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Alan Bernau Jr

Recent Posts

How To Extend The Life of Your Patio Into Fall

Posted by Alan Bernau Jr on Fri, Sep 27, 2019

extend-the-life-of-your-patio

Summer is drawing to a close, but that doesn't mean you have to give up spending time on your patio just yet. Even as the cooler temperatures set in, you can still enjoy time out on your beautiful patio. Today, I have some ideas for how to make your patio more inviting during the cooler months.

Get a Hot Tub

Do you like the thought of sitting in a bubbling hot tub on a cool autumn evening? If you have space on your patio, think about investing in a hot tub. Hot tubs do require regular maintenance, but using one may be the perfect way to enjoy watching the leaves change color in the fall.

Install an Outdoor Kitchen

Having an outdoor kitchen makes it easy to host barbecues for friends and family right through the autumn months. Slip on a sweatshirt and knit hat to cook up some hamburgers: Soon, the oven and stove in your outdoor kitchen will exude heat, warming the patio area for everyone.

Upgrade Your Lighting

As the sun begins to set sooner, upgrading your patio lighting can make the area a more inviting place to spend time. You can install hanging lanterns, wall lights, or even pathway lights, depending on your space and the tone you're trying to set. String some white LED lights along the fence or elsewhere around the patio to give the area a celebratory atmosphere.

Use a Pergola as a Sitting Area

Getting a pergola for your backyard patio is another idea to consider for the fall. Make the area beneath your pergola into a comfortable sitting area by laying down an area rug, getting an arrangement of cozy outdoor furniture, and putting up curtains. A portable heater can add a lot of warmth to your unique sitting area while you enjoy a great book, a nap, or conversation with family and friends.

Make Your Own Outdoor Movie Theater

Consider getting a portable movie screen to set up in your backyard. Set up your projector and settle in on your patio furniture to enjoy a movie or TV show in the great outdoors! A portable heater, warm blankets, and a big bowl of delicious popcorn will make your patio theater better than your local drive-in!

Install a Fire Pit or Outdoor Chiminea

A fire pit in your backyard can make your patio area all the more appealing. You can get a fire pit grill and cook dinner over the flames, or you can use your fire pit to roast marshmallows while telling some scary ghost stories!

An outdoor chiminea can also add warmth to your patio area. They are available in a variety of styles and materials. You may want a traditional clay chiminea, or perhaps you'd rather have one made of cast iron. Regardless of what your chiminea is made of, the wood fire within can give off enough heat to make your patio toasty!

I hope one or more of these ideas transforms your patio into the place to be this fall. Thanks for reading. - Alan

12 Ways To Put Your Apple Harvest To Good Use

Posted by Alan Bernau Jr on Tue, Sep 24, 2019

apple-harvest-ideas

Do you like to go out with your family to pick apples at this time of year? Maybe you're planning a trip to the orchard, or maybe you have apple trees on your property. No matter where you get your apples, there are plenty of ways to make good use of them this autumn. Check out some ideas to get you started.

  1. Make a Dish With an Apple Theme: Apple cinnamon muffins are a great treat to make for breakfast or to use as snacks. Take your apple pie a step further by making an apple pie milkshake! Or, if you're looking for a tasty, colorful salad, try your hand at making a Waldorf salad.
  2. Make Apple Juice: Making traditional apple juice is a fun way to savor your apples for several days.
  3. Dry Your Apples: It's pretty easy to dry apples at home, and they can be a nutritious substitute for potato chips. Sprinkle them with cinnamon or nutmeg for a bit of spice.
  4. Make Fruit Leather: Do your kids or grandkids like to eat fruit leather? Use your apples and throw in some pears to create your own batch of fruit leather.
  5. Make Candy Apples: If you like caramel apples, there's a good chance you'll like candy apples.
  6. Whip Up Some Applesauce: Did you know you can make applesauce in a slow-cooker? Yes, you can! It takes about four hours and three pounds of large, sweet apples to make a stash of delicious applesauce for your family.
  7. Make Apple Butter: Put aside nine medium-sized apples and you're on your way to enjoying a delicious supply of apple butter. Spread it on muffins, toast, or anything else that needs an extra splash of flavor.
  8. Make Apple Pie Moonshine: If you're looking for a refreshment with a little zip, try apple pie moonshine.
  9. Create Party Décor: If you're having a fall party, put a bowl of bright red or green apples out on your refreshment table. Guests can enjoy looking at them, grab one to eat, or both.
  10. Add a Sweet Twist to Your Grilled Cheese Sandwiches: The next time you make grilled cheese sandwiches for your family, cut a couple of apples into thin slices and put them on your sandwiches before melting the cheese.
  11. Build a Bird Feeder: First, take an apple and cut it in half vertically. Next, clean the center part out of both halves. Put a small screw into the top of each half, and tie a piece of twine around the top of the screw. Smear about a tablespoon of peanut butter into the center of the apple, then fill it with seeds. When you hang up the apple with the twine, the peanut butter will keep the seeds from falling out. I like the idea of using some of my apples to feed the birds.
  12. Store Them for the Winter: You don't have to eat all of your apples right away. Store them in baskets or wooden crates in a garage, cellar, or shed. Wrap each apple in a sheet of newspaper so if one goes bad, it won't spoil the bunch. Ideally, you want the storage temperature to be around 30 to 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Be sure to check on your apples over the winter to remove any that are deteriorating.

Try one or more of these ideas and let me know how they work out! As always, thanks for reading. - Alan

10 Fall Annuals To Add To Your Flower Bed

Posted by Alan Bernau Jr on Mon, Sep 16, 2019

fall-annuals-to-add-to-your-flower-bed

How's your garden looking these days? There's a good chance you've got some flowers that are losing their color while others have already turned brown. You may be thinking it's time to pack up your trowel, hose, and other garden supplies and put them into your storage shed for the winter. But not so fast! Planting annuals at this time of year can give your garden renewed color. Today, I have some ideas for annuals that can add to the beauty of your garden.

  1. Chrysanthemums: Plant chrysanthemums and you can enjoy blooms in red, orange, white, purple, yellow, or all of the above! These flowers grow best for folks living in growing zones 5 through 9. Chrysanthemums bloom from September to the first frost. Be sure to plant them in well-drained soil in full sunlight.
  2. Pansies: Red, bronze, blue, lavender, yellow, orange, and purple are just a sampling of the pansy colors you can find. Plant your pansies in well-drained soil in an area with partial shade. These cold-weather flowers do best in growing zone 6 and above. Pansies can survive a frost and flourish until the temperature falls below 10 degrees for a long period of time.
  3. Celosia: These red, orange, yellow, or purple feathery flowers can survive a winter in growing zones 10 and 11. They need at least eight hours of sunlight per day and well-drained soil to flourish.
  4. Croton: Croton is a warm-weather plant that does best in growing zones 9 through 15. Plant your croton in an area that receives full sunlight. Its lovely shades of orange, yellow, and purple make this a favorite plant for the fall.
  5. Flowering Kale: If you live in a growing zone between 2 and 11, consider planting flowering kale. This plant can withstand freezing temperatures and flourish even in the wintertime! Flowering kale is a standout in a fall garden with its shades of pink, white, and red.
  6. Asters: Asters are beautiful in a fall garden with their purple, blue, pink, or white petals. Also, they attract pollinators like butterflies. I like the idea of looking out into my garden to see a beautiful monarch or swallowtail stopping by for a visit. Asters need at least six hours of sunlight per day to stay healthy. They do best in growing zones 3 through 8 and can flower until the first frost.
  7. Ornamental Peppers: The color of an ornamental pepper changes as it grows. They can be yellow, orange, red, purple, black, or white. They grow well in zones 9 through 11. These peppers need full sunlight to grow and survive until the first frost.
  8. Black-Eyed Susans: These brilliant yellow flowers with a dark center fare best in growing zones 3 through 9. They like an area with full sunlight and bloom until the first hard frost.
  9. Viola: Like pansies, violas grow really well in cold weather. Plant your violas in partial shade and well-drained soil. They can grow in zones 5 through 10. Violas are available in many beautiful colors, including blue, purple, yellow, lavender, and red, making it easy to brighten up your fall garden.
  10. Calendula: This low-maintenance bright yellow/orange flower grows best in zones 9 to 11. Calendula continues to grow into the fall as its color deepens. This flower needs to be put into well-drained soil and is excellent at attracting bees and butterflies to a garden.

Fun Facts

  • The word "pansy" comes from the French word "pensée," meaning "thought."
  • Ornamental peppers are edible, but many people say they lack the flavor of other types of peppers.
  • Violas are sometimes called Johnny-jump-ups because their seeds grow so quickly.
  • Ornamental kale is also called ornamental cabbage.

I hope you take some time to refresh your garden with more color to savor this fall. Thanks for reading. - Alan

Companies That Started in a Garage: Amazon

Posted by Alan Bernau Jr on Tue, Sep 3, 2019

companies-that-started-in-a-garage

Did you know that Jeff Bezos started his company in a garage? You've surely heard of a little company called Amazon that sells everything from clothing to kitchen appliances to lava lamps. Oh, and you can buy books there, too. I recently discovered that Amazon is just one of the many companies that got its start in a garage. So I decided that once a month, I'm going to shine the spotlight on a well-known company started in a garage! I hope you enjoy learning the stories behind these companies.

Amazon: The Beginning

With money from his parents, Jeff Bezos and his wife, MacKenzie, started Amazon in the garage of their rented home in Bellevue, Washington, in the mid-1990s. He had an ambitious plan to create an online bookstore and expand from there to sell everything. He set up desks made of old wooden doors and started working on software that would one day make him the richest man in the world.

Success Delivered Quickly

Within its first month, Amazon sold books to people in each of the 50 states as well as in 45 countries. In a matter of two months, sales at Amazon zoomed to $20,000 a week. There was a bell in the first office of Amazon that rang each time a book was sold. Soon, the bell was ringing so often that they had to take it down to remove the distraction.

Today's Amazon

Amazon's success eventually took it from Bezos's garage to a headquarters in Seattle, Washington. The Seattle campus has 40,000-plus employees who work in a collection of energy-efficient buildings in the city.

What Makes a Garage an Excellent Place to Start a Business?

Chances are good that Bezos appreciated the secure shelter his garage provided for the costly electronic equipment he used in his daily work. If you're thinking about starting a business in your garage, security is just one of the benefits of making your garage the headquarters of your new business.

Whether you're drawing up plans for an online business, working on a great new invention, or writing a book, a metal garage gives you the quiet and privacy you need to focus on the work at hand. I like the idea of closing the door of the garage for the day and returning to your house until you feel inspired once again.

Set up your business in your garage and you also can enjoy soft breezes while you type, write, make designs, or tinker with a new invention. Just open the main garage door, the side door, or even the window. You're sure to be more creative in a comfortable environment.

Fun Facts About Amazon

  • Bezos's original name for his company was Cadabra, but he was persuaded that it sounded too much like the word "cadaver."
  • The servers Bezos used to operate Amazon out of his garage required a lot of power. If a vacuum or hair dryer was turned on in the house, it would blow a fuse!
  • The first book sold on Amazon, back in April of 1995, was Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought by Douglas Hofstadter.
  • Amazon's logo has an arrow pointing from the letter A to the letter Z. This indicates that Amazon sells a wide range of products, everything from A to Z.
  • In the company's early days, Bezos put orders together for customers himself and drove boxes to the post office to mail them.

I hope you decide to make your garage the site of your new business venture. In the meantime, enjoy my new series, and thanks for reading. - Alan

Inexpensive Ways To Add Privacy To A Backyard

Posted by Alan Bernau Jr on Sat, Aug 31, 2019

add-privacy-to-a-backyard

Do you like to spend time in your backyard? Maybe you like reading, listening to music, or chatting with family members outside on the patio where you can enjoy the breeze. But though you love your backyard, do you ever wish you had a bit more privacy there? If so, I have a few suggestions for how you can enjoy more privacy in your backyard without breaking the bank.

Grow a Living Fence

When you grow a living fence for privacy, you have a lot of attractive design options and plant types available to you. You can go with forsythia, juniper, or lilac, just to name a few. Time, patience, and maintenance are definitely requirements for growing a living fence, so keep that in mind as you decide if this is the option for you.

A Wall of Shrubs and Trees

One of the biggest advantages of creating a privacy wall with trees is that your wall is ever-changing. Your yard becomes more interesting and beautiful as the years go on! In addition, planting a wall of trees or shrubs is environmentally friendly. I like the idea of birds, squirrels, and other animals making their homes in a living wall.

A disadvantage of having a privacy wall made of trees is that it will take some time to grow. Also, depending on the types of trees or shrubs you choose, you have to trim and maintain them so they continue to look attractive.

Large Potted Plants

Put a few containers of bamboo plants on your patio and you can enjoy a living privacy fence that's 15 to 25 feet tall! These potted plants are drought-tolerant and low-maintenance and are available for a reasonable price.

Other ideas for large potted plants to help with patio privacy include:

  • Butterfly bushes
  • Lilac bushes (a compact variety)
  • Horsetail plants

Potted plants do need a certain amount of care, which can be a disadvantage to this option.

A Trellis

A trellis is an attractive way to get more privacy on your patio. There are many climbing plants that can grow on your trellis, including mandevilla, morning glories, clematis, and wisteria. Depending on its size and design, you may be able to move your trellis to different locations on your patio to meet your needs. A trellis is an inexpensive purchase to make, and you can find them in all designs and sizes.

A Pergola

Get a pergola to put in your backyard and you have an instant, private getaway that's close to home! Add some honeysuckle, wisteria, or jasmine to your pergola and you'll have a lovely, fragrant area all your own.

Add a DIY Privacy Screen

You can make your own privacy screen by setting up a couple of pallets on one side of your patio to use as a vertical garden. Or you could set up some large lattice panels to obscure the view of your patio. If you have somewhere to attach a curtain rod, you can hang curtains on one or all sides of your patio. A DIY privacy screen is a great option for someone living in an apartment or renting a home because you can easily take it down when you decide to move on to your next home.

Build a Traditional Wall

Of course, you could take the plunge and build a wall around your patio, carport, or entire property for privacy. There are pros and cons to the different types of material used for walls.

Wood

Pros

If you want a traditional look for your property, then wood is a good bet. It's inexpensive and can be painted to suit your color preferences.

Cons

Wood is vulnerable to insect and weather damage over time. Also, you'll need to stain it again or repaint it in a few years.

Vinyl

Pros

Vinyl fencing is durable, and it's available in many colors and styles. This material needs very little maintenance over the years and is relatively inexpensive.

Cons

If a vinyl fence is installed wrong, it can sag or appear crooked.

Corrugated Metal

Pros

A corrugated metal fence is less expensive than a wood fence. It's durable and needs little maintenance.

Cons

This type of material can be unattractive unless you add wood framing or choose a unique style.

Brick

Pros

A brick fence is low-maintenance and durable. Plus, this type of fence is attractive in a traditional way.

Cons

Brick is expensive, and if you end up with poor-quality bricks, they can deteriorate over time.

Are you ready to make your backyard your own private hideaway? Hopefully, these tips have helped a bit. Thanks for reading. - Alan

Which Siding Option Is The Best Choice For Your Home?

Posted by Alan Bernau Jr on Tue, Aug 27, 2019

siding-options-for-your-home

Are you thinking about new siding for your home? If so, you've probably noticed there's no shortage of options. I thought I'd take a look at siding today to let you know a few facts about the different choices available. Enjoy!

Vinyl

When it comes to siding, vinyl is a very popular choice. It's made from PVC resin and is available in many appealing colors. The durability of this material makes it a smart choice for homes in almost any area of the country. If you have the right tools and a tall ladder, you can install your own vinyl siding fairly easily.

Pros

  • You can paint it.
  • It's low-maintenance.
  • It's resistant to insects and moisture.
  • It's affordable (usually less than $10 per 10 square feet, though the cost varies depending on the variety you choose).

Cons

  • Not many places recycle it.
  • Its color can fade over time.

Wood

Wood is one of the most attractive options for siding. Pine, spruce, and fir are all popular choices for homeowners.

Pros

  • It's environmentally friendly.
  • It's easily painted or stained.
  • It's available in different styles, such as lap, shingle, and shake.

Cons

  • It's vulnerable to insect damage, so it's not a good choice for some areas of the country.
  • It can be expensive; 1,500 square feet costs an average of $12,500.
  • It requires regular maintenance.

Engineered Wood

This siding is made of synthetic material in the form of wood fibers and resin. It's an attractive alternative to genuine wood siding because it costs less ($1.20 to $2.20 per square foot).

Pros

  • It's made of recycled material.
  • It's durable.
  • It's insect-resistant.
  • It's easy to paint.

Cons

  • It doesn't have the natural appeal of wood.
  • Not all engineered wood is equal in quality.

Brick

If you love the look of a brick home, you're not alone! It's available in many inviting designs. Brick is weather-resistant and appropriate for almost any area of the country. I guess the three little pigs knew what they were talking about!

Pros

  • It's sound-resistant.
  • It's low-maintenance.
  • It's energy-efficient.

Cons

  • Repointing mortar can be expensive.
  • A shifting foundation can cause issues with a brick house.
  • It's expensive ($6 to $15 per square foot).

Stucco

Stucco is a textured siding made of sand, water, and cement. It's seen on many Mediterranean and Spanish-style houses. It costs about $6 to $9 per square foot.

Pros

  • It's fire-resistant.
  • It comes in appealing textures and colors.

Cons

  • It can be damaged if a house settles.
  • It offers poor insulation, so it's not a good choice for very cold areas, such as New England.
  • This is not a DIY installation project.

Stone

Real stone siding is one of the most attractive types you can find. It withstands all types of weather conditions, so it's an appropriate choice for any area of the country. Most importantly, you can pretend you live in a castle!

Pros

  • It's durable.
  • It's environmentally friendly.
  • It's low-maintenance.

Cons

  • Installation needs to be done by professionals.
  • It's expensive ($35 to $50 per square foot).

Stone Veneer

This siding is an alternative to real stone and is less expensive. It can cost as little as $6 to $9 per square foot. It's lightweight and available in many colors and designs.

Pros

  • Installation can be a DIY project.
  • It provides the look of real stone for less money

Cons

  • Low-quality stone veneer siding can allow moisture to leak through, causing damage.
  • It's not environmentally friendly.
  • It's not the best choice for areas of the country with harsh weather conditions.

Fiber Cement

This siding is made of cement, natural cellulose fiber, and silica. It's growing in popularity and being put on a lot of newer homes.

Pros

  • You'll have a choice of several colors.
  • It's durable and resistant to cracks.
  • It's insect-resistant.

Cons

  • It's expensive ($6 to $11 per square foot).
  • It's not a DIY project due to the weight of the cement.

Aluminum

Aluminum siding is a safe choice due to its durability. In addition, quality aluminum siding can provide your home with excellent insulation.

Pros

  • It's rust-resistant, making it a good choice for people living on the coasts or near other bodies of water.
  • It's available in different designs to please your visual tastes.
  • It's a good choice for people living in extremely cold areas.
  • It's affordable, $3 to $6 per square foot.

Cons

  • Its color can fade over time.
  • It can dent fairly easily.

I wish you good luck in making a final decision on what's best for your home. Thanks for reading. - Alan

7 Reasons To Add A Gazebo To Your Backyard

Posted by Alan Bernau Jr on Tue, Aug 13, 2019

add-a-gazebo-to-your-backyard

Are you looking for a peaceful, unique place to relax in your own backyard? If so, give some thought to a gazebo. You can order a gazebo from us in a size, design, and color that perfectly suits your tastes. Plus, you can order one with screens so you can relax outside in the evenings without dealing with the flying insects hanging around your yard. Check out seven reasons why you should make a gazebo a part of your backyard design.

  1. It's the Perfect Setting for a Party. You're in the middle of setting up a table on the lawn for a barbecue that starts in an hour, and suddenly, you feel a couple of raindrops plop onto your shoulder. Uh-oh. Do you call your neighbors and friends to cancel the barbecue? No way. Move the table into your gazebo and enjoy your burgers, hot dogs, and potato salad out of reach of the rain!
  2. It Can Be a Safe Play Area for the Kids. A gazebo is a great place for young kids to play where they can stay out of the sun and continue an entertaining game even when it's sprinkling outside. Also, it's easy to keep an eye on your kids when they are all in one place!
  3. It's a Relaxing Getaway Just a Few Steps From Home. Perhaps you love reading, listening to music, or even napping outdoors. You can do all of these things in your own private getaway located seconds from your back door. Choose some colorful plants to hang around your gazebo to give yourself an extra level of privacy. I like the idea of putting up hanging plants because you can easily change them around to refresh the look of your gazebo.
  4. It's a Beautiful Setting for Memorable Occasions. A gazebo is a special place to hold an outdoor wedding reception, anniversary celebration, or graduation party. Also, if you want to take photos, your gazebo serves as a wonderful backdrop.
  5. It's a Pleasant Place to Exercise. Put a mat or two on the floor of your gazebo and you have a great place to work out. Enjoy the breeze and exercise in peace. And if you want to make an exercise video, you have a nice setting for your project.
  6. It Can Increase Your Property Value. If you ever decide to sell your home, your gazebo can be an appealing feature to buyers. Its design and color will contribute to the beauty of your backyard, and potential buyers are sure to envision the parties and other relaxing activities they can enjoy in your attractive gazebo.
  7. It's a Shady Place to Admire Your Garden. A gazebo is a wonderful place to sit and admire your roses, hyacinths, daffodils, and everything else growing in your backyard garden. You may even want to make your gazebo a part of your garden by planting some shrubs or bushes around the structure.

The best part of having a gazebo is that you get to enjoy it in any way you want! Thanks for reading. - Alan

10 Small Trees That Make A Big Impact In The Backyard

Posted by Alan Bernau Jr on Wed, Aug 7, 2019

small-trees-for-your-backyard

Do you want to add privacy to the area where you relax in your garden? Maybe you have a small backyard that could use a few well-chosen trees to make it more inviting. Small trees can be colorful and the perfect size for a patio, garden, or small backyard. Take a look at ten dwarf trees that can instantly beautify your property, then consider adding one of these small wonders to your yard!

  1. Hibiscus Syriacus: The Hibiscus syriacus, aka the rose of Sharon, is drought-tolerant and features pink flowers with a red center. This small tree can grow to be 12 feet high and 10 feet wide, so it's smart to plant it in an area where it has plenty of space to spread. It blooms from June to October and fares best in growing zones 5 to 8.
  2. Viridis Japanese Maple: In the springtime, this tree features light green leaves that turn red and gold in the autumn. It can grow to be 6 feet tall and 10 feet wide. The Viridis Japanese maple does well in partial shade, making it perfect for planting beneath a larger tree in your landscape. It grows best in zones 5 to 8 and is sensitive to extreme heat.
  3. Pygmy Date Palm: If you live somewhere within zones 9 to 11, this attractive palm tree would be a great addition to your landscape. If you want to plant it near your house to admire its feathery green fronds, be sure to leave about four or five feet of space so it can spread out. This low-maintenance, disease-resistant tree can grow to be 12 feet tall.
  4. Prairifire Flowering Crabapple: This beautiful tree grows up to 20 feet tall and has small purple fruit that can feed your neighborhood birds in the wintertime. It's disease-resistant and grows best in zones 3 through 8. Plant your Prairifire flowering crabapple away from your home so it has plenty of sunlight and open space. Its dark pink flowers bloom in April or May.
  5. Royal Star Magnolia: A royal star magnolia tree has fragrant white flowers that bloom from late February into April. This tree grows best in zones 4 to 9 and can reach a height of 15 feet. Imagine this elegant tree as the centerpiece of your garden: I can't think of a more beautiful sight to admire from your gazebo.
  6. Venus Dogwood Tree: Consider the beauty of a Venus dogwood tree for your yard. Its bright white bracts grow in the springtime, and its foliage turns to red in the autumn. This tree does best in zones 5 to 9 and can grow 20 feet high.
  7. Black Diamond Crepe Myrtle: Are you looking for some small trees to line your fence? If so, the black diamond crepe myrtle is a good bet! These trees grow to be around 10 feet tall with a spread of 4 to 5 feet. This tree, with its collection of deep red flowers, does well in the full sunlight. It blooms through the summer into fall and flourishes in zones 7 to 9.
  8. Camellia Japonica: An evergreen tree perfect for smaller yards, it grows to be just 12 feet tall and 10 feet wide. If you live somewhere in growing zones 7 to 9, then this tree would do well for you. You can admire its reddish pink blooms from late winter into spring.
  9. Ribbon Leaf Japanese Maple: The foliage of this unique tree goes from a bright red in the spring to bronze in the summer to a blazing orange in the autumn. This maple grows to 12 feet tall and 12 feet wide. Plant this tree in growing zones 5 to 9 and it will flourish. Also, make sure you put it in an area with little or no shade. Its size makes it a lovely addition to a smaller yard.
  10. Dwarf Alberta Spruce: Why not have a beautiful spruce in your yard to admire in the winter? This tree grows to a height of 12 feet, so it stays fairly compact. It grows best in zones 3 to 6 and needs full sunlight. This low-maintenance tree with deep green needles is deer-tolerant and is fairly disease-resistant.

I hope you consider one of these beautiful trees for your yard or garden. Thanks for reading. - Alan

15 Healthy Sides That Will Be A Hit At Your Next Cookout

Posted by Alan Bernau Jr on Tue, Aug 6, 2019

15-healthy-sides-for-cookout

There's plenty of summertime left, which means lots of opportunities to get creative with your cookout menu! Today, I have some recipes for side dishes that are healthy and delicious. Enjoy!

  1. Sugar Snap Pea Slaw. No cookout is complete without a spoonful of slaw on your plate. Sugar snap pea slaw is a tasty side dish that takes just 30 minutes to prepare. How can you beat that? This recipe has the traditional ingredient of cabbage as well as apples, carrots, and snap peas, giving you plenty of crunch. Drizzle on some vinaigrette made with honey and Dijon mustard and tell your guests to dig in!
  2. Fennel and Zucchini Salad With Watercress, Mint, and Feta Cheese. Here is a recipe you can make with ingredients gathered from your own garden. Combine peas, zucchini, a fennel bulb, watercress, and mint to create a refreshing side. Don't forget to sprinkle in some feta cheese for extra zip!
  3. Spicy Grilled Broccoli. Grab some broccoli from your garden and marinate it with a mixture of red pepper flakes, smoked paprika, onion powder, and other spices. Grill the broccoli until it's tender and you have a healthy, spicy side!
  4. Cucumber Honeydew Salad With Feta. Visit your garden to get the cucumbers, honeydew melon, onions, and dill you need to prepare a colorful bowl of cucumber honeydew salad with feta. Take ten minutes to prepare this recipe and spend the rest of the time with your guests.
  5. Fresh Mango Salsa. If you have some vegans coming to your cookout, they're sure to flock to this salsa dish. Mangoes, red pepper, onion, cilantro, and lemon juice combined make a delicious side in just 15 minutes. Set out some pita or tortilla chips for your guests to dip with.
  6. Charred Bean Salad. Long beans are the star of this bean salad recipe. Along with the beans, there's a sweet onion, garlic cloves, mint leaves, and some spices that are sure to make this side dish a fast favorite at a cookout!
  7. Corn and Scallion Salad. This salad recipe can be made in ten minutes with just four ingredients: white wine vinegar, scallions, tarragon, and, of course, corn. No cookout is complete without corn as a side dish. Everyone knows that, right?
  8. Grilled Watermelon Salad. Can you really grill watermelon? Oh yes, you can! Along with watermelon, this recipe includes baby arugula, goat cheese, balsamic vinegar, and a few other ingredients. It's prepared in just 30 minutes. Make sure your guests take the time to admire the grill marks on their watermelon slices while they're enjoying the feast in your gazebo!
  9. Pinto, Black, and Red Bean Salad With Grilled Corn and Avocado. If you like a side dish with lots of beans, this is sure to become a favorite. Combine this variety of beans along with onion, corn, cherry tomatoes, avocado, and olive oil and you have an extremely nutritious salad that's sure to disappear from its bowl in no time.
  10. Grilled Apricot, Eggplant, and Tomato Salad. Start with a Japanese eggplant, mix in some heirloom tomatoes, apricots, scallions, mint, parsley, and chives, and you have an out-of-the-ordinary side dish for all the veggie-lovers at your cookout.
  11. Grilled Sweet Potatoes. This is a gluten-free dish filled with vitamin C and potassium. But most importantly, it tastes darn good. Sweet potatoes, salt, and olive oil combined with some time on the grill gives you a sweet side dish.
  12. Grape Salad. If you're a fan of grapes, then you'll love this simple grape salad. The ingredient list includes red and green grapes, cream cheese, sour cream (or plain Greek yogurt), salt, brown sugar, and the secret ingredient, toasted pecans!
  13. Peach Caprese Salad. Grab some of those delicious peaches from the grocery store and make good use of them in this side dish. This dish takes 15 minutes to make and includes ingredients such as corn, tomatoes, onion, mozzarella, salt, arugula, and basil. This dish looks so beautiful your guests will be hesitant to mess up the perfect picture!
  14. Cranberry Zucchini Slaw. Here's another alternative to traditional coleslaw. Simply combine spiralized or chopped zucchini with dried cranberries and sunflower seeds. If you have ten minutes, you can make this refreshing dish.
  15. Strawberry Asparagus Salad. This easy salad recipe includes tons of healthy ingredients, such as spinach, romaine lettuce, asparagus, toasted almonds, and strawberries. It takes ten minutes to prepare, and you'll have a summery side dish for your cookout.

Enjoy your cookouts, and thanks for reading. - Alan

How Often You Should Mow Your Lawn In The Summer

Posted by Alan Bernau Jr on Mon, Aug 5, 2019

how-often-to-cut-grass-in-summer

Do you have a riding lawn mower in your shed that you look forward to using each summer? Maybe you love gassing up your push mower so you can create a lawn that's the envy of the neighborhood. Cutting the grass and otherwise caring for your lawn is rewarding and a great way to get some exercise in the summer months. But do you know how often to cut your grass? Do you know how to care for grass that's turning brown and dry from lack of rain? If not, I have some tips for lawn care that you'll find very helpful this summer.

How Often Should I Cut My Grass?

How often you cut your grass depends on the type of grass growing in your yard. Each type of grass has an ideal height. The ideal height for Kentucky Bluegrass is 1 ¾ to 2 ½ inches tall. Meanwhile, the ideal height for centipede grass is 1 to 2 inches tall. Once you know the type of grass you have, you can monitor its height to keep it trimmed and healthy.

Pay Attention to the Rainfall

Have you ever noticed that after a lot of rainfall, your grass seems to leap up to new heights? I can almost hear my grass growing! The amount of water your lawn receives will affect how often you mow. For instance, if you have an especially rainy spring, your grass may grow past its ideal height on a regular basis. This could mean you need to mow a few times a week.

Is There a Problem With Letting Grass Grow Tall Before Cutting It?

Yes. When you let your lawn grow wild, the lower part of the grass blades lives in the shade. When you cut the lawn, it exposes this sensitive lower area of the grass, and your grass can go into shock from the sudden exposure to heat and sun.

Caring for Dry, Brown Grass

It can be necessary to cut your lawn even if you're having a drought. The grass will go dormant if the drought lasts long enough, though. As long as municipal rules allow it, make sure to water your lawn one or two times a week, allowing it to absorb about an inch of water. The water will help to deepen the roots of the grass so they will be protected from the harsh conditions of the drought. If you take steps to care for your lawn during a drought, it can come back stronger than ever!

More Valuable Tips for Cutting Your Grass

  • Mow early in the morning or in the evening. Your grass can become stressed if you cut it in the hot afternoon hours.
  • Set your lawn mower to trim the top third of the grass plant. This leads to stronger roots.
  • Make sure that the blades of your lawn mower are nice and sharp. Dull mower blades can tear at the tissue of the grass, making it more vulnerable to disease.
  • Change the direction of your mowing each time you do the job. This prevents the compaction of your grass.

Bear these tips in mind when you mow your lawn this summer to keep your grass happy! Thanks for reading. - Alan

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