Author Archives:

chicago firepit

3 Reasons an Outdoor Fire Pit Will Change Your Life During Cooler Weather

If you have thought about installing a fire pit in your backyard but still aren’t sold on the idea, there are plenty of reasons why you should go ahead and take the plunge. Below, you can discover three of the best and most compelling reasons why an outdoor fire pit can change the way you utilize your backyard, even during the colder months. It might provide your family, your home, and your social life more value than you realize.

It is an Immediate Source of Heat

Many homeowners go to great lengths to landscape in such a way that there is always some foliage and color to see, even in the middle of winter, but very few of them actually get the chance to enjoy that landscaping. It is just too cold outside! A fire pit is one of the best and most effective ways to transform your backyard in fall and winter because it produces immediate heat that you can enjoy. There is nothing quite like sitting close to the crackling fire on a chilly fall evening and enjoying all the sights and sounds of the outdoors. Whether you have a fire pit built into your patio or you have a free-standing option, there are numerous opportunities to improve your backyard’s aesthetic and spend more time outdoors.

There are Many Styles to Choose From

Outdoor fire pits come in a wide range of styles, so regardless of the architecture of your home, your landscaping, or even your hardscaping, you can find a fire pit that will perfectly suit your current aesthetic. You can choose one that suits your existing patio, including stone and concrete finishes, and you can even find wall-mounted firepits if you want to save precious “floor” space in your backyard. There are slimline options, decorative options, and firepits that do double duty as barbeques, too. No matter what your style, and no matter how you plan to use your firepit, you can find one that is perfect for your home and family.

It Can Improve Your Social Life

Most of us enjoy standing outside talking to our neighbors, and some of us even invite our family and friends over for barbeques during the summer. Come late fall and winter, though, those talks and invitations stop because it gets dark and cold very early in the evening. Fortunately, a fire pit provides you with light and heat, which makes it possible to socialize even on the coldest, darkest nights. If you get a model that doubles as a barbecue grill, you can even serve up delicious food in the process. Outdoor fire pits pair especially well with hot tubs; strategic placement can prevent you from getting too cold on your way back into the house after a long soak. Think of a fire pit as a way to ensure that summer fun extends well into the winter months.

A fire pit is one of the best investments any homeowner can make. It extends your living space into the outdoors all year long, and it can have a drastic impact on your social life, even when it is freezing outside. Whether you want to enjoy a book and a glass of wine in front of a crackling fire or host a barbecue for your neighborhood, a professionally-installed fire pit is a fantastic choice.


How to Get Your Lawn Ready for Fall Weather

Fall is just around the corner, and that means it’s time to shift gears in your lawn care. Many home and business owners tend to assume that the onset of fall means they can stop worrying so much about their lawns, but failing to take care of them properly can cause problems in the spring. Here are some of the things you should do to prepare your lawn for cooler weather.

Do not Stop Mowing

As the temperature starts to fall, your lawn will not grow quite as quickly, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t mow. In fact, your grass will continue to grow all the way up until the first major frost, and you should continue to mow it back down to its normal height until that happens. When you do call it quits for the season, if you are mowing your own lawn, make sure that you winterize your mower by giving it a tune-up and removing any excess fuel left in the tank.

Remove the Fallen Leaves

Leaves will often start falling before the first official day of autumn, and it is important that you remove them frequently to protect your lawn. As they lie on top of the grass, they prevent photosynthesis from occurring, and this can cause patches of grass to die out. Though a blower will work now and then, it is important to manually rake (the old-fashioned way) at least once a week to remove the buildup that occurs over time.

Aerate Now – Not in the Spring

Aeration is important for creating passages that allow nutrients to reach your lawn’s root system, and fall is the best time of year to get it done. During the summer, heat stress and foot traffic can cause the soil to become compacted and hardened, so loosening it up will help your lawn stay healthy. While you can do this by hand, this is a job that is best left to a professional landscaper with the proper equipment. It aerates more deeply and thoroughly, which creates lusher, more beautiful lawns.

Apply Your Fertilizer Before the First Frost

Fall is also the best time of year to apply fertilizer since grass tends to deplete its source of nitrogen throughout its most active growth phase in the summer. Furthermore, applying fertilizer to a freshly aerated lawn boosts its effectiveness. Though grass will lie dormant in the winter, it will still require some nutrients to keep it alive and help it come back bright green and full the following spring.

Plant Grass Seed Where Needed

Finally, if you notice any bare spots or brown spots in your lawn as you are raking, mowing, aerating, or fertilizing, make sure you are applying the appropriate grass seed. It is important to ensure that the seeds fall all the way down to the soil in order to germinate, and in the summer, this can be difficult. Professional landscapers use seeding processes that are designed to force more seed down into the soil and produce thicker, fuller regrowth.

Fall is not the time to stop worrying about lawn care; in fact, it is the best time of year for many of the things that will keep your lawn looking bright and full all year. For the best results, rely on an experienced professional landscaper to help you prepare your lawn the right way and enjoy a beautiful lawn next spring.


The Right Trees Can Bring Quite a Bit of Value to Your Home

Whether you’re interested in adding visual appeal to your home or you want to add some actual value to your property, trees are an often-overlooked opportunity. Below are some of the best trees you can plant in your yard right now to help boost the value of your home and property.

Trees that Withstand Cold

Chicago’s winters are brutal, and they can wreak havoc on certain species of trees. As such, you’ll want to be sure that many of the trees on your property are cold-hardy. Some of the best options in this category include evergreens and hardwoods like oak or maple. The latter options can also provide reliable shade for decades, which can actually reduce energy costs during the summer months, too!

Japanese Maple

The Japanese maple tree is growing in popularity right now, and for good reason. Their beautiful foliage ranges from green to pink to red throughout the year, which brings eye appeal to virtually any landscape. You’ll want to make sure to choose cold-hardy variants of this popular tree, and they’ll need to be planted in soil that is both well-drained and moist. Because these trees are smaller and more fragile than their North American maple counterparts, they should be planted in a location that will protect them from strong winds.

Linden Trees

Linden trees come in several varieties, and they can range in size from four to five feet high to a towering four stories high (or more!) Linden trees are popular in the Chicago area because they provide essential shade, and their foliage slowly changes color throughout the seasons. The American Linden trees bloom with small yellowish-cream flowers that add visual interest to your property in the spring, as well.

Magnolia Trees

There’s nothing quite like the stunning blooms of a magnolia tree to give your home the curb appeal it deserves. They’re known for their large, fragrant pink and white flowers in the spring and summer and their striking cone-shaped fruit in the fall. They are often utilized as ornamental plants in landscaping throughout the Chicagoland area. Small magnolia trees can be as small as five feet tall; larger variants can grow to as tall as 100 feet and 40 to 50 feet wide! Choose your species carefully so as not to overwhelm your property.

Fruit Trees

Finally, fruit trees are a surefire way to add value to your property to the tune of edible fruit! Some of the best and hardiest fruit trees to grow in Chicago include cherries and persimmons, though peaches, pears, and apples are alternatives, too. Persimmon trees are in especially high demand among Chicago home buyers, so if you’re struggling to decide which to try, it’s hard to go wrong with delicious persimmons.

Whether you prefer the stately look of a large evergreen, the floral appeal of a stunning magnolia, or the harvest that comes from your very own persimmon and cherry trees, these amazing trees are sure to add value to your home both now and in the future.


It’s Getting HOT! Here’s How to Keep Your Lawn Healthy

Despite the brutally cold winters in Chicago, the summer months can bring stifling heat, excessive humidity, and conditions that may make your lawn miserable. Below are some expert tips for keeping your lawn nice and healthy, even when the climate isn’t cooperating.

Water Appropriately

Watering your lawn appropriately is one of the most important things you can do to keep it healthy and green during the summer. The best time to water your lawn is early in the morning, ideally sometime between sunrise and 10 AM. Make sure that you are watering when the sun is up to trigger photosynthesis, but not when the sun is high overhead as this can cause much of the water to evaporate before the plants can take it in. In some cases, it can even burn your lawn. Finally, water thoroughly but infrequently to help your grass develop strong, healthy roots. Soak your lawn three times per week, applying about an inch of water with each application. Skip days when you receive one inch of rain or more.

Check Your Mowing Habits

If you’re mowing your lawn as short as possible so you don’t have to mow as frequently, you’re certainly not alone. However, cutting your grass too short can lead to shorter roots, which become problematic during the dry months. Short roots can’t take in the water and nutrients the lawn needs to stay green. Aim for a lawn length of about 3.5 inches for the best results all year long.

Feed Your Lawn

If you really want a healthy, thick, bright-green lawn, apply a slow-release fertilizer to your lawn. The best time to apply is early in the spring season once your lawn has had a chance to revive after being dormant during the winter. For the proper interval, follow the fertilizer manufacturer’s instructions on the package. You need to fertilize regularly to keep the grass thick and prevent weed growth.

Aerate Your Lawn

If your lawn isn’t getting enough air, it can choke and turn brown. Aerating your lawn regularly not only keeps the soil looser and aerated, but it also makes the soil better able to absorb water. This means less runoff, better absorption of fertilizer, and an overall healthier lawn. To aerate on your own, use a garden fork and push it into the ground at intervals of about one foot. You might also choose to rent an aerator or call a landscaping professional.

Get Rid of Weeds

Finally, weeds can really take the life out of your lawn if you don’t keep them under control. You should be diligent about removing and preventing weeds from spring through fall. Don’t apply weed killer to your entire lawn all at once; rather, check your lawn for weeds about once every week and spot-treat as required. Pulling weeds manually is always the best practice, but if you prefer to use a weed killer, it’s best to use it only on small areas at a time.

Keeping your lawn healthy during the hot summer months is all about knowing how and when to water, mow, fertilize, aerate and weed. Once you have these five basics down, you can enjoy a beautifully lush and green lawn all year round.

chicago plants

Chicago Summers Can Be Rough – Some Ideas on What to Plant

If you’re thinking about updating your summer landscaping, it’s important to remember that despite the freezing cold winters in the Windy City, Chicago’s summers can be downright brutal. Below, you can learn more about some ornamental plants – trees, bushes, and flowers – that will absolutely thrive in the hot Chicago summer months.


Hellebore is a beautiful option for landscaping in Chicago because it will provide visual interest all year round. In the summer, its long-blooming bright pink flowers add ever-important color while the bright green leaves stay green throughout the winter months. Hellebore performs best in partial shade, and it’s a perennial, so it will bloom again and again as long as it is maintained.


If part of your space is always in full sun, it’s important to find plants that can tolerate those rays without being burned to a crisp. Coneflower is by far one of the best choices here, and the droop-petal coneflowers are actually native to the Chicago area! They come in a wide range of colors, they bloom all summer long, and they will absolutely thrive if left to bake in the hot summer sun. You can expect them to grow to anywhere from 12 to 24 inches tall and about a foot wide, so make sure you plan adequate space.

Smoke Bush

If you’re looking to incorporate some greenery into your landscape, the smoke bush shrub is a fantastic option. It changes color throughout the season – from a stunning coral pink to a golden cream – so there’s always some visual interest. While the smoke bush thrives in full sun, it also fares well in only partial sun, so you can be fairly flexible with its placement.

Creeping Lilyturf

If you’re looking for groundcover with pizzazz, look no further than creeping lilyturf! It looks very much like ornamental grass, and it can survive virtually anything the Chicago climate can throw at it. When the wind blows and the lilyturf moves, its beautiful shine is noticeable from hundreds of feet away. Just be careful when planting; you’ll want to make proper use of edging to keep it within its boundaries. Otherwise, it can easily take over your entire space.


No summer landscape is complete without some hosta, and there are dozens of varieties that fare exceptionally well in the brutal summer heat. These are considered fail-safes because even if you have never grown a plant in your life, you will struggle to kill them. They will survive virtually any imaginable condition, but if you want them to look their absolute best, plant them in a mostly shady area that receives a few hours of indirect sunlight each day.

Whether you’re looking for bold, bright color, evergreen foliage, or even conversation-starting groundcover, these five plants are perfect for Chicago summers – even if you’re not much of a gardener. They’ll look great all summer long, and in many cases, they’ll continue to provide visual interest all year, too!


With Summer Showers Here, How Do You Control All Those Weeds?

Summer is in the air across most of the United States, and that means plenty of sunshine – except for summer showers that tend to pop up throughout the day. Between that rain and sun, weeds can become a serious problem in your gardens, in your flower beds, and even on your lawn. Below are some expert tips for keeping those pesky weeds at bay, even when the environment is perfect for them.

Flower beds

Weeds in your flower beds can be a real pain. Not only do they detract from the look of your beautiful flowers, but some are nutrient and water hogs, meaning they can actually kill your flowers if they aren’t dealt with promptly. Mulching your flower beds will often prevent weeds from taking root, but if you’re already dealing with weeds, there are two main ways to safely remove them: pulling them by hand and treating them with a solution.

If the weeds are few, the best option is to simply remove them by hand. Wear thick gardener’s gloves and pull the entire plant – root and all – to prevent regrowth. If this isn’t an option, or if you’re noticing more than just a few weeds emerging among your lilies but they haven’t yet taken over, you can try applying a solution of vinegar and water directly to the weed. You’ll need to do it frequently if it’s going to be effective.


There’s something special about growing your own food, whether you have a simple herb garden in the backyard or a quarter-acre garden filled with all kinds of fruits, vegetables, and berries. Garden weed prevention and treatment can be tricky since the plants here are intended for consumption, but there are safe and reliable options. For smaller gardens, mulch can do wonders by smothering the weeds before they have a chance to grow. You can also consider installing a weed fabric barrier, which can be more effective for larger gardens.

If weeds are already problematic, you can pull them up by the roots to put a stop to them, but this can be hard work and if you don’t use some sort of preventative measure, they’ll almost certainly come right back. In some cases, you might opt to use an herbicide – especially if the weeds have all but taken over. Some herbicides are designed to be used in your fruit and vegetable gardens, but if you choose to go this route, it’s important to thoroughly clean anything you harvest before preparing it for consumption.


If the majority of your weed problem exists on your lawn, herbicides may actually be the best bet here. There are several different types of herbicides available, so make sure you’re choosing the right one for the job. When the weeds are already present, you’ll want a post-emergent herbicide. These options come in selective and non-selective formulas; the former treats common species of broadleaf weeds while the latter is best for grassy weeds. Of course, prevention is the best medicine for lawn weeds, so make sure that you always keep your lawn aerated, watered, and fertilized. The healthier your lawn, the more likely it is to be free of weeds.

Weed control can be a real pain, especially in the summertime. It seems that weeds love hot weather, and when it rains, they multiply exponentially. Fortunately, there are things you can do to prevent and treat weeds, and if the job is too much for you to handle, contact Martin John Company for help.


High End Fire Pit Styles That Will Bring Value To Your Home

Fire pits have quickly become one of the most popular accents to include in outdoor living spaces.  Homeowners are truly spoiled for choice when it comes to selecting from one of the many styles that are available.

If you’ve been trying to decide which fire pit style would best suit your home and provide additional value, this list will get you started:

Something that Matches your Existing Patio

One of the best ways to ensure that a fire pit brings additional value to your home is to match it to your patio area’s existing aesthetics. For instance, if the rest of this area has been finished with concrete, it makes sense to erect a concrete fire pit as well.

A Pit that Performs Double Duty

If space is at a premium in your outdoor living area, but you’re dying to incorporate a fire pit, consider installing one that can double up as a coffee table or BBQ. Many firepits have flat lids that can be decorated and function as a coffee table providing instant usable space when you are not having a fire. Several models come fitted with a detachable swinging BBQ arm that can be attached whenever you’re in the mood to grill.

Decorative Designs

If your home is comprised of more modern finishes, you may want to consider a fire pit that has been made with a decorative or ‘cut out’ metal design. This will almost certainly be a talking point among family and friends who spend time in your yard because it will stand out from the usual designs.

Slim Line Options for Smaller Yards

Just because your backyard is smaller than average, it doesn’t mean that you’ll have to forego having a fire pit installed. A number of slimline options are now available, which are not only practical but also highly stylish and elegant.

Wall Mounted

Having a wall mounted fire pit can allow you to create a separate area from your pool – a place for the adults to gather while the kids swim under supervision. Some wall-mounted models can act as a BBQ as well and an additional disk can be placed on the wall behind to protect it from ash. If your yard area is small, consider a model that folds up when not in use.

Before rushing off to purchase a fire pit, it’s strongly recommended that you consult with an outdoor living space expert to determine which options will be best for your yard. Contact our team today to find out more about the various fire pit options that we can provide – all of which will add substantial value to your home.


Popular Outdoor Living Space Trends Happening Right Now

Are you ready to transform your plain and ordinary backyard into an entertainment oasis that your friends and the whole family will be able to enjoy? If so, you may be feeling overwhelmed at the sheer number of options that are available regarding furniture, décor, appliances, and other accessories.

Take a look at some of the trends that are currently happening in outdoor living spaces around the country:

Welcoming the Gnomes

If you’ve been looking for something fun that will add a little magic to your outdoor living area, garden gnomes may be the answer. Get the whole family involved in choosing a gnome and deciding where to place it in the yard – several different and exciting accessories are now available as well, such as miniature bridges, towers, gates, and stone pathways to make these fellas feel more at home.

Incorporating a Vertical Garden

With properties becoming smaller and smaller, it makes perfect sense for homeowners to maximize every inch of space they have – especially where gardening is concerned. Gardens that grow upwards instead of outwards not only save a ton of space; they add a lovely aesthetic to a home’s outdoor living area as well. Be sure to choose plant varieties that are best suited to the hardiness zone you live in, as this will ensure that they thrive once established.

Including Concrete Furniture

Concrete bench seating, tables, and fire pits have become more popular than ever because they are naturally weather-resistant and easy to keep clean – meaning that they will last a long time. Outdoor cushions can always be provided to add a little extra seating comfort.

Don’t Forget the Outdoor Kitchen

Nothing says summer like being able to prepare as many of your meals as possible out in the fresh air – and having an outdoor kitchen installed will allow you to do just this. When designing your outdoor kitchen, choose finishes and appliances that will handle the local climate and that you know you’ll use regularly.

Take your Office Outside

With the working from home trend looking set to continue indefinitely for many individuals, it makes sense to transform a part of a patio, terrace, or balcony area into an outdoor office. This area can be fitted out with weatherproof furniture and even an outside umbrella if there’s no roof over your outdoor living space. A quiet water feature can be added to provide a sense of relaxation that will help you focus on your work.

Now is the perfect time to start getting your outdoor living space prepared for the summer, which is just around the corner. If you would like to learn more about updating this area of your home, contact our team today.

7 Things You Can Start Doing Right Now To Get Your Outdoor Living Space Ready For Summer

Has your home’s outdoor living space seen better days or are you wanting to simply give it a facelift before summer arrives? Chances are that you may not know where to start – especially with summer arriving in just a few weeks.

Here are seven ways in which you can update your outdoor living space:

Install New Lighting

This is by far the easiest way to enhance the appearance of your outdoor living area and several weatherproof fixtures are available nowadays. If your patio area is small, a simple set of string lights will work wonders. A larger area can be lit up with slightly bigger fittings – and in many cases, solar options are now available.

New Accents Make a Difference

Is your budget super tight at the moment? If so, replacing accents such as seat cushions and throws can make a huge difference in improving the appearance and vibe of your patio area – without breaking the bank. Ensure that waterproof fabrics are chosen, as this will help them last longer.

Add Some Shade and Privacy

If you are looking for a way to bring some shade to your patio or deck but still want to see the stars at night, consider adding a pergola.  Adding a pergola also makes it easy to add curtains to any side of your outdoor space to provide more privacy when needed.

Add an Area Rug

Adding an area rug to your outdoor living space will help give it a brand-new look at a cost-effective price. If money is tight, purchasing a cheap stencil and some spray paint will give even the plainest rug a fabulous facelift.

Decorate your Deck

Has your deck surface seen better days? Instead of replacing it or covering it with a boring coat of plain varnish, why not stencil a design on it and paint it with weatherproof paint instead? Your imagination is the limit here and it’s a project that you can allow the kids to help with as well.

Create a Cool Fire Pit Cover

Virtually no one will want to sit around a fire pit on a scorching summer day – unless, of course, you have the grate do double duty by painting a board game surface on the top side of it. Family and friends will still be able to gather around the fire pit and spend quality time together this way.

Clear Away Clutter

Before inviting guests over, ensure that all clutter such as garden tools, unused outdoor toys, and anything else that doesn’t belong in your yard is packed away. If you don’t have a garage, consider using seating that doubles up as storage space for this purpose.

Preparing your outdoor living area for the upcoming summer season need not cost a lot. In fact, some of the more affordable updates will often provide the most visual appeal. If you’re looking to expand your outdoor living space and aren’t sure how to get started, get in touch with us today.