Family * Travel * Food

Jan 22, 2023

6 Tips for Starting a Backyard Garden

Starting a backyard garden can be a great way to save money on groceries and enjoy fresh, homegrown produce. However, it can also be costly to get started, especially if you plan to purchase expensive equipment and plants. Fortunately, there are several economical ways to start a backyard garden and maximize your yield. 

  1. Plan your garden before you start. Before you begin buying plants or seeds, take some time to plan your garden. Consider the size of your backyard and the amount of sunlight it receives. Think about the types of plants you want to grow and the best way to arrange them. This will help you avoid buying unnecessary plants or seeds and ensure that your garden is productive from the start.
  2. Use seeds instead of seedlings. Buying seedlings can be expensive, and they may not be as hardy as plants that you grow from seed. By starting your own plants from seed, you can save money and also have a greater variety of plants to choose from. You can purchase seeds for a fraction of the cost of seedlings, and you can also save money by reusing seed packets from year to year. 

  3. Create a compost pile. Composting is an excellent way to turn kitchen scraps and yard waste into rich, nutrient-dense soil that is perfect for your garden. By creating a compost pile, you'll be able to save money on expensive fertilizers and soil conditioners. Plus, the compost will help your plants grow strong and healthy, which will lead to a higher yield.
  4. Use natural pest control methods. Chemical pesticides can be expensive and can also be harmful to the environment. Instead, use natural pest control methods such as companion planting, row covers, and hand-picking pests. This can save you money and also help your garden to be organic.
  5. Take advantage of vertical space. By using vertical space, you can grow more plants in a smaller area. This is a great way to maximize your yield and save space in your backyard. Examples of vertical gardening are trellises, hanging planters, or stacking planters.
  6. Grow in containers. If you have limited space in your backyard, growing plants in containers can be a great way to maximize your yield. Container gardening is also a great option if you have poor soil or if you want to move your plants around to different locations.

By following these tips, you can start a backyard garden that is both economical and productive. With a little planning and effort, you'll be able to enjoy fresh, homegrown produce all season long.

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Dec 2, 2020

Pergolas - The Ultimate Garden Structure

What is a home garden without an outdoor structure that is a multifunctional and multi-seasonal addition that not only offers you protection from different types of weather but that also defines your space in style? Extravagant features like pergolas are what designers, architects, and homeowners are raving about nowadays. 


Pergolas vs Other Outdoor Structures 

Outdoor structures are the easiest and inexpensive way to transform your dull home garden into a luxurious living space. However, the structure that you end up choosing depends on the vision that you have for your space. You can choose these several different types of outdoor structures for your garden.

Pergolas

A traditional Pergola design can trace its roots back to the Italian Renaissance. Pergolas are typically large outdoor structures that are attached to the house to serve as protection, link pavilions, or extend from the back door onto an open garden feature such as a pool. This versatile outdoor structure can also be freestanding to provide a sitting area like a patio to offer much-needed protection from the sun. They are commonly mistaken for Arbors and Gazebos. 


Arbors

This is a structure very similar to pergolas, but the difference is that they are relatively smaller and simpler in their design. Unlike pergolas, arbors are never attached to the house, they are always freestanding or attached to a fence to house a gate. They are generally used to define an entry point, divide outdoor rooms, or frame a focal point in your garden. 

Patio Covers

These are structures that are attached to the house and can either be built with a trellis or lattice or they may have a solid roof. They are a lovely way to add more space to your outdoor entertainment area while preventing the heat from messing up with your relaxation in summer. 

Gazebos

Sometimes there is confusion between Gazebos, Pergolas, and Arbors. Gazebos are freestanding, typically octagonal structures that have a solid roof and open sides. They provide ample shade and allow you to enjoy uninterrupted views making them the perfect outdoor structures to entertain. They can also be used to host intimate dinners.

Pavilions

Bigger than both Gazebos and Pergolas, pavilions are designed with entertaining larger large crowds in mind. The roof is solid and covered to make sure that even the heaviest rain cannot interfere with your hosting plans.

You don’t need to spend a lot of money in the city in a picturesque place to have your lunch, you can turn your home garden into an exquisite oasis with outdoor structures like pergolas. They are the most common additions to outdoor spaces because of their flexibility with design and size.

Pergolas will accentuate the quality of your home garden with their aesthetically attractive design without being obtrusive in your garden. They are made from simple materials such as treated wood. It is easy to build your own from scratch if you are the type who wants to erect your structure and possess intermediary building skills. There are loads of DIY hacks for pergolas online that include ways to waterproof your wood.

How To Maintain and Care for Pergolas

Like many outdoor structures, pergolas need to be maintained and cared for to increase their lifespan. Since they can be made from different types of wood, it’s important to know how to take care of them.

  • Using a high-pressure hose helps to give it a thorough cleaning and eliminates any dirt that may cling to the surface and harder to reach areas.
  • Wash and rinse any visible stains on the wood with a recommended cleaning solution. It’s important to know the characteristics of the wood to avoid any unintentional damage.
  • Pergolas need a bit of touching up and repair work after some time. A home kit and paint will do the trick. Some wood like cedar changes color over time. If you want to preserve its color it needs a sealant to be sprayed on it. Clean it well and spray it with some oil, leave it to dry and then apply a sealant to it.
  • If you’re the kind that enjoys growing creepers on pergolas because you love the touch of greenery for ambiance, you need to remember to trim your vines. It will lessen the amount of weight on the pergola. 

It's a Pergola Lifestyle 

Pergolas are the right kind of outdoor style accessories with a practical purpose. They not only offer the right amount of shade, contrast, color, and privacy to your home garden, they are also easy to maintain, add value to your property, and can be added anywhere you see fit. So, if you want to enhance the quality of your outdoor living experience by giving it more visual appeal pergolas are the perfect solution to your design needs.  

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Jul 29, 2019

Beautiful Flowering Trees That Would Enhance Any Garden

If you like flowers as well as trees, why not plant a couple of flowering trees? That way you can enjoy the best of both worlds.

There are hundreds of different types of flowering trees for you to choose between. So, I thought I would do a little bit of research and share the details of some of my favorites to help you to narrow down your choices.

Flowering fruit trees

I am going to start by speaking about flowering fruit trees, which actually covers quite a big group of trees. These days, it is easy to find ornamental cherry, plum, pear and crab apple trees. They are all hybrids of trees that produce blossoms, which then turns into fruit.

The way they have been bred means that they produce an enormous amount of blossoms. Far more than a natural fruit tree would. They do go on to produce fruit, but people rarely eat that as if you bought them from a farmer's market. You may have some success with making juice, jellies, and jams using them.
Photo by Henry & Co. on Unsplash
Of course, if you think you would like to eat what you grow you could always just buy a traditional cherry, apple, pear or plum tree. You will still get some nice blossoms, in the spring. Just nowhere near as much as you would if you were to plant ornamental varieties.
If you want to enjoy double the color for your money, take a look at purple-leaved plums. As the name suggests, once the blossoms have gone, you will still be able to enjoy the rich purple leaves.

Crape myrtles

These trees produce long-lasting, brightly colored flowers throughout the summer. You can buy both evergreen and deciduous varieties. There are about 50 varieties available, most of which can be trained to grow as a bush or a tree. Their versatility is part of the reason this family of plants is so popular. We have these all over South Carolina.

Magnolias

A lot of people assume that magnolias are bushes. This is because most of the ones they see have been kept short or have not enjoyed the growing conditions they need to grow into full-blown trees.

If you can, let yours grow it into a tree. It really is worth doing. They are stunning looking trees even when they are not in full bloom. So, if you have enough space and the right conditions, a magnolia tree would be a great addition to your yard.
image credit
Mimosas

Another nice option is mimosas. These flowering trees have interesting leaves and produce a riot of complex flowers during very hot conditions. Keep a special eye out for varieties like the Chocolate Mimosa Silk Tree. These elegant trees feature stunning looking purple-colored leaves. They are not yet widely available. So, if you want to stand out, search out and buy one of these.

Redbuds

If you only have a small garden, take a look at redbuds. These compact trees bloom through the spring at the same time their distinctive glossy heart-shaped leaves grow in. They are nice and hardy, so you can plant them in most warm temperate climates.

Hopefully, one of the five suggestions above will appeal to you and suit your needs. If not, don’t worry, you can easily buy some nice flowering shrubs instead and let them grow rather than keep them trimmed back. Many varieties will reach 20ft, or more, once mature. This slide share style article tells you about 23 of the tallest ones.
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Mar 28, 2019

Check Out The New WORX® MAX Lawnmower

Just in time to begin spring lawn care, the new WORX® 40V, MAX Lithium, 20 in. Lawnmower is the latest addition to the brand’s line of high efficiency, low maintenance, easy to operate and eco-friendly lawn mowers.  This largest mower in the WORX 20V Power Share platform features a wider deck than its predecessors to save time and labor, as well as higher voltage for added torque and cutting power. 

The cordless mower combines two, 20V MAX Power Share 5.0 Ah lithium batteries to deliver 40V of power. It has a cutting diameter of 19 in. and cuts medium-sized lawns up to 1/4 acre on a single charge.WG751 2x20 Mower 120618.jpg

Unlike gas models, the 40V mower has no cord to pull, choke to adjust, oil level to check, air and gas filters to replace or gasoline container that needs refilling. Not to mention the rising costs of gas and oil, as well as the expense of annual tune-ups.  The only maintenance requirements of the cordless mower are periodically sharpening or changing the mulching blade, cleaning the underside of the mower’s deck and charging or storing the removable batteries.

This hassle-free, cordless mower features two-step electric starting.  Just hold down the start button, then squeeze the bale handle and the walk-behind, push mower is up and running.       

The mower’s 3-in-1 deck allows users to mulch, bag, or side-discharge grass clippings.  The steel, 20 in. deck is equipped with 10 in. rear wheels that provide excellent traction, mobility and maneuverability around trees, shrubs, flower beds and other lawn features.

When mulching, the mower’s Nutricut™ multi-cut blade action cuts grass into fine particles, returning them to the soil for fertilization.  Besides its mulching capabilities, the mower’s rugged, steel deck is highly impact resistant and built to withstand years of hard use over various terrains.

Neighbors appreciate the 40V mower’s significant noise reduction, compared to gas models. The green machine also is independent of fossil fuels and adds no emissions to the environment.   

The cordless mower features single-lever deck height adjustment to raise or lower the mower deck from 1½ to 4¼ in.  Easy adjustability enables homeowners to quickly set the right mowing height for the season, type of grass and growing conditions.  Selecting the proper mowing height helps grow a low-maintenance, drought-tolerant lawn, while discouraging weeds and undesirable grasses. 

The ergonomically designed mower includes a foam-padded comfort handle that’s fully collapsible for compact, stand-up storage.  Its 1.4 bushel-capacity, rear grass bag includes a carrying handle for easy emptying.

Batteries are removable from the mower deck for charging or storage. The mower’s 20V, MAX Lithium, 5.0 Ah batteries are part of the WORX 20V Power Share program and are compatible with other WORX lawn and garden tools.

Standard equipment includes two 20V, MAX Lithium, 5.0 Ah MAX batteries; dual-port, 2-1/2-hour charger with battery power-level indicators; mulch insert plug; and rear grass bag.

The WORX 40V, MAX Lithium, 20 in., Lawnmower (WG751, $474.99) is available at https://www.worx.com/en_CA/.  It is covered by the WORX three-year limited warranty.

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Apr 24, 2018

Ways To Get Your Home Refreshed For Spring Inside And Out

Today's conversation is sponsored by BabbleBoxx.com. All opinions are my own as always.

It's that time of year where many of us take on the huge task of deep cleaning, and organizing our homes and living spaces. Spring cleaning is a big deal in our household, and we all map out what areas we will tackle. This usually includes the common areas, kitchen, closets, bathrooms, and our outdoor living areas and yard. I confess, one of my favorite parts of spring cleaning is getting new products to help make the job a little easier. We got pretty lucky when we ended up getting a spring cleaning themed package from BabbleBoxx to help us refresh our spaces for spring.
The first place we tend to start when it comes to spring cleaning is in our front and back yards. We do everything from pulling weeds, trimming hedges, planting new flowers, adding mulch around the trees and garden beds, cutting the grass, and doing the edges. There is nothing like a manicured yard to start the season of spending more time outdoors.

One of the things many of us don't think of until summer hits is what lurks in the back yard. Mosquitoes pop out of nowhere as soon as the temperatures hit 50 degrees. We are already at that point, and have seen little swarms of them in a few spots in our yard. Yikes! Mosquitoes carry the nasty Zika virus that is extremely harmful, even deadly to humans and pets. We got the opportunity to have technicians from Mosquito Joe come to to evaluate our property, and do a barrier spray. Jack and T.J. explained every step of the way how the spray works, what types of spray they use, and any recommendations to keep the mosquitoes away.
They told me it was necessary to concentrate the spray in areas with the most vegetation. Since we live on a pond, they added some mosquito dunks along the perimeter. I was told they cause absolutely no harm to any fish or wildlife. It was simply an aid in mosquito prevention. It was really nice to see the care they took when they got close to the neighbors' yards as well as their pets.
It has been two weeks since we had our yard sprayed and I'm pleased to report minimal mosquito sightings! They recommend a spray every 3 weeks to maximize the effects. Also, you don't have to worry about the rain washing it away. If you experience any problems with mosquitoes after getting your yard treated, they will come back and re-spray at no charge. They aim to please their customers. One nice thing about Mosquito Joe is you do not have to sign any contracts, so you can cancel or halt service at any time. You are able to make payments online with ease. They also offer a referral program which gives you $25 off towards future sprays. We look forward to continuing the service so we can enjoy the outdoors again.

Once we have the outdoors looking nice and neat, we make our way inside. This is where things get real! We tend to start with the smaller spaces like bathrooms, closets, and cabinets. First thing's first, clean out the clutter! If it isn't being used, it either gets donated or packed away for future use. A handy tool to keep track of what you are packing away for storage is the Duck Pack & Track app-based labeling system.


Now you can pack away items and label it with the location, but there's step that makes it even better. You scan the code on the label through the pack & track app (available for Apple & Android devices) so you can add details of the contents by voice or text. Now if you are looking months from now for something specific like computer cords, you can scan the code to see which box has them. We tend to have like a dozen or more boxes at a time with office items, so now this will make it easier to pinpoint the exact box to look in. The eliminates a lot of wasted time looking around, and is an excellent home storage tool. 


Check out this short video to see how it works:


While we're on the subject of decluttering and packing things away, don't forget to replace your scissors. You know, the dull ones that can't cut butter! We all have those. You probably don't even think of replacing them. It's always nice to have super sharp, heavy-duty scissors to cut through those annoying clam shell packaging that some gadgets come in.

We were happy to test out the world's favorite scissors by Westcott. They have different styles for different tasks. The blades are titanium bonded for extra strength, and can cut heavier materials more efficiently. I love the non-stick ones for gift wrapping and crafting. I can't stand for tape or adhesives to get stuck on scissors. All of the Westcott scissors have a comfortable grip, and fit well on hands of any size.

Now that we have battled the clutter, we move on to deep cleaning the places that don't get that everyday attention. You know, places like the baseboards, ceiling fans, kitchen cabinets, behind your appliances, and the list goes on. The key is to tackle one area at a time. This is where Krud Kutter cleaners come in handy. There is one for the kitchen that works miracles on greasy stove tops, cabinet doors, the sink, countertops, and just about every other surface. Krud Kutter kitchen degreaser is unscented and safe to use around your food prep surfaces. It really gets the job done!

Krud Kutter's heavy duty cleaner is ideal for your baseboards, utility sink, floors, shower walls, and even the hard surfaces on patio furniture. A little goes a long way, so you get a lot of value with either Krud Kutter Cleaner. I even like to spray it directly to my kitchen or bathroom floor for a quick mop job. I love that it kills 99.9% of bacteria and germs while being bleach-free.

Another easy way to refresh your home is by replacing the shower head in your bathroom. You don't have to go out and spend a fortune on one either. Waterpik shower heads are very affordable and is easy to install in minutes. If you know how to screw in a lightbulb, you can install this shower head.
This Waterpik Power Pulse has a sleek, modern look and has 6 spray settings: powerpulse massage, full body, power spray, full body & powerpulse massage, powerspray powerpulse massage, and water saving trickle. I'm hoping to save a little extra on water costs each month using this new shower head. My son says that he feels like he's in a hotel shower each time he uses it. I have tried it out for myself and love it. I will be buying one for my bathroom soon. It's amazing the difference something as simple as replacing a shower head can make. Find out more about Waterpik shower heads here.

So we have covered just about every part of the house except for one last place-- the kitchen sink to be exact. I am one of those crazy dinosaur people who still hand-washes dishes. It's actually quite relaxing most days, and it's where I do the most thinking. I am always down for trying out anything that will make dishwashing more exciting. I geeked out when I found out I was getting a Scrub Daisy Dishwand System. I've had my eye on it for some time. Look at how cute it is!

This adorable gadget comes with a vase and valet to hold your dishwand and scrubbing heads. The vase suctions down to stay secure at your kitchen sink. It comes with the Daisy, the Sunflower, and the Hyacinth. Each scrub head has special petals and surfaces for specific cleaning needs. The Daisy is perfectly 'bloomed' for multitasking. It's great for your everyday dishware, utensils, coffee mugs, and non-stick pans. The Sunflower is designed to have more scouring power and even has a scraper attached for stubborn food particles. The Hyacinth is so great for getting into those tall water bottles, baby bottles, or slim wine glasses. 
All you have to do is add your favorite dish soap into the dishwand. It is easy to switch scrub heads with a simple twist. I love the fact that you can rinse off your scrub heads and store them on the valet to drip dry. This makes for fresher scrubbers with no odor. The handle is very comfortable to work with, too. You've got to experience the Scrub Daisy for yourself. 
We want to thank BabbleBoxx for the wonderful items that have helped to refresh our home for spring. We hope you will give some of these things a try. Which of these products are you interested in trying? Let us know in the comments. Thanks for stopping by today. 
xo,
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Apr 8, 2018

The Best Plants To Help Keep Mosquitoes Away

It's crazy to think that although we are in the month of April, many parts of the country are getting late snowfall and freezing temperatures. We have experienced all four seasons in recent weeks. What surprises me is although we have only had a handful of days in the lower 80's, we have seen swarms of tiny mosquitoes. Since we spend a lot of time on our back deck, we have to do all we can to keep those pesky buggers away. 

Last year we tried a few plants that were recommended by our local garden center, and we added a few others. Keep in mind that some of these plants can be hard to find at the big chain places, so you may have to go to a local specialty place for them like we did for some. The plants below have worked for us, which says a lot since mosquitoes can find me in a crowd of a thousand people! 

Take a look at these plants that help keep the mosquitoes away

Citronella (also called the mosquito plant)
This plant gives off a citrusy scent that mosquitoes hate. We find this plant is most effective when you pluck a leaf or two off, rub it to release the natural oils, and wipe it on your exposed areas like your legs and arms. This one really does work well! I have yet to get single bite if I have this around. We found it at a local garden center, but you can buy them here as well. 

Marigolds
The great part about these is you can find them in almost any store that sells plants. They are super affordable, come in different colors, and work great in garden beds, pots or hanging baskets.


Rosemary 
This herb is very fragrant so it chases mosquitoes away. I can't stand the scent at all myself. Rosemary is a hardy plants that requires no maintenance aside from watering. They can take full sun as well. 

Other recommended herbs are: basil, peppermint, spearmint, and garlic chives. 


Eucalyptus
This plant emits a fragrance that chases pests away. We bought a couple small pants called silver drop that we planted in pots. They will only get to be a few feet tall, which makes it good for containers. We might consider getting a larger tree to plant in the ground at the bottom of our deck. We use eucalyptus in our home, so it would be great to have a full size tree.

Geranium
This flower plant is a stunner! I have read that they can help repel mosquitoes, so of course I had to buy a plant to put in a pot to admire. I'll report back to let you all now if it worked or not. At least it's pretty, right?


So far we have plenty of potted plants on our back deck and our front door entrance to keep mosquitoes from trying to enter our home. We are hoping the summer heat isn't too hard on them. The only real maintenance these plants need is proper watering, a little plant food, and the correct amount of sun. Too bad plants only work for small areas.

In addition to having potted plants for repelling mosquitoes, we also use Tiki torches, candles, and our new favorite, citronella mosquito repellent sticks. They are long-lasting and work really well. It's nice to be able to grill out, without getting eaten alive. If mosquitoes are bugging you, I suggest trying any of the recommendations in this post.

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Jul 26, 2017

TurfMutt’s Tips For A Pet-Friendly Family Yard


1. Consider your pet’s needs.
Dogs love being in your family yard. Most pets need a place to romp and exercise, relax in the shade for an afternoon nap and take bathroom breaks. Your yard should have a fence to keep your dog safely secured.

2. Look for “dog-proof” ground coverings.
Grass is one of the best options for your yard because it can handle the wear and tear that comes with pets and children. Bermuda and buffalo grass are especially hardy. Check your climate zone to select the best option for your area.

3. Avoid plastic grass.
Plastic grass, also known as artificial turf, gets too hot for humans and pets, especially in summer months. A Brigham Young University study revealed that synthetic-turf surface temperatures were 37° higher than asphalt and 86° hotter than natural turf. That’s too hot for pet’s paws and our bare feet to enjoy the outdoors!

4. Select plants for your climate zone and your pet.
Be sure to check the ASPCA’s list of toxic and non-toxic garden plants before choosing flora and fauna. For areas near garden paths, select plants that have soft foliage, but are still sturdy enough to withstand a little canine “ruff-housing.” Save delicate flowering plants for patio containers when dogs are in the picture.

5. Plant for pollinators for other wildlife.
Fido isn’t the only one who uses your family yard. Keep pollinators (bees, butterflies and hummingbirds) and other wildlife in mind when selecting climate-appropriate plants, trees and shrubs. Remember, nature starts in your backyard!
To learn more about how the family yard benefits people and pets and for more tips on taking care of your living landscapes, visit www.livinglandscapesmatter.com.

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