Designing A Garden That Takes Care of Itself

Everyone wants a beautiful garden bursting with lush greenery and colorful flowers. To many people, this remains a dream since they feel they don’t have the time to put into achieving the perfect garden. A stunning garden that requires almost no care is well within reach if you make smart choices. These tips will help you create a garden that practically takes care of itself.

Choose Native Plants

The way most homeowners choose the plants they put in their garden is by selecting whichever flowers are most beautiful. While this may get you a lovely landscape, you will soon be devoting all your time to its upkeep. Native plants have bred over time to perfectly function in local soil and climate conditions with no care. Choosing flowers, shrubs and trees that are from your area will let you have a garden that knows exactly how to thrive where it is planted.

Plant Drought Resistant Varieties

One of the biggest garden chores is daily watering. Not only is it inconvenient to get up early to give your plants a drink, it also is not good for water conservation. Choosing plants that are drought resistant enables you to skip daily waterings. These plants will generally survive on what falls out of the sky unless you go several weeks with no rain.

Plant Dense Foliage

If spending your weekends pulling weeds out of your flower beds does not sound like your idea of a good time, consider planting your flowers as close together as possible. Just like any plant, weeds need sunlight to survive. When the leaves of your plants form a canopy that the sun’s rays are unable to penetrate, you give weeds less of a chance to invade your garden.

Mulch Your Beds

Another weed busting garden feature is good old fashioned mulch. There is a reason why gardeners have been using this technique for thousands of years. Mulch is a thick covering of organic or inorganic material that keeps weeds from growing and moisture in the ground. Many people use wood chips, rocks or straw as mulch in their landscape. The key is to pile the material high enough in your beds to smother any unwanted plants that may try to poke their leaves through the soil.

Start a Compost Bin

For part time gardeners, proper fertilizer amounts can seem like an art, a science and magic rolled all into one. If you use chemical fertilizers to feed your garden, it can be difficult to portion out the correct amounts for all your different plants. For the lazy gardener there is a simple, inexpensive solution. Compost is a great fertilizer that works on every plant. All you have to do is put a layer of compost in all your garden beds, and your plants will be fed for several months. It gives plants a gentle feeding that doesn’t cause stress that makes them susceptible to pests and diseases. You can make your own compost by tossing lawn clippings, leaves, weeds and vegetable scraps in a pile. Over a few months this mixture breaks down into a rich, dark soil-like material that provides the simplest of plant foods.

Built In Drip Irrigation

Even though your garden is full of native and drought resistant plants, there may still be times you need to water. If there has not been rain for a few weeks, your plants will need hydration. You can eliminate the need to trudge through your parched garden with a hose by installing a drip irrigation system in your beds before you even plant the first flower. This is a hose with tiny holes at regular intervals that snakes through your landscape. You can simply turn on the water and go back to whatever you were doing. You can even put your irrigation system on a timer so you don’t have to remember to turn it off.

No garden is completely self sufficient, but planning your outdoor space using these tips will get you as close as possible. You will spend more time relaxing in your gorgeous landscape than you will put into the care of it.

Designing a Cozy Living Room for Your Family

The living room is the hub of family life. Whether you’ve just finished child-proofing your home for your first brand-new little one or are a parenting pro seeking to reorganize your family’s lifestyle, a functional living room can be reimagined from a cookie-cutter sitcom backdrop to a space that inspires and shapes itself to your family life.

What can your living room become? Every project will shape itself to its own living-room dwellers. Try opening up a discussion and making reorganization a family project! And as you do, consider:

Conversational Seating

Too often, in our digital age, the living room has become defined by two things: a television, a coffee table, and a sofa facing them. But even if you value catching your shows or giving your children their gaming time, living rooms don’t have to exist in any such rigid formula. Sectional sofas or easily-moved chairs are a natural way to keep your living room from becoming an unintentional shrine to the television, while keeping it viewable with sufficient seating for family movie nights.

Storage in the Living Room

Yes, storage. What? That thing relegated to the hall, to tucked away cupboards? Not anymore! Living room storage should be all about creating the space your family finds most usable.

Do you do a lot of puzzles, or host family board game sessions? Whether it’s a regular habit, one you want to get back into the swing of, or a new tradition to start, family game night can be helped along by keeping your options close on hand in a central location. Consider glass-top tables with an easy-access shelf underneath. If that feels too cluttered for your lifestyle, that’s alright: many furniture companies make tables, chairs, ottomans and more with hidden storage.

What else should be stored in the living room? That depends on your family’s needs. If your children do their homework in the living room, consider creating an area with cubbies for school supplies, or wall-mounted in and out boxes for homework, permission slips, and papers. If you have pets, you’ll find great use out of an easy-to-reach bin for interactive toys—though maybe the bin should be easier to reach for humans than for their animal companions. Cedar chest and ottomans with built-in storage can be used to keep clean blankets, for huddling under on movie nights or hosting a last-minute guest.

Electrical Upgrades

The latest gaming consoles and theatrical surround sound aren’t designed for every budget. But that doesn’t mean that your living room can’t use an electrical pick-me-up. Consider replacing agitating LED or halogen bulbs, which flood our eyes with unhealthy amounts of blue light, with warm toned compact fluorescents. Look specifically for ones marketed as giving off warmer tones to avoid circadian cycle-breaking blue light—great in the workspace, less so in the living room!

Or maybe you want to invest in smaller, family budget-friendly speaker systems that can be connected to play music as well as game and television audio. Dimmable lights can help your family wind down after the sun has set, rather than a clear-cut “on”/”off” switch that can trick our brain into not producing enough melatonin and recognizing when it’s time to call it a night.

In a living room that feels like home and runs smoothly enough to cut down on family stress, it’s the little details that can count the most.

Keeping it Comfy-Cozy

You know those throw pillows you pass on your errands, or the candles you pause to envy should you browse through a little boutique? There’s a reason, beyond frivolity, that they stay on the market!

Consider starting with just one scent you like, one fluffy pillow or couch throw, or letting your kids pick (within reason!) one small item to make the living room feel more cozy and welcoming.

A Splash of Fun

What’s the living room for, if not living? Liven it up! Desk toys like newton’s cradles or magnetic building sets can make a perfect side table point of interest, and will do more than coffee table art books ever did to draw your children out of their rooms.

We’re not knocking the art books! Browse your local bookstores or cafés that patronize local artists and photographers to find those conversation starters you’ll love to flip through even alone. Does this book inspire your kids to ask about your favorite childhood band, or this one highlight gorgeous photography of your spouse’s home country? Family photo albums or travel albums can bring in an even more personal (and DIY!) twist to the coffee table book.

Top Vineyards To Visit In Washington State’s Wine Country

No longer do you have to go to California’s Napa Valley to visit high-end vineyards on the West Coast. Washington state boasts an incredible selections of vineyards that combine both excellent wine with memorable experiences. Here are some of the best (in no particular order):

Cave B Estate Winery

348 Silica Rd NW
Quincy, WA 98848

A few hour drive from Seattle, Cave B Estate Winery not only serves excellent wines in their tasting room, but they also provide incredible panoramic views from a nearly 1,000-foot cliff. They further offer music in a natural amphitheater, and you can make a night of it by eating at their restaurant and by staying at the fine accommodations they provide.

Barnard Griffin Winery

878 Tulip Ln
Richland, WA 99352

If you love Cabernet, Barnard Griffin Winery is well worth a visit. They are noted for their excellent and very affordable Cabernet wines, which you can sample at their bar and eatery. They also have terrific food and a sweeping view of the Columbia River, and the winery further includes a glass art gallery.

Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery

14111 NE 145th St
Woodinville, WA 98072

A stone’s throw from Seattle, Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery offers a variety of tasting opportunities as well as tours of the vineyards. These tours include standard walk-in tours and their Ultimate Tour, which you must reserve in advance. They also offer a number of musical and special events during the course of the year.

Columbia Crest Winery

178810 WA-221
Paterson, WA 99345

Columbia Crest Winery is the place to visit if you enjoy Chardonnays and Bordeaux-style red wines. The wines there are noted not only for their quality but also for their value. Like the Barnard Griffin Winery, this winery overlooks the picturesque Columbia River, and they offer both guided and self-guided tours. They also offer what they call a food and wine pairing experience at a very reasonable price.

The Hogue Cellars

2800 Lee Rd
Prosser, WA 98948

Overlooking the scenic Yakima River, the Hogue Cellars is the winery to go to if you love Riesling. While they produce a variety of these wines, their top tier vintage — which is called “Terroir” — is only available to those who visit their tasting room.

Milbrandt Vineyards

508 Cabernet Ct
Prosser, WA 99350

Located not far from the Hogue Cellars, Milbrandt Vineyards offer 2,500 acres of lush vineyards. Their tasting rooms also offer a variety of vintages, including their Vineyard Series wines, which is only available there.

Northstar Winery

1736 J B George Rd
Walla Walla, WA 99362

The Northstar Winery is known for their excellent Merlot wines. While they have a tasting room in which you can experience a variety of quality wines, they also offer what they call a “Blending Experience,” which is a guided seminar where you get to blend your own wine.