Author Archives: Garden Decor

Succulent plants

Caring for succulents: the basics

Beginner and advanced gardeners alike appreciate succulents for their beautiful and enduring qualities. You’ve heard of the most famous succulent plants such as aloe, agave and cacti. No matter which type you choose to grow, here are some simple rules to follow to keep your succulents happy and healthy all year long.

Light

Succulents require bright light and prefer to be placed near a south-facing window. Fortunately, succulents’ leaves are able to tell you if the plant is getting the correct about of light. Brown or white leaves mean the plant is getting too much direct sunlight. Stretched out stems and widely spaced leaves indicate the plant is underlit.

Temperature

Often found in the desert, succulents are used to extreme temperature contrasts between night and day. Although they can survive colder nights with temps down to 40°F, their preferred temperature range is between 70ºF and 85ºF during the day and between 50ºF and 55ºF at night.

Water

Generously water your succulents in the summer, but allow the potting mix to dry between waterings. During the winter, succulents need water only once every other month. Overwatered plants will appear soft and discolored. If this happens, try removing the plant’s dead roots and repotting into drier potting mix. On the flip side, underwatered plants will develop brown spots, stop growing and shed leaves.

Soil

Look for a potting mixture that is designed for cacti and succulents. You could also use a normal potting mix with added perlite for increased aeration and drainage. The mixture should be, most importantly, fast-draining. Fertilizer should be used only during the summer growing season.

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Composting

The Why, How and What of Composting

Compost is a soil-like mixture that consists largely of decayed organic matter and is used for fertilizing and conditioning land. Home composting reduces the need for water, fertilizers, and pesticides and encourages a higher yield in crops. It also reduces the amount of waste products you discard. Consisting of nutrient-rich brown and green material, compost creation takes little effort and can be done by just one household or on larger scales.

Creating your own compost will save you money and is easy to do! With compost starters like Ringer® Compost Plus available to help organically speed up the process, you can start reaping the benefits of your own compost in no time. Your plants and the environment will thank you.

Why Compost? This infographic, brought to you by Avant Garden Decor, home of Gardener’s Blue Ribbon® vegetable gardening products, takes a look at the basics of home compost production and its benefits.

Composting Infographic
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Weather Vane

All About Weather Vanes

While doubling as common garden and yard décor, weather or wind vanes have been purposeful spanning back to Ancient Greece. To honor the Greek god Triton, the very first weather vane was placed atop the Tower of the Winds in Athens to show the direction of the wind. The ancients believed in the divine powers of the wind and the earliest weather vanes portrayed various gods as they adorned the homes of wealthy landowners. Bronze weather vanes have also been discovered on Viking ships and Scandinavian churches from the ninth century.

In ninth century A.D., the pope ordered every church in Europe to show a cock on its dome or steeple as a reflection of Jesus’ prophecy of St. Peter’s fall. Since then, “weather cocks” have been a common part of church architecture in both Europe and the United States. Patriotic weather vanes became popular in America during the early 1800s. Later, vanes modeled after famous racehorses gave way to the mass production of many different designs.

The most common type of weather vane is an arrow attached a rotating upright rod. The arrow spins freely when weight is equally distributed on both sides of the rotation axis. This allows the arrow to point into the direction of the wind, with the cardinal points of a compass typically shown on traditional vanes.

Weather vanes should be placed in a high position where trees, buildings or other objects won’t interfere. You will usually find them at the top of towers, roofs or poles. Some gardeners are able to use wind vanes to make simple weather forecasts, but if a modern wind vane doesn’t have the correct weight balance, it does not show and accurate wind direction. Because of this, vanes with complicated or intricate designs are often simply used for decoration.

Deck with Flower Baskets

Creating Curb Appeal

When it comes to décor, the exterior of your home is just as important as the interior. Make a lasting impression by adding curb appeal with these quick yardscaping tips:

1. Outdoor lighting

Highlight the features of your yard with landscape lighting. Try using them in trees or to illuminate a walking path. Solar fixtures are an alternative option if you’re not able to use wiring.

2. Container gardens

Don’t have time to plant an entire garden in the ground? Container gardens are just as welcoming and eye-catching. Get started with containers and your favorite plants. Arrange containers asymmetrically and on plant stands to create a dynamic effect.

3. Update garden beds

Get your garden beds back in order by pruning, weeding, planting flowers and adding new mulch. Clean up the border of your garden and reset anything that winter may have knocked out of place.

4. Outdoor art

Complete the look of your yard by adding weather-resistant artwork like bird baths, bird feeders, sculptures and wind art. If you have the space and resources, water sculptures or fountains create a soothing atmosphere on hot summer days.

5. Flower overload

Draw in eyes by spreading vibrant flowers throughout your entire front yard. Use containers, window boxes and flower beds. Choose a color scheme to complement the shade of your house and other décor.

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Till Garden

Should I Till My Garden

To till or not to till? As a controversy among gardeners – that is the question. While some rely on cultivating for lighter, weed-free soil, others claim soil will be healthier if you leave it alone. Who are we supposed to believe?

Let’s start with the major benefits of tilling, which include aerating the soil, killing weeds, and mixing in organic materials and fertilizers. These can all be achieved through correctly tilling your garden. Tilling soil is useful especially in new gardens or those low in organic matter. In this case, take about 3-6 inches of compost and till it into the soil with a tiller or rototiller. This helps create a deeper soil in which plants can spread their roots and grow. Organic matter is able to break down when it is under the soil surface.

Others believe in a no-till gardening strategy, saying that tilling can make garden issues worse. These gardeners speculate that organic matter is better left on the surface of the soil. If not done correctly, tilling can lead to further spreading and sewing of weed seeds.

Be sure you are properly caring for your garden. Here are some best practices when tilling:Till Garden w/a Rake

Add in organic matter every time

Try using leaves, shredded bark, grass clippings or compost, as these will help change the soil structure and lead to a healthier garden over time.

Only till warm soil

Tilling will be easier and more beneficial after the ground completely thaws. You should also avoid tilling wet soil, as it compacts more easily.

Avoid over-tilling

Over-tilling can lead to compacting the soil instead of aerating and mixing. Go slowly and pay attention to avoid this. Setting the tiller depth slightly higher will allow you to till an area more than once, so you can be extra steady and careful.

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garden tilling

 

Groundhog

Groundhog says there’s more winter — but should we trust him?

You may have heard the news, but in case you didn’t — good old Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow this morning. That means that he’s returned to his burrow to hunker down for another six weeks of winter.

According to the weather-forecasting rodent, you can expect Spring to unofficially arrive around March 16. Sure that’s a little earlier than what the calendar says, but we don’t really mind — we’ll take it when we can, even if Phil could have made it even earlier.

Stay warm in the winter with a fire pit

Keep those hats and gloves out. Winter is sticking around — at least that’s what Punxsutawney Phil says.

The Groundhog Day tradition is a holdover from a centuries old Christian tradition called Candlemas. During that ceremony, priests bless the candles that would be used throughout the year. That holiday also coincided with more ancient traditions that suggested a sacred bear or badger could predict the changing of the seasons.

When those traditions migrated to North America, the Germans that settled in Pennsylvania appointed the groundhog as their weatherman.

This tradition has been in the Americas since at least the mid-1800s. By 1887, Punxsutawney Phil was making his predictions and gaining fame. He’s missed at least one year along the way — 1943 — because of World War II.

So just how accurate has Phil been over the years? According to one study that looked at his predictions, he’s only been correct 37% of the time in more than 100 attempts.

He’s not exactly beating the odds. With that in mind, it might be best to start planning your garden now.

At our website, you can find plenty of help for your gardening, outdoor decor and outdoor entertaining needs with our How-To section and, of course, this very blog.

Seed-pod-600

Harvest seeds to help your flower garden budget

Growing your own plants goes hand-in-hand with producing your own seeds. Perhaps you are concerned about saving a particular type of seed or you want to trade seeds with a friend. Harvesting seeds is the perfect way to free up your garden budget for décor or other projects. Here are a few tips to help you harvest seeds.

Spot your seeds

Nearly all plants develop seeds behind their faded flowers. Seeds can be stored in pods, heads, capsules or fruits. Seeds range in size from small specs of dust to the size of a fingernail.

Secure your seeds

The key to success in seed saving is to wait until the seeds have fully matured but not yet fallen off the plant. Fruit and vegetable seeds are harvested when the fruit is ripe while flowering plant seeds can be harvested after they have dried on the plant.

Store your seeds

Make sure your seeds are clean and dry before saving them in an envelope, jar or seed packet. Label the container with the plant’s name, preferred growing conditions and any other information you may want to remember for next year. Seeds remain usable for up to four years when stored safely.

Although you can harvest seeds from all plant types, annuals are the easiest. Try some of these prolific annual flowers for easy seed-saving:

  • Cleome
  • Datura
  • Larkspur
  • Marigolds
  • Morning Glory
  • Nasturtium
  • Poppy
  • Snapdragons
Clean a fire pit

Fire Pit Cleaning and Maintenance Tips

You’ve used your fire pit a few times – marshmallows with your kids, an evening under the stars with your significant other, and that party where your whole family came by for the night.

Your fire pit is proving itself to be a real workhorse. It’s been a great centerpiece to your outdoor décor. Just load it with firewood, light it and relax.

With all that use, you also need to perform a little maintenance to extend the lifespan of your fire pit.

Fire pit in use

REMOVE ASH AND SAND

In some fire pits, it’s recommended that you put down a layer of sand in your fire bowl to protect the metal from extreme heat. Sand absorbs and distributes the heat evenly throughout the entire base of your fire pit. Depending on the fire pit, a one- or two-inch-thick layer of sand is recommended.  Consult your assembly instructions to determine if you should put sand in your fire pit.

It’s not required to change the sand regularly, the heat from a typical campfire isn’t going to change the composition of sand. Regular fires will also keep the sand moisture free, which helps battle against rust. Be sure to cover your fire pit when it is not in use.

Leave the sand in as long as you feel appropriate. For basic maintenance, sift through the sand and pull out any large, unburnt cinders and debris and dispose of them.

Whether or not your fire pit requires sand, you’ll accumulate a layer of ash after any wood fire.

You should scoop or pour the ash out on a regular basis – but only after it has cooled to air temperature. Hot embers can pose a fire hazard, so it’s very important to make sure they are no longer a danger.

If a fire pit only burns untreated wood and paper, there’s an added bonus – the ash can be used as a fertilizer supplement. Learn more about the process here.

Otherwise, dispose of cooled ash in any trash receptacle.

For ash mixed with sand, simply skim the top level of the mixture with a finely slotted scoop or shovel. The sand, which is heavier, will slip through the slats, while the ash stays in the scoop.

Clean a fire pit with a hose

CLEAN YOUR FIRE BOWL

Steel Fire Pits

Steel fire pit bowls are the easiest to clean. Once any ash has been removed, simply spray it clean with a hose and then lightly wipe it with a soap and water mixture. After you’re through wiping the bowl, tip it upside down and allow it drip-dry.

Buy a Steel Fire Pit

Cast Iron Fire Pits

Cleaning cast iron fire pits is slightly more difficult than steel. You should remove debris from the fire bowl in the same fashion, however you may need a few extra steps to return it to its original finish. When exposed to water, cast iron naturally forms a top layer of rust. Unlike steel, this will not harm the structural integrity of your fire bowl, and can be removed by gently scrubbing with steel wool. Rinse and dry with a soft rag when complete.

Buy a Cast Iron Fire Pit

Copper Fire Pits

Copper patina

Your copper fire bowl will develop a patina with each fire and exposure to the elements.

CobraCo copper fire pits are shipped with a coating of coconut oil to prevent oxidation during shipment – this ensures they arrive patina-free. After its first use, your fire pit will accumulate a layer of soot and develop a natural patina over time.

To help remove soot between fires, simply spray with a hose and clean with soap and water. This kind of light washing won’t damage the patina.

Before any cleaning, remove all ash from your fire bowl. There are chemical cleaners available that will allow you to easily remove tarnish, soot, and patina. For a natural cleaning option, prepare a salt and vinegar mixture of 1 cup salt to 1 gallon vinegar. From there, dampen a cloth in the mixture and scrub the copper vigorously. The mixture will eventually break down the green patina.

Buy a Copper Fire Pit

MAINTAINING YOUR FIRE PIT

Whenever a fire pit is emptied and cleaned, it’s a good idea to check its support structure. Do the fire pit’s bolts need to be tightened? Is anything bent? Are its legs loose? Is there any damage to the bowl? Is the spark screen torn?

If your fire bowl comes with a heat-resistant paint coating, it may begin to chip and crack over time. Temperature resistant paint is available at your local hardware store and re-coating every season will extend the life of your fire pit.

We also suggest that at least once a season you clean your spark cover with a wire brush and coat it with a heat resistant paint.

If you have any questions or are in need of replacement parts, don’t hesitate to contact CobraCo. Our customer service team is always happy to help you.

 

blazing logs in a fire pit

What to Look for When Picking Out Your Next Fire Pit

With our years of experience creating fire pit designs, CobraCo has developed a few tips on what to consider when choosing your fire pit.

Copper Fire Pit

The copper fire pits from CobraCo are built to last.

When deciding to offer a fire pit, CobraCo considers a number of points. These same points can help you when you’re shopping for the best fire pit for your backyard.

A quality fire pit should have the following features:

  • Durable Metal – Fire pits can be made from a variety of materials. Metal is the best option when you aren’t looking to create a permanent structure. CobraCo offers — copper, steel or cast iron.
  • Quality Finish – Whether it’s polished metal, a high-temp paint or a specialized design, the finishes on fire pits matter. They need to look great but also resist the effects of heat, weather and anything else that comes with regular use of a fire pit.
  •  Proven Stability – CobraCo fire pits are built to hold a lot of firewood. As such, they need to be stable and resist tipping over.
  • Portability – While cast iron, copper and steel are all sturdy materials, each CobraCo design allows you to remove your fire bowl from the base. This enables you to easily move the structure and re-design your outdoor living space.
  • Safety Features – Every CobraCo fire pit comes with a spark screen and, when needed, a screen removal tool. The screen stops embers from flying out and keeps your fire contained. The screen removal tool helps you move the spark screen when it’s hot to the touch.
  • Pleasing Appearance – There’s a reason we don’t just have an old oil drum out back to use as a fire pit – it would just be too ugly. CobraCo fire pits are designed to look great and become a focal point for backyard entertaining.
  • Helpful Accessories & Add-Ons – Inside the box of every CobraCo fire pit is an all-weather cover to shield it from the elements. Looking for more? Check out our fire pit benches and s’mores forks.

Ready to explore the fire pits available from Avant Garden Decor? Take a look at CobraCo’s great selection!

 

Use your fire pit all year

How Do I Use My Fire Pit in the Winter, Spring, Summer & Fall?

When people think of fire pits, they usually associate this backyard centerpiece with a summer evening. A fire pit offers you a night off. A time of relaxation. A chance to watch the flames dance and listen to the sounds of nature around you. Then you add in the marshmallows, shish kebabs and hot dogs. When it all comes together, it turns into to a night of magic.

But those warm summer nights aren’t the only time for a fire pit. If you have a CobraCo fire pit, then you’ve got the right tool to enjoy a backyard fire throughout every season.

Snack at the fire pit

PERKS OF USING YOUR FIRE PIT THIS SUMMER

The summer was made for cooking out and enjoying the outdoors, and adding a fire pit makes the experience all the better.

Your fire pit helps you build memories and creates a focal point within your yard. Fire pits make it easy to start a pleasant campfire. No matter the size or shape of your fire pit, it provides a great gathering place for your favorite summer activities.

  • MAKING SNACKS – One of the best parts about owning a fire pit is that you can use it to make your favorite campfire snack without all the hassle of a campfire. No need to dig a hole, create a ring of rocks or crawl on the ground to get it lighted. Instead, you can get to the fun stuff right away – making s’mores, toasting marshmallows and roasting hot dogs.
  • DETERRING PESTS – It’s definitely one of the least pleasant things about being outside at night – the mosquitoes. Your fire pit can act as a natural deterrent to mosquitoes. They don’t like the heat or the hint of smoke twisting off your fire pit.
  • ON THE ROAD – Heading out for a weekend at the cabin by the lake? Or even over to your uncle’s for a family get-together? Your CobraCo fire pit can go with you – they’re sturdy, durable and very portable. Don’t hesitate to take the fire pit experience with you.

BEST WAYS TO USE YOUR FIRE PIT THIS FALL

You’ve spent all day raking leaves, packing up your summer furniture, and cleaning out brush. While you do that, there’s a nagging voice in the back of your head. It’s telling you to put away your fire pit, too. It’s saying “stow it away for the winter.” But don’t do it. There’s a wealth of experiences ahead for you and your family.

  • FOOTBALL RALLY – The big game is coming up. The whole family is excited and you’re eager to keep them that way. That’s where the fire pit comes in to play. Use it as you host your very own backyard tailgate party. Start a mini bonfire, sing some fight songs, and chow down before you settle in for kick-off.
  • BRUSH REMOVAL – Remember all that brush you’ve been cleaning up? Well, your fire pit is the perfect place to get rid of it all. No need to bundle it up for the garbage men to haul away. Instead, trim it down and add it to the woodpile for later. If you use your fire pit to its full potential, you’re going to need all that. It makes perfect kindling.

Stay warm in the winter with a fire pit

HOW DO I USE MY FIRE PIT IN THE WINTER?

Now that you’ve decided to keep your fire pit out in the yard through the fall, go one step farther and keep it out through the winter too. Sure, it will might  get snowed on if you live up north, but that’s why CobraCo gives you a weather-resistant cover. Leave that cover on when your fire pit is not in use — but don’t shy away from using the fire pit when the snow’s flying.

  • CELEBRATE THE SEASON –  A holiday celebration is extra special around a backyard fire pit. Maybe you’ll sing some carols and exchange gifts around the roaring fire or toast the New Year as the countdown begins. Celebrating around your fire pit will make it especially memorable and warm.
  • AFTER THE FIRST SNOW – When the first snow flies, you know it’s time to get back outside. Warm up a cup of hot chocolate and take a few minutes to watch the landscape around you transform into a winter wonderland.

PREPARE FOR SPRING WITH YOUR FIRE PIT

Your fire pit has been outside for almost a year now. You’ve been a fan since you first assembled it last summer, and then used it through the fall and winter. Now the outdoor world is waking up again, and you are too. You’ve got gardening to do. There’s a lawn to revive, and your fire pit can be part of that.

  • HELPING YOUR PLANTS – If you’re careful what you burn – be sure not to use pressure treated wood – you’ll find you’ve actually created a beneficial mixture for your plants. This ash, which is high in potassium, can go into your flower and plant beds and will help fuel a season’s worth of growth. Just wait for it to cool and then scatter it into the soil.
  • COOKING DINNER – Your ash mixture can help you cultivate a wide variety of vegetables to compliment any springtime dinner. You can use your fire pit – just follow this guide to build a barbecue grate.  It works best with these copper fire tubs, and this steel fire pit. From there, you’re ready to make a complete meal.

You can find a reason in every season to spark up a fire!