Outdoor furniture has come a long way since the days when families gathered around a wooden picnic table.Today’s patio furniture is designed to mirror the beauty and sophistication of indoor furniture.It is intended to make your outdoor patio an extension of your indoor living space.In addition to its elegance and beauty, modern outdoor furnishings are also built with durability in mind.While they can be quite an investment, today’s outdoor furniture is built to withstand moisture, fluctuating temperatures, and anything else Mother Nature sends our way.Let’s examine some of today’s most popular furniture choices so you can better decide which is right for you.
Wood has been a popular raw material for furniture throughout the years but thanks to its natural beauty and timeless look it remains a top choice for homeowners.However, not all woods are created equal.Softwoods such as pine, cedar, and fir are less expensive and widely used for indoor furniture but they don’t stand up to the outdoor elements very well.On the other hand, hardwoods such as teak are more suited to withstand outdoor weather.These hardwoods are strong, weather resistant, eco-friendly, and rot resistant, making them a popular choice for many homeowners.Wood furniture does require staining and maintenance to help maintain its natural beauty over the years.
Metal is typically the strongest and most durable material for outdoor furniture.Metal also lends itself to more modern designs thanks to its thinner shape.Certain metals, however, can be very heavy making them very difficult to move.Metal also heats up rather quickly in the sun making it uncomfortable to touch in extremely hot weather.Like wood, there are various types of metal furniture including stainless steel and aluminum and each have their own set of unique characteristics.Stainless steel is very durable, strong, and rust resistant but can be more expensive and retains heat.Aluminum is a more affordable option but its lighter frame makes is more susceptible to blowing over in high winds.In any case, metal is a great choice for people who want less maintenance and a more modern look.
Iron has been used throughout history as a building material because of its strength and durability.Therefore, it’s no wonder wrought iron has become a popular choice for outdoor furniture.Because it is extremely malleable, wrought iron can be formed into ornate, hand-crafted designs that give homeowners a truly unique piece of furniture.It is among the heaviest of metals so it will be difficult to move but you don’t have to worry about it blowing over on a windy day.Although it is very strong and durable, it does require some maintenance as it is susceptible to rust.
Resin and Plastic
In recent years we have seen a huge increase in the amount of synthetic materials being used to make outdoor furniture.Synthetics such as resin and plastic are lightweight, less expensive, and molded into a wide variety of shapes and styles.They are also fade resistant and don’t require sealing, painting, or staining.Many homeowners choose these synthetic materials because of their affordable prices and their low maintenance.
Fabrics and Upholstery
So long are the days of sitting on wooden benches.These days, outdoor furniture can be adorned with colorful fabrics, pillows, and cushions that are both stylish and comfortable.Thanks to these synthetic fabrics, we can enjoy the look and comfort of indoor furniture right in our backyard. Outdoor fabric and upholstery is made to withstand constant exposure to the outdoor elements.Although they do add a lovely pop of color to patio furniture, any fabric is susceptible to fading over time and should be covered when not in use.
Whether you are short on space or you simply like to adorn your patio with plants, container gardening can be a fun way to spruce up your outdoor space.A well-planted pot brings plants and flowers up close and allows you to decorate any space with your favorite plants.Perfect for indoor and outdoor use, pots give gardeners the ability to add a little green wherever they like.There are many different choices when it comes to selecting the perfect pot for your plants.Here we will take a look at the various types of container pots.
Terracotta’s classic look is what makes it a popular choice for many gardeners and a look that is often replicated.Thanks to its natural beauty, terracotta pots look lovely in just about any setting.These pots are made from baked clay and due to their porous nature air and water can easily pass through the walls of the pot promoting healthy plants that will not suffer from root rot.While these pots encourage good drainage, the drawback is that their plants will require more frequent watering than other materials.Furthermore, terracotta can easily crack in cold weather or if dropped.
Wood pots are inexpensive, lightweight, and come in a variety of shapes and sizes.The wood can be left in its natural color for a rustic look or it can be painted to match any color scheme.The downside to wood containers is that they require maintenance to keep them from rotting and even then they will not last as long as other materials.The good news is that they are less expensive so it’s not a huge investment if you do have to replace them.
Glazed pots are a great choice because they can double as a colorful and decorative object in addition to being a home for your plant.They hold in moisture well and are durable enough to withstand freezing temperatures.It is important to note, however, that glazed clay pots can be heavy and difficult to move.They also tend to be more expensive than other pottery materials.
Planters made of natural stone have lots of character and add a gorgeous ornamental look to gardens and patios.They are durable and will certainly last for many years.However, stone pots are generally very expensive and very heavy.Because they are so heavy, they are not ideal for balconies or decks that cannot withstand the weight.
Plastic pots are always a popular choice because they are readily available, come in a variety of shapes and colors, and are among the cheapest pots you can buy.Generally, plastic pots come with drainage holes so they are ready to go without any additional work.They are lightweight so they are easy to move and perfect for balconies and decks.While plastic pots do hold in moisture, they heat and cool much faster than other materials so it is important to keep a close on your plants.While they are a cheaper option than most other pots, they don’t typically last more than one or two seasons.
With the ever so popular farmhouse style taking over these days, it has become very common to see plants in metal containers.Metal is an attractive yet affordable choice and can really add that charming farmhouse style to your porch or patio.It is important to note, however, that metal is non-porous so drainage is a major consideration.Make sure you can drill adequate drainage holes in the pot.Metal also provides little insulation for the plant and will heat and cool quite quickly.This will mean more watering during the hot months and proper covers over the plants in colder weather.
Everyone enjoys attending a backyard cookout with some of their closest family and friends.From the delicious grilled foods to the coziness of an outdoor fire, the fun and excitement of entertaining guests at an outdoor party is hard to beat.If you are the one hosting the party then you have probably put plenty of thought into planning the perfect meal and gathering all of the supplies but you may not have thought about one very important element of your party: safety. While outdoor entertaining is certainly fun, it can also be dangerous if you aren’t careful.Make sure your next outdoor gathering is a safe affair by following some of these important outdoor safety tips.
Fire Pit Safety
An outdoor fire pit is a great way to add warmth and ambiance to your outdoor gathering.It can even be a fun and unique way to cook food and dessert.Although they are cozy and inviting, fire pits can also pose a safety hazard if proper safety rules are not followed.
- Never operate your fire pit in an enclosed space or beneath an awning or overhang. Also, be sure your fire is a safe distance from trees and shrubs that could easily ignite from flying sparks.
- Position chairs so people can walk around without getting too close to the fire and always keep a close eye on children.
- Only use seasoned wood and avoid burning construction materials such as plywood or composite woods, as these materials release toxic fumes.
- Make sure you have a fire blanket or access to water close by in case you need to extinguish the flames in a hurry.
- When outdoor grilling, handle raw meat carefully.Be sure to keep the meat cold until it is ready to be cooked.Do not let your meat sit out next to the grill until you are ready to prepare it.
- Make sure your meat is cooked to the proper temperature.Ground beef should be cooked to at least 160 degrees F. Chicken should be cooked to 165 degrees F.All pork and steak should be cooked to at least 145 degrees.Keep a meat thermometer close by so you can easily monitor cooking temperatures.
- Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after handling raw meat.Also, never use the same dish for raw meat and food that will be served. Otherwise you risk cross contaminating foods.
- Cold foods should be kept cold in a cooler or over ice.These foods could spoil if left outside for too long.
- Never leave candles, tiki torches, or any other open flame unattended.Be sure to extinguish them as soon as the party is over.
- Be strategic about where you place cords to avoid having them in the path of foot traffic.
- Never use electrical lighting near water as this could cause sever electrocution.
- Never use indoor extension cords outdoors because outdoor cords are designed with a thicker insulation that can withstand temperature and moisture.
- Always make sure your lightbulbs are safe for outdoor use.
- Keep outlets properly covered so they are not exposed to moisture.
One of the best parts of outdoor entertaining is enjoying the delicious fare of foods, but it is important to keep in mind these food safety tips so spoiled food doesn’t spoil your fun.
Outdoor Lighting Safety
Outdoor lighting can be a great addition to your backyard barbecue.It creates lovely ambiance and helps to light up the night so your party can go on long after the sun sets.However, lighting can create hazards if not set up properly.Here are some important safety tips to keep in mind.
Gift registries are a wonderful thing because they take the guesswork out of shopping and buyers can be sure they are getting just what the person actually wants.Why, then, do we limit registries to weddings alone? There are so many great things about gift registries and they can serve a very beneficial purpose.Sure, they take a little time to put together and it can feel a little awkward asking people for things you want, but in reality most people will appreciate the fact that it saves them the time and hassle of shopping for a gift.Everyone should consider maintaining a semi-public list of everything they need or want at a given moment, even if they aren’t getting married…and here’s why!
Think about all of the birthdays you celebrate in a year.In addition to your own, you celebrate parents, children, spouses or significant others, siblings, friends, and the list goes on.Each time a birthday comes around it equates to more time that you have to spend coming up with a gift idea and shopping around until you find it.Think of how much easier it would be if you could just refer to a registry?Not only would it save you time and maybe even money, but you would have the joy of knowing you were buying something that person really wants.
Perhaps you are going to a housewarming party and you want to bring something a little more personal than a bottle of wine.If everyone had a gift registry, you could easily find the perfect gift to welcome your friends or family home.You could shop effortlessly without having to ask the person what they need because you would already know exactly what to get.
We have all been there. It’s the day before your anniversary and you are still racking your brain about what to get your spouse so you just settle on a new shirt.Or, you arrive at your anniversary dinner and reluctantly open that gift box in case the item inside is a total bust.Why risk getting your spouse something they don’t really want?If they had a running gift registry, you could surprise them with the perfect gift that you know they are hoping for.
Every year is the same story.As soon as the holidays roll around we send ourselves into a frenzy trying to shop for all of the special people in our lives.It doesn’t take long until we are completely overwhelmed with stress.We end up just buying whatever is most convenient and oftentimes we end up receiving a slew of gifts we don’t even want.Why do we do this to ourselves?Think of how much easier it would be if all of those people, including yourself, had a gift registry.We would spend less time in crowded stores searching aimlessly for a gift and more time enjoying time with our loved ones.
When in Doubt, Go with a Gift Card
While registries will definitely offer great ideas for that “hard to buy for” person in your life, there will always be a time when you just aren’t quite sure what to buy.In this case, you can’t go wrong with a gift card.Registries should include a list of your favorite stores so people can always purchase a gift card and let you do some shopping on your own.
Tips on Grilling Fruits
When we think about fruit we think about its juicy sweetness and its delightful crisp as we bit into it.However, the flavors of your favorite fruits can be enhanced when you place them atop the grill.Something magical happens when fruit meets flame.The flavors intensify and the smoke from the grill adds a woodsy flavor that enhances the taste.So, the next time you open your grill, think beyond the burgers and vegetables and throw your taste buds a curveball with some delicious grilled fruit.
Most fruits work well on the grill if they are coated with healthy oil so they don’t stick to the grill.They also do best when cooked over indirect heat. Smaller fruits such as raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries should be placed in a grill basket.Larger fruits can be sliced and placed directly on the grill grates.Set the grill temperature between 350-400 degrees.Grill your fruit for about 6-8 minutes and then remove and enjoy!
Here are a few fruits that you can experiment with and enjoy on the grill:
Watermelon is delicious by itself, but when it’s placed on the grill some of the water in the fruit is evaporated which concentrates the sugars creating a crunchy, caramelized delight.Try grilling watermelon and adding it to your favorite salad topped with balsamic vinegar.
It doesn’t get much sweeter than grilled peaches.Drizzle a little oil on the peaches, grill them for a few minutes and enjoy them alone or on top of vanilla ice cream for a truly decadent dessert.
Grilled nectarines are a fantastic fruit to grill because they will maintain their shape well even over the grill.They are the perfect complement to mascarpone for a craveable dessert.
This is one of the most commonly grilled fruits and for good reason.Grilled pineapple is perfect for kabobs and also tastes great paired with chicken and teriyaki sauce.It is also a great fruit for a grilled fruit salad.
Grilled pears can make for a decadent dessert when they are paired with warm caramel and chocolate sauce for an ooey gooey treat.
You often see grilled mangoes accompanying pork.Mangoes add the perfect amount of sweetness to the savory flavor of the pork.Why not fancy up your next pork chop dinner with a few grilled mangoes?
Here are a few helpful tips for grilling fruit:
- Coat your citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruit with a dusting of granulated sugar before putting them on a hot grill.This keeps the rinds from sticking and also gives them that gorgeous caramelized finish.
- Make sure you preheat your grill for at least 10-15 minutes and then scrape down and oil the grates before laying down your fruit.This will prevent your fruit from sticking to the grill.
- Fruit can be fragile so make sure you slice or cut your fruit into big pieces to help maintain their shape while cooking.
- Denser fruit such as pineapple takes a little longer to grill.To help cook denser fruits, close the lid and check about every 5 minutes until it is heated through.
Lasting the Winter Through
When winter weather arrives it comes with a punch that can turn your lovely lawn and garden into piles of twigs.However, just because winter is on its way doesn’t mean that your garden has to die.There are plenty of beautiful plants that can survive harsh winter weather.Here are a few plants and flowers that will keep your garden looking its best even in the dead of winter.
While the coneflower will not maintain its vibrant purple color in freezing temperatures, it will promise to come back in the spring if properly cared for during the winter months.These flowers love sunlight so they should be planted in an area that receives full sun.Once the flowers go dormant, trim the dead stems and cover with about 1-2 inches of mulch to insulate the plants.At the first sign of spring these bright blooms will reemerge giving your spring garden just the pop of color you want.
Don’t be fooled by its dainty leaves.This plant is tough and can thrive in practically any soil and climate.It also loves shade making it an ideal choice for areas that only get partial sunlight.As an added bonus, this plant is poisonous to deer and other animals so you can be sure critters won’t be munching on its blooms.
The blue spruce tree is a picturesque winter plant.Its needle coating resembles that of a Christmas tree making it a great addition to your winter garden.If you are looking for a plant that stuns even when it’s covered in snow, the blue spruce is an ideal choice.
If you want to enjoy a little greenery in your garden even in the middle of winter, this hearty plant is another great option.It is a versatile plant that looks lovely in planters and can also be used as a hedge.Do be sure to cover its roots with an adequate amount of mulch for protection from the cold.
This lovely plant comes in a rainbow of colors and is a favorite among shade gardeners.They are hearty plants that will still provide plenty of color during the winter months.Again, be sure to add 3-4 inches of mulch to cover their roots before the temperatures drop.
If you are looking for a bright cheery bloom that will survive for much of the winter, look no farther than pansies.These cheerful flowers can survive sudden cold snaps and are sure to brighten up your landscape for much of the winter.
If you are looking for a perennial that blooms in late winter, consider primrose.While most primrose bloom in early spring, there are certain species that peak in later winter months, adding pops of color to your winter garden.
Hot, dry summers can be tough on plants, especially those that are not native to the area.High temperatures hamper plant growth, burn foliage, and speed up their normal living process.Most plants can handle temperatures up to 90 degrees, but anything above that can cause some plants to suffer.Furthermore, the longer the high heat persists, the greater the injury to the plant.Therefore, if you live in an area with extremely dry, hot summers you might want to avoid planting these varieties in your garden.
Impatients are lovely flowers that bloom in in bright and muted shades of pink, red, blue, coral, white, lavender, and yellow.They are a favorite landscape flower because they can add lots of color to gardens, pots, and even hanging baskets.However, the ideal temperature for impatients is around 70 degrees.While they can withstand hotter temperatures with plenty of water and the right amount of mulch to protect their roots, they aren’t the best choice for extremely hot and humid conditions.
Begonias are sensitive to bright sunlight and should be protected from intense heat.They grow best in shade and prefer a cooler climate.While they are an excellent flower to brighten up that shady spot in your garden, they are not ideal for bright, sunny spots that might endure high temperatures.
This green climbing ivy provides lush ground cover and is also capable of climbing 20-80 feet with the right support.It is a great choice for locations that experience cooler weather because it is a winter-hardy plant.It is happiest in moist, well-drained shaded conditions.While it can sometimes survive hotter conditions, it is most ideal in cool shady areas.
These perennial plants add interesting color and a lush woodsy feel to your garden.However, most ferns prefer moist shady areas.While there are some varieties that are more heat tolerant, ferns typically only tolerate partial sunlight, meaning they aren’t the best choice for full sun areas that would experience high heat.
Pansies are a classic cool weather flower and a favorite fall and winter flower for many gardeners.While you might want to enjoy their bright cheerful blooms year round, they don’t tolerate the heat well and will likely begin to wilt and sag in hot temperatures.
Ornamental Cabbage and Kales
Ornamental cabbage and kale is in the same species as edible cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower but are prized for their large colorful rosettes more than their flavor.While they make a lovely addition to your garden, they do not tolerate heat well and are a preferred spring or fall plant.
Cold Weather Gardening: 7 Tips to Keep Your Plants Healthy
As the days grow shorter and the nights grow colder, you are probably spending less time in your garden. However, your green thumb is still itching to do something outside in the yard.Lucky for you there are plenty of things you can do to ensure your plants are well protected for the winter weather that is yet to come.Here are a few gardening tips that might satisfy your need for some wintry fresh air while also keeping your plants safe and healthy through winter.
#1 Add Plenty of Mulch
Mulch isn’t just for making your garden look nice in the spring.It also helps to keep the soil warm and moist.This is an important part of keeping your plants healthy in the winter.A healthy layer of mulch can go a long way in protecting roots and bulbs from frost.Also, winter tends to be a dryer season than spring and summer so the mulch will help to retain moisture.
#2 Dig Up Bulbs
If you live in a colder climate with harsher winters, you will want to dig up your bulbs and store them in a cool, dark location until the last frost has passed. Once you dig them up you should separate them before storing them.
There are a number of factors that contribute to the high turnover rate.Some of these include lower salaries, lack of upward mobility, excessive workloads, and inflexible schedules.Regardless of the reason, it presents a significant challenge for nonprofits.However, knowing the reasons and understanding how to minimize these factors can prevent such high turnover rates.Here are few ways nonprofits can be better prepared for staff turnover.
#3 Cover Plants
While some plants can survive harsh winters, blossoms on other plants aren’t so lucky.In some plants, the entire buds can freeze and drop off the plants.Oftentimes the flowers will turn brown and fall to the ground.To avoid losing these flowers, cover plants that have open buds and open flowers with an old sheet or a frost cover.
#4 Add Compost
Garden beds that sit vacant in the winter can be enriched with compost.Simply add rich compost to your garden and cover it with a cloth.The cover will prevent too much moisture from getting in to the compost.Come spring you can remove the cover and your garden will be filled with a rich soil that is ready for spring planting.
#5 Protect Young Trees and Shrubs
If you live in an area that experiences harsh winter weather, you should take the time to bundle up any young shrubs living in your garden.Natural materials like burlap are a great choice for protecting large plants from frost.
#6 Bring Potted Plants Inside
If container plants are part of your landscape you will want to bring them inside for the winter.Otherwise, they might not survive the harsh weather. For some plants, a gradual transition to the indoors is advised so you don’t shock the plant.
#7 Prune Deciduous Trees and Shrubs
Winter is the best time to prune deciduous trees and shrubs.If you prune them in the winter when they are dormant, it will encourage faster and healthier growth come spring.Prune any dead branches first and then remove overgrown and smaller branches next.
Small and Superb
There is truth behind the old adage that “good things come in small packages.”You don’t have to have a sprawling backyard to have an incredible outdoor space.Even a small backyard can be great for gardening and entertaining.Just because your yard is lacking in space doesn’t mean it has to be lacking in pizazz.The trick is to make the most of every inch and be smart and creative about planting.Check out these tips that will help you make the most of your small backyard.
Garden in Containers
Even if you don’t have much soil for digging, you can still get your gardening fix by planting in containers.You can plant veggies, flowers, and even trees in containers.Container planting offers greater flexibility and is a fantastic way for gardeners to experiment with planting and design.They are a great way to brighten up dull spots in the yard and provide instant, yet easily interchangeable results.The containers themselves add an element of style and they can easily be moved anywhere in your yard.Here are some of the best plants for containers: Cosmos, Impatients, Clematis, Hosta, Ivy, Skimmia Japonica, Coral Bells, pine, juniper, fir, and cypress trees.
Use Vertical Space
When you have a small yard to work with, you need to use vertical space to its advantage.Hang planters on walls or fences and fill them with your favorite flowers.Add texture to walls by growing climbing plants such as Ivy, Honeysuckle, Leather Flower, or Virginia Creeper.Beautify the space and enjoy fresh herbs and vegetables with a vertical vegetable or herb garden.
Get Multifunctional Furniture
Just because you are limited on backyard space doesn’t mean you have to choose between a garden and a seating area.With the right furniture, you can have both!Go for pieces that double as both seating areas but also include built-in planters.This allows you to bring lush greenery right into your seating area.
Flowers don’t necessarily require their own private garden.Some of the prettiest flower displays are those that are planted as a border.Your yard might not be large enough for a separate garden, but bordering existing trees with flowers is a great way to add visual interest to your yard. You can also plant flowers and shrubs to border walkways and patios.
Small yards are sometimes the most elegant and charming. All it takes is a little bit of creativity to turn your small yard into an outdoor space you can enjoy all year long!
Container gardening is a popular alternative to gardening in the ground for many reasons.Some people love it simply because they love the beautiful pottery that houses the plants.Others prefer it because the containers are portable so the plants can be easily transported to different spots and are perfect for front porches, balconies, and patios. It is also popular for people who have a smaller yard or no yard at all.Whatever your reason, container gardening is a great way to enjoy the beauty of plants both indoors and out.If you do choose to grow plants in a pot, be sure to educate yourself on the various types of pottery.While pottery is certainly lovely to look at, it can also be problematic at times.Here are a few of the most common pottery problems and how you can solve them.
These traditional pots are a popular choice among homeowners.Their warm, neutral color can easily match just about décor or style and they look absolutely beautiful when filled with colorful plants. Unfortunately, terracotta pots are susceptible to certain problems.
Problems: They can crack or break during the winter; therefore, it is important to store your terracotta pots indoors during the winter months and avoid excess exposure to harsh winter weather. They are also porous, so they will wick water away from the soil and leave your plant thirsty.You can avoid this problem by soaking the pot in water prior to planting.Lastly, terracotta pots are susceptible to lime and moss stains.You can remove these stains with a mixture of soap, water, and vinegar and scrubbing with a soft-bristle brush.You can prevent these stains by applying an acrylic sealant on the inside and outside of the pots.
Plastic pots are inexpensive and can be found in just about any store.They are also lightweight which makes them easier to move from one place to another and also makes them suitable for balconies and decks.They come in a variety of shapes and colors so they you can easily find one to match your style and taste.
Problems: They don’t usually last more than a season or two, especially when they are left outdoors.Over time sunlight begins to degrade the pot, causing it to become fragile.You can extend the life of plastic pots by covering them when not in use and also keeping them out of the sun.You also want to look for thicker plastic, as this will be more durable and last longer.
Concrete pots are durable and will last for many years when cared for properly.They are also good insulators so they are suitable for climates with more extreme weather changes.
Problems: Concrete is a porous substance and therefore needs to be cured properly in order to avoid impacting the soil alkalinity.Concrete is also high in lime, which is toxic to many plants.Before planting, you should water the pot several times and allow it to drain out to rinse away excess lime.You can even let it sit outside in the rain for a few weeks so the lime will leach our prior to planting.