September Plant of the Month

Autumn Joy Sedum

Autumn Joy Sedum

Latin Name: Hylotelephium ‘Herbstfreude’

Type: Herbaceous perennial

Family: Crassulaceae

Zone: 3 to 9

Height: 1.5 to 2 feet

Spread: 1.5 to 2 feet

Bloom Time: September to October

Bloom Description: Rosy pink buds turning to red

Sun: Full sun

Water: Dry to medium

Culture:

Easily grown in average, dry to medium, well-drained soils in full sun.  Will tolerate light shade, but growth weakens as shade increases.  Needs good soil drainage to perform well and is drought tolerant.  Plants may be cut back in late spring to control height.

Characteristics:

A clump-forming perennial that features masses of tiny flowers which emerge pink, gradually change to deep rose-red, and then to coppery-rust in autumn as they die.  Flowers appear in large, flattened heads 3-6” across atop succulent greyish-green stems.  It is attractive to butterflies throughout the growing season.  Foliage and dead inflorescences persist well into the winter providing some additional interest.

Preparing Your Yard for Winter

With the heat and dryness of summer coming to an end, September is the best month to lay the groundwork for next year’s lawn.  By doing things like aerating, overseeding, and fertilizing, your yard will be set for success come spring.

One of the first things to do is aerate your lawn.  This reduces compaction and makes it easier for air and water and fertilizer to reach the roots.  Compaction can occur if your yard gets heavy use.  It is also recommended to aerate if you have a thick layer of thatch (greater than a half inch).  This may not have to be done every year but keep these factors in mind when deciding how often to aerate your lawn.

Preparing Your Yard for Winter

Next, where grass is sparse, spread some aged compost to prepare for seeding, no more than a half inch thick.  Make sure that it is dry and cool to the touch.  If it is hot and smells, it is more likely to harbor pathogens and burn your lawn.  If needed, you can work it in with a leaf rake.

Fertilizing is great in the fall.  A high-phosphorus fertilizer is great to stimulate root growth and is good for starting grass seed.  Most of the time, the lawn will go dormant for winter before most of the fertilizer nutrients are used up, meaning there will still be some to help rejuvenate the lawn in the spring.

The last thing you need to do is overseed.  Use a rotary spreader and distribute the seed over the compost.  Mix the seeds into the compost by raking with the tines up.  For large areas, you can rent a power overseeder, which slices the turf and drops in the seeds and eliminates the need for any raking.  Water lightly 2 or 3 times a day for 5 minutes, until the seeds sprout.  Then water once a day for 15 to 30 minutes.

Preparing Your Yard this Year

Remember to cut your lawn down to 1 ½ to 2 inches for winter.  Many people think that leaving the grass long will help for winter, when the truth is that it will only help harboring pests like mice and voles.  If you follow these suggestions for lawn maintenance in the fall, there is no reason that your yard will look fantastic the following summer!

Landscaping Ideas that are Sustainable

It may be difficult to create a sustainable landscape unless you are starting from scratch.  However, some minor changes to your landscape can make a significant impact.  A sustainable landscape should include plants that benefit the local ecology and environmentally-friendly materials, all of which coincide with a design that will maintain itself for years.

Choosing plants for a sustainable landscape is relatively easy.  Make a list of plants that are native to your region and start there.  Native plants consume much less water than non-native plants, especially in hot or dry climates.  They also will tend to need a lot less maintenance.  Also, consider seasonal interest, where plants will bloom at various times throughout the season.  This way, you will be able to enjoy your garden or landscape throughout the year.

Sustainable Landscape Ideas - Echinacea purpurea, Purple Cone Flower

Echinacea purpurea, Purple Cone Flower, native wildflower in Minnesota garden

Materials should be considered that are environmentally friendly.  Timbers should be removed and replaced with other material, such as block or boulders.  Timbers will rot over time and become a nuisance with them falling apart and becoming suitable places for things like bee’s nests.  Old railroad ties have the chemical creosote in them and should be removed as soon as possible.  Also, patios can be made permeable, which allows water to pass through them and reduce runoff.  Choosing the right materials is crucial for any sustainable landscape.

Water control is another way to help with a sustainable landscape.  Irrigation systems are a terrific way to keep your plants and yard healthy by providing enough water no matter the season.  However, your system should be monitored to make sure plants are getting the right amount of water and that sprinklers are not watering places where it is not needed, such as driveways.  Rain barrels, along with other methods, can help reuse rainwater that they capture, thereby saving money on watering costs.

These are not all the ways to keep your landscape sustainable, but if you follow these few points, you will certainly be on the right path.  Remember, a sustainable landscape will mean less maintenance, which will allow your friends and family to enjoy it that much more!

August Plant of the Month

Goldsturm Black Eyed Susan

Goldsturm Black Eyed Susan

Latin Name: Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivantii ‘Goldsturm’

Type: Herbaceous perennial

Family: Asteraceae

Zone: 3 to 9

Height: 2 to 3 feet

Spread: 1 to 2 feet

Bloom Time: June to September

Bloom Description: Yellow rays with black center disk

Sun: Full sun

Water: Dry to medium

Culture:

Easily grown in average, moist, well-drained soils in full sun.  Best bloom occurs in full sun, although plants will tolerate light shade.  Deadhead spent flowers to encourage additional bloom.  Plants slowly spread in the garden by rhizomes.

Characteristics:

An upright, clump-forming perennial that typically grows 2-3’ tall.  Features large, daisy-like flowers with deep yellow rays and dark brownish-black center disks.  Flowers appear singly on stiff, branching stems in a prolific, long-lasting, mid-summer-to-fall bloom.  Good fresh cut flower.

August Recipe of the Month

Barbecue Chicken with Chili-Lime Corn on the Cob

Barbecue Chicken with Chili-Lime Corn on the Cob

Ingredients:

  • 2 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts
  • 2 bone-in, skin-on chicken legs and thighs (connected)
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups barbecue sauce
  • ½ cup margarine
  • 1 tsp. grated lime zest
  • 1 Tbsp. lime juice
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • ½ tsp. cumin
  • 4 ears corn, husks removed
  • Lime wedges, for serving

Directions:

  1. Preheat grill over high heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper and grill on a lightly oiled grate for 15 minutes, turning once, until nicely charred.  Baste chicken with 1 cup barbecue sauce and reduce heat to medium.  Cover and grill 15 minutes more, then baste with remaining 1 cup barbecue sauce.  Cover and grill 15 minutes more, or until the internal temperature reaches 165°.
  2. Make spread: Meanwhile, in a small bowl, stir together margarine, lime zest and juice, chili powder, and cumin.  Season generously with salt and pepper.
  3. About 15 minutes before chicken is done, rub corn with half the chili-lime spread and season with salt and pepper. Cover and grill, turning occasionally, until tender and slightly charred, 15 minutes.
  4. Dollop corn with more chili-lime spread and serve with barbecue chicken and lime.

 

Courtesy delish.com

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 (find more information at www.readysetmaids.com/choose-best-maids/).
  • 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.

Outdoor Living Space With Kitchen

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!
Reference: https://www.thepattisallgroup.com/blog/12-advantages-investing-beach-side-property/

July Plant/Shrub of the Month

Pardon Me Daylily

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

Grilled steaks with Garlic Chive Butter

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/Shrub of the Month

Twist n Shout Hydrangea

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.

Building a pool in backyard

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.

Building a pool inground

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!