How to Take Care of Your Outdoor Kitchen

Outdoor kitchens add beauty and elegance to any backyard, while giving you another element for friends and family to gather.  They also add to the value of your property.  But like most things with your home, outdoor kitchens are an investment and should be properly maintained to keep them in good condition.  Here are some tips on how to take care of your outdoor kitchen:

  • Keep the inside of the grill clean. After you’ve finished the meal, take advantage of the remaining heat by brushing the grill to scrape away any food that was left during the cooking process.  This is a great habit to get into, and just takes a few minutes.  Deep clean (burners, grates, burner tubes, etc.) at least once a year, or every few months, depending on how often you use the grill.
  • Wipe down counters regularly. If your counters are made of stone or granite, be aware that they can be more susceptible to stains.  Wipe up stains as quickly as possible.  Sealing your counters can add peace of mind but is not necessary.  Soap and water is the best way to clean these counters.  Don’t use Windex or spray cleaners, as they can break down a sealed countertop.  For ceramic tile countertops, use soap and water, along with a tile cleaner.
  • Take care of stainless steel components. Avoid keeping hot metal, steel, or iron items on these pieces for extended periods of time, otherwise it could lead to corrosion.  Otherwise, cleaning is simple.  Soapy water should be used to clean them but be sure to follow the grain of the metal and dry thoroughly.  Stay away from abrasive cleaners or harsh chemicals that will damage the smooth finish of the stainless steel.  If you really want them to shine, try polishing with glass cleaner.
  • Cover with a tarp during the winter. A large tarp and a few bungee cords can protect your outdoor kitchen from the elements of winter.  Also, cover your grill or other cooking apparatus while not in use.
  • Do the normal things. Stacking up your chairs and putting them away for winter, emptying the trash, or even leaving a box of baking soda in the outdoor refrigerator, you should treat your outdoor kitchen just like any other room in your house.

It can be easy to forget about cleaning when you’re done entertaining and head inside.  But if you keep up with the maintenance on a regular basis, your outdoor kitchen will stay enjoyable for friends and family for many years!

July Plant of the Month

Pardon Me Daylily

Latin Name: Hemerocallis ‘Pardon Me’

Type: Herbaceous perennial

Family: Xanthorrhoeaceae

Zone: 3 to 9

Height: 1 to 1.5 feet

Spread: 1 to 1.5 feet

Bloom Time: June to August

Bloom Description: Cranberry red self with yellow-green throat.

Sun: Full sun to part shade

Water: Medium

Culture:

Easily grown in average, medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade.  Performs well in a wide range of soils.  Deadhead spent flowers daily for neatness and remove stems when flowers have completed bloom.  For best performance, should be divided every 3-4 years in spring or fall.

Characteristics:

Features 3” diameter bright red flowers with yellow-green throats.  Flowers appear on stems that rise to 24” tall above a clump of linear, arching, blade-like leaves.  Flowers open for one day.  Blooms in late mid-season with a possible repeat bloom in fall.  Flowers are fragrant.

July Recipe of the Month

Grilled Steaks with Garlic Chive Butter and French-Style Potato Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ lb. small red potatoes
  • 4 tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 tbsp. minced chives, divided
  • ½ small shallot, minced
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tbsp. finely chopped fresh basil
  • 2 green onions, halved lengthwise, white and light green parts thinly sliced
  • 2 10-oz. NY strip steaks, halved

Directions:

  1. Bring medium pot of water to a boil and add potatoes. Boil for 20 minutes or until tender, then drain. When cool enough to handle, cut into quarters.
  2. In small bowl, stir together butter, 1 tablespoon chives, shallot, and garlic, and season with salt and pepper. Cover and place in refrigerator until ready to use.
  3. In large bowl, whisk together Dijon mustard and red wine vinegar, then slowly whisk in olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Add in potatoes, 2 tablespoons chives, parsley, basil, and green onions and stir gently to combine. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Heat lightly oiled grill pan over high heat, and season steaks with salt and pepper. Grill for 3 minutes per side for medium rare. Place dollop of chive butter on each steak and let rest a few minutes, then serve with potato salad.

 

Courtesy delish.com

June Plant of the Month

Twist n Shout Hydrangea

Latin Name: Hydrangea macrophylla ‘P11HM-1’

Type: Deciduous shrub

Family: Hydrangeaceae

Zone: 4 to 9

Height: 3 to 4 feet

Spread: 4 to 5 feet

Bloom Time: May to September

Bloom Description: Deep rose (alkaline soil) to violet blue (acidic soil)

Sun: Part shade

Water: Medium

Culture:

Tolerates full sun only if grown in consistently moist soils.  Soil pH affects the flower color.  Add aluminum sulfate to the soil to make the flowers bluer or add lime to the soil to make the flowers pinker.  Begin soil treatments well in advance of flowering, as in late fall or early spring.  Plants generally need little pruning, but if needed, prune immediately after flowering by cutting back flowering stems to a pair of healthy buds.

Characteristics:

 

A hydrangea that blooms from late spring to fall.  Large flower clusters make for a showy plant, and flower color can be controlled by soil pH.

What to Consider Before Building a Pool

The preparation phase is the most important part of building a pool.  A landscape designer or pool contractor can walk you through the design process, but it helps to have a general idea of what you want.  Here are some things to consider before you decide to build a pool.

First, you need to ask what is the purpose for the pool?  A pool intended for backyard entertaining could look a lot different than one meant for fitness swimming.  If the pool is meant more for backyard entertaining, who is using the pool comes into play.  Shallow areas may be included for younger kids, extra grab rails for more elderly people, tanning ledges for sun worshippers, and deep areas for activities such as diving.

Another thing to consider is if your yard is suitable for a pool.  Different soil conditions and other ground factors can present unique building concerns.  Also, a high-water table can significantly increase the construction costs of a pool.  Sometimes a site also won’t work because of inaccessibility issues.  Heavy machinery generally needs an eight-foot-wide path to get to the site and dig hole for the pool.

The location of the pool is another big aspect to consider.  Zoning and building laws for your property may affect the layout and size of where your pool can go.  Many cities require fencing around a pool, and water runoff must also be considered.  Utilities such as gas and electric may also affect a pool’s location.  Maximizing sun while minimizing wind exposure is another factor to think about when choosing the location.  Something else to be considered is how the pool will be viewed from the rest of the house when it is not in use.  Many factors will go into the decision of where the pool should be located.

Specific features and other backyard amenities should be considered before you build a pool.  Lighting and type of cover are some things that need to be thought of.  Also, plan so that you may add to your ideal poolscape.  If the budget doesn’t allow for things like a pool house, outdoor kitchen, firepit, or gazebo, they can be added later without tearing up a good chunk of your existing poolscape.

Also, you can start to look at what materials you want to use.  Pavers versus concrete around the pool deck is a common decision that must be made, which can come down to the look versus the cost.

Finally, you must figure out who will build the pool.  Find a pool builder who is committed to superior design and quality construction.  Ask for referrals from friends that have pools you like.  Also, make sure there are open lines of communication to eliminate any “surprises” during the building process and that everything goes smoothly.  After all, this is going to be your pool for you and your family and friends to enjoy for years to come!

June Recipe of the Month

Hawaiian Chicken Skewers

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup barbecue sauce
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp. sesame oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. ginger, minced
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 chicken breasts, cut into 1” pieces
  • 2 cups cubed pineapple
  • 2 green bell peppers, diced
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • White rice for serving
  • 2 tsp. cilantro

Directions:

  1. Preheat grill to medium heat.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together barbecue sauce, soy sauce, vinegar, oil, garlic, ginger and honey until completely combined. Season with salt and red pepper flakes.
  3. Build skewers by alternating chicken, pineapple, peppers, and red onion. Place on a baking sheet and pour over half your marinade.
  4. Place skewers on preheated grill, and brush with reserved marinade. Cook five minutes and flip, brushing the other side with marinade as well.
  5. Cook five more minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.
  6. Serve with white rice and a sprinkle of cilantro

 

Courtesy delish.com

May Plant of the Month

Dwarf Korean Lilac Tree

Latin Name:  Syringa meyeri ‘Palibin’

Type: Deciduous shrub/tree

Family: Oleaceae

Zone: 3 to 7

Height: 5 to 7 feet

Spread: 5 to 7 feet

Bloom Time: April to May

Bloom Description: Pale Pink

Sun: Full sun

Water: Dry to medium

Culture:

Grown easily in average, dry to medium moisture, well-drained soil in full sun.  Tolerates light shade but best bloom is in full sun.  Prompt removal of faded flower panicles before seed set will increase the bloom in the following year.  Prune as needed immediately after flowering.

Characteristics:

A small tree that has a dense, rounded crown.  Pale pink, sweetly-fragrant flowers are arranged in dense, terminal clusters cover this tree with a profuse bloom.  Great for cut flowers.

Choosing the Right Trees for Your Yard

The choice of what trees you want in your yard can be wonderful or can lead to regret.  Many trees grow more and more beautiful as the years pass, while others can create decades of trouble with bothersome messy fruit and sticks.  Take your time to select the tree that will best suit the qualities that you will enjoy.

To begin your selection process, you must first determine its purpose.  Do I want a tree for shade? Privacy? Something that looks pretty? Or to block a view of something unsightly?  All these questions need to be asked so that you can start to narrow down your search.

A tree’s growth rate may also have an impact on your choice.  Slower growing trees tend to live longer.  However, if you want to establish shade or have flowers relatively quickly, a faster growing tree may be better.  The tend to be slightly smaller and don’t live as long.  Trees should also be scaled to their surroundings.  Larger, taller trees should be put further out in the yard while smaller trees can stay near the house.

There are coniferous trees and deciduous trees (needles vs. leaves).  Remember that deciduous trees lose their leaves in the winter.  So, if you are planting a tree for privacy or to block the view of something, you will be able to see through deciduous trees in the winter months.

Each tree has a desirable location in the landscape.  Some handle wet soils better than others.  Some will handle acidic soils better than alkaline soils.  Also remember to check a tree’s Zone rating for hardiness, as some are more cold-hardy than others.

Trees also have their own liabilities.  Some trees have thorns on them that may make them unsuitable for children.  Some are messy, by dropping flowers, fruit, and branches throughout the year that must be constantly picked up.  Certain trees have roots that tend to grow along the surface, making it difficult to mow as well as other challenges.

You should be able to find the prefect tree to serve whatever purpose you are looking for.  Different cultivars may offer varied sizes or flower colors to perfectly suit what you desire.  There are a lot of choices to consider when picking out a tree for your yard.  There are professionals that can offer advice as well, but with a little homework, you can pick out any tree for your yard that you can be sure will thrive and that you can enjoy for many years to come.

May Recipe of the Month

Grilled Shrimp Tacos with Sriracha Slaw

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp. freshly chopped cilantro
  • Juice of 3 limes, divided
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lb. large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • ¼ head red cabbage, shredded
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbsp. sriracha
  • 4 medium tortillas

Directions:

  1. In a small bowl, mix together olive oil, cilantro, and 1/3 of the lime juice. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Add shrimp to a baking dish and pour over mixture. Toss until completely coated and let marinate 20 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, make slaw: In a large bowl, toss cabbage with mayo, remaining lime juice and sriracha.  Season with salt.
  4. Heat grill to high. Skewer shrimp and grill until charred, 3 minutes per side.
  5. Grill tortillas until charred, 1 minute per side.
  6. Serve shrimp in tortillas with slaw.

 

Courtesy delish .com

April Plant of the Month

Dark Horse Weigela

Common Name: Weigela ‘Dark Horse’

Type: Deciduous shrub

Family: Caprifoliaceae

Zone: 4 to 8

Height: 2 to 3 feet

Spread: 2 to 3 feet

Bloom Time: April to June

Bloom Description: Pink

Sun: Full sun

Water: Medium

 

Culture:

Grown well in average, medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun.  Well tolerate light shade, but needs full sun for best flowering and foliage color.  Prune to shape immediately after flowering.

Characteristics:

A dense, rounded, deciduous shrub that features profuse, funnel shaped, pink flowers that appear singly or in clusters along the branches of the previous year’s growth in the mid to late spring, with sparse and scattered repeat bloom often occurring on new growth as the summer progresses.  Dark purple leaves retain good color throughout the growing season.  Attracts hummingbirds.