel free to share with us in the comments or on Facebook.

Ways to Reuse Fall Leaves

20131024_145636_Boones Ferry RdIt’s that time of year, the temperature is dropping and the sunshine is beginning to be replaced with endless rain showers. Soon, the leaves will begin to turn, offering a colorful palette of autumn hues for us to enjoy. That is until they start to fall. Those who have mature trees on their property understand that the novelty of falling leaves is short lived when it’s time to start the cleanup process. The trees that provided cooling shade only weeks before now shed a seemingly endless torrent of yard work. Soggy piles of leaves begin to dot the neighborhood, debris bags become lawn decor and the once beautiful yard becomes a storage space as they wait for yard bins to be emptied. But it doesn’t have to be a dreaded chore, here in the Northwest we are masters of recycling and reusing and there are some fantastic uses for those colorful fall leaves.

3 Ways to Reuse Fall Leaves

  1. Mulch – When most people think of mulch the first thing that comes to mind is bark chips but the original mulch just so happens to be fallen leaves. Using leaves as mulch around the garden help keeps moisture around the roots of your plants and returns nutrients to the soil. Additionally, leaves help insulate the ground and offer an effective weed block.
  2. Compost – Brown leaves make an excellent addition to a compost pile especially when combined with grass clippings and other green waste. Earthworms absolutely love eating leaves and their casings help create a rich compost perfect for soil amendment. Chopping the leaves with a mower or yard vacuum will speed up the decomposing process and save a tremendous amount of space.
  3. Leaf Mold – Leaf mold is another type of amendment that can be added to soil and supplies nutrients and moisture. To create your own leave mold simply pile the leaves up and let them decompose on their own similar to a compost pile. Unlike typical compost, leaf mold is low in nitrogen, but because it can hold up to 500 percent in it’s weight in water it truly shines as a moisture retainer. It can take up to a year to fully decompose, but chopping the leaves can help speed the process.

Hopefully this bit of information has inspired your Northwest recycling spirit but if not, All Oregon Landscaping can help.  We provide many services to get you through the season including regular maintenance or one time clean up and are committed to providing you with the best options for your space and budget.  Give us a call for a free consultation

Get a Head Start on Next Year’s Outdoor Living Space

The Summer of 2015 came fast and doesn’t appear to be letting up anytime soon. Even though BBQ season seems destined to linger, the kids will be back in school very soon and autumn will officially begin in less than a month – can you believe it? Though the warm weather will probably continue into October, the trees will eventually change color, the winds will pick up and the leaves will begin falling in what may seem like a never ending torrent of yard work. The time that was spent enjoying the sun turns into cleanup and summer fun will officially be over.  For many, this means unfinished projects and plans are shelved until next season. Thoughts will turn indoors to upcoming holidays and the outside space will be forgotten until next year. If you are one of the people who find the summers to be too short to bring to life your outdoor living dream, All Oregon Landscaping believes that you don’t have to wait to start the work on next years project. Fall is the perfect time to begin the process. Here’s why.

3 Reasons to Start a 2016 Outdoor Living Space Now

  1. You’ll get extra attention from landscape designers – Spring and summer is the busiest time of year for landscape companies with multiple projects happening and a lot to coordinate. Fall is the time when we can provide a little extra attention to planning a project for the next year since there isn’t as much going on outside of the office.
  2. This is when the summer clearance sales are happening – Saving money is always nice and if you are a savvy shopper you can pick up some brand new items at significant savings compared to what you’ll pay at the beginning of next season. Additionally, you’ll save time next spring and be better prepared to start your project.
  3. Planning is the longest part of the process – Whether you have a specific idea in mind or are still trying to figure out what you want, the fall and winter months give you plenty of time to get all of the details just right. When you work with All Oregon Landscaping, a landscape design expert visits the property and finds out what you are looking for and helps create a plan that works best for the layout and budget. If you want an outdoor living space designed for entertaining, a relaxing retreat or an urban farm we can come up with the most feasible options and start getting ready to make your dream a reality. When the time comes to break ground, everything will be in place to quickly get your outdoor living space ready to enjoy.

Here are a few selected pictures of some of our favorite outdoor living space designs.

All Oregon Landscaping works in Portland and all of the surrounding areas including Beaverton, Lake Oswego, Tigard, Oregon City, Sherwood, Tualatin, West Linn, and more. Give us a call to get your 2016 outdoor living space project started this fall.

How to Harvest Vegetables – Don’t Waste Precious Produce!

400px-Black_Pearl_PeppersFor those who love growing their own vegetables, spring and early summers are spent working the soil, planting rows of seeds and keeping them watered during the hot, dry spells. At the end of summer when the hours of labor have resulted in a beautiful and lush garden, the challenge turns from maintenance to harvesting the bounty. This is when many of us seem to have the most trouble. We’ve all been there: one day your zucchini are the size of a baby’s thumb and overnight they seem to go through a time warp and explode into a monster squash. But it’s not just the zucchini. A few days of not checking the garden can result in overripe food which means the time spent nurturing the garden has also been wasted. The trick to keeping up with the deluge of produce is the same as what it takes to create it: a good plan.

Plan Ahead to Harvest Vegetables at their Peak

The best source of harvest information is right on the seed packet. Because there are so many different varieties of most every vegetable, there isn’t going to be an all-encompassing answer for any one type. Certain green beans have the best flavor when they are five to six inches while others should be picked at fifteen to eighteen inches. It will also depend on when your vegetables were planted. Seed packets usually show the approximate days to harvest, a number that many gardeners use when planting to determine if they still have enough time to grow. Hopefully, you’ve kept your seed packet, but if you haven’t you should still be able to find the information you need online. Companies like Burpee have some great resources available to know when to harvest vegetables.

Keep a garden journal and record the date you plant each vegetable and when it’s due to be mature. You can keep a traditional book or folder which is also a good place to store the seed packet for later reference. There are also several great apps for your tablet or phone which can set reminders for you. If you failed to keep seed packets and have forgotten when you planted your vegetables and what type you planted, you can still keep up with the harvest but you may not get your veggies when they are at their peak, depending on which cultivars you have. When it looks like it’s close to harvest, the best thing to do is make a habit of checking your garden every day and picking any produce that is ripe. This will not only ensure that you’re not letting anything go to waste, but also encourage the plant to continue producing.

Looking for something more specific on how to harvest vegetables? Take a look at a few past articles we’ve written:

How do you manage to stay on top of your garden harvest? Feel free to share your stories with us in the comments or on Facebook.

DIY Yard Games for More Outdoor Fun

Big jenga is fun for all, DIY yard games
Make your Jenga whatever size you like!

In the Northwest we try and spend as much time outdoors as possible during the summer. Whether it’s cooking and enjoying an outdoor kitchen and dining area, or relaxing alone or with friends outdoors, we love enjoying the sun and warm weather. If you want to kick up the outdoor living a bit, try these easy and fun DIY yard games.

4 DIY Yard Games for More Summer Fun

2×4 Jenga – A simple and easy outdoor game for all ages. Simply cut 2x4s into 48 10 ½ inch pieces. If you don’t wish to cut them yourself, most lumber yards will cut them for you for a small fee. After you have your pieces, be sure to sand the edges and any rough spots to make them easy to slide. Stack three by three, alternating the direction of each row, and you have a giant Jenga set. Setup the big Jenga on a small table and invite some friends over for the fun.

Giant Checkers – A huge checker board made from concrete step stones can be a seasonal or permanent fixture in the yard for outdoor summer fun. A standard checker board is 8×8 so you’ll need 64 squares all together. Simply place them in the designated area in rows of 8, alternating between two colors. For the checkers, you can use paper plates (if it’s not too breezy), paint lids, big rocks or whatever else you can think of for the pieces. Get creative and find something that matches your personality and outdoor decor.

Spray Paint Twister – Spray painting colored dots on the grass is an easy way to set up a yard game of outdoor twister without trying to anchor an indoor game board to the ground. You’ll need white, blue, red and yellow spray paint to create the dots, with each color creating one row with six dots for each color. If you are aLawndart perfectionist you can measure, or just wing it and see what kind of chaos non-perfect lawn twister dots can create!

Non-Lethal Lawn Darts – Well, these are not really lawn darts at all, but the concept is still the same. This is probably the easiest game to make and can be a lot of fun if turned into a
tournaments for big groups. Fill the ends of six old socks with dried beans and tie them off so you have a bean bag with a tail – three for each team. Use hula hoops as your targets. This is a great game to play with younger kids as well as adults who remember the original lawn darts and would rather forego impalement.

What are your favorite yard games? Feel free to share with us on Facebook or in the comments below. Need help making the landscape DIY yard game worthy? Contact us for landscaping ideas or a free quote on your next project.

Jenga Picture By Ildar Sagdejev (Specious) (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons