Articles Tagged "Gardening"

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Buy a Home | 2 Posts
Sell a Home | 1 Posts
July
14

Make Your Lawn Stand Out With These Steps

Outdoor landscaping not only adds value to your home but it also offers attractive curb appeal for people buying a house. According to the National Association of REALTORS®, "Curb appeal is important to 71 percent of homebuyers when choosing their abode."

Begin your yard maintenance around one month before you list your house for sale. Follow these strategies for making your yard look just right for a quick sale this summer.

  1. Container Plants – Creating container gardens add color and a welcoming aura to your yard. Position garden pots filled with your favorite flowers and plants outside your front door, creating a warm welcome for homebuyers. Another area to place container gardens is around patios and decks.

  2. Weed Flower Beds – Tend to your perennial and annual flower gardens, removing all weeds or roots hiding your flowers. Remove any dead plants and replace them with another one, or use a decorative potted plant in its place, adding contrast and color.

  3. Mulch – Topping off the mulch in your flowerbeds and around shrubbery gives your yard a fresh scent and tidy appearance. Mulch also makes your plants and flowers stand out. Walk around your yard and check for any bald spots on the lawn. These bald areas make your yard look rundown. Apply mulch to these areas along with hardy plants, such as hostas, ferns, and landscaping grass. You can also purchase fast-growing grass seed that will sprout in a few weeks.

  4. Prune Shrubs – Remove any dead and broken branches from your shrubs, especially those hanging over your driveway and walkway. Shape your shrubs with hedge clippers to give a neat appearance for added curb appeal.

  5. Backyard Hangout – Create a welcoming, comfortable area in your backyard for relaxing. Most people buying a home want a yard they can enjoy, and nothing is more relaxing than a fire pit and patio. You can find economical, attractive fire pits and cobblestone patio blocks at home goods stores.

  6. Remove Clutter – Remove any unsightly clutter, such as an old swing set or unused above-ground swimming pool. Also, store all yard tools like shovels, rakes, and wheelbarrows in a shed or basement.

These six-yard maintenance tips can give your yard inviting curb appeal for anyone buying a house. A simple, well-maintained yard will have house hunters flocking to your door.

February
11

Growing Herbs in Your Kitchen

If you enjoy whipping up special recipes, you know having the right ingredients is essential. Adding quality herbs is a must for top-notch flavor. With that in mind, you can have fresh herbs at your fingertips all year long by adding an herb garden to your kitchen. Here's what you need to know to get started.

Natural Light

Kitchens with south-facing windows get the brightest light and maximum sun hours throughout the day, even during the winter months. Herbs like basil, bay laurel, oregano, rosemary, and thyme will thrive because they originated in tropical and semi-tropical climates. East-and west-facing windows provide cooler temperatures and morning or afternoon sun. Herbs like chives, chervil, mint, and parsley prefer less light and cooler temperatures, so they grow best in east-and-west facing windows.

Grow Lights

There are a variety of full-spectrum grow lights on the market in different styles, sizes, and prices. Grow lights are ideal for all types of herbs and make kitchen herb gardens viable for any light conditions. Plants should be placed within one foot of the bulbs and get at least 4 to 6 hours of light each day. You can set the lights to stay on for 12 to 16 hours, then adjust the timer to different settings as you see results.

Choosing Herbs

Fresh herbs can grow in your kitchen, even with limited space and indirect sunlight. Perennial herbs like bay laurel, chives, mint, oregano, rosemary, and thyme are easiest to grow from young plants available at any garden center. Basil and mint can be started from cuttings and root easily in a glass of water. Basil, chervil, and cilantro grow best when started from seed and replanted throughout the year.

  • Basil — Basil loves bright light and heat, so it grows best in south-facing or west-facing windows without drafts or cool air. Basil will last for several weeks but should be discarded when stems become woody.
  • Chives — With an onion flavor, chives add a kick to casseroles, egg dishes, salads, and soups. You can clip plants with scissors, but be sure to leave at least 2" of growth, so plants will re-sprout. Chives grow best in bright light.
  • Mint — Mint comes in a variety of flavors like apple, banana, chocolate, orange, peppermint, and spearmint. It's a flavorful herb for salads, desserts, mixed drinks, and teas. Best growth requires medium to bright light, moist soil, and lower temperatures.
  • Oregano — Oregano is part of the mint family, so it provides robust flavor when added to any dish. For an extra kick, you can use dry leaves instead of fresh leaves. For best growth, provide moderate to strong light and water when soil feels dry.
  • Parsley — Parsley is a great garnish for many meat and vegetable dishes, and it's great for fresh sauces. It should be grown in a deep container with organic potting soil and bright light. Leaves should be pinched off near the base.
  • Rosemary — With needled leaves, rosemary is a fragrant herb that can be added to chicken, lamb, pork, potatoes, sauces, and soups. Rosemary likes hot, sunny, dry locations in the summer but prefers bright light and cooler temperatures in the winter.
  • Thyme — Thyme adds flavor to many dishes with its tiny, robust leaves. To thrive in your kitchen, it needs a warm, sunny window and fast-draining soil. Add water when soil feels dry, but don't let the plant wilt.

          Fresh herbs are great for cooking a variety of dishes. Starting a kitchen herb garden can make cooking easier and your favorite dishes even more flavorful.

          July
          30

          Outdoor Projects Almost Every Homeowner Can Do

          Are you thinking about taking on some home improvement projects? Are you feeling nervous about getting in too deep? Even if you're no Bob Villa, there are some simple things you can do to make your home much more enjoyable.

          Take a look at these easy home improvement projects almost anyone can do in just a few days! 

          Create Some Curb Appeal
          Your curb appeal is what gives people the first impression of your home. Whether you're thinking about selling or you just want to impress your guests and passers-by, updating the front of your house is a home improvement project that's well worth the time and effort.

          You don't need much experience to take care of simple things like pressure washing your driveway and walkways, trimming your shrubs, and edging your grass. Once that's done, beautify the front of your home with some flowers. 

          Start by installing some raised flower beds in your front yard. Then, finish up your project by adding some shutters to your front windows and installing flower boxes under them. 

          Spruce Up Your Front Porch
          Your front porch and entryway also contribute to your curb appeal. Consider painting your front door a bold color, like red or a shade of blue. Once it dries, compliment your new look by adding a fun welcome mat and some large flower pots.

          If you can't remember the last time you replaced the numbers on the front of your house, chances are they're outdated. This only costs a few dollars and can make a big difference in giving your home a more modern look. 

          You may also consider installing lights along the pathway to your front door. This is a small home improvement that will make a big impression while also improving your home's safety. 

          Create a Backyard Paradise
          If you're looking for a fun home improvement project that you'll be able to truly enjoy when you're done, spend the weekend turning your backyard into a relaxing paradise. It's easier to do than you might think! You don't have to hire a contractor or spend thousands of dollars to create a space you'll love! 

          If you're on a budget, make simple upgrades like hanging a hammock or tree swing, adding a fire pit, and stringing up some cafe lights. If you have a covered area, consider adding an outdoor area rug and upcycling some old furniture to make it appropriate for the outdoors. You can make the space cozy by adding some colored cushions, pillows, and throw blankets. Finish it off with some citronella candles. This will create an ambiance while also keeping the bugs away. 

          Show Off Your Green Thumb
          Gardening is another hobby that has become enormously popular in recent years. If you want to start small, begin with a potted herb garden, or find a spot in your yard that gets plenty of sun and plant a fruit tree.

          When you're ready to take on a larger home improvement project, spend the weekend building yourself a raised bed to plant a vegetable garden. All you'll need is some lumber and exterior screws. Then, you'll want to add soil, fertilizer, and plants.

          If you're feeling really motivated, add a sprinkler system. Once you realize how much more convenient automatically watering your garden is, you'll be glad you spent the time and money on this home improvement. 

          Start Your Next Home Improvement Project Soon!
          Now that you have some inspiration, there's no reason to wait any longer. Start working on these home improvement projects next weekend, and you'll be able to enjoy the fruits of your labor right away! 

          December
          26

          6 Cold-Loving Plants for the Toughest Winters

          A successful open house can hold the key to unlocking the sale of your home. If you're selling your home during the coronavirus pandemic, showing your home while following health and safety guidelines is a challenge. However, it's not impossible thanks to virtual open houses and showings.

          Virtual open houses and showings make it possible to keep your home sale going. There are plenty of things you can do to prepare for your virtual open house. Let's take a look at how to prepare your home.

          1. Plan the Walkthrough Path with Your Sales Associate
            Work with your sales associate to select the best path to walk through your home to show its best features during the virtual open house.
          2. Declutter & Depersonalize
            Clean and organize your home. Declutter spaces by finding homes for all objects. Before selling your home, remove all family photographs and other personal belongings that make the buyer feel like they're in "someone else's" home.
          3. Use the Right Lighting
            When you're preparing your home for a virtual open house, eliminate shadows and dark areas by opening the blinds and drapes and turn on lights throughout your home.
          4. Paint Walls Neutral Colors
            One way to make your space feel like a blank canvas for the buyer is to paint your walls neutral colors. Use whites, beiges, and grays to create a clean slate throughout.
          5. Stage the Home
            Although you may love your furniture, your buyers might not. Professional staging companies will gladly come into your home and highlight the best features of your home. Their choice of furniture and décor will also appeal to a wider audience, allowing buyers to envision themselves living in the home.
          6. Make a Cheat Sheet for Your Sales Associate
            Collaborate with your associate to prepare a "script" for them to use during the open house--highlight recent updates and renovations. Provide your associate with information about your home to make the best online presentation possible.

          Selling your home is an endeavor that requires patience, dedication, and hard work if you want to maximize your offer potential. 

          October
          10

          5 Reasons to Buy Instead of Rent

          While renting a home is a rite of passage for most people, there comes a time when most of us get tired of stroking a check to the landlord every month. If you've started thinking about joining the 65 percent of Americans who own their own homes, you'll be glad to know that now is a great time to do it! 

          Not sure if you're ready to take the leap into homeownership? Check out these five huge advantages of buying a house over renting.  

          1. It's a Great Long-Term Investment
            It's true that buying a home adds some expenses you won't have as a renter. You'll have to pay for things like closing costs on the mortgage, taxes, insurance, and maintenance expenses. However, when you're paying down your own mortgage instead of paying monthly rent, you're investing in your future.  Buying a house allows you to build equity that you can later pull out if you need it. Owning a home also gives you an asset that you can sell when you get older or pass onto your loved ones. 
          2. You May Qualify for Tax Benefits
            Although tax laws are complicated, many homeowners are able to take deductions for the mortgage interest they pay. This gives those who buy a home a clear advantage over those who continue to rent. 
          3. Buying a House Give You More Control
            When you sign a rental lease, there are usually a ton of stipulations you'll need to follow. You may not get to decide what color to paint the living room or whether you'll add a dog to your family. Want to put a pool in the backyard or add an extra bathroom? If you rent, you're out of luck. Buying your own home gives you the power to make all of these decisions and more. You can control the landscaping and all of your home's interior and exterior features. You also get to decide who stays in your home with you, and for how long. 
          4. Homeownership Gives You More Security
            As long as you make your mortgage and property tax payments on time, no one can throw you out of a home you own. As a renter, however, there's always a chance that the property owner will decide to sell the property, and you'll have to move. When this happens, it's almost never at a time that's convenient for you.

            There's also the chance that your landlord will eventually raise your rent as the cost of living continues to rise. Homeowners who have locked in a fixed mortgage payment are creating extra stability in their lives. While your homeowner's insurance, utility expenses, and property taxes will likely rise, you'll at least have the peace of mind in knowing that your mortgage payment will never go up. Even better, once you pay off the mortgage, you can eliminate that expense from your budget. As a renter, you'll never have that opportunity. 
          5. You'll Feel a Huge Sense of Accomplishment
            For many people, buying a house is one of the biggest accomplishments of their lifetime. You'll be able to feel proud of what you've done, and know that you've done what it takes to make your dream of owning a home a reality! 
          August
          29

          8 Ways to Kill Your Weeds Naturally

          Man vs. weed has been a difficult and long-standing battle common to all homeowners. With the current focus on eco-friendly methods instead of harsh, toxic chemicals, the stakes are even higher.

          So how do you defeat stubborn weeds without potential risk to the health of the planet and its occupants? Use these tips from home improvement experts for natural weed-killing methods that are tough on pesky yard growth but gentle on people, pets and plants.

          1. Boiling Water
            What could be safer for the environment than water? Boil a generous amount in a kettle or pot, carry it directly outside and pour on the crown of unwanted growth. Tougher weeds may require one or two additional treatments. Be sure to protect yourself by wearing long pants and close-toed shoes.
          2. Weed Torch
            A weed torch is another method to apply the destructive forces of heat. This handy home improvement tool literally boils the water inside plant cells, turning it to steam and causing the cells to explode and die. Just heat the weeds to the point of wilting. Never use a weed torch on poisonous plants, as it can release toxic elements into the air.
          3. Vinegar
            The classic jack-of-all-household-tasks is equally effective at destroying weeds. Add a tablespoon of dish soap and two tablespoons of vegetable oil to a spray bottle of vinegar and apply directly. Note that vinegar can also damage healthy plants, so avoid spraying on breezy days.
          4. Lemon Juice
            Jolt weeds with a dose of acid by spraying fresh-squeezed or store-bought lemon juice on them. Mix lemon juice with vinegar for a super-charged solution.
          5. Baking Soda
            Baking soda is another multi-use household product that's usually on hand. Keep weeds out of hard-to-reach cracks in driveways and walkways by sprinkling baking soda on the adjacent pavement and sweeping it into the cracks.
          6. Newspaper
            Perform environmental double-duty by recycling old newspapers as a weed removal tool. Simply place ten layers of damp newspaper over the soil and cover with mulch. This technique cuts off sunshine and oxygen supplies to essentially smother weeds. If you've moved recently, this is a handy use for those cardboard boxes as well.
          7. Shower Curtain
            Give new life to an old shower curtain as an alternative to newspaper. Spread the curtain across the appropriate area between the weeds and a layer of mulch.
          8. Corn Gluten
            Corn gluten may seem more relevant to cooking than home improvement, but it's a valuable weapon in the anti-weed arsenal. More accurately, corn gluten serves as an effective weed suppressant as it prevents roots from forming.
          9. Tall Grass
            No, this doesn't mean you're released from lawn-cutting duties, but adjusting the mower to leave a length of two to three inches can make grass less vulnerable to weeds. 
          10. Elbow Grease
            The tried-and-true method of manual weed removal is always effective and leaves no toxic residue. A successful weed-pulling session lets you enjoy fresh air and sunshine and relieves stress by letting you take it out on the weeds.

          Curb appeal boosts the value of any home. Make sure weed removal is on your list of important home improvement tasks.

          May
          16

          Buying a House with a Pool

          In-Ground vs. Above-Ground Pools

          A swimming pool can be a major perk when you're shopping for a new home, allowing you to maximize the use of outdoor space and providing plenty of warm-weather family fun just outside your door. Whether you're shopping for a new home or adding a pool to your current home, it's important to consider your options. Both in-ground and above-ground pools come with their own unique advantages and drawbacks. Choosing the right option depends on your budget, space, future plans, how you will use the pool, and a variety of other factors. Consider the most important factors to find the right fit:

          • Space
            How much room do you have in your potential home's back yard, and how much of that space are you willing to give up to accommodate a pool? While in-ground pools often offer more swimming area and take up more space, that's not always the case. A large above-ground pool can offer the same swimming space as an in-ground pool, and cover about the same amount of area in your yard. So if you have room for one type of pool, then you probably have room for the other.
          • Longevity
            Do you want a pool that may last decades or one with an average lifespan of 8 to 15 years? Above-ground pools cost less to install but tend to need replacement after a maximum of 15 years. In-ground pools are often last longer, especially if they are made from fiberglass. If you want a pool that will last for the long haul when buying a house, then in-ground has the edge. But above-ground pools still offer a fairly substantial lifespan.
          • Cost
            While you won't have to worry about installation costs if you're buying a house that already has a pool, the cost of the pool may factor into the price of the home. An above-ground pool typically costs less to install, even if you're also installing decking around the whole pool. In-ground pools cost more to install, and the difference can be significant. If keeping costs down is a primary concern, then above-ground may be the way to go.
          • Maintenance
            No matter which type of pool you choose, maintenance will be required – whether you handle it or you find a local pool company to do the job. The good news is that routine maintenance costs really don't differ too strongly between the two types of pools. However, in-ground pool systems are often more complex, which can lead to higher repair costs when something does break.
          • Variety
            ​​​​​​​
            While above-ground pools offer many of the same perks of their in-ground cousins, there's no doubt that in-ground pools ultimately offer more variety. Whether you're talking about the shape, depth, look, or construction of the pool, there are simply more options with an in-ground pool. If you're buying a house and looking for a pool with a deep end or a unique shape, then the payoff of an in-ground pool may be worth the cost.

          In the end, the right option for you depends upon personal factors. An in-ground pool is more expensive to maintain, but also longer lasting. An above-ground pool may be more affordable to operate but doesn't always offer the same longevity or variety. Fortunately, both options offer plenty of potential for outdoor fun.

          April
          11

          10 Perennials to Plant for Almost Any Yard

          If you want to enjoy a beautiful yard, now is the perfect time to get started.  Don't have a natural green thumb? No worries! Creating beautiful flowerbeds is easier than you think when you plant these easy-to-care-for perennials. 

          1. Peony
            With large, gorgeous, blooms that are both colorful and strongly-scented, the Peony is one of the most popular perennial flowers. They're also extremely dependable. They often bloom for three or more years, and some continue to come back and bloom for many decades! 
          2. Black-Eyed Susan
            The Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia) creates cheery-looking blooms that resemble daisies. The petals come in shades of yellow or orange and have dark centers. They're naturally resistant to insects and drought and most varieties will continue to bloom year after year. 
          3. Bearded Iris
            With eye-popping flowers that resemble a crown, the Bearded Iris is one of the most stunning perennial flowers you can add to your garden. They come in a wide variety of colors and often boom both in the spring and in the fall. Even when they're not blooming, the foliage creates a beautiful backdrop for your yard. 
          4. Oriental Lily
            The Oriental Lily can grow up to seven feet tall and creates a large, pendulous flower with an unmistakably pleasant scent. This species of flower is easy to care for, and since they spread, you'll enjoy more flowers year after year. 
          5. Salvia
            Salvia, also known as Perennial Sage, is coveted for its deep blue blooms. There are many varieties of Salvia, some of which do well in cold climates, and others that are great for hot and humid states like Florida. If you trim them back after they're done blooming, you're also likely to enjoy a second late-summer bloom. 
          6. Purple Coneflowers
            The Purple Coneflower (Echinacea) used to come in only one variety but is now available in many colors. These flowers grow up to three feet tall and will bloom in your garden from early summer until the fall. They also attract butterflies and are excellent for making indoor bouquets.  
          7. Penstemon 
            A tubular flower that comes in white and shades of pink, purple, blue, and red, the Penstemon thrives in sunny areas. Some have blue/green leaves, which can create a beautiful contrast within your flowerbed.  
          8. Coral Bells
            Often planted at the front of flowerbeds, Coral Bells (Heuchera) are popular for their colorful, crinkly-looking leaves. They also grow tiny perennial flowers on stalks that stick out above the leaves. These plants prefer sun or partial shade and bloom in late spring. 
          9. Moss Phlox
            A very versatile plant, Moss Phlox creates a dense mat of foliage that has a tendency to creep. It grows to a height of six inches to two feet and gives off highly-fragrant blooms in the springtime. It's great for planting in rock gardens, in the front of your perennial flowerbeds, or alongside sidewalks and other paved areas. 
          10. Whirling Butterflies
            How can you not love a plant with a name like Whirling Butterflies? This North American Wildflower blooms for several weeks at a time throughout the summer and fall. Its name comes from the small, delicate flowers that look like butterflies when the wind blows. They tolerate drought well once they're established and do best when planted in areas with full sun or partial shade. 

          If you're thinking about selling your home this spring or summer, adding some flowerbeds for curb appeal is a great way to get started. 

          April
          11

          Home Sellers: 5 Exterior Features Buyers Want

          If you're thinking about selling your home, now is the time to start making any necessary renovations and updates. While you might think you know exactly what needs to be done, it's smart to talk to a real estate agent before you get started. He or she will be able to tell you exactly which features are most popular with homebuyers so you can focus your time and money on the projects most likely to improve your bottom line. 

          While buyers often have varying priorities when it comes to a home's interior, most may want the same features on the outside. Investing in the following five projects will help increase the chances of selling your home for top dollar. 

          1. Exterior Lighting
            Illuminating the outside of your house with landscape lighting and spotlights can transform it from a beautiful home to one that's absolutely breathtaking. Not only will it bring attention to the home's architectural features and perfectly manicured lawn, but it also adds an element of safety that's highly desirable. Add solar-powered lights, motion-sensors, and smart lights to make an even greater impact. 
          2. Outdoor Patio
            If you have a large backyard, potential buyers will love imagining themselves relaxing outdoors with a cool drink in their hand. An outdoor patio and seating area expand your home's livable space, making it more attractive to potential buyers.

            Adding a well-designed concrete patio is one of the best ways to make your home appear larger without undertaking a major renovation. If you already have a patio, put the effort into repairing it and making it look as new as possible. This small project can bring a huge return on investment. 
          3. Firepit
            Homes with outdoor fire pits allow owners to enjoy spending time in the backyard almost all year long. A nice-looking firepit will entice homebuyers, especially if it runs on natural gas. Build a beautiful structure, and you're likely to recoup almost all of your investment in the form of a higher sale price.

            Before jumping into this project, make sure you're following all of the local ordinances and necessary safety precautions. The last thing you want to do is add something to your home that will cause you problems down the line. 
          4. Landscaping/Garden
            Even if you don't make any major changes to the outside of your home, paying attention to your landscaping and garden will have a major impact on its curb appeal. Fertilize your lawn, touch up the mulch, and trim your bushes and overgrown trees.

            Maintain your perennial flower beds and add some annuals for instant color. If you have unique plants around your home, consider labeling them as they might help attract the right kind of buyer. Finish your project off by adding a water feature to make your yard feel like a relaxing oasis. 
          5. Outdoor Kitchen
            Outdoor living is hugely popular right now, making a great outdoor kitchen one of the most coveted features for home buyers. Depending on the scope of the project and the size and location of the home, sellers adding an outdoor kitchen can typically expect to break even or make as much as 20 percent back on their investment.

            When building an outdoor kitchen, you'll want to focus it around the grill and make sure you have plenty of counter space. Keep it simple and avoid adding extras like a pizza oven, as the new homebuyer might not want these features, causing them to be undervalued. 
          January
          10

          Getting the Dirt on Composting

          Memorable landscapes don't just appear out of thin air. While many people consider the trees, shrubs, and the flowers in the flowerbeds to be the anchors of a magnificent landscape, the reality is less glamorous and far dirtier. Anchoring these elements to the landscape is an easily overlooked foundation of thick and healthy compost. Without the compost, the flowers won't blossom and bloom, and the trees won't grow as tall as they can. When home improvement is on the agenda, overlooking the compost is a mistake that you don't want to make.

          Compost 101
          Healthy compost suitable for home improvement projects contains a balanced combination of ingredients that are rich in nitrogen and carbon. Sometimes called the "browns and greens," your brown ingredients are rich in nitrogen. These components include dried leaves, straw, cardboard, paper, and dried grass. On the green, carbon-rich side, you can use fresh grass clippings, vegetable scraps, egg shells, and leaves. It also includes manure. 

          Creating Your Compost Pile
          It is best to use a closed bin for your compost pile. This gives you a little bit more control over the process. Many gardeners recommend placing the bin in a sunny area as the warmth from the sunlight helps expedite the composting process.

          Once the bin is positioned, fill the bottom 6-8 inches of the bin with brown material. This helps absorb moisture and facilitates aeration within the pile. From there, you will want to layer your greens and browns. Each layer should be between 4 to 6 inches thick. A good rule of thumb is to build your pile at a 4 to 1 ratio of browns to greens.

          Once your pile is built, cover the top with a cap of green material that is 3-4 inches thick. This helps seal the pile and helps control the amount of moisture that can leach into the pile. When you want to add to the pile, set aside the green, carbon-rich cap, place the new material in the bin, and place the cap back on. 

          Managing Your Compost
          For the most part, composting is a waiting game that takes between 6 months to a year to complete. However, there are some minor things you need to do along the way. Many people find that turning the compost pile every two weeks helps speed the process up by dispersing the heat evenly within the pile. You may also want to add redworms, coffee grounds, and microbes as the pile matures.

          A Word About Watering
          Compost should be no wetter than a sponge that has been wrung-out. It should not be soggy and boggy. It is advisable to check the moisture within the pile in the spring, summer, and fall. If the pile is dry, add just enough water to moisten it. During the winter, you will want to add water sparingly and only on those days when it won't immediately freeze.

          Applying Your "Black Gold" to the Landscape
          When the compost is ready, there are four ways you can use it for home improvement around the landscape. You can spread it as a mulch 2-3 inches thick in flowerbeds. You can bury it 4 inches deep as a soil amendment beneath planted flowers. You can steep a shovel full in a 5-gallon bucket and create a tea that you can spray on the grass or around flowers and shrubs. Finally, you can spread about an inch on your grass, rake it, and let it settle into the soil. Each of these methods will help you create a healthy and vibrant landscape around your home.   

           

          January
          3

          Trees Add Beauty and Value to Your Home

          The right trees can offer many valuable benefits for homeowners. Trees are a well-recognized symbol of stability. They convey the owner's dedication to home improvement and maintaining the property. When chosen with care and strategically planted, trees are capable of adding plenty of greenery to your wallet when you decide to sell your home.  


          How Trees Add Value to the Home


          Adding well-trimmed trees as part of your home improvement plans creates considerable curb appeal. This attracts buyers and can increase the value of a property by 15% or more. Healthy, well-maintained trees convey an ambiance of longevity. They also promote privacy while providing places to hang swings and build tree houses. These benefits make the home more valuable for homebuyers with young children and those seeking to own a peaceful retreat to relax within. 

          There are many other added benefits to including trees in your landscape. Trees can help deter and reduce property crime. They also create a peaceful, friendly atmosphere within the neighborhood. These factors have a positive influence on the value of the home as well as homes on surrounding streets.    

          Trees Provide a Firm Foundation for Landscaping


          Effective landscaping requires creating a healthy ecosystem within the yard. Trees perform numerous tasks in this regard. They help stabilize the soil and reduce erosion, provide biomass that promotes healthy lawn growth and provide shelter for birds and insects that pollinate flowers and control pests. During the summer months, the canopy helps protect the lawn from scorching and reduces water evaporation. They also help to filter the air around the property which can reduce air pollution. 


          From the perspective of landscape design, trees define the yard. They provide firm boundaries between property lines, flower beds, and other fixed features. They determine pathways, create shade over a patio, or block a neighbor's view of the backyard.  

          Trees Trim Utility Bills, Protect the Home, & Reduce Pollution


          Tall trees with broad foliage can provide shade and reduce the amount of sunlight that reaches the home. This reduces heat gain which in turn lowers cooling costs in the summer months. This is a significant benefit that eco-conscious home buyers will notice and appreciate as they consider their real estate purchase.


          Trees also help protect the property from damaging winds. Tall trees located around the boundaries of the property can reduce wind speeds on the home by as much as 60%. This helps reduce the potential for damage to siding, windows, shingles, etc. Further, trees reduce noise pollution on the property and can significantly reduce noise from nearby streets, highways, airports, trains, etc.    


          The Most Valuable Trees


          Trees that are visually appealing and require minimal maintenance are the most appealing home improvement choices. In this regard, Maple trees, Crepe Myrtle, and various species of Evergreens are ideal choices. These trees provide plenty of shade in the summer and create beautiful displays in the fall. Evergreens provide year-round color and privacy to the yard. However, you will want to avoid Evergreen Conifers, and Leylandii Cypress as these particular fast-growing trees require significant maintenance and can create fire hazards as they grow. 


          Other popular tree choices for home improvement include fruit-bearing trees. Cherry, peach, and plum trees are beautiful in the spring and provide plenty of fresh fruit for homeowner's to enjoy. In more temperate climates, lemon, lime, orange, and mandarin trees are some of the most popular. As with all landscaping choices, it is advisable to choose trees that are native to the area and well-suited to survive the seasonal changes in the region.

          November
          22

          7 Tips for Single Women Buying a Home

          Buying a home is a worthy objective for a single woman. It is also a significant accomplishment that involves planning, saving, and achieving a good credit score. It takes a bit more effort when you are the only source of income, so here are seven tips for the single woman interested in buying her first home.

          1. Check Your Credit Report
            Checking your credit report is the first step towards homeownership. Not only will you see your credit score, but you will also look at all accounts you have had over the years including credit cards, student loans, and auto loans. You will also see late and on time payments towards those accounts and accounts in collections (if you have any).
          2. Fix Problem Accounts
            Problem accounts will typically be in a separate section of the report so that you can find them easily. If you haven't previously reviewed your report, you may be surprised by what could be there. Try to get any accounts up-to-date if they are legitimate and work to have incorrect information removed before applying for a mortgage.
          3. Determine a Budget
            Determining your budget is a crucial financial decision. You may pay less for a mortgage than your rental payment. However, you will also have property taxes, homeowners insurance, and potential repairs. Be realistic and work those costs into your budget before buying a home.
          4. Get Pre-approved
            After saving for your down payment, work with a mortgage company to get pre-approved for a loan. You will be better prepared to make an offer when you find your dream home. The sellers will also view your offer as more sincere and workable.
          5. Research Real Estate Agents and Neighborhoods
            Finding a real estate agent with extensive knowledge about the neighborhoods in which you are interested is essential.  You want to move to a safe neighborhood that is also affordable, and you want to have an experienced, reliable real estate agent to help you. Determine in advance the type of neighborhood you want. Are you looking for an area with an active singles scene? Or are you looking for someplace close to work?

            Check with family and friends for referrals to real estate agents. Look for one that has experience working with first-time single home buyers. You should also make it a priority to find an agent with the patience to answer all of your questions and will show you homes within your budget.
          6. Check Everything Twice Before Closing
            Once your offer has been accepted, you and your real estate agent will prepare for closing the transaction. You will need a home inspection before closing. Read this report carefully and look for any potential issues that could lead to repairs. If you find any, you can ask through your agent that the sellers repair them as a condition to closing.

            Also, read your loan agreements closely. Be sure you understand every provision and ask the agent or loan officer to clarify anything that may confuse you. Now is the time to get answers to any lingering questions.
          7. Enjoy Your New Home
            The last tip is the best. Enjoy your accomplishment and your new home. 
          June
          21

          10 Powerful Perennials for Your Yard

          Make Your Yard Look Beautiful Year After Year With These Perennials


          Establishing your garden takes time and effort, but you can minimize the ongoing care by planting perennials. What are perennials?  Perennials are the workhorses of your garden.  They are those plants in your garden that grow back each year.  Perennials may initially cost more than annuals, but are well worth the price when you see them come back to life each spring and summer.


          Wondering what perennials to plant? Here are 10 popular perennials that will add a powerful punch to your landscaping plans.

          1. Daffodils - Daffodils are one of the first flowers to show up in spring, which can bring life to an otherwise barren garden. They are also fairly easy to care for, other than needing to be divided every few years. These are great perennials to plant to boost your house's curb appeal as early as possible.

          2. Iris - Irises are a sun-loving springtime favorite that is hardy and easy to care for, plus they look pretty and smell good when they bloom! Irises spread underground and will need to be dug up and divided every few years so they don't crowd themselves out, but otherwise will need very little maintenance to look their best.

          3. Daylilies - Daylilies flower in late spring or early swimmer, but feature thick foliage that looks good all season long. This easy-to-care-for perennial is an excellent choice for anyone who wants low-maintenance landscaping that will add substantial curb appeal to their home.

          4. Shasta Daisies - Daisies are common enough flowers, but not all of them are perennials. If you want daisies in your yard but don't want to have to plant them every year, consider planting Shasta Daisies, which can be encouraged to bloom twice if cut back after the first springtime bloom.

          5. Rosebushes - Who could forget the classic beauty, rosebushes? Roses have a reputation of being fairly difficult to care for, but that's only certain varieties. Be sure to do your research and find out what's hardy and easy to care for in your area.

          6. Lilies - Lilies are another classic summer-blooming perennial, but these grow from bulbs. Many varieties of lilies are extremely hardy, but they give your yard an exotic look that will look like you put a lot of work into it. Be careful, though: Many people are allergic to lilies.

          7. Coneflowers - If you're looking for mid to late summer color, you can't go wrong with coneflowers. These brightly flowering perennials were originally native to the American prairie, but have become a favorite for many gardeners throughout the country.

          8. Hydrangea - If you're looking for something more shrub-like, perhaps as a natural border or privacy fence, consider planting hydrangeas. These shrubs can grow large so make sure you plant them someplace where they'll have lots of room to expand.

          9. Trumpet Vine - Don't forget about the vertical when you're planning your landscaping. If you're looking for a perennial that will offer lush vertical foliage and a long blooming period, consider planting trumpet vines. They grow relatively fast for a perennial, become well-established fairly quickly, and don't need too much care compared to other climbing plants.

          10. Aster - Bring color to your garden even late into the summer and all by including aster on your list of must-have perennials. These small, daisy-like flowers grow low to the ground in clumps and can be found in a variety of colors.

          Landscaping your yard enables you to not only get more enjoyment from your home, but it can also add value in the long run.

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