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Spring Home: Rock it! Landscaping using some of the oldest materials

You may see rocks just laying around and think, “I can make something of that.” While a small project might be worth a DIY, larger projects can quickly drive homeowners in over their heads and with less than desirable endings.

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Installed several years ago, this rock border wall is now filled with life and looks as if it's always been there.
Contributed / Precision Landscaping and Irrigation
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Editor's Note: The following originally appeared as the cover story of the Detroit Lakes Tribune's Spring Home magazine, which was included as a free insert in the April 13, 2022 issue of the Tribune. Read the magazine in its entirety  HERE  online.

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OTTERTAIL — While using some of the most advanced practices in landscaping in the region, Precision Landscape & Irrigation in Ottertail also utilizes some of the oldest materials on earth. Rocks.

They use those solid stones to create some of the most natural, long-lasting features your yard and shoreline will ever need or see. After all, there’s not a man-made product with the longevity of rocks.

You may see rocks just laying around and think, “I can make something of that.” While a small project might be worth a DIY, larger projects can quickly drive homeowners in over their heads and with less than desirable endings.

Kelly Dorholt works in the sales and marketing for Precision Landscape & Irrigation in their Ottertail office and hears from clients often enough who want to try some things themselves.

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They’ll say, “I thought we could do it ourselves,” Dorholt said. “And they put so much time, money and sweat equity into it and now they have us come back, take it out, start over and do it right.”

Doing it right is complicated, often expensive and hard work. Considering the weight of the boulders going into place in some of these large gardens, this work can be back-breaking. Dorholt referenced some of their granite steps that they frequently install for those looking for a permanent walkway towards the lake. These can weigh around 750 pounds each. These require machinery to set in place after a firm foundation has been leveled, packed and a base is set for it.

Precision owner Pat Morstad has been in this field of landscape design for 35 years. He said it’s his time creating high-level golf courses that bring his eye for attention and knowledge of the craft to his work in the Ottertail region and beyond.

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Pat Morstad
Contributed / Esther T Photography

When you’re dealing with boulders that are hundreds of pounds, much of this is not work for hands. Morstad and his crews implement machinery to make sure these are set into place for good. The rocks already look great, but making them look great in a new landscape takes some skill.

“The good Lord above gives you those (rocks) and you just have to be able to put them in the right spot,” Morstad said.

It took time to figure this material out.

“It goes with my education in landscape design, installation, my degree in the golf course world, my degree in agronomy …. It’s a combination of all of that,” Morstad said.

The attention to detail helped the business earn the Minnesota Nursery and Landscape Association Landscape Award in 2021. This award recognizes their commitment to quality work that is getting noticed throughout the state and nation, according to Morstad. You can see their award winning project at the rear of their business in Ottertail. They’ve been at this location for three years now and serving the area for about 15 years.

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Rocks, blocks and sliced boulders work together to create a natural and lasting outdoor oasis like this one at Precision Landscape and Irrigation in Ottertail.
Contributed / Precision Landscape and Irrigation

“We’ve separated ourselves from all the other competition, all the other people, because we do things differently,” Morstad said. The business is always looking to grow and add staff that can expand their skill base.

Morstad said their landscape business is changing to do things more naturally as the green-industry expands. For example, irrigation systems with sensors that shut the water off when the lawn is getting rain. These rock gardens with drought tolerant plants provide an space that’s low maintenance and long lasting.

“It’s about trying to bring in that natural look that we are at one with nature. It lends itself to that,” Dorholt said. If the client wants to feel like they are in the woods, this is the way to do it.

Precision does rocks well, but they are known for much more than that. Dorholt said in recent years the work of fixing rip rap on shorelines has increased especially as last year's drought revealed more than has been seen for years. The pandemic forced people outside and what better way to still entertain than in a sleek outdoor kitchen.

“We had so many clients that had part-time lake homes here and they just moved here,” Dorholt said. They wanted to get away from it all for good and the landscaping business helped them feel more at home out here.

They also put together complicated retaining walls for those that love precise lines in their landscape. Walkways, patios, stairways and water features are other options. The growing crew also offers plantings, lawn and garden maintenance, hydro-seeding, irrigation and full-service work that renders your lawn and garden virtually maintenance free.

While some choose to let Precision handle all the work, others look to do some of the dirty work themselves.

Things to consider when tackling a project yourself:

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  1. Can you do it safely? Some of these projects involve heavy materials and they can take a crew of professions several weeks to complete.
  2. In order to tackle this, draw up the plan. “Put it on a piece of paper, envision what it is that you are going to be doing and make sure you make it come to fruition.
  3. Anytime working near a shoreline, property owners must understand rules and regulations setup by the local government agency that are there to protect the wetland. Consulting with your county to determine what’s allowed will help you avoid facing fines or removing your work.

Tackling a big project isn’t a game. When built properly, these are structures built for a lifetime and are huge assets to your home's value.
To find out more about the work of Precision Landscape & Irrigation, visit plandscapes.com or call 218-367-LAWN.

He's a writer, editor, photographer, truth seeker and promoter of the Wadena area.
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