Author Archives: Garden Decor

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.

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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.

Planning

How To Plan and Plant Your Vertical Garden

Planning your Vertical Garden is different from planning a traditional garden, but shouldn’t be done with any less care.

Step One: Consider the location of your Vertical Garden

Ideally, vegetable plants in your Vertical Garden should get at least six hours of sustained sunlight a day. Pick a spot that will allow for maximum sun while minimizing filtered light through trees. If a large wall on the side of your house gets the best light, that’s a perfect spot to consider. Even well-lit balconies and porches will work. If it’s available, a south-facing location is the best.

A wonderful aspect of vertical gardening is choosing a location. You’re not as limited by space as you would be with a traditional garden. In fact, you’ll probably find that you have an abundance of available space to grow up rather than out. Remember that an area as small as an apartment balcony can serve as an excellent vertical gardening spot. Just a few containers and trellis supports will do the trick.

Step Two: Where’s the Water?

As with any vegetable garden, make sure that wherever you choose to place it is close to a convenient source of water. Ideally, your Vertical Garden can be reached by a garden hose.

Step Three: Soil for your Vertical Garden

Depending on your space, you’ll want to decide whether to plant your vegetables in soil at the base of your growing area or use containers. In either case, use a good gardening soil.  Augment it with rich compost to provide the nutrients your plants will need.

Step Four: Plant Choices

Carefully consider what you’re planning to grow in your Vertical Garden. Naturally vining vegetables are perfect, of course. However, don’t rule out other vegetables and herbs that grow closer to the ground. While vining plants will likely require a trellis or some other form of support, those that don’t vine can be planted in nearly anything that you can hang or mount on a vertical surface.

Step Five: Follow the Plan

Plant seeds just as you would in a traditional gardening. Take care to leave enough space according to the planting instructions. When planting vegetables that will need a support structure, don’t forget to install the supports at the same time you plant. Adding supports after the plants have sprouted can damage the young root systems.

Step Six: Training

As your vining plants sprout and mature, “train” them to grow upward. Simply manually thread the young vines up through the support system. This is an ongoing process and should be part of your regular Vertical Garden upkeep.

Shopping list

All About Vertical Gardening: Shopping List for Creating a Vertical Garden

Your vertical gardening shopping list, at first glance, will be very similar to that of a traditional horizontal garden, but there are some very important things to consider.

First, will you start your plants in the ground – such as in a small plot against your house – or will you use containers? By using containers for your vertical garden, you give yourself the ability to grow in unusual places such as apartment balconies.

Also, you’ll need to consider what sort of support you’ll need for the types of vegetables you intend to plant.

Here’s your Vertical Garden shopping list

  • Containers (if needed) – These can be as utilitarian as plastic storage bins or as decorative as galvanized steel tubs or traditional large planters. Just make sure you have or make holes in the bottom to allow for drainage of excess water.
  • Garden soil
  • Compost (to augment garden soil, if needed)
  • Support structure materials, which can include …
  • Trellis (wooden, bamboo, plastic or fabric, depending on your garden)
  • Wire fencing
  • Stakes
  • Natural twine
  • Tomato cages
  • Garden ties (to help secure vining plants to the support structure)
  • Seeds or seedlings (Where would your vertical garden be without them?)
  • Fertilizer
  • Watering can (if your garden is on an apartment balcony or not near a water source)
  • Insect killer or repellent
  • Fungicide
Vegetables to use

All About Vertical Gardening: Vegetables to Use in Vertical Gardening

Just because you’ve decided to try out vertical gardening doesn’t mean you can’t continue to grow most – if not all – the vegetables you’re used to growing in a traditional garden.

However, those vegetables that will naturally grow vertically by extending vines that attach to a supporting structure are naturally most conducive to vertical gardening. They include:

  • Cucumber
  • Squash
  • Tomato
  • Green beans
  • Peas
  • Lima beans
  • Melons

While all of these plants vine, not all will naturally grow up. Cucumbers and squash, for instance, will take some training on your part. This is as simple as threading new tendrils through your supporting structure to give them the chance to attach.

But suppose you’d like to include non-vining vegetables in your vertical garden? It’s not in any way out of the question, but will require that you rework your thinking on how your new garden is arranged.

What are the changes?

Home stores and garden supply companies have, in recent years, designed a number of products to help with this. They are typically shelf-type planters meant to be placed against an exterior wall, but nearly any container that can be adapted for vertical gardening use can serve as a great planter – old rain gutters, suspended two-liter soda bottles and shipping pallets can all be used. The options are limitless!

The plants that work best in this sort of vertical gardening arrangement are the non-climbing varieties, such as:

  • Peppers
  • Lettuce
  • Radishes
  • Onions
  • Eggplant
  • Potatoes (regular or sweet)
  • Herbs

Just remember that soil depths and planting conditions – particularly for in-ground specialists like potatoes – should conform as closely to horizontal as possible horizontal conditions when planted in a vertical garden.

Planting and harvesting

All About Vertical Gardening: Planting and Harvesting Your Vertical Garden

When it comes to planting and harvesting, there are very few differences between horizontal and vertical gardening.

Before you plant

Whether you’re using a container or a strip of ground, the best place to start is by making sure you have soil conducive to growth. If you’re using containers, start with a good, nutrient-rich gardening soil from the gardening or home supply store.

Planting in the ground first? Start by creating a pit between 6 inches and a foot deep for each spot where you’ll be planting. The depth varies on the root system of the plant, of course. Take the soil you removed and create a half-and-half mix with compost, then refill the pit.

If you haven’t already decided what will go where in your vertical garden, this is good time to do so. Make sure to install all support structures for vining plants at this point. Doing so after you plant can damage the root systems of seedlings or mature plants. Make sure the structure is positioned over where you will plant to give the tendrils and vines the best chance to take hold.

Planting your vertical garden

Now it’s time to plant, following the package directions on your fruits or vegetables of choice. While you’ll ultimately be responsible for making sure the garden gets enough water, it never hurts to plant during a rainy period to ensure adequate moisture. Stick to about four seeds per planting area to avoid overcrowding; then water gently. As the seedlings emerge and get to about 4 inches high, you’ll want to thin them to ensure they don’t crowd each other out.

Check on your plants every day so you can monitor moisture and thread new tendrils or vines upward through your support structure. Some heavier vines might require a little extra help, so don’t be reluctant to use a natural twine or garden ties to secure them to the supports. Water as needed – especially until the plants are fully established – and check for disease growth and pests.

Harvesting

Once your vegetables or fruits have matured, harvest them as you normally would for each individual variety. Do take special care not to yank down your support structures in the process. A simple pair of garden shears will help you cut from the vine – rather than pull – heavy items like melons or squash.

For non-vining plants, there should be very few differences from traditional harvesting. Just take care to avoid significantly disturbing the soil, neighboring plants and the vertical structure itself.

Disease, cucumber plant.

All About Vertical Gardening: Protecting Vertical Gardens from Disease

Since vertical gardens grow up rather than along the ground, the risk of disease is significantly reduced with limited contact with the soil.

However, that doesn’t mean your plants will be disease free in a vertical garden.

As with any type of gardening, the first step to avoiding disease is the quality of the soil. If this is the first season for your vertical garden, make sure you start with soil from an area from which all weeds have been removed and the soil has been vigorously turned and mixed with clean compost. For an existing vertical garden, you’ll still want to weed and augment your soil with compost, but also make sure you have rotated your crops from their planting locations the previous year.

Plants such as squash, cucumber and peas are highly susceptible to disease when planted in the same spot as the previous year.

Two common diseases that affect vertical gardens

  • Anthracnose: This fungus most often affects cucumbers, watermelons and muskmelons, and is most prevalent during warm, humid conditions. To protect your plants, rotate crops annually, leave enough space between plants to let leaves dry out as quickly as possible and promptly remove/destroy affected leaves and fruit to prevent spreading. To help prevent or eliminate anthracnose, use Safer®Brand Garden Fungicide or Safer®Brand 3-in-1 Garden Spray, which acts as a fungicide, insecticide and miticide. Both are OMRI Listed® and compliant for use in organic gardening.
  • Bacterial wilt: This disease is indicated by vines that wilt in the day but recover at night. Try to purchase disease resistant species and watch for cucumber beetles, which spread the disease.