The Beauty of that Outdoor Kitchen

Outdoor cooking is one of America’s greatest pastimes – and grilling is one of the biggest sources of socialization when it comes to backyard parties. However, it can be exhausting running back and forth between the house and grill when you need additional utensils, appliances, and food.

For all those reasons, an outdoor kitchen may be just what the doctor ordered.

An outdoor kitchen may seem like a luxury, but for those who spend much of their time entertaining in the backyard, it can be functional, practical, and efficient. An outdoor kitchen comes with all sorts of benefits, including:

Improved socializing

With an outdoor kitchen, you don’t have to worry about being away from your guests every time you need to wash food, run to the frig, or use the stove instead of the grill. Outdoor kitchens keep you in the conversation and the action — you won’t have to miss the punchline of a neighbor’s joke to grab some cheese for the hamburgers.

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We take trees down – but here are 3 benefits to putting them in

Manning Tree and LandscapeThis may be hard to believe, but New England is now more forested than ever. Today, over 80 percent of New England is covered by thick woods. That’s quite a change from the mid 1800’s when only 30-40 percent of the countryside was forested after losing most of its trees to logging and farming by early settlers as well as firewood-cutting and charcoal-making.

Today, trees are back and are seen as a valuable resource, not only for more environmentally-friendly harvesting, but as much-admired assets on residential properties. Big, beautiful hardwoods are treasured for their lush canopies that shade lawns, decks, and patios while evergreens are used to create privacy and windbreaks. In short, trees add beauty and value to your property.

Of course, trees are living things — all trees eventually reach the end of their lives and need to be taken down. And while we’re best known for professional tree care and removal, we’re also champions for planting them.

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Quality Bark Mulch

Bark mulch can come in a wide variety of wood types, colors, and even textures. While it may surprise some people, bark mulch also comes in a variety of qualities. A low quality bark mulch can actually do more harm than good in your flower and shrub beds and around your trees. That’s why it’s important to understand what makes high quality bark mulch.

The worst mulch is made from ground up tree stumps, wood pallets, yard waste such as brush and branches, and even wooden demolition debris and other low-grade materials. Some mulch manufacturers will even dye or age these poor-quality, ground-up materials to mimic the cut and color of real bark mulch, so it’s critical to know your bark mulch supplier, what quality bark mulch they sell, and where they get their bark mulch from.

High quality bark mulch is made from large, thick-barked, softwood trees such as hemlock and pine and contains no low-quality fillers or by-products. High quality bark mulch is naturally resistant to insect pests and many funguses, helping it to stay attractive, last longer, and provide better protection for your valuable plants and landscaping. Quality bark mulch not only looks better, it even smells better, without the off-putting chemical or sour smell that some low-grade mulches can have.

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The Benefits of a Properly Installed Walkway

The Benefits of a Properly Installed WalkwayDid you have a tough time shoveling your walkway this winter? Perhaps the bricks or pavers were uneven and you rattled your bones and bruised your muscles banging your shovel over and over against the uneven edges sticking up from frost heaves. Or maybe your walkway was encased in solid ice – the result of poor drainage and standing water that froze hard and stayed that way for weeks. Both of these common problems can be easily avoided with a properly installed walkway.

Most do-it-yourselfers make the mistake of not adequately preparing the ground upon which they’re going to build their walkway. They might scrape away some of the grass growing in the pathway, do a quick leveling with a shovel and then start putting down bricks of pavers, or building a quick form and pouring concrete. These approaches are doomed to eventual failure as poorly draining water seeps underneath the hard surface, eroding the base or forming frost heaves in the winter so that in a relatively short period of time, the walkway begins to buckle and heave.

Instead, a trench 8-10 inches deep should have been dug first for a brick or paver walkway. The depth along the length of the path chosen for the walkway may vary in depth because the surface of the ground is uneven, but you want to make sure that the base is even and level. It’s easy to check this using a common carpenter’s level or a fancier laser level.

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Start Your New Year with a New Landscape Design

New Landscape DesignSure, there’s snow on the ground and ice all around, but now’s a great time to begin planning a new landscape design to brighten your yard and enhance your outdoor living come spring.

Just because plants can go dormant in winter doesn’t mean people have to. In fact, certain landscaping projects are actually better suited to the off-months. To begin with, there’s planning. With the perspective that comes from time off from summer lawncare considerations, less outdoor activities, and fewer attention-grabbing maintenance chores, you can revisit existing designs and reconsider plant palettes. And with the bones of the garden exposed, you can easily see what’s out of balance and where you might want to add in structure or visual texture, whether in the form of plants or hardscaping, such as a meandering walkway, a hidden sitting area, a patio or firepit. Winter’s a great time to take a step back, look closely at your current landscaping, and visualize changes that can add more beauty and functionality.

Even though winter is the bleakest time of year, it can help you understand flow and the way your property spaces are laid out and connected. It’s easier to assess which sightlines to keep clear and which to screen out. For example, in one direction, you may want to borrow the view of a neighbor’s 200-year-old stone wall, but in another, there might be a tower or building that should be obscured at all times. With everything exposed, you can plan a more effective screening feature such as evergreens or attractive fencing that will block the view even in barest winter.

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