Backyard Firepit Ideas

Backyard Fire Pits will Enhance your Outdoor Living Enjoyment

Backyard Fire pit in Santa Barbara

custom fire pit

An outdoor fire pit warms up chilly Spring or Fall evenings, creates a warm and inviting spot for conversation, and adds a touch of festivity to outdoor gatherings. Outdoor fire pits can be simple or elaborate. There are many options out there regardless of the size of your yard. Whether you seek to create a small, intimate corner for two, or a larger gathering spot, a fire pit adds a welcoming feel to your current landscaping. If you are thinking about having a fire pit built for you, here are some of the benefits:

  • A professionally designed fire pit adds value and appeal to your backyard.
  • Outdoor fire pits creates a central gathering spot for conversation when entertaining friends and family.
  • Fire pits will add warmth, ambiance and personality to your backyard.

Today’s backyards are becoming more sophisticated, a true extension of the home. Outdoor “living areas” are just that. Many homeowners seek to create specific areas within their yard, such as a kitchen, a play space, a dining area and a living area. There are often secluded sections that are used as an extension of the master bedroom.

A professional landscaper can design and build the solid elements of your outdoor space, known as the “hardscape”. This consists of patios, decks, walkways, built-in seating, fireplaces and fire pits. Water features are often integrated into the hardscape.

Varieties of Outdoor Fire Pits

Backyard fire pits are often thought of as the traditional round, wood burning stone pit. While that is often the case, you may be surprised of the myriad of shapes and sizes of your backyard fire pit.  A landscape designer can work with you and your space to create the perfect design for you. If you have limited space, for example, a round pit in the corner of your yard may not be the best option if you are surrounded by close neighbors who might be irritated by smoke.  A gas burning set-up may be the way to go if a wood-burning pit cause smoke problems with the neighbors.

The pit can be round, square, triangular, rectangular…you name it. For smaller areas, a long and narrow rectangle shape saves space and provides an element of interest. While a brick or stone pit is perfect for a rustic or traditional home, those who are looking for a more modern or edgy feel may want something more angular, using a clean, concrete “box” type pit.

To truly differentiate your outdoor living space, design a sunken living-room style area in your yard with a central fire pit. Built-in seating in a U shape around the pit ensures that the warmth will be spread evenly. Stepping down into the pit gives the feeling that you are entering an actual room.

Make a bold statement with a wall of fire. A long and narrow pit made of concrete creates a space-saving, modern focal point in your yard. Other options are incorporating a fire pit into the corner of a low stone wall, complete with built-in seating. Outdoor fire pits made with re-purposed metal basins create a rustic or industrial feel. Adding a nearby built-in water element will create a reflective, serene atmosphere.

A variety of materials may be used to craft a fire pit. Different kinds of stone, brick, concrete and metal can be used that reflect your style and complement the natural surroundings.

Remember, even a small outdoor space can accommodate a built-in fire pit. Consult with a us. We have experience crafting these types of features. So many memories are made around a campfire, why not bring that to your own backyard?

Call us today to schedule an appointment to explore how we can help you create a warm and cozy area in your backyard.

Landscape Lighting Ideas

Top 5 Landscape Lighting Ideas

outdoor landscape lighting

Photo by John Clark Mills

Landscape Lighting should be a key of any landscaping plan. Effective landscape lighting should not be a Home Depot, do-it-yourself project. It should do more than merely mark a path. The best results come from totally integrating lighting as a landscaping feature. After all, light is color that can be placed, textured, and woven into other features.

Lighting Water Features

Consider what reflects light. Pools traditionally have white lighting, but the same lighting system works with colored bulbs. Water reflects overhead and indirect lighting, and it even provides a canvas for projecting visuals on. Ponds used for koi or water plants can be lit from beneath or from lights nestled in surrounding foliage. The wavering light will reflect up from beneath the plants at the edge.

Using Lighting to Add Texture

Other natural textures absorb and/or reflect light for maximum effect. Lighting brings out the color and shape of assorted river rock and crushed gravels. It brings out the best in the stain and grain of wood fencing, decking, and dividers.
Stucco is a wide open background for landscape lighting. You might consider varying the degree of lighting brightness and varying the colors within the same pallet, so the stucco does not bleach out. And, brick, granite, sandstone, and other natural materials both absorb and throw back the light in attractive ways. You might think of lighting the front elevation with spotlights hidden beyond shrubs.

Dramatic Tree Lighting

Landscape lighting ideas in Santa barbara

Santa Barbara Outdoor Landscape Accent Lighting

Never place a light where it has no maximum design effect. For example, if you want to line a path with lights, place the lamps where they also highlight a plant or shrub. Even then, think how the light will play against the plant. It might accent the color of the flowers. It might highlight the bright colors of desert or buffalo grasses. Or, it might reflect off of silver or variegated leaves.

Spotlights on decorative trees bring dark corners of a yard together, but lighting the branches with LED lights can add charm for entertainment occasions.

Indirect Lighting

Lighting for safety and security should come from well designed fixtures that highlight and accent the home’s architecture. Chandeliers, sconces, hanging lamps, and ceiling fans can extend your living quarters outdoors, but the night does not want you to light these spaces like the bright of day. So, choose fixtures that integrate their design with their purpose and put in low wattage glare.
But, you might try to hide the rest of the lighting sources. Fitting lighting fixtures behind rocks, under stairs, behind garden features, and furniture – all allow your lighting landscape more freedom in terms of power sources, wiring, and display. The mechanics of spotlights, lighting strips, and fluorescent lighting are not attractive. But, hidden behind planters, barriers, and benches the different light effects work wonderfully.

ECO-Friendly Lights

The safest, more secure, and attractive lighting can run up some bills if you do not consider low-voltage and green options. Motion sensitive lighting can reduce the brightest security spots, and programmed dimmers will control decorative lighting. You might differentiate what lighting you need for general purposes and for entertainment purposes; then, you can segregate the controls for those purposes.

Maximize the number of fixtures and lamps labeled LED-Low Voltage. These eco-friendly bulbs fit all your landscape lighting needs including underwater fixtures and fixtures that prefer the look of a gas flame. And, individual fixtures and entire systems can be solar powered.

Homeowners, general contractors, and landscape architects appreciate the way integrated lighting can enhance the safety, security, and curb appeal of thoughtful and creative landscaping lighting.

Call Us for a FREE 42 Point Comprehensive Lawn and Garden Evaluation

Best Lawn Care Tips

Lawn care and maintenance

Healthy Lawn and Garden

How to Care for your Lawn

Believe it or not, your lawn is one huge plant. Though it will never fit inside your home, it still requires the care that you would give to your most loved houseplant. However, if you happen to be one of those who let their houseplants gather dusts in the window, your lawn will probably show the same type of neglect. Hopefully, this is not the case because your lawn only requires a bit of attention to stay attractive.

Keeping your lawn looking attractive is not nearly as difficult as you might imagine. By following a few simple lawn care tips, your lawn can remain healthy and looking good throughout the year.

A vibrant lawn makes a superb compliment for flowerbeds and creates a striking emerald center of attention in winter when colors are secreted. There are various types of grasses for differing climate conditions; however, all laws benefit from regular mowing and watering, and feeding attention in the spring and autumn.


A crucial factor in maintaining a healthy lawn is mowing at the correct height. It’s the same as pruning your indoor or outdoor plants at a certain time of growth. Grass blades should be maintained at a height of three to four inches. Allowing grass to grow taller will leave the root system and base of the blades starving for sunlight, which will affect your lawn’s long-term health. Similarly, cutting more than one-third of the grass blades when mowing will result in plant shock and wilting.

Grass should be mowed when it is growing, provided the ground is not too wet or slippery to walk on. In springtime, mow once a week with blades at their highest setting and slowly lower them as growth speeds up. If you are an eco-friendly enthusiasts, collect the clippings for compost, or use a mulching-mower that leaves the grass cut into fine bits, thus returning nourishment to your lawn.

Rake up thick areas of clippings, which can cause damage to the turf. During summer months, a good quality lawn may require cutting twice a week, as growth slows down, once a week should do. There are three main ingredients for maintaining a healthy lawn.


Watering and lawn care

Hunter Sprinkler System

During the year, your lawn requires different water requirements. In colder months, grass growth slows down, requiring less water. Over watering your lawn, will enrich fungus growth and devastate turf. An over abundance of water also triggers weed growth, and washes out natural resources in the soil. During the warmer months when grass is in full growth mode, your lawn frequently needs watering three or four times a week. Denying your lawn sufficient moisture leads to dead patches, burned areas, and wilting.

New lawns should be watered every day during dry spells, until it has matured. A sign that a lawns require watering is when they lose their bounce when walked on. Decrease water evaporation by utilizing sprinklers early morning or at night.


It is important to know the frequency of application and type of fertilizer your lawn needs.  The quantity of fertilizer required to keep up your lawn health depends on how rich the underlying soil is. Leaving the clippings on your lawn will enhance the soil nutrients. Apply liquid or granular lawn fertilizer at minimum once per year. Spring and early summer feeds are filled with nitrogen to increase leaf growth. Products for use in early autumn are lower in nitrogen but potent with potassium to support grass roots in winter.

Remember not to overfeed; it can lead to scrawny growth and fungal problems. If necessary, rent a calibrated-spreader for bigger lawns, and water if there is no rain within a few days after feeding.

Call us for our 42 Point FREE Comprehensive Lawn and Garden Evaluation.

How to Attract Butterflies to Your Garden

Butterfly Garden

Photo by Tony Alter

What Plants Attract Butterflies

Certain plants are better at attracting butterflies than others. Did you know that butterflies are dwindling in numbers? Particularly since 1980 due to deforestation, improper landscaping, and environmental changes are affecting many ecosystems. To keep a healthy garden butterflies of all types are our allies.

Create a Butterfly Friendly and Happier Garden.

Butterfly gardens, for example, are carefully planned plots that contain butterfly-attracting sprouts and plants to diversify and introduce butterflies to a particular area. By attracting butterflies, a plot can also attract other insects that assist in healthy growth and development of crops and blossoms.

The collection of plants for attracting butterflies is extensive and easily available to you if you interested in encouraging butterflies to visit your beautiful garden or plot. Whether you own an entire acre of land or just a mound of soil in your yard, plants for attracting butterflies not only add color to your garden, they encourage a healthier planet, too.

How do I begin the process?

It’s simple. Butterflies love sunny open spaces, little or no wind, and fresh water. Next, look for the best plants that will integrate into your current plot while keeping the area aesthetically pleasing. This depends entirely on your taste and your preferences. In addition, would you prefer to attract butterflies and not bees, or butterflies and bees but not hummingbirds? Each plant can attract multiple types of visitors, so take care in your decision making before you dig in to the process.

Do not be afraid of color! Butterflies are drawn to bright, lively colors in their flowers. This is a sure sign of a healthy spot to stop at. It’s most effective to plant clusters of these plants for attracting butterflies so they can easily find their particular favorite blossom.

In addition, the location of your butterfly garden party must receive plenty of sun and warmth. Butterflies may find a flower attractive, but if it’s not in the sun, you may detract more butterflies than you had hoped to.  Live in a colder climate? Drop in some large stones to absorb day time heat and provide an easy rest stop for tired butterfly wings.

What are my best plant options for attracting butterflies?

If you’re looking to attract all types of butterflies, along with their nectar loving friends, here are the easiest plants to start with:

  • Milkweed: This wildflower choice will attract butterfly larvae, encouraging healthy growth and survival of pupas into butterflies. It is a relatively common and hearty flower that’s often seen growing near streets.
  • Honeysuckle: Most people associate honeysuckle with the scent of Summer. So do butterflies! This gorgeously scented petite flower attracts a wide variety of butterflies very easily, and adopts into new gardens without much trouble.
  • Lilacs: Butterflies have good taste in their flower choices. Plant elegant lilacs in your garden to provide a spacious place for butterflies to browse at. This flower attracts over 6 different types of butterflies.
  • Goldenrod: Attract a narrower range of butterflies with this voluminous flower, but attract the most voluptuous of butterflies as well.

Many brightly colored flowers will attract butterflies because of their rich diversity and appearance in a plot. It is best to research your options for any area, especially if you are hoping to only have plants for attracting butterflies in your garden.

Learn more with this handy Farmer’s Almanac table that goes over all flowers and plants for attracting butterflies.

Call us for our a FREE 42 Point Lawn and Garden Evaluation.

Photo: Tony Alter

Vineyard Management After the Harvest

Vineyard management and maintenance after the harvest

Santa Ynez Vineyard

What Happens in the Vineyard After the Harvest?

Vineyard maintenance after the harvest is very important. Harvest time in a vineyard is both an end and a beginning. The grapes have been picked, signaling the end of the growing season, but not the end of the work in the vineyard. The grapevines have begun to go dormant and now we are preparing for the next year.

Four Vineyard Maintenance Tasks After the Harvest

1.  Removing the bird netting: this is the first task. This is time consuming, but has to be done in order for other important tasks that must be completed.

2. Soil Analysis: After harvest, we like to conduct a soil analysis from soil samples. This will give us a battle plan for the next growing season. The soil samples with give us information on the health of the vineyard’s soil.  Nutrients are very vital to healthy soil. Nutrients that we are speaking of are the following:Calcium

  • Potassium
  • Phosphorous
  • Nitrogen

During the soil samples if any of these nutrients are depleted, late fall is the best time to add them back so that the vines can absorb them prior to going dormant. The nutrients can be delivered through “fertigation”,  the irrigation system or spread across the soil.

3. Planting a Cover Crop: In late fall, we also start the process of planting a cover crop. Cover crops are planted between the vine rows which helps to build organic matter, controls erosion, suppress weeds, improves soil structure and reduces nutrient loss. The timing for this is very important. Without proper rain, the new seed won’t germinate.

4. Trellis and Equipment Maintenance: Other post harvest activities include basic maintenance such as adjusting or replacing wire trellises and metal stakes. Equipment maintenance is also done at this time. This would include tractor service and cleaning any spray equipment.

In the end, vineyard maintenance after the harvest season is all about getting ready for the next vintage. “The most important thing a grower can do once the grapes have been harvested, is to look at the overall health of the vines and soil. The cyclical nature of wine grape growing means there’s never really any down time.

How to Plant a Vineyard

how to plant a California Vineyard

Santa Ynez Vineyard

Basic Tips for Planting a Vineyard

Dreaming of owning your own vineyard? You can buy an existing one or buy undeveloped land and build from the ground up. Today we’re going to address the issues of planting a new vineyard.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What will you plant on the site?
  2. Is the site cool or warm?
  3. What is the site’s aspect and exposure?
  4. What is the soil type and is it fertile? What about drainage?
  5. What variety of grapes will the future wine market be interested in?

Knowing the answer to these questions will makes it easy for you to start planning and preparing for planting. Some of the decisions you need to make will be in regard to factors like:

1. Soil: Make sure the soil where you want to plant is neutral. To increase pH, add
calcium and in effect reduce acidity. You could engage a soil expert to do soil analysis
and find the site’s best rootstock.

2. Spacing: Space small vines closely to get more harvests. Space out vines in areas
that are more vigorous. The important thing is to create space and balance between the
vine and the fruit. Today’s standard spacing is 8 feet between the rows and 5 feet
between vines.

3. Row direction. If you are in an area where wind is not a cause of worry, keep the
vines in a north/south direction. The leaves become efficient since the broader side of
the vine faces east. In a slopey area, up and down direction will be perfect to control

Vineyard Soil Preparation

Regardless of whether you want to plant a vineyard in summer or winter, you must prepare the soil for the weather. Sub-soiling before winter allows the soil to be stable and resist the effects of rain and frost. During summer, you should sub-soil when the ground is hard and dry. Sub-soiling creates more space in the soil for aeration.

Vines are normally purchased as bare dormant root plants when they are about one year old. The plants can be planted at any time in the season but the best time is immediately after spring.
You should begin to plant vines when the soil is ready and the site is cleared. Use a surveyor tripod to mark the perimeter corners, draw lines with knots at the right spacing and use white powder to marks spots on the soil. Mark every row you create and place stakes where each vine shall be planted.

Get a team to work with you. One person should dig the hole, another place the vine seedling in place and another cover the vines with soil. Water all the plants well and place nursery cartons over the vines.
[Read more…]

How to Make Compost – Part 2

Santa Barbarara Landscaper Bruce Koehler

Bruce Koehler - President, Down to Earth Landscapes Inc

The Composting Process – Part 2

With a little know-how, anyone can make compost from home. Simply gather the right ingredients and nature will do the rest for you. Compost does not have to be made in a special place. You can simply collect your ingredients in one place and cover them with a polythene bag or can use a bin or other form of container, which can be bought from your local nursery, or you can build your own.

Where Do You Make Your Compost?

You want to select a location that is sunny with some shade during the day.  You want the composting material directly on soil or grass, not on concrete of other hardscape surface. Also, locate your composting area away from any flowing water such as a creek or river.
The bin or container you select should have a lid or cover and be easily accessible. It is often insulated.

Recommended Compost Ingredients

General Guidelines

If it was once living, it will compost. However, you should avoid meat, dairy and cooked food. They can attract rodents and other wildlife and should not be home-composted.

Why is Compost Important? – Part 1

Santa Barbara Landscaping company

Down to Earth Landscapes Inc in Santa Barbara

Why Compost and What are it’s Benefits?

Do you know about 40% of your garbage can’s contents are useful? Yes, many of the food scraps and yard clippings being disposed of can actually be useful for your backyard garden. You should recycle your kitchen waste along with your cut lawn and fallen leaves to make your own compost. You’re soil’s best friend.

What is Compost?

It is often said that “compost is gold for the garden”. Compost refers to the end product resulting from the decomposition of once living organic matter. When these living organisms die, they decompose and depending on various environmental factors, can form compost. Examples of organic matter around your home that can be used to make compost include straw, grass clippings, leaves, tree branches, certain animal manure, kitchen scraps, and so on.

It is true that over time all organic matter will eventually decompose but with your participation and under proper conditions, organic material can decompose more quickly and form compost to be used in your garden sooner

Please note that compost is not high in nutrients, (N-P-K) and is known more to condition the soil.  Since compost is most valuable as a soil conditioner, it can improve the soil structure, making it firmer to hold plants, can suppress soil borne diseases, attracts beneficial insects such as earthworms, and helps maintain optimum soil moisture and necessary microbial activity.

What is “Composting”.

As we said previously, composting is the natural process of turning organic matter into a more usable organic soil amendment called “compost”. This is nature’s own way of recycling decomposed organic material using microorganisms, nitrogen, carbon, moisture and oxygen.

But for serious gardeners, the composting process is managed to achieve the end result within a shorter time. To be successful, the gardener mixes various types of organic matter (greens and browns) in proper proportions with bacteria and other agents to form the proper consistency and dark color compost is known for. That is why within horticultural circles compost is frequently called “black gold”.
[Read more…]

Backyard Patio Ideas In Santa Barbara

Backyard patio ideas in Santa Barbara

Backyard Dining under Custom Pergola

Santa Barbara Backyard Patio Ideas

While a patio might be located outside of your main home, it is just an extension of the home and offers additional space to enjoy. Making the patio an inviting area will add to you and your family’s quality time outdoors. The patio is essentially another room in your home giving the family more options to relax and entertain.

The following list of backyard patio ideas can be used to give you inspiration for transforming your patio into a more enjoyable living space:

  • Add water – There is something that is soothing about water. The sound of running water is so serene and peaceful. Add a water feature to your patio, such as a fountain, and enjoy many relaxing moments.
  • Cover it – Enjoying your patio is much better if you don’t have to deal with the bright, and sometimes hot, sun. Cover the patio with a pergola or other type of sun blocking feature. Heat and rain can be kept at bay with a covered patio.
  • Entertainment center, furniture and rugs – Truly make the patio another room. Add a TV, some outdoor furniture and a rug or two. There are many wonderful choices today in outdoor decor. Add some color to the mix and jazz up your space.
  • [Read more…]

Santa Barbara Rose Garden Design and Installation Services

Santa Barbara Landscape Design & Build  Company Introduces New Rose Garden Design Services

Rose garden design and installationSanta Barbara, CA (PR.COM) May 28, 2013

Santa Barbara-based designers of eye-catching residential and commercial landscapes, Down to Earth Landscapes, Inc. have recently announced that they will be providing rose garden design and installation services for businesses and homeowners across the city of Santa Barbara. As one of the top landscape design and build firms in the Santa Barbara area, the company will enable clients to create spectacular rose gardens at their homes or businesses.

Gardeners know that climate, sun exposure and water play a crucial role in the growth of roses and successful rose gardens. Therefore, it can be challenging for many gardeners to achieve the results they desire.

It’s no wonder, then, that many property owners in Santa Barbara find maintaining a healthy rose garden a difficult task. That’s why Down to Earth Landscapes, Inc. is now offering clients the benefit of their 40-years’ experience through their new rose garden design and maintenance services.

The company’s rose garden design services comprise two separate areas – traditional rose garden design and cottage rose garden design. Traditional rose garden designs are ideal for those garden area owners who require a symmetrical look for their outdoor property. These symmetrical garden areas feature neatly manicured lawns that are laid out in rectangular or square shapes to present a uniform, classical approach to landscape architecture. Traditional rose gardens are also surrounded by paving stones or sod to section-off the garden from surrounding lawn areas, and create a unique ecosystem in which the roses can flourish over time.

The cottage rose garden designs are the antithesis of the traditional approach. These garden styles are only limited by the designer’s creativity and the need to ensure each bed of roses has the space to grow. Through this approach, property owners can combine flowers, logs, ground covers and stones to build a unique garden area that is truly their own.

Clients can create an elegant, highly personalized outdoor living space when they select Santa Barbara based Down to Earth Landscapes, Inc. as their landscape company for rose garden design and installation needs.

Please contact the company today at 805-765-2553 to ask us a question or book a consultation with one of their experienced team members. Alternatively, you can visit more of our website ( to learn more about the company and services.

 | Home | About Us | Who We Serve | Landscaping Services | Our Method | Project Gallery | DTEL University | Bruce's Blog | Sitemap
Copyright © 20ll Down to Earth Landscapes Inc.
226 Uhlan Ct. Santa Barbara, Ca. 93103 Ph: 805-765-2553
Website Built and Maintained by WSI