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How To: Get a stunning front yard
You only get one chance for your home to make a first impression. With a little help from Mother Nature, you can demand a second look from passers-by with a show-stopping front yard.
"Every canvas needs to start fresh and clean," says James A. Baggett, editor of Country Gardens Magazine. "So roll up your sleeves, stick your hands in the dirt and get ready to personalize your yard with color and style."
With a little ingenuity you can transform a ho-hum landscape into a real stunner with these simple tips that add professional-looking curb appeal to your home:
First things first
You can't enhance anything until you have a clean slate. So mow the lawn, get rid of the weeds, rake up and dispose of any leaves, edge the sidewalks and remove the grass growing between concrete seams and brick pavers.
Prune the trees -- especially the ones near or touching the roof -- and add a layer of dark, natural mulch to any flowerbeds or under trees.
Cover up the bald spots
Now you need to take a good look at your yard. How can you enhance your best features and minimize your worst? Here's a great trick: Print photos in black and white and you'll easily see the problem areas.
Determine what "flaws" you want to fix. To update your look, fill empty spaces and add interest to a drab corner or "hide" unsightly spots with colorful, ever-blooming plants like shrub roses.
Put out the welcome mat
The entry garden is the most visible garden space and sets the mood for your entire home. Whether formal or relaxed, it should draw your eye toward the front door.
Plant a pair of carefully pruned boxwoods on either side of the front door to add symmetry. Add a light fixture that matches the home's exterior and shows your personal taste.
For those with minimal or no yard, or if you just want the elegance and ease of containers, pot up pretty annuals and perennials around your entrance, mailbox or along the front walk.
Decorate a garden with a favorite antique, treasured collectible or statue. Look for objects such as driftwood, rocks or even empty mailboxes to punctuate certain areas. Use color to attract the eye. Paint your front door a bold, welcoming color or try a bright, punchy color on the shutters.
Decorating Tip: Trim down, add space
To boost surroundings without busting your budget, learn how to refresh your design. Provide immediate relief to family and living rooms with the removal of excess furniture.
Space is the basis for contemporary design and this look can be achieved by trimming down. Stimulate and breathe new life into rooms by cutting back on anything that has become a liability instead of an asset.
Remove that extra wing back chair, the torn ottoman, those pillows that swallow up the sofa, and maybe even that old carpet so that you can actually see some floor.
Home-Selling Tip: Tidy up your kitchen
When homebuyers visit your home, they will be looking for storage space in the kitchen. You want to create an image of open space.
- Get everything off the counters. Find a place where you can store everything in cabinets and drawers. The dishes, pots and pans that rarely get used? Put them in a box and put that box in storage.
- If you have a "junk drawer," get rid of the junk. If you have a rarely used crock pot, put it in storage. Do this with every cabinet and drawer.
- If you have a large amount of foodstuffs crammed into the shelves or pantry, begin using them.
- Make sure the area beneath the sink is as empty as possible, removing all extra cleaning supplies. Determine if there are any signs of water leaks that may cause a homebuyer to hesitate in buying your home.
Did You Know …
Ketchup can clean copper. Rub a thin layer and allow it to dry. When the ketchup has dried, rub off with a soft cloth. -- www.housecleaning-tips.com
Home Improvements: Add solar water heating
Tax credits passed by Congress will enable consumers to recoup 30 percent of the cost of solar thermal water heating up to $2,000.
While a solar thermal system usually costs more to purchase and install than a conventional water-heating system, it can save money in the long run and is much kinder to the planet.
Two to three rooftop solar collector panels will usually be installed and solar hot water holding tanks are available in 80- and 120-gallon sizes. An average installation is projected to cost $8,000 to $11,000, with some complex installations running as much as $12,000.
Water-heating bills should drop 50 percent to 80 percent after installation.
If you’re looking to grow your own fruits, vegetables and herbs, you might worry about providing enough sunlight.
You can still grow edibles where sunshine is limited. Save the sunniest spot for tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, cucumbers and other vegetables where you eat the flowers or fruit. They produce their best and have fewest disease problems when grown in eight to 12 hours of sunlight.
Root crops such as beets, radishes and carrots can get by with about a half a day of direct sun and leafy crops like lettuce and spinach can still produce in a shady location with only four hours of sunlight.
An educational project based in Chicago is studying squirrels to learn about the animal and its environment.
Fox squirrels and grey squirrels are two of the most familiar species of wildlife in many neighborhoods and natural areas. In addition to being interesting animals to watch, squirrels can reveal a lot about the environment and how it is changing.
Researchers are asking people to become “citizen scientists” to gather data, which will be combined with other citizen scientists from around the nation.
Visit projectsquirrel.org to report your observations from home, the office, school, a park or anywhere else.
GateHouse News Service