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Homes & Living – Backyard improvements spruce up living

Home is where the heart is.

Home is also where the pool is. And the gazebo is. And the backyard bar is. And the swing set for the kids is.

Over the past year, many people chose to upgrade their living space due to the lockdown imposed by the coronavirus pandemic. Now, as mandates are being lifted, some residents still want to take advantage of their humble abodes, spending more quality time with family and friends safely in their own spaces.

The Johnston family moved into their home in Tinton Falls two years ago. They were considering living in Hazlet but with their daughter Avery, now 3, and their son Dylan, who was on the way at the time, Will and Jess Johnston decided they needed a bigger house.
The backyard was a selling point. About 15,000 square feet, there was “a very old in-ground pool that we ended up removing along with the patio around it. We ended up installing a new pool, leveling out our entire front and back yard, top soiling it and seeding,” Will Johnston said.
“We knew coming in that the yard was neglected and would need a lot of work. The backyard was mostly woods so we removed several large trees and added a fence around the entire property. We had beautiful landscape added as well.
“We’re in the middle of doing a paver patio off the pool area so that our kids can have a large area to play as well as a fire pit for s’mores for everyone to enjoy. We really want this to be enjoyed by all our friends and family and for our kids to enjoy this for a long, long time,” he said.
Will Johnston said he enjoyed doing the seeding and other products himself, but did have some help leveling the lawn.
“My garage is filled with lawn items. I am very into lawn care. It’s definitely a hobby of mine and to talk to neighbors as they pass by and have them compliment it is a very satisfying feeling. I’ve had people say that our lawn looks like Yankee Stadium, even though we are Mets fans,” he laughed.
And true to the nature of a hobby, Will Johnston said he is not sure the improvements and upkeep will ever end.
“In the past two years we’ve done so much to our house, but it really is paying off. Jess and I both work very hard for what we have and to be able to enjoy it is very rewarding,” he said.
Especially as summer approaches, the family loves their pool area the most.
“We had such an old pool that was just painted blue and very plain. Now we have a beautiful 20-by-40 salt water pool with a sundeck for built-in lounge chairs. We added a 12-foot waterfall as well as six LED lights throughout the pool. We have so much more patio space than we had when we moved in. It will be used so much and to see our kids swimming in it is a great feeling. Avery has a mermaid swimsuit and lays on the waterfall and loves to swim. Dylan, who is 1, also loves to stand in the sundeck area which acts as a kiddie pool area as well,” Will Johnston said.
Will Johnston said although being at home during the pandemic didn’t impact their decision to improve their outdoor space, since it was something he and Jess planned on doing anyway, “We definitely plan to spend more time out back now once everything is all done.”
They plan to add a deck off the sunroom along with the paver area.
“Once that is done I think the backyard is good for now. We’re always finding something to work on. But for now, we plan on enjoying everything we’ve worked so hard for,” Will Johnston said.


In order to keep outdoor spaces comfortable, pest control may be necessary.

“Mosquitoes breed and lay eggs all spring and summer when the weather gets warm. Mosquito eggs are very hardy and they can overwinter if they haven’t yet hatched at the end of a season. All that is necessary to facilitate a hatch is warmth and water – as little as a capful. So, when we start to see wet, warm weather in the spring, the eggs hatch and the mosquitoes come out,” said Karen McCulloch, owner of Mosquito Squad of Central NJ.

“So, if possible, it’s ideal to start before the hatch. We usually start treating in early April.  However, it’s never too late to improve the situation. With a continuous spray plan we can reduce the mosquito population in your yard by up to 90%,” she said.

Serving southern Union, Middlesex and Monmouth counties, McCulloch said residential mosquito and tick control is key.

“Our traditional and most popular treatment plan is a spray program that is applied to the perimeter of the yard and anywhere else where mosquitoes and ticks may reside. The treatment eliminates mosquitoes and ticks on contact and continues to work for up to 21 days. When reapplied on a regular schedule the treatment is 85-90% effective in eliminating mosquitoes and ticks,” she said.

“We also provide an all-natural option for treatment. The natural product is made up of essential oils. It is applied the same way, eliminates mosquitoes and ticks on contact but then acts as a repellent (rather than an eliminator like our Barrier Protection treatment) for up to 21 days after it is applied. The treatment is 75-80% effective in repelling mosquitoes and ticks.

“Our technicians are trained to notice where mosquitoes and ticks are likely to reside and feed. They will apply the treatment to trees, bushes and landscaping, creating a barrier around the yard. Once the mosquito lands and feeds on the greenery where the treatment was applied, they are eliminated. I live in a highly wooded area and find that with consistent treatment, we are not chased inside by the mosquitoes,” she said.

Mosquito Squad was considered an essential business during the pandemic.

“With more people staying home and utilizing their backyard and outdoor spaces, we had a very busy season,” McCulloch said.

However, there may not be much defense this season against the dreaded cicadas.

“We had a wet spring and with temperatures rising we expect the mosquitoes and ticks to be out as usual. As for the cicadas, pesticides are generally ineffective at keeping them away. Cicadas are harmless and are actually providing some environmental benefits. They help to prune trees, aerate the soil and, once deceased, their carcass provides an important source of nitrogen for growing trees,” McCulloch said.

For a quote, call 732-238-1393 or email MSCentralJersey@mosquitosquad.com. Prices are determined by acreage. Quotes are no obligation and free.

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