8 Ideas For An Outdoor Kitchen

ideas for an outdoor kitchen in your  back yard

The only thing better than sharing an amazing homemade meal with your family and friends is preparing it outdoors under the summer sky. Whether you live in a climate that is warm or a little on the cooler side, you can still enjoy the luxury of an outdoor kitchen.

Being stuck inside on a warm evening while your guests socialize outside is not fun. There is often discussion about bringing the outdoors inside, so why not try bringing the indoors outside? An outdoor kitchen might be exactly the project you have been wanting to accomplish this summer.

Functional Layout and Storage

Functionality is an essential component for building a successful outdoor kitchen. Just as you would design your ideal indoor kitchen in a way to increase flow and productivity, with cupboards and appliances in locations where they make the most sense, you can do the same with your outdoor kitchen. Depending on space, create a U-shaped, L-shaped or rectangular kitchen that will best serve your cooking style.

Work with a designer and/or architect to come up with a layout with both functionality and storage capabilities ? you don?t want to run inside every time you need a pot or pan. Think of an outdoor kitchen as a completely separate entity for your indoor one, in need of both cooking and dining ware.

Lighting

A dark kitchen is never easy for a chef to work in and you don?t want to limit your outdoor cooking and entertaining possibilities to daylight hours. Make sure to consider lighting in your new outdoor space. Be creative with it ? try fixtures and shapes you would not try indoors. Although your outdoor space is an extension of your indoor design, with open air comes a more flexible aesthetic. What may not work indoors might be a perfect fit in your outdoor kitchen.

Pair Alongside Garden or Pool

If you have a garden or pool in your backyard, consider installing your outdoor kitchen beside them. This will create tasteful cohesion in your yard as well as allow family members and guests to enjoy both spaces simultaneously. Swim in the morning and then prepare lunch at noon without even having to go indoors. Summer is for outdoor living and this is how you capitalize on its warm weather and cloudless, storm-free days ? and nights.

Fireplace

Consider installing a fireplace in your outdoor kitchen or adjacent dining area. An outdoor fireplace, whether wood-burning or electric, will provide needed warmth and comfort for cool summer nights. Spark up your fireplace to dine outside with your guests, long into the late hours of the night.

Gourmet Grill

The grill, the mecca of summer cooking and entertaining, should be the focal point of any outdoor kitchen. Although this might seem obvious, allot for an adequate amount of your appliance budget for a grill. A grill is not an afterthought ? it is a way of life for outdoor chefs. If possible, find a professional grade one that heats up quickly, like this gas and charcoal grill from Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet. You will be happy you went the extra mile in this department when you start cooking in your outdoor kitchen.

Pizza Oven

Fire it up! To all the pizza lovers out there, what is better than a freshly grilled wood-oven pizza? Well, maybe, delicious wood-oven pizza cooked and enjoyed in the comfort of your outdoor kitchen? If you like a good pie, consider designing your outdoor kitchen to include a pizza oven. Not only are they lovely to look at, but they will create endless summer fun for you and your family.

Wine and Beer Fridge

Cool drinks are essential on hot summer days. Make sure your outdoor kitchen is equipped with proper refrigeration for both food and beverages. This will save you time from having to run back and forth between your indoor fridge, as well as make beverages easily accessible while entertaining. Also, consider installing a built-in cooler specifically for beer, water and other bottled drinks.

Sink and Dishwasher

Make cleaning up simple with an outdoor sink and dishwasher. Lugging all your dirty pots, pans, glasses and dinnerware inside is a total drag. Reduce cleaning time and hassle by having everything you need to prepare, eat and clean up a meal in your outdoor kitchen. Cooking outdoors becomes a hassle when you have to dirty your indoor kitchen as well just to wash dishes.

If you are interested in the possibilities of equipping your homes with an outdoor kitchen, call Infinity Gardens today at 403-938-5512 or send us an email at info@infinitygardens.ca for more information.

All You Need To Know About Retaining Walls

Calgary Retaining Wall
See more photos of this landscape design project by Infinity Gardens

Retaining walls are much more than a decorative feature of your yard, they serve a very practical purpose: to prevent soil from moving downhill by the force of gravity. Nevertheless, you can certainly turn them into a decorative aspect of your home. A retainer can be practical, as well as aesthetically pleasing?you just need to appreciate all the functions it serves and consider how you can enhance it. Here are a few reasons why you might need a retainer, and what you can do to maintain and improve it.

Your Home is Close to a Fault line

If your home is located close to a soil fault line, you are at risk of being adversely affected by soil erosion. In the event of an earthquake, the soil will move away from the fault line and and create instability over the ground where your home is. A retainer can stabilize the soil?s movements in your yard. You might not think that an earthquake is likely, but it is always better to be safe than to be sorry.

Minimizes Soil Erosion

If erosion is already a problem for you, then a retaining wall can certainly minimize the damage. A retaining wall holds keeps the soil at bay and reduces the level of descent. The flatter the surface the less damage soil erosion can do.

Improves Water Runoff

When it rains heavily, water spills onto the streets and from there to nearby rivers. Wall retainers can help slow the flow of rainwater. Retaining walls are particularly useful in areas that are prone to flooding.

Critical for Houses Located on Slopes

If your home is located on a downhill slope, a retaining wall might be necessary. A sliding hill is the last thing you need for your home, as it can threaten its very foundation. A retaining wall is a good buffer against soil that is moving downwards.

Provides Arable Land

Retaining walls have been used for farmers by centuries. They provide good soil for them to plant crops and provide a level area to operate on. While you won?t be engaging in any large-scale agricultural production, a retaining wall can create the conditions for a garden.

Building and Maintaining Your Retaining Walls

Your retaining wall requires some degree of maintenance to keep it functioning; it also requires a bit of thought if you want it to be a well designed addition to your home. Rather than having it straight, try experimenting with curves. The materials can also be designed for better appearance. How much you want to put into aesthetics depends on your personal taste and budget. If you are planning to build a wall for the first time, the first thing you should do is check the city office for the appropriate building codes-especially if you are planning to build a tall retaining wall. Here are a few other things to keep in mind:

  • Proper Terracing Retainer walls can be terraced for design and extra strength. The task is best performed in increments so that adjustments can be easily made if necessary.
  • Work with Standard Blocks It is much easier to work with a set of standard manufactured blocks when building a retaining wall. It also provides the wall with a more unified look.
  • Prepare a Solid Foundation The wall will be no good without a solid foundation. Dig the base a few inches below grade and fill it with gravel (or appropriate filler).
  • Plan for Drainage A retaining wall should have drainage at the base as it will be collecting a lot of water, in addition to stopping the soil. A fabric-covered drainage pipe is ideal since it prevents clogging.
  • Materials to Use The most common materials for building blocks tend to be timber, concrete and stone. These materials have varying levels of durability, with timber being the least durable. Stone is the most expensive, but is the most durable material and has the best design. If you are willing to spend a little extra, the stone retainer is well worth it in terms of both practicality and style.
Conclusion

Retainer walls can be both protective and stylish with some forethought and investment. If you live on a hill or in an area prone to flooding, it makes sense to build a retaining wall. If you are building one for the first time, or you are looking to refurbish your current retaining wall, then it might be a good idea to consult with a professional who can give you advice on appropriate materials, methods, and cost appropriate to your budget. Get in touch with us today and see how we can help you make a better choice for your garden and outdoor needs.

Landscaping Ideas ? Questions to ask before hiring a landscape designer

Landscaping Ideas ? Questions to ask before hiring a landscape designer

A well-manicured landscape can enhance both the aesthetic and monetary value of a residential or commercial property. A proper landscape design encompasses functionality, aesthetics, symmetry, unity, and harmony. Although there are many landscape design companies out there, not all of them have the experience or skill to create a beautiful landscape that meets your needs.

Therefore, you have to diligently vet the landscaping company that you pick to ensure they have experience and technical know-how to deliver high-quality services. If you are looking for a reliable landscaping company in Calgary, below is a rundown of some questions you should ask potential contractors to avoid undesirable surprises.

What is the scope of your services?
Landscaping contractors can range in the scope of services offered. Those that only deal with landscape designs don?t get involved in installation and maintenance. While there are others who only do installation and maintenance, which means they will cut your lawn and care for your garden once it is already built. Lastly, there are also design-build landscaping companies, which offer full or turnkey landscaping services.

A full service landscaping company will help you with everything from designing your front or back yard, to building retaining wallsoutdoor kitchens and decks, installing irrigation systems, to maintaining your manicured lawn. Depending on how complex your landscape ideas are to realize, they can offer the most comprehensive services as they often have more skilled staff (landscape architects, horticulturists) to ensure your garden is always healthy and blooming.

Therefore, it is imperative to know the scope of services that a contractor offers to avoid getting frustrated down the line.

Can you offer some examples of your work?
Landscaping can be quite an involving and in some cases extensive job that requires a keen eye for detail and meticulous implementation. Otherwise, you can end up with cracked foundations, sunken pavers, shifting stones in your walkway, soil erosion, poor edging, water infiltration and more. Therefore, it is best to ensure that you get a professional with a good track record.

Doing your research prior to hiring a residential landscaper doesn?t need to be daunting. You can start by looking at examples of their complete projects and even the ongoing ones from their website. Once you are relatively familiar with the services they offer, give them a call and ask them for examples of their previous work. Most knowledgeable landscapers would be happy to walk you through their work and even proud to showcase their craftsmanship.

What is the estimated Cost of my Project?
Of course, you don?t want to start a project that will stall halfway due to costs that you couldn?t foresee. You have to ensure that you get rough estimates of how much a given landscaping project is going to cost from beginning to completion. It is also imperative to know how much maintenance will be necessary so that you can take that into account when budgeting your project.

How long will the job take?
When you start working with a landscaping contractor, the time that the entire project takes should not be indefinite. There must be clear timelines for the various stages of the project to help you plan ahead and keep track of the progress. The amount of time it takes to design and finish your home?s landscaping depends on how complex your project is, but any factors that could impact that timeline should be taken into account by your landscaper. Therefore, it is wise to have a clear idea from the beginning of the estimated duration of your landscaping project and to be comfortable relaying your questions and concerns.

The Takeaway
Do your research ? Although time consuming, this is the most important part of your landscaping project. Get to know the landscaping companies you are considering for the job and feel free to ask as many questions as possible.

Plan ahead ? Don?t try to wing it and deal with issues as they arise. Create a plan beforehand and take into account the scope of your project, cost, duration and possible maintenance.

Don?t forget functionality ? Having great curb appeal can increase your property?s value, but other than being aesthetically pleasing, your front and back yard also need to be functional. Think about your lifestyle, what activities you and your family would like to engage in, and how much time you can realistically assign to taking care of your yard.

Communication is key ? Most importantly, you need to have a landscaper you can trust who will continually communicate with you if any changes arise and will keep you in the loop at all times. Your landscaper should provide you with expert advice to help you make informed decisions and find the most efficient and cost effective way to bring your vision to reality.

10 Meals You Can Make With An Outdoor Fireplace

Outdoor kitchen cooking

An?outdoor fireplace is an important feature?that attracts many people to an?outdoor kitchen?landscape design for their home. Backyard fireplaces are a great way to enjoy the outdoors, and can be used to prepare some of your favourite meals. You can also get creative and make gourmet dishes, depending on your outdoor fireplace design. For the most part, all you need are oven mitts and a grilling rack to make a large number of different dishes. If you?re looking for culinary inspiration, here are ten meals you can make with an outdoor fireplace.

  1. Scrambled Eggs All you need is a cast-iron skillet to have a great breakfast outdoors using your fireplace. In addition to eggs, you can cook bacon, sausages, beans, oatmeal and pancakes on your outdoor fireplace. You can make a complete breakfast for your family to enjoy outside, hot off the grill.
  2. T-bone Steak There is no better way to cook a T-bone steak than over an open flame, and it takes under ten minutes to cook. Simply season the meat and place it directly on the grilling rack, turning after five minutes. When those perfect grill marks start to appear, you know the meat is done. You can also place the steak directly on the embers at about four minutes per side. Once removed from heat, brush the meat off to remove any embers that are clinging to it.
  3. Fish This is one of the easiest meals to make on an outdoor fireplace. Simple seasonings like salt, pepper and lemon juice are all you need for delicious fish. Drizzle a cast-iron skillet with olive oil and place it on the heat for about two minutes (or until hot). Then, place the fish of your choice on the the hot, cast-iron skillet. Flip after about three minutes (four minutes for salmon or other thick-cut fish). Cook for another three minutes before serving.
  4. Roasted or Baked Potatoes Whether you use sweet potatoes, white potatoes, yellow ones or red ones, roasted potatoes are easy to make on an outdoor fireplace. In fact, you can bake the potatoes directly on the fireplace embers if you so desire. For roasting, you can leave the potatoes whole if they are small, or cube them, and place them in foil on a grilling rack. You can season your potatoes with salt, pepper, chives, garlic?it?s your call.
  5. Catalan Tomato Bread This is an easy fireplace recipe that takes no time at all. With garlic, ripe tomatoes and the bread of your choice, you have an exciting side dish. All you need is to rub some roasted garlic and halved tomatoes on the bread, getting as much juice out of them as you can. Then drizzle with olive oil and place on the grilling rack for two to four minutes. Remember that bread burns quite quickly so do not take your eyes off the grill.
  6. Onions Onions can be cooked over any open flame, so they work great on any outdoor fireplace. Cooking onions outdoors is easy because they can be placed whole directly on the fire or on a grilling rack. You can also wrap them in foil and cook them with other vegetables like mushrooms and peppers.
  7. String-turned Roasted Chicken Depending on the outdoor fireplace design you have, you should be able to easily set up a truss to roast your chicken. This works best with a whole chicken, and you will need a fireplace-safe pan to catch the drippings that fall as the bird cooks. You can also use the drippings to make a gravy or sauce to accompany your roasted chicken.
  8. Roasted Beef Tenderloin To make this dish, you will need to wrap the tenderloin in a clean towel (you can use a dishtowel if it?s thick enough). The meat needs to be closely wrapped in a towel so that you can place it directly on the fireplace. You will have to dampen the towel first otherwise the meat will stick to it, or it could catch fire. Roasted beef tenderloin on the fireplace takes about thirty minutes. For best results, turn the meat after fifteen minutes.
  9. Pizza To make perfect pizza it will depend on your outdoor fireplace design. If you?re lucky enough to have an outdoor pizza oven then you?re all set. If you have a traditional fireplace, don?t fret, you can still make pizza on it. You will need a grilling rack to place your pizza on and you will want it to be very hot. When removing the pizza from the fireplace you will need to wear oven mitts, otherwise you will burn your hands.
  10. S?moresEveryone?s favourite childhood camping trip treat?is easy to make on your outdoor fireplace. All you need are graham crackers, marshmallows, dark or milk chocolate and foil. Simply build your s?mores, wrap them in foil and place on the the grilling rack for one or two minutes. Alternately, you can skewer the marshmallows and hold them over the flames for about two minutes. Remove the marshmallows from the skewers and build your s?mores from there. If you have young children they will probably get a kick out of being able to roast their own marshmallows.

If you have an outdoor fireplace and you?ve wondering what to do with it, now is the time to unleash your inner chef and get to grilling! If you?re looking for outdoor kitchen landscape ideas,?contact us. We can convert any outdoor fireplace design into a reality.


How Residential Landscaping Offers A High ROI

Residential Landscaping

It is well known that quality,?professional residential landscaping?can offer a much higher return on investment (ROI) compared to other home improvements. In a recent Society of Real Estate survey of appraisers, 99 per cent of the respondents agreed that landscaping enhances the curb appeal of residential real estate, making it likely to sell faster. Ninety-five per cent of the respondents also agreed that buyers had no problem paying 10 to 20 per cent more than the original value of the home before landscaping.

The home improvement that keeps improving

Residential landscaping not only increases your property?s value and selling price, but also keeps the price going up as the landscape matures. It is extremely satisfying to know that your investment will continue to increase the value of one of your biggest assets over time. And when you decide to sell, purchasers will pay a premium for mature and well maintained landscape.

This is because well-tended landscapes ? that are not overgrown ? give potential homebuyers the impression that the sellers are responsible, and that the inside is also likely to be well cared for. Real estate agents agree that most homebuyers get more excited when visiting homes that look inviting than those that seem dreary, with the exception of flippers.

It extends your living space

Transforming your yard into an attractive space gives you extra square footage you can enjoy instantly and for years to come. Hardscaping, which includes adding firepits, seats, fireplaces, and patio pavers, among other things, allows you to do anything that you would do inside your home outside and in the comfort of your compound.

To continue enjoying your landscape without detracting from it, consider:

  • Keeping the garden tidy: Trimming shrubs, pruning trees, and keeping the yard weed-free are all inexpensive ways to keep your landscape looking neat. You can manage weeds by using pre-emergent herbicides (dependent on what province you?re in) that kill weed seeds before they grow, or by applying mulch and raking it periodically to maintain a fresh, earthy look.
  • Planting many trees: The value of trees increases over time. In fact, landscape appraisers claim that a $10 sapling can be worth between $1,000 and $10,000 when mature. This is a huge return on investment, and the more trees you have the greater your ROI. If you plan on staying in your current home for more than five years, plant small trees. But if you plan on selling sooner, buying larger trees will be better so they mature just before selling.
  • Adding an outdoor entertainment area: Among the most desired outdoor elements among homebuyers are firepits and permeable paving, along with low-maintenance landscaping, which add the most value to your landscape. You can make your own firepit as a DIY project, or purchase one for a few dollars. Permeable paving is also quite affordable at about $600 per 100-sq.-ft.-area.
  • Drought preparedness: Installing an automated sprinkler system promises potential homebuyers a virtually maintenance-free yard. But with longer drought spells, you can have an even bigger impact on potential buyers if you landscape with drought-tolerant plants. Considering that nearly one-third of household water goes to landscaping, opting for environmentally friendly plants can mean a huge reduction in your water bills. Xeriscaping ? low-water-use-renovations ? is a worthwhile investment that will reduce your water costs in the short term, and pay off with higher home value when you decide to sell.
  • Add some seasonal plants for beauty: Although low-maintenance landscape offers the best ROI, you can take advantage of perennial flowering plants to act as a backdrop. Most flowers are annuals, but opting for more perennials will reduce the workload for replanting (redoing the landscape) each spring as they can survive for years. Options for perennials include lavender, rosemary, catmint, and sage, which add colour, scent, and can be used in recipes. Other less thirsty landscaping plant options include succulents, such as aloes and agaves, and vines, such as wisteria, grapes, and honeysuckles.
Safeguard your investment: Hire professional landscape contractors

Quality, low-maintenance residential landscaping projects typically cost about 10 per cent of the home?s value. Assuming that the improvements increase the value of your home by 15 per cent, it means that you get back 1.5 times your investment, or a 150 percent ROI. Seek professional help to identify responsible landscaping choices that will increase your ROI, such as those that add beauty and comfort, require minimal maintenance, and are economical.

When done right, investing in landscaping can make you feel good even in tough economic times. But this requires coherent, sophisticated design that can only be achieved with a skilled and experienced contractor. So, homeowners looking to increase their property?s value should protect their investment by working with the right licensed, professional residential landscape contractors. Otherwise you risk ending up with a disorganized space that detracts from your home?s curb appeal.

Spring Planting

The long winter seems to finally be waning! Time to pull out the camping gear and figure out spring plantings. The big question is, ?when do I start to harden off my spring plantings?? Albertans have traditionally been told the long weekend in May but it is really safest to wait a little longer. Annual plants can be planted the first week in June. If frost warnings come later, cover plants with a breathable covering. Pansies and other biennials easily handle a couple of degrees of frost without any damage. Most biennials can be planted in early May. Perennial plants are the most adaptable and can be planted at any time the soil is workable. Green house grown plants should be left in shady areas and gradually introduced in sunny areas to avoid sunburned leaves. Loosen root balls on your plants prior to planting and water annuals and biennial daily until established. Happy planting!