Outdoor Entertaining

Rattan Cool Bar

If you enjoy spending time outdoors, design an outdoor entertaining area that combines style and function and brings indoor comfort outside. With added durability, new products from comfy throw pillows to trendy rugs make designing outdoor space easier than ever.

Start by determining how much outdoor space will be used for entertaining and/or lounging around on those summer days and nights. Group your outdoor furniture to maximize the purpose of the outdoor area. For example, if you entertain a lot, you can use sectional furniture that can be moved and configured to fit the size of the party. Layering accessories such as colorful trays, detailed lanterns and floral arrangements will create a cheerful centerpiece that will make your guests feel welcome.

An outdoor entertaining area lends itself to adventure. Don’t be afraid to combine colors and patterns. Be bold and step out of your comfort zone. Mix and match different colors and patterns to create an atmosphere that is both comfortable and makes a statement. Personalize your space with accents such as outdoor artwork, planters, and umbrellas.

Outdoor rugs will tie everything together and really bring life to your outdoor area. Layer a rug with your seating arrangement, colorful cushions and pillows and everyone will enjoy spending time lounging in the area.
Outdoor Dinnerware
Not all of your outdoor entertaining will be done during the day when the sun is shining. Create a delightful, welcoming atmosphere with a variety of outdoor lighting options, such as string lights, paper lanterns or floating LED candles placed around the area.

A self-service food station or bar enhances the casual tone, freeing your guests to grab refreshments whenever they please. This will also allow you, the host or hostess, to enjoy more of the fun. Look for serving and drink carts that also provide storage or have additional shelves to store extra supplies, snacks or lawn games.

Design the area you choose for your outdoor entertaining area to be comfortable and fit your lifestyle. Then everyone will enjoy the experience.

Water Ponds

Water Ponds
With more people spending their vacation time close to home, adding a water pond in your backyard can create a paradise right at home. You can relax listening to the soothing sounds of your water feature. If you wish, you can install a waterfall that ends in a pond, add some fish and plants and you have the perfect area to unwind and enjoy live.

Typically the water in many water ponds is self-contained and is re-circulated by pumps. You will need a skimmer to remove any debris that should fall into the pond to avoid clogging the filters and detracting from the pond. Algae can be the biggest problem you will have with your water ponds. There are treatments available to help you control the algae.

You first step in designing your water pond is to decide if you want a water garden or a fish pond. If you decide you want a fish pond, the most common type of fish is koi. A koi pond is usually larger than a water garden because koi can grow to be quite large and will need more room. A koi pond will also need to be deeper than a water garden. If you decide you want a water garden and fish, goldfish is an excellent selection and do well and won’t eat all your aquatic plants.

Locate your water pond close to your house so that you can enjoy the sight and sounds it will provide. Avoid placing your pond close to trees so that you aren’t consistently cleaning leaves and branches out of the water. You’ll also want to make sure and place your water pond so that run off from rain doesn’t flow into the pond. This run off may carry chemicals, fertilizers and other organic debris that could affect your plant or fish life.

Installing a water pond in your backyard can create the perfect environment for years of enjoying a peaceful and soothing atmosphere.

Trek Deck

Deck Designs
Having an outdoor deck area is a must for any backyard landscaping design. A trek deck allows you to have the natural beauty of wood, without the rotting, warping and splinters. A trek deck is easy to maintain since you don’t need to paint or stain it, so you can spend more time relaxing instead of maintaining your deck. Trek decking is smooth to the touch so you can walk around barefoot without worrying about splinters.

Your trek deck will require cleaning just like any exterior building materials. You can use either a composite deck cleaner or a combination of soap, hot water, and a soft bristle brush. You will typically want to clean your deck in the spring and fall. It is not recommended to use a pressure washer on your trek deck because it could cause damage.

A trek deck is environmentally friendly because it contains a wood polymer combination and the same plastic bags retailers stock to package goods. Recycled, these plastic bags get a second life rather than clogging up the landfills. So you will be getting a deck that has some wood qualities but does not require the same level of maintenance that an all wood deck would require.

Types of Pecan Trees

Pecans
There are over 500 different types of pecan trees that grow in various regions and come in different shapes and sizes. Pecan trees need moist soil to grow and thrive which is why many varieties of the tree grow in the coastal and southern regions of the United States.

The pecan tree enjoys climates that have long, hot summers and moderately cool winters. Pecan trees are very large and can reach a mature growth of 70 feet in height and 6 feet in trunk diameter. Nuts that the tree produces grow in clusters with 2 to 6 nut per cluster. Pecan trees begin bearing nuts 5 to 10 years after planting and like most nut bearing trees, requires at least two of the species to produce nuts.

Some of the most popular species are:

Cape Fear
This type of pecan tree is native to the North Carolina area. The trees grow upright and bear nuts that range from ovals to oblong in shape and are encased in moderately thick shells.

Elliott
The Elliott pecan tree originated in northwest Florida and is a good cross-pollinating choice with the Cape Fear and Desirable. The nuts produced by this tree are round with pointed tips. The shell encasing the nut is moderately thick. These trees are well suited for the extreme southern states.

Desirable
These trees are native to Mississippi, but do very well in places such as Georgia and Florida. They do not take long to produce large nuts with thick bumpy shells and will produce a large volume of nuts during the lifetime of the tree. These trees are good at cross pollinating other types of pecan trees.

Moreland
Louisiana is where this type of pecan tree originated. The tree produces a dense canopy which provides a excellent shade source and the nuts vary from slightly egg-shaped to oblong. The shell encasing the nut is thin enough for someone to crack it open by hand.

Gloria Grande
These sturdy pecan trees are native to South Carolina. They grow upright and will produce large nuts that are oblong with a rounded tip. The nuts are encased in moderately thick shells.

Stuart
These pecan trees thrive in the southeastern United States as well as other parts of the world. This trees are sturdy and strong and will take approximately 10 years to bear fruit. They are a good choice of to cross pollinate
with other pecan trees such as the Desirable. Stuart pecan tree shells are moderately thick and vary in shape from oblong to oval.

The health benefits of pecans are that they are a good source of protein and unsaturated fats. The antioxidants and plant sterols (which are known for their cholesterol-lowering ability) found in pecans reduce high cholesterol by reducing the “bad” cholesterol levels.

Spring Flowering Bulbs

Spring Flowering Bulbs
After a long winter, spring flowering bulbs add a colorful display when most of us need it the most. Choose spring flowering bulbs that are best suited for your particular area. Preparing the soil at the time you plant is the key to large, healthy flowering bulbs.

Choose healthy bulbs. Don’t plant bulbs that are dry and withered, spongy or moldy. Most spring flowering bulbs prefer full sunlight. Plant your bulbs in well draining soil to prevent rotting in cool weather. If you live in an area that has cold winters, you can plant your bulbs as long as the soil is soft enough to dig. Always plant your spring flowering bulbs with the pointed side up. This is the stem of the plant. Bulbs should be planted at a depth of 3 times the bulbs diameter. Mix some bone meal or superphosphate into the soil at the bottom of the hole when planting to encourage strong root growth.

If you have a problem with squirrels and other animals digging up your bulbs or eating the plants, try planting daffodils, hyacinths and crown imperials. Most animals don’t like the way these plants taste. You could also sprinkle some red pepper in the planting hole to help stop rodents from eating the bulbs. A more secure method of protecting your bulbs is to make a cage out of hardware cloth. The roots and stems of the bulbs can grow through but the rodents can’t get bulb.

Plant your spring flowering bulbs in clusters so when they bloom, the flowers will look like a bouquet. Or plant small bulbs right on top of larger bulbs. If these two bulbs flower at the same time, it creates a colorful two-tone effect.

When selecting colors for your bulbs choose “warm” colors like reds and yellows to evoke feelings of passion and energy and choose “cool” colors such as blues and greens for a more laid back and serene feel. When your flowers have finished blooming, cut back the flower stalks to ground level. Don’t cut back the flowers while they are still green because they need time to photosynthesize and make food reserves for next year’s flowers.

Patio Fountains

Patio Fountains
Patio fountains are a popular addition to any patio, deck or garden. Patio fountains will add soothing water sounds that range from gushing waterfalls to babbling brooks. When you are designing your outdoor living area, you want it to be a place where you can go every day and unwind, relax and enjoy your surroundings.

Adding a patio fountain to your backyard landscaping will make the area feel cooler with the movement of water. The fountain will also help down out background noises such as the next door neighbor, barking dogs and planes flying overhead. A backyard or patio fountain will create a more pleasing backyard environment.

Patio fountains come in a variety of shapes and sizes. When you are selecting your fountain make sure that it is attractive when you look at it from the inside of your house and make sure the fountain complements your overall backyard landscaping theme. A patio fountain can also provide a fresh water source for any birds that happen to visit your backyard.

An excellent choice for a fountain is a solar powered patio fountain. This type of fountain is powered by solar power and will save you electricity. The fountain charges solar panels during daylight hours to power up the fountain pump. This is a great alternative if you want to place your fountain away from a convenient power source.

Patio Deck Ideas

Outdoor Spaces
Wouldn’t having a new deck be nice. Well save your money and use some of these patio deck ideas to spruce up your current deck.

If your deck is not covered, consider adding a pergola, canopy, awning or overhead trellis. This will protect you from the sun and other outdoor elements and also create a sense of enclosure. This patio deck idea will allow you to have an outside room that is an extension of your home. Before adding a cover to your deck, make sure that your deck is strong enough to support the additional weight.

Installing a new railing is another great patio deck idea. There are a wide variety of materials that you can use such as wood, composite, metal and vinyl for your railing. Choose the material that is going to fit your patio personality and your outdoor living space.

A quick and easy patio deck idea is to add containers of plants. Some planters can be designed right into the deck or use containers to place the flowers in an area of the deck that might be bare and needs a little pizzazz. Regardless of where you decide to place your planters make sure the have a place to drain other than onto your deck. You don’t want to have puddles of water which not only look unattractive but can also promote wood rot and shorten the life of your deck.

Install lighting for a patio deck idea that will allow you to use your patio after dark. The easiest type of deck lighting to install is low-voltage. There is recessed lights you can inset into stairs, rope lights you can tuck under ledges, surface-mount lights for general lighting and in-ground lights. Enclosing your deck is another great patio deck idea and will also keep critters and pets from wandering under it. You won’t notice the enclosure around your deck when you are sitting on it but it will make a huge difference in the way your deck will look finished.

Outdoor Wicker Bistro Set

Outdoor Wicker Bistro Set
Entertaining outdoors is a favorite summertime activity and outdoor wicker bistro sets are great for small decks and patios.  All weather wicker outdoor furniture is an excellent choice for backyard parties because it is durable. The furniture is typically light weight yet sturdy enough to withstand being outdoors during the summer months and can be stored in a small area during the winter months.

Bistro sets are great for small patios or backyard areas because they don’t take up as much space as a traditional outdoor furniture. Traditional outdoor tables typically measure about 42″ round where the bistro table measures approximately 24″ in diameter. Bistro wicker sets usually have 2 chairs instead of four which makes it a perfect option for intimate dining.

Check to make sure the furniture is made from rattan wicker, which is a synthetic fabric. This type of fabric will not fade, weather or age as fast as other types of fabric and can be easily cleaned with mild soap and water.

Most of the sets that are available for purchase online don’t require any assemble. Simply unfold them, place on a solid surface and you’re ready to start enjoying your backyard space.  Add a couple of potted flower gardens and you can create an outdoor oasis.

Purchase your patio furniture during the spring so you can enjoy it all summer long. Most retailers will have some great clearance prices on them during late spring so you can save some money.  Great looking and durable outdoor furniture can also be purchased online and in most cases will be shipped for free. Check locally and online before you purchase to take advantage of the best deals on outdoor wicker bistro sets.

Outdoor Patio Bar

Outdoor Patio Bar
Outdoor patio bars come in many styles and designs to fit your outdoor entertaining lifestyle. An outdoor patio bar can make the difference between an outdoor party that is so-so or one where everyone you’ve invited feels at home and comfortable.

An outdoor patio bar is an excellent way to keep your party outdoors which limits the amount of traffic going through your home. Clean up after your party is then contained to your outdoor area which will make your outdoor entertaining experience much more relaxing.

One of your first decisions for an outdoor patio bar is whether you want a wet or dry bar. A wet bar offers convenience and will provide a great touch to your deck or patio. A refrigerator and sink are a couple of options that will make a wet bar complete. The downside to this particular type of outdoor patio bar is the added expense to install plumbing for water and drainage.

An outdoor patio bar that is considered a dry bar is more flexible and less expensive. Dry bars typically do not have running water or refrigerators. They do have plenty of storage for glasses, alcohol and other drinks. One advantage for a dry outdoor patio bar is the portability. Certain styles come with wheels that allow you to place it where you want, and moving because of the weather or just needing it in a different place because of the party situation.

You can either purchase your outdoor patio bar or if you are a do-it-yourself type individual, there are a number of plans that will help you build the perfect bar that will fit your needs. And you can always use the money you’ve saved to stock your new outdoor patio bar with your favorite refreshments.

Organic Gardening Plants

Organic Gardening
Organic gardening is the science and art of growing vegetables, flowers, and fruits by following essential principles of soil building and pest management.

Managing the soil is very important in organic gardening. Insects won’t attack a healthy plant and a good soil management program will keep your garden healthy.

To keep your garden healthy give it organic matter to survive. The most important thing for your garden is to it with lots of attention and your energy.

Organic plants consist of more than having a chemical free garden. To be successful in growing organic plants you will need to work with nature and develop an ecosystem for your garden. You will want to encourage healthy bugs like ladybugs and lacewings to take up residency in your garden and feed on the bugs that you don’t want in your garden. Planting fennel, dill, allyssum and cumin will help attract the right type of bugs to your organic plants.

You should add as much organic matter as you can to your garden in order to feed soil organisms. The soil organisms will break down organic matter and help feed your plants. You can make your own compost to use in this process then not only will you be providing nourishment to the soil but you will also reduce kitchen and garden waste.

With rising food prices and the use of harmful pesticides it is almost impossible for a person to have a truly healthy diet. This is part of the reason more and more people are choosing to grow their own vegetables. Growing organic plants is not a complicated process. All you really need is a pot, a plant, some soil, water and sunlight. By growing even a portion of your vegetables at home, you can help eliminate a wide number of environmental and financial issues.