(BPT) - Are you ready to put your deck on the best-dressed list this summer, but hesitant to dent your savings? With these simple design ideas, you can make your deck the perfect place for summer festivities.
1. Accessorize with railings.
An easy way to give your deck a beauty boost is to update the railing. The decorative details of this safety feature are easy to overlook during the initial deck building process. Thankfully, with today's products, it's easy and affordable to turn this eyesore into an accessory.
For example, by replacing outdated railings with those that complement your deck boards and home's exterior trim, you can create an outdoor living space that's a well-styled extension of your home. If you have a non-traditional deck, cable rails or mixed medium infills like tempered glass panels may be your style. Or, if you want to mix modern with traditional elements, consider letting guests lean on attractive, but affordable aluminum rail systems like MoistureShield Pro.
"The sleek lines of aluminum railing are the perfect counterpart to today's contemporary spaces," says Brent Gwatney, senior vice president, MoistureShield Composite Decking. "They're a less obtrusive railing option and give decks a high-end, custom feel without the high-end price tag, and tend to be backed with long-term warranties."
2. Block the sun beautifully.
Another way to balance form with function is to shade your deck in style. Fortunately, there are a number of beautiful, low-cost ways to block the sun that go beyond the patio umbrella.
Pergolas are a popular way to shade your space without breaking the bank. You can vary the direction of the beams to create interest, weave fabric panels across the top to create a cozy respite or use the structure to frame a view.
Screening trellises are another affordable option for relief from direct sunlight. They can disguise an unsightly view, soften your deck or provide an attractive backsplash for an outdoor kitchen, while adding shade and privacy. You can even bend high performance decking materials, like composite decking, to curve around existing trees to let nature act as your canopy.
3. Plant a deck-adent garden
Deckscaping is a timeless, low-cost way to turn your outdoor living space into a backyard beauty. Placing shrubs or a curving flowerbed along the perimeter of your deck can soften its edges and add colorful accents. Alternatively, bringing planters on deck with a mix of annuals and perennials can quickly turn a bland deck into a garden retreat full of seasonal blooms.
If your deck is small, consider keeping floor space free with a gorgeous overhead garden. Hanging flower baskets and trellises with climbing vines are simple and affordable space-savers that can make covered deck spaces resemble a spa-like retreat.
4. Dress your deck to impress
To finish your deck and give it that one-of-a-kind feel, outfit it the same way you would an interior room, thinking about color and texture. While this may sound expensive, there are plenty of practical, budget friendly ways to make your deck a stylish extension of your home.
You can easily spice it up with painted furniture and fun accents. Pretty and durable accent pillows made from outdoor fabrics are an inexpensive way to add pops of color. Or if you find an outdoor fabric that you love you can make bench cushions to give your outdoor seating a cozy feel. Accents like an outdoor rug can tie it all together by adding texture underfoot, keeping dirt from being tracked inside your home, and defining areas for different uses.
5. Light up your evenings in style
Finally, don't neglect how your deck looks when the sun goes down. With the right lighting, you can extend your hours outside and keep your deck as charming in the nighttime as it is during the day.
From subtle post lights that cast a magical evening glow to understated recessed lights and rail strip lights that help guide guests' steps, today's deck lighting choices are both functional and affordable.
And, with the emergence of energy-efficient LEDs, you can use them liberally with little effect on your monthly electricity bill. So, let your imagination roam with nighttime illumination options to add after-dark ambience to your outdoor retreat.
The edible backyard: A source for family meals - and fun(BPT) - Have your kids ever asked you where the food they're eating comes from? It's a question many parents are answering right from their backyard and porches.
To create a hands-on educational experience, many families are transforming their usable spaces into fruit and vegetable gardens that feed the whole family, and sometimes neighbors, too. For the price of a few seeds or seedlings, you can produce fruits and vegetables that are delicious, safe, economical, nutritious, and fresh-and the best part is, your whole family can dig in together.
Truly, a lifetime of gardening for your children can start with a simple seed, and the benefits are not only health-giving but educational as well. According to a study conducted by Tractor Supply Company, the nation's largest rural lifestyle retailer, 89 percent of Americans feel their children need a better understanding of where their food comes from.
"Four years ago, we moved from Los Angeles to a small, rural town outside of Ashville, N.C. with dreams of growing as much of our own food as possible," said Beryl Frohriep of WildRootsHomestead.com, a homesteader and Tractor Supply Company contributor who relies on homegrown food for her family of four's plant-based diet. "By growing what we eat, we know what goes into the soil and what comes out of it; our food is fresh, delicious, safe and nutritionally rich. These days, it is my 5-year-old son doing much of the harvest, and I love that we get to learn and grow as a family by working together outdoors."
If you're interested in starting your own backyard garden, here are a few tips from the experts at Tractor Supply Company:
How do I start?
The first thing to do is decide where your garden will go. Choose an area with the most southern facing sun exposure. Next, get a soil test kit at your local Tractor Supply store. If you're going to invest time, work and money into your garden, you should make sure your soil is fertile. This simple, inexpensive test will determine that.
What should I grow?
Simply put, plant the vegetables that your family likes. If your family eats a lot of salad, think about planting lettuces, cucumber, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, radishes and, of course, tomatoes.
It's also smart to think about the types of meals you cook. Do you stir-fry? Grow bell peppers, onions, peas, and broccoli. Do you enjoy Mexican food? Consider various hot peppers and cilantro. Do you create main dishes from vegetables? Then potatoes, squash, eggplant and spinach might be the way to go.
When planning your garden's vegetables, consider adding some that your household considers tolerable, but not great. You may find that homegrown freshness increases the taste, and that vegetable just might turn into a family favorite.
Plant an unfamiliar vegetable or two, just for kicks. If it's not to your liking, give the harvest to neighbors or your local food bank.
How large should my garden be?
A great size for a beginner's garden is 10x18 feet, which can easily feed a family of four to six. However, your garden should reflect the size of your family, availability of space, amount of time you can spend tending to it and the amount of work you're willing to do.
It's important to remember that too large a garden can easily overwhelm you and become a discouraging chore instead of an enjoyable pastime. Keep it manageable. You'll be amazed at the amount of delicious food you can grow in any space-even on a patio or balcony. No space is too small!
Supporting the culture
To help families spend more time together and maximize their garden yield, Tractor Supply Company carries all the supplies a family needs to grow a garden, including mulch, live plants, regular and organic seeds, and garden tools. The rural lifestyle store hosts gardening events featuring expert advice, special products and seed stations for children throughout the planting season. Check with your local Tractor Supply store for details on upcoming gardening events.
For more expert advice on lawn and garden care, visit Tractor Supply's Know How Central, and for homegrown inspiration for your garden, visit Tractor Supply's Pinterest page.
A tree can shift from asset to liability when branches, trunks or roots suffer an injury and threaten to cause property or personal damage. Insects and disease are also potential threats to valuable trees. Use this five-step checklist to help achieve optimal springtime tree health and ensure that your established trees will thrive for years to come.
Keep Your Trees Green and Your Property Value Greener
(Family Features) Mature trees increase property value by as much as 10 percent, according to the U.S. Forest Service. But a tree can shift from asset to liability when branches, trunks or roots suffer an injury and threaten to cause property or personal damage. Insects and disease are also potential threats to valuable trees.
There are several steps you can take to ensure that your established trees will thrive for years to come. Use this five-step checklist from Lance Walheim, lawn and garden care expert for Bayer Advanced, to help achieve optimal springtime tree health:
1. Renew Mulch. Mulching is one of the best things you can do for your trees – and one of the easier garden chores to tackle. Two-to-three inches of organic mulch conserves water, reduces compaction and helps control weeds. It’s best placed in a ring that extends outward from the trunk at least 3-6 feet.
2. Be Cautious with Water. Make sure you don’t overwater. Unless there have been prolonged dry spells or exceptionally warm weather, most established trees may not need water until mid-to-late spring. Overwatering in spring can weaken trees and promote disease.
3. Protect Trunks. Make sure lawn mowers and weed eaters do not damage tree trunks by wrapping them with trunk protectors (sold in nurseries and garden centers) or surrounding the tree with a grass-free, mulched area.
4. Prune. Because pruning permanently changes a tree’s structure and appearance, you want to prune intentionally. Light pruning of small trees can improve structure and appearance, but be mindful of branch diameters to help guide your cuts. For more information on how to prune trees without damaging them, visit BayerAdvanced.com.
5. Protect and Feed. Now is a good time to treat trees and shrubs susceptible to damage from insects such as borers, aphids, scale insects, whiteflies and others, and taking this opportunity to provide a nourishing slow-release fertilizer is also a good idea. Using an all-in-solution that doesn’t require spraying, such as Bayer Advanced 12 Month Tree & Shrub Protect & Feed liquid or granules, is an easy and convenient way to care for your trees.
As your yard awakens this spring, applying these tree care best practices can help keep your trees healthy and happy for many years to come.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images
(BPT) - Mother Nature is the ultimate exterior designer, and she shows off her chops every spring and summer when backyards come alive with colorful flowers, birdsong, warm breezes and the lush aroma of newly mown grass. Is your deck, patio or other outdoor entertaining area living up to her standards?
If your backyard entertaining space could stand some freshening and pops of color, the outdoor living experts at Big Lots point to these eight elements to turn any patio or deck into a paradise worthy of Mother Nature's brilliance:
1. A perfect patio set
Patio furniture is the focal point of any outdoor living space, how you use your patio or deck should guide your choice of furnishings. If you'll be doing a lot of outdoor dining, a table and chairs are essential. Do you envision relaxed evenings chatting with friends in a comfortable setting? Outdoor sofas, love seats, benches and gliders, arranged around a coffee table, can create an intimate area. Shopping for patio furniture doesn't have to be a challenge; you can find a wide selection of affordable styles, colors, pieces and materials at home stores like Big Lots.
2. Colorful cushions and pillows
Even the most-loved, highest quality patio set can benefit from replacing old, faded cushions with something new, colorful and exciting. New cushions can completely change the look of your entire outdoor living space, and remind you why you fell in love with your furniture in the first place. Don't just stop with replacing chair cushions, however. Add toss pillows in colors or patterns that compliment your chair cushions, and pile them on your outdoor sofa to create a comfortable, bright seating area.
3. Fabulous firepits
When the temperature drops on a spring evening, who wants to head indoors? Adding a firepit to your outdoor living space is a great way to extend your enjoyment of it well into the night. You don't have to be a pro at building a fire to enjoy a firepit, either. Big Lots offers a gas-fueled firepit nestled inside a stone-topped table that makes starting a fire as easy as turning on the gas and flipping a switch. Arrange four plushly cushioned rockers around your firepit table, and you have the perfect spot for evening chats.
4. An enlightened atmosphere
Speaking of evenings outdoors, lights extend your entertaining hours and create inviting ambiance for patios and decks. Choose a mixture of light sources, such as candle-lit lanterns for a warm glow, solar lights to illuminate travel paths, and string lights that cast gentle light from above.
5. Smart shade sources
Of course, much of your outdoor time will be spent in the sun, so take steps to provide some shade for your patio or deck. A range of versatile shade sources fit virtually every decor theme, and patio or deck size. Have a large, open concrete patio? A gazebo with a canopy and netting can provide shade and keep insects away from guests and food. Want to move the shade with the sun? An offset umbrella with stand can help you put the shade exactly where you need it at any time of day. Traditional umbrellas shelter seating areas, and add bright pops of color to your outdoor decor.
6. Multiple seating areas
In addition to the focal point of your patio or deck, use patio furniture to create separate seating areas for more flexible entertaining. A small cast iron bistro set or bench situated beneath a tree is a great spot for quiet conversations, sipping your favorite beverage or relaxing with a good book. A glider near the patio or deck is sure to be a favorite spot for parent-child chats.
7. A great grill station
Whether you prefer a big, beautiful four-burner 48,000 BTU stainless steel gas grill or a traditional round charcoal kettle grill, a well-planned and efficient grilling station is a must for outdoor entertaining. Be sure to outfit your station with your grill of choice, a rack of accessories like a grilling tool set and grill brush, and a cooler for briefly storing food before it goes on the grill. Big Lots has everything you need to create a great grilling station.
8. A greener outdoor environment
If you truly want to celebrate Mother Nature's creativity, what better way could there be than to decorate your outdoor living space with her handiwork? Arrange flowers and greens in containers in a variety of shapes and sizes throughout your outdoor entertainment area. A small, brightly colored pot of pansies makes a wonderful centerpiece for your patio table. Plant a tall fern or palm in a large, vividly hued pot and use it as a natural division between "rooms" in your outdoor living space.
You can find all these must-have elements and more at affordable prices at your local Big Lots. For more information, or to find a store near you, visit BigLots.com.
While the stress-relieving capabilities and health benefits of gardening are well known, a twist on this timeless hobby offers a way to add charm and a whimsical feel to your home and garden. Creating an enchanted fairy garden, such as the Fairy Garden Broken Pot or Naturalist Fairy Garden projects, can boost imagination and offer a family-friendly way to hone your green thumb.
Gardening with an Enchanted Twist
(Family Features) While the stress-relieving capabilities and health benefits of gardening are well known, a twist on this timeless hobby offers a way to add charm and a whimsical feel to your home and garden. Creating an enchanted fairy garden can boost imagination and offer a family-friendly way to hone your green thumb.
These miniature landscapes, often hidden in a secluded area of your garden or planted in decorative containers, are an easy way to refresh your interior or exterior decor and can be revamped seasonally to align with any design theme. The possibilities and styles are endless, so to help you get started, the crafting experts at Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores created these fairy garden projects featuring a host of tiny details to bring your scene to life. Pottery, moss and tiny figurines will make your garden complete.
Fairy Garden Broken Pot
Crafting time: 3-5 hours
Supplies and Tools:
Tightly fill bottom of planter with smaller pots and packing peanuts or bubble wrap. Cover packing peanuts/bubble wrap with moss, gluing in place with hot glue.
Place fairy items as you desire, securing with hot glue. Trim bottom of plant to a 1-inch stem and secure it in place with hot glue.
Naturalist Fairy GardenCrafting time: Weekend project
Skill level: Some experience necessary
Supplies and Tools:
Flip wooden tray over so bottom is facing up. Spray paint bottom and sides gold. Allow to dry. Using old rag or paper towel, rub on wood stain sparingly, allowing gold to show through stain in areas. Allow to dry.
Measure width of opening between sides of tray. Transfer measurement to green floral foam and cut with serrated knife.
To create hillside for house, cut green foam to resemble a hill with highest point in back corner of long side of foam. Slope downward to create impression of hill toward a river, and contour other side to go slightly uphill, forming river bed. Hot glue foam to bottom of tray. Add foam at top of the hill for more height, if desired.
Place sheet of adhesive moss on top of foam, cutting out areas for river and hut. In river area, apply path of hot glue and dump pebbles on top. Use bigger stones on sides to create river bank. Pour bottle of nail polish onto riverbed, brushing stones to look like water.
Place hut at highest point, gluing it down with liberal amount of hot glue. Nestle bushes and trees around hut, varying sizes of round mosses and trees, and hot glue in place.
Glue white birch rounds behind hut for backdrop to glue trees and shrubs around; giving off appearance of a hut nestled in the hillside. Attach bushes to outside of sidewalls. Glue stepping stones in place to create path to river.
Add additional fairy items to fill out the scene.
Find more inspiration to create magical little villages from start-to-finish at joann.com.
(BPT) - The arrival of spring means new beginnings and a fresh chance to tackle those home improvement projects you've been putting off for the last several months. Get your home ready for summer and make it more beautiful, efficient and functional than ever with these five seasonal projects.
Keep, donate or trash.
Your first step is to declutter the home. Separate items into three categories: keep, donate or trash. Here's a tip: if you haven't used something in the last year, chances are you can get rid of it. Items such as unwanted electronics, housewares and gently used clothing can be donated to charity. For everything else, check with your local recycling program before putting anything in the garbage.
Get serious about spring cleaning.
Give your home a fresh start by wiping down windows, countertops, electronics, appliances, doorknobs, furniture, light fixtures and ceiling fans. Also, be sure to mop floors and vacuum carpet. Never cleaned windows before? Find out how with our free guide.
Bring your deck back to life.
We think winter is hard on us, but just imagine how hard it is on our decks, which weather the bitter cold temperatures, snow and ice all season long. Take a close look at your deck and check for warped, loose or splintered boards. Sweep away anything that may have fallen between the cracks, make any needed repairs, scrub or power wash, and restain if necessary.
Do a color refresh.
Whether you're adding a fresh coat of paint to your interior or exterior walls, or completely changing the colors of your home, spring is the perfect time to renew your home's look. One 2016 color trend: bold entry doors like those from Pella. and pick out your new, colorful front door.
Bloom where you are planted.
Whether you are a homeowner, renter or sublessee, celebrate the end of winter by creating spaces for bright flowers and making the most of your garden. Apartment dwellers, bring the outdoors in with hanging baskets, potted plants or herbs.
(BPT) - Malaria, West Nile virus and heartworms - as if you didn't already have enough reasons to fear and loathe mosquitoes and the illnesses they spread, now there's Zika, a virus that is possibly linked to birth defects. Mosquitoes are much more than itchy nuisances; the illnesses they can transmit with their bite kill thousands of humans every year. In fact, some scientists believe malaria, a mosquito-borne illness, has killed one out of every two humans who has ever lived, according to a report in National Geographic.
Keeping mosquitoes away from your home, yard and family is much more than a matter of convenience; it may help preserve your health. Eliminating standing water from your property is the single most effective thing you can do as a homeowner to minimize the presence of mosquitoes around your property. Mosquitoes lay their eggs in still water - puddles and standing water in your yard can be a breeding ground.
"When warm weather arrives, that low spot in the backyard where water always collects becomes much more troublesome than just being an eyesore," says Ryan Larsen, a civil engineer with NDS Inc., a leading manufacturer of water management solutions. "It will attract mosquitoes that will want to lay their eggs in that standing water, but first they need to bite a human or two."
Homeowners may think solving their drainage problems will be difficult and costly, or that they'll end up with an ugly drainage ditch on their property. But Larsen says it is possible to eliminate standing water cost-effectively and attractively. He suggests homeowners take these five simple steps:
1. Identify actual or potential trouble spots.
Is there a low area in the yard where water collects after rain? Are any downspouts or gutters on your home clogged with debris? Does water linger along a retaining wall, edging, walkway or patio after you've irrigated the lawn? Mosquitoes can lay their eggs in very shallow standing water, so anywhere water collects could be a breeding ground.
2. Address the easy fixes first.
The gutters, downspouts and minor collection spots are easily addressed by simply clearing away the obstructions. When those issues are resolved, homeowners should concentrate on addressing low areas, Larsen says. "These muddy, wet areas look bad, can kill grass, attract mosquitos and eventually lead to more serious damage to a property," he says.
3. Determine the scope of the problem.
Standing water on a property can occur in multiple spots, from walkways to lawns. NDS offers an online Home Drainage Center to help you identify your problem, possible solutions and whether the resolution is a DIY project or if you'll need to hire a professional.
4. Choose and install your solution.
French drains, underground drainage and catch basins are typical solutions for many home drainage problems. Placing drainage underground not only minimizes the risk of mosquitoes breeding in standing water, it can preserve the visual appeal of your landscape. For example, for NDS drainage solutions that involve catch basins, the company offers a wide selection of decorative catch basin grates, so the portion of the system you can't hide will be visually appealing. Most drainage systems can be installed in just one weekend.
5. Take steps to protect yourself.
Mosquitoes have been around since the time of the dinosaurs (and they've been spreading malaria for that long, too), according to National Geographic. While eliminating standing water on your property will go a long way toward reducing the number of mosquitoes in your environment, it's virtually impossible to remove them entirely. The American Mosquito Control Association says some mosquitoes will travel 40 miles or more in search of a meal. When outdoors, wear insect repellant on exposed skin and clothing. Choose repellants with an active ingredient like DEET, picaridin, IR3535 or oil of lemon eucalyptus. Dark colors attract mosquitoes, so wear lighter colored clothing, and burn citronella candles or run a fan near the ground when you're enjoying your deck or patio.
For more information about home drainage solutions, visit www.ndspro.com/home-drainage, where you'll also find instructional videos, the Home Drainage Center, production recommendations, installation instructions and helpful links. You can also email your home drainage questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
7 Places Mosquitoes Might Be Hiding in Your Yard
(Family Features) Spring has sprung, which means that mosquito season is almost here. These tiny insects could be living, flying and breeding right in your yard, and you might not even know it.
Mosquitoes aren’t just a nuisance, they are also a health threat. Some species common in the United States can carry and spread Zika virus, Chikungunya virus, West Nile virus and canine heart worm. The first sign of mosquito activity is usually buzzing from female mosquitoes and their bites.
Where Mosquitoes Breed
Take Back Your Yard
If you’ve done everything you can to help prevent mosquitoes and are still having problems, you may need a licensed professional. For more details, visit Orkin.com.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images
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