2015 Home, Lawn & Garden

Page 1

Home, Lawn & Garden

Inside Landscape lighting can extend your time outdoors. Page 3. Growing lettuce is popular with gardeners. Page 7. Small bedroom? There are creative ways to make do. Page 10. Go Downton. Go cottage style in your backyard garden. Page 19. And much, much more!






Get rid of ants without harmful chemicals By KRISTEN CASTILLO Creators.com

baits by adding two tablespoons of corn syrup with two tablespoons of boric acid. Place the mixture on index cards and leave them around the house. While borax is a “slow kill,” it gives scouting ants time to eat the bait and take it back to the nest to be shared with the queen and the rest of the colony.

Ants may look cute in cartoons when they’re snacking on food at a picnic in the park, but when those bugs are in your home, they’re not so cute anymore. Though you don’t want to spend all your time squishing ants, you also don’t want to spray harsh chemicals all over your house. That’s why I asked pest control professionals for eco-friendly and family-friendly tips on the best ways to get rid of ants in your home. Keep things clean Ants come into your home searching for food, water and shelter. “It is imperative to keep crumbs and food debris to a minimum, and frequent vacuuming is a must,” says healthy home expert Caroline Blazovsky of My Healthy Home, a website dedicated to improving the indoor air quality of homes across America. “Cleanliness is the key to keeping pests at bay. The littlest food particle, and they may be in for the taking,” she says. “Make sure foods with odors are stored in the refrigerator or in air-tight sealed containers.” Clean counters, floors and other surfaces with vinegar and water, which are good cleansers and natural bug deterrents. Don’t worry about the odor — you won’t smell the vinegar once it’s dry. “Do not use cleaners that have fragrance-based smells that may attract pests,” says Blazovsky. “Natural or unnatural scents may encourage bugs to come in if they leave behind a sweet odor.” Natural pesticides Before you reach for a can of bug spray, consider natural pesticides. But keep in mind, “just because something is natural, does not mean it does not contaminate air quality or isn’t harmful,” says Blazovsky, noting that although citrus naturally deters ants, it emits VOC’s, which end up contaminating your air.

Make exterior anti-ant Make sure your home’s exterior isn’t welcoming for ants and other pests. “Plant life, trees and rotten wood near the home or foundation can create living conditions close to the house where pests can live and gain easy access into your home,” says Blazovsky. She recommends clearing debris and planting trees and bushes away from the house. “If you are storing firewood, make sure to store it at least 18 inches off the ground and away from the home,” she says. Getting rid of pesky ants can be annoying, but cleanliness, natural deterrents and homemade solutions — that are easy to make and environmentally friendly — will be a great help this season.


Put down that can of bug spray. There are more natural ways to get rid of ants.

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Ant deterrents Raid your cupboard and your fridge for some pest-fighting tools. Brightnest, a website dedicated to home maintenance and cleaning, suggests sprinkling cinnamon and leaving cucumber shavings at entryways where ants are present. Both foods are a deterrent for ants. They also suggest cornmeal. When the ants eat the cornmeal and then drink water, the cornmeal will swell up inside the ants, causing the pests to die. Trigger happy Mix a simple household solution to spray away the ants. “I kill ants with a simple solution of dish detergent in a spray bottle of water,” says Kimberly Button, founder of eco-wellness website Get Green Be Well and author of “The Everything Guide to a Healthy Home.” “Add four to six drops of detergent into a small spray bottle; add water; shake up; and spray on black ants.” Boric baits Ant and pest control company Terro makes liquid ant baits that contain borax, “which is recognized by the EPA as being among the safest and least-toxic chemicals available to consumers,” says spokesperson Carolyn Schinsky, also noting that borax “has an extremely low toxicity for people and animals, but ants are another story.” “When ants consume the borax bait, it interferes with their digestive system and gradually kills them.” You can make your own boric

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Landscape lighting creates nighttime artistry.

Landscape lighting extends time outdoors By MICHAEL MAZUR Special Sections Writer JASPER — Daylight saving time is suppose to expand the time we spend outdoors, especially during the spring and summer months with an extra hour of daylight, but you can stretch that even further by adding landscape lighting throughout your back and front yards. Landscape lighting design takes into account many aspects, including safety and security, utility and adding dramatic beauty to your property at night. It can make navigating your walkways and pathways easier and safer for visitors and for you and your family. Circumnavigating around the pool area becomes safer at night. Dark corners at the back of the property can be lit up to discourage suspicious activity. Dramatic design elements — like waterfalls and fountains, a gnarly maple tree and plants laced with white blooms — that disappear in the dark can reappear at night. Your patio or deck, grilling area or outdoor kitchen can be lit up for entertaining. It doesn’t matter how small or large the property or how small or large your budget, there are lighting fixtures in many colors, styles,

materials and sizes and prices for just about everybody, whether you start off small with a do-ityourself lighting kit from the local home-improvement box store or go big by hiring a professional to design and install your lighting. Choosing a particular product may be the most difficult decision to make. “Although there are many colors, styles and material choices to choose from, you have to remember the name of the game is not to see the fixture but to see what is lit up,” said Scott Buschkoetter, owner of Buschkoetters Nursery and Lawn and Garden Center. Buschkoetter has installed “probably around 200” lighting setups over the course of 15 years. He accompanies the homeowner on a walk around the property, asking them what things and areas they want lit up and why, making placement suggestions and flagging areas agreed upon before returning later to install the lights. Although there are simpler solar lights, low-voltage landscape lighting still provides the strongest effects and dependability, according to Buschkoetter. Lowvoltage lights use a transformer to reduce a 120-volt household current to 12 volts, making it

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safer and easier to handle and to be able to lightly cover the wires with mulch, eliminating the need to bury them 12 inches into the ground. Solar power depends on the sun. Many low-voltage systems use halogen bulbs, but Buschkoet-

ter says low-voltage LED lights are gaining in popularity. “It seems like every year we get more orders for LED,” he said. He recommends them because of the energy savings. LED is cheaper to operate than halogen and requires less main-

tenance. An LED light will burn for 50,000 hours compared to the halogen rated for 2,000 hours. That translates to lower utility bills, saving 75 percent of energy, See LIGHTING on Page 4



Path lights, left, an example of down lighting, and post lights can work together to enhance any landscape.

Lighting (Concluded from Page 3) and fewer bulb changes. The LED lights cost more upfront, but the cost is returned many times over, Buschkoetter noted. Timers can be installed to program the operation of your lights. Because LED lights are more cost-effective, many homeowners leave them on longer and some all night. “A lot more people feel more secure leaving there landscape lighting on all night,” he said. Although there are many types of lights and accessories to create nighttime mood settings in your outdoor space, there are basic techniques of lighting like downlighting and up-lighting. Using different types of lights with higher and lower wattage and their placement creates innumerable effects like shadowing, silhouetting, grazing, cross lighting, wall washing and backlighting creating an artistic, romantic ambiance or party atmosphere. Down-lighting projects the light downward to highlight lowgrowing shrubs and flowers, to provide illumination for cooking and eating areas and to highlight a pathway. Some homeowners who have a tree by their patio hang lights from a limb to light up those areas. Down-lighting can be placed up in a tree or under the eaves or smaller fixtures can be attached to fence panels highlighting the shrubbery alongside them and outlining the property boundary. As water cascades down a fountain, its movement can be accentuated, making the light seem as if it were dancing to the melodic trickling of the water. Up-lighting fixtures cast light upward to accent the trunk of a large tree or garden statuary or the architecture of your home. These lights include flood lights, which cast a broad light across an area, and spot lights that focus a narrower beam to highlight a smaller area. These lights are available in wattage increments from 20 to 30 and 50. Determining what wattage to use depends on the distance from the structure and size of the area to be illuminated such as a large tree. Buschkoetter says a basic lighting arrangement to accent the front of a home could include up to 10 spot or flood lights across

the front and up to eight pathway lights providing visible access to the front door. Numbers will vary with size of home length of walkways. Pathway lights are good examples of down-lighting. These lights are usually 20 watts. When installing pathway lights, he never installs them in a straight line. He likes to add movement by staging them in a meandering pattern. “ I don’t much care for the landing strip look,” he said. LED lights have two distinct tonal qualities, bright white which casts a bluish cooler tone and a warmer white that most resembles the glow projected from halogen lights. Landscape lighting doesn’t need to be monochromatic. Color can be added throughout the landscape by placing color filters over the installed fixtures in red, blue, green, yellow, amber and orange, an obvious color for Halloween, whether LED or halogen.



Another design dimension can be added to garden water features like ponds, fountains and pools by installing underwater lights. Cost can depend on the type and brand of light. Bollards, a high-end light can cost $300 per light; Vista pathway lights around $150 and a Vista spot light approximately $160, according to Buschkoetter. Less expensive lights are also available. Most pathway lights are staked into the ground, but the Bollards are cemented because they are taller and more substantial. Total cost also includes the number of 300-watt transformers needed for the entire lighting system. The total wattage determines how many transformers are needed. A halogen system using several 30-to-50 watt lights can quickly eat up the wattage, whereas a 50watt LED light only draws about six watts of power. Other cost factors to take into

consideration are the amount of wire needed and the ease or difficulty of installing the lights and running the wire, such as up into trees under the eaves of the house. Drilling under existing walkways may be needed to pass the wire through. Buschkoetter recommends that those building a new home have the contractor put sleeves under the walkway to pass wire through at a later time. From the time you order your lights, it takes two to three weeks to schedule installation and half of day to install. The nursery doesn’t keep a lot of inventory because of the vast selections available, like copper, stainless steel, bronze-toned fixtures and styles like Arts and Crafts, Mission, Co-

lonial and Contemporary. Whether you buy light fixtures from them or purchase them elsewhere, Bushkoetter’s crew will install them, charging for time and material. Or a handy homeowner can tackle the job him or herself. One of Buschkoeter’s more elaborate installations included 20 to 30 spot and floods and 20 to 25 pathway lights illuminating a pool, pergola and stone pathway. “But, you can start small and can always add more lights later,” he said. So whether adding landscape lighting is a project you can handle or if you need to call in a professional, a good lighting design can extend your day deep into the night and add value and curb appeal as a bonus.


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Go vertical: Look up from garden patch By CHELLE CORDERO Creators.com Have you always wanted to grow your own vegetables but thought you didn’t have the space? If you can stand up, you do have the space. Vertical gardening is more than a fad; it’s a spacesaving convenience, a decorative wall, a way to keep tender growth safer and a method that allows you to choose your own space and place. Vertical gardens allow for more varieties in a yard, they enable an apartment dweller with a patio to be a farmer, a cook to have his own fresh herbs and a rooftop gardener to celebrate greener pastures. Floral “living walls” can decorate the side of an old barn or garage and turn a former eyesore into a thing of beauty. Vertical gardens have many advantages over traditional horizontal and in-the-ground gardens; there is less potential for weeds since you are starting with weedfree soil to fill the growing space; air circulates around the vertical garden more easily; vertical gardens generally take less water, maintenance and nutrients; and there is less chance for attracting soil-based pests or diseases. To begin your vertical garden all you need are seeds, soil and an imagination. Keep in mind the full growing height of flowers so that your design will not put lower varieties in the shadow of taller blooms. Some produce, like potatoes, car-

rots, eggplant and lettuce need slightly larger/deeper growing spaces but can easily be accommodated with proper planning. Almost all of the following suggestions will work well for a variety of herbs, produce or flowers: ■■ Use a small A-frame ladder and containers; the containers can be either small pots or window boxes the length of a step. You can mix or match or keep the steps all the same. Don’t pack soil into the containers too tightly, and allow for drainage. Use a shallow tray and mat under the ladder for an indoor garden. Place the ladder near a window (indoors) or on any flat surface (outdoors) where the plants will be exposed to light and air and have a water source. This ladder, as several other vertical bases discussed in this article, provides portability to accommodate for seasonal changes. ■■ Normally discarded items such as old window frames, packing skids, photo frames and old dresser drawers make unique beds for vertical gardens. Pack the soil into the frame and use chicken wire or sturdy mesh to hold the dirt in place, then prop vertically and plant your seeds or already cultivated plants spaced throughout the framework. The plants will naturally seek the light. You can prop two or more frames together. Angle them and they will provide their own support for standing. ■■ Hang burlap pouches along fencing, fill each with soil and

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plant your seeds for a living wall. Burlap pouches can also be hung on the side of a building like a barn, shed or garage for a wonderful and functional display. Prop a trellis into a large container for vine-growing vegetables or flowers; the vines will grow up and wind themselves around the trellis. Build a three-to-four-pole open tepee for plants that can grow upward and will need the support. Nail empty and clean containers, such as soda bottles, coffee cans

and milk cartons, to a large wooden panel. Fill each with soil (allow holes for drainage and openings large enough for plants to grow out of) and plant your seeds. ■■ Stack varying sizes of filled planters (smallest on top) and plant seeds in the exposed soil. If you plan to grow larger produce, start with large containers for the bottom of the pyramid. Use an old barrel with several layers of holes drilled around it. Fill the barrel with fresh clean soil and

plant your seeds inside the holes. You can also use a tightly wound column of chicken wire filled with dirt for a similar effect (use a heavy wooden stake to add support to the structure). ■■ Shoe bags, spice racks and mail sorters make ideal herb gardens in your kitchen. Line open containers with burlap before filling each with soil and planting seeds. Set these by a window for sunlight and water the plants using a small watering can with a long spout.

Replace furnace filter to conserve energy costs By MARK J. DONOVAN Creators.com Are you seeing a preponderance of dust bunnies in your home? Is dog hair blowing across your hardwood floors and piling up in corners? Do you notice yourself sneezing more than usual while in your home this winter? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then most likely you need to replace your furnace air filter if your home has an HVAC heating system. Furnace filters are specifically designed to trap dust, dirt and other airborne particles in your home. Besides making the air you breathe in your home cleaner, furnace filters also help to increase the longevity of your furnace system by preventing dust and dirt

particles from damaging your furnace’s fan and heating coils. Replacing your furnace filter three or four times a year is a smart idea. Besides keeping your home warmer during the winter months, it also will help to reduce your home’s heating bills by maximizing the efficiency of your

HVAC furnace system. Moreover, replacing your furnace filter will help reduce airborne dust particles in the home. And if you have allergies, particularly ones caused by airborne dust mites floating around your home during the winter months, you can purchase air filters specifically designed to cap-

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While important for the future of home building, high costs are limiting the current number of green homes. MARK J. DONOVAN CREATORS.COM

Green home building not yet wave of future By MARK J. DONOVAN Creators.com When watching HGTV or other home-related television shows, the concept of green home building seems to be a common theme. The television personalities talk as if every home built today is 100 percent green, or if not, it should be. The fact of the matter is that less than 1 percent of homes built today are truly “green homes.” And their assertion that within a decade 50 percent of homes built will be green homes seems far fetched. Building green homes is extremely expensive, so unless the government mandates green home construction, the chances of 50 percent of newly built homes being truly green in 10 years is slim to none. If the government does make it mandatory, then I suspect a lot of people will be living homeless or in government subsidized apartment complexes in the future. So what is a green home? A green home is a home that has been constructed to utilize dramatically less energy, water and other natural resources than the standard home. Also, it has to be less than 2,500 square feet in total

living space. The definition and certification of green home construction is set and measured by several organizations including, the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, the U.S. Green Building Council, the Environments for Living, Healthy Built Homes and the EPA’s Energy Star program. All of these organizations set green home standards and some provide green building certification. Green homes are rated on a point or star system, where a fivestar rating is deemed the highest level of green home building conformance. In order for a home to quality, it needs to meet a number of key metrics. First, it must have airtight construction, with virtually no inadvertent air leakage inside or outside of the home. Second, the insulation must be made from green materials, e.g. recycled newspaper, rather than materials that could outgas and pollute the environment. Third, the air conditioning has to be highly efficient and sized properly for the house. Lastly, the home has to utilize conservation techniques and methods for water and electricity consumption.

All of these metrics and features require rare and expensive materials and significantly more time and material costs, thus making the home custom. For the masses, builders traditionally built standard homes at affordable prices. The green home proponents, however, argue that building a green home only adds 3 to 5 percent to the cost. I disagree vehemently. Just visit your local home improvement center and look at the variation in cost in

Energy Star-rated kitchen appliances. You will see that the highest Energy Star-related appliances have price tags well in excess of 5 percent of their lower-performing competitors. Suffice it to say that building a five-star green LEED certified home will cost more like two to three times what the average home costs to build. I do not disagree with the concept of the green home or its goals. They are commendable, and I do hope we get to their stated ob-

jectives someday. However, in the meantime, people need to have a place to live. And making green homes mandatory will only lead to larger mortgages, which will lead to more defaults, and as a result, will create another collapse in the real estate market. Only when the home manufacturers figure out ways to reduce the cost of green building materials and processes will there be any hope of achieving the stated goals of the green home advocates.

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Home gardeners enjoy growing own lettuce By SHARON NAYLOR Creators.com Lettuce has made its way into the list of most popular plants for today’s home garden. Marie Iannotti, gardening guide expert at About.com, says that lettuce has been growing in popularity because “it is one of those crops whose fresh picked taste simply can’t be equaled by anything you can buy at the grocers.” Iannotti says that greens are also relatively easy to grow, are high in minerals, vitamins and fiber, and perhaps most importantly for the home gardener, “it’s cheaper to grow your own lettuce than to pay premium prices for gourmet greens.” With so many benefits, lettuce should certainly make an appearance in your home garden. Keep in mind that different types of lettuce may grow best in different seasons and in different weather, so it’s quite possible to keep your lettuce supply strong, fresh and rewarding straight through until fall for your harvesting and enjoyment. The top five types of lettuce for the home garden include: ■■ Crisphead lettuces. Also known as iceberg lettuce, this variety grows slowly, producing round, pale green heads that are the crunchy lettuces you know. They may not handle hot summer weather well, so they are among the top choices for spring and fall harvesting. ■■ Butterhead lettuces. Also known as bibb lettuce and Boston lettuce, this type of lettuce features dark green outer leaves and crunchy, lighter-colored hearts. These varieties also do well in spring and fall, and some types even fare well in summer. ■■ Looseleaf lettuces. This type of lettuce doesn’t form a round head, but rather grows in clusters of frilly or smooth leaves. It can be picked in its baby or mature stage. This type of lettuce likes cooler weather, so it is best grown in spring and fall as well. Baby green versions of this lettuce type fare better in hot weather than more mature plants, so plan accordingly. ■■ Romaine lettuces. The telltale upright heads of romaine lettuces have dark green or reddish outer leaves and crisp white interior leaves. Green romaine lettuces such as Jericho handle heat well. Again, baby greens in this variety can be harvested in less than a month, making this variety a quick plant-to-reward choice. ■■ Batavian lettuces. This type of lettuce handles heat well and


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opens to a looser head of bright green leaves. The key to good lettuce growing is top-quality soil that is kept free of weeds and has good drainage. Begin sowing your lettuce seeds in early spring as soon as the ground thaws and the soil is dry enough to rake smoothly without clumping or mud. The experts at Burpee suggest that your soil be rich in nitrogen and potassium for your lettuce’s best performance, so be sure to include fresh compost in your lettuce bed. Lettuce seeds need light to take root, so sprinkle seeds on top of prepared soil and cover them with an extremely thin layer of compost or seed-starting mix. Lettuce is best arranged in rows. Stagger your plantings — laying seed and planting tray-started seedlings at the same time — so that your lettuce crops are constantly delivering fresh and ready lettuce throughout the harvesting season. You don’t want all of your lettuce to mature at the same time, leaving you with no further lettuce after your first harvest. The experts at Burpee say: “Lettuce seeds won’t germinate in


Add multiple lettuce varieties to your garden for an ongoing healthy harvest.

soil that is 80 degrees Fahrenheit or warmer, so there’s no sense in sowing directly in the garden in the summer. Instead, start heattolerant varieties indoors and move the lettuce seedlings into the garden, preferably under partial shade, after they’ve developed a few true leaves.” Iannotti suggests a few tips for your lettuce crop care: “If you have fertile soil, you shouldn’t need to feed lettuce plants.” Lettuce plants need regular watering since they have a shallow root system. Don’t keep your lettuce garden bed damp or mulched; doing so invites slugs. You can grow lettuce in containers, as well. Consult Burpee’s online lettuce-growing calendar to help you plan your lettuce-planting schedule according to your ZIP code. Your garden center experts can also advise you on the types of lettuce that grow best in your region. To help motivate you in tending to your lettuce crops throughout the spring, summer and fall months, a great salad cookbook can provide you with a variety of healthy salad options for your family and for home entertaining.



Preserve resources, boosts curb appeal By TERESA IQBAL Creators.com If you’re looking to start a garden in the near future, why not create one that will require very little maintenance and resources, including time? It may sound too good to be true, but the explanation is simple. Permaculture is a practice of agriculture that takes advantage of the natural ecosystems and habits of nature. Because using this method allows plants to use resources more efficiently, you can save precious resources while creating a garden or landscape that is long-lasting and abundant. One of the best approaches to take when establishing a system of permaculture in your home is to choose to grow perennial flowers and other perennial plants. Perennial plants return year after year with little to no maintenance. This means that you only have to plant them once to reap the benefits for a lifetime. There are lots of perennial flowers available to choose from. Hydrangeas, lavender and peonies are all examples of flowers that will continue to bloom each year. For homeowners, perennial flowers can prove especially enticing, as they help to establish a beautiful landscape that will accentuate a home for many years to come. Many potential buyers see landscaping as a large expense, so having a garden full of perennial flowers would be a great added feature to calculate into the value of any home. For those who choose to utilize their outdoor space as a vegetable garden instead, there are many vegetable perennials to take advantage of, as well. Artichokes and asparagus are two common perennial favorites. Although they make take a few years to get established, they will indeed produce every year once they are mature enough. There are several hardy herbs, such as rosemary and sage, that also require very little maintenance. They can be easily harvested and used to add variety and flavor to many different dishes. The moringa is a tree popular among health nuts and is another example of a perennial plant. It is praised for its nutritional content, as it produces highly nutritious leaves that are packed with protein. The blog How to Grow Perennial Vegetables, which focuses on teaching readers about perennial vegetables, explains that most perennial vegetables are very nutritionally dense, considering that they “have some of the highest protein content, lowest sugar, and tons of minerals. Tuber crops from Groundnuts have over 17 percent protein.” Jerusalem artichokes “produce inulin which is a prebiotic that maintains healthy gut flora, and the spinach/kale crops are


Sheet mulching is a process that is best done in advance of any planting so that the materials have time to adequately break down. high in iron and calcium.” So if you’re looking for plants that are both healthful and easy to maintain, perennials are the answer. When it comes to preparing the gardening space for your perennial plants, sheet mulching is a useful permacultural practice to consider. Sami Grover, a writer for TreeHugger, explains the usefulness of mulch: “Mulch is a central tool for keeping weeds down, keeping water where it’s needed, and keeping work to a minimum.” This environment is similar to the natural ecosystem of many forests. Sheet mulching (also called lasagna composting) consists of several layers of organic materials. It’s a process that is best done in advance of any planting so that the materials have time to adequately break down. You want to begin with a layer of cardboard or newspaper, which helps to keep weeds from penetrating into your garden. Then you will need to cover this layer with about an inch of nitrogen material. This can include vegetable scraps, used coffee grounds and fresh grass clippings. Next, add an inch of carbon material, which could be leaves, wood chips or more newspaper or cardboard. Continue to layer an inch of the nitrogen and carbon material one on top of an-

other until the desired height is reached. Chop ‘n’ drop is another form of permacultural mulching. Similar to sheet mulching, chop ‘n’ drop helps to keep soil healthy by conserving water, preventing weeds and providing it with beneficial nutrients. Fortunately, it is a very easy process, consisting of simply letting the pruned leaves of plants fall to the ground. This creates the layer of natural mulch. It’s important to choose only specific plants when using this method. Some of the best choices include species that will regrow several times during the year. Nitrogen-fixing legumes, such as alfalfa and soybeans, are another good choice, as they help to fertilize soil especially well. The only important consideration is to keep the droppings away from the roots of trees so that they don’t attempt to compete with each other. Beyond this, chop ‘n’ drop is a simple and effective way of reusing resources to create healthy soil that requires very little maintenance. Deciding to plant low-maintenance vegetables and flowers in a natural environment is one of the wisest decisions that any gardener can make. Less time and money spent on watering, planting and pulling weeds means more time

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Create drought-tolerant oasis or Zen paradise By JEANELLE HORCASITAS Creators.com For some reason, what is considered to be a beautiful yard always seems to be an area full of lush and verdant grass. But for those of us living in droughtstricken states such as California, keeping up a lawn has become a disappointing endeavor. Sadly, the once vibrant blades of grass have become a dried yellow and brown fire hazard. But little or no grass in your yard is no reason to fret. In fact, without grass, you have more opportunities to be creative with the space you have — not to mention a major cost and labor savings on lawn upkeep and care. However, if you’re feeling uninspired or uncertain about what you could do to create an outdoor paradise, here are a few ideas that we hope will motivate you to ditch the grass for something new. The desert oasis Deserts are seriously misunderstood. They’re typically depicted as a dry, mirage-inducing environment filled with dangerous predators, such as snakes and coyotes, and unbearable heat or freezing temperatures. But these stereotypes belong to real deserts, not the kind we have in mind. So, what does the desert oasis entail? Well, you can start with some beautiful succulents. According to About.com’s Jon VanZile, “succulents store water in their leaves, their stems or their roots. These plants have adapted to survive arid conditions throughout the world, from Africa to the deserts of North America.” Therefore, these plants are virtually indestructible, which is an extremely big advantage for anyone lacking a green thumb. Another desert favorite is the cactus. There are a variety of cactuses to choose from, but some of the most beautiful are the ones that grow flowers (or even fruit), such as the Mojave mound cactus, the beavertail cactus or the prickly pear cactus (yum!). If you are interested in exploring the count-

There are plenty of plants to choose from if you’re looking for a desert oasis look. HARDYPLANTS CREATORS.COM

less possibilities for your desert vegetation, check out http://www. desertusa.com. Now, the choice is up to you when it comes to arranging your plants. You could place them in a large plastic or ceramic pot or planter’s box, or plant them directly in the ground. If you decide to plant them as opposed to potting them, surround the plants with rocks for another touch of the desert. However, depending on the number of pots or planter’s boxes, you also could surround those with rocks. Larger rocks tend to look best around pots and planter’s boxes, while smaller pebble rocks look better surrounding plants in the ground because they emphasize the size of the plant. Finally, tie the ambience together by adding some mood lighting. Whether it’s a lighted path or a string of lights, the choice is entirely yours! As you can see, cactuses and other gorgeous desert plants easily can replace a nice green lawn. So sit back, sip something cool and enjoy your very own desert oasis.

The Zen paradise Feeling a little stressed? Wouldn’t it be nice to come home to a beautiful Zen paradise after work? Once again, you don’t need to rely on square footages of grass to make your yard beautiful. First, a Zen paradise would be nothing without the sound of trickling water. There is a range of fountain styles to choose from, and they can almost always be found at any home improvement or gardening store. However, depending on the size you would like, the fountain could get a bit pricey, so I would suggest checking out some of the deals on eBay or Amazon.com. Additionally, if you’re trying to practice being more mindful, having an area dedicated to meditation and relaxation is another must-have for your Zen paradise. If you’re into do-it-yourself proj-

ects or handy with tools, a platform deck could be a wonderful feature to your Zen paradise. There is also a Platform Deck Retreat available at some box stores. Whichever you choose, this space will be a great spot for you to lie down on your yoga mat, breathe, stretch, and relax your mind, body and soul! If you require more by the way of sound than just the water from the fountain, chimes are a must. Chimes come in many different varieties and sounds, so it should be easy to find one that truly fits your personality and fulfills your vision. Of course, adding a touch of color will truly bring the atmosphere to life. Mosaic stepping-stones are great to define your walking path, or use mosaic tiles to create the path that you follow to your place of meditation. These items can

also be purchased at area stores. However, the Better Homes and Gardens website also offers great DIY projects to create your very own tile stepping-stones. Finally, don’t forget the Bonsai tree. There is a large selection to choose from at www.bonsaioutlet.com. And with that, your Zen paradise is complete, and you will be able to enjoy your days after work finding peace and harmony in your special space. Decorating an environment with little or no grass can feel like a nuisance at first, but hopefully these ideas will inspire you to create your own unique space. Contrary to the old adage, it is not always greener on the other side. In fact, it can actually be even greater without all the green. So try something new, and enjoy your very own slice of paradise!

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Small bedroom? Creativity makes space workable By JEANELLE D. HORCASITAS Creators.com Buying furniture is an expensive endeavor, but living on a tight budget doesn’t mean that you have to sacrifice your sense of style. It can be an opportunity to be creative. For those with small bedrooms, having too much furniture can make the room appear cluttered and even smaller. Fortunately, you can do without bulky items, such as a nightstand, dresser or armoire, and replace them with organizers to make the room appear more spacious. There are beds that you can purchase with built-in drawers; however, that can get a little pricey. Additionally, many of these beds are not raised, which can be problematic if you like underneath bed storage. So now it’s time to get creative. First, purchase an organizer cubby to place at the edge of your bed. You can choose to store extra pillows, blankets, shoes or anything you please in the compartments. For smaller items or clothing, I would suggest purchasing storage bins. You can buy fabric, wood or plastic storage bins in any shape, size and color. For more hidden storage options, consider hanging closet organizers, double-hanging closet organizers, or even sterile drawers from Target, Ikea or Big Lots, to utilize as much closet space as possible. Whatever you choose, these new storage ideas will help expand your space. And with more room, there’s more to love. Can’t live without work? Make your bed into a hybrid desk space with a loft bed. Loft beds are a great space-saver. Loft beds typically get associated with young kids, but they work for adults, too. Dornob’s article titled “Not Just for Kids: 7 Space-Saving (& AdultSized) Loft Beds” has many inspirational bedroom ideas for combining bed and desk space.

If you like the idea of being surrounded by books, but do not necessarily love the height of a loft bed, there is an alternative. Create your own bookshelf headboard. First, purchase a bed without a headboard. Second, purchase two medium- or tall-sized bookshelves that will serve as the pillars to your headboard. Lastly, buy a long shelf (or a flat piece of wood); I would suggest Home Depot or Lowes to get the exact proportions and dimensions, to bridge across the two bookshelf pillars. For your safety, secure your bookshelves by nailing them to the wall. Once this has been done, you should also nail the overarching shelf to the bookshelves to keep everything connected as one unit. Lastly, do not place heavy items on the shelf atop of the two bookshelves, to avoid any accidents from happening. Now your new headboard is complete. Feel free to add books, décor, storage bins — you want it to fit your style. With these alternatives you can stay close to your studies or work from the comfort of your own bed. Although the previous examples can be bought from a store, for a repurposed DIY feel, use cinder blocks as a bed base. If you’re not too fond of the industrial look, bust out your paintbrush and add some color to the blocks before setting them up. However, be extremely careful that there is not a lot of open space between the cinder block foundation and the mattress; you do not want to fall off your bed. Wooden pallets are another great option as they are easy to paint, and you can add more to create your desired height. For more inspiration, check out the many boards dedicated to bedroom DIY on Pinterest. So whether you’re moving into a new place or you want to revamp your current look, these ideas will inspire you.

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Common household objects can help garden By TERESA CORTES Creators.com

recently become insect food, making sure to spray the undersides of leaves, too.

Starting your own garden doesn’t need to be expensive or complicated. If your goal is to create a beautiful and abundant garden in your own backyard, you’ll be happy to know that there are a number of items around your home that can be used to help you start your own garden, as well as help it thrive and remain healthy. Read on for a few unanticipated ways in which common household items can be utilized in your garden today. Simple seed starters Egg cartons are wonderful tools that can make it incredibly easy to get started on any gardening project that you may have in mind. Simply cut off the top of the carton and lay down your seeds and soil in the bottom carton. It’s really that easy. Egg cartons are a smart choice because they are biodegradable. What this means when it comes to planting your seedlings is that all you have to do is cut each individual piece from the carton and plant it directly into your garden. The carton will one day degrade into the soil, eventually leaving behind just the plant. Toilet paper and paper towel rolls are guaranteed to collect in abundance in any house. Lucky for you, these seemingly useless items can also be used as seed starters. Two seed starters can be made out of each toilet paper roll, and four seed starters can be made out of each paper towel roll. All you’ll need besides the cardboard rolls themselves are a


Simple household products can help you get things sprouting in your garden in no time. pair of scissors and a small piece of tape. First, cut your toilet paper roll in half (or your paper towel roll into fourths). Next, you’ll need to make four 1-inch slits along one end of the roll. Now you should be able to fold each piece of the roll down until you have all four pieces folded into one another. Use a piece of tape to secure the bottom, and fill it with your seeds and soil. Just like egg cartons, toilet paper and paper towel rolls are biodegradable and can easily be planted in the soil with the plants themselves.

Deter garden pests Now that you have your garden planted, it’s vital to work at keeping your plants healthy and safe from intruders. Common household soap is one solution for a repellent that can be used against pesky garden intruders. For larger pests, such as rabbits and deer, Irish Spring soap has done the trick for many gardeners. Simply slice cubes of about 2 inches and place each piece in a small drawstring bag. You can choose to either hang these bags on wooden stakes around your

garden or place the bags directly into your garden instead. The soap works as a repellent because of the simple fact that most animals dislike the smell. When it’s pesky insects that you’re dealing with, pure Castile liquid soap works as a wonderful deterrent. Pure Castile liquid soap can be purchased at health food stores, as well as even most bigbox stores nowadays. Simply mix 1 teaspoon of pure Castile liquid soap with enough water to fill a spray bottle. Spray the leaves of the plants showing signs of having

Eliminate powdery mildew Powdery mildew is another unfortunate common garden affliction. It can be found covering the leaves of plants such as zucchini and tomatoes. Eggshells are one known option for eradicating mildew from plants. All you need to do is crush the eggshells, boil them and pour the water on the afflicted plants. In as little as a week, you should be able to see vast improvement. Gardening expert Paul Rodman explains that it’s most likely the calcium in the eggshells that is responsible for their ability to cure plants of a disease called blossom-end rot, which is known to be the result of calcium deficiency. So the next time you make an omelet for Sunday’s brunch, remember to save those eggshells! Along with eggs, milk is one food item that is almost guaranteed to be found in any refrigerator. However, most people are probably unaware of its ability to cure plants of mildew disease. Mix 1 ounce of milk with 9 ounces of water to make a spray that can be used as a preventive measure on plants or every three to four days on infected plants. Golden Harvest Organics explains why milk is useful when it comes to treating mildew on plants: “This works by changing the pH on the surface of the leaves, so they are less susceptible to mildew.” Milk apparently not only does a body good but also does a plant good.

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Who needs sunshine when you have right soil? By KRISTEN CASTILLO Creators.com A shade garden can be the best of both worlds for gardeners. The area doesn’t require much maintenance, and the yield can be pretty and hearty. “Shade gardens are great because a lot of people don’t have sun in their yards,” says expert gardener Celeste Longacre, author of “Celeste’s Garden Delights.” Still the idea of a shade garden can be a bit overwhelming for those who feel their options for color, variety and interest are sparse. “Initially, it’s incredibly daunting because you come to the false assumption that nothing grows in shade,” says Kerry Ann Mendez, award-winning speaker, garden designer, owner of landscaping company Perennially Yours, and author of “The Right Size Flower Garden: Simplify Your Outdoor Space With Smart Design Solutions and Plant Choices.” Mendez, who celebrates shade gardens for their “ease and beauty,” urges fellow gardeners to stop focusing on short-blooming flowers, and instead recognize the beauty in leaves, which are around much longer. “Foliage plays a much more important role in a shade garden than in a full-sun garden,” she says, noting colorful leaves can be as “eye-popping as flowers.” Super soil Shade-loving plants need the right type of soil to help them grow and thrive. While soil type and soil pH requirements can vary, typically shade plants do well in “nutrient rich, well-draining soils full of organic matter, with a soil pH range between 5.5 and 7,” says Aaron von Frank, organic gardener and co-founder of Grow Journey, a seeds-of-the-month club in the U.S. and Canada. He recommends building your own soil using wood chips or mulch, especially those with green leaves chopped in, which has the best carbon-nitrogen ratio for decomposition. “It might require a bit of patience, but simply pile on 6 to 8 inches of mulch in the areas you intend to garden in and let it sit for six to eight months,” says von Frank, explaining the process quickly mimics how soil naturally forms over time but it takes a while. “Soil microorganisms will break down the mulch, turning it into rich, balanced soil teeming with beneficial microbes that will help your plants grow.” Light fluffy soil is the goal for shade-loving plants. Longacre suggests using humus, an organic material made of decayed plant and animal matter, as well as organic alfalfa meal and kelp meal. Use a broad fork or a pitch-

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fork to put down these materials. “Again, think fluffy,” she says. “You want the plants to have an effortless time sending their roots down into the earth.” You’ll know if you have enough humus in place if the water seeps in the soil during watering. “If the water ponds on top, you need more humus,” she says. Shade-loving plants Once your soil is primed, you need to decide what to plant in your shade garden. Check to see which ones work in your climate and agricultural zone. Mendez likes perennials like foamflower, which has white or pink flowers in spring that turn to variegated leaves in the fall, and

barrenwort, which are droughttolerant and have “gorgeous leaves and flowers.” She’s also a fan of shrubs like bottlebrush and hydrangea, as well as annuals including wishbone and begonia. Aaron von Frank’s picks include ferns that produce fiddleheads, lettuce, asparagus, wasabi and serviceberry. Longacre recommends plantain lilies, bellflower, foxgloves and false spirea. Mint does well, too, with one caveat. “Mint tends to take over and can be hard to get rid of once established,” says Longacre. “My mint garden is quite far away from the rest of my gardens.” Maintenance Maintaining a shade garden

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is fairly easy, but some upkeep is required. Water plants in the morning when it’s not too hot. Mendez says most shade gardens need only an inch of water weekly. “Others are drought tolerant,” she says, “and can go a week or more without water.” Make sure you’re diligent about weeding; pesky weeds can grow quickly and often crowd the plants in your shade garden. “Be sure to get all of the root

when weeding,” says Longacre, who recommends putting a garden fork an inch or two under the weed to loosen it. Don’t forget to protect the garden’s soil for longterm results. Von Frank recommends adding 3 to 6 inches of mulch to garden beds once or twice per year, “to continue building your soil’s health and fertility.” With the right attention to detail, your shade garden will be a colorful and comfortable place to enjoy.



Home security detail: Make sanctuary safe By CHELLE CORDERO Creators.com Home is the place where we are supposed to be able to close the door on the outside world and shut out noise, commotion and worries. Home should be the place where we can feel safe. Too often, uninvited intruders disrupt that calm. Unwelcome access to our homes makes us fear for our safety. Even more than the financial losses that can occur during a burglary, the emotional loss of violation takes so long to recover from — if recovery is even possible. One victim of a burglary (who asked not to be identified) said that she felt “violated” knowing that a stranger went through her things, touched items that held precious memories for her, viewed photographs that showed the story of her life and took valuable possessions simply because he could. Although it’s been over a decade since this woman experienced this burglary, she still shudders when she thinks of it. There are steps we can take to minimize our risk without becoming paranoid and without forsaking our daily routines. Many local police departments caution residents not to “invite” attention by not making your house look empty: Use outside lighting on the same schedule as when you are home; put indoor lights on timers when you are away; stop mail and paper delivery for extended times or have a trusted neighbor make the pickups for you; arrange to have the lawn mowed and the snow shoveled if you will be away for several days; leave a radio on


An external alarm bell box mounted on a house is an audio/visual deterrent to home invaders. Flashing lights alert intruders that the system is working and an audible alarm sounds if an internal alarm is triggered. at “conversation level,” and don’t leave helpful notes on the door such as “gone shopping” or “on vacation, deliver packages to...” Don’t leave valuables in places that are visible through your windows. Be careful not to advertise you are away from home via social media; take all the pictures you want on your trip, but wait until you are back home to post them.

If you do plan to be away for an extended period of time, contact your local police department and fill out a security-check request, which will include the dates you are away, who has authorized access to your home, what cars are in your driveway and contact information for you and a local neighbor who has a key. They can use this to schedule an occasional

police drive-by and to know if something appears amiss. Lock your doors even if you will only be gone for a few minutes; it is a good idea to keep your doors locked even while you are at home and especially if sleeping. Remember to lock your windows, too. Unlocked windows provide easy access: Opening a window is less of an obstruction

than breaking the glass would be. If you leave a window “open,” make it less than an inch and use a screw in the frame to prevent it from being opened more. You can also find a variety of window security devices at hardware stores that can lock the windows closed or in place. Replace doorknob button locks with deadbolts; install solid doorframes and metal doors; lock your garage door and the garage door into your home (especially if a garage door opener is used from your vehicle). If you have an enclosed deck or porch, lock the outer access door as well as the entry to your house so that you do not provide privacy for a burglar who’s breaking into your home. Keep hedges and bushes trimmed so that they do not obscure possible broken windows from a break-in. It’s also suggested that you plant thorny bushes in front of ground-floor windows as a deterrent to wouldbe intruders. Leaving a key with a trusted neighbor is much more secure than hiding a key under the doormat, flowerpot or nearby rock. Replace your locks if your key is ever lost. Call alarm and home security companies for information on services, plans and pricing. Be aware that many municipalities require permits for monitored systems that automatically call 911 as well as monthly fees. You can also install alarms on windows and doors that will sound only in and around your home. There are DIY video surveillance equipment packages, some of which can be monitored by you via Wi-Fi, but make sure your home Internet network is secured.

How to find a wall stud without using a stud finder By MARK J. DONOVAN Creators.com Finding a wall stud is often a necessary but frustrating task. If you plan to hang a heavy picture frame, a television mount or a shelf, then it is essential that you secure it to the wall with nails or screws that penetrate into not only the drywall but also a stud. Before searching for a wall stud, keep in mind that they are usually positioned on 16-inch centers; in rare cases, they are on 24-inch centers. Also, electrical outlets and switch boxes are normally nailed to one side of a stud. One easy way to find a stud is to look for drywall nail/screw dimples in the wall. In a perfect world, you would not see any dimples in the drywall; however, more often than not, if you look carefully enough, you can see them. Another easy way to find a stud is to look closely at the baseboard trim. See where the finished nails are located in the trim. If the finish carpenter was worth his salt,

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the finish nails are located on the wall studs. Similarly, if chair rail or crown molding is installed on the wall, look for the finish nail locations on the molding. Again, the molding should be fastened to the wall with finish nails that are

secured into wall studs. You also can measure from the corner of a room to find a wall stud location, with the knowledge that studs are usually located on 16-inch centers. This method doesn’t always work, because

most rooms are not divisible by 16 inches. However, when rough framers construct a wall, they usually start at one end of the wall and add additional studs every 16 inches along the length of it. If the above solutions do not

yield results in finding a stud, take a magnet of any type and gently run it along the surface of the wall until it sticks to the wall. When it does, you’ll know the magnet is directly over a drywall nail or screw that is secured to a stud.

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Learn to grow citrus trees in your garden By SHARON NAYLOR Creators.com Have you ever found yourself in a garden center walking past tall, leafy trees, and you spot ... lemons? There’s something so exciting about that moment when you see full-grown and baby lemons or limes growing on those trees, and you think, “I’d love to have a lemon tree in my backyard!” You envision all the things you’ll do with your lemons: vibrant yellow slices placed on top of salmon you’ll cook on the grill, fresh lemon slices floating in a pitcher of refreshing ice water or adorning your cocktails, homemade lemon hummus, a burst of lime tang in your homemade guacamole, even just a bright bowl of lemons on your kitchen counter for a fresh and natural décor element. While it doesn’t cost a fortune to buy lemons in the supermarket, you can’t beat the smell and taste of a straight-from-the-tree lemon or other citrus fruit, and you can’t beat the prettiness of a bountiful citrus tree in your yard. And the health benefits and nutrients of citrus fruit with their vitamin C and antioxidants cannot be beaten, either. So to help you plan the addition of citrus trees to your garden, or in planters by your pool as fivestar hotels like the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills do, here are some tips for growing citrus trees: ■■ Choose your citrus varieties. In addition to the basics of lemons and limes, you also can grow unique varieties of other citrus fruits. For instance, in the orange family, you might grow Cara Cara oranges, blood oranges or clementines, tangelos, pomelos, grapefruit and more. Your garden center will stock the types of citrus trees that will thrive in your region, and your garden-center plant experts can advise you on the many different types of lemons and limes, including Key limes, Persian limes and Meyer lemons. The experts at Sunkist.com say, “Meyer lemons are known as ‘backyard lemons’ because they are not widely sold commercially,” and “oranges are one of the few fruits that will not over ripen if left on the tree!” ■■ Assess your growing areas for citrus tree sizes. According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, fullsized orange and grapefruit trees can grow 18 to 22 feet tall, while dwarf varieties of citrus trees might grow to be 8 to 12 feet tall. If you plant citrus trees in planters, plan on their growth and on not being able to move those planters after a certain amount of time. ■■ Decide on your number of trees. Almanac experts say that most citrus trees are self-fertile, so you likely will need only one tree. If you’d like to mix up your citrus tree types, designate your zones for the full sun that citrus trees need, and situate your citrus trees throughout your yard accordingly. Keep in mind that some smaller citrus plants can be moved indoors during winter, perhaps to your sunroom, which gives you options for year-round citrus picking. ■■ Decide whether you’ll plant your citrus trees in your garden soil or in planters. Both options require placement in sunny, wind-protected areas. And while ground-grown citrus trees can be planted at any time, containergrown citrus trees do best when planted in spring. ■■ Space your citrus trees far enough apart. Almanac experts say that full-size citrus trees should be planted 12 to 25 feet apart, and dwarf trees should be set 6 to 10 feet apart. “The exact


Adding citrus trees to your garden gives you healthful food and drink options right at your fingertips. distance depends on the variety,” so follow the instructions on your citrus tree labels. The general rule of thumb is that the bigger the fruit the more space you’ll need between trees. And be sure to plant trees a good distance from walls, fences and paved surfaces, and well away from septic systems. ■■ Plan to plant your citrus trees in a spot that has good water drainage, because these trees should not become waterlogged. To help container trees enjoy adequate water, place a small amount of pea gravel in the container before adding soil and the

tree to aid in runoff. Plastic, metal and ceramic containers will retain moisture longer than porous clay or wood containers. ■■ Test your soil’s pH level before planting. The experts at Brighter Blooms Nursery say that soil pH should be between 6 and 8 and not high in salt. Get your soil tested at your garden center, and follow their instructions for correcting your soil’s conditions for citrus growing. ■■ Plant your citrus tree so that it sits high in its planting space, with the crown an inch higher than the lawn to provide good wa-

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ter runoff in wet weather. ■■ Build a water retention ring around the base of the plant to capture adequate water for its roots to grow. ■■ When feeding your tree according to its variety’s instructions, scatter tree food at least a foot away from the trunk so that it soaks down to the growing root system.

■■ When weather begins to cool, bring smaller container-planted trees indoors. For all care instructions, check your citrus tree care labels and the website for your tree’s company. And if you have concerns about your tree’s development, take smartphone photos of your tree’s details to show an expert at your garden center.

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Maximize storage, countertop in small kitchen By SHARON NAYLOR Creators.com If you have a small kitchen, you might be fighting the alltoo-common problem of clutter: crowded countertops that leave little room for food prep and the dreaded avalanche of cooking pot lids and storage containers every time you open a cabinet door. But with a few easy improvements and just a few purchases, you can transform your small kitchen into an organized, airy space that still gives you access to all of the cooking pots, cookie sheets, spices and coffee mugs you need. And never deal with the mess and racket of cabinet avalanches ever again. Here are some of the top ways to maximize your small kitchen’s storage space and open up your countertops for a nicer look and better function: ■■ Get rid of your upper cabinet doors. Sounds crazy, but according to Taniya Nayak, host of HGTV’s “$100 Half-Day Designs” online series, removing those upper cabinet doors for an openshelving look can give you an extra 12 to 18 inches of storage space on each shelf and make it easier to access those neatly piled plates and drinking glasses. ■■ Design multi-shelf and pullout shelves for your lower cabinets, maximizing the entire cabinet height for better storage and easy access. ■■ If you have an L-shaped cabinet system with a corner cabinet, install an oversized Lazy Susan to put pots, pans and smaller cooking items on a rotation for maximized tall storage space and, again, easy access. ■■ Redesign your under-sink cabinet with pullout drawers, tilting drawers, stacking shelves and plastic buckets to gather all of those cleaning supplies into a smaller storage space. Again, you’ll use the full height of that tricky under-sink space, such as with pullout wire racks in a threetier system that lets you store those sponges and other smaller items more readily. ■■ Hang mugs on hooks under your upper kitchen cabinets.


Go vertical to maximize storage space in a small kitchen. Getting them out of your upper cabinets frees up a lot of storage space, perhaps allowing you to move some of those items from your kitchen countertop into the upper shelving area, and your display of all-white or colorful mugs adds to the decor of your kitchen while being reachable. ■■ Get larger cooking utensils out of your utensil drawer. Serv-

ing spoons, soup ladles, spatulas and all longer utensils can be stored in a tall metal canister on your kitchen countertop, freeing up a third or more of your utensil drawer. And in-drawer utensil caddies can fit and be used better with those larger tools and tongs gone. ■■ Do a little DIY. Those nonopening drawer fronts at waist

Cool home without air conditioner By SHARON NAYLOR Creators.com Don’t have an air conditioner in your home? You’re not alone. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, one-third of all U.S. homes do not have central air conditioning. And in homes that do have central air, the U.S. Department of Energy says that air conditioners use 5 percent of all energy in the U.S., costing $11 billion to households. So whether you do or don’t have central air conditioning, you certainly will want to find easy ways to cool your home without the need for an air conditioner — or without yours running all the time at great expense. Here are some of the top ways to cool your home without air conditioner usage: ■■ Shut off the lights. Every time you leave a room, even for a few moments, shut off those lights. Compact fluorescent light bulbs and LED lights may be energy-efficient, but they will best serve you by being turned off. Incandescent light bulbs create a large amount of heat in a room, and so if you have those types of bulbs, keep them off as often as possible. ■■ Hang energy-efficient window coverings, say the experts at Future Energy Corporation. Curtains, shades and blinds created

from energy-efficient materials and those with ‘blackout liners’ behind them will block the sun’s rays, keeping it cooler in your home and guarding your hardwood floors, carpets, art and furniture from the harmful UV rays that cause fading. ■■ Improve your home’s venti-

lation. When you shower or take a bath, and for a while afterward, have your bathroom ventilation fan running to remove the heat and humidity that warms your home. The same goes for your

level by your sink can be removed and fitted with hinges so that

they do tilt open to reveal smaller stored items such as cork screws and bottle openers. ■■ Install an organized shelf system on a kitchen wall. Using modular, customizable shelving units can expand your storage and display space and make better use of a wall you haven’t optimized for use. ■■ Use that space above the fridge. Don’t overload it because it will get warm up there, but a pair of pretty rattan baskets can hold extra kitchen items. ■■ Get creative with the sides of your kitchen cabinets. Shelving affixed to the sides of upper and lower kitchen cabinets lets you store kitchen items such as bud vases, cookbooks and other smaller items, and small shelves in a kitchen window are perfect for growing kitchen herbs or displaying small plants. ■■ Use magnetic storage on the sides of your refrigerator. Without cluttering up the sides of your refrigerator, you can affix magnetic spice tins and other magnetic storage items high up on your refrigerator to keep them out of kids’ and pets’ reach. And of course, a wise way to maximize your small kitchen’s storage space and countertop availability is to go section by section through each of your cabinets, pantry and countertops to discard or recycle anything that’s outdated, such as stained storage bowls (with or without lids) and other items that you no longer use. You’ll be surprised and delighted at how much space you free up with years’ worth of belongings cleared out, and you might just wind up with some choice items for a garage sale, using some of your profits to invest in additional smart storage racks, bins and canisters for your kitchen and for other rooms in your home.

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Cottage-style gardens have English flair By SHARON NAYLOR Creators.com From “Downton Abbey” to movies featuring Gwyneth Paltrow or Colin Firth in a British countryside setting, the English cottage garden takes center stage as one of the prettiest garden settings. With ultra-delicate flowers, pretty green leaves and bumble bees and butterflies flitting about, the British cottage garden is the perfect romantic setting for a tea party on a lazy afternoon — a setting many people like to emulate in their gardens at home. Here are some top tips for creating your own English cottagestyle garden: ■■ Choose the right size. A typical English cottage garden is small and compact, brimming with flowering cottage garden plants. Think lushness and closely placed plants that create a bouquet of loveliness in your small space. ■■ Plan for paths. Give yourself walking room within your British cottage garden with pathways made from the types of materials you would find in a British country garden. These are bricks, shells, gravel or aggregate, not the usual flagstone that you might see offered at your garden center. It’s that quiet crunch underfoot while walking through your garden that adds to the British cottage garden appeal. ■■ Plan for visibility from your home’s porch and windows. A true British cottage garden style lets you see those beautiful garden elements through any window around which you and friends may gather. ■■ Plan for a variety of flowering plant heights. An English cottage garden is known for its tall flowering plants — climbing flowering plants like climbing roses, wisteria, honeysuckle, clematis and ornamental grapes, with height providing a lush natural backdrop for your lower-set flowers such as lavender, delphinium and daisies. Climbing roses can rise up from your garden and look terrific when up the side of your house or porch, giving it that quintessential British-garden look. In addition to the beauty of tall, medium-height and low-set flowers, you’ll need to plan for the maintenance of these varied plants — as some can require more care than others. Even though a British cottage garden can appear informal and haphazard, it takes dedication and time to nurture each of your many garden plants.

■■ Choose the same types of flowers that appear in British cottage gardens. According to David Brill, a gardening expert at The Farm at Green Village, some of the top British cottage garden-style flowers include lavender, dianthus, foxglove, iris, perennial geranium, delphinium and daisies. Other flowers ideal for your British cottage garden include bellflower, columbine, coralbells, dame’s rocket, hollyhock, hydrangea, lady’s mantle, peonies, phlox and Sweet William. In addition to providing that signature British-garden softness, many of these flowers — like columbine, coralbells and Sweet William — are known for attracting butterflies and hummingbirds to your garden, depending on the region where you live. These pretty visitors add to the appeal of your garden. ■■ Choose old-fashioned varieties of your garden flowers. The world of flowering plants offers many different varieties, and your garden center’s expert can help you locate old-fashioned or heirloom-style plants that suit your English-garden style. These old-fashioned flowers may bloom larger than regular varieties, with ruffled edges and softness, a feminine grace inherent in your flower choices. ■■ Choose your garden color scheme carefully. One of the most common color schemes for British cottage garden flowers is pink and white for a color-coordinated garden look, and the blue and yellow combination is also a popular motif for flower colors. You can, of course, select many different shades of flowers, but stick with softer shades of each hue for an authentic British-garden feel. ■■ Plant flowers in small pockets. Group different types of flowers together in sections so that your delphiniums grow in a patch next to your lavender in a sizeable patch of their own. For a lovely visual impression, a signature aspect of the English cottage garden, create a planned layout that makes each flower type stand out, rather than alternating flower types in a wildflowers-type layout. ■■ Grow living dividers. Low hedges in narrow strips can separate the sections of your garden. ■■ Add an arbor. Plant climbing flowers to train up the sides and roof of the arbor to complete that height effect and add to the romance of your cottage garden. ■■ Add garden décor as well. Birdbaths, bird feeders, benches, wheelbarrows and aged-metal

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English gardens are lush and filled with many different types of flowers. watering cans add extra appeal and personality to your English cottage garden, keeping in step with the style and tone of your garden’s timeless design, skipping any modern or kitschy garden accents. ■■ Surround your garden with a fence or wall, also a mainstay of the British cottage garden look. A gate giving easy access to your garden is a winning look. ■■ Purchase a handled basket and high-quality cutting shears to assist in your regular cutting sessions. And bring some of your lovely cottage garden flowers indoors for the prettiest and most delightfully fragrant of flower arrangements throughout your home.

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Cook (Concluded from Page 18) oven range vent, which can pull stovetop cooking heat and steam out of your home. “An energy audit showed me that my stovetop vent fan wasn’t just for when I burned something in the oven or on the range,” says retiree Philip Dawes. Fans help cool the home, and Future Energy Savers say ventilation is one of the least expensive and most energy-efficient ways to cool your home. ■■ Avoid using your oven. Your home will stay cooler if you cook more often outdoors on your grill, or if you use a slow cooker, pressure cooker, rice maker or other small kitchen appliance. ■■ Operate your ceiling fans in the right direction: counterclockwise. This circulates air downward, creating that cooling breeze. But these, too, should be turned off when you’re not in the room, because that breeze is more efficiently cooling your skin, not cooling the room. ■■ Be mindful of your attic fans. Turn them on to help cool your home, and be sure to turn them off at night when not needed to avoid energy overuse. ■■ Close windows. You may be tempted on a hot day to open your windows, hoping for a cool breeze to waft in, but open windows on a hot day just bring more heat into your home. At night, open your windows wide to let that cooler air in, but close windows, blinds and curtains before sunrise to prevent the morning sun from warming your home. ■■ Close blinds, even on a sunny day, to help keep your home cool. ■■ Place houseplants on your windowsill or by your windows. They will absorb some of the sun’s rays. ■■ Improve your home’s insulation. Refresh or install insulation in your attic, as well as in your walls, to help prevent your home’s cool air from escaping. Also, seal any ducts. The folks at Future Energy say doing so can save you 30 percent on your cooling costs, and good seals throughout your home will keep your home cooler. ■■ Install patio and window awnings outdoors. Not only are these attractive elements of your outdoor living space, but they also can reduce the heat inside your home by 65 percent for southern-facing windows and by 77 percent for westernfacing windows, all by keeping the sun from reaching your home’s windows, walls and siding. ■■ Plant deciduous trees around your home. In summer, their leaves will create shade that will keep your home cooler inside. And plant shrubs and bushes near heat-producing outdoor elements such as your air conditioning unit and heat-radiating driveways. ■■ Use energy-efficient fans, and choose an energy-efficient air conditioner should you wish to install one or upgrade your inefficient system.


Pipe insulation comes with benefits By MARK J. DONOVAN Creators.com Aside from building code mandates, there are several good reasons for insulating your plumbing pipes. Take a look at the benefits below, along with various types of insulation solutions. Prevent cracked pipes First and foremost, installing pipe insulation helps prevent them from bursting if exposed to belowfreezing temperatures. Cracked plumbing pipes can cause very extensive and expensive damage, potentially forcing homeowners out of their home for repairs. Water expands when frozen. And when it expands in plumbing pipes, it has nowhere to go. This creates incredible pressure inside the pipes until they eventually burst. And when plumbing pipes burst, they often crack along the length of the pipe, versus a single hole, requiring an entire section of plumbing to be replaced.


less heat when hot water is transferred from the water heater to the faucet. Thus a homeowner can save money by preventing the heat transfer loss and get hot water to the faucet quicker. Similarly, insulating cold plumbing pipes helps prevent cold water from warming up as it travels from the cold water storage tank to the demanding faucet.

Mitigating condensation Insulating plumbing pipes also helps to reduce or eliminate condensation that can corrode copper pipes and their fixtures. When warm moist air, such as in a basement during summer months, comes in contact with cold plumbing pipes, small droplets of water form on the pipe surfaces. When this occurs, the pipes and fixtures

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Insulation solutions Conventional foam insulation comes in common lengths and diameters to support standard plumbing pipe diameters. The foam insulation has a slit down the length so that it can easily be slid over the pipe. Installing this plumbing pipe insulation is very easy and inexpensive to do. All you need is a utility knife and some electrical tape for sealing seams. There is also self-sealing foam insulation. With this type of foam insulation, an adhesive along the slit is protected by clear plastic tape. After slipping the self-sealing foam insulation over the plumbing pipes, simply remove the plastic tape and press the two edges of the seam together to form a tight seal. For a more robust solution, hire a professional to come in and apply spray foam insulation over the plumbing pipes. This solution, however, is more expensive and makes it difficult to work on the pipes in the event of an issue.

There are multiple benefits to insulating plumbing pipes.

Reduction in heat gain and loss Insulated pipes save on home energy bills. For example, insulated hot water plumbing pipes lose

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How to grow a garden on patio or balcony By ANICA WONG Creators.com It seems as though more and more people have been bit by the urban gardening bug. With the grow-your-own food movement resurgence and a renewed focus on natural ingredients, home gardens are popping up left and right. Even without a large backyard or space to plant straight into the ground, patio and rooftop gardening is easily accessible and just as fun. Lara Burchfield, an avid home gardener, has had a patio garden for five years. “The great thing about a patio garden or balcony garden is the weed control,” she says. “You don’t get a lot of weeds when you are gardening in containers.” On the flipside, keeping your soil moist in the containers can be tough. While most people might be tempted to garden in big, gorgeous terra cotta pots, Burchfield cautions against them as they don’t hold moisture. “Plastic pots are really inexpensive, and a lot of the time you can ask your local nursery for some and they are happy to give you used ones,” she suggests. Burchfield, who is studying to become a master gardener, is a huge fan of organic potting soil. She then mixes in homemade organic compost. Once you have the containers and soil, the next step is to fig-

ure out your home’s level of sun exposure. If gardening on a rooftop, be cautious of overexposing your plants to the sun. Creating some sort of shade covering can dull the direct light. With a patio garden, check to see how much sunlight the area gets at different times of the day. “For example, I am not going to plant tomatoes on a balcony that faces north that has only a minimum of an hour sun exposure,” says Burchfield, referencing that tomatoes need at least six hours of sunlight each day to grow. Once you have the potting area set and know the amount of sunlight you can expect your plants to receive, the fun begins. Decide what kind of space you are trying to create with your patio or rooftop garden. Do you want a garden that supplies food? Or is this garden going to be a place of serenity to get away from it all? Maybe you really like succulents and want to create that type of garden. Are you looking to attract insects? By keeping in mind your end goal, you can choose plants fitting your vision. Burchfield suggests getting in touch with your local extension office for ideas on which plants work best in your climate. These offices, as well as botanic gardens in your city, can help point you in the right direction. The last step is not to get dis-


Succulents, such as this carrion plant, are great for apartments. couraged. “Don’t beat yourself up if you kill a plant in the process; it is all trial and error the first

couple months when your garden is installed,” Burchfield says. “Until you have been gardening for a

couple years in the same location you may have some hiccups along the way.”

It is possible to reduce mosquitoes and bug bites your gutters cleaned. Gutters and clogged storm drains attract mosquitos, so having a professional do the job is a sound investment. Use caution if you’re planning to clear out your own. ■■ Repair leaking outdoor faucets, and dispose of leaky garden hoses. ■■ Water your lawn carefully, without creating puddles and muddy patches. ■■ Talk to your garden center about recommended organic in-

secticides. You’ll be instructed on the proper application of insecticides, such as applying them to lower limbs of trees using a garden hose sprayer. Or, you might opt to hire a professional lawn service company to undertake this task for you, using approved and safe chemicals. ■■ Generally, bug zappers don’t reduce mosquito populations by much. They target larger insects like moths instead. Therefore, these may not be ideal as your

Jasper Community Arts Commission (JCAC)

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sole tactic to reduce mosquitoes in your yard, say the experts at University of Kentucky. Citronella candles and oils can provide some relief, especially when used in sitting areas. And those with a pleasant smell can add to the spring and summertime ambiance of your outdoor play and entertainment. Scout out organic citronella products, and keep small children and pets away from these and other mosquito repellant products.

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306 N. Main St., Jasper



Yvonne Meyer Associate Broker 812-309-0450 Se Habla Español





Matt Mauntel Associate Broker 812-639-9368

Gary Ramsey Associate Broker 812-486-9461


Few things are more annoying than mosquitoes, especially when you have a great outdoor terrace and pool area you’d like to enjoy without itchy memories. Even worse than those itchy bumps are the diseases that can be transmitted by mosquito bites. The New York State Department of Health says that several species of mosquitoes can transmit eastern equine encephalitis, West Nile virus and other viral infections that can cause serious illness and even death. That said, there are many ways to reduce the amount of mosquitoes in your yard. “The most effective way to reduce the number of mosquitoes around your home is to find and eliminate their breeding sites: standing water,” say the experts at University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment. ■■ Dispose of old buckets and watering cans that you may leave out as décor in your gardens; these receptacles hold water, providing an ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes. Empty accumulated water from trash cans, wheelbarrows and flower pot bot-

toms. Even small collections of water can give mosquitoes a place to breed. Included in this are pet water dishes. Bring them in after use, and only put them out when your pet will need a drink. Turn all empty receptacles over when not in use. ■■ Change water in birdbaths at least once a week. ■■ Empty out wading pools and store them away when not in use. ■■ Keep swimming pools wellmaintained and chlorinated; dirty pool water can attract mosquitoes. ■■ If you have ornamental ponds, make sure they’re aerated and stocked with mosquito-eating fish. Water movement helps ward off mosquitoes, because the insects prefer quiet, non-moving water for their egg-laying and development, say University of Kentucky experts. ■■ Fill or drain any swampy areas in your yard to eliminate standing water. Tree holes and septic tank depressions can be ideal breeding grounds. ■■ If your children or pets like to play with old tires, such as a tire swing, remove these from your yard, since the shape of tires creates an ideal setting for mosquito breeding. ■■ On a regular basis, have


By SHARON NAYLOR Creators.com



Apartment décor: Don’t break lease or bank By BRANDON TELLE Creators.com Living in an apartment can really cramp your style. Lease agreements typically prevent tenants from doing anything to their space that is deemed damaging to the property. This can include repainting, replacing lighting or water fixtures and, in extreme cases, even putting nails in the walls. All of these restrictions can lead to years of living in a white-walled pit of despair. Fear not, my apartment-dwelling compatriot! There are many ways to make an apartment your own without breaking the rules you agreed to by barely reading and signing your lease agreement. Simple things such as artwork and lighting can go a long way. Below is a list of some ways to break your apartment’s monotony without breaking your lease. ■■ Incorporate creative lighting solutions. Apartment lighting can be drab. By introducing standing lamps in multiple corners of a room, you can soften and disperse the light in a room to give it a homier feel. Because you can decide where to put them, standing lamps and table lamps will also provide you with more control over how and where your room is lit. ■■ Add some color to those lights. Introducing color to a room can be a challenge if your lease prevents you from painting walls. One way to add color to a room is


A cart makes a good improvised bar in an apartment. to replace a standard white light bulb with a colored one. Hardware stores are sure to carry multiple colors in varying wattages. High-tech apartment dwellers can check out LIFX Wi-Fi light bulbs, which can be adjusted for color and brightness via their smartphone application. ■■ Use inexpensive carts as

decorative storage. Seeing as you are not able to remodel your apartment to add storage spaces, finding a place for all of your stuff can be a challenge. Small storage carts, such as Ikea’s Raskog, are ideal for both expanding your storage options and decorating a corner of a room. Place your whiskey bottles and some glasses on the

Gable vents increase energy efficiency By MARK J. DONOVAN Creators.com Maintaining your attic at an ambient temperature is crucial for keeping down your home energy costs. Installing gable vents in your attic can help significantly in keeping your attic cooler during the summer months and provide value during winter months as well. An extremely hot attic, caused by inadequate attic ventilation, makes your air conditioning system work much harder to keep the upper stories of your home cool and comfortable. That extra effort translates into higher energy bills. Also, an overheated attic can dramatically shorten the life of asphalt shingles, eventually leading to roof leaks and water damage to your home. In the cold winter months, gable vents, working in concert with soffit vents, help to draw out warm moist air that may work its way up into your attic from the finished lower levels of the home. By ensuring the attic stays at an ambient outside temperature, the risk of ice dams forming on the roof eaves is significantly mitigated. Ice dams form when warm moist air gets trapped in the attic. This heats up the roof sheathing and causes the snow that is in direct contact with the roof shingles to melt. When it does, it runs down to the roof eaves, where it then freezes. Over time, this melting and refreezing cycle creates ice dams that can lead to water damage and harm the roof shingles. Warm moist air trapped in an attic, due to the lack of gable vents or ridge vents, can also lead to mold and mildew growth, which is both detrimental to the home and to the health of its occupants. As the warm moist air rises and comes in contact with the cooler temperature roof sheathing and See VENTS on Page 24

roof rafters, it will condense and form small water droplets that stay attached to the wood lumber. These water droplets can, and often do, act as miniature petri dishes for growing mold. Gable vents, as the name implies, are located on the gable ends of a home, typically located near the peak of the roof. In some cases, they are the sole attic vents. This is a mistake. Soffit vents also are necessary to help draw cool air into the attic, and the gable vents or ridge vents are used to expel the rising warm air. Gable vents are an alternative to installing ridge vents. Ridge vents run along the entire peak of a roof line. Gable vents serve a

similar purpose as the ridge vents, but are more aesthetically pleasing. Gable vents come in a variety of shapes, styles and sizes and are constructed out of various materials including; wood, vinyl or metal. The most common gable vent shapes are rectangular or octagon. They have a series of slats, or louvers, on them to prevent rain, snow and wind from entering into the attic. They also typically have a screen attached to prevent insects, bats and other rodents from entering the attic. Some more sophisticated gable vents include fans that help to expel the hot air out of the attic and to draw cool air in via the soffit vents. Alternatively, one gable

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cart for an improvised bar, or put your towels and shower products on the cart to have a freestanding shower caddy. ■■ Cover up boring walls with canvas. How do you cover up huge expanses of empty white

walls without paint? Hang some pictures. Get some canvas wall art. Put anything on those walls to prevent your guests (and yourself) from going snow-blind in the white emptiness. ■■ Use wall stickers. “But I can’t put nails in my walls,” you may be shouting into your newspaper at this very second. Rest assured that you have options, too. Your new favorite company, Blik, produces large decorative stickers for your boring walls. With dozens of designs and themes to choose from, there’s sure to be a set that matches your taste. ■■ Forget the rules. Sometimes rules are meant to be broken. Hang that picture. Paint that wall. Replace those switch covers. Just make sure, for the sake of your security deposit, that you can undo anything you change. Before moving out, paint the walls the right color (whether or not your landlord plans on painting again) and use a spackling compound to fill in the holes in your walls. ■■ This list is far from comprehensive. There are a million different ways to make your sterile apartment your own. For more decorating ideas, head to Pinterest, Tumblr or your neighborhood Ikea. Like most things in life, how much you enjoy living in your apartment really depends on how much effort you put into it.

N ow Is A G re a t Tim e To Buy O r S e ll Your H om e ! Phil Ahrens, Associate Broker

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812-482-6080 120 3rd A ve.,Ja sper, IN E a ch O ffice Independently O w ned & O pera ted

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Add some flavor with your own herb garden By JULIA PRICE Creators.com An herb garden is the best way for novice gardeners to get started. Herbs generally are easier to grow than vegetables and don’t take up very much space. Some herbs, such as parsley, are packed with vitamins and other nutrients, including calcium. Having fresh herbs in the kitchen will transform cooking and brighten up the space. Trust me; I have gotten tons of compliments for mine when friends come by my apartment for get-togethers. Location is key. You can place your herb garden on a table or a windowsill where the garden will receive plenty of natural sunlight. If that is not an option, undercounter lights can be used as a light source. Just place your herbs under the cabinet, turn on the light and watch those babies grow! In an herb garden, the roots do not need much space, so a small planter is ideal. You can even spruce up your living space with some interesting containers, such as Handy Pantry’s planter box made with reclaimed barn wood or something unique from your local garden store. Don’t forget the soil. Any potting soil from a garden supply store will do the trick. Seeds can be found in all sorts of places, from garden stores to supermarkets. I encourage all gardeners at every level to use seeds from local seed banks. Seed banks collect and produce local seeds to store and redistribute. This is a great way to contribute to and be a part of the local food market.

Mint is a relatively easy plant to maintain. JULIA PRICE CREATORS.COM

A few great herbs to start with are basil, parsley and oregano. These are common herbs that are easy to include in everyday cooking. You want your herb garden to

reflect you, your passion and your taste. Figure out what seasonings you use most and incorporate them into your own garden. Soon enough, your kitchen and cooking

Wide variety of gadgets available By JEFF RUGG Creators.com Have you received enough garden catalogs in the mail yet? After you get a dozen or so, it becomes hard to decide which seeds to order. I try to pick specialties that are only available from each catalog. When my eyes start to glaze over, I will drift to the back of the catalog. It seems that every one of them has a gardening supplies section with new tools, gadgets and lots of kitchen utensils. Here are a few you may have missed. The Territorial Seed catalog has the H2gO wheelbarrow water bag, which fits and fills a wheelbarrow. I sometimes need to carry a 5-gallon bucket of water to the back of the yard. It not only is heavy, but also splashes. The bag is FDA food grade and can hold 20 gallons. It won’t slip out of the wheelbarrow. Did you ever want to make your own peanut butter or sunflower oil? The home oil press from Territorial Seed lets you make fresh oils and nut butters for use in cooking, soaps and beauty products. I love stuffed peppers and baked apples. The Totally Tomatoes catalog has a nonstick baking pan designed to hold peppers, tomatoes, artichokes, apples and pears. Just about every garden in America will have a tomato plant. And just about every gardener is going to eat a freshly sliced tomato before it even gets to the table or the top of a burger. To get perfect tomato slices without smashing the tomato, try the tomato holder from the R.H. Shumway’s catalog. The White Flower Farm catalog has potato grow bags. These are soft-sided fabric bags that hold 15 gallons of potting soil. The bags promote healthy roots and make harvesting much easier. These

potato bags can be used anywhere there is enough sunshine for the plant to do well. Speaking of gardening where the sun is shining, many gardens don’t have much sun. The sunny spot moves during the day. It would be nice to have a garden that could be moved with the sun. The

Gardener’s Supply catalog has the solution. A cedar box 4 feet long, 2 feet wide and 14 inches deep is a good-sized garden planter. Aluminum corners hold it together, and wheels that are 16 inches in diameter make it mobile. It can be fitted with a 5-gallon watering reservoir to make it self-watering.

(or takeout) will be transformed. For those of you short on time, there is an even easier way to create your own herb garden. Urban Farmer has self-starting herb gar-

den kits. This is the easiest way to bring fresh food into your kitchen. If you’ve thought you don’t have time for a garden, this may be just what you are looking for.

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Landscape water hole with pool-ready plants By CHELLE CORDERO Creators.com After the harsh winter most of our nation has experienced, the thought of warm weather and swimming pools may seem like a dream. Backyard swimming pools have become lovely personal oases and family staycation opportunities. Functional doesn’t have to be “blah.” You can dress up your pool area and create an attractive resort in your own yard. Before you choose plants or a landscaping layout, study the pool area and the grounds for sunlight, slopes, drainage and nearby foliage. Is your pool above ground or in-ground? Do you need more privacy or an unobstructed view to keep an eye on your children? If you have lighting around your pool for nighttime dipping, make sure plants and bushes do not obscure the lights. Of course, your plans should take into consideration your normal year-round and seasonal climates. Allow for drainage between your plants and pool decking so that runoff will not wind up in the pool’s filtration system. Choose plants that will not overgrow the pool in height or overrun it with branches or roots. These plants may eventually plunge your swimming hole into a permanent shade, cause cracks or tears to a liner, or drop leaves and branches into the water. Avoid plants that drop bothersome nettles, drip sap on the ground and nearby walkways, or attract wildlife or insects because of flowers, fruits (like berries) or scent. All plants do tend to drop their leaves occasionally, but broad leaves are easier to clean out of the water and pool filter than tiny leaves and nettles. Low-growing bushes generally do well around an aboveground pool without obscuring the view or overhanging the pool water. Plant bushes a few feet from the pool and decking to avoid damage from roots. In-ground pools look good with ornamental groundcov-

ers. Visit a local nursery to see which ones fare best in your region. Bushes ideally should have no more than 4 feet of potential growth. Chain-link safety fencing provides excellent support for climbing ivy, which in turn will provide more privacy to your swimming area. Another great idea is to use a variety of potted and hanging plants around your pool area. Potted and hanging plants also look great as edging for stone and brick walkways and will not creep under the bricks or stones to cause unsightly tufts of vegetation or push stones out of place. Heated pools and sunlight re-

fection may create a greenhouse effect on nearby plants. Brick and concrete pool patios will retain more heat from the sun. Potted plants will need watering and more maintenance than plants in the ground. If you are placing potted plants on concrete or brick, keep the pot raised from the surface to allow more air to circulate. While chlorinated water rarely causes harm to hardy plants, constant splashing may cause minor discoloration of ornamental leaves. Pools and sunshine go together, so use mulch around your in-ground plantings to retain moisture that would otherwise be lost to the hot sun. Avoid placing

picnic and barbecue areas, birdbaths and feeders, or food-producing gardens too close to the pool. If you want your backyard to look like an oasis and have a reasonable area to landscape, use full, lush and colorful foliage to make it look like a welcoming tropical paradise. Depending on your climate (growing zone), some favorite choices for pool landscaping include foliage like golden euonymus, heavenly bamboo and papyrus. Good flowering plants include daylilies, birds-of-paradise and hibiscus. The closer you are to the actual pool and pool deck area the lower the plant height should be. Back-

ground trees should be planted far enough away from the pool so that it doesn’t shade the water or risk dropping leaves and branches onto the swimming or seating area. Some popular backyard trees are fruitless olive, red gum trees and queen palms. If you have enough room, plan a shady lounging area, as well. Non-plant-life decor for your retreat might include rock gardens, water fountains, trellised walkways and sheltered lounging. Whatever plants and other ornamentation you decide to use around your pool, aim to keep the maintenance low so that you can spend more time taking a dip with the family.

Vents (Concluded from Page 22) vent on one side of the house may have a fan to draw outside air into the attic, and the gable vent on the opposite side of the home may have a fan to expel air. Gable vents typically are installed during the construction of the home. However, they can also be retrofitted if additional attic venting is deemed necessary. To install gable vents into an existing gable wall, a 2-by-4-inch or 2-by-6 frame has to be installed in the attic to support the gable vent. Then the house sheathing and siding needs to be cut out to slide the gable vent into the frame. It is then nailed into place and the exterior house siding patched. An exteriorgrade caulk should then be used around the outside perimeter of the gable vent.

426 Wernsing Road P.O. Box 408 Jasper, IN 47547-0408

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Hwy. 231 S., Jasper (812) 482-9696 (877) 482-9696 Visit us on the web www.hopfoutdoor.com E-Mail us at: info@hopfequipment.com

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