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Vegetable Seeding 101

seeding basics how to sow seeds vegetable garden

Planting your own seeds is a win for everyone. Not only does it save you money, while being good for your health, it is much easier than some myths would have you believe. Planting even a few seeds each year is important. It’s a significant reminder that despite how frantic our plugged-in lives can get, some of our most meaningful joys come from the simplest places.

Why Plant Seeds?

It might be simpler to ask, why not? Our gardening experience has changed in the last few years from the roots up. Slowly, popularity is swinging back to what gardening used to be about: a little bit of dirt on your hands at the end of the day, and getting a taste of our own home-grown food. This movement is more than just a trend, so many people worldwide are turning to home-gardening for countless reasons. All these new people have started to innovate and adapt in their own ways, creating a gardening experience that is both new and old, and totally unique. Seeing your own food at home is a smart move in so many different ways. Below are just a few benefits from growing your own vegetables.Seeding your own food at home is a smart move in so many different ways. Below are just a few benefits from growing your own vegetables. 

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For Your Health:

The health benefits are obvious. Your vegetables are at their best straight from the garden, where they have the most nutrients and vitamins packed in them. The longer you wait after your food is picked, the more your nutrition-per-bite suffers. Growing your own gets all of the nutrients where they belong: on your plate. You’ll also have the assurance that you know exactly where your food was grown and what went into it. Growing your own food from seed ensures the healthiest food that you can have full confidence in.

For the Flavor:

Homegrown food tastes better. If you place something straight from your garden next to produce from the store, we promise that you can tell the difference your backyard makes. After you try a home grown tomato, you will not want to go back.

For Your Wallet:

Growing your own food is basically growing money. You will actually pay much less every month, while reaping the rewards of better tasting, healthier food. You might still buy some exotic favorites from the store, but plants like peppers, beans, or tomatoes are essentially high-interest investments.

For Your Family:

Many people like to seed their own garden for their families. The delicious and healthy foods benefit your entire family, and growing your own saves money. But teaching your children how to grow their own vegetables is a valuable experience that doesn’t actually cost anything. Some lifelong rewards are just too important to be bought.

Getting Started:

The most difficult obstacle for people interested in seeding their own garden, is figuring out when to start. Some of your plants might be sown directly into the soil in the spring, while others may need to be started earlier, indoors. Thankfully, it’s not a very exact science so if your guesswork is a little off on either end, your plants and crops will still be great. For information on how to time your planting for the Iowa growing region, view our Seeding Calendar article.

Seeding Inside:

Some plants are a little more hearty and can tolerate being started outside as soon as the weather is mild. Crops like peas, beans, carrots, and salad greens all grow quickly and don’t mind a slight chill. Other heat-lovers, like peppers or tomatoes, will perform best if they get an indoor head-start on the season. Starting inside is a good way to get the most out of your summer, while offering a fresh green reminder on your windowsill of spring-to-come. Here’s how to get started:

  1. Wash your containers well, with soap and water. Young seedlings can be more susceptible to bacteria and fungi than your matured plants, so you’ll want to start them off right.
  2. Don’t start with soil from the garden. Use a packaged blend specially designed for seedlings to ensure that everything is sterile.
  3. Pick a location. Most seeds won’t need specialty lighting – a bright window will do. The seedlings will want as much light as they can get once they germinate.
  4. Maximize your humidity. Our favorite trick is to use a clear, plastic dome to keep moisture in while the seeds germinate. Once the leaves break the surface, they won’t need the dome anymore.
  5. The initial leaves on a plant are seedling leaves. These are nourished from the stores in the seed itself. Once the roots develop enough for the plant to draw nutrients from the soil, your plant will develop true leaves. Once true leaves start to develop, it’s time to transplant your seedling.
  6. Watering your freshly sown seeds could rinse them away. Instead, opt for the finest mist possible for the first few waterings. Optimally, you should use something that produces an effect like light rain.

Once your seedlings have successfully started, they are ready to move to the garden. Having started from scratch gives you extra satisfaction that will make your homegrown food taste even better, all summer long. Visit Ted Lare Garden Center to select your favorite vegetable seed varieties from Iowa’s Seed Savers Exchange.

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Kokedama

how to make a kokedama houseplant bonsai

Kokedama is one of the newest trends in houseplants, but its roots can be traced to sophisticated philosophy. This Japanese tradition is just as unique as the other modern gardening techniques of the same heritage. The striking aesthetic of Kokedama tells its own story and is a great choice to enrich your indoor spaces.

“There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”
– Leonard Cohen

Wabi-Sabi

Wabi-Sabi is the Japanese term to describe the beauty of imperfection and transience. This aesthetic principle is guided by a focus on forms of nature that our western culture sometimes forgets: the irregular and modest. This is an intimate look at the beauty of the imperfect.

Kokedama was traditionally an expression of Wabi-Sabi with bonsai trees. Typically, the trees would be taken out of their pots and instead displayed on top of pottery, or intertwined in driftwood. The bare display and exposed roots celebrated the beauty of simplicity and the rougher parts of nature.

The practice has since evolved to an even more striking aesthetic: roots are wrapped in string and moss balls to create a natural pot for a plant. It creates a living sculpture, with strong Wabi-Sabi aesthetic that is guaranteed to catch the eye and start a conversation.

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The Basics:

Kokedama works for almost any plant you can imagine growing inside. Some of our favourites are ferns, orchids, small tropical plants and vines, succulents or even air plants.

This trend is just on the rise. Buying a ready-made piece may be difficult, but finding the supplies isn’t hard and the process is easy to do yourself. Making your own Kokedama plant promises a totally unique and personalized plant to display that exactly fits the mood and look you want for your home.

You’ll Need:

  • Potting soil and black dirt (in a 2:1 mix of potting soil to black dirt. You want the soil to hold its form – add a little more black dirt if it isn’t holding together.)
  • Sheet moss or Coco Liner
  • Cheese cloth
  • Fishing line
  • Twine/cotton thread
  • Your plant(s)

How-To:

While the statement plant of your container is typically the focal point, don’t forget that the container itself is an important part of the overall look. Different containers can help compliment your style or even be the statement piece, while also providing the plants support like moisture or heat control that they need for their best growth.

Healthy plants naturally look the best, so remember to select plants that have similar care requirements. Super aggressive growers have a tendency to swallow up less aggressive growers, if they share a container. Additionally, pairing plants with similar moisture and sunlight needs will help to avoid making compromises.

If you have your heart set on some combinations that don’t work well, don’t worry! Some conflicts can be cheated. Plants with different needs can be planted in their own individual pot that is hidden in the container itself. It might look like the plants are all together, but it’s a smart way for you reap the benefits of better control.

Make your own kokedama! See if we have a kokedama workshop coming up.

Assembly:

  1. Expose the roots of your plant. You don’t need to scrub them, but should gently remove as much soil as you can.
  2. Blend your potting soil and black soil. You’re aiming for a texture like a homemade meatball – something that doesn’t fall apart, but still has some give.
  3. Check that your soil ball is big enough to hold the roots of your plant. On average, the ball should be the size of an orange, but should ultimately reflect the size of your plant.
  4. Carefully split the soil ball in half, or make a hole in it. Gently fit the roots into it, being careful not to break them.
  5. Press the ball back together gently.
  6. (Optional) Wrap cheesecloth around the ball.
  7. Wrap the ball in sheet moss or coco-liner. Anchor the covering by pressing parts of it into the soil. The ball should be totally covered.
  8. Wrap fishing line around the ball to hold the covering in place. A second wrapping in twine will give a more wabi-sabi aesthetic, while cotton thread will eventually dissolve.

Basic Care:

Water your Kokedama plant by soaking it entirely in lukewarm water. You should water immediately after planting, and then as needed – succulents will need watering much less frequently than tropical plants.

You can display your Kokedama plant any way that you want. Some prefer to place it in a dish, but the most eye-catching option is most certainly hanging. A suspended Kokedama plant is a great statement piece that adds an element of intrigue to any room and promotes a healthier-looking plant, as well.

This growing trend is a great opportunity for a unique and personalized green and leafy element to your home that is sure to stop people and start a conversation. Take advantage of this gorgeous style to add a new element of striking Japanese tradition and aesthetic to your home.

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Houseplants in the Winter

winter houseplant care home interior design

Are you feeling a little of those winter blues? When the winter temperatures drop and the outside world gets frosty, our houseplants are the green aesthetic boost that we need. However, the darker and drier winter conditions can be hard on your beautiful houseplants. Understanding the needs of your plants can help you keep them gorgeous and lush all winter.

Winter Hibernation

With how short our winter days are, everyone is getting less natural Vitamin D from the sun than usual. We may even be feeling the difference, getting a little sluggish and tired on darker days. The indoor plants in your house also rely upon the sun to boost their metabolism, so many of them may even be hibernating these days.

You might notice your plant taking a short break: leaves might fall, and growth slows down. Don’t worry too much, as your plants will perk up with the return of more sunlight in the spring. 

In the meantime, watering less will help your houseplant’s dormant roots to avoid being overwhelmed. If you poke your finger into the soil and it is dry up to the first knuckle, it’s time to water your houseplant.

Dry Air

On the other side of giving your plant the water it needs, the drier winter air can be very stressful for your houseplants. With the exception of succulents and cacti, most houseplants are from tropical forests, where they enjoy nearly 100% humidity. If the air gets dry enough in the winter, it can even pull moisture out of the leaves of your plants, leaving them parched.

If possible, keep your tropical houseplants close to together to let them benefit from each other’s moisture (with the added bonus of creating an attractive tropical oasis in your home). Boosting the humidity of the air can also help, either through the use of a humidifier or by letting your plants enjoy evaporating air nearby. For a quick pick-me-up, your houseplants will love a brief misting to keep them healthy and lush.

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Cold Drafts

Another thing your favorite tropicals struggle with is temperature changes. Back in their rainforest homes, the temperatures barely change a few degrees over an entire year, while our homes can change several degrees in a single day.

If your houseplants are close to cold windows or in the way of icy drafts from doors, they’ll appreciate moving away from sudden, cold temperatures. Keeping attractive and healthy plants sometimes calls for being flexible about where they are displayed to keep them rich and green, especially this time of year.

Houseplants are one of our favorite ways to add winter interest to our indoor living spaces. We get to bring something green and colorful inside to enjoy every day of the year. Keeping your houseplants healthy in winter conditions will ensure that they are lush all season and better than ever when they come out of hibernation in the spring!

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Des Moines Seeding Calendar

Seeding schedule calendar planting seeds

The freshest flavors of the summer undeniably come from your own garden. Who doesn’t want to enjoy and share a summer dinner with the fruits of their labors? One of this year’s healthiest trends focuses on homegrown food. Summer is the best time to enjoy the cleanest, most organic, and most local food possible from your own garden. We are lucky to enjoy flavors from everywhere around the world,  but our garden is a little limited by our American climate. Some vegetables have different needs for their best growth. The scheduling aspect of planning your vegetable garden to suit these needs can be a bit intimidating at first. With some easy advice, you can have a flourishing garden filled with all of your favorite foods, all in sync with the seasonYour garden can be as simple or complex as you wish, and filled with everything you want to get more of each summer.

Early (and Late) Season

There are a lot of vegetable favorites that produce amazing food both early and late in the season. These plants excel in moderate temperatures but struggle to perform under full summer heat and exposure. These are all quick-growing vegetables, so you have many opportunities to enjoy them in the bookends of the season. The beginning of April is a great time to start seeding some of these vegetables:

  • Radishes
  • Lettuce and other greens
  • Carrots
  • Beets
  • Chard
  • Turnips

These are all great choices for early in the season. They can also be brought back for additional plantings in early August, once the most intense of the summer heat and sun has passed. Summer salads, anyone?

Vegetables like cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower are good choices to plant early in April too. These plants are a little more resilient to heat and will last into late June. They are slower growing so they won’t be very well suited for another planting late in the season. Hardy vegetables like onions and potatoes are also great choices for early seeding and can be grown all season for the best harvests.

“Heat Lovers”

Many other garden favorites need a little more heat to be their best-tasting. These heat-loving plants soak up the sun and prefer to have warmer soil, so they typically shouldn’t be planted until about mid-May. Some of the classic plants for later seeding are:

  • Beans
  • Sweet corn
  • Tomato
  • Pepper
  • Eggplants
  • Squash
  • Cucumber
  • Melon,
  • Pumpkins
  • Watermelon

Late summer is also a great time to start harvesting: 

  • Apples
  • Grapes
  • Cherries
  • Raspberries
  • Blueberries

Cheating the Weather

Of course, many times you don’t need to be a slave to the weather. A well-lit windowsill is all you need to get many of your plants started early. The favorite trend of indoor seeding is herbs, which can flourish at any point in the season with enough sun. Other vegetables like peppers, cucumber and tomatoes can be started inside too, for a head start on the season. You’ll be cheating the spring weather, but the real benefit is a little splash of green in the kitchen when most living things outside are still dormant. Another challenge – once you have figured out when in the season to plant – is making guesses about seasonal temperatures. Some summers come later than others or can be hotter or colder than predicted. Don’t worry too much – this is just your planting guide. Don’t be afraid to make a call to plant sooner or later if the weather looks right. Part of the joy of keeping a garden is making it yours, as well as enjoying it’s product later.

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How To Design a Statement-Making Container Garden

The Ted Lare Look container garden recipe tips and ideas

Container design of the past was traditionally a painstaking endeavor to create perfect, identically manicured lawns and flower displays. The well-maintained lawns and gardens of mid-century suburbia were undeniably gorgeous – but so restricted that they lacked personality or flair.

Contemporary designs have favored container gardening that is much more versatile. This way you can have a trendy and personalized garden, but also the time to enjoy it. The garden has now become a space of creative self-expression, and container designs are the perfect opportunity to add a unique and personalized touch to your garden and home.

A couple of guidelines and tricks makes all the difference in creating beautiful, statement-making container gardens. Basic guidelines will help you to use design principles to ensure spectacular containers of any style with as much (or as little!) experimentation as you want.

Principles of Design, and Container Art

There are some basic principles typically used in visual art to create strong compositions. Interestingly, these same principles are useful in creating container designs. Think of your container as a living sculpture. When selecting your plants to place in a container, try considering things like color, texture, and shape. There are few definitive rules about how these principles should be used; they are better thought of as tools and can be used to create different effects.

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Simple Rules (Thrillers, Spillers, and Fillers)

A favorite staple many garden designers swear by is the “thriller, filler spiller” method to pair different elements within containers. This rule keeps everything about color, texture, and shape open to your tastes, combining one of each varying style of plant will craft a container with a guaranteed aesthetic. In choosing your plants, select one plant for vertical architecture (thriller), one plant to fill the space (filler), and one to overspill out of the container (spiller).

Styling your Container

While the statement plant of your container is typically the focal point, don’t forget that the container itself is an important part of the overall look. Different containers can help compliment your style or even be the statement piece, while also providing the plants support like moisture or heat control that they need for their best growth.

Healthy plants naturally look the best, so remember to select plants that have similar care requirements. Super aggressive growers have a tendency to swallow up less aggressive growers, if they share a container. Additionally, pairing plants with similar moisture and sunlight needs will help to avoid making compromises.

If you have your heart set on some combinations that don’t work well, don’t worry! Some conflicts can be cheated. Plants with different needs can be planted in their own individual pot that is hidden in the container itself. It might look like the plants are all together, but it’s a smart way for you reap the benefits of better control.

Want more inspiration? Try out some of our container garden recipes

But What Do You Want To Do With It?

Containers don’t have to be static, cookie-cutter displays. When you’re planning your container, take a moment to decide what you actually want from it: Do you want a striking modern statement piece? How about attracting more pollinators? Intoxicating fragrance? Maybe a corner of the backyard to relax at the end of the day? Or a trendy conversation starter?

Colors and textures have a massive effect. While contrasting colors and unexpected textures and shapes vibrantly draw attention for a modern look, a restricted color palette and soothing textures can help to calm the senses. Similarly, the type of plants you choose can be important, from inviting bees to your home, to experimenting with new trends like succulents or the newest varieties of your favorite flowers.

The best part of containers is the flexibility that they offer. No matter your wants, a few simple guidelines is enough to give you the freedom to have successful, healthy, and spectacular containers every year.

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Landscape Design Trends: Man-Made Stone? Pros and Cons

Man made stone natural stone rock design backyard landscape designer Iowa Des Moines style exterior patio

Landscaping with the purpose of changing the aesthetic and function of your backyard space is likely to involve stone at some point in the process. Stone is a material that continues to remain at the center of modern landscaping and outdoor lifestyle design, and for good reason.

When it comes to crafting new ideas for your backyard living space, natural stone is an attractive choice: it makes for an elegant statement piece and is completely durable. However, some logistical obstacles like weight, cost, and style have inspired innovation in manufactured alternatives that duplicate the benefits of natural stone, without some of the difficulties.

Man-made stone has grown out of its early development stages and is now a realistic option for homeowners looking to upgrade their outdoor spaces with less hassle and difficulty. Here’s an overview of how things stack up between natural and manufactured options.

“Write your sad times in sand, write your great times in stone.”
– George Bernard Shaw

Manufactured and Natural Stone Overview: 

There are many natural and man-made stone products to choose from.  The growth of landscaping across the country has increased the quality of stone products across the board, so there are a ton to choose from.  

Manufactured stone is usually a mix of concrete blended with aggregates and iron oxide pigments, and cast in models that are shaped from real stone. From most sides it has similar shape, color and texture of real stone, while the backside reveals its cast shape. There are many sizes, textures, and colors to choose from. Typically the ‘natural’ quality of the manufactured stone is proportional to the price.  The newly introduced premium looking products cost a little more than the ‘concrete’ blocks of the past.  

Natural stone is also found in a variety of colors and textures, but the availability can often vary depending on what part of the country you live in.  Located in the Mid-West, we can usually source about any size and color of natural stone. Our most common natural stone installations are patios, stairways, and retaining walls.

Choice and Customization: 

Natural stone is uncustomizable. While undeniably gorgeous, the actual selection of color and style is limited to what is currently available.

Cast stone allows your landscaping dreams to be limitless. There are new styles and colors on the market all the time, not to mention fewer logistical issues, such as availability and transport. Working with a landscape designer will help you to take full advantage of all of the newest and trendiest options available to realize any number of modern styles in your own backyard.

Case Study: See photographs of one of our landscape design projects, that uses manufactured stone in a dramatic and sweeping home entryway.

Weight:

Manufactured stone is usually easier to work with and comes in a large variety of thicknesses to accommodate many installation requirements. If needed, we can use a lighter weight manufactured stone that won’t stress the foundation of your landscaping project like some natural stones might. This is most useful when installing patio stone on top of existing concrete. Depending on the situation, we may be able to install a thin stone right on top of your existing, ‘outdated’ concrete. This is a big time saver, and a big upgrade to the look of your patio or covered porch area.

The weight of natural stone is typically much heavier than manufactured stone and usually requires heavier machinery to install. Depending on the access to your project site, manufactured stone may be the easier route.

Installation:

The installation methods can be very similar for both natural and man-made stone. Real and manufactured stone should both be installed by professionals. While each has their own unique challenges in weight and maneuvering, utilizing the skills of a professional is worth the investment.  By hiring a professional, you will make sure your outdoor living space is everything you want it to be, and that it stays perfect for many years.

Cost:

The price of manufactured stone installed is usually less than the cost of natural stone installed. This is not a clear cut rule however, as there are many options available. When looking at patio options, for example, many premium man-made stones cost just as much as natural stone. When working with a designer, ask for information on a few different types of material, so you know the different options and price points.

Durability:

While natural stone tends to be more durable, manufactured stone is closing the gap quickly. With improved production methods and materials, questions about the lifespan of cast stone are becoming an afterthought. You may still get what you pay for, with cheaper cast stone being less durable or fading in color, but well-manufactured stone from a reliable source has the potential to be nearly indistinguishable from the real thing.

Examples of Man-Made Stone used in Ted Lare, Landscape Designs 

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Which one should you choose?:

There are a lot of stone options to choose from when looking at a new project. Often it just depends on the look and feel you want for your space, while considering the overall price of the project. Typically, natural stone is going to give you a more timeless look, using materials that will never go out of style. Limestone pathways for example have been installed for hundreds of years, and continue to look great. Man-made stone gives you the option to replicate the timeless look of natural limestone or bluestone. However, it also gives you the option to break away from the mold, and do something different and new.

If you need help, get in touch with our design office and we can pair you up with one of our talented designers. We offer a great selection of both natural and man-made stone and have some personal favorites we can show you as well.

Case Study: See photographs of natural stone, used in one of our landscape design projects to create organically shaped pathways

Examples of Natural Stone used in Ted Lare, Landscape Designs 

Case Study: Wondering how they look in combination with each other? See one of our design projects that harmoniously uses a mix of both natural, and manufactured stone

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Landscape Design Trends: Seat Walls & Columns

columns patio stone design rock retaining wall seating campfire backyard pool

Seating is about inviting people to feel at home and relaxed, and this trend is all about making it easier to relax outdoors.

While extra chairs can eat up space and distract from the aesthetic of your outdoor space, a seating wall incorporates comfort and entertainment into your backyard. Often seating walls provide overflow seating for larger backyard gatherings, in addition to furniture.

“Smart people that like good health spend several hours outdoors daily in the shade of trees.“
– Steven Magee

Retaining Walls, Upgraded:

Retaining walls are an important structural “cornerstone” to landscape design. In the process of landscaping your space, a change of grade or natural slope can be elegantly contained with a visually pleasing barrier. Retaining walls are elegant solutions to practical layout problems in your yard.

A seating wall upgrades the utilitarian retaining wall to do even more. Not only functional and beautiful, people can sit on it comfortably as well. Suddenly, late nights spent with family and friends outdoors gets an intuitive upgrade. Hosting a larger gathering becomes easier, and nobody has to worry about finding a place to sit with this subtle design solution. Your retaining wall now has a stylish and practical purpose, and you’ll find your backyard will quickly become the go-to place for gatherings.

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How-To:

When you’re looking to build a seating wall, the first thing to focus on is comfort. You’ll want the wall to be easily accessible, so your wall should be a comfortable height and have a wide capstone. With a wall that is about 18” high and a cap at least 12” wide and stable, the rest of the wall is flexible to whatever you imagine!

Construction methods vary depending on the material chosen. Some seating walls may require a concrete footing to frost depth, while others may only require a compacted gravel base of nine inches.

Freestanding and Functional:

Seating walls aren’t restricted to retaining walls, and can have so many practical functions paired with stunning aesthetic. Circular seating walls can invite people inside to enjoy a roaring fire, or invite people to picnic on flat capstones.

Dressing Up the Design:

The beauty of these seating walls is that they don’t need to be purely functional and can be dressed up with containers of flowers, or dressed down with timber or stonework. Whatever your choice of design, elegant stone wall features are a classic way to add depth and shape to the landscape of your yard, introducing practical ways to enjoy your outdoor space more.

Peruse our portfolio of landscape design projects, organized by category and design material, and start envisioning your new backyard escape

Stone Columns:

Stone columns can be both beautiful and structural, depending on how they are incorporated into the design. Often, stone columns are used to add one more level of detail in a pergola, or covered patio design, by wrapping the timber pos in stone. The use of stone upgrades the overall ‘look and feel’ of the space, and compliments the other stone elements of the design such as a patio or fireplace.Stone columns can also be used as stand-alone elements in the landscape, used to frame a view or just add an interesting vertical element in the design. Whether you’re thinking about installing a seating wall for your home, or looking into adding columns into your yard for visual interest, our landscape designers can advise you on the best practical and creative solutions for your yard. Get in touch with our design office, and start talking through design ideas and options for your backyard escape.