The 5 Best Self-Learning Smart Home Devices

Self-learning home devices learn your habits and adjust themselves accordingly for an unprecedented level of convenience.

Guest post by Jon Snyder

Picture this: You’ve had an exhausting week — all you want to do is go home and relax. It’s hot outside, but you arrive to a perfectly cooled home. As dusk rolls in, your blinds follow suit, as if they’re chasing the sunset. You make your way to your bedroom and practically crumble into bed. The lights dim as the temperature dips and you drift off into a peaceful sleep.

This might sound like a futuristic dream, but actually, it’s a reality. In today’s world, millions of smart gadgets are available to make your home more intelligent. But these “smart” devices are limited to homeowner’s programming capabilities, which is usually turning on and off at certain times. Genius? Not so much. Self-learning home devices are different. They learn your habits and adjust themselves accordingly for an unprecedented level of convenience.  Here, we’ll take a look at some of the best connected devices and the ways they can observe patterns, interpret data, or use artificial intelligence to help make your life easier.

  1. Self-Learning Thermostats

Keeping your house at an ideal temperate can be pricey. About 50 percent of your energy bill can be attributed to running the heat or air conditioning. A manual thermostat can be programmed to adjust temps at certain times but if you leave for vacation and forget to turn it off, you’re out of luck.

Smart thermostats are a game-changer. They can learn your favorite temp and make sure you’re never too hot or too cold. If you’ve cranked the AC a few days in a row, your thermostat will pick up on this pattern and adjust the temperature settings accordingly. And when you leave for work or a week-long vacation, sensors and GPS will alert your thermostat to automatically save energy (and money).

2.    Self-Learning Blinds

There’s nothing worse than being woken up at the crack of dawn on a weekend to sun beams hitting you square in the face. Or the opposite — you can’t seem to roll out of bed because the room is so dark that it must still be nighttime, right?

Smart blinds can help address both of these issues. The latest intelligent shades connect to your compatible smart-home systems and adjust themselves automatically. Simply program your shades to move your window treatments to your preference. And to take it one step further, some smart blinds can follow the sun to maintain the same level of light as the season’s change, which saves energy and money (without any effort on your part).

3.    Self-Learning Beds

Even your bed can have brainpower. Tech-savvy mattresses covers sync up with your thermostat and bedroom lighting for a full sensory experience. As you begin to snooze, the temperature and lights of your room and bed adjust to your preference. When you doze off completely, they adjust again or turn off completely. These self-learning mattress protectors can also track your sleep patterns and help you achieve your best night’s rest.

4.    Self-Learning Surveillance

Being able to keep an eye on your home while you are away is the ultimate peace of mind, as one in 36 homes are burglarized each year. Smart surveillance systems employ innovative learning technology like facial recognition to keep your home safe from unfamiliar faces. Some cameras also have self-learning video analytics, which automatically adjust their settings based on the scene conditions to give you the clearest view possible. Plus, they connect to Wi-Fi for 24/7 footage, pinged right to your smartphone from anywhere with internet.

5.    Self-Learning Spectrometer  

This might not seem like an everyday item, but smart food spectrometers are making waves in the kitchen. This tool interprets algorithms to understand food freshness, sweetness and quality. In real-time, it can determine if your meat has gone bad, if your whiskey is the real deal or if that farmer’s market fruit is fresh.

Bonus: Self-Learning Home Controller

As seen at the 2018 Consumer Electronic Show, a self-learning home controller takes your smart home gadgets and make them smarter. It uses artificial intelligence to understand your home patterns, picking up data from your smart appliances, lighting and electricity. It automates mundane tasks without scheduling or hassle to better manage your home and save money. Although it’s not available for purchase yet, this home controller could help smart gadgets reach their full potential.

 

As smart home gadgets continue to get smarter and learn on their own, it’ll be fascinating to see how they will predict our behavior to save energy, slash bills, and most importantly, make our lives better.

Perhaps one day, there will be no snoozing through alarms (your phone will know to wake you up), no burnt banana bread (your oven will know it’s fully baked), and no parties after midnight (your lights know bedtime is at 10PM). But hopefully these self-learning devices will learn that sometimes humans like to break the rules.

 

Jon Snyder is a Product Manager at Esurance, where he oversees countrywide design of property insurance products. Jon has over 25 years of experience in the insurance industry and he writes about a variety of topics, including smart home technology, homeowners insurance and the intersection of the two. You can learn more about Esurance’s homeowners insurance options by visiting their website

How to Create a Beautiful Drink Station for Your Backyard Party

Cool ideas for your next backyard party from our friends at The Home Depot.

By Lea Schneider

With an indoor party, you know that everyone is going to mingle in the kitchen no matter how hard you try to get them to spread out. Outdoors, you can be sure that everyone will huddle around the beverages. With that in mind, it’s time to deliberately make your outdoor drink station the focal point of the party.

From family reunions and holiday bbqs to outdoor weddings and graduation parties, the summer is ripe with celebration. A beautiful self-serve drink station means no one needs to stand around and pour drinks. Everyone gets to mingle and guests will have fun creating personalized concoctions.

You can go with just one theme and create a soda, lemonade or iced tea bar. Or, you can offer a little bit of everything. Adding some labels to dispensers or setting sings by the pitchers will allow guests to help themselves without seeking you out to ask which drink is which.

I love to help friends and family with life’s little celebrations. It’s easy to create a wow-factor beverage table. The really nice part is that you can get much of it ready ahead of time and simply carry it out into place on the day of the party. Creating a simple plan is key. I’ve put together the steps as well as some great ideas for your next summer event.

Be a Show Off

Since you are making the drink table front and center as a focal point, this is the time to show off. Start by deciding what you will use to hold everything. Folding tables or saw horses with tablecloths or even quilts are a good starting point. You can really glam things up by carrying out a decorative dresser or sideboard for the day.

The old adage that we eat with our eyes applies to beverages too. The fruit punch or lemonade might taste the same no matter what you put it in, but it will look amazing in a glass beverage dispenser, pitcher or punch bowl so the colors shine and the fruit is seen.

For visual appeal, choose glass bottles over canned beverages if you are offering individual drinks. Nestling the bottles in the ice makes everyone crave a cold drink. You can really have some fun with this idea by using interesting containers instead of hiding the drinks in a cooler. Dunk them in a galvanized bucket. Fill up a wheelbarrow, washtub or red wagon with ice and tuck in the bottles. For a baby shower, you could even use a baby bathtub. As long as the container is sturdy enough to hold the ice and drinks, you can let your imagination run wild.

Remember to set out a pitcher of water, as well as some sugar-free drinks like unsweetened iced tea, for guests who can’t consume sugar or just want an alternative option.

Keep Your Cool

Of course the key to an outdoor cold drink station is ice—and plenty of it! You’ll want to make sure to stock up on ice and have some on back up. A great tip for handling ice for a group is to get a freestanding ice maker. These countertop appliances are small and handy, yet they make pounds of ice. They can easily be left out for the party and then tucked in the cabinet until needed again.

Make It Fun

Continue the fun and grab colorful drink containers. For an outdoor event, you can get creative and use anything from glasses to mason jars to bright plastic tumblers. Even if you go the disposable cup route, you can still glam them up with tiny paper umbrellas or cute nametags.

Sugared rims are easy to do, but might not be something your guests want to attempt. You can easily pre-sugar the rims for a gorgeous presentation. Place a small account of water, lemon or lime juice in a saucer. Dip the rim of the glass in the liquid, then dip the wet rim into a saucer of sugar. Use tinted sugar for a pretty effect.

Garnishing the glasses is where your guests get a chance to have fun and really personalize their drink. Set out bowls of cleaned and sliced garnishes. It’s easy to mix and match a variety of garnishes with ice tea, lemonade, punch and sodas for unique beverages— and the garnishes makes them look so pretty.

Some of my favorites include bowls of fresh blueberries and raspberries, sliced strawberries, skinny circles of cucumber, wedges of lemon and lime and thin pieces of melon. Sprigs of fresh mint and rosemary are best kept in a tiny bit of water so they stay fresh. Colorful straws, skewers and drink stirs give more mix and match options.

It’s really simple to pull all these components together so your drink station is not just a pretty focal point, but is also entertaining and delicious.

Lea Schneider is an organizational expert who knows that good planning often translates into good times. Lea writes her advice on backyard parties and other outdoor activities for The Home Depot. To review a wide selection of ice chests and freezers that may fit the bill for your next warm weather get-together, you can visit the Home Depot website.

 

Dedicated to the Love of People and Home… and Dogs

A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.

Humorist Josh Billings once said, “a dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.”

At Coldwell Banker, we have a love for home. It’s been our calling for 111 years and it’s why our agents love what they do. If love is an essential element of any home, there’s no better way to add even more love than welcoming a shelter dog to your family roster.

For the last four years, we have embarked on a mission we call the Coldwell Banker Homes for Dogs Project. In conjunction with Adopt-a-Pet.com, our local agents and companies have helped find homes for thousands of dogs that need a home… and equally as many homes that needed just a bit more love.

Once again, we are embarking on a mission to help find homes for adoptable pets. Our latest commercial tells the story of how every pet truly can have its day when you open your home to one.

Reach out to your local Coldwell Banker agent or office and find out how you can adopt a dog as part of the Homes for Dogs project.

4 Simple Pesticides for Your Garden

Check out these easy and natural pesticides that you can make at home.

Guest post by Kristina Phelan

Spring has arrived. It’s only a matter of time before insects arrive in droves to your garden. Begin protecting your lawn and garden with pesticides now so that the impact of them will be less throughout the growing season. Check out these easy and natural pesticides that you can make at home:

1. Oil Spray Insecticide

If you see a lot of aphids, mites, or other small insects on your plants consider making an easy oil spray to help kill these pesky insects. Simply mix together 1 cup of vegetable oil with 1 tablespoon of soap in a jar. Mix two teaspoons of this mixture to spray bottle filled with one quart of water. Shake the mixture and spray directly onto plants to help eliminate insects. The oil will keep insects away without hurting your plants. Spray affected plants every 10 days to keep insects at bay. As suggested by landscape experts, make sure to apply your solution carefully as natural remedies sterilize the surround soil as well.

2. Diatomaceous Earth

This commonly known natural product is regularly found in the Earth’s crust. Diatomaceous Earth is made up of the sharp remains of miniscule fossilized plants and can be easily found in garden centers. For a do-it-yourself version, rinse and breakdown egg shells into a granular state. Use this natural compound by sprinkling it around plants in your garden. The sharp contents will keep insects away without harming your plants at all.

3. Sprinkle Soap

For those homeowners who have a high population of deer in their area, sprinkling soap around gardens is a great way to deter deer from eating your prized petunias. Soap can be used in a few different ways and is a great way to easily deter pests from the garden. Full bars of soap can be used if put on spears in the garden or slices of soap can also be used around the garden area as well. If you have just planted seedlings, consider shaving soap and sprinkling it on the garden bed.

The soap deters deer who don’t like the fragrant aroma and will also help to keep bugs away as it dehydrates them in the soil. Soap won’t hurt plants and will last as long as the rain allows it to before being washed away. Highly fragrant soaps, like Irish Spring, are the best choice when using in your garden as a deterrent.

4. Order Ladybugs

Ladybugs are not only pretty to look at but they also are quite the helper when it comes to ridding your garden of unwanted insects like aphids. One ladybug can eat up to 50 aphids a day and they also will help rid your garden of other insects like boil worm, corn earworm, scale, leaf hopper, and mealybugs. Ladybugs can be ordered online and will arrive at your door hungry and ready to feast. Simply open the container at sundown to encourage them to scatter, without flying away, and they will go to work on ridding your garden of insects quickly!
Keeping your outdoor space free from pests is easy with these simple things that you can do at home. Mix up some oil spray, slice some soap, or order some ladybugs to quickly rid your garden of insects this growing season.

Kristina Phelan is a freelance writer and her parenting column, Mama Bear Moxie, is printed in a few newspapers across the country. She lives on a farm in the Midwest with her husband, three kiddos, and too many animals.

What is a Property Survey and Why You Should Get One Before Buying a House

There are several benefits to getting a property survey before buying your home. Find out all the information you need to know, and how you can get a property survey done today!

When buying a home, the last thing you want is a surprise. Most people worry about leaky roofs or rusty boilers. But there may be property issues that can come to light and cost you a lot of money if you’re not careful.

One way to avoid getting in over your head is to get a property survey before you buy. Also known as a house or land survey, it’s the perfect way to ensure you know exactly what you’re getting with the land, so there are no surprises.

How exactly do you go about getting a property survey if the seller doesn’t have one to share?  You can start by looking for one from the district or municipal office where the property is located in or possibly even the seller’s lending institution.  If you can’t find one, then you should take the following information into consideration:

Property Survey Basics

A property survey begins with defining the boundaries of a plot of land. This clarifies the size of the property, and where the land begins and ends.

An updated house survey is also important for legal reasons. This is because municipal laws are not fixed—they change from time to time. For example, the property might have a shed or a fence that was well within the boundaries years ago but after undated municipal border it now encroaches onto a neighbor’s property or too close to the public street. A new survey will give you the confidence that the property complies with current local regulations.

It can also highlight any potential discrepancies or boundary infringements. This can help you avoid any misunderstandings in the future with neighbors or the city.

What do Surveyors Look for in a House Survey?

You might have seen surveyors poking around your neighborhood taking measurements. Most of the time, they have been hired by home buyers or sellers to take surveys, or they could be performing a survey for a property dispute (something a survey can help you avoid!)

When you hire a surveyor here’s what they typically look for:

  • The legal boundaries of the land
  • The locations of any buildings (sheds, storage) on the land
  • Any easements and entrances to the property
  • The topography of the plot, including both natural features such as trees or a river and manmade features including swimming pools or fences

An updated survey will be compared to any previous survey from the last time the house was sold. This way any discrepancies that might appear are known to all parties before the closing.

How Much Does a House Survey Cost?

When getting a property surveyed it’s important to hire a professional. This is one instance where DIY surveys or estimates won’t help. In fact, it can actually hurt you as they are not accepted as legal documentation.

So hiring a surveyor may be worth it to ensure you have records that hold up in court, if it ever comes to that. House survey costs can vary from state to state, but they typically run anywhere from $250 to $1,000.

Check your local state laws regarding costs. In some states, the seller is responsible for the survey or the fees can be negotiated between both parties.

Should I Have a Home Buyers Survey?

The last thing any homeowner wants is to plan a new project only to find out all that land they thought they had wasn’t theirs after all. You can imagine the headaches that scenario can cause!

Nevertheless, this sort of thing can sometimes happen. One way to avoid these issues is to set up a survey. A buyer’s survey can save you from a lot of potential hassles (and even more costs) down the road.

Top 5 Easy Houseplants You’ll Grow to Love

Decorating your home with indoor plants is affordable and stress-free. Here are five ideas on how to incorporate low-maintenance houseplants to your interior decor.

Add a touch of green to your home. Indoor plants brighten up any room and they can also help purify the air in your home. Here are five low maintenance houseplants and instructions on how to grow and take care of them—no green thumbs required!

1. English Ivy

Caring for ivy plants is easy and rewarding. English Ivy is known to grow effortlessly. It can even thrive under fluorescent light. Place your English Ivy on your bookshelf and let the vines grow for a dramatic effect.
houseplant - ivy

2. Jade Plant

Jade is a popular succulent because it requires little care. It needs moderate lighting. You can water the plant when the top soil is dry to the touch. If you are feeling creative, try mixing up different kinds of succulents for a terrarium garden.
houseplants - jade

3. Air Plants

As the name suggests, these plants don’t even need soil to survive! Each leaf of an air plant absorbs water and nutrients. Air plants need bright indirect light and they need to be soaked in a bowl of water for 30 minutes once a week. Show off your air plants on a piece of driftwood for a rustic look or in a hanging terrarium for a minimalist look.
houseplants - airplant

4. Areca Palm

Turn any room into a paradise with Areca Palms (aka Butterfly Palms). Areca Palm usually reaches a height of 6 feet when it is grown indoors. It requires bright indirect sunlight and it should be watered biweekly or when the soil dries out.

Photo credit: @almostmakesperfect

5. Basil

These fragrant herbs grow indoors just as well as they do outdoors. Just make sure they get plenty of sunlight and water them often. The best part of growing a basil plant is that you can eat it! Garnish your favorite pasta dish or make a delicious basil cucumber gin.
houseplants - basil

Your Home’s Honey Do List for May

Before you fire up that grill, here is your home’s honey do list for May which will make summer even more enjoyable.

The tulips are blooming and the yard work is piling up, but all you can dream about is May Long Weekend barbeques. Before you fire up that grill, here is your home’s honey do list for May which will make summer even more enjoyable.

1. Curb Appeal – Because April showers bring May flowers, it’s time to think about your home’s curb appeal. Does your front door need a refresh? Could your outdoor lighting use an update? Does your mailbox need a makeover? Check out these 7 Major League Upgrades to Increase Your Home’s Curb Appeal.

2. Give Mom some Love – Because Home is Where Mom is, consider showing Mom your appreciation this Mother’s Day (May 14th) by giving her one of these unique homemade Mother’s Day gifts. Another welcome gift for every Mom is a helping hand around the house (see #5 on this list)!

3. May is for Mold? – Did those April showers cause water problems in your home? Use this brief guide to mold and moisture to clean up and prevent mold growth in your home.

4. Spring Into Action – Take advantage of the spring weather and get out of the house! See how many items on this list of Free Things to Do Outside the House you can tackle before June.

5. Glass Houses – People who live in glass houses…have a lot of windows to clean! Tackle outdoor windows and doors with a glass cleaner to let plenty of that spring sunlight inside.

6. Inspect for Termites – Termites are more active in the spring and summer months when the air is warm and moist. Check your home for termite damage, paying special attention to anywhere wood meets the ground. Watch this video to learn how you can inspect your home this May.

7. Prep Your Home for Sale – If you’re getting your home ready for sale this spring, there are several items that many home sellers overlook. Do you have a copy of your survey on hand, or have you compiled a list of service providers for a buyer? These 9 often overlooked items when prepping your home for sale can help seal the deal with today’s savvy buyers.

8. Grilling Time – Now you’re ready for that Memorial Day backyard bash. To make sure you never unexpectedly run out of gas in your grill, consider checking out this handy product.

Starting Fresh: How to Buy a New Home Construction

Personalization, customization, fewer repairs, and less maintenance are just some of the benefits of buying a newly built home. Find out how you can buy a new home construction today!

What could be more exciting than living in a brand new home? The blank slate can be thrilling: living in a place no one has lived before, a home with fresh paint, untouched carpets, and even fresh grass that no one has trodden!

While most of the homes bought and sold are preexisting, more and more buyers are interested in new house construction. There’s no doubt moving into a newly built home is exciting. But this sort of transaction comes with its own set of challenges as well.

Find out all the basics of what you’ll need to know to get started.

Understanding the Types of New Construction Homes for Sale

There are a few different types of new construction homes you might consider. They fall into three main categories:

  1. A home that is pre-built according to design templates
  2. A semi-custom home: the bulk of the house is built and you have the option to pick a few design elements, finishes, and extra upgrades
  3. A fully custom home: you have input on the design from the ground up

If you’d love to be involved in every stage of the building process, an entirely custom home could be a great fit. On the other hand, if you’re ready to move right in and don’t want to bother with all the design details, buying a pre-built home is likely the better option.

Select the Specs of Your Home

Now that you know what kind of new house construction you’re interested in, you want to determine some details about the home of your dreams. Here are a few things to consider:

  1. Location: Is it as close to (or far from) the city as you prefer? Will you have a reasonable commute (if that’s a must-have)?
  2. Budget: Will this home fit into your budget—especially if you have the option for upgrades?
  3. Size: Does the home have the size and number of rooms you need?
  4. Neighborhood: Is it still under construction? Do you have ample lawn space or privacy? Are there specific desired amenities such as a swimming pool?

Many new construction homes for sale are in subdivisions. It’s a good idea to drive down and investigate them on your own and see if it has what you’re looking for.

Also, you want to be sure to find out as much as you can about the builder. Start by looking online: search for any reviews, complaints, or lawsuits. This simple step can help you avoid a lot of potential headaches down the road!

Find a Real Estate Agent

Most builders have an agent, but remember that this agent is there with a goal to sell the property. Before you speak with any builders, hire your own real estate agent to make sure your needs and desires are the number one priority.

Another advantage of taking this path is that your agent may have other insights that the builder would not. An agent will know all the unique processes and challenges of how to buy a new construction home better than anyone.

Work with a Lawyer

More often than not, a new construction home will have a more complicated contract than your typical house sale. There are all sorts of details you’ll need to know such information on warranties on the home itself and appliances within the home.

With the amount of paperwork involved in buying a new home, it’s always a good idea to run all the paperwork past a lawyer familiar with real estate language.

Don’t Forget the Home Inspection

Just because the home is a new build doesn’t mean you should skip getting a home inspection. Some new homes can have their own set of problems to watch out for. Insist on getting a comprehensive home inspection before you even begin the price negotiation.

Talk to your real estate agent today to start ironing out all the details of buying a new home.

8 Clever Ways to Store Books Around the House

Here are 8 clever ways to store books around the house. Which one is your favorite?

Guest post by  Michelle Lee, Houzz

Although reading books can seem like a long lost art in the days of digital devices, there still remains something special about the smell of a brand new novel and being able to flip through physical pages. For dedicated bookworms with cherished collections, it can be a struggle to store and display your favorites without a dedicated home library. Follow along for eight ways to stylishly integrate books into any room in the house.

In the Kitchen

This is not just limited to cookbooks. Any books you’ll want to read over a good meal or while waiting for the oven to preheat are just as applicable. There are many ways to add a homey vibe to your space by installing open shelves beneath a kitchen island or along a blank unused wall. Just make sure to keep the books away from appliances so the pages and binding don’t get damaged by heat.

 

In the Bedroom

As we venture further into fall and winter, many bookworms will want to curl up under the covers with a hot cup of cocoa and a new novel. Keep your reading list at arm’s reach by storing books along a windowsill or stack them up in a corner of the room. For a more permanent solution, buy a new headboard or nightstand with built-in storage.

 

In an Unused Fireplace

Fireplaces make a lovely focal point in many living rooms, but can be a hassle to maintain and use. You can breathe new life into this space by cleaning it thoroughly and stacking books in the empty space. The different bindings will create visual interest and bring color to the previously black abyss.

 

In the Bathroom

One of life’s luxuries is being able to read a good book in a relaxing bubble bath at the end of a long day. This can be done by building recessed shelves above a freestanding tub. For renters, there are plenty of budget-friendly over-the-toilet storage cabinets that accomplish the same purpose. Be sure to take proper precautions against warped pages caused by moisture with an exhaust fan.

 

Above a Desk

In many home offices, the space above the desk goes largely unused. Simply look up for more space. You can create a home for a decently sized collection of books by installing open shelves above your computer all the way up to the ceiling. The transitional Philadelphia space shown here illustrates the idea nicely.

 

Under the Stairs

If you still haven’t found the right fit for what to put in that little nook under the stairs, look no further. Bring in an asymmetrical or diagonal bookcase to house your collection or carve out an alcove to recreate a Harry Potter vibe. Bring in a comfy chair or cushions and you’ve got the perfect personal hideout space for the season.

 

Around an Entryway

This one requires the expertise of a skilled woodworker or architect. Frame any doorway in your home with a gorgeous collection of novels that surround it left, right and above. Add a rolling library ladder to reach the highest shelves and bring rustic charm and character to any space, as seen here.

 

In Your Front Yard

If you’re really unable to squeeze any more space out of your home to store books inside, consider moving outdoors for a unique solution. The Little Free Library is a nonprofit organization that seeks to bring communities together and share books with one another through a house-shaped box in their front yard. Fill it with a few of your favorites that you’re willing to share and encourage your neighbors to take one, leave one of their own or both. Although this is not quite a storage solution, it’s a great way to connect with your community and discover new reading material.

8 Vegetables to Grow in Your Garden this Spring

Grab your gardening gear. Here is a round up list of the easiest–and most practical–vegetables to grow in your garden.

As the weather warms, you are no doubt yearning to be outside to get your hands working in the dirt again. If you have never tried gardening, spring is the perfect opportunity to give it a shot and plant your own vegetable garden. Growing your own vegetables is a great way to get some fresh air and exercise, and it also allows you to get the highest possible amount of nutrients from your food. Fresh vegetables are much healthier for you than those bought from the store, as they begin to lose nutritional value the longer they sit on a shelf.

Get your gardening gear out from storage. Here is a round up list of the easiest–and most practical–vegetables to grow in your garden.

1. Tomatoes

If you are new to gardening, tomatoes should absolutely be your first plant to try. Homegrown tomatoes, ripened in the sun, are a delicious addition to any meal. They are high in fiber, iron, magnesium, niacin, potassium, and several vitamins (including A and C). They are also one of the only sources of the beneficial antioxidant lycopene. If you’re just starting out or have limited space, try growing tomatoes in a container on your deck first. Usually, you can get by with just an 18-inch deep container. One plant will yield dozens of tomatoes throughout the season. Just remember that tomatoes like lots of sun and heat, so if you live in a colder area, it may take a little bit longer to get them growing.

2. Beans and Peas

Beans and peas are incredibly easy to grow. Depending on your preferences and your gardening space, you can choose to grow either bush or climbing varieties. Bush beans support themselves, while climbing or “pole” varieties need a stake or trellis to climb up on.

If you’re feeling extra organic, consider planting your beans and peas next to your corn. Beans fix nitrogen in the soil which aids the corn, and also use the stalk as a natural trellis. Both peas and beans are high in fiber, iron, potassium, and a wide range of vitamins. Plus, they continue to produce basket upon basket of delicious vegetables throughout the entire season.

3. Broccoli

Broccoli is a great vegetable to grow as it is one of the most nutritionally dense. It is high in crucial nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, iron, vitamin A, vitamin B6, and vitamin C.

Although broccoli can be grown in containers, it’s just as easy to plant it directly in the ground. It is commonly known as a cold-season crop, so it can withstand a light frost–and actually tastes better after doing so. Meaning, you can plant it when soil temperatures are still a bit chilly in early spring and keep it going long into autumn.

4. Peppers

There are dozens of varieties of peppers you can grow, but most of them are all cultivated in about the same way. Consider bell peppers for your first try at pepper planting. A cool feature of planting bell peppers is that you will have different types of peppers at every growing stage. Harvest them young for crunchy green peppers, or wait a few weeks to allow the sun to further ripen them into delicious red peppers.

Whichever type you choose, peppers are full of nutrients, such as riboflavin and potassium. They can also be planted in pots, but grow best directly in the ground. Like tomatoes, they like lots of heat. Make sure you plant them in a warm, sunny area.

5. Carrots

A word to the wise–if you have rocky or clay soils, consider planting carrots in a raised bed or container. Carrots like fertile, loose soil and need plenty of room to stretch out and extend their roots. Carrots are an icon of healthy eating and are high in vitamins A, B6, and C. Sow carrot seeds about two to three inches apart, and be sure to thin them as they form tops.

6. Leafy Greens

There are dozens of varieties of greens you can plant in your garden. Choose the one that best works for your climate and soil type. Popular varieties that tend to work almost anywhere include spinach and kale. Both are cold-season crops that can be started a bit earlier than other crops, and can be harvested continually throughout the year. As a bonus, once they begin to die back and your harvest dips, you can reseed over the existing plants to produce new, fresh plants. Regardless of the type of greens you plant, these are easy to grow and harvest and contain high amounts of iron, calcium, potassium, and vitamins.

7. Cucumbers

 Make room for at least one cucumber plant in your garden this summer. Cucumber plants produce large quantities, all of which spiral out in spiky vines. They can spread up to twenty-five feet away, so make sure you have plenty of room. Whether you plant pickling or slicing cucumbers, you should plant about five seeds in 6-inch high hills, and then thin to the two strongest plants. These warm-season crops love heat, so consider planting them on top of a layer of black plastic to heat up the soil.

8. Zucchini

The last plant on our list is zucchini. Zucchini plants have a reputation for being prolific producers, developing so many fruits at a time. The roots of the plant need regular moisture, but besides that, this is a low-maintenance vegetable that will pump out a bumper crop with just a single plant. You can eat both the fruits and blossoms of these delicious giants. Like cucumbers, they prefer warm, moist soil, so the black plastic sheet method works well in this situation, too.

Growing your own vegetables is a noble task that can take very little time and skill. If you’re ready to start on your path to self-sufficiency, give these tasty plants a try this spring.