Too much furniture is one of the biggest mistakes homeowners make. Consider arranging a few core pieces in your space and see the difference. Pull furniture away from the walls to create groups within a room and to help with the traffic flow in and through the space.
Did You Know
Gardens need less water than many think, thriving on as little as 1 inch of water per week whether it's delivered by rain, drip irrigation, sprinklers or a hand-held hose.
Here's a quick list of pro-active steps from the experts at preen.com to transform a yard or garden from needy-and-greedy to lean-and-green by reducing watering and weeding needs all season.
- Choose better places for better plants: Many plant experts insist that 90 percent of garden problems would disappear if gardeners put the right plants in the right places. But, sometimes it's the planting place itself that needs adjustment. For example, a hot, dry, exposed setting is brutal on most plant selections. Why not completely rethink a spot like this? To alter the heat-and-light dynamic, introduce a small shade tree to serve as the anchor of a new easy-care landscape bed. Add a supporting cast of drought-tolerant shrubs and perennials. With better places for better plants, long-term maintenance can be a breeze.
- Whack weeding: Weeding consumes more time in the garden than anything else, except watering, according to a National Gardening Association survey. Covering garden beds with a 3-inch layer of mulch will greatly reduce the need to weed and water, while making everything look tidy too. Mulch retains soil moisture and denies weed seeds the light they need to sprout.
- Beef up the border patrol: Sharply-defined edges around garden beds add visual appeal to any property. They also make maintenance easier by creating a firm demarcation between beds and lawns to keep out invasive perennial weeds, including nasty creepers that can't be prevented by other means. Dig a shallow 8-inch wide trench surrounding garden beds, then cover it with 3 inches of mulch; or install a barrier-style perimeter edging of metal, stone, rubber or wood.
- Banish fainting spells: When it comes to water-retentive container plantings, think fewer and bigger. Don't dot decks, doorways and patios with fussy little pots. Small containers look insignificant and dry out fast, subjecting parched plants to repeated bouts of stress from fainting spells. Larger containers allow for more dramatic plant groupings and plenty of healthy root room, plus retain important soil moisture.
- Try tick-tock watering: To save time watering all season and prepare a garden to get through extended dry spells, add programmable water timers to water spigots and hose systems. Even inexpensive timers can deliver water to suit particular plant and climate needs. Early morning watering is best. Midday sun can burn wet leaves. Evening watering can lead to plant ailments and mildew.
With its exposure to the elements and various surface types, exterior painting has its list of challenges. Here are a few tips to make outdoor painting a breeze:
- Always use the appropriate nap, or thickness of a roller, for the surface you are painting. Some surfaces, like stucco, tend to have a rougher texture, so be sure to use a thick nap roller to help pull paint in and out of crevices. This will save time and frustration.
- Remember to pick paint designed for the surface being painted. For example, choose masonry or stucco paint for outdoor projects, or paint that is compatible with wood or metal when painting other exterior surfaces. Remember, outdoor elements will influence how well paint sticks to a surface; some surfaces will even reject the wrong paint. You can avoid this by using the right paint from the start.
- Be sure to "back prime" any newly installed woodwork. This means you should prime and seal the whole board before installing it. This will protect the backboard from moisture and prevent bloating and cracking once new woodwork is applied.
-- Family Features/3M ScotchBlue
From the washer and dryer to the detergents used to keep your clothes clean, there are many elements involved in your laundry experience. With all of the money families spend annually on clothing, towels and bedding, keeping these items in shape is important. It all starts with proper laundry care.
Here are tips to simplify your laundry chores and keep your family's clothing squeaky clean:
- Don't skip the sorting: Since a true "white load" typically doesn't exist anymore, consumers tend to ignore sorting according to color, soil level and fabric type. But ignoring these variances in your wash can lead to ruined clothing. Always sort according to soil level. If you mix heavily soiled items, soil transfer can occur. Also be sure not to mix fabric types together in the wash, which can lead to color rub-off and fabric wear.
- Pre-treat properly: Always pre-sort for stains prior to putting clothes in the washer. "There are many treatment options available," says Dr. Elizabeth Easter, University of Kentucky professor and textile consultant for GE Clothes Care. "Whether or not the stain is removed greatly depends on how they are applied."
- Protect sensitive clothes: Be sure to close fasteners such as zippers and buttons, and turn items with color-sensitive fabrics inside-out. Turning items inside-out can also protect products that pill or pick up fuzz, such as fleece.
- Don't over-do detergent: When you put clothes in the washer, don't overdo it with the detergent. While many consumers associate the amount of suds in the washer with the cleanliness of their clothing, over-sudsing can actually result in a rough feel to clothes and degradation of the fabric over time. Using less detergent can also save you money in the long run.
- Raise it up: According to a recent study, about 59 percent of consumers purchase a washer based on its opening and how easy it is to access. While most consumers forgo the expense of buying pedestals to raise their machines, they shouldn't. To eliminate the pains of being hunched over in front of your laundry, invest in a pedestal.
Following these simple steps will help ensure your family's clothes are cleaner and last longer, which will make your time in the laundry room more enjoyable.
-- Family Features/GE Appliances
If you need to green your lawn in a hurry for an open house or for showings to potential buyers, you can spray your lawn with a green lawn spray paint that's especially formulated for grass, is nontoxic and is environmentally safe. You can do it yourself, or hire a professional lawn painting service.
Did You Know
Compost is organic material that can be added to soil to help plants grow. Food scraps and yard waste currently make up 20 to 30 percent of what we throw away, and should be composted instead. Making compost keeps these materials out of landfills where they take up space and release methane, a potent greenhouse gas.
-- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
It is easy to assume that, because many pergolas stand over warm terraces or are built to create shaded walkways, many of the plants shrouding them will survive only in open, sunny positions. In fact, arches and pergolas are not always to be found in warm, light sites, and arbors are often deliberately set in cool, wooded areas. Fortunately, there are climbing plants for both extremes.
Plants for sun
Most climbers benefit from the light and heat that is reflected from walls and terraces. The sun-loving climbers growing over pergolas in these open, warm positions tend to be eye-catching plants with strong flower interest. Among the showiest are the many roses, clematis, grapes, and wisterias.
To ensure their dramatic summer show, many of these climbers must be hard-pruned in early spring, leaving the supports bare. For permanent cover you may wish to grow them with an evergreen climber.
Several grapes have good foliage and are suited to growing over a pergola; many need no competition from other plants. In colder areas, the grapes may not develop fully outdoors.
Wisteria, with its scented hanging flowers, is unsurpassed for style and elegance. In mild climates, few sights are as showy as the vibrant colors of a bougainvillea, especially draped over a pergola.
Plants for shade
Arbors and pergolas sited in shady parts of the garden require climbers tolerant of lower light levels. Many shade-tolerant climbers grow naturally in woodland in the wild. Shade-tolerant self-clinging climbers are ideal for growing on solid brick or stone archways in these conditions. One of the best plants of this type is the deciduous climbing hydrangea.
David Bromstad, HGTV star and celebrity interior designer, offers the following tips for anyone looking to add color to their home:
- Identify a colorful object as the focal point of the room. Select bold items to build your room around, such as a piece of artwork, rug or chair that really makes a statement.
- Coordinate your color transitions. For high-impact transitions, combine bolder shades with their more neutral counterparts and for a more tranquil transition, stick to softer or lighter shades that are from the same color family.
- Highlight unexpected areas. Turn ordinary areas like ceilings, banisters or door frames into extraordinary spaces. If you want to keep walls neutral, paint a piece of furniture, such as a chair, headboard or the back of a bookshelf.
- Use colorful patterns for the illusion of space. Horizontal stripes can help small rooms feel more spacious, while vertical stripes can add the illusion of height to low ceilings.
To many parents, the process of keeping kids' rooms clean never seems to end. And while a kid's room may never look quite like the perfect rooms in magazines, a few clever solutions can make it easier to get -- and keep -- toys, books and clothes more organized.
If your child's room is small or doesn't have a lot of built-in storage, vertical storage may be helpful.
- Add wall hooks or a peg rack at a height your child can reach and hang up sweaters, pajamas, jackets and book bags.
- Tiered organizers that hang from a closet rod can hold small stuffed animals, clothing items or shoes.
- Wall hangers with pockets can be hung on the back of a door to hold shoes, small toys and craft supplies.
Boxes, baskets and bins, oh my
Use containers to keep toys and other items sorted and make it easy to put away. Label the outside with words or pictures to help your child know exactly where to put things.
- Baskets are lightweight and often have handles, so it's easy for a child to take them off the shelf and put them back. Basket liners let you coordinate the look to match your child's room.
- Plastic storage bins can hold larger toys and play sets, offseason clothing and shoes. You can find bins to fit on shelves and under the bed, as well.
Make it fun
There's no reason something as pragmatic as storage can't be fun, too.
- Keep pens, pencils and markers together in a plastic paint can or flower pot the kids have decorated.
- Place Velcro strips on toys and on playroom walls. Kids will enjoy sticking their toys to the wall, and you'll enjoy a cleaner play space.
- Get an unpainted wooden crate from a craft store, and paint, stain or decoupage it with whimsical colors and designs.
-- Family Features/Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores
Sure, you're heading into summer selling season, but fireplaces charm buyers no matter what the weather. Make yours look its best. Old brick fireplaces can get designer flare from a coat of paint. If your fireplace is wood-burning, remove and clean the screen. If it looks tired and rusty, give it a fresh look with a coat of heat-resistant spray paint. For gas fireplaces, keep the glass clean and make sure everything is in working order. For a nominal cost, you can install a remote starter -- a winning feature for buyers who can envision themselves starting a fire without ever having to leave the comfort of their couch.
Did You Know
The average American family uses more than 300 gallons of water per day at home. Roughly 70 percent of this use occurs indoors. Nationally, outdoor water use accounts for 30 percent of household use yet can be much higher in drier parts of the country and in more water-intensive landscapes. For example, the arid West has some of the highest per capita residential water use because of landscape irrigation.
-- United States Environmental Protection Agency
If you can start early in the spring when the weather is still cold, choose your seeds and begin the germination process indoors by using these newspaper seed pots.
1. Create the paper pot
Take a page from a newspaper or comic strip. Fold over one long edge, twice. Roll the paper around a glass. Fold the overlapping end of the tube inside the glass. This will become the base. Slide the paper off the glass. Look inside the tube. Fold down the overlapping ends to make a base. Use the glass to flatten the base against a table.
2. Sow the seeds
Fill the pot with soil. It is now ready for sowing the seeds. Plant seeds in soil.
3. Plant the seedlings in the ground
Wait for planting season. Once the weather is warmer outside, the seedlings can be planted in their newspaper pots directly into the soil, without disturbing the roots. The newspaper pots will disintegrate when planted in the ground.
-- Excerpted from "Ready, Set, Grow!" by DK Books, HGTV.com
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Here are tips for using artificial flowers in your home:
- When shopping, choose the best you can afford within your budget. You'll be happy you spent the money on quality blooms that you'll treasure for years to come.
- In doubt of your decorating skills? Simply tuck one stem of your favorite variety in a glass vase for a classic, chic look.
- Faux petals are easy to care for and clean with the use of a handheld vacuum, a steamy shower or a soft, dampened cloth.
- Add one or two accent pieces that feature artificial flowers. From pillow cases to lamp shades, this look is everywhere and will add a cheerful glow to any room.
- Stay away from colors that don't naturally occur. For example, a rose in a bright blue shade will not convey the same amount of charm as a dusty pink.
-- Family Features/Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores
If you've ever looked around your house and gotten the urge to purge, you might consider pausing and first thinking about how you could transform that old, damaged piece of furniture or outdated light fixture into a fresh-faced showpiece for your home.
Not only are you doing something good for the environment -- and likely your pocketbook -- by restoring something, you're embracing your inner creativity. You can make a truly one-of-a-kind decor piece, tailored to your personality and style.
This notion of restoring and reusing items that would otherwise be cast aside to the junkyard or thrift store is called "upcycling," and it's a trend that has caught on quickly, especially in home design. With a little inspiration, creativity and the right tools, you can tackle countless decorating projects with things you already have around your home. And the best part? Upcycled pieces make for great conversation starters, often tell a good story and can even be sold for a much higher price than you put into them.
So where do you start? Here are some helpful tips for tackling your own upcycling projects.
Start with a little inspiration
Take a look through magazines, home design blogs and websites to gather inspiration. Look for pieces that catch your eye and have the same structure and "bones" as the items in your home that you'd like to restore.
Shop around without breaking the bank
Decorating your home doesn't have to cost a fortune. Look around your basement, attic, or at yard sales and consignment shops for free or inexpensive items that you might be able to breathe new life into. The old adage "never judge a book by its cover" would apply here. Do your best to look beyond an item's current condition and let the inspiration you've gleaned take over as you see its full potential in a different light. If the piece has some defects, don't immediately overlook it. Sometimes perfection and personality can be found in the imperfection.
Secrets of upcycling success
The secret to any do-it-yourself project is to plan ahead. Beyond finding the inspiration for a project, gather the supplies and tools you'll need, read up on step-by-step instructions, dedicate a roomy workspace where everything is at your fingertips, and be sure to carve out time to focus on the project.
But the No. 1 secret of upcycling success is to be patient and not get discouraged. If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. It's OK to make mistakes because sometimes you'll uncover hidden beauty during the process. The important part is that you find the whole experience of restoring and reusing rewarding.
When you're selling in the spring, you need to get your yard in shape as quickly as possible. Clear winter yard debris, and get frost-resistant plants that won't be affected if a late cold spell hits. Or invest in silk flowers for a touch of color that you don't have to worry about watering.
Did You Know...
Ask about lead when buying or renting a home. Sellers and landlords must disclose known lead hazards in houses or apartments built before 1978.
-- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
The number of American households engaging in do-it-yourself lawn and garden activities rose by more than 3 million in recent years, the National Gardening Association's National Garden 2012 Survey found. That can include you, even if you don't have an actual yard.
Make a container garden
Small back patio? Window sill? That's all the space you need for a yardless garden. "You can enjoy a garden, no matter your space or place," says Certified Nursery Consultant Nick Blassman. "It's an easy project to take on in a weekend and can make a big difference in your home."
Step one: Pick your plants
Edible plants like basil, oregano, parsley, thyme and rosemary are great choices because they're heavy producers and easy to grow in small spaces. Love tomatoes (or ketchup)? Heinz introduced Heinz tomato varieties this spring, which can be grown in a container or trained to grow up a wire cage or teepee of bamboo.
Step two: Choose your vessel
A couple factors to consider when you're looking for pots and planters. First, make sure your plant is going to have enough room to grow and develop roots. A good rule of thumb is to use smaller pots for herbs and larger pots for fruits and vegetables. Next, flip the pot over - does it have a hole in the bottom? Planters should have drainage holes so your plant doesn't get waterlogged.
Step three: Gear up
Big tools in a small planter equal a potentially disastrous situation. Make sure you've got the right gardening tools for your job -- a small spade, trimmers, gloves and a watering can or hose.
Step four: Fill 'er up
You want the fertilizer or potting mix that's going to nourish and help your herbs thrive. "Choose a potting mix with ingredients like sphagnum peat moss, vermiculite or perlite, and aged compost products to help retain moisture and control the release of water into the plant's roots," says Blassman.
It's that easy. You now have a container garden to enjoy, no matter the weather or season.
Create a sensational shower with these under-$75 updates:
If you're looking for cost-effective, easy ways to spruce up your shower, a few small upgrades are all it takes.
- Curved shower rod: Next, gain up to 5 inches of valuable elbow room by replacing your straight shower rod with a curved model. Not only will every shower be a little more comfortable, you'll easily add sophistication and accentuate your new shower curtain.
- A new shower curtain: Complete your bathroom's color scheme with a quality fabric shower curtain to tie the whole look together. For added style and sophistication, use two curtains and open in the middle, to mimic the look of a large window.
- Shower shelf: A shower shelf is an ideal solution to keep soap, shampoo and sponges neatly organized and always close at hand. Plus, you can increase your shower's safety as well by choosing a shower shelf that incorporates a grab bar.
Common household items can suffer from the wear and tear of everyday use, but a few simple cleaning tricks will help keep them in good condition and extend their lifespan, saving you money and angst in the long run. Here are a few ideas to help you get started:
Dryer: Make sure to empty the dryer's lint trap on a regular basis. Keeping this often-forgotten area lint-free will increase the efficiency of a standard tumble dryer by allowing warm, moist air to flow freely out of the appliance as clothing dries.
Additionally, keep in mind that some brands of dryer sheets can leave an invisible film on the lint trap. To test yours, run water through it -- if it holds water, it's suffering from build-up. If this is the case, scrub it with a stiff brush and soapy water every six months.
Carpet: Vacuum at least once a week to remove the dust and debris that settles in carpet fibers on a regular basis. If you have shedding pets, or family members who suffer from allergies, you may need to vacuum more frequently.
Shower head: If the water pressure in your shower is less than ideal, chances are your shower head is suffering from mineral deposits that inevitably accumulate over time. To promote better water flow, remove the shower head from the wall, if possible, and soak in white vinegar for 15 to 20 minutes. Rinse thoroughly in the sink, reattach to wall and turn on the water to observe your shower head working at its best again.
If you can't remove the shower head from the wall, bring the solution directly to the problem: slip a rubber band tightly over the shower head, fill a plastic bag with white vinegar and submerge the shower head until all holes are covered. Secure in place with the rubber band and soak 15 to 20 minutes before removing.
Refrigerator: Commonly overlooked, the refrigerator's condenser coils -- often located in the back on older units and beneath the doors on newer models -- are instrumental in allowing the appliance to cool properly. Since dust, grime and pet hair can build up on the coils, it's important to clean them twice a year to ensure your refrigerator is running as efficiently as possible.
To do this, unplug the unit for safety, then locate the condenser coils. Vacuum them with the wand attachment of your vacuum, going back over any stubborn areas with a stiff brush if needed. If there's still grime left, you can use a rag and warm, soapy water, but make sure to let the coils dry completely before plugging the unit in again.
Once they're on your radar, these simple cleaning tips are easy to incorporate into your routine. With a little time and upkeep, you'll find the items you use on a daily basis are in better shape than ever before.
-- Family Features/Bissell
Create a lifestyle story to help buyers envision themselves living in your home. Have a small kitchen but a big deck? Focus on outdoor entertaining by adding lights, comfy cushions and showcasing grilling areas, recommends Kimber Powell, Realtor and sales manager for Coldwell Banker Mid-America Group. If you love your neighborhood, highlight a front porch with wicker furniture and window boxes.
Did You Know...
Reduce indoor humidity (to 30-60 percent) to decrease mold growth by: venting bathrooms, dryers, and other moisture-generating sources to the outside; using air conditioners and de-humidifiers; increasing ventilation; and using exhaust fans whenever cooking, dishwashing, and cleaning.
-- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
These lush, eye-catching roses are beautiful and deliciously fragrant.
Arthur Bell rose: The bush rose, Arthur Bell, has bright green, glossy leaves and clusters of fragrant, double yellow flowers.
Breath of Life rose: Breath of life is a climber with large, scented, fully double flowers colored a pinkish-apricot.
Gertrude Jekyll rose: An English shrub rose, the Gertrude Jekyll offers repeat-flowering in the old garden style. Deadhead for a continuous show of flowers.
Valencia rose: The Valencia hybrid tea is vigorous and usually healthy, with long stems that are excellent for cutting. Valencias have a strong sweet scent.
Felicite Parmentier rose: The Felicite Parmentier is an old garden rose in the alba group, with a single flush of beautiful, fragrant, pale pink flowers.
Baronne Edmond de Rothschild rose: A hybrid tea with an aristocratic name: Baronne Edmond de Rothschild. This bush rose produces large, scented, fully double, ruby-red flowers with petals that have a pale pink underside.
Penelope rose: The Penelope rose is a bushy shrub rose with large clusters of scented pale creamy-pink blooms from summer to fall.
Fragrant Cloud rose: The fragrant cloud is a large, vigorous hybrid tea. The scented flowers, which fade to purple with age, are often borne in clusters.
A lack of lighting can make a small room look positively cramped. Whenever possible, enhance the size and appeal of your rooms with plenty of light. Natural light is optimum and adding a skylight or solar tube is a great way to bring sunshine into your home.
If that kind of renovation isn't in your budget, however, maximize natural light by keeping window treatments light and open. Avoid dark colors around windows, as darker hues absorb more natural light. Recessed lighting overhead can help a room feel loftier, and wall sconces provide illumination without occupying valuable floor space.
Damp, dark areas of the home, such as an unfinished basement, can often be trouble spots for homeowners hoping to increase their living space. Left unfinished, these areas of the home can potentially suffer significant damage, be prone to flooding or develop mold. When it comes to home improvement, homeowners are wise to consider the affects of moisture and mold buildup and how they can be combated.
Mold growth, usually a result of excess moisture, also can be detrimental to one's health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that mold can survive in almost any conditions, and can cause visual, respiratory and even skin problems. Mold growth can also contribute to poor indoor air quality.
There are several techniques to control moisture penetrating their home. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency suggests homeowners consider techniques that manage water outside the foundation walls, ensure that the home is properly ventilated with exhaust fans in at least each bathroom and the kitchen, and size the home's air conditioning unit correctly. Homeowners are also recommended to use construction techniques that can help control water, air movement, vapor diffusion as well as condensation.
More often than not, mold is found in homes that do not have adequate insulation. As moisture builds up within walls, the interior of the walls can start to slowly rot. This rot can emit a foul smell and eventually reduce the stability and quality of the home. Homeowners who want to address moisture and mold growth should consider a complete solution that halts future opportunities for mold growth and prevents potential costly repairs in the future.
Using a modern insulation material such as spray foam insulation is one solution that can assist. As a vapor-permeable material, spray foam insulation allows moisture to travel through it, enabling it to dry completely. Additionally, spray foam insulation is not considered a food source for mold, thereby quashing the probability of further mold growth. Properly insulated wall cavities and crawl spaces control moisture, minimize air leakage, save on energy bills as well as improve occupant comfort.
Getting to the root of mold issues is critical for any homeowner looking to add investment value to their home. A material like spray foam insulation can be applied within seconds to the walls, ceiling and floors of a basement to plug any cracks or gaps to deliver immediate results.
Most homes have seen a bit of wear and tear, so it's important to consider a fresh coat of paint -- at least for certain details like the front door and shutters. Opt for neutral colors -- gray, black, white and beige -- rather than colors that are too personal or extreme -- like pink, purple or bright yellow, says Jennifer Ames, a Chicago-based Coldwell Banker agent. "But add touches of color to avoid appearing too sterile," she advises. That means a pop of red on the front door, or dark blue shutters on a white house.
Did You Know ...
Phantom energy waste - the amount of energy plugged-in appliances and other electronics draw even when turned off - can add up. You can reduce phantom energy drain by unplugging appliances you don't frequently use or installing power strips that can easily be turned off. Remember to unplug your cellphone charger when not in use. And use motion sensing exterior lighting and timers so that electronics such as space heaters and fans don't run longer than intended.
Herbs are among the easiest of all plants to grow. If you'd like to expand your repertoire, consider growing these oddball herbs:
Toothache plant (Spilanthes oleracea) is aptly named because when you chew the leaves, your mouth goes numb. Valued for its peppery taste, the leaves can be harvested and used in small quantities in salads. What's even more intriguing about this plant is its oddly shaped flowers that resemble miniature eyeballs. It grows 12 to 18 inches tall. Plant it in full sun to partial shade. Typically grown as an annual.
Rue (Ruta graveolens) offers attractive lacy, blue-green foliage and yellow flowers, but this plant can cause dermatitis. Mature size is 2 to 3 feet tall and wide. Plant it in full sun and a well-draining soil. Drought tolerant. Note: in some areas, this plant can be invasive. Hardy in USDA Zones 6 to 11.
Borage (Borago officinalis) tastes like cucumber, and eating borage is said to give you courage. It does best in full sun. Plant size reaches 2 to 3 feet tall; the flowers are blue and star-shaped. Note: This plant reseeds. Typically grown as an annual.
Salad burnet (Sanguisorba minor) has a flavor also reminiscent of cucumber. This petite plant reaches only eight to 10 inches tall and about as wide. Plant it in full sun and a well-draining soil. Harvest young leaves for salads. Note: in some areas, this plant can be invasive. Hardy in USDA Zones 4 to 8.
Lovage (Levisticum officinale) is a flavorful herbaceous perennial herb. To the untrained eye, lovage looks a lot like flat-leaf parsley, but the flavor is nearly identical to that of celery. It also has yellow, umbellate flowers. It grows 4 feet tall and about half as wide. Plant it in full sun to partial shade and a moist, well-draining soil. Hardy in USDA Zones 3 to 8.
French sorrel (Rumex scutatus) adds a lemony flavor to salads. Plant size is 18 to 24 inches tall and about as wide. Grow it in full sun to partial shade. Note: Sorrel can be weedy. Hardy in USDA Zones 4 to 9.
Gopher purge (Euphorbia lathyrus), also called mole plant, has been shown to deter both moles and gophers, but you'd probably have to plant a lot of them to make any real difference in keeping either furry pest away. It grows about 4 feet tall and does best in full sun. Hardy in USDA Zones 4 to 10. The milky sap can be caustic to the skin. Note: this plant reseeds.
Winter savory (Satureja montana) resembles thyme in appearance, yet it tastes like a cross between sage and rosemary. It produces small pink flowers. Winter savory grows 6 to 12 inches tall and wide. Winter savory does well in either full sun or partial shade. Hardy in USDA Zones (5)6 to 8.
The spindles between the treads and banister on a staircase are there to protect people -- especially children -- from falling off the sides, and are an easy item to swap out for a more up-to-date look. Simply remove the old spindles, which are typically held in place with a few nails. Clean up the wood around the spindle holes and scrape off any old stain, dust, dirt and sand around the tread for a tighter fit.
When shopping for new spindles, choose from these styles to take your staircase from boring to extraordinary:
- Swirls to add a hint of elegance
- Spindles with shapes such as diamonds or squares
- Outwardly curved designs
- Twisted styles
While conserving energy helps save the planet, it also helps homeowners save money.
Reduce, reuse and e-cycle
The average consumer household has about 24 electronic products, according to the Consumer Electronics Association, and old or outdated electronics represent one of the fastest growing waste streams in the world. Recycling electronic waste, or e-waste, such as cell phones, televisions and computers can save energy and scarce resources by reducing the amount of raw materials extracted from the earth, as well as preventing harmful materials from ending up in the environment. For example, recycling one million laptops saves the energy equivalent of the electricity used by 3,657 homes each year in the U.S., according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Recycling your old electronics is easy, and there are a number of resources to help. Manufacturers and retailers often offer recycling services or take-back programs - LG offers an online search tool at www.lgerecycling program.com to find free drop off locations near you. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency also offers online resources for safe e-waste disposal, or you can ask your local municipality if they offer e-waste collection programs.
Doing laundry is a household necessity. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the average household does 392 loads of laundry each year; that translates to 7.5 loads per week. Upgrading an old, inefficient washer can not only lead to water and energy savings, it can also mean cleaner clothes.
A bright idea: LED bulbs
When available, use natural lighting to light your home. On dark days and after sunset, light your home only in the areas you are using. When it comes to lights, one of the simplest yet most impactful ways to go green is to switch to LED light bulbs. They're the most energy efficient option and last 10 times longer than compact fluorescent bulbs. A cool lighting option, LED bulbs do not use mercury, so you're not putting extra toxins into landfills when the bulb does expire.
Go autopilot to heat and cool your home
An easy way to control your home's temperature is to get a programmable thermostat. Put your home's heating and cooling on autopilot by programming temperature settings for each day of the week. Depending on whether you're home or away at work, you can set your seasonal preferences so your home maximizes energy conservation while keeping temperatures comfortable.
Only the extremely detail-oriented among us will stop to inspect doorknobs, faucets and cabinet knobs, but designers and real estate agents argue that we'll prefer the look of a place that has coordinated fixtures that are a cut above standard developer grade.
"Newer construction is so chintzy with fixtures and fittings," observes Miami-based interior designer Simon Temprell. Replacing knobs and drawer pulls "is the quickest way to make over a bathroom or kitchen," he says. And when it comes to faucets, he adds, "for $60 or $70 dollars you can buy something infinitely better" than what you likely already have.
Did You Know...
The U.S Department of Energy Savers suggests that air leakage from walls, windows, ceiling and floors can account for up to 40 percent of the energy lost by your home. When considering the amount of energy lost daily due to air leakage, homeowners are potentially losing thousands of dollars annually on air that is escaping their home.
Pergolas and arches have long been used successfully in garden design to provide strong vertical elements. Their purpose has usually been twofold: to frame views and openings, and to provide welcome shade over areas set aside for entertaining and relaxation. Covered by climbing plants, pergolas can form cool retreats in shaded walkways and arbors.
Since before the Middle Ages, archways in many styles have been constructed to form grand entrances. At the time of the Renaissance, archways came to be positioned to frame a view or other focal point of interest. Then, as now, the impact of the distant, or partially hidden, view was far stronger. It was not until the last century that the arch itself was framed with shrubs and climbing plants.
Structures for shade
The original pergola constructions can be traced back to ancient Egyptian times, when overhead structures were used as a support for grapes, which in turn provided much-needed areas of shade. From here, their use spread to more temperate climates, where their function became more ornamental. They still had, in part, the role of providing shade, but, in these cooler regions where total shade was not required, care needed to be taken in the design of pergolas, since sturdy structures with close-set beams could appear oppressive and gloomy. Thus, in time, the horizontal beams were spaced farther apart to let in more light.
Today, arbors may be viewed primarily as a focal point. Often enclosed on three sides, they tend to be smaller than pergolas and are usually set in a cool corner of the garden. Originally, however, arbors were shady tunnels formed by training trees, such as linden and sycamore, to grow over a framework of metal arches. Arbors were also developed as secluded outdoor rooms, shaded places often enclosed by intricate trellis work. This is more in line with their function today, where trees, climbers, and shrubs are trained over wooden archways and trellises to form a secluded haven.
GateHouse News Service
Whether you're a do-it-yourselfer or want to buy ready-made items, there are plenty of options that keep materials out of landfills. Look for furniture made from reclaimed wood, carpets made from recycled plastic, flooring made from sustainable resources such as bamboo or cork, and wallpaper made from managed timber sources. You can find glassware, dinner sets and accessories made from recycled glass, and textiles like curtains and blankets made from organic fibers.
-- Family Features/3M