Click inside for the weekly home and garden rail, with items on spring gardening, preventing clogged drains and more.
Garden Guide: The 60-degree factor
Like an alarm clock for our senses and our gardens, the thermometer swelling to 60 degrees awakens us in the spring. We all get the irresistible urge to get outside: Birds are chirping, animals come out from hibernation and plants start unfurling their leaves and flowers to color our world.
“The 60 degree factor” gets us interested in outside activities again -- and inevitably we begin gardening.
As strong as the urge is to get outside and get started, it's best to take a measured approach for the best growing experience and a beautiful lawn and garden this season. Start by making a list of projects and working through each, one by one.
Check your tools: Before hitting the outdoors, make a stop in your garage or shed. Go through all of the tools you'll need in the lawn and garden. Is everything in working order and ready to be used again? Are the tines on your rake all there and sturdy? Check your hand tools to make sure none are corroded or coming loose from the handles. Sharpen your shovels, pruning shears and edgers. See if you have the gas and oil needed for power tools. Take your lawn mower in for a good blade sharpening.
Assess what plants survived the winter: Clean out your beds, give the lawn a good raking, and look over your perennials and shrubs. If you've just come through a tough winter, check for signs of distress. Do you have plants that have received too much moisture, sunlight, or exposure to the elements? Are plants over-crowded or have you lost some all together? Take notes on what plants may need to be moved around, replaced or purchased and what questions to ask the experts at the garden center.
Amend your soil: Plants need the proper foundation of soil to flourish. When the ground is ready to be worked, start tilling and be sure to add amendments - nutrients. Regardless of soil type (sand, clay or something in between) amendments boost the health of your soil. Don't overlook your pots or other containers either.
Start small and sturdy: Now it's time to make the exciting first pilgrimage of the season to the garden center. Look for hardier plants that will withstand cooler temperatures to start with. Pansies are a great way to add an instant burst of color to your planters and beds early in the season. Spring bulbs such as daffodils, tulips, and hyacinth can even be started indoors in containers and then moved outside for a pop of color. When approaching your vegetable gardening, look to quick-growing, early-season favorites like spinach, lettuces and peas.
How To: Prevent kitchen drain clogs
Clogs in the kitchen drain are no fun. Here are some tips to keep that drain clear:
- Once a month, boil a few gallons of water and carefully pour it down the sink. The boiling water will help dissolve soapy, greasy materials that are coating the walls of your pipes.
- Do not pour grease or fats down the drain.
- Do not wash coffee grounds down the sink. Throw them out.
-- Plumbing Networks, www.plumbingnetworks.com
Home-selling Tip: Tidy your front yard
Especially after a harsh winter, it may be necessary to clean up your yard before showing your home. Mow, trim hedges, rip out weeds, buy a new doormat and brighten the porch with flowers or seasonal color. Also, look up: Clear leaves and twigs from the roof and gutters.
Did You Know …
Visit www.dsireusa.org to find out whether energy-efficient upgrades to your home are eligible for rebates or other incentives from your state.
Home Improvements: Pick your paver
Looking to give the front yard a facelift and increase your home’s curb appeal? Pavers can add color, texture and durability to a walkway.
- Stone: These are easy to install, inexpensive and allow for good drainage. Stone is available in a variety of textures, from gravel to limestone.
- Concrete: Inexpensive, durable and easy to install, these come in a range of patterns and colors.
- Brick: These are versatile and can be laid side-by-side, end-to-end or diagonally.
- Gravel, wood chips and plant materials: Often seen in the backyard or at the side of the house, these provide a laid-back look.
- Wood: Planks add old-world charm and rustic appeal to any landscape.
-- Home Depot, www.homeimproverclub.com
Decorating Tip: Add short-term pizzazz with wall decals
Wall decals are a fun way to add personality to a room without committing long-term.
Many designers are producing cleanly removable stickers made of self-adhesive vinyl that can be used to accent a room or furniture, or to transform a room into a new theme.
Check out these Web sites for ideas:
- Blik: www.whatisblik.com
- Etsy: www.etsy.com (search for “wall decals”)
- WallSlicks: www.modernwallgraphics.com
- Wallies: www.wallies.com
Mealworms, the larvae of a type of beetle, make a great meal for some birds. Here are some tips:
- Birds such as chickadees, bluebirds, wrens and woodpeckers like to eat mealworms.
- Since mealworms are fed live, they need to be placed in a feeder that won’t allow them to crawl out. Any feeder that has smooth sides and can be easily accessed by the birds can be used as a mealworm feeder.
- Mealworms can be purchased and kept at 40 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit. For longer storage, place them in a container (with air holes) with bran flakes, wheat bran or corn meal. A potato or apple slice will provide them a moisture source.
-- Wild Birds Unlimited
GateHouse News Service