Monthly Archives: January 2015

The Benefits of Container Gardening

The Perfect Garden SolutionThe art of container gardening reportedly dates back to the time of the Greeks and Egyptians, and has remained a popular and practical gardening practice ever since. Not only does container gardening allow for greater flexibility in the way you plant, but it is also a creative way to add variety to both your outdoor and indoor space.

Here are a few of the benefits of planting with containers.

Move your plants to give them the proper amount of sunlight

Planting in containers allows you the freedom to move your plants away from excessive sunlight or too much shade. Whereas planting in the ground requires careful planning and preparation to choose spaces that will provide adequate living conditions for each plant, planting in a container let’s you plant what you want, where you want.

Grow vegetables with ease

Not only does container gardening give you the ability to adjust how much light your plants receive, but it is also the easiest and most efficient method of controlling soil type, water, and fertilizer intake. With so much control over your plant’s growing conditions, you can individualize your care of troublesome plants like vegetables. Now you’ll be able to grow a variety of herbs alongside containers filled with salad greens, peppers, and tomatoes.

Be creative

Not only are containers a practical alternative when it comes to growing vegetables, but they are also a great way to add drama to your garden. Use containers to easily mix and match plants of different varieties for a striking scene, such as pairing geraniums with asparagus ferns. The combinations are limitless, and your patio will burst with personality.

You can also show your creative side with the containers you choose. Select found objects such as barrels, buckets, or even old tires as creative replacements to traditional clay pots. Or, if you prefer a traditional look, opt for colorful glazed or designed pots instead of basic red clay.

Bring your containers indoors

The single greatest benefit to starting a container garden is its mobility. No longer will you have to worry about plants that require warm temperatures throughout the year. You can simply relocate your container garden to a sunroom, or place the plants throughout your home in areas with sufficient light. Using containers instead of direct ground planting will allow you to plant more exotic and care-intensive plants.

Finally, if you’re still a beginner green thumb, container planting is an ideal introduction to gardening. Begin by starting a tiny succulent or cactus garden on your window sill, and work your way up to more difficult flora.

 

 

 

Going Natural: Landscape Trends in 2015

Landscaping Trends for 2015The new year is upon us, and that means there’s a new list of resolutions to keep. This year, branch out from the ordinary list of self-improvements, like getting a gym membership and remembering to floss, and think about upgrading your yard. Trends in landscape design come and go (when was the last time you saw a pink flamingo grace someone’s yard?), and now is the perfect time to begin planning a redesign of your outdoor space.

For inspiration, here are some of the latest trends that homeowners across the country are following to transform their once lifeless yards into personal oases.

Local, sustainable plants

Like other movements to eat locally grown food and shop at local businesses, using local or native plants to fill out your landscape is more popular than ever. By choosing shrubs and greenery that reflect your environment, your garden will have a more natural and welcoming presence. Also, plants that are more suited to your climate will require less regular maintenance such as watering. And that means more time for you.

Fruit and vegetable gardens

Speaking of locally grown food, more and more homeowners are heeding the call to dust off their trowels and grow the produce they regularly purchase at the market. The “growing” movement is turning everyday people into amateur farmers, and is a practical way to cut food expenses, become more independent, and make the most out of your yard. If you are the adventurous type, you might even consider adding a chicken coup to complete the farm feel, though your neighbors may not appreciate the wake up calls!

Rewilding your lawn

Traditional green lawns are officially passé. One of the more daring trends this year is to “rewild” portions of your otherwise conventional yard by introducing varieties of grasses and wild flowers and letting them grow in a more natural and unkempt style. Popular plants used to create the prairie-like look are fountain grass, switchgrass, and big bluestem. Not only will your yard appear more harmonious, but it will also attract wildlife to truly bring nature to your doorstep.

Natural play areas

If the overall trend in landscape designs favors a more natural and less labored presentation, then the same idea is now popular among play areas for children. Rather than a bulky swing set or plastic playhouse, more homeowners are choosing to construct natural playgrounds that incorporate boulders, logs, and other features. The key is to promote unstructured playtime to grow a child’s imagination, as well as to teach them the importance of nature.

 

 

 

Guide to Outdoor Furniture

Outdoor Furniture IdeasNo matter the season, the right atmosphere and ambiance can make your backyard a great place to gather family and friends year round. What goes into making your patio and yard a functional and comfortable place to spend time? The right lighting, heating, and, of course, furniture, all contribute to how enjoyable your outdoor space can truly be. Depending on your space, budget, and aesthetic, you may want to consider the following types of outdoor furniture to create an attractive and functional environment.

Gazebos & shade structures

It’s important to provide shady areas for your friends and family to relax and unwind, so if your backyard doesn’t have much natural shade from trees, consider a gazebo tailored specifically to your patio or deck. Gazebos will provide a barrier from harmful UV rays, enable you to enjoy lounging outdoors without sunglasses or a hat, and protect you from light rain or other inclement weather. Invest in one that’s both attractive and easy to maintain, perhaps made of a weather resistant material that can be wiped clean.

Patio sets

A quality outdoor patio set is essential to any backyard deck. If you like the idea of dining outside on warm summer afternoons, consider a dining set with at least 4 chairs and a spacious table. Conversation sets are another option, and generally consist of larger, more comfortable loveseats or cushioned benches, and smaller tables or an ottoman to hold drinks, snacks, and/or bug-repelling candles. Wicker and wrought iron are common materials for deck furniture, as they are resilient to varying weather conditions and relatively simple to care for. Cushions filled with Polyester foam and fiber and covered in a hardwearing blended fabric are most ideal — though you may want to store cushions and pillows in the garage when they’re not being used.

Benches

Make the most of your deck by including extra seating for your friends and guests. If you’re short on space, consider a handy storage bench with empty compartments for storage under liftable seats. If you want something both functional and fun, why not invest in a quality patio swing? Simple wooden benches with comfortable cushions are the practical option, and can line the borders of your deck that aren’t occupied by planters.

Fire pits & patio heaters

Let’s not forget the essentials to enjoying your backyard during the cool autumn and even cooler winter months. Fire pits and patio heaters can make your yard much more enjoyable, keeping you toasty enough to enjoy a cup of tea or a glass of wine on the deck after work. Your options for a fire pit include propane or wood-burning, or go for an electric table, lamp, or large patio heater for a safer and more modern approach.

The right furniture can make all the difference in how usable and enjoyable your yard is all year round, so be sure to invest in quality pieces that will last.

 

 

 

 

Getting Kids Involved in Lawn Care: A Starter’s Guide

Get Your Kids to Garden!If you think hard enough, perhaps you can remember a time when, as a child, the thought of doing yardwork would send you into a nauseous tailspin. It’s safe to say that not much has changed since. Kids today are just as likely not to imagine plucking weeds as a leisurely way to spend an afternoon. Encourage youngins to give a helping hand with yard work by making it fun. The less it seems like work, the easier it will be to persuade them to join in. Not only will working outdoors provide your kids with valuable fresh air and exercise, but they will also learn the importance of hard work and the satisfaction of a job well done. Not to mention, they’ll learn practical skills like gardening and plant care.

Here are some tips on how to help “convince” your kids that working in the yard is fun!

Gardening

Gardening is a skill that too many youngsters are sadly unknowledgable about. Rather than treating tending to your garden as a chore, show your kids the value of growing your own fruits and vegetables, as well as the rewards of a well-cared-for flower bed. Most importantly, kids follow by example, so the more fun you seem to be having while working, the more fun they will have.

Raking leaves

One of the most dreaded of all yard-related tasks is raking leaves. It seems like once you’ve cleared your yard, no matter how late in the season you wait, another nearby tree will inevitably shed its leaves and cover up your work. For kids, raking leaves can be turned into a fun activity by encouraging play. Allowing your kids to run and jump into a big pile of leaves might seem like a messy and counter-intuitive solution to completing the task, but if a few minutes of play will teach your children that yard work isn’t quite the prison sentence they believed it to be, then it is worth it.

Snow shoveling

Like raking leaves, shoveling newly fallen mounds of fluffy white snow can seem like an arduous chore. But, as we all know, kids love playing in the snow, especially if it means a day off from school. Entice your kids with as much time playing in the snow as they’d like by setting a mandatory shoveling requirement. After all, the more snow they can pile by clearing the driveway and sidewalk, the better the foundation for their snow fort will be!

Seven Plant Ideas for Shady Spots

 

Finding plants that will thrive in shady areas can be tricky. However, it’s certainly more than feasible if you know what to look for. Take a look below for an assortment of different plants that will flourish in the less sunny areas of your yard.

Try These Flowers in the Shade

    • Make your garden pop with astilbes, which are among the most popular flowers to grow in moist, shady sites. These bright pink flowers can grow in direct sunlight too, so if if it’s an area that’s only shady for part of the day you’re still in luck. Be sure the soil drains well so water doesn’t pool.
    • Impatiens make for gorgeous summer bedding plants. It’s important that you keep them moist to prevent them from drying out, making them a good plant for shade. Your impatiens will grow taller the closer you space them together, so plan out your flower bed accordingly.
    • If you’ve got some extra space to fill up and you’re going for a whimsical look, creeping Jenny is a great option. True to its name, creeping Jenny is low-growing and spreads outwards among surrounding areas. The plant and its enchanting bright green leaves thrive in both sun and shade, so if you plant it in a shady area and then want to make a change, you’ll have no problem doing so.
    • Fringe trees have especially abundant foliage when grown in shady spots. Since they grow so well in all kinds of shade, they’re a good option for commercial spaces that may receive limited sunlight due to tall buildings.
    • If you’re looking to create a colorful atmosphere throughout the sunny or shady areas of your yard, consider planting some Lungwort. Its flowers bloom in shades of pink, white, and blue, generating a serene glow that will add charm to your outdoor space. And, as an added bonus, Lungwort is deer-resistant and inhibits weed growth.
    • New to gardening, or just want a plant that’s low maintenance? Begonias are a great option. These gorgeous, bright flowers grow well in rich soil when receiving filtered shade. Keep their soil moist but not too soggy, and mist them regularly.
    • Finally, Japanese forest grass is an excellent choice for shady areas. The plant does well in mild to moderate shade, as too little exposure to light can cause its golden coloring to fade. Too much sunlight can cause the ends of its leaves to dry up, though, so striking a balance with thin shade is essential.

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Build a Snow Fort

Winter Fun: Snow FortsWinter is here, so it’s time to start brainstorming some fun ways to enjoy the season rather than just hide inside with a mug of hot cocoa. Traditional winter pastimes like sledding and snowball fights have stood the test of time for a reason; they’re fun for kids of all ages and can be enjoyed right in your backyard. For those of you who love a good old-fashioned snowball fight, here are a few tips for creating the ultimate snow fort. With nothing but a cooler, water, pair of gloves, and a few feet of snow, you’ll be able to build a fort that will keep you safe during the most extreme snowball fights. Gather the kids, and get ready to have some fun.

Choose a size

The first thing you’ll want to do is decide how big your fort is going to be. Take into consideration how much snow you have on hand, how many snow warriors will be taking cover, and how much time you have to build your shelter. If you have time and enough snow, consider a large four-walled structure. Alternatively, one large wall with two slanted wings on either side could serve as a decent shield. Trace a line in the snow, marking the perimeter of the fort.

Make snow bricks

There are a few different methods for making snow bricks, depending on the size and strength of the fort you have in mind. Making snowballs by hand and lining them up in rows is a classic plan, but if you have beach buckets or a cooler in the garage, you can do better than that! Pack the wettest snow you can find into beach buckets or drink coolers, and flip them over to instantly create larger, stronger snow bricks. Keep a broomstick or plastic spatula on hand to loosen the edges of the snow within the cooler after packing, if necessary.

Stack ‘em up!

Place the tightly packed bricks on the line marking the perimeter of the fort. Think like a bricklayer – leave a few inches in between the bricks, and make sure the bricks in the second layer are centered over those gaps. How many layers of bricks you lay is entirely up to you, but a four foot wall is sufficient for most children and adults (children-at-heart) to crouch behind. Have a fellow fort builder follow behind you and fill in gaps with additional snow.

Create a layer of ice

The last step to making an impenetrable fort is to create a coat of ice on the walls. Fill a few buckets with icy cold water, and douse the structure with it. Start on the bottom layers, to prevent the weight of the heavy water-laden snow from causing the structure to collapse. When the water freezes, your fort will be coated in an icy strong finish. Happy building, and good luck!