Adding Natural Stone to Outdoor Spaces

Landscape Design

Adding natural stone to your landscape is a fool-proof and low-maintenance way to easily add visual interest to your property while also increasing your property’s value. Stone can add some nice extra touches or be the element that ties your entire landscape together. Because stone comes in a variety of shapes, sizes, colors, and materials, it’s best to come up with a plan of where you want to use stone, what you want the stone to do, and the look you’d like to achieve for the area.

Do you want the stone to serve a functional purpose, like crushed gravel in a driveway or flagstones in a pathway? Or are you looking to build a retaining wall or edge your lawn with pavers? Perhaps you are looking for artwork to define a corner of your property, like a fountain or a sculpture? To get the maximum benefit from natural stone, a great plan incorporates natural stonework in a variety of uses around the whole the property, using what best fits in to the environment. In this article, we’ll give you a variety of ideas for the use of natural stone on your own property.

Useful, Functional Stonework

Natural stone has been used in gardens and landscapes for centuries. In this application, stones provide visual interest to your property while serving a functional use.

  • Many lawns and flower beds are edged with stones. This type of edging provides a crisp, clean edge for your garden and lawn, and keeps mulch or gravel in place.
  • Since it doesn’t have to be replaced year after year, stones like white and tan beach pebbles, and river and lava rocks are used in the place of mulch around trees and shrubbery.
  • Crushed gravel and brick chips can be used for driveways, walkways, and directional pathways that wind through gardens and around properties.
  • If you have an area that’s prone to water pooling, you can use natural stone to create a dry creek bed. Any area that tends to hold water during heavy rains can be made into a visually appealing area with the addition of different sized natural stone rocks and the right plants, which will redirect the flow of water.

Adding a Bit More Interest

Stonework doesn’t have to be purely functional; by varying the natural stone you add to your outdoor space, you can add some beauty and visual interest as well.

  • Walkways and pathways can be made from differently shaped and colored flagstones. Light colored flagstones will brighten up a dark or shaded area, and by matching colors that already exist on your property, you can tie everything together for a cohesive look.
  • You can build stone walls to define different areas of your yard, or build a wall around your property’s perimeter, like the boundary lines of old New England homes.
  • A large accent rock or boulder in a corner of your yard, around which you plant a great variety flowers, is a wonderful way to add both color and visual interest to a spot that you may not know just what to do with otherwise.
  • A rock garden is a great way to add a good a section rocks and plantings to your landscape where you can feature some creativity. You can match the rest of your landscaping or do something totally different depending on your aesthetic.
  • Adding a stone bench to your yard is a great way to create seating and enjoy your outdoor space, especially if you position the bench where you can savor a great view.
  • If you have a shoreline, a beautiful stone retaining wall is a great way to stop erosion, and protect your shoreline and create lawn edging.
  • With some some grade variations on your property, you can use large slabs of natural stone to create beautiful staircases that make transitions easier from one area to another.

Bring Art Outdoors

Natural stone is a great way to add lasting, enduring art to your outdoor spaces. This is where you can go as wild as you dare. You can go with something as classic as a cairn, or more modern and abstract. Some ideas include:

  • A water feature or fountain. Many of these are either made from stone such as marble, or surrounded by natural stone.
  • A different type of water feature could be a waterfall or bridge, made entirely of natural stone, surrounded by lush landscaping.
  • For a more subtle water feature, stone rain chains and bubble rocks add a touch of serenity to outdoor spaces.

Extend your Living Space

Adding natural stone to your landscaping can be a big addition as well, such as adding stone elements that are extensions of your living space. Patios and pavilions predominantly feature terra cotta or flagstone floors, as do outdoor kitchens and entertainment areas. Fireplaces and firepits are all made of stone, both for beauty and for fire safety.

By making these areas out of natural, durable, and low maintenance stone, you’re sure to get years of use and enjoyment from these areas.

We have a full design and build team with extensive knowledge and experience working with natural stone for a wide variety of applications. We’d love to help you create the right design for your landscape and lifestyle. Contact us to discuss your ideas or give us a call at 603.707.0630 to get started today!

Outwit Those Pesky Pests


Now that summer is well underway, your garden is probably looking pretty good by now. Your tomatoes are turning red, your cucumbers are beginning to proliferate, and your zucchini are almost big enough to harvest. You can see all the hard work you’ve put into your garden beginning to pay off. But so can the pests, who see a feast developing before them. How do you keep these nuisances away?

Cover It Up

If you’d like to protect your garden, a simple solution is to use a plant cover. Plant covers come in a variety of styles and shapes and will protect your gardens from pests and weather. Which you choose depends on what you want to protect, and what you want to protect it from:

  • Chicken wire protectors: These frame “houses” are built to protect multiple plants at once. They are easily lifted and used to protect berry bushes and plants like kale, lettuce, etc. from bunnies, deer, gophers, and other creatures that might want a nibble.
  • Row covers: These hoops are covered with some kind of fabric to protect plantings from insects and birds and can also be used with heavier material to protect plants from cold weather later in the year, if you wish to extend your growing season.
    • Thin fabric will allow for better light penetration, while heavier material will maintain a better temperature inside the hoops and protect your plants from cold weather; you can swap the material as the season progresses.
    • Insect mesh is a wonderful screen-like material that will keep insects from being able to munch on your veggies and stalks.
  • Shade cloth: This light-blocking, woven cloth is perfect to use in parts of your garden at this time of year. Many plants, like basil, lettuce, and even tomatoes will benefit from this cloth, which will provide shade so your plants don’t burn in the hot July sun. It’s strange to think of the sun as a “pest”, but sometimes your garden needs a break.

Consider a Natural Approach

If covers aren’t your thing, you might want to consider a more holistic approach to deterring pests in your garden. Options include companion gardening, organic and natural solutions, and even raiding your pantry!

Aphids and Slugs

These little creatures are the bane of every gardener’s existence. They are everywhere and eat everything. If you have a problem with aphids and slugs in your garden, you might want to try food grade diatomaceous earth, or DE for short. This off white, odor-free powder can be used in your garden on plants that show signs of damage (it will kill all insects with exoskeletons, even the good ones, so use only when needed. And since it’s a fine powder, it’s a good idea to wear a mask while applying, and reapply the DE after it rains.)

An old farmer’s tale for killing slugs involved burying an open can of beer three quarters of the way and letting the slugs crawl in and drown; there’s some validity to that, as slugs are attracted to the yeast in beer, but it seems a bit passive and inefficient. If you try it, let us know how it works!

Looper worms

These little inchworm-looking worms love to eat cole crops like cabbage, broccoli, lettuce, spinach, peas, and tomatoes. If you find them in your garden, you can get rid of them by mixing three teaspoons of cayenne pepper into one quart of water in a spray bottle. Apply to the leaves, stems, and the ground around each of your affected plants.

SL Garden Center-Moultonborough-Creative Resolutions for Your Garden in 2023-companion planting

Companion Planting

One tried and true method of keeping pests out of your garden is to plant companion plants, that is, planting plants near each other to benefit one plant or both. Common companion plantings include:

  • Planting petunias near potatoes and beans to keep potato beetles away.
  • Tansy, once an immensely popular New England flower, helps to keep aphids and ants at bay. Plant tansy near cucumbers and squash.
  • Catnip planted near zucchini and cucumbers will eliminate cucumber beetles and will make your garden a popular cat hangout!
  • Marigolds are a great addition to any garden and are great companion plants to any vegetable, most especially tomatoes. They repel the nematodes that attack tomato plant roots.
  • Chrysanthemums will keep out a variety of bugs and are a natural repellant of Japanese beetles and ticks.
  • Nasturtiums are a must in a garden, as aphids love them. Aphids will flock to nasturtiums and leave the other plants alone.
  • Zinnias are wonderful to plant in a vegetable garden, as they are favorites of ladybugs. Ladybugs love to eat pests like cabbage flies and aphids.
  • If you have fruit trees, it’s a good idea to plant alliums like onions or garlic around the base of it. This may prevent borers from drilling into the base of the tree, thereby destroying it.
  • Basil and tomatoes just don’t go together in a caprese salad. When planting next to each other in a garden, the basil will protect the tomato plant from whiteflies, aphids, and tomato hookworm. Basil will also help the flavor profile of tomatoes, and the tomato leaves help provide a great growing environment for basil by providing shade and moisture for its tender leaves. True companions for sure!

We’ve helped many gardeners keep their gardens healthy and thriving, and we’d love to help you with yours. Come visit us at our Garden Center, give us a call at at 603.707.0630 or email us and we’ll be happy to help you with garden issues or questions you may have.

Getting Your Gardens Started


Now that spring is in full swing and summer officially arrives at the end of the month, the time has come to get outside and plant our vegetable gardens. Here in New England, it’s customary to wait until after Memorial Day to plant anything outside, as it’s possible to get a killing frost until the end of May or the beginning of June. A frost is still remotely possible in very early June, but since your plants are so small at that point, it’s easy to cover them up for protection if needed.

Time to Transplant

If you have decided to plant a vegetable garden, chances are you planted seeds about eight to twelve weeks ago, and your seedlings are doing well indoors and are about five to six inches tall by now. Or maybe you decided to purchase a variety of seedlings from a professional garden center or greenhouse to give your garden an easier start. If you haven’t yet, stop by our Garden Center to see our wide selection of vegetable and herb starters, seeds, and supplies. However you choose to begin your garden, early June is the perfect time to transfer those seedlings outside and plant them in your prepared garden space.

Making your Choice

Vegetables that do well in our climate and that should be planted in early summer include:

  • Peppers: all varieties of bell peppers do well, as do spicier peppers like jalapeños, habanero, and cayenne peppers.
  • Tomatoes: it’s a good idea to plant a variety of tomatoes that will ripen throughout the season. Choose tomatoes that will give you an early harvest, some that will produce fruit mid-summer, and some that will hold out until late fall.
  • Brussels Sprouts: Plant these about a foot apart and fertilize them once a month. They should be ready to harvest by fall.
  • Eggplants: While we’re used to seeing dark purple eggplants, they actually come in a variety of colors, like pink, green, purple/white striped, or even black. Make sure to stake your plants, as the stalks will get weighed down as the eggplants grow.
  • Cucumbers: Since these are prolific producers, it’s best to stagger your plantings by a couple of weeks, to extend the production cycle long into the fall. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself picking a lot of cucumbers each and every week!
  • Cantaloupes and Watermelons: By selecting the right breeds for our cooler days and short growing season, you can grow sweet melons that will be ready to harvest by September.
  • Lettuce: A quick grower (you’ll be harvesting leaves in about a month), be sure to select lettuce that’s heat tolerant for our hottest days, and harvest in the early morning or in the cool of the evening.

Starting from Seed

If you didn’t start your seedlings weeks ago, and you haven’t bought propagated plants from a nursery, fear not! There are vegetables you can grow directly from seeds planted in your own garden in June that will have enough time to grow and give you a good summer and fall yield. These vegetables include:

  • Beans (both bush and pole beans).
  • Squash, including Winter Squash, Summer Squash, and Zucchini.
  • Chard.
  • Potatoes, including Sweet Potatoes.

These vegetables, when planted directly from seeds in your outdoor garden in June, will grow steadily throughout the summer, and give you a nice fall harvest.

  • Corn.
  • Green Beans.
  • Okra.
  • Parsnips.
  • Pumpkins.
  • Tomatillos.

Seasoning your Veggies

Of course, by growing all those great vegetables, you’ll want to grow herbs to accompany your fresh veggies in recipes and in your canning efforts. Great herbs to grow in your garden include:

  • Basil: An easy plant to grow, you’ll get a great harvest. Be sure to remove the flowers when they pop up.
  • Oregano: This is a perennial. Keep it trimmed or it can be invasive.
  • Sage: This soft-leaved plant will repel bugs.
  • Thyme: You’ll be able harvest thyme all summer, but bugs love it as much as you do; it’s best to protect your plants with netting.
  • Rosemary: A prolific producer, you’ll be able to harvest all summer. Plant rosemary next to beans, cabbage, and peppers for a larger harvest. Keep it well watered, as it dies in drought conditions. And watch out for beetles, who love it; it’s best to protect your plants with netting.
  • Lavender: A colorful scented favorite, this plant loves heat. Bugs won’t bother it. It’s a perennial but will die in cold weather.
  • Chamomile: With pretty flowers reminiscent of daisies, this has been used to make tea for ages. It’s a perennial but will die in cold weather. Bugs love it, too, so it’s best to protect your plants with netting.
  • Dill: Don’t allow dill to flower; pinch them off when you see the flowers forming. As a perennial, it’ll come up every year.
  • Cilantro: A staple of Mexican cuisine, cilantro likes to grow in big clumps, so do not thin it out. It’s an annual, so if you like it, you’ll have to plant it every year.

Stephens Landscaping Garden Center-Moultonborough-raised garden bed

Perfect Pairing: Benefits of Planting Edible Gardens Near Your Outdoor Kitchen

Planting a vegetable or herb garden near an outdoor kitchen offers numerous benefits that can enhance your culinary experiences and overall enjoyment of your outdoor living spaces. First and foremost, having fresh produce readily available allows you to incorporate the flavors of just-picked herbs and vegetables into your meals. The convenience of harvesting fresh ingredients adds a delightful element to cooking, promoting a healthier and more sustainable lifestyle. Additionally, the proximity of a garden allows you to experiment with a wider variety of herbs and vegetables, including unique or rare varieties that may not be easily accessible in stores. This opens up a world of culinary possibilities and encourages creativity in your cooking. Tending to a garden can be a therapeutic and enjoyable activity, providing an opportunity to connect with nature and reduce stress. Ultimately, a vegetable or herb garden near your outdoor kitchen offers the satisfaction of self-sufficiency, the joy of flavorful and nutritious meals, and the pleasure of cultivating your own little patch of edible paradise.

The growing season in New England is short, so we need to make the most of it. With the right planning and the right vegetables, we can extend the season and have a great and bountiful summer. Happy planting!

We’ve helped homeowners prepare space for their gardens, including clearing, rototilling, fertilizing, installing irrigation systems, and mulching. We also love working with people to design and build outdoor kitchens, so if you’ve been dreaming of adding one to your property, let us help you make it a reality! Please call us at 603.707.0630 or email us to get started.

Decks and Docks: What is Best for You?

Landscape Construction · Landscape Design

Adding a deck to your property is a great way to maximize your outdoor living space. If you live beside a body of water, you’ll probably want to a dock so you can moor your boat, jet ski, or other watercraft. Or, perhaps the deck or dock you already have is beginning to show its age and needs to be repaired or replaced. What kind of deck or dock should you build,  and which material should you choose? In this blog, we’ll run down the differences in these materials to help you make an informed choice for what’s best for you and your property.


Wood has been the chosen building material for both decks and docks for many years. People often prefer the classic look of well-maintained decks and docks. A wooden deck or dock that’s cared for has a life expectancy of about 20 years.

Things to remember if you are thinking about using wood in your build is that wood must be re-stained every couple of years and resealed every year or so. Eventually, wood will rot, warp, and accumulate some insect damage over the years. Wood is also subject to splintering as it dries, so that is a consideration if you or your kids and grandkids like to go barefoot in the summer.

You could use a hardwood instead of pressure treated lumber for your deck or dock. These woods are more resistant to rot, mold, and algae. Ipe wood, for example, is more durable and has a longer lifespan than softer woods like pine or cedar (50-75 years as opposed to 20 years).

However, these kinds of woods are more expensive and decks and docks made from these kinds of hardwoods must be cleaned and oiled regularly (ideally once a year) to keep their beautiful graining, or they will fade quickly and lose their color. Make sure to use oils that reduce slipperiness.


Composite decking materials are made up of a sustainable variety of recycled substances, usually a mix of natural and synthetic materials like wood fiber, plastics, and other additives such as fiberglass or polyethylene. Composite boards are made to look like wood, and are produced in standard timber widths and lengths. These boards are available a variety of colors and wood grain patterns.

These composite decking/dock materials are easy to maintain and do not ever need to be painted, sealed, or stained; just give them a power wash occasionally, and they will look like new. Composite boards will not splinter, rot, or be eaten by insects, and are good at withstanding stains. They are built to have UV resistance, so fading is diminished. A composite deck/dock will last about 50 years.

Composite deck materials are a bit pricier than wood, but as lumber prices have increased, the gap between the pricing of wood and composite is getting smaller.

Composite for Docks

If you are considering composite decking for your dock, you should check out composite boards made specifically for marine environments.

There are companies who manufacture composite planks especially for wet environments like docks and marinas, and whose materials can be used over and underwater without fear of damage from warping, rotting, or swelling. These boards offer virtually no water absorption and will not be damaged by insects. Boards stay cool on hot days and are slip resistant to add more safety around the water. (These boards would be great to use around a pool, too!)

These are our top materials from which to choose when building or repairing your deck or dock. Which one would work best for your property depends on your needs, installation environment, budget, and how much maintenance and upkeep would be necessary to keep your deck or dock in the best shape.

We’ve helped homeowners decide, design, and build decks and docks to make the most of their outdoor spaces for increased property value and enjoyment. We’d love to help you with what’s the right choice for your property and lifestyle. Please call us at 603.707.0630 or email us to get started.

Extending Your Time Outdoors

Landscape Construction · Landscape Lighting

Winter is gone, and spring is finally here. The days are getting warmer and longer, and you may find yourself wanting to spend more time outside. If you’re looking for a way to enhance your outdoor living space and add value to your property, you might want to consider adding a pavilion.

What Is a Pavilion?

A pavilion is an outdoor structure with a roof that is typically open on all sides and supported by columns or posts. They are customarily placed on top of existing patios or decks. Pavilions are designed to provide shade from the sun and offer protection from rain for the seating or patios and decks below them. They’re incredibly useful spaces and since they offer protection from weather, they are a great place for a fireplace or outdoor kitchen. Pavilions can be built in a wide range of designs, styles, and sizes.

Why Add a Pavilion?

Think of a pavilion as an extension of your home; it’s an extra outdoor room, which can be used for a variety of purposes depending on your lifestyle and preferences, such as:

  • Outdoor entertaining: A pavilion can provide a space for outdoor entertaining and hosting gatherings. It can be designed to house an outdoor kitchen, bar, grill, and pizza oven. Add tables and chairs to create an outdoor dining room.
  • Relaxation and recreation: A lounge area with comfortable furniture can offer a peaceful retreat for relaxation and recreation, such as reading a book, a space for meditation or practicing yoga, or playing games with family and friends. Pavilions make great spaces for outdoor pool, poker, or other gaming tables.
  • Protection from the elements: A pavilion offers shade and protection from the sun, wind, and rain, allowing you to enjoy the outdoor space even in less-than-ideal weather conditions. A pavilion can also be used as a protective roof over a hot tub or spa and makes a great place for a fireplace.
  • Aesthetic appeal: Pavilions can be designed to complement the architectural style of your home and add visual interest to the surrounding landscape. They can be situated to showcase beautiful views or landscaping features, as well as add privacy.
  • Increased property value: Building a pavilion can add value to your property, as it provides an additional living space and can enhance the overall appeal of the landscape.

Designing Your Pavilion

You’ll want your pavilion to tie in with your landscaping and add to your home’s overall aesthetic. There are many pavilion designs and styles from which to choose. Some common pavilion designs include:

  • Square or rectangular is the most common shape and features a shingled or metal roof and four or six posts.
  • A double tiered roof has become popular and adds nice visual interest to a patio or deck.
  • A hex bell roof pavilion is an elegant style, recalling the old bandstands on the town commons.
  • The open gabled look has exposed beams and high arches and has a log cabin look.
  • A rough-cut cedar style pavilion is similar to the open gabled look and is also reminiscent of a log cabin.

With a range of designs and styles available, pavilions can be customized to fit your specific needs and preferences and enhance your enjoyment of the outdoors, making them a versatile and functional addition to any property.

We have a full design and build team and would love to help you explore the benefits of adding a pavilion to your property. We’re here to help you create the right design for your landscape and lifestyle. Please call us at 603.707.0630 or email us to get started.