Natural Stone Landscaping Design

Natural Stone Design Trends For Your Landscaping

You’ve purchased your mulch and other landscaping accessories for the new season but something is missing. Maybe you need a little something extra to enhance the beauty of your outdoor living space. Try something new. Start your creative venture with natural stone designs.

What is natural stone?

  • It does not have synthetic material and chemicals
  • It blends effortlessly with outdoor environment and
  • It’s versatile

Natural stone products include granite, limestone, sandstone, marble and slate. These stones are frequently used in environmental designs. Using natural stone means you get to choose a selection of design projects. You can cover unwanted dirt paths using granite flagstone. These are flat stones available in multiple colors like blue, gray, pink, black, pale green and burgundy. Give your yard some privacy by adding natural stone walls, too. Natural stone will hold up better over time, unlike artificial stones that fade. (Artificial stones are painted concrete that  is exposed more over time during seasonal changes.)

How to pick a natural stone

Be sure that the stone you select is suitable for your yard. This requires understanding the parameters of your home so you can calculate how much stone you will need. Create a budget for your project. Connect with your local suppliers. Natural stone products are an investment, so let your distributor select a stone that meets your budget and quality standards.  

Choosing color and pattern helps set the tone for your landscaping project. Consider all options available–view and sample stones at your local distributor. Before making a final decision, you want a realistic visual of how the stone will look in your yard, so take pictures when you visit your retailer and give yourself time to think through your options.

Stone project ideas

You want your landscape design to “pop!” Natural stones have reliable versatility. You can design steps, waterfalls, fire pits, and benches based on the most popular designs using natural stone, because the multichromatic color range, textures, and patterns are aesthetically pleasing.

If you decide to do a wall cladding design that allows water to pour down stone walls creating a waterfall, do some research on the right stone that is required. Absorption data determines how the stone will age and wear over time as it gets wet, so be aware of that prior to executing the project. Although stone will last a long time, knowing what you’re up against is advantageous.

For example, a stone concrete floor is a beautiful paving that will have a large impact on the overall look of your project. Stone absorption is challenged when weather elements like snow, water and ice freeze on the surface and rest there. Be sure to research stone specifications for snowy seasons and natural stone flooring.

But before you dig, plan your project and dig with care.  If you’re a resident in Greenwood, IN the city will help you with safety guidelines and laws for digging. You need to know specific details about where you plan to dig and mark those designated areas with white paint or flags.  Utility flags create safe zones for digging with hand tools.

When you’re ready to build a retaining wall, flagstone path or a stone fire pit? We can help. McCarty Mulch & Stone has served the city of Greenwood and the greater Indianapolis area for more than 20 years. Let us help you plan your landscaping projects, receive quality materials and experience 100% satisfaction guaranteed. Give us a call today!

Backyard Pond

3 Easier Alternatives to a Backyard Pond

Your yard needs water. Of course, if you have grass and plants, requires a nice sprinkling on a regular basis. But you also could enhance your home by using water as an aesthetic. According to HGTV, ponds, fountains and other water features are still popular among homeowners.

While a pond can be a lovely addition to your backyard, it can also be a lot of work. Aside from the labor involved to create the pond, it requires ongoing maintenance. Problems that may develop include algae accumulation, a leaking pond liner, and predators or parasites killing fish.

If you want a water feature without the hassle of installing and maintaining a pond, the following ideas may be good alternative.

Make a bubbler fountain

Bubbler fountains that gently move water through a small pump are easy to make. You can make a bubbler fountain out of boulders, pots or anything else that can hold water. They use only the water within the fountain, so they don’t require in-ground reservoirs.

McCarty Mulch sells inexpensive bubbler pumps, which you can use to turn a large stone pot or bowl into your fountain. We can also custom drill a boulder for you here at our location or you can choose from many of our pre-drilled boulders. Another option would be to drill a hole in the bottom of a container or pot for the electrical cord, but you don’t have to hard-wire electricity to the fountain – pumps plug into an outdoor outlet, and you can hide the cord under mulch, or in vegetation. Once the pump is in the pot, place it on a bed of decorative rock and add water to the pot, and your fountain is finished.

Create a water wall

Making a water wall is a bigger project that requires the use of a table saw and compound miter saw. If you have the tools and the time, a water wall is a nice way to add some visual interest to a patio.

A basic water wall is made of a trough that, with a surrounding frame, supports panels that water runs down. Some people use tempered glass to make water walls, but you could also use galvanized steel or any material that can tolerate water.

Put a pond in a barrel

Using a pot or barrel, you can make a smaller, freestanding version of a pond and still enjoy the perks of having fish and water plants. To ward off mosquitoes, you would need a pond pump, which adds a lot of expense to an otherwise inexpensive project. If you don’t want to buy a pump, put mosquito dunks in the water.

Add some large rocks or decorative rocks to the pot to serve as underwater plant stands (the rocks elevate plants, so they are at least partly above the water line). Add goldfish a few days after you add water, because tap water contains additives that may harm fish, but those additives evaporate after time.

Pile of Leftover Mulch

5 Ways to Use Your Leftover Mulch

Finished spreading this season’s mulch but still have some to spare? Look at that leftover pile as a golden opportunity! Mulch is good for more than just flower beds, so before you add another layer around your roses, consider using the extra in a new kind of way.

  1. Upgrade Your Mailbox Landscaping

A small wheelbarrow-load of mulch is probably all you’ll need to give your mailbox post a fresh upgrade. While you’re at it, why not transplant a couple hostas or flowers? They’ll add more color at the end of your driveway, and the fresh mulch is sure to help them flourish!

  1. Donate to the Neighbors

If you’re one of those people who finished mulching early on your block, you can always deliver a small load to one of your neighbors. Everyone likes a free gift, and they’ll definitely appreciate the gesture—even if you’re too tired yourself to help them spread it.

  1. Make a Mini Mulch Path

Just because your front yard is looking sharp, it doesn’t mean you can forget about the back! Once all of your trees and landscaping have their mulch, try adding wood mulch around your raised-bed gardens. A layer of three or four inches will help define the space between the garden boxes and create a nice pathway for you to reach your veggies.

  1. Spread it as “Killing Mulch”

For those especially hardy, out-of-control plants, mulch might be your secret weapon. Whether you’ve been battling an army of ivy for years, or a patch of running bamboo, extra mulch can help finish the job. Simply cut back as much of plant as you can, and then bury it deep under a mulch avalanche. A foot or two of “killing mulch” works to smother even the toughest of weeds.

  1. Keep the Extra for Next Year

You can always store your leftovers for later in the season if you’re ready to call it quits for now. All you need are a couple tarps and an inconspicuous place to hide the pile. Spread your mulch evenly over the first tarp so the airflow can prevent any mold growth. Then just anchor the other tarp on top to act as a roof. You’ll be able to dig back in when the time is right. And if you happen to see any thin, white strands in the mulch later on, fear not—it’s probably mycelia, a kind of fungal spore that’s actually good for plants.

With these tricks up your sleeves, you’ll be able to make the most of your mulch pile every year. There are plenty of ways to utilize your extra mulch, so get creative and have fun with your landscaping. Even small projects can make a big impact!

River Rock Yard Landscaping

Grass Alternatives: When You Want the Lawn to be Gone

Whether you’re selling, buying or just staying put, curb appeal is likely among your top considerations when it comes to rating a home’s attractiveness. In the Midwest, that typically means having a lush green lawn. However, that all comes with a price tag — both in time and money.

If you’re the DIY type, that means you’ll need time to mow, weed, edge, rake, fertilize – and you’ll have to buy all those lawn care tools, too. Homeowners who have little free time may decide to hire a lawn care company, and in Indianapolis, you can expect to pay around $40 a week to maintain the average-size yard. But if vast unbroken expanses of green aren’t that important to you, there are alternatives to grass that require little maintenance.

NATURAL STONE – Flagstone, brick or gravel are good alternatives to grass when combined with other landscape elements like shrubs, plants or groundcover. Natural stone is porous, allowing water to penetrate the ground, and it’s helpful in preventing weed growth.

If you use tightly spaced pavers or bricks, plant a fast-spreading ground cover in the gaps to discourage weeds from taking root.

GROUND COVER – Perennial ground cover plants tend to be dense, and as they spread, they prevent sunlight from reaching most grass or weed seeds hiding in the ground beneath them.

Some ground cover requires almost no care. Sedum, a hardy succulent, needs very little soil to establish roots. You can snap off a section of this plant, throw it on the ground somewhere, and it’ll likely be content to grow roots and start spreading.

Many varieties of ground cover will sprout tiny flowers. Vinca minor — also known as periwinkle or myrtle — produces purplish flowers in the spring. Vinca will grow in full sun, but it prefers the cooler, moister ground of partially shaded areas. It may require some specialized attention when first planted to ensure it’s getting adequate nutrients and moisture, but once established, it’s a resilient plant that can withstand repeated trampling from the family dog.

WILDFLOWERS/ORNAMENTAL GRASSES – Some homeowners’ associations may limit what you can do with your yard, but if no rules apply, you could turn your yard into a meadow-like environment, full of wildflowers and decorative grasses.

Poppies, larkspur and most flowers in the daisy family are excellent choices if you want flowers that will multiply year after year. Ornamental grasses are a nice complement to wildflowers, when grown in their own garden bed that allows them plenty of room to expand. And when you add plant diversity to your yard, you may attract colorful new visitors, like butterflies and hummingbirds.

When it comes to curb appeal, you have plenty of options beyond lush green grass. Just take some time to explore them.

Mulching Around Bushes

Working with Mulch: Tricks of the Trade

What’s so hard about mulch?  You shovel some around your plants and bushes, and that’s it, right? Not exactly.

There are a few tricks of the trade to getting the most out of your mulch delivery.  Apply too much, or in the wrong place, and you could choke out your plants.  Skimp on the mulch, and you don’t derive any benefits – because the point is to improve nutrition, weed control, and moisture retention.

To help get the best look and the best results for your landscaping, here are a few tips for how pros install mulch.

Mulching Tips

  • Do not place mulch directly against plant crowns or tree bases. Mulch placed directly in contact with stems or tree trunks may retain excess moisture around the base of the plant.  Overly wet soil can foster a whole host of diseases, including crown rot. High piles of mulch can also become a bit of a varmint hotel, attracting predatory insects and bark and stem-eating rodents.  Give the base of your plants and shrubs a little bit of room to breathe.
  • Mulch applied too thickly anywhere can cause problems In fact, it can cause a whole cascade of problems. A wood mulch when piled more than three inches high will start to rot much faster than usual.  It can create a thatch-like mat that keeps water from penetrating through to the soil below. Therefore, the plants you were hoping to protect are suddenly deprived of the moisture they need to live. Mulching too deeply can also cause the soil to remain continuously damp, but not nourished, contributing to root and stem rot problems in addition to depriving plants of needed oxygen. Apply a mulch layer no more than one to three inches thick.
  • Thoroughly water newly installed wood or bark mulches.  Many good quality mulches are stored in large piles that reach high temperatures.  When the mulch is spread or bagged, the high-temperature tolerant microorganisms that inhabit the mulch die as the mulch cools.  If the mulch is allowed to dry out or remain dry, nuisance fungi can colonize the mulch and create a water-repellent surface.
  • Add a source of nitrogen to garden soils before applying woodderived mulches.  Soil microorganisms that decompose organic materials such as wood-based mulches are effective competitors for limited soil nitrogen. So, if you fail to apply some nitrogen to the soil under your garden mulch, you could unwittingly be setting the stage to deprive your plants of needed nutrients. This may cause temporary nitrogen deficiencies especially in annual and perennial plants. Yellowing of leaves often indicates a nitrogen deficiency. Lightly incorporate a source of nitrogen such as bloodmeal, urea or a high nitrogen lawn fertilizer before applying mulch, and your landscaping will be good to go.

Make the work you do on your landscaping count.  Do the job right the first time; take the time to occasionally water and rake your mulch, and you will enjoy the effects all season.

Different Types of Mulch

Which Mulch Should I Use?

As warmer temperatures inspire us to leave our indoor cocoons, thoughts turn to the annual ritual of landscape mulch. With so many choices of mulch on the market, how do you choose which kind is right for you?

Most mulch made from trees will provide protection and nutrients for your plants, shrubs and trees, as well provide moisture retention, soil conditioning, erosion and weed control. Mulch also provides a finished and aesthetic appeal to landscapes.

After purchasing mulch from a reputable company, the kind of mulch you choose then becomes a personal choice.

TRADITIONAL – Traditional, non-colored mulches such as Cedar, Cypress and Premium Hardwood varieties provide a soft, muted, natural look to landscapes. These mulches are easy to spread and require no curing time before watering. Cedar and Cypress mulches also give off an appealing aromatic scent that many people prefer.

COLOR – Another choice is colorized mulch, available in traditional, Black, Brown, Red and Gold. These mulches offer more aesthetic appeal. Mulch dyed with non-toxic, vegetable based colorant is safe to use and will not hurt plants, pets or children.

Preparation for color mulches

Color mulches do need a little more care in the beginning. They need a curing time of 24-48 hours after spreading to allow the color to completely permeate the mulch and become stable. Don’t let this mulch come in contact with concrete or other porous surfaces until it is cured.

It is a good idea to plan to use colored mulch when rain will not be a threat for a couple of days.

However, after the curing time, the colored mulch is stable and will provide long lasting color throughout the season.

Choose color mulches to enhance or contrast your home’s color and/or to make your landscaping pop. Recent landscape trends suggest mixing two colored mulches for a unique, “confetti” appearance.

Mulch serves practical and aesthetic purposes

Many people choose to use different mulches in their landscape for both curb appeal and organic purposes. For example, traditional or color mulch may be used for plantings, while in high traffic areas you may want to use an Economy Mulch that is chunkier and will break down more slowly. While this mulch is not known for is nutritional value, it will still provide the other benefits.

No matter whether you use a color enhanced mulch or a traditional non colored mulch, be sure to use a good quality mulch that will provide all the benefits it should to your landscape.

Beautify Your Yard With These Shade-Loving Plants

Plants in Shaded Areas

There’s nothing like a backyard filled with trees to give you much-needed relief during the blazing months of summer. But all that shade can present a challenge for gardeners since many plants prefer the full sun.

If you’re lucky enough to have a yard that’s shrouded by trees, don’t despair. You may never have a thriving vegetable garden, but you can still enjoy the company of numerous plants that do well in the shade.

Take a look at these shade-loving plant options.

Perennial bulbs. When planted in a sunny spot, tulips pop up year after year. But there’s no reason you can’t plant tulips in your shady yard. Keep in mind they’ll only bloom once in the shade, because they need summer sun to recharge. Plant your tulip bulbs in the fall and dig them up after the flowers die.

Early-blooming bulbs like crocus will get plenty of sun before trees sprout leaves. These small, colorful flowers are well suited to lightly shaded areas and will multiply every year. Plant them in the fall, when temperatures are consistently below 60 degrees but above freezing.

Hardy flowers. Many shade-tolerant perennial flowers have a wispy, delicate appearance, but they’re actually quite hardy. Columbine is one of the most robust, low-maintenance plants for shaded yards. It has long, thin stalks with trumpet-like flowers. Some varieties have double flowers in two colors – and when they’re done flowering, they produce numerous seedpods. You can snap off the seedpods, roll them between your fingers and let the seeds fall to the ground, and you’ll have more plants the following year. You may get a nice surprise, too, because sometimes plants with different colored flowers will produce a hybrid multi-colored plant.

Ferns and hostas. If you’re not too concerned with adding lots of color in shady areas, you can’t go wrong with ferns and hostas, both of which are perennials. Ostrich ferns may be slow growing at first as they establish a root system, but at maturity, they can reach a height of 40 inches. They may also be up to 30 inches wide, so plant them far apart.

Hostas have broad green leaves that may feature contrasting yellow or white markings, and some varieties produce stalks with white or lilac flowers. These plants are known for their ability to grow almost anywhere and withstand neglect. Slugs love hostas, so if you see holes in the leaves, bury a shallow pan of soapy water or beer near the plants at ground level, and the slugs will crawl in die.

Plants growing in shady areas may be competing with trees for water, or they may get too much water, because shaded areas are the last to dry after a rainstorm. So after you plant your shade garden, add a thick layer of mulch to help balance moisture – and then sit back and enjoy the view.


Which Type of Mulch Is Right for Your Landscape?

It’s time to choose some mulch for your landscaping. But which kind do you choose? Bark or wood? Black or Red? Pebbles or volcanic rock? And do you really need landscaping fabric underneath it? It’s not as simple a purchase as it appears, as each type of mulch has its own advantages and disadvantages. But, with a little knowledge, you can pick the right mulch for the job at hand.

Every kind of mulch was developed to perform specific functions in your landscape. Knowing what they are will make choosing the right mulch much simpler.

Let’s break it down:

Organic Wood Mulches: Wood mulches can vary widely, including varieties of mulch made from bark, and mulch made from chipped wood. The advantage of using wood mulch is that it is organic material that will evenly soak up water, keep your landscape plants cooler, and keep the soil moister. The wood mulch will also decompose over time, which will nourish the soil around your plants. This, however, can also be one of the “cons” of using wood mulch. The wood mulch will fade and decompose after just a year or two, making replacement necessary. Some versions of mulch are natural; some are dyed red or black. The color is strictly a cosmetic consideration. The advantage of the dye is that it holds its color for an additional year, making the need to replace every year a little less necessary.

Rubber Mulch: Rubber mulch, usually made from recycled tires or rubber mats, can be a surprisingly attractive option that will last for many years. It does work to divert water to the ground underneath. However, it does heat up in the heat, and doesn’t work quite as well for weed suppression unless it is accompanied by landscape fabric underneath.

River Rock/Landscape Pebbles: Pebbles can also be quite attractive, and their heaviness makes them a permanent choice for your landscape. However, they heat up in the sun like rubber mulch, and landscape fabric may be necessary to keep weeds from peeking through the rocks.

Volcanic Rock: The porous nature of volcanic rock means that they hold on to water somewhat better than rubber or river rock. If you have small children, the rocks can be a little sharp to bare feet or hands, so supervision may be necessary. The rocks are lighter in weight than many other kinds of pebbles and may need occasional raking to keep them in place.

All mulch is not created equal. Match the right mulch to the right project, and you’ll have happier plants and bushes, and a more beautiful landscape.

What Mulch Does for Your Landscape

Landscaping mulch

Have you ever wondered why we use mulch?  It can seem like an awful lot of work…and wasn’t always the norm.  However, as more people started to put more emphasis on planting flowers and shrubs, commercially prepared mulches became a fixture in most homeowner’s yards, and for good reason.

Mulch can ensure the health of your yard, by performing these important functions:

Mulch cools the earth around your plants.  Protecting the root system for your plants and shrubs is critical.  Mulch protects the ground around your plants from the sun’s harsh rays, lowering the temperature of the soil by a few critical degrees.

Mulch keeps your plants and shrubs alive during the winter. The same insulating properties that mulch has in the summer also help your plants in the winter.  Instead of lowering the temperature, the mulch keeps the ground warmer, shielding them from harsh freezing water.

Mulch nourishes your soil.  If you choose organic mulch made from natural substances such as wood chips or bark, it will slowly and naturally decompose into the soil underneath it.  That decomposition supplies near continuous fertilizer for the plants nourishment.

Mulch can repel bugs.  But only if you choose the right type.  Some mulch comes treated with super fertilizers such as Miracle Gro and bug repellents.  As they decompose, they continue to provide protection for your plants.  However, it is important to note that mulch can also promote bugs, especially termites, if it is not properly applied.  Wood mulch piled up over 3 inches, or puddled next to the house and over top of a naturally wet or swampy area, will attract termites to the foundation of your home.  It is worth raking your mulch and inspecting the soils around your plants around once a month, just to ensure it stays properly aerated.

Mulch prevents weeds.  Especially if you use landscape cloth underneath your mulch, your mulching will completely arrest the growth of weeds, and save you hours of weed pulling on your spare time.

Mulch improves the structure and attractiveness of your landscape.  Mulch prevents erosion by continuous decomposition, which builds up the level of soil around your plants.  It is also hard to argue with the impact mulch can have on the attractiveness of your landscape.  It makes your planting area look bright and neat – and your house look like a home.

Mulch is far more than just a decoration. It can be the one most important thing you can do to have a healthy landscape.


Do I need to mulch every year and how much mulch should I put down?

Your landscape beds are cleaned out, the lawn is mowed and now it is time for that annual rite of passage here in the Midwest. Mulch time! Time to decorate the landscape beds for a purpose, functionality, and aesthetic appeal.

Some homeowners and landscapers do in fact mulch every year and sometimes twice a year in the spring and fall. It all depends on what your long-term expectations are. If you are looking for the nice visual aspect of fresh color and fresh mulch, then once or twice a year is beneficial.

If you want low maintenance and only want to mulch every couple of years, then it is certainly possible and will typically require spreading your mulch a little deeper when you put it down in the beginning (3”-4”). Our view is that mulch should be put down annually to compensate for the decomposition of the wood and bark fiber and the graying of the color.

When applying annually, a 2”-3” layer of mulch should be a sufficient depth. Mulch that is applied too thick can suffocate your plants and starve your soil for moisture. When you do decide to re-mulch, it may be a good idea to remove some of the older, existing mulch, or at the very least break it up and turn it over before applying the new, fresh layer.

By doing this you are removing the layers that are no longer decomposing and that are caked and packed together thus allowing fresh moisture and nutrients to your plants and into your soil.

Applying mulch around trees can be a great benefit to the trees, especially trees that constantly need to be mown around and weed whacked. Mulch can provide a nice mow free area and makes for a great buffer around the base of the tree.

If you do apply mulch around a tree, do not apply the mulch too thick, especially up around the trunk of the tree where you can create a “mulch volcano”. Trees that are mulched in a volcano style can easily get diseased around the trunk of the tree when too much moisture in the mulch is pressed against the bark of the tree.

It can also cause a problem where not enough moisture actually reaches the roots of the trees thereby allowing the trees to starve for water and the root system to not develop correctly. Remember as with anything in life moderation is key and so it is with mulch. Most of all enjoy your landscape and all of the benefits that mulch provides! Successful mulching!