Creating an outdoor oasis where we can catch up with friends, let the kids play, and cook amazing garden to grill recipes is something that we were longing to do. We can still hardly believe how this area (that was all too recently an overgrown part of the woods) has been completely transformed. Let’s jump right into how we completed this space, just in time for summer! And, there’s an awesome grilled pizza recipe at the end with fresh herbs from our planter garden to get your culinary wheels turning.
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Creating an Outdoor Living Oasis
- Fire Pit
- Grilled Mushroom, Caramelized Onion, and Asiago Pizza with Fresh Herbs and Bacon
Take a good look at this before photo because it’s hard to believe that this is where we started!
When I say this area turned out better than we could have imagined, it’s no lie. For the heavy lifting on clearing the land and getting this area level, we called in the help of a local grading company. Lucky for us, all of the rocks that border this area were excavated during the process of grading. When they were all wrapped up leveling things out, the operator made us a nice wall of boulders to define the space.
I laid out heavy duty landscaping fabric and held it in place with small piles of gravel. Note to self, buy the landscaping staples next time!
Even though the excavator isn’t as fast at spreading gravel as a skid steer, it sure was faster than me shoveling all of that gravel by hand. I’d probably still be up there shoveling gravel!
There were enough “small” rocks left over from the excavating that I was able to continue to border and define the front of the outdoor space. I added a small bed to the front side and then threw down some pine straw to help minimize run off during heavy rains.
We are historically not plant people, but have always wanted to be. Between the incredibly helpful garden department associates at our local Home Depot, the wealth of information on the Bonnie Herbs website, and an easy to understand planting guide from fellow creator Brianne (@_gatherandgrow_), we had the courage to tackle planting a handful of herbs to enjoy this summer.
We started out by deciding which herbs we wanted to grow. Thankfully I married up, and lucky for me, Kathleen is an awesome cook who’s been itching for her own herbs for years. We launched our gardening adventures with rosemary, sage, basil, thyme, oregano, and dill.
With our plants selected we figured out what size planters we needed and made sure that they all had drainage holes. Surprisingly (to me at least), we needed to plant just one herb per pot. These things can get pretty big when fully grown and will eventually need all the space they can get! So rather than buying just a few HUGE planters, we opted to buy multiple planters that were big enough to support the herb, but small enough that we can move them around through the seasons and then eventually inside during the winter months.
Here’s what we used:
- 17 in. x 19 in. Fiberglass Tall Planter
- 16 in. x 11 in. Fiberglass Planter
- Organic potting mix
- Organic Garden Tone Herb and Vegetable Food
- Rio Dipladenia
- White Ceramic Pot With Wood Stand
I started off by removing any plugs in the pots and then filled the planters about 2″ shy of the top with organic potting mix. I then added a 1″ layer of compost. Next, I dug a hole in the middle of the pot big enough for the herb and added fertilizer to the soil. I followed the directions for new planting to determine how much fertilizer to use. Before putting the plant in its new home, I gently broke up the root ball to help it spread out after transplanting. Finally, I placed the new plant in the pot and covered over the root ball with dirt and then watered it until the top layer of dirt started to flood.
To make this outdoor space fun for everyone, we set out to transform a spot just off of the main entertaining space for a playset. I first covered the area with landscaping fabric to help fight against weeds.
Next, I installed a border with intermittent help from my sidekick.
We then spread mulch in the space. Originally we put down black mulch, which looked awesome and matched the other flower beds on our property, but we quickly realized that it was staining our shoes and the playset. This isn’t a big deal if the mulch is in a flower bed because you’re not running through it for hours on end. But for a playset where kids will be running, rolling, and doing all sorts of goofy kid things, it just wasn’t gonna work. So, we removed the mulch with the help of a few dear friends and installed bulk kid-safe playground mulch (seems like an obvious choice).
With the playset assembled, I not only have one very happy sidekick, but whenever friends are over the adults can catch up while the kids play!
Here’s what we used:
I never thought I could grill something that tasted so good! But then again, I’d never grilled on a Traeger.
All I can say is believe what you’ve heard. This grill is easier to use than an oven and it even includes a temperature probe so you can set the desired internal temperature of what you’re cooking and a notification will be sent to your phone when it’s done! You simply dial in the temperature, wait for the grill to warm up, and get cooking. One thing that’s different about this compared to a standard propane grill is that you will need to clean it every so often. Since you’re cooking with pellets instead of propane, you have to remove the ashes left behind and clean the grease trap. Traeger made that easy to keep track of though. There’s a notification that shows up on the control panel (and through the Traeger app) to tell you when something needs to be cleaned. It even has a sensor to keep tabs on the amount of pellets in the hopper to help you not run out of fuel in the middle of a cook!
Here’s what we used:
- Traeger Ironwood 885
- Trager grill cover
- Traeger drip pan liner
- Traeger bucket liner
- Traeger natural cleaner
- Traeger pellets
A new outdoor living space would be incomplete without a great table. We love the design and easy cleaning of this Hampton Bay table and the chairs are very comfortable. We’ve even gotten compliments on it from neighbors and delivery guys!
We grabbed an umbrella that matched the set, which is basically a requirement for outdoor dining in the south, along with a few succulents and concrete planters to complete the look.
To really set off that night-time dining experience, we ran string lights overhead. These are really easy to install and since they’re LED, the power requirements are low enough that you can daisy chain several stands together on a single outlet!
Here’s what we used:
You may remember this bar that I built last year. It’s the perfect addition to our outdoor oasis!
This is not only a great spot to hang out, but all of the space in the back comes in super handy to store extra utensils, plates, cups, snacks, and cold drinks.
If you’re interested in building a bar like this for yourself make sure to check out the plans!
Party time or not, a chaise lounger is hard to beat.
We had the perfect spot along the front side of our space to set up two of these and let me tell ya, they are so comfortable to lean back in while reading a great book or just catching some sun. What’s even better is they match our table perfectly since they’re from the same Hampton Bay series!
Here’s what we used:
There’s no better way to round out a day of outdoor enjoyment than sitting by an open fire and roasting marshmallows or telling stories.
Tucked just off to the side is the perfect little spot for a fire pit. What we love about this fire pit is that comes with a spark screen and it’s fairly smokeless once the fire is hot. For seating, I cut up one of the trees that was removed from the space into 18″ stumps and set them around the fire pit.
Here’s what we used:
Grilled Mushroom, Caramelized Onion, and Asiago Pizza with Fresh Herbs and Bacon
- 1 prepared pizza crust
- 5 Tbsp olive oil, divided
- 1 Tbsp white truffle oil
- 2 medium sweet onions, thinly sliced
- 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 4 oz. shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, cut into 1/4 inch slices
- 4 oz. baby bella mushrooms, stems removed, cut into 1/4 inch slices
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tsp fresh thyme, roughly chopped
- 2 tsp fresh rosemary, roughly chopped
- 3 Tbsp white wine
- 6 oz. grated mozzerella cheese
- 4 oz. grated asiago cheese
- 4 slices bacon, cooked and roughly chopped
- salt, to taste
- black pepper, to taste
- Caramelize Onions: Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a large pan over medium low heat. Add onions and sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Stir to combine and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn heat down to low and continue cooking for about 40 minutes, stirring occasionally until onions are a golden caramel color. Deglaze pan with balsamic vinegar and cook for 5 minutes, then set aside to cool.
- Saute Mushrooms:While onions are cooking, heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add mushrooms and saute for 10-12 minutes, until released moisture from mushrooms has mostly evaporated and mushrooms are a rich brown color. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add fresh herbs and garlic and continue to cook for 2-3 minutes. Deglaze pan with white wine and cook until all of the wine has evaporated. Set aside mushrooms to cool.
- Assemble Pizza: In a small bowl, add 1 Tbsp olive oil + 1 Tbsp white truffle oil. Brush over top of prepared pizza crust. Sprinkle mozzarella and asiago cheeses on top of crust, leaving a 1-inch border around the edge. Top with caramelized onions, mushrooms, and bacon.
- Grill Pizza: On a Traeger grill, set grill to 400 degrees F. Grill pizza for 12 minutes or until cheese is melted and crust is golden brown. (Alternatively, use a regular oven set to 400 degrees for 12 minutes or until cheese is melted and crust is golden brown.)
- Make ahead option: Make the caramelized onions and sauteed mushrooms ahead of time, refrigerating overnight until you're ready to assemble the pizza.
So what do you think? We’ve been using this space everyday since we finished it, and love that we finally have a way to grow fresh herbs and highlight them in recipes all summer long on the Traeger.
As always, if you have any questions or comments just let me know. And until next time, have fun making something!
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