Category Archives: Blog

Curb Appeal

5 Quick and Easy Ways to Enhance Your Curb Appeal with Landscaping

Curb appeal can be described as the overall attractiveness of your home and property when viewed from the street. If you’re interested in sprucing up your lawn and home exterior, but you don’t have a lot of time or a huge budget, the following five ideas are great choices. You can contact a landscaping and design professional for help with these ideas or, if you consider yourself handy, you can do many of them yourself.

#1 – A Fresh Coat of Paint for the Front Door

Exterior paint costs anywhere from $25 to $50 a gallon depending on the brand and the quality, and that’s all you’ll need to give your front door a coat of your favorite shade. Try to pick a color that makes your home “pop” but still fits with the rest of your exterior aesthetic. Shades of burgundy work well against white or off-white siding, for example, and a pretty shade of blue will bring your front door into focus on a classic brick home.

#2 – A New Mailbox

If your mailbox is at the road, it provides a nice opportunity to upgrade and enhance your home’s curb appeal without spending a small fortune. In fact, mailboxes start at about $20. Before heading out to pick one out (or ordering online), be sure that you’ve brushed up on your local ordinances. Then, choose a mailbox shape that fits your home’s architecture, and try to choose a color that works well with your décor. Some mailboxes are pre-primed and ready for a coat of exterior paint, so if you have some left from your front door, consider using it on your mailbox, too.

#3 – New House Numbers

Easy-to-read house numbers benefit everyone from postal carriers and couriers to the local pizza delivery guy, but that doesn’t mean they have to be plain and outdated. In fact, you can let your creativity for decorating truly shine here. Though there are countless options available for purchase in home improvement stores and online, there are numerous DIYs out there that most homeowners can complete themselves on even the smallest budget. You can put numbers on your mailbox post, on an upcycled shutter leaned against your home, or on planters filled with your favorite seasonal plants or flowers. 

#4 – Plant a Tree

This is a great time of year to find trees on sale at your local home improvement store. Everything from fruit trees to evergreens can bring some serious eye appeal to your home exterior. Options include planting two trees to serve as a frame for your home, planting a single tree in an open front yard, and even planting small trees on the sides of your entryway. Be sure that you understand the Chicago area hardiness zone provided by the United States Department of Agriculture and choose trees that will survive and thrive, and be sure you also research the full size of the tree and how large its roots will be in order to avoid problems in the future.

#5 – Add Some Landscape Lighting

Most of the ideas on this page will only truly enhance curb appeal during the daylight hours, but it’s also important to think about your home’s exterior at night. Landscape lighting is one of the absolute best ways to make your home look amazing even after the sun goes down. Projects like lining a walkway with solar lights take only a couple hours and cost anywhere from $20 to $100 depending on the type, size, and number of lights, but other types of lighting can cost quite a bit more. Keep in mind that you can upgrade your lighting slowly – a couple additions every two to four weeks – to keep this project within your budget.

Improving your home exterior doesn’t have to cost a small fortune or take weeks to finish. In fact, you can get started with any of the projects on this page for as little as $20, and most will take no more than a couple of hours to complete. For help with any of these projects, or to schedule an appointment for larger-scale exterior design, you can always rely on local professionals for their expertise and quality workmanship.

New Sappling

Impressionable Plants for Your Curb and Front Entrance

The entry of the home is truly “where it’s at” when it comes to the feel and look of your home. When you use only so-so plants out front, your home starts to look pretty boring. But a great front entrance incorporates beautiful curb appeal plants and greenery to make the property really stand out in the neighborhood!

But where do you begin when it comes to your front porch? Here are a few great ideas on the best front entrance plants to make the perfect first impression:

Container Plants

Colorful container plants are perfect for a front door entrance. Begonias, violas, and fuchsias are all gorgeous varieties which are also perfect for the shade. Covered porches will flourish with a combination of any of these wonderful container plants.


At Martin John Company, we love helping customers incorporate interesting topiaries into their design. Topiaries add color and appeal giving front yards a polished look. Today’s customers can choose from thousands of types of topiaries in all different shapes and sizes.

Pavers, Stone & other Hardscape Materials

When you are brainstorming driveway entrance landscaping ideas, don’t forget the importance of hardscapes. Plants are great but adding gravel or wood or even pavers can add style and appeal while also being low maintenance. No trampled flowers or driven-over shrubs!

Creating curb appeal in your front entrance can be one of the best investments you make into your home. Rather than an expensive kitchen update or bathroom renovation, why not spend a few dollars on adding incredible plants to your front door entrance?

Not sure where to start? Reach out to the design team at Martin John Company for help. We have solutions to fit every budget and every style home. Plus we are one of the most trusted full-service landscaping firms in the North Shore area.

Contact us today to learn more.

Why Now is the Perfect Time to Update Your Yards

Finally, we’re out of the snow season. Chicago is always unpredictable during this time of the year. It’s not warm enough to start having people over, but yet it’s not snowing. That’s why this is the perfect time to update and clean up your yard.

Odd One Out

Everyone loves seeing their yards full of color and the liveliness that flowers add to their yard. It’s never too early to start consulting your options and plans when it comes to planting. You never want to be that neighbor when it’s well into springtime and everyone has beautiful flowers while you only have buds. Make sure you plan ahead with your landscaper to guarantee you won’t be the odd one out this spring.

Typical Chicago Weather

Snowing in January is not unheard of in Chicago. But what do you when you hit the inconsistent precipitations of April & May? The best thing to do is to have a weekly or biweekly clean-up schedule to make sure your driveway is clean and ready for your kid to start practicing for the basketball season.

Porridge-like Weather

Have you been putting off your backyard renovations? Well, this is the perfect time to start! Spring’s temperature is much like the 3 Little Bears’ porridge, “not too hot, not too cold”. That is why May is the perfect time to start planning for construction, so you can have the luxury of taking advantage of spring’s beautiful scenery in a backyard that you love.

Whether you’re planning to reconstruct your backyard or plant flowers in your yard, Martin John wants to guide you through this process from beginning to end. We are dedicated to the precision that goes into our work to meet your needs and our standards. To help plan for this reconstruction, you can set up an appointment to address all the things you want. From there, we’ll turn your wants into a reality.

How to Grow Beautiful Succulents

The hottest trend right now in greenery both inside and outside the home are succulents. They are everywhere! From the Roseum to the Parva and more, there are many different and beautiful varieties of succulents to choose from. And they are also extremely easy to care for. These two attributes combined has made succulents rise to the top when it comes to 2018 landscaping trends.

At Martin John Company, we want to help our customers stay on top of the latest trends when it comes to creating custom landscaping designs. Here are some of our top tips for growing and maintaining the elegant succulent:

  1. Plant Well
    Give your succulents a great start by planting their roots into the soil suited best for them. An organic-based compost mixed with PermaTill can be a great option. You can also incorporate sand gravel or volcano rock into the mix or on the top layer. And most succulents will require some kind of fertilizer.
  2. Water by Season
    Did you know succulents require different amounts of water depending on the season? During early spring, they need thorough watering’s nearly weekly to flourish. During summer and into fall and winter, succulents require less frequent refreshment. In fact, during winter they may only require a once-a-month check.
  3. Allow for Drainage
    Succulents don’t like “wet feet.” They require adequate draining to grow well. Make sure you support a well-drained soil system by planting them in containers with drainage holes.
  4. Know Your Zone
    Succulents can thrive (yes, thrive!) in colder climates but you need to choose hardier varieties. They may appear dull at first but sunlight helps intensify their colors turning them into a thing of beauty.

Because they do so well inside, succulents can be incorporated into your home any time of the year. You can even transplant your indoor varieties into outdoor planters come spring. For more assistance in creating a custom, beautiful landscape design, contact the team at Martin John Company. We are the leader Lake Forest homeowners turn to for all of their lawn care needs. Going beyond the typical, we offer unique outdoor designs that fit each person’s individual needs and desires. Whether you enjoy working in the garden or would rather have an outdoor space that can be easily maintained, we help you discover your personal perfect fit. Contact us today to learn more.

low maintenance landscape

It’s Tax Refund Time: 4 Smart Ways to Invest into Your Landscaping

While the dullness of winter seems to keep going and going, it does bring with it one positive thing… income tax refund time! That check from Uncle Sam can get spent quickly if you forget to plan ahead on how best to invest it.

While some homeowners put these resources towards the inside of the home, investing into the outside can often be just as smart.
Here are four smart ways to invest tax return dollars back into your own backyard:

1. Create an Outdoor Oasis

The ultimate backyard is one which offers a sense of escape. When you combine a beautiful deck with a warming fire pit or even an electric fireplace, it feels like you just added another “room” to the home. A new outdoor oasis can be a great place to entertain with friends and family or just unwind from a long day.

2. Add a Water Feature

Waterfalls and fountains can be wonderful additions to a home’s outdoor space. Not only do these features add a relaxing atmosphere, they also can create visual interest to an otherwise boring backyard.

3. Install Quality Lighting

Installing outdoor lighting can be a great way to invest in your landscaping. Not only does it increase the security and safety of your home’s surroundings, it also can add value to the property itself. Good lighting can highlight unique architectural features of the home, illuminate a path or even be a warning sign of potential criminal activity.

4. Consider a Raised Garden Bed

Want to grow a garden but avoid some of its many common pitfalls? A raised garden bed can be a great way to enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables without the constant upkeep. These types of gardens are less likely to become overgrown with weeds and less prone to animal damage. Raised gardens also offer better drainage and soil retention than the typical bed.

Ready to make 2018 the year you invest back into your own backyard? Contact the team at Martin John Company today to start planning your dream outdoor space. We are a full-service landscaping contractor specializing in custom design services as well as lawn care maintenance.

Need more inspiration? Visit our online portfolio.

Shoveling Safety

5 Shoveling Tips to Prevent Aches and Pains

Once the holidays are over, it often feels like we will be digging our way out of winter forever. Dragging ourselves outside to shovel the sidewalks and driveways is never fun. And what can make this chore even more dreaded is how we feel after we clear the snow.

Shoveling can take a toll on the body. Aches and pains from lifting heavy loads of slush can leave you worn, tired or even immobile for a period of time. For those with pre-existing issues, it can exacerbate an already tough situation making it even worse.

But luckily there are techniques you can start doing today to lighten the load! Here are five expert tips on how to prevent post-shoveling aches and pains:

1. Warm Up

You wouldn’t run a mile without warming up first. And you wouldn’t go golfing without taking a few practice swings to get loose. Approach shoveling the same way. Warm your arm and leg muscles up before you head outside for a better recovery after.

2. Use the Right Tools

If you are still using that old, beat-up shovel… it’s time to say “goodbye”. To do a job quickly and effectively you need the right tool for the job. There are many great ergonomic shovels on the market today that help reduce the strain on your back while efficiently clearing the snow.

3. Lift with Your Legs & Don’t Twist

It’s time to start paying attention to how you pick-up and drop those heavy loads. Always make sure to lift the shovel with your legs rather than heaving using your lower back. And don’t twist the torso to throw the snow off to the side! Lift first, turn your body and then dump the load off the shovel.

4. Brace Your Back

Back pain is the most common injury people experience from shoveling. If you are prone to lower back pain aches wear a brace belt while you shovel. It will help give your back the support it needs so you can finish the job.

5. Know Your Limits

Not everyone can handle the straining task of removing tons and tons of snow. Know your limits! The time might be right to hire a professional to keep your pathways clear for the winter season. They can quickly and easily finish the job before you could even clear a small section.

Winter doesn’t have to wreak havoc on the body. Using the right techniques to shovel your driveway and sidewalks can mean the difference between a pain-free season or one with aches and injuries. Martin John Company is there to help when the load becomes too much. We offer affordable and professional snow removal services and are there right when you need us. Around the clock care is how we give our customers the best service in the Chicago area. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you stay pain-free all the way until spring!

Lawn Fertilization

The DOs and DON’Ts of Lawn Fertilization

Most landscaping experts would tell you that one of the best ways to maintain a healthy, lush lawn is with good fertilization.  Being consistent in feeding your plants and grass ensures your vegetation is receiving the nutrients necessary to thrive.

While many of us have fertilized before, we often don’t consider what we can do to increase our chances of success.  In fact, there are many different ways we can either help or hurt our lawns when it comes to fertilization.  How you approach this outdoor chore can mean the difference between a flourishing, beautiful backyard and one that is just so-so.

Here are some of the DOs and DON’Ts for better lawn fertilization:


– DO consider a slow-release fertilizer. This type of formula breaks down nutrients more slowly allowing you to space out applications.

– DO check out your fertilizer package label. Each bag of fertilizer will have three numbers – one represents the percentage of nitrogen, one for phosphate and one for potassium.

– DO follow the directions for watering. Watering is essential for allowing the fertilizer to penetrate the soil.  Make sure to include a good soaking.

– DO overlap your application strips slightly so you have an even application.


– DON’T fertilize too often. If using a regular fertilizer, every four weeks is sufficient.  If using a slow-release formula, you can space it out to 6-8 weeks.

– DON’T go with the cheapest fertilizer you can find. Like most things, you get what you pay for when it comes to your lawn care needs.

– DON’T over or under water your lawn before or after fertilization. The right amount will provide the moisture necessary to break down the granules.

– DON’T miss any areas of the lawn during application. This could result in “dead spots”.

There are few things more important to a healthy lawn than the benefits of a good fertilization.  For help in taking care of your property’s landscaping needs, contact the team at Martin John Company.  We provide both our residential and commercial customers the expert care they are looking for.  Let us help give your grass, garden beds, and flowers the attention they deserve!

landscaping design

2018 Landscaping Design Trends

Can you believe 2017 is almost over?  It seemed like just yesterday we were ringing in the New Year.    But as sad as it is to see another year gone by, we can look forward to an exciting twelve months when it comes to landscaping trends and designs.

Here’s what landscaping trends you can expect to see in 2018:


– In the Chicagoland, we often find ourselves stuck indoors for much of the late fall and winter months.  Homeowners will be looking to bring more of the outdoors inside with a trend called Interiorscapes.  Going beyond the typical houseplants, interior courtyards, exquisite container gardens and large greenery wallscapes will be joining us in the interior of the home.

Upgraded Exterior Lighting

– Standard flood and landscape lighting will be replaced this year with a more custom appeal. Homeowners will be looking to create more drama with their lighting incorporating hanging lanterns, up-lighting and more.  LEDs will also continue to become the preferred choice when it comes to our lighting needs.


– Have you ever heard of color-blocking?  Typically found in the fashion industry, color-blocking includes pairing hues on the opposite end of the color wheel together to create interesting designs.  This “look” will now be popular when it comes to flower placement too!

Rustic Chic

– The farmhouse design style will still be a sweeping trend for the coming year.  A more rustic look to your outdoor spaces will represent this design look outdoors.  Think wooden patio furniture, metal accents and lots of greenery.

Don’t wait for the New Year to start thinking about what you’ll be doing next year in your own backyard.  The time to start considering your 2018 landscaping design is now.  And Martin John Landscaping can help! We have been the North Shore area’s preferred partner for lawn maintenance, custom landscape design and more since 2001.  Contact us today to beginning planning your own outdoor (or indoor) oasis.

patio furniture

How to Store Patio Furniture During Winter

At Martin John Company, we see a lot of gorgeous patio furniture while working on our clients’ outdoor spaces.  They are a great addition to any landscape design.  And we all know quality pieces aren’t cheap.  Outdoor sets can cost thousands of dollars.

Many of our customers ask us how best to protect their patio furniture during the winter season.  Snow and ice can not only damage those chairs and tables but also cause quicker wear and tear making them not last as long as they should.

Before winter arrives, get your patio furniture ready.  Below we list our best tips for preparing different types of outdoor sets for the snow and ice.

Wicker Furniture                                                                                                        

  • Wipe down with a bleach-water solution to remove mildew. Rinse and let dry.
  • Apply a moisture resistant spray to legs and feet.
  • Store in dry place preferably on blocks to keep feet off ground.

Metal Furniture                                                                                                                                                                 

  • Wipe down with a water-detergent mix. Rinse and let dry.
  • Check for signs of rust and apply a rust-neutralizing primer as needed.

Wood Furniture                                                                                                                                                                 

  • Wipe down with a bleach-water-detergent solution with a slightly abrasive sponge. Rinse and let dry.
  • Touch-up painted wood as needed.
  • Wood with a natural finish should receive a coat of clear water-repellant sealer.

Cedar & Teak Furniture                                                                                                                                                  

  • Apply bleach solution to surface and allow to penetrate for a day or two to lighten wood and kill mildew.
  • Sand all surfaces with a 120-grit sandpaper and wipe down.
  • Apply Tung oil.
  • Teak & cedar furniture can be left outdoors if treated.

Plastic Resin Furniture

  • Wipe down with a water-detergent mix. Rinse and let dry.
  • Store where temperatures will remain above freezing.

Fabric Cushions

  • If covers are removable, clean in washing machine with detergent and color-safe bleach to kill mildew. Dry and place back on.
  • Spot clean any fabric that is not removable and allow to dry.
  • Umbrellas and other larger pieces can be cleaned with a detergent and brush, rinsed and allowed to dry.
  • Store loosely in a clean, dry space preferably off the ground.


Beyond our professional landscaping services, the team at Martin John Company is here to handle all of your outdoor space questions.  We partner with our clients to be the support system they need to maintain a healthy and enjoyable backyard.  Whether you want to keep your grass in check, need help removing piles of snow or just have a couple questions, our team of lawn care experts are here to help. Contact us to learn why we are Libertyville’s top-rated landscaping partner.

Why Autumn is the Perfect Time to Plant Trees and Shrubs

While the stores may be setting up their holiday displays, there is still a lot of autumn left! This means there is also plenty of time to continue to work on your landscaping well into November.  Many people think that spring and summer are the only times you can plant trees, shrubs and perennials but that’s not true!  Autumn can be a great season to get your hands dirty in your own backyard.

Cool, crisp days. Gently falling leaves.  Fall is a beautiful season for those living in the Midwest.  It can also be the optimal time to tackle some needed yardwork.  If you were considering adding some new plants to your landscape design in the spring, why wait?  There is still time left this year.  In fact, now is a great time to tackle this chore.

The Benefits of Fall Planting

There are many advantages to planting in autumn. Here are a few of the top benefits:                                                                                     

  • Fall moisture helps plants establish their roots
  • Cooler temperatures support new root growth
  • Plants have less chance of being harmed by extreme heat
  • Species planted in the fall get off to a faster start in the spring
  • There is less rainfall than spring reducing the likelihood of soil that is too wet
  • You can continue to add color to your outdoor living space after the summer peak season
  • Comfortable weather makes it enjoyable to work outdoors

But What Should I Plant?

Not sure what to plant?  While each property has its own unique mix of shade, sunlight and soil, there are some varieties of trees and shrubs that work for most outdoor spaces:

Tree Varieties

  • Alder
  • Ash
  • Buckeye
  • Crabapple
  • Maple
  • Pine
  • Spruces
  • Sycamore

Shrub & Perennial Varieties

  • Spring-blooming bulbs
  • Turf Grass
  • Evergreen shrubs
  • Pansies

For help with your fall landscaping needs, contact the team at Martin John Company.  We can get your Chicago landscaping ready for winter and off to a great start for spring.  To learn more about our autumn landscaping services, visit us here.