How to Pack for a Picnic with Essentials from Miles Kimball

It’s a gorgeous summer Sunday. Your plans to get some housework done today fade as soon as you look out the window and see the sun playing on the softly rustling tree leaves. No, this is a day for a picnic with your family. A few phone calls later, you have a plan to meet your sister and her crew at the park by a nearby lake. Now, the question is, what picnic items will you need? Fortunately for you, you’ve been a devoted Miles Kimball fan for years, so you have everything on-hand for a perfect afternoon outdoors.

Your Picnic Checklist

Because a picnic is essentially a “moveable feast,” your thoughts turn to the food you’ve agreed to supply: your famous potato salad, hot dogs and buns, and a cake (chocolate, your spouse has insisted). You head to the kitchen, and pretty soon, the whole family is down there with you, risen from their beds by the smell of boiling potatoes and rising cake batter in the oven.

In a couple hours, the food is ready, and the family is — well, on their way to being ready. Now for the “moveable” part of that feast you’ve prepared. You already have hot dogs, condiments and buns handy, and you pull out your Bun and Hot Dog Keeper Set, one of your first Miles Kimball purchases. Next comes that spectacular potato salad, the recipe for which you keep top secret. Into the largest of your cheery, summer-themed 6-piece Strawberry Mixing and Storing Bowls it goes. These bowls are perfect for picnics, with their plastic snap-on lids. You start whistling as you pack the picnic lunch. This is getting fun.

Now your cake is ready to frost, and your youngest insists on helping. You hesitantly agree, wondering how much of that frosting will go onto the cake versus into her mouth and all over her chubby little 4-year-old cheeks. Oh well. Once the cake is ready, you pop it into your Miles Kimball 12” Cake Carrier. Check.

It’s time to start packing up the car with the help of your spouse and oldest son. Good thing you purchased that trunk organizer last summer, which included a cooler to keep perishable items fresh. You know how important it is to keep food items cool in the summer heat, especially things like your potato salad. Hopefully your sister will also remember her picnic essentials, like that Miles Kimball Double Decker Insulated Food Travel Tote you gave her last Christmas. She loved it, of course, since you had it personalized with her name.

More Picnic Items to Have On-Hand

Everything seems ready, but you wrack your brain trying to think of anything else you might have forgotten. That’s when your little girl comes outside carrying her Melissa & Doug Cutie-Pie Butterfly camp chair, and you can’t resist sweeping her up in your arms and kissing her, she’s so adorable. The sight of her little chair also reminds you of a few more items for your picnic. You run into the garage and grab the deluxe picnic table cover with cushions, which will make it so much nicer for everyone to sit at those public picnic tables and benches, which can be so dirty sometimes. You know your niece Jenny will especially appreciate this, since she’s always excessively paranoid about microbes.

But wait. What if there’s not enough room for everything on one picnic table? Or worse, what if there’re no picnic tables left? What time is it? We better leave soon, you think, before all the tables get taken. Suddenly calm is restored as you remember you actually purchased two of those amazing red folding picnic tables from Miles Kimball a couple years ago, since they were so handy and reasonably priced. We can always use those, you think, if we miss out on getting a picnic table. Plus, we could set them up right on the shore of the lake, in any pretty, shady spot of our choice. You recall that the folding tables even have special beverage holders for your brother-in-law Eddie to put his favorite beer. Your heartbeat returns to normal as you fetch the efficiently compact tables. Thank you, Miles Kimball.

Un-Pestered and Grateful

Finally, everyone is in the car and you’re backing down the driveway. You decide to text your sister once more to remind her to get ice for the 5-Section Condiment Server she’s bringing. Your mouth is watering as you already anticipate a hot dog with onions, relish and mustard. Just as you’re pressing “Send,” an annoying fly lands on your wrist. Gross. But then, the one last thing you forgot flashes through your mind. Stop the car, honey. You get out and return to the kitchen, where you grab your Picnic-Size Food Umbrella. There is no way insects are going to ruin this delightful picnic.

Your kids laugh and play in the back seat during the drive to the lake. It’s one of those moments of joy and exhilaration, and gratitude is your attitude. You consider how lucky you are — a wonderful spouse and children, a beautiful day ahead, and everything to make it enjoyable with the help of Miles Kimball.

How to Use & Care for Vinyl Patio Covers & Tablecloths

When temperatures start to rise and summer is in sight, there’s an excitement in the air you can’t help but sense — it’s that spring thing. The back yard, perhaps covered in snow just a few weeks prior, begins to poke through in small green shoots. And after being indoors most of the time during the colder seasons, you can’t wait to be outside again gardening, playing with the kids, or having friends over for a barbeque on the back patio.

An Ounce of Prevention

First things first, however. Your patio furniture or picnic table has been sitting through the long, chilly days, out of sight and out of mind. Whether you live in a region where it snows, or simply gets cold and rainy for part of the year, any yard furniture is at the mercy of the elements. Even during warm months, it can be damaged by dirt, tree sap and UV deterioration from the sun.

That’s why it’s smart to use yard furniture covers when you’re not using your back yard, either for a couple days or an entire season. Durable, waterproof covers are available not only for yard and patio furniture, but for grills, air conditioning units, condensers and even lawnmowers. Constructed of vinyl, a type of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), these covers can weather whatever the environment has to dish up. Well-designed covers are easy to slip on and off, generally wipe clean easily, and are elasticized around the bottom so they stay secure.

A Little History of PVC. Furniture covers are only one product among countless others that are constructed of super-versatile PVC, which was first invented back in the early 1920s by a rubber scientist named Waldo Semon. Due to the durability and versatility of PVC — it’s easily moldable, and by addition of various chemicals, it can be made rigid or flexible — it is the top manufacturing material for dozens of industries, including construction, automotive, aerospace, communications, health care, textiles and retailing.

Vinyl, a type of PVC, is the third most used plastic in the world. About 75% of all vinyl manufactured is used in construction because of its strength; resistance to moisture, corrosion and abrasion; ease of maintenance; and low cost. According to the Vinyl Institute, life-cycle studies of PVC/vinyl show that this material actually helps protect the environment, taking into consideration low greenhouse gas emission, and conservation of resources and energy.

Vinyl Furniture/Table Covers and Tablecloths. Just as the benefits of vinyl make it the perfect material for use in outdoor furniture covers, it is also ideal for outdoor (or indoor) tablecloths. Soon during the growth of plastics manufacturing, it was found that vinyl could be coated on the back with a synthetic, non-woven backing. With its cloth-like consistency, protective and long-lasting characteristics, ease of cleaning, and ability to be imprinted with all kinds of attractive colors and patterns, vinyl is indeed a natural for tablecloths.

Vinyl Cover and Tablecloth Maintenance

While vinyl is easy to care for, there can be issues with vinyl covers or tablecloths staining, wrinkling or becoming moldy. Here are a few guidelines for caring for your vinyl tablecloth, which will help keep it clean, attractive and usable for years:

  • To prevent staining, always wipe up spills from your vinyl tablecloth/cover quickly, using a soft, non-abrasive cloth or sponge.
  • Outdoor dirt or food stains can be removed using a combination of dishwashing detergent and water. An antibacterial kitchen cleaner can also be used, especially if there was raw meat on the tablecloth. If the cleaning product instructions direct, wipe down afterward with a damp cloth.
  • Isopropyl (or rubbing) alcohol works well to remove grease and ink from a vinyl tablecloth. Dampen a white cloth with the rubbing alcohol and rub the stain from the outside toward the center to prevent it from spreading. A stain from a food-based dye can be removed using a solution of one part hydrogen peroxide and one part water. Let the solution work on the stain for several minutes before wiping with a damp cloth. If the stain remains, try using full-strength hydrogen peroxide.
  • Vinyl tablecloths should occasionally be given an overall cleaning, especially if one side is lined with a woven material. For this, you can use a tub, large sink or washing machine. Wash in cold water with mild detergent, and if desired, a non-chlorine bleach. After washing, the tablecloth can be placed in the dryer with other items, and dried at a “low” setting. Monitor the tablecloth in the dryer every 5 to 10 minutes, and remove it promptly when dry to avoid wrinkling.
  • For wrinkles in your vinyl tablecloth, try ironing it on a low heat setting with material, such as a damp towel or cotton/polyester cloth, placed between the vinyl surface and the iron. Use quick strokes while ironing, being careful not to apply enough heat to melt the vinyl.
  • To store your vinyl tablecloth, roll it up on a sturdy cardboard tube rather than fold it, to prevent creases.
  • If mold grows on your vinyl tablecloth, spread it out in the direct sun for several hours. The UV rays of the sun actually kill any active mold. After this, wipe it clean using dishwashing detergent and water, or a kitchen cleaner. Then, rinse the tablecloth with water, and wipe it down one more time with white distilled vinegar to remove any remaining moldy odor.

Easy-to-Grow, ‘Just-Add-Water’ Flowers & Plants

Some of us seem to be endowed with the proverbial “green thumb,” naturally gifted from birth with the ability to fill our homes and gardens with lush, thriving foliage and blooms. Others of us — well, maybe we’ve had one or two past experiences where plants died on our watch, and now we’ve branded ourselves as “bad gardeners.” Fortunately, for people who think of themselves as gardening-disabled, Miles Kimball offers some solutions that might even have your plant-proficient neighbors getting a little green.

Pre-Seeded Flower Mats: Just Add Water

Shade-Tolerant Blooms. For easy-to-grow garden flowers, Miles Kimball offers a nice assortment of pre-seeded flower mats, rolls and bags, all with different flower mixes and sun requirements. Our selection includes many varieties that are shade tolerant. This way, even those of you who don’t get much direct sun exposure in your yard, can enjoy watching gorgeous beds of blooms pop up before your eyes. One shade-tolerant choice is the Hens & Chicks, which thrives in partial to full shade. After approximately three weeks, the mat yields 15 varieties of flowers and plants, including poppies and forget-me-nots.

Another option for shade environments is our lovely Bag o’ Blooms Shade-Loving Pansies, a bag pre-seeded with magnificent purple and yellow pansies. All you do is hang the bag wherever you’d like some floral fabulousness — like on an exterior wall of your porch, or a deck, trellis or fence — and water it. Within a few weeks, your friends will be “oohing and aahing” over the bounty of blooms.

Sunnier Spots. If you have areas of your yard that get more sun, Miles Kimball has several other fragrant and easy-care flower collections. Our Sunny Tree Ring, for example, is perfect for covering the ground beneath a tree with cheery blooms in multiple hues — including pink, orange, rose, mauve, blue-violet, purple, white, blue, yellow and red — throughout the summer. The best part is that these are perennials, which means they’ll continue to bloom year after year.

Or how about attracting some fascinating garden visitors to your yard with our Butterfly and Hummingbird Roll-Out Seed Mat? With partial sun and water, this mat produces an amazing array of vibrant flowers, selected especially for their attractiveness to butterflies and hummingbirds. If you know someone who’s particularly fond of these delicate creatures, this seed mat makes a perfect spring gift.

Other Special Picks. Miles Kimball’s Honeybee Garden Flower Mat serves a dual purpose by offering a summer medley of spectacular, aromatic flowers, specifically selected for their ability to attract honeybees. As you may know, honeybees and a great number of other insect populations are declining worldwide due to factors such as pesticide use, habitat destruction and climate change. By planting a honeybee garden, you can help support one species of these important pollinators.

Finally, if you love the look of a uniform cluster of one type of flower, check out our Sunflower Garden Mat or Merry Marigolds Mat.

Unique Plants for Extraordinary Gardens

All of Miles Kimball’s Garden Center plants are carefully chosen, with due consideration to their ease of planting and maintenance — according to their specified seasonal planting requirements and suggested type of soil, of course. Some of our plant varieties are quite exceptional-looking, and we encourage all beginning gardeners to challenge themselves by trying a couple in your own yard or house. We offer further help by pricing all our products reasonably, enabling more people to try something new. In the case of our Plant and Garden Department products, you have the opportunity to raise healthy plants with ease (as well as raise your gardening confidence).

One of our plants renowned for its heart-shaped, bluish-tinged leaves with dramatic ribbed veins is the Blue Angel Hosta. This member of the lily family is a large-leaved Hosta, which looks lush and tropical when used for groundcover. Although the Blue Angel Hosta may be exotic in appearance, it is still considered easy to grow.

Another easily cultivated, but distinctly striking and showy plant within any landscaping scheme, is our Nikko Blue Hydrangea. This versatile, fast-growing shrub produces large clusters of bright, indigo-blue flowers. Interestingly, the color of the flowers can vary according to the acidity of the soil; more alkaline soils, with a pH greater than 7, result in pinkish-colored hydrangea blooms. A nice advantage of the Nikko Blue Hydrangea is that it has an extended bloom during the summer — more than four weeks.

One other Miles Kimball favorite is the Peacock Jasmine, which blooms almost continuously once it’s mature. This delightful plant has delicate leaves and elegant, pure-white buds. When in bloom, it exudes a blissful fragrance, which is especially pleasurable when you grow this plant inside the house in a small pot. The Peacock Jasmine does not need much direct sunlight, so it makes a great indoor plant that will bring you joy every day with its exquisite appearance and sweet aroma.

Sowing the Soul

There are few things quite as natural and satisfying as sowing and raising plants and flowers. It can give you a fulfilling sense of creating something beautiful from what began as a plain-looking seed or bulb. We at Miles Kimball hope that even those of you who may think of yourselves as “plant-killers” will take advantage of our Garden Department selection and affordability to experiment with and be captivated by this simple, surprisingly rewarding experience of nurturing another living thing.

How to Start Your First Garden

Gardening can be an exciting new hobby. There’s no better feeling than watching as something you planted grows and matures into beautiful flowers or yummy vegetables. But for those who don’t have any experience, it can be hard to know how to start a garden.

What Will You Grow?

The very first thing you need to do is decide what kind of garden you want to grow. Are you going to go down the aesthetic path of a flower garden, or are you going to go a more functional route with a vegetable garden? Both types are wonderful options. With flowers, you can have a colorful, bright garden and gorgeous flowers to put around your home or gift to friends and family. With a vegetable garden, you get to eat the fruits of your labor, which can help you save money at the grocery store. Just pick which one appeals more to you, and if you’re feeling up to a challenge, you can grow a small garden of each. 

Getting the Right Tools

Before you can learn how to plant a garden, you need to make sure you’re armed with the right tools. A good pair of gardening gloves is going to be your new best friend. Gloves will help keep your hands clean and protect them from thorns, splinters and prickly plants or weeds. 

Another important tool to have is a garden shovel (to the right) or spade. This is a necessity if you want to be able to dig the holes to plant seeds or bulbs. In order to keep your garden tidy, you’ll want gardening shears to trim plants and a rake to collect leaves and debris.

Don’t forget about your water supply. Flowers and vegetables need to be well-watered in order to grow. Make sure to have a watering can or garden hose on hand. Consider getting a portable hose caddy so you can always have a hose nearby when you need it. 

Finding the Right Spot

Whether you want to know how to start a vegetable garden from scratch or how to begin a flower garden, you need to find the right spot to plant in. Most vegetables or flowers are going to require plenty of sunlight to grow, so take some time to figure out which areas of your yard get hit with the most sun. It’s also a good idea to find a spot that has some protection from the wind, such as near the side of a building or a hedge. 

Be sure to take foot traffic, by both humans and animals, into consideration. You don’t want to plant your garden in an area where people or dogs are likely to walk through it. Setting up garden fencing (on the right) is a good way to help with this.

Space and Plan

You can’t go around planting seeds all willy-nilly. You need to figure out how much space your flowers or vegetables will need to be able to grow and plan around it. If planted too close together, flowers and vegetables will compete for the sunlight and nutrients they need to flourish. Most seed packets will come with a guide on spacing, so make sure to follow this carefully. 

How to Plant a Flower Garden

If you’ve decided to start a flower garden, there are a few different directions you can go in. You can begin your garden with seed packets, flower mats or potted plants. 

Individual seeds from packets are going to require the most time and effort, but you might them the most rewarding. You’ll have to dig, plant and bury the seeds and wait weeks to months for them to bloom. A seed mat will still have the same growing time, but it involves less backend work. All you have to do is roll out the mat instead of hand-planting seeds. 

Another option is to take potted flowers and replant them into a garden. You’ll need to dig a hole big enough to fit the flower’s roots and carefully transport it from pot to ground. This allows you to have already bloomed flowers that you can nurture and watch grow even more.

No matter which planting method you choose, make sure to pick the flowers you would like to see around your garden and home. 

How to Plant a Vegetable Garden

Before starting your vegetable garden, take some time to consider what vegetables you will actually eat. There’s no point in growing the vegetables if they’re going to go to waste. As a beginner, you will also want to consider trying the easier vegetables to grow before moving on to more advanced ones. Some great vegetables for beginners are radishes, tomatoes, lettuce and cucumbers. 

Once you’ve picked the vegetables you want to grow, it’s time to get to work. There are two ways you can get started: seed packets or transplanting seedlings. With seeds you start from scratch while transplanting allows you transfer an already started vegetable from pot to ground. Make sure to follow the planting instructions on either the seed packet or transplant container. 

Nurture and Love

After you’ve planted your seeds or transplant, you need to take care of your vegetables or flowers to help them grow. This means making sure they’re watered, removing weeds that grow near them and keeping any dangerous pests away. A garden is an investment that requires a lot of attention, so you can’t just plant the seeds and forget about them.

Garden Supplies and Decorations

For affordable garden supplies and cute decorations, make sure to visit Miles Kimball. We have gardening tools, plant pots, garden flags and more!