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.

Spring Home Health Check-Up: Three Areas to Examine Now

A step-by-step home check-up guide to find warning signs and advice on how to repair them

By David Baur, Product Manager, GCP Applied Technologies

Spring is here! Time to get out and enjoy the great outdoors. It is also the ideal time to do a home health check-up, inspecting what winter left behind.

So, what are the three key areas of your home to examine and what do you look for? We have you covered from roof to deck. Follow this step-by-step home check-up guide to find warning signs and advice on how to repair them.

Roof: You’ve probably never thought about it, but your roof has to battle a lot of enemies: ultraviolet rays, rain, wind, snow and ice. But the good news is most new shingle roofs are designed to last about 20 years. Slate roofs and some types of tile and metal roofs can last even longer. The actual life span of your roof is determined by several factors, including environmental conditions, material quality, proper application and regular roof maintenance.

Warning Signs: How do you know when your roof is in trouble? Look for these warning signs:

Outside:

  • Shingles that are warped, blistered, missing or torn
  • Shingles covered in moss or algae, which hold moisture and encourage rot
  • Loose material or wear around chimneys, pipes and other penetrations
  • Overhanging tree branches that could gouge the roof in a strong wind
  • Excessive debris (leaves, dirt, ice, roofing granules) in the gutters or downspouts, which block drainage

Inside:

  • Ceiling spots or leaks
  • Cracked paint
  • Discolored plasterboard
  • Peeling wallpaper
  • Mold, mildew or rot in the walls, ceilings, insulation and electrical systems
  • In the attic, look for signs of water infiltration such as staining, dampness, or mold growing on insulation/sheathing/rafters A poorly ventilated attic that shows signs of moisture, which promotes the roof’s decay. Sufficient attic ventilation can be achieved by installing larger or additional vents

Repairs Needed?

If repairs are needed, don’t skimp on quality to save a few cents. Much of the damage associated with serious storms results from water entering the home when roof coverings or siding is blown off. This is why it is imperative that you have a secondary layer of waterproofing protection underneath the shingles and siding. If proper protection measures are not taken, the resulting leaks are the main cause of interior damage, as well as potential causes of rot and mold. Rot and mold can lead to major structural damage and even potential health problems for homeowners.

Use Underlyaments: FEMA has published recommendations for the use of fully-adhered roofing underlayments, such as Grace Ice & Water Shield®, as an enhanced secondary water barrier for homes. In the event roof coverings are blown off or water manages to get underneath your shingles, these underlayments are the key to preventing water infiltration.

Windows & Doors: Beyond the roof, a home’s doors and windows can also become major leak zones. Even if the windows and doors are well shuttered in a storm, wind-driven rain can be blown into the house at these points, especially if they have not been properly flashed and weatherproofed.

Warning Signs: How do you know when your doors and windows are in trouble? The following are some signs of water damage:

Inside & Outside:

  • Leaks or breaks in seams around window trim and sills
  • Uneven doorframes
  • Discolored plasterboard
  • Peeling wallpaper
  • Chipped or cracked stucco finishes
  • Mold, mildew, or rot in the walls, insulation, and electrical systems
  • Missing, cracked, or blistered paint inside the home

Repairs Needed?

Use Flashing: Flashing is a critical part of your home’s weather barrier system. If not properly selected and installed, wind-driven rain, ice and snow, can leak and quickly cause damage to your home. Flexible flashings such as GCP Applied Technologies’ Vycor® Plus can be used to seal the most vulnerable spots, including windows, doors, corner boards, and other non-roof detail areas. It is designed to work in severe winter climates, milder climates, and in coastal areas where wind driven rain is common.

Deck: Last but not least, check the deck.A deck is a wonderful way to enjoy the outdoors in the warmer weather. But, if your deck is not protected against the extreme weather, it can deteriorate and become unsafe. Decks, fences and other wood products should be routinely weatherproofed and cleaned to maximize their useful life. Weather combined with the treatment chemicals used for today’s pressure treated lumber means that the modern deck must be proper constructed to hold up.

Warning Signs: How do you know when your deck is in trouble? Look for these warning signs:

  • Warped boards
  • Cracked or split boards
  • Debris that is “clogging up” space between deck boards
  • Look under the deck for corroded joist hangers and other connectors
  • Soft wood
  • Mold and mildew

Repairs Needed?

Use a Protective Barrier: Even with today’s treated and high-tech decking products–which look great and last and last–preventing joist rot and decay, as a result of water accumulation under the decking boards, remains a major problem. Vycor Deck Protector® is a unique solution to significantly extend the useful life of decks. Vycor Deck Protector® helps prevent joist rot and decay and decrease the corrosion rate of connectors and fasteners.

By inspecting these three areas of your home and correcting any damage with the best materials, you will ensure your home will live longer. Not to mention your wallet will be happy too! Now, put on those shades and head out to enjoy the spring & summer activities with peace of mind!

David Baur is Product Manager at GCP Applied Technologies, formerly known as Grace Construction Products. He has step by step tips for homeowners, contractors and builders on building homes for extreme weather.

Ask Before Buying a Smart Home

When you find the perfect smart home for you, consider these important questions.

Guest post by Jon Snyder

Smart homes are all the rage these days and are quickly becoming a hot commodity. A recent survey found that 65 percent of buyers would pay extra for houses with smart features – that is, anything in the home that connects to the internet. Smart features include connected security systems, HVAC systems, lighting, thermostats, door locks and eco-friendly appliances—all of which can be controlled remotely from your smartphone or tablet.

While smart homes offer convenience and energy savings, they do come with unique challenges—especially when transferring the home from one family to the next. If you think you’ve found the perfect smart home for you, consider these important questions.

1. What Devices are Actually in the Home?

Talk with the realtor or current homeowners to get a list of devices installed in the home. Don’t rely on a quick walkthrough tour alone, as some IoT-enabled devices are more obvious than others. For example, you’ll be able to spot a smart refrigerator’s touchscreen, but you may not notice the smart lighting solutions. These could encompass not only light bulbs but also adjustable window shades and natural-light detection that dims bulbs as natural light floods the room.

It’s also a good idea to pinpoint what you want out of a smart home, so you can find the one that meets all (or at least most) of your criteria. Additionally, check with the sellers to make sure the manuals for each device are available. They’ll highlight the various features and can quickly clue you in on where each device is and what it has to offer.

2. Are There Warranties for the Connected Devices?

Review the warranties and policies of the home’s IoT gadgets just like you would for any other appliance in the home. You can do this online if you have the serial numbers. (Ask the seller for a list of serial numbers for each device.) That way, you can make sure the devices are actually transferable to new owners so you don’t miss out on important features or security updates.

If everything checks out, remember to update the manufacturer’s pre-set passwords and see if there are any new versions of the device software once you’re all moved in. You can do this on the manufacturer’s website or by accessing the settings menu in the gadget itself.

3. Have the Devices Been Reset to Factory Settings?

Ask if the owner will (or already has) reset the devices back to their default factory settings. Doing so will make it easier for you to create your own account, set up new access protocols and adjust the settings to your liking.

It’s also wise to review the privacy settings for each device, as well as the settings for your own smartphone or tablet, which is what you’ll use to “talk” to your smart home. Keep in mind that all connected devices store and communicate data, so educate yourself as much as possible on how your smart hub works.

It’s up to you to beef up security and limit personal information stored in IoT devices as much as possible. By knowing what you want and asking questions (as many questions as you need to!), you’ll be able to smoothly transition into your new smart home.

 

Jon Snyder is a Product Manager at Esurance, overseeing countrywide design of property insurance products. Jon uses his 25 years of industry experience to write about smart technology and how it will impact homeowners insurance. You can view Esurance’s homeowners policy options on their website.

Your Home’s April Honey Do List

Spring Cleaning is in full swing this month! Find out what to do’s you should be crossing off your list for the month of April.

Even though today is National No Housework Day (no, that’s not a belated April Fool’s Joke), spring cleaning season is in full swing. So, while you have permission to put off your honey do list until tomorrow, here’s a list of to do’s for your home this month.

1. April Showers Bring May Flowers – But, only if you prep the garden today! Lay mulch around shrubs and flower beds before the weeds take over next month. However, resist the urge to plant warm season annuals and vegetables until the last frost date has passed in your area.

2. Fresh Air, Fresh Paint – Planning to paint the exterior of your home, deck or front door? Start preparing exterior surfaces now by scraping and sanding so that when the warmer weather arrives, you’ll be ready to apply the first coat (without a coat on!)

3. Dust Off the Chaise Lounges – The days of lounging in the backyard are almost here! Take some time to clean and repair any outdoor furniture.

4. Get Rid of House Guests – While we all love having family and friends visit over the holidays, other unwelcome house guests can often make themselves at home in our roofs and walls during the winter. Follow this guide to inspect and repair damage from animals who took shelter in your home this winter season.

5. Organize the Garage or Shed – For most of the country, it’s finally time to stash the snow shovels and bust out the lawn mower. While you’re at it, consider Making Your Garage Smarter and More Energy Efficient

6. Spring Clean That Closet – Kick off your spring cleaning project by tackling one of the most cluttered spots of the home. Follow these three steps to a spring miracle: an organized closet.

Selling? Low-Cost Home Improvement Fixes that Make Your Home Shine

When selling a home, even tiny fixes can have a big impact. Fortunately many fixes can be done quickly and with a small budget. Here are 10 of the best low- (or no-) cost home improvement fixes to make your house stand above the competition.

When selling a home, even tiny fixes can have a big impact. Here are 10 of the best low- (or no-) cost home improvement fixes to make your house stand above the competition:

1. Address the Heart of the Home

In real estate, the kitchen is a main selling feature and can be a make or break deal for potential home buyers. If a new kitchen just isn’t in the cards, consider replacing smaller ticket items and de-cluttering. Low- and no-cost fixes for the kitchen include:

  • New cabinet hardware
  • New faucets
  • Installing a new backsplash
  • Storing countertop appliances to create more work space
  • Replacing dark valances with lighter fabric or removing them altogether

2. Update Switch Plate Covers

Switch plate and outlet covers are brittle, and can crack and yellow over time, resulting in a home that, no matter how well updated, still looks dated. New outlets and covers can be replaced in a snap for generally under five dollars, making it one of the lowest cost updates available. Consider flat switches that create a modern, streamlined silhouette and stick to white for a timeless look.

3. Beautify the Bathroom

An updated bathroom comes only second to kitchens in a buyer’s list of must-haves, so showing them a clean and uncluttered bathroom will score points with any potential buyer.

New flooring can give an otherwise tired bathroom a much needed facelift and create a newer looking bathroom overall. Coordinating linens, a new shower curtain, and thoroughly cleaned grout can top off this easy home improvement investment.

4. Address Storage

Storage is always a concern for buyers. Installing low-cost closet organizers to your existing space will increase storage and organization in your home. Add storage baskets to hide clutter and you will have beautiful storage spaces that will make any buyer envious.

5. Deep Clean for a Good Return

If your home contains wall to wall carpeting, clean carpets can make a world of difference to a buyer. Cleaning carpets can easily be completed in a weekend with a rental cleaning machine, and it creates a noticeably clean, odor free environment for buyers to tour.

6. Boost Curb Appeal

Nothing boosts curb appeal like a tidy yard. Trim and edge walkways, weed gardens, and trim shrubs for maximum impact. If you have a porch, consider potted, seasonal plants to bring the look together.

7. Improve the First Impression

As buyers approach your home, first impressions matter. Ensuring your entryway is clean and inviting with something as simple as a new mailbox or updated house numbers will make buyers feel welcome. Clean windows and doors for extra impact.

8. Add a Coat of Paint

Freshening up your living space with neutral colors will invite buyers to imagine their belongings in your home and will cover up any nicks, scratches, or dents your wall incurred over years of daily living.

9. Update Lighting

While not the lowest cost solution on our list, you will find that a new light fixture or two really breathes new life into key living spaces. If your budget is tight, look to kitchen, dining, and living rooms for the most bang for your buck.

10. Add Some Decor Pizzazz

Finally, a fresh look can be completed with nothing more than some colorful fabric. Inexpensive pillows and throws in a coordinating palette through your home will create a unified look that will have buyers hooked.

How to Get Wood Flooring on Any Budget

Hardwood flooring is often considered a must-have feature by new homeowners or those undertaking a remodeling project. Here are some of the best budget-friendly hardwood floor choices.

Guest post by Fran Donegan

Hardwood flooring is often considered a must-have feature by new homeowners or those undertaking a remodeling project. Wood is a natural, renewable resource, plus wood flooring complements all types of home decor, from traditional to contemporary. Hardwood flooring is often considered a must-have feature by new homeowners or those undertaking a remodeling project. Wood is a natural, renewable resource, plus wood flooring complements all types of home decor, from traditional to contemporary. The downside is that wood floors, especially solid wood floors, can be expensive. Some exotic wood species, such as Brazilian walnut, can cost more than $15 per square foot — and that doesn’t include installation labor. However, you can find alternatives that give you the look of real wood at a reduced price — some as low as $2 or $3 per square foot. Here are some of the best budget-friendly hardwood floor choices.

Calculating the Overall Price

The products listed below go from most expensive to least expensive, but there’s a lot of overlap among the categories. For example, some solid wood products are less expensive than some luxury vinyl tiles. Before you make your final decision, factor in the cost of professional installation, which can add as much as $3 to $10 per square foot to the total cost of a flooring project. Some of the items that can drive up installation costs include:

• Removing and disposing of the old flooring
• Repairing the subfloor when necessary
• The size and shape of the room(s)
• Stair installation

If you’re an experienced DIYer, you can save money by installing the floors yourself. Beginners should leave the job to the professionals, though — you may end up making mistakes that are even more expensive to fix.

Solid Wood

This is usually the most expensive option, but there are ways to reduce the cost, especially in the long run. When properly maintained, solid wood flooring will last as long as the house stands. You can freshen up the look at any time by sanding away the old finish and restaining and sealing the floor.

Some wood species are more expensive than others. Fortunately, many of the most common types, such as oak or maple, fall into the low- to mid-range of costs. Solid wood products can come finished or unfinished. If the floor is unfinished, the installer will stain and seal the floor once it is in place, which adds to the installation costs. On the flip side, the prefinished product may cost more up front.

Engineered Wood 

These products are constructed of multiple thin layers of material that are bonded together under pressure. The top layer is made from a familiar wood species — such as oak or maple — and is usually treated with a factory-applied finish that resists dirt and scuff marks. Engineered wood floors are less likely than solid wood to wrap and twist because of moisture and humidity, so they can be installed in basements and bathrooms. Some products feature click-in-place installation — no need for adhesives or fasteners — which is an easier, faster installation method perfect for DIYers. However, a vapor barrier needs to be installed or attached to the flooring.

Bamboo 

Bamboo floors are manufactured to either look like traditional wood flooring or showcase their distinctive grass-like look. Some bamboo products are harder than solid wood flooring. They are strong and long-lasting, but are easy to scratch and are not recommended for areas prone to moisture. Bamboo is a type of grass and grows to maturity much more quickly than trees do, which makes it a sustainable, eco-friendly option. Click-in-place installation is available for some products.

Porcelain Tile 


New porcelain tiles can be made to look like anything, including real wood. Some products are available in planks that have a wood-like texture. Porcelain tiles are an inexpensive, easy way to achieve a “reclaimed” wood look — many tiles mimic the texture and color variation of aged planks. As with regular tiles, they are durable and can be used in wet areas, including bathrooms. They are also stain-resistant and much easier to clean than real wood — spills wipe up quickly, and using just water and a mild soap makes them shine. Porcelain tiles must be installed using mortar and grout.

Luxury Vinyl Tile 


As with porcelain tiles, luxury vinyl tile (LVT) can look like wood and come in traditional-style planks. LVTs are thicker and more durable than standard vinyl. They are usually waterproof, are easier to clean than true hardwoods, and can be installed in any room in the house. To prolong their durability, many LVTs are treated to resist color fading and scratches.

Laminate 

Laminate floors are composed of a high-density hardboard core protected by a melamine layer that can be made to look like anything — including real wood. The top layer protects against dirt and scuff marks, but the material should not be installed in rooms that are exposed to moisture. Click-in-place installation is available.

Hardwood flooring is a classic, timeless look that fits a wide range of design options. Thanks to today’s selection of flooring products, it’s easy to get a wood look at a lower cost. When making your final decision, be sure to include both the material costs and the installation costs. That way, you’ll get the look you want at a budget-friendly price.

 

DIY author Fran Donegan has written several books, including Paint Your Home. He also writes for The Home Depot about homeownership and projects that add value to your house. To see a selection of hardwood flooring options like those described by Fran in this article, please click here.

This article is editorial content that has been contributed to our site at our request and is published for the benefit of our readers. We have not been compensated for its placement.

The Lazy Guide to Spring Cleaning at Home

No one likes spring cleaning (except maybe Danny Tanner) but here are some easy ways to get the job done quickly,

Guest post by Andrea Davis

After a long winter, nothing feels better than having a clean and sparkling home. But, actually jumping into a deep clean is another story. Here are some simple tips to whip your home into shape without breaking a sweat:

#1 Wall Cleaning

A Magic Eraser is your best bet for tackling walls — it can spot clean anything from splatters to crayon marks. It’s tough enough to reach the cobwebs that collect in the corners of your walls and ceiling. You can also cover the bristles of a broom with a cloth or old T-shirt and use it to knock down any dusty spots.

#2 Carpets and Rugs

Take a little more time vacuuming the high-traffic areas of your house. (Make sure you don’t forget to spot treat any stubborn stains with a stain-removal product.) If your rug or carpet has lingering odors, sprinkle some baking soda over it and let it sit for a few hours. Vacuum up the baking soda and you’ll find the odors have disappeared.

#3 Mattress Ideas

Give your mattress cover a thorough cleaning in the washing machine — don’t forget to throw in a cup of white vinegar to boost the cleaning process. Sprinkle baking soda on your mattress while you’re washing the cover. You can vacuum it up later when you’re making the bed.

#4 Shower Care

Don’t knock yourself out trying to clean glass shower doors. Add a couple drops of water to your dryer sheets and use them to wipe down your shower doors. You can even let your showerhead clean itself overnight while you sleep. Simply tie a bag filled with white vinegar around your showerhead and let it soak overnight. Remove the bag in the morning for a non-clogged shower experience.

#5 Toilet Scrubbing

Have water stains built up in your toilet? Cola can help you attack these stains with little effort.  Just pour some in the toilet, let it sit for several minutes, then flush.

#6 Oven Shine

If you have an oven with a self-cleaning feature, spring is a great time to finally run that cycle. Otherwise, mix baking soda with a bit of water and use it to quickly clean up grease and various other spills inside the oven.

#7 Clutter Solutions

When you don’t have time to clean but you need your house to look presentable, tackling clutter is the quickest way to create the illusion of a clean house. Zip through each room of the house and put anything that doesn’t belong into a basket. This strategy requires very little work and can make a big difference in your home’s appearance.

Conclusion

Although these tips won’t completely eliminate the effort involved in spring cleaning, they’ll make the job a whole lot easier. Spring is a time of new beginnings — if you use even a couple of these ideas, your home will enjoy a clean and fresh start to the upcoming season.

Spruce Up the Half Bath Before Guests Arrive

Incorporate some of these must-have details for your half bath to get a gleaming five-star review from your houseguests.

Guest post by Michelle Lee, Houzz

Hosting family or friends is an equally exciting and stressful experience for all. Having a comfortable guest bathroom is key and you’ll want to deck it out with all the necessary supplies to avoid awkward run-ins, like guests asking for more toilet paper. Envision what you expect from hotel bathrooms and incorporate some of these must-have details to get a gleaming five-star review from your houseguests.

All about appearances. The first thing you should establish in your guest bathroom is a good look. Replace flickering and ill-placed lights with new sconces or vanity fixtures to create a warm and welcoming ambiance. Since this is also where your guests might be getting ready for the day or touching up in the evening, provide an adequately sized mirror. A full-length mirror is ideal, but if your room or budget doesn’t allow, look for an inexpensive over-the-door option.

Storage and supplies. It’s imperative to provide sufficient storage space and supplies for your houseguests. Load up your vanity with basics such as towels, tissues, soap, lotion, air fresheners, a first-aid kit and feminine supplies. If you’re hosting overnight guests, allow them their own storage space to lay out the toiletries they bring along. Empty a drawer or bring in a freestanding storage unit for their personal belongings.

A tidy toilet. Two of the most important items to include in any bathroom are plungers and toilet paper. Making sure these items are available will reduce potential awkwardness and embarrassment for both parties. There are many discreet plungers for sale today and you can store extra TP rolls in a stylish wire basket for a trendy look, as seen here.

Tip-top trash. Function is often sacrificed for style, but in the case of wastebaskets, practicality should reign above all. You’ll want to provide a large bin, preferably with a lid and empty it on a consistent basis. Hampers are also a nice touch to keep soiled linens out of sight. Be sure to replace them with new, fluffy towels regularly too.

Open up for overnighters. If you’re hosting long-term or overnight guests, a stock of toothbrushes, toothpaste and face washes will come in handy. Fresh towels and a hamper for dirty linens are also must-haves. For bonus points, pamper your guests with soft robes and slippers. If you have a finicky shower faucet system in your master bathroom that your guests have access to, leave a note explaining how to adjust the dials for a stress-free wash.

Simple Landscaping Upgrades to Attract Prospective Buyers

Here are a few simple upgrades to help boost your curb appeal.

,  COLDWELL BANKER LLC

Guest post by James Witts

A home can be modern and cozy inside, but without curb appeal, potential buyers will lose interest before they step inside. An attractive, well-kept lawn is one of the first things people will notice. The good news is that upgrading an existing lawn doesn’t have to take months, and it doesn’t need to cost a fortune. Here are a few simple upgrades to help boost your curb appeal.

Remove Weeds

If weeds have gained the upper hand, pulling is still the tried and true method for getting rid of weeds in a hurry. If the act of pulling the weeds won’t do the trick, you’ll need to attack them with an herbicide. Always use chemicals strategically and make sure to use the correct amount–different weeds require different treatment.

Declutter

Take a stroll around your lawn and pick up anything that doesn’t belong. Take a wheelbarrow if you have a lot of branches, twigs or other debris. Pick up children’s toys and gardening tools. Put hoses away, or invest in an attractive roller.

Overseed

Rake over brown spots to remove dead grass, then spread grass seed. For a more enhanced effect, aerate the soil before overseeding to help break up the soil and allow nutrients to get to the root of the grass more efficiently.

Mow

Taller grass stays green longer than short grass. Set your mower relatively high and take a little off the top every three to five days. Be sure the blade is sharp. A dull blade tears the grass and leaves ragged, brown edges.

Fertilize

Nitrogen-rich fertilizer will green up your lawn quickly, make sure to use the right amount according to your soil and grass type. A little nitrogen is a good thing, but too much may damage your lawn. Limit this trick to once or twice a year. Be sure and water well immediately after applying any type of fertilizer.

Iron is also helpful in turning a drab grass into a lush and healthy green lawn. Mineral supplements can be inexpensive and can be found at your local garden center or nursery.

Freshen up

Refresh any flower beds around your lawn by laying down a new think layer of mulch. The deep tones of fresh mulch will help compliment the more potent hues within the rest of the landscaping, making everything else pop. Fresh mulch is relatively inexpensive and doesn’t take too much time to apply yourself.

You can also consider investing in an inexpensive edger to smooth out and even out the edges of your lawn. This is a quick and easy way to make your landscaping look trim and neat.

Add color

Flower beds and container gardens are a great way to add a pop of color into your landscaping. Plant a few cheerful annuals such as geraniums, petunias or marigolds. Clean up an exterior furniture or give it a fresh coat of paint. Don’t be afraid to use bright, bold colors.

 

James Witts is an eco-conscious home improvement writer. He is constantly trying to find new ways to live off the grid while living in a tiny home with his wife, Andie.

Container Gardening Upgrades for a Fresh Spring

While prepping for gardening this spring, go through some of your old pots and containers.

Guest post by Linda Lee Ruzicka

If you’re a gardener, you most likely have some old pots and containers in your garden shed or even your garage. And you probably didn’t get rid of them because you figured you might have a use for them eventually. While prepping for this spring, instead of buying replacements pots and containers, go through the ones you already have stored. With a little imagination and some supplies, your pots will look better than new in no time!

Clay Pots

A good clay pot can be expensive and if dropped, the fall can put a decent size crack in it. If it’s chipped or broken but is still durable, here’s what you can do to fix it:

  • You’ll need all-purpose joint compound, spray paint or textured spray paint in a desired color, and fine-grained sandpaper. Clean off the damaged area with the sandpaper. Remove any loose clay as you’re sanding and carefully blow on it to remove the dust. This will let you get a good bond when filling it in.
  • Next, using the joint compound, fill in the cracks using a popsicle stick, spreading both inside and outside the pot. Make sure the cracks are well-covered. It dries relatively fast, so spread and smooth it out as you go. It can also be sanded down later if it’s not super smooth. If needed, add more layers until it’s filled. Let it dry for 24 hours and run the sandpaper over it to smooth it out one last time.
  • Seal the pot with the spray paint or textured spray paint, let dry, and it’s good to go.

Plastic Pots

Plastic pots are another type of container commonly used for gardening. The problem with these containers is that the weather can cause them to weaken, discolor, and sometimes crack. Have no fear, these containers can easily be fixed and your favorite plastic container can be used time and time again.

  • For this you’ll need clear gorilla tape, spray paint, textured stone paint, and fine-grain sandpaper. First, lightly sand all the areas which you’re planning to tape, so the tape has a good grip when applied. Be sure to remove all the dust from the surface of the pot. If you don’t, when you use the gorilla tape, it will form bubbles because it won’t seal. If you apply some rubbing alcohol before applying the tape, the surface will be clean.
  • Next, tape both sides of the crack with strips of gorilla tape. Rub it firmly to get a good seal but don’t use more tape than you need. For edges or curves, use small pieces, that can overlap about a ¼ inch. Try to avoid forming air bubbles.
  • Finally, spray the pot with the base paint and then spray it in thin layers with stone texture paint. Allow each coat to dry thoroughly. If the paint bubbles, let the paint cure for 24 hours. Spray it with the textured paint if desired for a different look.

Repurpose With a New Design

You can also repurpose an old pot with designs, like adding a mosaic design. You’ll need a terracotta pot, some broken tile pieces, pot shards or vase filler chips, spray paint and glue. Paint the pot with the spray paint and let dry, then gently glue the tile, shards or chips on one by one in the design of your choice.

You can also add a new design by using lace on a pot or container. All you’ll need is lace of the color of your choice and transparent adhesive. Varnish the pot with the adhesive and paste the lace over it. Let dry and use as desired.

As you can see, upgrading your container and pots for spring can be both fun and easy. What ways have you revamped old containers?

 

Linda Lee Ruzicka is an avid gardening blogger and expert. In her spare time she can be found enjoying and relaxing in several gardens around her home that she tends.