Spring Home Improvement
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2 • wednesday, march 20, 2013
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If you’re yearning to grow flowers or vegetables but are short on space or have limited mobility, Extension horticulturist David Trinklein suggests giving container gardening a try. Container gardening allows for creativity in a small space and, since plants can be moved inside in the spring and fall, lets gardeners extend the growing season, Trinklein said. Additionally, container gardens are less prone to disease and insect infestation than traditional gardens. “Gardeners have discovered that containers filled with vibrant colors can create a dramatic effect,” he said. Garden containers can supply an abundance of fresh vegetables in limited spaces. Apartment dwellers and older gardeners especially appreciate the advantages of container gardening. “Containers give you more ‘bang for the buck’ than beds and borders, especially in high pedestrian traffic areas,” Trinklein said. Container gardens include miniature gardens, window boxes, planting bags, hanging baskets and containers such as clay pots and old whiskey barrels, he said. There are new varieties of vegetables developed specifically for container gardens, such as On Deck, a dwarf sweet corn suited for urban and small-area gardeners. Trinklein offers some tips for those interested in container gardening. • Containers. Pick a contain-
er that you can move around—into and out of the sunlight, or from the front yard to the back yard. Containers should be at least 2 1/2 quarts, light in color, sturdy and durable. Clay pots “breathe” the best, letting air get to the roots. Plastic pots generally will confine the root system. Galvanized pots can be highly toxic to plants, but if you want to use one for decoration, put a plastic pot inside it. • Soil. Use a soilless growing medium such as a combination of peat, vermiculite and perlite. Find a medium you like and stick with it. Resist the temptation to buy whatever is on sale, as brands of growing media differ in amount and quality of ingredients. For most settings, soil is not a satisfactory container medium. It tends to lack the drainage of soilless media and brings weed seeds and disease pathogens to the mix. • Fertilizer. Because they do not contain soil, container gardens need more fertilizer than traditional gardens. Use water-soluble fertilizer that contains all major nutrients. It is best to use continuous liquid fertilizing. “Just as we like a couple of meals a day, so does a plant,” Trinklein says. Feed with a dilute nutrient solution every time you water, or use a slow-release fertilizer. • Sun and shade. Plants have different requirements for sun and shade. If you have a choice, choose morning sun over afternoon sun. Morning sun dries the leaves and reduces the chance of fungal infestations. Check pots that are in the sun daily, and even more often on the hottest days, as
pots dry out quickly. • Water. More plants are killed from overwatering than underwatering, though containers dry out more quickly than beds or borders containing soil. Waterabsorbing crystals can help reduce moisture loss. Some experts recommend leaving at least 2 inches between the top of the soil and the top of the pot to allow the gardener to fill the space with water and move on to the next pot. • Design. Trinklein says that for maximum effect, flower container gardens should include three items: a thriller, a filler and a
spiller. The thriller, or focal point, might be an unusual or bright upright plant or flower. The thriller’s color should dominate the container. A filler could be a lowergrowing, less vibrantly colored plant. The spiller is a trailing vine or flower that spills down the sides of the container. • Good neighbors make good container gardens. Choose plants that will not crowd each other and that have the same requirements for light, soil, temperature and water. Tropical plants are usually good choices for container gardens, Trinklein said.
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Decorating tips for making a rental space your own It’s yours, but it isn’t. A rented apartment or house can be a wonderful place to live, and a challenging place to decorate. The restrictions are many: Landlords often want their white walls to stay white. Many won’t let you do even the most minor construction. Some even ask renters not to nail anything to the walls. Complicating things further, many rental properties have small rooms and no-frills, builder-grade light fixtures, doors and cabinetry with little personality. How can you inject some of your personality into a rented space without enraging your landlord? The first step is to go all in. “So often people think of their rental as not theirs, and therefore go through life not creating a beautiful home or nest,” says designer Kyle Schuneman, author of “The First Apartment Book: Cool Design for Small Spaces” (Potter Style, 2012). “Life is too short to not create a sanctuary that represents your unique vision.” Home decorating blogger Wanda Hoffs gives the same advice to her readers at recreateanddecorate.com. As an Army wife, Hoffs has lived in many rental properties around the country and has learned to decorate each one as if it were truly hers. Here are five ideas from Hoffs and Schuneman that can help you embrace your rented space. PLAN CAREFULLY “Usually rentals are small, and I am a firm believer in function before form,” Schuneman says. “Sometimes it’s a puzzle piece to get those ‘must haves’ into your space — the desk, the bed, the couch.” He suggests using old items in new ways: Does the desk become a footboard? Should a small bookcase from your old living room be tucked into the corner of your new kitchen? If your current furniture doesn’t fit well into a rental, Hoffs suggests spending wisely on new items. Rather than buying an expensive new piece that fits your rental perfectly, “use thrift store furniture and paint it yourself,” she says. Used furniture can be “so inexpensive that you can sell it at a yard sale if need be” when you decide to move out of the rental. “It’s not about where you buy it,” Hoffs likes to tell her blog audience. “It’s how you use it.”
CHANGE WALLS WITH LITTLE OR NO PAINT “Wallpaper used to be only for the homeowner crowd,” Schuneman says, “but now with companies like Tempaper, you can put up temporary wallpaper that peels on and peels back off when you’re ready to move.” Hoffs suggests using wall decals, which now come in a huge range of styles and sizes, or even duct tape. “It comes in many great colors and patterns,” she says, “and can be used on a wall in many different patterns, such as the trending chevron pattern, stripes, or even to create a border around a wall grouping.” If you want to do just a bit of painting that could be easily repainted before you move out, Hoffs and Schuneman both suggest painting a stenciled design on one wall. Or paint a band of bold color along the top of your walls. To make the eventual repainting easier, Hoffs says, “always know the original color and brand of paint.” INFUSE WITH COLOR “If you’re afraid to touch your walls or have a really difficult landlord,” Schuneman says, “bring in the color through fabrics and textures around the room. If you leave your walls white, hang a bold curtain on the windows and a coordinating couch that really pops.”
Hoffs agrees: “Fabric can be a great, inexpensive way to add color, pattern and texture to a room. It can be framed or stapled to a large art canvas to be hung on the walls,” to add a burst of color. You can also attach fabric temporarily to a wall using spray starch. Lush plants are another option: “Bring in plants to add life, color and to warm up your home,” Hoffs says. Even if you’re not a gardening expert, “there are many lowmaintenance ones for those who do not have a green thumb.” When it’s time to move, they’re easy to take with you. THE FLOOR IS YOUR FIFTH WALL “Your floors are a blank slate for design,” Schuneman says. “Treat it as your fifth wall and find a beautiful rug to ground the whole space.” Schuneman is a fan of FLOR carpet tiles, which can be arranged to make what appears to be a rug of any size. “I love using FLOR tiles for rentals because they can be put together in different configurations when you move and can be personalized, so only you have that certain pattern that represents your style,” he says. MAKE TEMPORARY SWAPS Although you can’t change the cabinets in your rented kitchen or bath, Hoffs points out that you can swap out the hardware on doors and drawers at a very small cost. “You can always change these
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4 • wednesday, march 20, 2013
Get a jump on spring gardening Source: David Trinklein, 573-882-9631
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Gardeners willing to put in a bit of effort can jump-start this year’s vegetable or flower garden by starting seeds indoors. Tender seeds need the right amount of heat, light and water to germinate and thrive, says David Trinklein, horticulture specialist. Accurate temperature control is important to help the immature plant emerge from its seed, Trinklein said. “That’s best done using a system that employs bottom heat.” One way to apply bottom heat is to place electrical resistance cables under the germination trays to keep the germination medium at a constant 78 degrees Fahrenheit. Light is also important. Some species need light for seed germination, and all species need light after germination. “We don’t want those seedlings, once they do break out from under the germination medium, to be light-starved,” Trinklein said. “That causes what we call etiolated seedlings – very stretchy, leggy plants that will not thrive when transplanted.” Sufficient water is required to help soften the hard seed coat and activate enzymes that trigger germination. “The best way to hydrate the germination medium is from below,” Trinklein said. “Place the seed tray in a tray of tepidly warm water, let it imbibe as much water as it can, then let it drain and return it to the germination location.” How long will it take seeds to germinate? It depends on the species. “Cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower will take only a couple of days,” he said. “There are others, tomato and pepper, that might take five, seven or 10 days.” How deep should you plant a seed? A common rule of thumb is to cover seeds three to five times their thickness, but Trinklein said that’s not always easy since most of us don’t have a micrometer to measure the width of tomato seeds. But don’t fret. Using a light, soilless germination medium makes seed depth less
critical. “Covering them too deeply is much less of a problem because it’s easy for these plants to push up through the light medium,” he said. “Of course, those species whose seeds require light to germinate should not be covered at all,” he added. Germination is complete once the seedlings have fully emerged, meaning you don’t see any new plants coming up. Then it’s time to move seedlings to a growingon container such as plastic bedding-plant cell packs. Then move the seedlings from the germination medium into a growing medium, sometimes simply called potting soil. “Most commercially available growing media are mixtures of sphagnum peat moss, vermiculite and perlite,” Trinklein said. “The difference is the growing medium has a bit more peat moss and bit less vermiculite and perlite, allowing it to hold more water for the growing plants.” That first watering after transplant should be half-strength nutrient solution, he said. It may seem like a lot of work and a long list of requirements to germinate seeds indoors. Wouldn’t it be easier to wait and plant seeds directly into the garden later? Trinklein says there are many benefits to starting seeds early. “You can pick varieties that might not be available in yard and garden stores,” Trinklein said. “Starting seeds early allows you to use the best-quality seeds, and you can control the timing.” Germination 101 Cut open a seed and you’ll see a miracle. A tiny, embryonic plant waits inside, ready to break free of its seed coat, grow roots and push up through the soil. Both internal and external conditions
In every gardener there is a child who believes in The Seed Fairy.” ~ Writer Robert Braul
must be right for germination to succeed: Water • Most seeds are dry and need significant amounts of water— enough to moisten but soak them. • Water uptake, called imbibition, causes the seed to swell, breaking the seed coat. • The seed leaves, or cotyledons, contain food reserves for seedling growth. • By the time the food reserves are used up the plant is ready for photosynthesis. Oxygen • Needed for aerobic respiration, which releases energy stored in the seed. • Found in soil pore spaces. • A seed buried too deeply can become waterlogged and oxygenstarved. Temperature • Affects cellular metabolic and growth rates. • Optimum germination temperatures vary from species to species. • Seeds have a temperature range and will not germinate above or below that range.
Light and darkness • Can be an environmental stimulus for the germination in some species. • Once the seedling breaks through soil, it requires light for photosynthesis. Media • Should be fine in texture. • Should be of uniform consistency. • Should be well-aerated and loose. • Should be free of insects, disease organisms, nematodes and weed seeds. • Do not start seedlings in garden soil, which is too heavy, does not drain well and isn’t sterile. Containers for germination and growth • Peat pellets, peat pots or plastic bedding-plant packs can be used. • Bottoms of milk cartons, cottage cheese, sour cream or yogurt containers can be used. • Make adequate drainage holes in the bottom of reused containers. • Sterilize reused containers before use: Wash in soap and water, then soak for five minutes in a solution of one part chlorine bleach to nine parts water.
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Tips for a healthy lawn Source: Brad Fresenburg, 573-884-8785
Homeowners looking forward to a lush, green lawn this spring and summer should take care not to overdo it, says an Extension turfgrass specialist. That goes for mowing, fertilizing, watering and applying herbicides. Good lawn-care practices can have bad results if not done at the right time, at the right frequency and in the right amount, says Brad Fresenburg. Many homeowners who put fertilizer on their lawns every spring are rewarded with fast growth and rich green color. But after that spurt of growth, an overfertilized lawn may be more vulnerable to disease and less able to withstand the stresses of heat, drought and pests. “We don’t recommend just making random applications of fertilizer without knowing what the nutrient needs of the lawn are,” Fresenburg said. “Soil testing tells the homeowner the nutrient needs of the lawn.” Soil tests are available through county Extension centers for a nominal fee. Soil test reports include specific recommendations for applying fertilizer, lime and other amendments based on what you are growing, whether it’s turfgrass, vegetables, flowers or trees. For more information, contact the Extension center in your county. If you have thin spots in the lawn that you want to over-seed with new grass, Fresenburg recommends doing that by midMarch so seedlings are estab-
lished in time to compete against weeds. To ensure good soil-seed contact, scratch up the surface with a garden rake or power rake to prepare a seedbed. “Then sprinkle the seed in that thin area and rake it in lightly,” he said. Getting seedlings established early is especially important if you plan to combat weeds with a pre-emergent herbicide. Preemergents prevent seeds from germinating, and they generally don’t discriminate between the seeds of weedy plants and those of the plants you’re trying to grow. “If you can get at least one mowing on that new seedling grass, that’s generally considered established enough to use a pre-emergent herbicide,” he said. “If it looks like your seed is not going to germinate and establish well enough, you may have to hold off on that preemergent until next year.” A traditional rule of thumb for pre-emergents in spring is to apply when forsythias are in bloom, but many homeowners who did that last year missed the best time for control of crabgrass and other summer annual weeds. For proper timing, soil temperature is your best indicator, Fresenburg said. “We generally recommend pre-emergent herbicides going down when soil temperatures reach 55 degrees in the surface for about five consecutive days,” he said. You can determine this simply by pushing a thermometer into the top inch of soil. Daily soil
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Frank Carlton 417-448-9307 • 417-667-0632 temperatures at sites across the state are available at agebb.missouri.edu/weather/reports/soilTemp2.asp. Some pre-emergents herbicides also contain fertilizer. If overfertilization is a concern, Fresenburg suggests looking for an herbicide-only product. While some might be tempted to cut their grass short so they won’t have to mow as often, Fresenburg notes that letting grass grow higher creates a canopy that deprives upstart weeds of light and space. “Weeds are basically there due to a lack of competition from the lawn,” he said. “If homeowners can maintain a healthy, dense lawn and mow at 3 1/2 to 4 inches, they can reduce summer annual weed populations up to 80 percent without the use of a pre-emergent. Also, a corn-gluten-based organic fertilizer can provide up to 60 percent control of summer annual weeds, and in combination with the taller, dense lawn, homeowners can expect nearly 100 percent control.” Despite concerns about ongoing drought, homeowners shouldn’t be too quick to pull out the garden hose, Fresenburg said. If you let the soil dry slightly and the grass wilt a little
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Mildew starts with few little spots, then spreads It may start with a couple of small dark spots on the grout where the shower stall meets the tiled wall. A few days later, they multiply. Mildew. “For most people it’s just kind of an ugly pain. Their bathroom gets these black stains,” said Ken Collier, editor-in-chief of The Family Handyman. For others, though, “it’s an allergen, like cat hair, dog hair,” he said. If it’s not removed, it can result in respiratory problems or other allergy symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Mold and mildew, which the Federal Emergency Management Agency calls “mold in early stage,” can grow on a wide range of surfaces as long as moisture is present, and they can give your house a musty smell. “It’s an indication of dampness, like in bathrooms that are not ventilated very well,” said Kathie Birenbaum, who works in households at a hardware store. “Molds can gradually destroy the things they grow on,” the Environmental Protection Agency says in a pamphlet for consumers on its website. “You can prevent damage to your home and furnishings, save money and avoid potential health problems by controlling moisture and eliminating mold growth.” It’s important to do both — control the moisture and clean up the mold — to keep it from grow-
ing back, the EPA says. Cleaning large areas — more than 10 square feet, the EPA says — might require a contractor trained in mold removal. For smaller areas, it can be a do-ityourself job. Frequently, the bathroom is the first place that a homeowner or apartment dweller might notice mildew. “A lot of people take a shower, get out of the shower” and go on their way, Collier said. “Basically, they’ve left all this water on the walls and floor of the shower and surprise, surprise, the bathroom is damp and you find mildew growing on the grout.” Often, condensation — not a leak — is the source of the moisture, Collier said. “The bathroom fan is a big part of keeping the moisture level down in the bathroom,” he said. “If there isn’t one, put one in. If there’s a small one, put in a bigger one or use it more.” Opening the bathroom window also helps, as does more frequent cleaning, according to the EPA. Collier also suggests using a squeegee to wipe down the shower walls. There are many products available for cleaning mildew and mold, but homeowners also can mix their own. A bleach solution that CDC says should be “no more than 1 cup of bleach in 1 gallon of water” can be used to clean and kill mildew. “For the typical homeowner,
they would scrub it down really well with bleach water and then they should seal the grout, seal it once a year or so to keep it water tight,” Collier said. Wear protective gloves while cleaning. The CDC also recommends protective eyewear. If you can’t get rid of the mildew with bleach, you might have to dig out the grout and replace it, Collier said. For those looking for an environmentally friendlier alternative to bleach, Collier said one of the products that mold experts recommend is Concrobium, which also can be used as a fog if a whole room is affected. It’s not just bathrooms where you’ll find mold or mildew. “Sometimes people find it in closets where there’s limited air circulation, and where maybe there’s a cool wall and it’s humid,” Collier said. Or there could be condensation around heating ducts, and you’ll find a moldy patch on the ceiling. Moisture from roof leaks also can lead to growth of mold and mildew. If you paint over mildew, the paint likely will peel. Birenbaum says there special primers that
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Nick Escalante enjoys grilling his family’s meals a couple of times a week year-round, but doesn’t like cleaning the greasy mess that comes with it. So he uses a professional grill cleaner. “I really am not a fan of cooking food for my family on a grill that has leftover food from previous uses all over it,” says Escalante, 47. “They come and do the dirty work for us.” Proper grill maintenance can make cooking safer and extend the life of your barbecue. Celia Kuperszmid Lehrman, deputy home editor for Consumer Reports, says homeowners can do the job on their own. “There is not some huge skill set here that the average person can’t handle,” she says. Many quality grills sell for between $200 and $300. Doing your best to clean the appliance and then replacing it may be more cost-effective than paying for professional upkeep, she says. Whether you do it yourself or hire an expert, there is some regular upkeep required for your barbecue. That includes scraping grates before and after you cook, washing flavorizer bars occasionally, and emptying grease traps. Gas grillers should regularly check their propane tank and replace if it has corrosion or dents, and inspect and replace cracked or
brittle hoses, Kuperszmid Lehrman advises. Most grill parts, cleansers and tools can be purchased inexpensively at home stores. Check the manual to ensure you don’t use anything that could void your barbecue’s warranty. Jeffrey Krentzman, founder and owner of The BBQ Cleaner, recommends a professional grill cleaning at the start and end of barbecuing season, or more if you grill year-round. Professional grill cleaners take the barbecue apart; steam, spray or soak the pieces; and use special tools to scrub in spots the average homeowner may not easily reach. Many use foodsafe and environmentally friendly products designed for grills. Professional cleaners also advertise their services as making barbecues healthier by removing potentially cancer-causing substances from the grill. Those substances are produced when foods are cooked at high heat, and especially when meats are charred. The Department of Agriculture advises preventing flares when barbecuing
inhibit mold growth. Mona Weingarten wasn’t aware that there was mold in her house. She didn’t see anything or smell anything. But when one of the tiles on the bathroom floor became loose, she called a contractor to fix it and he discovered mold. Mold later was discovered elsewhere in her house. Weingarten, who has severe allergies, developed a fungal infection in her sphenoid sinus and had to have surgery. After spending tens of thousands of dollars on remediation and related costs, she now has an environmental engineer test her house every six months and remove any mold spores. She has the air filters in her heating and air conditioning system changed every three months, and a dehumidifier runs in her basement. “It’s not something you want to repeat,” she said. Online: http://www.epa.gov/ mold/pdfs/moldguide.pdf
for added food safety. You can do that by trimming fat, precooking to release fatty juices and keeping the barbecue free of greasy buildup. Besides not handling spilled or splattered grease from your barbecue and nearby flooring, Krentzman says one of the biggest bonuses when hiring a professional is that you don’t have to mess with propane. “We are dealing with the gas, so there’s not that risk,” he says. That was one of the selling points for Escalante, who says he tried cleaning and fixing a problem with the grill himself before calling a professional. “I thought I could save money and do it myself, but there was a little bit more to it than I expected,” he says. “I didn’t want it to blow up on me.” Escalante adds that he likes the barbecue he has and wants to keep it as long as possible. “I’m used to it,” he says. “I know how it works, and it works well.”
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Lawn Renewal and Renovation Tips to Create a Perfect Lawn this Season By gardening expert, TV/radio host & columnist Melinda Myers
The extreme heat and drought of 2012 was hard on lawns and gardens. Many gardeners are facing a blank slate of bare soil, masses of dead patches that were once lawn or a bit of grass interspersed in a sea of weeds. Start this spring to renovate or improve your weather-worn lawn. Remember that water is critical to get newly seeded and sodded lawns to survive. So be prepared to help nature along with your lawn’s recovery. Evaluate the damage. Then use the check list below to guide you to the best course of action to aid your ailing lawn. If your lawn is more than 60 percent weeds or bare soil you may want to start over. Use this opportunity to create a great foundation for growing a healthy lawn. Kill off the existing vegetation, add several inches of organic matter such as compost or peat moss and a low nitrogen slow release fertilizer into the top 6 to 8 inches of soil, and rake smooth. Select more drought tolerant grasses like rhizomatous (turftype) tall fescues, buffalo grass, and Habiturf® native lawn mix. Make sure the grass is suited to your climate and plant according to the label. Then sow the seeds, lightly rake and mulch or lay sod. Water often enough to keep the soil moist until the seeds sprout or the sod roots into the soil below. Then water thoroughly when the top few inches of soil are crumbly, but slightly moist to encourage deep roots. Fertilize new, existing and stressed lawns with a lowQuarry nitrogen Montevallo slow release fertilizer like Milor417-944-2282 ganite. It won’t harm stressed lawns, youngRich seedlings or newly Hill Quarry laid sod. It will encourage slow 417-395-3300 steady growth. Southern lawns El Dorado - Dever can be fertilized in April andQuarry again 417-876-0122 in early June. In the north fertilize around Memorial Day. And if 2013 turns into another hot dry
summer, it won’t burn the lawn. Mow high to encourage deeply rooted grass that is more drought tolerant and pest resistant. And mow often, removing only a third of the total height. And leave these short clippings on the lawn. They return moisture, nutrients, and organic matter to the soil. Repair small dead and bare patches as needed. Use a lawn patch kit, grass seed and mulch or make your own. For small spots, loosen the soil surface, sprinkle grass seed and lightly rake. Or mix a handful of grass seed in a bucket of topsoil. Sprinkle the mix over the soil surface. Do a bit more soil preparation when renovating larger dead areas in the lawn. Remove or kill any weeds that have filled in these areas. Till 2 inches of compost, peat moss or other organic matter into the top six inches of soil. Sow seed, rake and mulch or lay sod. Overseed thin and sparse lawn. First, core aerate the lawn to improve soil conditions and increase seed-to-soil contact. Spread grass seed over the aerated lawn and water as needed. Or rent a slit seeder or hire a professional with this type of equipment. These machines slice through the soil and drop the grass seed in place, increasing the seed-to-soil contact, needed for good germination. Core aerate lawns with more than one half an inch of thatch, those growing in compacted soils, or before overseeding. By removing plugs of soil you break through the thatch and create channels for water and fertilizer to reach the grass roots. Spot treat weeds on lawns that need minimal repair. Wait at least until fall to treat new and overseeded lawns. Spot treating minimizes the use of chemicals and reduces the stress on your already stressed lawn. As always read and follow label directions carefully. Proper maintenance and a bit of cooperation from nature will
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zine and writes the twice monthly “Gardeners’ Questions” newspaper column. Melinda also has a column in Gardening How-to magazine. Melinda hosted “The Plant Doctor” radio program for over 20 years as well as seven seasons of Great Lakes Gardener on PBS. She has written articles for Better Homes and Gardens and Fine Gardening and was a columnist and contributing editor for Backyard Living magazine. Melinda has a master’s degree in horticulture, is a certified arborist and was a horticulture instructor with tenure. Her web site is www. melindamyers.com
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more on their mortgages than their homes were worth to having some ownership stake, CoreLogic reported Tuesday. That benefits both home owners and the broader economy. When homeowners have some equity stake, it makes it easier for them to sell or borrow against their homes. Still, 10.4 million households, or 21.5 percent of those with a mortgage, remain “under water,” or owe more on their home than it is worth.
tion. Last year, builders broke ground on the most homes in four years. Homebuilders have become much more confident over the past year. But in March, a measure of home builder confidence fell for the second straight month over concerns that demand for new homes is exceeding supplies of land, building materials and workers. In the short term, that could slow sales. Still, the survey noted that the
The number of previously occupied homes for sale has fallen to its lowest level in 13 years. And the pace of foreclosures, while still rising in some states, has slowed sharply on a national basis. That means fewer low-priced foreclosed homes are being dumped on the market. Those trends, and the likelihood of further price gains, have led builders to step up construc-
outlook for sales over the next six months rose to its highest level in more than six years. Though new homes represent only a fraction of the housing market, they have an outsize impact on the economy. Each home built creates an average of three jobs for a year and generates about $90,000 in tax revenue, according to statistics from the homebuilders.
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ports helped drive gains on Wall Street. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 24 points in morning trading. Homebuilder stocks jumped. Hovnanian Enterprises rose 4.2 percent to $6.24, while Lennar Corp. rose 0.4 percent to $41.74. Housing starts jumped in the Northeast and Midwest, while they fell in the South and West. Permits rose in the South, West and Midwest, falling only in the Northeast. The U.S. housing market is recovering after stagnating for roughly five years. Steady job gains and near-record-low mortgage rates have encouraged more people to buy. In addition, more people are seeking their own homes after doubling up with friends and relatives in the recession. That’s leading to greater demand for apartments and single-family homes to rent. Still, the supply of available homes for sale remains low. That has helped push up home prices. They rose nearly 10 percent in January compared with 12 months earlier, according to CoreLogic, the biggest increase in nearly seven years. Higher prices mean that more Americans have equity in their homes. Last year, about 1.7 million Americans went from owing
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U.S. builders started more houses and apartments in February and received building permits for future construction at the fastest pace in 4 1/2 years. The increases point to a housing recovery that is gaining strength. The Commerce Department said that builders broke ground on homes last month at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 917,000. That’s up from 910,000 in January. And it’s the secondfastest pace since June 2008, behind December’s rate of 982,000. Single-family home construction increased to an annual rate of 618,000, the most in 4 1/2 years. Apartment construction also ticked up, to 285,000. The gains are likely to grow even faster in the coming months. Building permits, a sign of future construction, increased 4.6 percent to 946,000. That was also the most since June 2008, just a few months into the Great Recession. And the figures for January and December were also revised higher. Overall housing starts have risen 28 percent higher over the past 12 months. Separately, a private report showed the number of Americans with equity in their homes increased last year. That suggests one of the biggest drags from the housing crisis is easing. It could also clear the way for more people to put homes on the market. “The road ahead for housing is still, so far, looking promising,” Jennifer Lee, an economist at BMO Capital Markets, said in a note to clients. The pair of positive housing re-
2201 East Austin Nevada, MO 64772
U.S. housing starts rise, building permits increase to 4 1/2-year high