Category Archives: Straight from Dave

Updated garden of Dave Fagel, owner of OCC Outdoors

Planter Boxes: A Garden Upgrade Project

This month’s blog comes to us from OCC Outdoors CEO and resident gardener, Dave Fagel. In his spare time, Dave cares for his own personal garden — a simple garden now in need of an upgrade . . .

I love to garden.

That’s a simple fact. I’ve been gardening for just over 40 years, but if I’m honest with myself, I can say without irony that my love of gardening has been in my blood since I was a child. That love, however, may or may not equate to having a ‘green thumb’ — but that’s a story for another time.

As much as me and my wife love gardening, our busy lives mean that we have less time to the little things in life we enjoy. Considering most working Americans have less leisure time than just 10 years ago, this is something that we all can relate to. So the adage, “Work smarter, not harder,” certainly applies. So anything I can do to make gardening simpler and easier for me and my wife — I say let’s go for it!

It is, after all, ‘leisure’ time, right?

Anything I can do to make gardening simpler and easier for me and my wife — I say let’s go for it!


The Project

I started out this year wanting to convert my garden to planter’s boxes. Simple enough, right? I quickly realized that doing this project and keeping it at a reasonable cost was easier said than done. I found strong options, but many of them were saddled with equally strong disadvantages.

How can I plan this project with the best materials? How can I make sure that what I do will last years and not need a redo in a couple years? How can I do all this and keep budget costs low?


The Options: Lumber or Plastic

When it comes to the material of the planter boxes, I had plenty of options to choose from: lumber or plastic.

I originally wanted to use wood. But standard lumber rots way too fast to be effective for gardening — at any scale. One option? Rot-resistant lumber. But they tend to be treated with heavy metals that can leach into the soil and your food. Not good!

My company sells a lot of outdoor furniture made from plastic and recycled plastic. So for me, plastic is always an option. After a bit of hunting, I found a plastic product used for forming foundations, complete with drain holes. Perfect for gardening, right?

Unfortunately not in this case. The plastic products that I found were designed for below-ground use. This meant that they had little to no UV resistance.

I priced cedar, which has a lot of advantages. Namely, cedar is highly sustainable and super easy to work with. And it lasts longer when in contact with the ground than pine does. The problem is in its high price point. Purchasing the amount I need for the size of my garden came with a $2700.00 price tag. Needless to say, I passed on that idea really quick.


Enter: Eco-Wood

Eco-Wood TreatmentI settled on my original idea of using lumber with a special rot-resistant treatment: “Eco Wood.” This treatment has no heavy metals, but it still is still made with some preservatives that you wouldn’t want seeping into your soil. So I decided to use a good exterior-grade, nontoxic paint as a sealant over the Eco-Wood treatment. This would pull double-duty: sealing in the chemicals of the treatment and lengthening the life of the wood.

So how did the project pan out? Upgrading my garden with planter boxes was a must, but did I make good decisions with the planter materials?


The Final Product

See for yourself!

Below are some photos of the end result of the project. And I must say that I’m plenty pleased. Each raised planter box is roughly 4′ x 8′. I’ve mixed 3-cubic feet of good organic peat moss in each box. The plants are doing great!

Updated garden of Dave Fagel, owner of OCC Outdoors
Updated garden of Dave Fagel, owner of OCC Outdoors
Updated garden of Dave Fagel, owner of OCC Outdoors

Committing to a project that will just need redoing in a couple years is a non-starter.


What about maintenance?

Remember when I said in the beginning that I don’t have a lot of extra leisure time these days? Committing to a project that will just need redoing in a couple years is a non-starter. But the choices I made means that, barring any weather catastrophes, these planter boxes should last, intact and fully functional, for several years. As an added bonus, the boxes make it easy to sit on its edges and pull weeds.

(And I’m sure my plants are happy about that!)

I’ll keep you guys posted! In the meantime, don’t be afraid to show off your own personal garden in the comments.

Keep growin’!

Not everyone has the sprawling acreage that our Dave has. If space is a problem, or if you live in a rental property, OCCOutdoors has plenty of self-watering planters that would be an ideal substitute — or complement — to a garden or yard.

No back-breaking hoeing or weeding or getting down on your knees required. Just fill the base container with good soil, plant your vegetables, water, and watch them grow!

Outdoor Planters Self-Watering Planters Steel Planters

Share this post:
Our Must-Visit List of Places to See Fall Colors

Best Places To See Fall Colors

The fall season is officially upon us! After a long hot summer, the cooler temperatures of fall are here. But the end of summer doesn’t mean the end of your outdoor adventures.

If you are as fascinated by natural color as I am, there are several picturesque autumn journeys where you can experience the sheer brilliance of Mother Nature at her most creative.

Here are some of my suggestions for awe-inspiring fall foliage road trips throughout the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic:


North Oaks, Minnesota

Most people think of Illinois and Michigan as the go-to Midwest states for leaf lovers. But Minnesota – specifically Minneapolis – has some fantastic spots to visit.

The fall colors of North Oaks, MN
North Oaks, MN

In fact, one of the must-see foliage spots is 30 minutes away from the heart of the downtown area at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, which is part of the University of Minnesota. The Arboretum features over a thousand acres of public gardens and natural habitats. The colors you’ll witness there is without a doubt one of the best you can find — and certainly one of the most accessible! And, at the Arboretum, you can even get a taste of the organic foods grown on site.

Head over to MNDNR to get an idea for the best times to visit to experience their fall colors. (They even have a quick and easy guide to why leaves change color.)


Presque Isle, Wisconsin

At the top of Wisconsin, you’ll find a place where wilderness is alive and well. And during Fall, you’ll bear witness to what Presque Isle is famous for: some of the most gorgeous fall colors the Midwest has to offer.

The fall colors of Presque Isle, WI
The majestic beauty of Presque Isle’s fall colors.

Crimson reds. Smokey golds. Deep chocolate browns. All accented by nearly 150 lakes whose waters beautifully mirror the stunning bluebird skies. The Waterfalls on the Presque Isle River is a definite must-see!


Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina

The Blue Ridge Parkway is not only noted for its scenic beauty, but for being America’s longest linear park.

The fall colors of Blue Ridge Parkway, courtesy of Romantic Asheville
Blue Ridge Parkway, courtesy of Romantic Asheville.

The fine people from Romantic Asheville put it best:

“No matter when you plan an autumn visit in October or early November, you can take a short drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway or other mountain roads to find the best color of fall leaves. Elevation and weather are the biggest factors in the color show. Leaves begin their color change on the highest peaks and gradually work down to the lowest elevations. An early frost speeds up the show and warm weather prolongs it.”


Copper Harbor, Michigan

October and early November anywhere in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula will be a stunning experience. Michigan’s state forest system is the largest in the eastern United States (just over 4 million acres!) but autumn on the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula is one of our favorites.

Fall Colors of Copper Harbor, MI
The fall Colors of Copper Harbor, MI

Old-growth pines. Waterfalls. Historic lighthouses. Abandoned mines. And ghost towns. There is plenty to explore in Copper Harbor. But the most iconic of the lot is the Copper Tree Tunnel.


Hocking Hills, Ohio

And last (though certainly not least) we have Hocking Hills. Just an hour’s drive from Columbus, which is actually a nice city to visit in its own right. But 10,000 acres of maple, sassafras, oak, and hickory await you in Hocking Hills.

Hocking Hills, Ohio
Breath-taking fall colors from Hocking Hills, Ohio.

Millennia-old rock formations carved out by glaciers. Waterfalls spilling over cliffs. Caves tucked away yet ready to explore. You’ll experience these and more when you’re there, but it’s the fiery bombardment of color in Hocking Hills during autumn that without a doubt steals the show.


When to Go

You can find a map regularly updated by the US Forest Service of the best Whens and Wheres for catching the perfect fall colors in the U.S.

But no matter when you decide to experience the rich views that autumn has to offer or where you choose to go, remember one thing: Go slow. Stop often. Interact with locals. That will guarantee that you get the most of your foliage adventure.


Endless Options

Pisgah National Forest, NC
Pisgah National Forest, NC

These are just some of my favorite fall destinations. North America has many more options, from national and state parks, lakes and designated scenic drives — far too many to mention here!

Wherever you decide to go, the foliage transition from the lush greens of summer to the bold colors of fall, combined with the sweat smells of the woods, is one of nature’s great gifts to us, and a reminder that we should take the time to unwind and press ‘pause’ on our busy lives.

Keep traveling!
– Dave


Have a favorite Fall Color destination? Let us know in the comments!

Share this post:
Herb Garden 2014 Spring News

Herb Garden 2014 Spring News

The date on the calendar says it’s spring. More than that, good ol’ Buckeye Chuck didn’t see his shadow.

So . . . that means it’s spring, right?

But after the weather yesterday, I am not so sure. As is typical with the Midwest, the Indianapolis area got snow and freezing temperatures long after it was supposed to. I went out this morning to inspect my flowers and they were all drooped over with frost on the leaves. They say this should be the last snow of the season and I certainly hope they are correct.

When Spring Really Isn’t Spring.

My first herb garden club meeting of 2014 was last night, and the main topic was what a long and cold winter it had been. Many of our perennials are in doubt for making a comeback and the discussion was centered around the local garden festivals and the need to buy new plants.

Many Master Gardner Clubs have festivals the first few Saturdays of May, and this is a great way to purchase plants at a reasonable price. The core of our garden club is herbs, and the herb of the year is Artemisia, named by the International Herb Association.

There are many plants that we are familiar with that are a part of this family. My favorite is Silver King, useful as an accent plant in our landscape along with Wormwood and Silver Sage. Tarragon is the only recommended plant to be used in cooking, but many Artemisia plants are used for medicine and insecticides. To get useful information concerning herbs, you can log on to

Artemisia, Herb of the Year 2014
Artemisia, Herb of the Year 2014.


Space Considerations

Not everyone has a sprawling yard that they can convert into a garden. If space is a problem, or if you live in a rental property, OCCOutdoors has plenty of self-watering planters that would be an ideal substitute to a garden or yard. 

No back-breaking hoeing or weeding or getting down on your knees is required. Just fill the base container with good soil, plant your vegetables, water, and watch them grow! You can leave the container for long periods of time unattended due to the water reservoir in the bottom.

We discuss the benefits of self-watering planters in-depth here.


Find the Perfect Outdoor Planter Today!

Visit the links below and find the best planter for your facility.

Outdoor Planters Self-Watering Planters Steel Planters

Share this post:

Green Has Several Forms

Every Aspect of Our Lives Can Support “Green.”

OCCOutdoor's Dave FagelProtecting the environment — or going “Green” — can be supported in many different ways. But it’s not just strictly limited to recycling. There are ways to support Green efforts in other scenarios: in and around our homes, when we’re driving, just to name a few.



Recycling has long been the go-to when it comes to being environmentally sound. Some progressive communities and states even offer incentives for recycling waste. Many are listed on the US EPA site. These are all great programs and should continue to be supported and further supported for continued growth; however, such programs should be taught to our young in order for such programs to grow in support by our cities and states and industrial leaders.

More and more communities and companies adding recycling programs to their list of municipal/corporate responsibilities. Outdoor Creative Concepts has supported recycling by making products from recycled materials, like our park benches, outdoor trash receptacles, and from recycled content, working with communities to meet each communities standards and make recycling more convenient and attractive and affordable. See one of the new products developed for a city in New York.



There are several ways we can all “Go Green” or help the planet such as driving more efficient cars and driving slower or less.

“The Energy Department says gas mileage usually drops over 60 mph, and that each 5 mph over 60 is equivalent to paying an extra 20 cents a gallon of gas. Consumer Reports found that a Camry dropped from 40 mpg to 35 when its speed rose from 55 to 65. At 75 mph, it lost another 5 mpg. One reason: aerodynamic drag increases the faster you drive, requiring more fuel to power the car through the air.”

You can see the complete article here:

There is also an excellent article on several good gas-saving tips that can be viewed here:


In and Around Homes.

Single Recycling & Trash Bins from OCC Outdoors.

One of our largest consumers of energy is our homes. There are many ways to save energy on our existing homes. And many homes meet the Energy Star ratings (; however one way that has not been supported near as much as its benefits and far exceeds any of these in energy savings is earth sheltered homes.

I have been living in a 2400-square-foot earth sheltered home for the past 22 years and my yearly heating and cooling costs are less than $150.00. Comparable sized homes in the same area I live are paying easily 10 times my cost for heating alone. My earth sheltered home is a dome structure that was engineered by a company in Colorado. Living in an earth sheltered home helps the environment by saving energy on heating and cooling, increasing the green space, lower maintenance cost and insurance rates contribute to long-term savings. See the complete article here:

Also one of the best sources of information are the books on Earth Sheltered Housing published by the University of Minnesota Underground Space Center. Although the USC is no longer active, their books are still available.


Look Through Our Green Products

Visit the links below and find the best green products made from recycled materials!


Picnic Tables Recycling Bins Park Benches

Share this post: