Author Archives: Garden Decor

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!

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4 tips for better garden soil

Are you doing everything you can to ensure a healthy, happy garden? You know the basics: weed, water, prune, and keep out pests, but you might be missing an important step toward successful plant growth. Over time, nutrients are stripped from the garden soil through planting and harvesting. If you start to notice smaller, discolored, or misshaped plants, you could have poor soil quality. Take these steps to always ensure lively, fertile soil.

1. Decrease garden soil disturbance

Reduced soil disturbance keeps biological activity and organic matter decompositon closer to the surface and maintains soil structure. This encourages earthworm populations and manages moisture and temperature levels, too.

2. Choose the best fertilizer for your garden soil

To keep your soil healthy after harvesting, you need to add nutrients back into it. Once you determine the nutrient levels in your soil, choose a fertilizer with the correct ratio of nutrients for your garden. Only apply the nutrients your garden truly needs.

3. Protect your garden soil

Keep your soil covered as much as possible to conserve moisture, maintain temperature, and reduce weed growth. Maintain a schedule for when you will cover your soil in order to allow crop residues to decompose and cycle nutrients back into the soil when uncovered.

4. Keep plants growing throughout the year

Living roots provide the easiest source of food for garden soil microbes. Keeping a living root in your soil all year round will ensure a healthy nutrient cycle. In addition, recently dead plant roots, crop residues, and organic matter work to feed your soil.

For more information and tips for growing the most successful garden, sign up for our e-newsletter. Be among the first to know about expert advice, new products, enhanced services, exclusive sales, and special offers. Plus, get 10% off all your online purchases.

Consider safety concerns and entertainment needs when picking the right place for your fire pit.

Choosing the best place for a fire pit

Fire pits are a fun and useful addition to your patio or backyard. It instantly becomes a place in your backyard to gather and make memories.

Before you get your new fire pit home, there are a number of points to consider – the most important being location. Where you place your outdoor fire pit should be considered carefully, as it’s important to both your safety and your enjoyment of your new backyard feature.

IDEAL FIRE PIT LOCATIONS

Here’s a guide to choosing the position for your new outdoor fire pit.

  • WHAT’S THE LAW? Check your local ordinances. Many communities require a minimum distance of 10 feet from a building. Depending on the municipality, you may also need an inspection from local fire officials to ensure your location is safe.
  • WATCH THE DRIFT: You will need a large open space to make sure that flames and floating embers will not drift into any plants, trees, branches, sheds or combustible materials.
  • PLAN THE SPACE: Consider the size of your fire pit. Use tape or chalk to mark where the fire pit will be. Make sure chairs are able to fit around the entire perimeter so the fire pit can be enjoyed from all sides.
  • SUITABLE SURFACE: Portable fire pits can be set on natural surfaces such as concrete, stone or gravel. Do not place a fire pit on a wooden deck. A permanent fire pit is commonly built on a base of gravel
  • FLAT SURFACE: The fire pit must rest on a level surface.
  • ENTERTAINING: For your own convenience, you will want to place your fire pit near or adjacent to other social areas such as a hot tub, patio or grill area.
  • FIRE CONCERNS: It’s also best to have your fire pit located within reach of a water hose. If it’s too far from a hose, have a bucket of sand nearby that can be used to extinguish the fire in an emergency.

 Extra tip: You may wish to install outdoor lighting near the fire pit to create the right ambieance. Unless you use solar-powered lighting, you should consider how close your fire pit is to an electrical source.

For more information and tips for enjoying your backyard more than ever before, sign up for our e-newsletter. Be among the first to know about expert advice, new products, enhanced services, exclusive sales and special offers. Plus, get 10% off all your online purchases.

Your fire pit should be placed on a flat surface. It's best to put a fire pit on concrete.

Your fire pit should be placed on a flat surface. It’s best to put a fire pit on concrete.

 

Grow Your Own Eggplants

Eggplant Caprese Stack

Were eggplants part of your garden plan? Here’s a tasty recipe for an Italian appetizer that will help you utilize your harvest.

Ingredients

•    Seggplant caprese stackalt and freshly ground black pepper
•    1 eggplant, sliced about ¼ in. thick
•    8 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil + more for drizzling
•    2 eggs, whisked
•    1 cup of Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs
•    8-oz. fresh buffalo mozzarella, sliced about ¼ in. thick
•    1 large beefsteak tomato, sliced about ¼ in. thick
•    Handful of fresh basil leaves

Preparation

To make your first Eggplant Caprese Stack, slice the eggplant and lay the slices out in a single layer on a paper towel. Sprinkle the slices with salt and let them sit for about 10-15 minutes, until they start to release water.

Pre-heat a large sauté pan to medium-high and add 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil.
Pat the eggplant slices dry with another paper towel and prepare the egg and breadcrumb dipping stations.

Place whisked eggs with a bit of salt and pepper in a bowl together and place the breadcrumbs separately on a large plate. Dip the eggplant slices one at a time in the egg mixture and then in the breadcrumbs. Shake off the excess breadcrumbs and place on a sheet pan.

After coating the eggplant slices you are ready to fry the first batch in your heated sauté pan. Saute the slices for about 3-4 minutes on each side. Place them on a paper towel lined sheet pan or plate once they are finished cooking. Once you’re done frying the first group of eggplant slices, you can begin to fry the second batch. Be sure to add another 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil to the pan before frying the second batch.

With all the frying done, you are ready to assemble your stacks. Begin with a layer of fried eggplant, add a layer of mozzarella, a basil leaf, and a tomato slice. Repeat this step 2 or 3 times depending on how high you’d prefer your stack to be.

Once you are finished assembling your Eggplant Caprese Stack, drizzle a bit of extra virgin olive oil over each stack and finish with a bit of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve warm, or at room temperature!

Yields: approx. 4 servings

Rosemary-and-thyme

Try Herb Roasted Potatoes as a side dish

Having a garden means that you need to have recipes to use for all the tasty veggies you’ll be growing. This recipe is a great use for herb garden favorites thyme and rosemary.

Herb Roasted Potatoes ingredients 

Roasted Potatoes

•    1 lb baby potatoes
•    1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil
•    1 tb coarse salt
•    2/3 tb black pepper
•    2 tb fresh cut thyme and rosemary

Preparation

To begin making this dish, preheat oven to 400° F.

Wash the baby potatoes and cut into sections of a desired size, place them in a bowl and coat with olive oil, salt, pepper, thyme and rosemary. Mix until the potatoes are thoroughly coated with oil and spice mixture. Spread the potatoes out flat on a baking tray, keeping them to one layer. Roast them in the oven until they become brown and soft in the center (about 30 mins depending on the size of your potatoes.)

Serve immediately with the main course.

*Recommended amounts are adjustable, and should be scaled to the amount of potatoes to ensure a good mixture.

Pasta Carbonara With Spring Peas

Pasta Carbonara with Spring Peas

Ingredients

• Salt
• ¾ pound angel hair pasta (regular or whole grain)
• 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
• 2 large garlic cloves, minced
• 6 oz. of pancetta, cut into ¼ inch cubes
• ¾ cup heavy cream
• 4 large room temperature egg yolks
• Freshly ground black pepper
• ½ cup of grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
• ¾ cup frozen spring peas

Preparation

To make your Pasta Carbonara with Spring Peas, first bring water to a boil for the pasta. Salt the water. Warm the peas in the microwave just until heated through, reserve for later.

Over medium heat, in a large deep skillet, heat the oil then add the garlic. Sauté for 3 minutes until tender. Add the pancetta to the skillet and cool over medium heat until golden and crisp, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pancetta and garlic to a bowl.

Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the fat from the skillet. Add the cream and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the skillet, then pour into a medium size bowl. Whisk in the egg yolks and 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese.

Add the pasta to the boiling water and follow the cooking time on the package. Drain the pasta, return it to the pot , add the cream mixture, and toss quickly so as not to scramble the eggs. Add the pancetta and reserved peas. Season with salt and pepper and toss in the sauce to coat everything. Transfer to bowls.

Serve your Pasta Carbonara with Spring Peas immediately.

Yields: approx. 4 servings

Vertical Garden

All About Vertical Gardening: What is Vertical Gardening?

Vertical gardening is exactly what the name implies – gardening on a vertical, rather than a horizontal, surface. Vertical gardening can be accomplished in two major ways. First, many vertical gardens take advantage of the tendencies of some plants to grow up rather than out. But the effort is not just limited to plants that naturally grow up. Any plant that produces a vine can be “trained” to grow vertically with just a little extra attention.

Of course, your vertical garden won’t just be vining plants. Nearly any kind of plant can be grown on a vertical surface – just mount growing containers on a wall or other vertical surface. You can also use a framework that allows growing containers to be stacked from bottom to top.

The beauty of vertical gardening lies in several facets

1 — GOING UP: First, growing vegetables and other plants “up” instead of “out” saves space. That makes vertical gardening a perfect alternative for people with limited space or who are growing in urban environments.

2 — EASY TO PULL: Vertical growing makes vegetables easier to harvest. If your beans are growing at waist height rather than at ankle level, then you’re going to benefit. It’s a pretty safe bet that anyone would prefer reaching out to harvest rather than bending over

3 — GETTING AIR: Vertical gardening gives plants better air exposure through increased surface area. This leads to healthier – and therefore more productive – plants.

4 — PEST PROBLEMS? Growing plants vertically reduces the danger of soil-borne diseases, molds and crawling pests.

5 — THE SPACE IS THERE: Nearly any vertical surface or structure can be used to support your plants – walls, posts, trellises, frames made from wood or PVC pipe, old shipping pallets, or even other vertically growing plants like trees. You’ll also find that you’ll save money on materials such as fencing, gardening soil and mulch.