Backyard Living


Top trends to inspire your outdoor living

Outdoor living spaces rank first among special function rooms desired by consumers, according to the American Institute for Architects, and so homeowners are expected to be going all-in for the outdoors in 2018. Trex Company, a maker of premium decking and railing, has gleaned insights from contractors, homeowners and industry experts to compile the following outdoor living trends that will dominate this year:

Year-round enjoyment
Among the biggest trends is a shift away from seasonality as consumers adopt more of a year-round mindset, no longer restricting outdoor living to spring and summer. Thanks to new high-performance materials and innovative design approaches, homeowners everywhere are transforming their outdoor spaces into multi-seasonal extensions of their homes. For example, Trex contractors have reported an uptick in requests for its RainEscape deck drainage system by clients looking to add multi-seasonal living space underneath an elevated deck.

Minimal maintenance, maximum enjoyment
Just because people are spending more time outdoors doesn’t mean they’re willing to put in extra hours for upkeep. In fact, high-maintenance materials like wood are seeing a decrease in demand as people are opting for offerings that deliver better performance and sustainability. Unlike wood, high-performance composites resist fading, staining, scratching and mold – and won’t rot, warp, crack or splinter. No sanding, staining or painting is required, and food and drink spills wash off easily with just soap and water.

Comfy cozy
Among the hottest design influences right now is “hygge” (pronounced hoo-gah) – the Scandinavian term for a feeling of coziness and comfort. This year, outdoor spaces will beckon homeowners and their guests to relax and rejuvenate with hygge-inspired accents, from plush cushions and throws to protective pergolas, cozy warming features and outdoor lighting.

Residential goes commercial
While railing matched to the decking remains popular, an increasing number of homeowners are taking advantage of the complementary decking and railing pairings afforded by new railing materials in modern, metal finishes, as well as sleek designs inspired by commercial architecture. More homeowners are inspired by outdoor spaces they find in commercial settings, such as hotels and urban rooftops, and want to replicate those looks in their homes. A prime example of this commercial-to-residential trend is the growing popularity of horizontal railings such as rod rail – a sleek, industrial look that’s ideal for optimizing a panoramic view.

Hide and chic
With the increased usage of outdoor living spaces comes higher demand for chic decor and privacy. An easy design trick that adds personal style and functionality, lattice panels are perfect for enhancing privacy and concealing storage areas or unsightly views. With styles ranging from romantic to deco, lattice panels can be integrated into any outdoor area and applied to structures such as arbors, trellises and gazebos, or used as decorative wainscoting or deck skirting.

Fun and games
Kids are not the only ones who enjoy playing outside. Outdoor play spaces for all ages are on the rise, including everything from swimming pools and embedded sandboxes to regulation cornhole courts, horseshoe pits and dedicated spaces for volleyball, badminton and bocce ball. Beyond yard games, electronics manufacturers now offer televisions and entertainment systems specifically designed for the outdoors, taking into consideration differences in lighting and outdoor acoustics. Meanwhile, new storage options include durable wall-mounted television and entertainment centers that beautifully protect pricey electronics from the elements, while concealing all of the unsightly – and potentially unsafe – cords and cables. (BPT)


The hot food trend you can enjoy without leaving your backyard

Farm-fresh eggs. Locally grown tomatoes. Herbs sourced onsite.
If you’ve eaten out recently, you’ve probably noticed the menus feature locally sourced ingredients. The farm-to-table movement continues to flourish at restaurants throughout the country.
In fact, rather than the exception, it’s become the expectation. According to the National Restaurant Association, farm-to-table is quickly becoming the new norm. Diners are so attracted to the freshest fare possible, it’s inspiring some restaurants to start their own gardens, on a rooftop, terrace or simple outdoor plot. Hyper-local culinary concepts like these represent the top trend on the annual “2018 Culinary Forecast” report.
You can take a cue from this hot trend by starting your own farm-to-table concept garden at home. Just imagine plucking ruby red tomatoes and rich green basil straight from your garden to make a farm-fresh, scrumptious caprese salad without ever leaving home. An at-home take on the farm-to-table trend can easily be translated to a convenient “garden-to-table” concept in your own backyard. Growing your own at home will elevate your cooking and you’ll feel good about being able to produce your own food while lowering your grocery bill (and certainly save by not dining out as much).
No matter the size of your garden space, you can grow fresh foods that are readily available right at your fingertips, even if you just have a small patio or balcony. What’s more, some of the most popular produce to eat is also easy to grow.
The experts at Bonnie Plants offer some easy-to-grow, space-saving suggestions to encourage a garden-to-table trend at home.

Caged tomatoes
Whether you choose big, juicy slicers or sweet cherry-sized snackers, caged tomatoes are easy to grow and offer endless cooking opportunities. Determinate varieties of tomatoes are container favorites because the vines are relatively compact yet bear a productive harvest. Or create your own container garden using tomato varieties especially bred for small spaces.

Caged peppers
Try popular and versatile Green Bell, a heavy yielder of large fruits and a good all-round pepper for slicing and stuffing. Or, spice up your recipes with jalapeño chile peppers, which yield a bountiful harvest.

Strawberries in hanging baskets
Sweet, juicy strawberries add loads of flavor to salads, dressings, drinks and desserts. Think you need a plot to grow a productive strawberry patch? Think again. Maximize space with strawberries in hanging baskets, which are everbearing and produce cascades of berries throughout the growing season.

Herbs in combo pots
Want to raise the flavor profile of any culinary dish? Fresh herbs are your best bet. Herb gardens can be grown in compact spaces, which means you can fit your favorites in no matter how much space you have.
For example, a kitchen herb combo container featuring sweet basil, cilantro and curled parsley is a powerhouse pot that’s both practical and pretty. You can set it right outside your door for convenient access and continuous harvest. Herbs are ready for harvest upon purchase and will keep growing and giving all season long.
Once it’s time to harvest, have fun exploring new recipes and experimenting with home-grown, fresh-picked produce that will shake up your supper and then some. For more inspiration for easy at-home gardening, visit
This recipe for a classic caprese salad is sure to hit the spot as a light lunch or satisfying start to dinner. (BPT)

Nothing says farm-to-table like Caprese salad
1 fresh tomato
1 ball fresh mozzarella cheese
Basil leaves
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
• Slice tomato in 1/4-inch thick slices.
• Do the same for the mozzarella.
• Alternate layers between the tomato, mozzarella and basil. First, a tomato slice, then a mozzarella slice, then a few leaves of basil; begin and end with tomato.
• Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, or your favorite Italian dressing.
• Add salt and pepper to taste.

Call 811 before digging

for home improvement projects and landscaping this spring

With spring having officially begun, many eager homeowners and landscape professionals across the country will roll up their sleeves and reach for their shovels to start projects that require digging this season.
During the transition into “digging season,” Common Ground Alliance (CGA)–the organization dedicated to protecting underground utility lines, people who dig near them, and their communities–reminds homeowners and professional diggers that calling 811 is the first step toward protecting you and your community from the risk of unintentionally damaging an underground line.
Every digging project, no matter how large or small, warrants a free call to 811. Installing a mailbox or fence, building a deck and landscaping are all examples of digging projects that should only begin a few days after making a call to 811. Calling this number connects you to your local one-call utility notification center.
According to data collected by CGA in a phone survey in February, millions of American homeowners will likely do DIY projects involving digging this year, but 36 percent of them do not plan to make a free call to 811 before digging. Extrapolated to the full population of U.S. homeowners, approximately 48.3 million people will dig this year without first calling 811.
A utility line is damaged every nine minutes in America because someone decided to dig without making a call to 811 to learn the approximate location of buried utilities in their area. Unintentionally striking one of these lines can result in inconvenient outages for entire neighborhoods, serious harm to yourself or your neighbors, and significant repair costs.
As a result, CGA offers the following tips to make sure you complete your project safely and without any utility service interruptions, so you don’t become a statistic.

Here’s how the 811 process works:
1. One free, simple phone call to 811 makes it easy for your local one-call center to notify appropriate utility companies of your intent to dig. Call a few days prior to digging to ensure enough time for the approximate location of utility lines to be marked with flags or paint.
2. When you call 811, a representative from your local one-call center will ask for the location and description of your digging project.
3. Your local one-call center will notify affected utility companies, which will then send professional locators to the proposed dig site to mark the approximate location of your lines.
4. Only once all lines have been accurately marked, carefully dig around the marked areas.
There are nearly 20 million miles of underground utility lines in the United States, which equate to more than a football field’s length of utilities for every person in the U.S. Your family depends on this buried infrastructure for your everyday needs including electric, natural gas, water and sewer, cable TV, high-speed Internet and landline telephone. With that much critical infrastructure underground, it’s important to know what’s below and call 811 before digging. (BPT) To find out more information about 811 or the one-call utility notification center in your area, visit

5 essentials to get your backyard party-ready

The warm, summery weather is a golden opportunity to take your get-together outside. Whatever the occasion, take advantage of the sun and extra space, and let these tips help you plan and get your outdoor space ready for your guests.

1. Cluster the conversation spots
When planning your backyard layout, think beyond the patio table, and provide more than enough seating for all. Arrange sofas and chairs into conversation clusters to keep people outside and enjoying each other’s company. It’s also a good idea to provide coffee tables, side tables and other spaces where people can set their drinks and snacks. Don’t be afraid to borrow pieces from a friend or neighbor to make the party set complete.

2. Don’t forget the right lighting
Consider the time of day of your gathering and what that means for your lighting situation. Intense late-day sun glare is unpleasant for all, but a few strategically placed patio plants can make a huge difference (and make the space feel more intimate). For the post-sundown festivities, light up the party zone with holiday lights by stringing them along deck rails, or zig-zagging them overhead. Add a fire pit, and if it’s chilly, keep an extra stash of throw blankets and jackets and you’ll have a cozy, well-lit space for those late-night talks.

3. Keep flying invaders at bay
No one likes it when uninvited guests like flying, biting insects show up. Bottles of insect repellent in a conspicuous place are a good bet on buggy nights, but keep these (and the spraying area) well away from the food. For a chemical-free alternative, setting out a fan or two on a low setting can stir up enough of a breeze to keep the pests away.

4. Get your game on
For the ultimate crowd mixer and crowd pleaser, keep a few fun and easy yard games on hand. Dust off the old bocce ball set. Or, with a few simple materials from your local hardware store, you can create and customize DIY versions of your favorites, including bean-bag toss, ring toss or even target shooting with water guns.

5. Keep the snacks simple and stress free
The secret to a good party is not stressing over every detail of the décor and the same goes for the food. An array of delicious but simple snacks are more than enough to get the party started. Grab a bag of tortilla chips, a few avocados and hot sauce, and you have a great dip to serve. It takes minutes to make! Soft pretzels are always a party favorite, but did you know that most people – 69 percent of them, to be exact – prefer to eat their soft pretzels dipped? Another 28 percent prefer cheese toppings above all the others. For the perfect snack to spice up the festivities, include a batch of Superpretzel Parmesan Garlic Bites. (see recipe on next page). (BPT)

Parmesan Garlic Bites
9-12 Superpretzel Soft Pretzel Bites
1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons wet minced garlic
2 tablespoons dry parsley
2 tablespoons pretzel salt
1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese
• In a bowl, combine the extra virgin olive oil, garlic, pretzel salt, parsley and cheese and set aside.
• Deep fry the pretzel bites in your favorite cooking oil at 360 degrees F for about 2 minutes.
• When done, dredge the pretzel bites into the oil and cheese mixture.
• Serve with your favorite dipping sauce.


Guac Star
3 medium avocados
2 tablespoons fresh lime or lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
3/4 cup pico de gallo
Tortilla chips
• Mash the avocados, add the other ingredients and party time!


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