What to do With all Those Apples: Make Homemade Cider!

800px-Apple_orchardLong before the pumpkin spiced latte became the fall drink of choice, the beverage that signified the start of autumn was apple cider. It dates back to at least 55 BC when the Romans first arrived in England and discovered the people there enjoying a drink made form the apples that grew plentiful in the region. This beverage is made from the juice of apples that have been crushed in a cider or fruit press, a machine that is rarely seen today but was once commonplace. While it’s certainly easier to head down to the local market and pick up a jug of cider, there is something satisfying about homemade cider and if you happen to have an apple tree, it’s a great way to use those apples before they go to waste. Best of all, you don’t need to track down a cider press to do it. Here is an easy and fun way to make your own, with equipment you already have or is easy to find.

Easy Homemade Cider with Spices

The best cider comes from a mix of tart and sweet apples. If you don’t have a variety in your yard don’t worry, you can supplement with some from the local supermarket or farmstand. Ultimately, it’s up to your personal taste, if you like sweet cider, use all sweet apples or if you have only tart
apples and don’t want to buy extra, you can always add sugar.

What you’ll need for 1 gallon of homemade cider:

  • 18 – 20 appleshomemade cider
  • 1-2 Cups of sugar (optional)
  • 4 Cinnamon Sticks
  • 30 Allspice Berries
  • a large stock pot
  • spice bag
  • big spoon
  • potato masher
  • strainer
  • cheesecloth

Instructions for Making Homemade Cider

  • Wash the apples, quarter them, place in a large stock pot and cover with water. Be sure your pot is big enough to hold everything with about three to four inches of space at the top. If you don’t have a pot big enough, you can cut the recipe in half or do it in two batches.
  • Tie the cinnamon and allspice in a spice bag and place in the pot.
  • Boil for an hour, be sure to check often and gently stir each time.
  • After and hour, taste a little to see if it’s sweet enough. If not, add the sugar and stir.
  • Cover, turn the heat to low and let simmer for two more hours.
  • Remove spice bag and mash the apples with a potato masher and let cool. You can speed up the process by placing the pot in an ice bath if you are impatient.
  • Line a strainer with doubled up cheesecloth and pour the mixture through it into a large bowl. Use the cheesecloth to wrap the pulp and squeeze out any remaining cider.

You now have homemade cider! To store, simply keep it in the refrigerator for up to a week and enjoy hot or cold.

What is your favorite thing to do with the apples from your yard? Do you have a different, or superior apple cider recipe? Feel free to share with us in the comments or on Facebook.

Ways to Reuse Fall Leaves

20131024_145636_Boones Ferry RdIt’s that time of year, the temperature is dropping and the sunshine is beginning to be replaced with endless rain showers. Soon, the leaves will begin to turn, offering a colorful palette of autumn hues for us to enjoy. That is until they start to fall. Those who have mature trees on their property understand that the novelty of falling leaves is short lived when it’s time to start the cleanup process. The trees that provided cooling shade only weeks before now shed a seemingly endless torrent of yard work. Soggy piles of leaves begin to dot the neighborhood, debris bags become lawn decor and the once beautiful yard becomes a storage space as they wait for yard bins to be emptied. But it doesn’t have to be a dreaded chore, here in the Northwest we are masters of recycling and reusing and there are some fantastic uses for those colorful fall leaves.

3 Ways to Reuse Fall Leaves

  1. Mulch – When most people think of mulch the first thing that comes to mind is bark chips but the original mulch just so happens to be fallen leaves. Using leaves as mulch around the garden help keeps moisture around the roots of your plants and returns nutrients to the soil. Additionally, leaves help insulate the ground and offer an effective weed block.
  2. Compost – Brown leaves make an excellent addition to a compost pile especially when combined with grass clippings and other green waste. Earthworms absolutely love eating leaves and their casings help create a rich compost perfect for soil amendment. Chopping the leaves with a mower or yard vacuum will speed up the decomposing process and save a tremendous amount of space.
  3. Leaf Mold – Leaf mold is another type of amendment that can be added to soil and supplies nutrients and moisture. To create your own leave mold simply pile the leaves up and let them decompose on their own similar to a compost pile. Unlike typical compost, leaf mold is low in nitrogen, but because it can hold up to 500 percent in it’s weight in water it truly shines as a moisture retainer. It can take up to a year to fully decompose, but chopping the leaves can help speed the process.

Hopefully this bit of information has inspired your Northwest recycling spirit but if not, All Oregon Landscaping can help.  We provide many services to get you through the season including regular maintenance or one time clean up and are committed to providing you with the best options for your space and budget.  Give us a call for a free consultation

Get a Head Start on Next Year’s Outdoor Living Space

The Summer of 2015 came fast and doesn’t appear to be letting up anytime soon. Even though BBQ season seems destined to linger, the kids will be back in school very soon and autumn will officially begin in less than a month – can you believe it? Though the warm weather will probably continue into October, the trees will eventually change color, the winds will pick up and the leaves will begin falling in what may seem like a never ending torrent of yard work. The time that was spent enjoying the sun turns into cleanup and summer fun will officially be over.  For many, this means unfinished projects and plans are shelved until next season. Thoughts will turn indoors to upcoming holidays and the outside space will be forgotten until next year. If you are one of the people who find the summers to be too short to bring to life your outdoor living dream, All Oregon Landscaping believes that you don’t have to wait to start the work on next years project. Fall is the perfect time to begin the process. Here’s why.

3 Reasons to Start a 2016 Outdoor Living Space Now

  1. You’ll get extra attention from landscape designers – Spring and summer is the busiest time of year for landscape companies with multiple projects happening and a lot to coordinate. Fall is the time when we can provide a little extra attention to planning a project for the next year since there isn’t as much going on outside of the office.
  2. This is when the summer clearance sales are happening – Saving money is always nice and if you are a savvy shopper you can pick up some brand new items at significant savings compared to what you’ll pay at the beginning of next season. Additionally, you’ll save time next spring and be better prepared to start your project.
  3. Planning is the longest part of the process – Whether you have a specific idea in mind or are still trying to figure out what you want, the fall and winter months give you plenty of time to get all of the details just right. When you work with All Oregon Landscaping, a landscape design expert visits the property and finds out what you are looking for and helps create a plan that works best for the layout and budget. If you want an outdoor living space designed for entertaining, a relaxing retreat or an urban farm we can come up with the most feasible options and start getting ready to make your dream a reality. When the time comes to break ground, everything will be in place to quickly get your outdoor living space ready to enjoy.

Here are a few selected pictures of some of our favorite outdoor living space designs.

All Oregon Landscaping works in Portland and all of the surrounding areas including Beaverton, Lake Oswego, Tigard, Oregon City, Sherwood, Tualatin, West Linn, and more. Give us a call to get your 2016 outdoor living space project started this fall.

How to Harvest Vegetables – Don’t Waste Precious Produce!

400px-Black_Pearl_PeppersFor those who love growing their own vegetables, spring and early summers are spent working the soil, planting rows of seeds and keeping them watered during the hot, dry spells. At the end of summer when the hours of labor have resulted in a beautiful and lush garden, the challenge turns from maintenance to harvesting the bounty. This is when many of us seem to have the most trouble. We’ve all been there: one day your zucchini are the size of a baby’s thumb and overnight they seem to go through a time warp and explode into a monster squash. But it’s not just the zucchini. A few days of not checking the garden can result in overripe food which means the time spent nurturing the garden has also been wasted. The trick to keeping up with the deluge of produce is the same as what it takes to create it: a good plan.

Plan Ahead to Harvest Vegetables at their Peak

The best source of harvest information is right on the seed packet. Because there are so many different varieties of most every vegetable, there isn’t going to be an all-encompassing answer for any one type. Certain green beans have the best flavor when they are five to six inches while others should be picked at fifteen to eighteen inches. It will also depend on when your vegetables were planted. Seed packets usually show the approximate days to harvest, a number that many gardeners use when planting to determine if they still have enough time to grow. Hopefully, you’ve kept your seed packet, but if you haven’t you should still be able to find the information you need online. Companies like Burpee have some great resources available to know when to harvest vegetables.

Keep a garden journal and record the date you plant each vegetable and when it’s due to be mature. You can keep a traditional book or folder which is also a good place to store the seed packet for later reference. There are also several great apps for your tablet or phone which can set reminders for you. If you failed to keep seed packets and have forgotten when you planted your vegetables and what type you planted, you can still keep up with the harvest but you may not get your veggies when they are at their peak, depending on which cultivars you have. When it looks like it’s close to harvest, the best thing to do is make a habit of checking your garden every day and picking any produce that is ripe. This will not only ensure that you’re not letting anything go to waste, but also encourage the plant to continue producing.

Looking for something more specific on how to harvest vegetables? Take a look at a few past articles we’ve written:

How do you manage to stay on top of your garden harvest? Feel free to share your stories with us in the comments or on Facebook.

DIY Yard Games for More Outdoor Fun

Big jenga is fun for all, DIY yard games
Make your Jenga whatever size you like!

In the Northwest we try and spend as much time outdoors as possible during the summer. Whether it’s cooking and enjoying an outdoor kitchen and dining area, or relaxing alone or with friends outdoors, we love enjoying the sun and warm weather. If you want to kick up the outdoor living a bit, try these easy and fun DIY yard games.

4 DIY Yard Games for More Summer Fun

2×4 Jenga – A simple and easy outdoor game for all ages. Simply cut 2x4s into 48 10 ½ inch pieces. If you don’t wish to cut them yourself, most lumber yards will cut them for you for a small fee. After you have your pieces, be sure to sand the edges and any rough spots to make them easy to slide. Stack three by three, alternating the direction of each row, and you have a giant Jenga set. Setup the big Jenga on a small table and invite some friends over for the fun.

Giant Checkers – A huge checker board made from concrete step stones can be a seasonal or permanent fixture in the yard for outdoor summer fun. A standard checker board is 8×8 so you’ll need 64 squares all together. Simply place them in the designated area in rows of 8, alternating between two colors. For the checkers, you can use paper plates (if it’s not too breezy), paint lids, big rocks or whatever else you can think of for the pieces. Get creative and find something that matches your personality and outdoor decor.

Spray Paint Twister – Spray painting colored dots on the grass is an easy way to set up a yard game of outdoor twister without trying to anchor an indoor game board to the ground. You’ll need white, blue, red and yellow spray paint to create the dots, with each color creating one row with six dots for each color. If you are aLawndart perfectionist you can measure, or just wing it and see what kind of chaos non-perfect lawn twister dots can create!

Non-Lethal Lawn Darts – Well, these are not really lawn darts at all, but the concept is still the same. This is probably the easiest game to make and can be a lot of fun if turned into a
tournaments for big groups. Fill the ends of six old socks with dried beans and tie them off so you have a bean bag with a tail – three for each team. Use hula hoops as your targets. This is a great game to play with younger kids as well as adults who remember the original lawn darts and would rather forego impalement.

What are your favorite yard games? Feel free to share with us on Facebook or in the comments below. Need help making the landscape DIY yard game worthy? Contact us for landscaping ideas or a free quote on your next project.

Jenga Picture By Ildar Sagdejev (Specious) (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons


Creating the Perfect Shaded Outdoor Kitchen

Nicely detailed pergola and outdoor kitchen area by All Oregon Landscaping.
Nicely detailed pergola and outdoor kitchen area by All Oregon Landscaping. See below for how to fill a naked pergola.

Oregonians on the western side of the mountains love their short-lived summers. It’s the few months out of the year that we get to enjoy the benefits that the long rainy season brings: lush, green outdoor spaces, everywhere you look. Cooking outside is something to try and squeeze in as much as possible, especially if your home lacks air conditioning. But when the temperature reaches the upper 90s several days in a row, cooking outside can be equally uncomfortable, especially if you don’t have a shaded outdoor kitchen area.

Ideas for a Shaded Outdoor Kitchen

Pergolas – One of the first things that comes to mind when thinking of outdoor shade is a beautiful wooden pergola covered with vines. While these permanent structures can be weekend projects, it will still be a couple years before the vines provide sufficient shade. If you’re planning on entertaining in your outdoor kitchen between now and 2017, don’t let that deter you from building one. Tacking wide strips of canvas to the beams is a great way to provide shade and add a bit of personality to your naked pergola while you wait for the vines to take over. Indoor/outdoor fabric curtains can be incorporated for added privacy, and strings of outdoor lights in the spaces between the strips can add just the right amount of class to carry the party into the evening.

Sun Screen Fabric – A quicker solution for creating great shade is hanging sun screen fabric. This fabric is specifically designed to block UV rays, breathes well and holds up to moisture. It can be used with other structures such as the previously mentioned pergola, be fitted into a frame, or hung in sail-form by itself. It may take a bit of prep and planning to get it looking right but the applications for sun screen fabric is limited only by your imagination.

Awnings – For another more permanent option, awnings are a good value and can look great if installed correctly. Canvas awnings can be stationary or retractable and come in many styles and colors. Retractable awnings tend to last longer since they are protected from the elements in the fall and winter months. Stationary awnings can also be made from wood, metal, or a combination of elements that fit in with nearly any decor.

Umbrellas – If you don’t have a lot of space to cover, standard patio umbrellas provide easy shade for tables and small corners. Many outdoor tables come equipped with a hole for mounting

Patio design is essential to creating effective use of space in your landscape or garden.
Great use of an umbrella.

or you can buy an umbrella stand. If you are trying to create a shaded outdoor kitchen, a larger, free-standing umbrella might be a better choice. Umbrellas are a good option if you need a quick fix that is easy to self-install and are not yet ready to take the plunge for a more permanent fixture.

All Oregon Outdoor Shaded Outdoor Living Space.

A shaded outdoor kitchen can make hot days not only bearable, but enjoyable. With a cool cooking area to entertain family and friends outdoors, you might find yourself giving the indoor kitchen a summer vacation! With the right plan, your shaded outdoor kitchen may even be able to continue to operate into the fall and winter. If you’d like help planning and creating your shaded outdoor kitchen, feel free to give us a call.

conserve water

Conserve Water and Keep the Garden Green in Portland

800px-Garden_hose_pistolWith the temperature hitting the triple digits in Portland early this year, keeping your outdoor space looking its best can be a challenge – especially when you are also trying to conserve water. If you planned ahead and worked in a drought resistant landscape this year, congratulations! You will certainly be ahead of the game. For the rest of us, the hot, dry weather will require a little extra irrigation. Creating a well-thought-out watering plan can keep your plants green while also keeping your water bill down.

Ways to Conserve Water, Money, and Your Plants by Watering Smart

  1. Mulch Organic-based mulches such as tree bark offer many benefits to plants, when applied properly. Among other things, mulch helps to retain water in the soil surrounding the plants. A good mulch helps conserve water by keeping it from evaporating out of the soil, which allows you to water less frequently.
  2. Moisture Gauges – If it’s moist don’t water it. Moisture gauges are very useful during hot, dry periods because they can tell you if the ground is moist below the surface. They are very easy to read and a quick test in the areas that were last watered can tell you if more is needed. Moisture gauges can also tell you if you’ve watered enough.
  3. Timing – Watering in the morning when it’s cool is the best time to conserve water, especially when it’s going to be hot. This helps keep the water from evaporating before soaking into the soil. Early watering also makes it easier for the plant to take up the water throughout the day. Watering in the evening or at dusk increases the risk of fungus forming during the night when the warm, wet environment is ideal for its growth.
  4. Choose Your System Wisely – The wrong watering setup can make it or break it. A broadcast sprinkler is the best way to waste water and drive up your utility bill. Much of what is sprayed is evaporated before it soaks into the ground or carried off as mist, watering areas that don’t need it. A hose and nozzle is a better option, since specific areas can be targeted, but it takes a lot of time to make sure each plant receives enough moisture and it has to be done manually. A drip system or a set of soaker hoses are the most efficient, delivering water where it’s needed at a speed that can be easily absorbed into the soil.
  5. Don’t Over Water – Most plants only need approximately 1 – 2 inches of water a week. Of course this all depends on the plant, but that information can be found on the plant tag that came with the plant or online. Too much water can cause root rot and soil compacting which is just as bad as under-watering. If you are worried about your lawn turning brown, just remember that most grass is quite drought tolerant. Brown grass is most likely dormant so don’t panic and water like crazy. Combining a soaker system with an irrigation timer is the most efficient way to ensure that your plants get just enough water, at just the right time. For lawns, half an inch, twice per week is all that’s needed.

Do you need help creating a plan to keep your outdoor space green while conserving water? All Oregon Landscaping not only designs beautiful outdoor spaces but offers a regular maintenance service that can get you and your plants through the hot summer. We can also help you install irrigation systems and show you how to program your timers to keep the yard beautiful while still ensuring that you are doing your part to conserve water. If you have any water saving tips we’d love to hear them! Feel free to share with us on Facebook or in the comments section below.

Outdoor Lighting Portland – What you need to know

Pacific Northwest residents treasure the time they can spend in the outdoors after the rain and before cold weather returns. With summer right around the corner and the warm weather already here, people are spending more time enjoying the outdoors. For many, the evening can be cut short due to the lack of adequate lighting and on hot days, just after the sun goes down is often the best time to be outside. A well lit yard can offer a whole new space for entertaining guests, a beautiful place to relax and can maximize the time spent enjoying the summer.

The Basics of Outdoor Lighting Portland

The best time to create a plan for outdoor lighting is at dusk. Go outside just as the sun is setting, but before it is completely dark. This is the time when you can get an idea of how things are going to look when the entire space isn’t fully illuminated. When planning outdoor lighting placement, there are three types of lighting to think about:

  • Task – Task lighting is lighting that has a specific purpose. Lighting along a path or a light over a sitting area where you like to read are good examples. Solar lights can work well since they don’t need to be very bright, but just need to give off enough light to get the job done.
  • Overall – This is used for larger areas such as an outdoor living space under a pergola where more than just the ground or a small space needs to be lit.
  • Accent –  Accent lighting is used to “decorate” the outdoor space. It is typically used to illuminate a favorite plant or water feature that normally wouldn’t be seen in the dark. This type of lighting gives a dramatic feel and can set the mood for the space.

Be sure to draw a picture of your yard and make notes on where you’ll likely spend your time. Find a few your favorite features whether it’s a tree or a pond and place them on the map. Be sure to add the paths, especially the ones that will be used in the dark.

Outdoor Lighting Portland and All Oregon Landscape

Whether you have an idea of what you want or have no desire to plan your own outdoor lighting, the experts at All Oregon Landscape are happy to help. We can make your vision come to life or create the ideal lighting layout for your space. Contact us today to find out what we can do for you.

Create a Drought Resistant Landscape

Every year homeowners try to find a balance between a beautiful landscape and conserving water. With the predictions of a drier than normal summer in 2015 and the lower level of snow melt from the mountains, reducing the amount of water you are using for irrigation is more important than in previous years. Fortunately, that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice a beautiful space to enjoy the extra sunshine. With a little planning, you can conserve water during a drought and have an outdoor space you love.

Drought Landscaping: 4 Ways to Reduce Water Consumption

1. Plant smart. One of the best ways to reduce the amount of water needed to maintain a landscape is to use drought resistant plants. Native plants are a great start since they are typically low maintenance to begin with and usually require minimal irrigation during a drought. Also placing beds near run off from the home and where moisture tends to gather is another way to use what is already there to your advantage.

modern pub shed with pool table
Backyard pub shed

2. Create more outdoor living space. Why sit on the grass when you can sit in a cozy chair on a beautiful patio or have a cold beverage in your pub shed. Minimizing the lawn, which takes a lot of water to keep green, and using the area for outdoor living simply means you have less foliage to maintain and a beautiful area to relax, cook and enjoy the sun. When considering drought landscaping, think outside the plants.

3. Using hardscapes to fill space. Well placed natural stone or rock gardens can be beautiful focal points to a landscape and best of all, they don’t need to be watered. Combine with a few drought hardy plants and keep the water bill at a minimum. Wider pathways and larger flat stepping stones among low groundcover also add a sense of importance to an area.

4. Better irrigation. While a broadcast sprinkler and hose is easy to set up and let run, it’s also inefficient and easy to forget. They water everything regardless of whether it’s growing or not and can promote

drought landscaping - use an app to control water shut off
Rachio let’s you control irrigation from your phone.

the spread of fungi that can damage plants. There are many alternatives that make it very easy to irrigate with little waste including in ground irrigation and drip systems that focus the water where it needs to be. They can be set up on a timer so there is no chance of forgetting and turning your yard into a swamp. They can also be combined with smart timers that can be controlled from your phone so if you are away from home and it rains, you can shut it off from where ever you may be.

Need help with drought landscaping that saves water and helps keep your home looking its best?  All Oregon Landscaping is here to help. Our award-winning landscape designs transform a thirsty yard into an attractive, useful,  and eco friendly space you’ll never want to leave. We work in Portland and all of the surrounding areas, contact us for a free quote and we can have your drought resistant yard ready soon.

Pub Shed – Originally covered by Daily Mail.

5 Landscaping Trends for Oregonians in 2015

From fashion to food, trends are continually evolving and people are always looking for what’s hot and new. The world of gardening and landscaping is no different, and we pride ourselves on keeping up to date with what’s en vogue. Here are our 5 favorite landscaping trends for 2015.

5 Landscaping Trends for Oregon

  1. What’s for dinner? –  Double-duty gardens have been on the rise in the past few years. As younger gardeners take to the hobby, the popularity of urban farming has significantly increased. Planting edibles in the place of traditional, inedible flowering plants is the perfect blend of fashion and function. How about a raspberry hedge? Or eating an apple in the shade of the tree it was plucked from. If you like flowers, nasturtiums have always been popular, but have you tried borage?
  2. For the love of pollinators – Hummingbird feeders are nice, but a butterfly bush is prettier. Homeowners are opting for flowering plants that attract pollinators. In addition to the joy of seeing the birds, bees and butterflies in action, pollinator plants are also great for the environment and local eco-system. Plus, they’re pretty. There is nothing more “Oregon” than helping our environment thrive.
  3. Taking it all outside – Every year, outdoor living spaces become more and more elaborate, and why not? Oregon has beautifully mild seasons that allow plenty of time to be spent outside. Why go inside to prepare part of your meal when you can have all of the conveniences of an indoor kitchen outside? Prep surfaces, small refrigerators, and burners can now be seamlessly incorporated into outside spaces. With modern outdoor living design, there is little you’ll need to go inside for.
  4. It was here first  – Homeowners and gardeners are discovering the beauty and variety of native plants, many of which are also edible. Some even have medicinal properties. Native plants promote natural wildlife, help prevent the spread of invasive species, are resistant to disease and pests, and are generally low-maintenance. These give people more time to enjoy their outdoor living space. Native landscaping isn’t confined to just plants. Local stones are also being used as focal points in beautiful landscape design.
  5. Using the space above – As home lots become smaller and more people are enjoying gardening, space is at a premium. Vertical planting is gaining popularity, from pergolas that support shade-providing vines to fence and wall planters designated for herb and flower gardens, creative ways to maximize space continue to pop up everywhere. An added bonus? Vertical gardening naturally minimizes damage done by many pests, such as slugs and snails.

Are you looking to update your yard or garden with the latest in landscaping trends? All Oregon Landscaping specializes in all landscape design elements, from outdoor living spaces to gardens, both edible and decorative. Contact us today to find out what we can do for you.

By Phil Sellens (Flickr: Borage (Borago officinalis(2)) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Bee Photo By James Petts from London, England (Bee on flower) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons