Small Space Gardening

Whether you have acreage to spare or your yard could be compared to a postage stamp, small gardens boast advantages for all. The low startup cost, water usage, and general maintenance make it a smart decision for anyone who wants to try out their green thumb without the costs and commitment that come with a large garden. Not to mention the delicious and beautiful fruits (or veggies, or flowers) of your labor.

Raised Bed Garden

Raised beds can be built in an afternoon to fit your specific space and plant needs or pre-cut kits can be purchased at your local hardware store for quick and tool-free assembly. Cedar is best for this project for its rot- and insect-resistant qualities. Be sure your bed is placed in a level, weed-free area prior to filling with dirt, then fill with nearly any type of plants. Trellises and cages can also easily be added with this method for vertical growth.

Straw Bale Garden

A quick trip to your local hardware store and about $10 in supplies can help you achieve a straw bale garden. With this method, you’re containing your new garden as you would with pots or a raised bed, but at the end of the season, your bale can be used for compost which you can use to feed your garden next year! To achieve this, place your bale narrow/cut side up, condition the bale, remove enough straw to fit your plant and it’s root ball, and fill in with quality soil to feed the plant and add stability. Be sure to fertilize with this method since the straw won’t provide as many nutrients as soil.

Vertical Garden

If you’re really low on space, a vertical garden might be the best option for you! A bare wall or fence make the perfect location for these gardens and are easily customizable to include some added privacy from neighbors or stand as an art piece. Small pots can be hung from a chain-link or hex-wire fence, recycled pallets can be leaned and filled with soil for small plants, crates can be stacked for larger plants, and wall gardens can be created using pocket gardensor even shoe organizers.

Community Garden

If you have neighbors interested in helping and a space for a larger garden, another way to keep your costs and maintenance low but return on investment high is to start a community garden. Popping up in neighborhoods of all types, these gardens provide a multitude of rewards but with the shared responsibility of maintaining the space. Some communities have even had success securing sponsorships for their gardens to purchase tools and other supplies, so be sure to look for resources in your community. Reach out to your neighbors, lay some ground rules, and come up with a plan prior to beginning the project. Be sure to maintain good communication with all involved so everyone is on the same page and has the same expectations.

Indoor Herb Garden

With a few small pots and a lot of natural sunlight, anyone can have an indoor herb garden that’s ready to garnish your dishes or add flavor to your beverages. Just be sure to provide your pots with good drainage and protect any surfaces that may be damaged from excess water or fallen leaves. If even this is overwhelming, the Miracle-Gro AeroGarden is a nearly fool-proof method for growing plants indoors.

Regardless of your chosen method, be sure to plant, water, and fertilize according to your plant’s included directions. Keep us posted on how your little garden is growing in the comments section below!

Spring Home Maintenance Checklist

If you’re a new homeowner, chances are that spring cleaning this year might be the most intimidating one yet. You already know that preventive maintenance can make the difference between your home appearing chic or shabby, but more importantly, proper maintenance will keep your home and your landscaping functioning their best this year, and in the many years to come.

This helpful list will guide you through the most common spring maintenance tasks.

Clean your gutters

This is a chore you just can’t skip. Gutters need to be cleaned at least once a year, and more if your yard is surrounded by trees. Clogged gutters will lead to a saturated foundation, gutter damage, and flooded landscaping.

To clean your gutters, you will need: a sturdy ladder, buckets with S-hooks, a trowel, a garden hose (long enough to reach up to your gutters), a gutter attachment, thick gloves, and a large tarp.

Climb the ladder, hook your buckets onto the gutter, and use the trowel or your gloved hands to scoop out debris. Begin at the downspout and work your way down and away from it. When the buckets are full, dump them onto the tarp, not onto your lawn or landscaping.

Once the gutters are free of debris, use the hose attachment to spray them out. Look for any clogs, and call a professional if there’s still a clog remaining after you’ve cleaned all you can.

Inspect and repair your roof

Before you purchased your home, it’s likely that you asked for a roof inspection report. If this report alerted you to any issues, be sure to keep a close eye on them specifically.

Additionally, look for any spots or discoloration on your ceilings. If you don’t see any, get your flashlight and head up to the attic. You’re looking for dark spots, sagging areas, any signs of water damage or leaks, and sagging in the structure of the roof.

Once you’re finished in the attic, climb carefully up onto your roof. You’ve still got that sturdy ladder, right? You’re looking for curling roof tiles, damaged or missing shingles, moss growth, and loose or missing tiles around chimneys and vents.

If you see any of these issues, it’s time to call a roofer while you are still likely to be able to take care of the issue with a quick fix instead of a costly repair or replacement.

Sharpen your lawn mower blades

Sharp lawn mower blades ensure that your mower cuts your grass cleanly instead of ripping through the blades. If you’ve ever seen a lawn with dry, jagged ends jutting out at odd angles, that’s the unsightly result from a dull mower blade. Follow the directions that came with your mower, or contact the company for proper instructions. Be sure to wear thick, protective work gloves and safety goggles, and use a blade clamp, no matter which sharpening method you are instructed to use.

Replace the air filters in your home

If you have central air, you have at least one filter that traps contaminants as the air is circulated through your home. Your filter might be reusable, in which case all it needs is a thorough scrubbing and time to dry. It’s more likely, though, that your filter is disposable, and should be replaced at least every three months.

To find out which type of filter you need, gently remove the filter that is currently in place, and check to see which size, type, and model number is printed on the side. Jot down that info, and head over to your local hardware store for a replacement. Simply place the new filter in the same way you found the old one, and you’ll be set.

If your filter is located in a tricky spot that you can’t reach, you’ll need to call in a professional to give you a hand, but don’t let that slow you down. Go ahead and place the call; you deserve clean air in your home.

Service your a/c unit

While this topic is too complicated to cover in-depth in this article, there are several helpful tutorials online if you’re an energetic go-getter who loves the hands-on approach to your home.

If you aren’t, just call the pros. They’ll perform this task for a reasonable rate, and you’ll save big bucks in the long run when you get great performance out of your a/c this year, and in the years to come.

Power wash your deck

You might find that this chore is more fun and relaxing than you anticipate. Apply an appropriate cleaning solution for your deck using the low-pressure soap nozzle, and let it stand as instructed, usually around 15 minutes. Then switch to the high-pressure fan tip, and spray the deck from the top down. Follow up with a water seal.

Prune trees and shrubs

Spring is an ideal time to tend to your yard’s trees and larger shrubs. If you’re unsure about proper pruning, there are various tutorials online that will show you exactly where to prune to ensure maximal beneficial growth for the types of trees and shrubs you have in your yard.

Clean your patio furniture

If your patio furniture was subjected to this year’s wild winter weather, you already know it needs a thorough scrubbing. The type of furniture you’re cleaning will determine the methods you’ll need to use.

For an effective cleaning solution for wood that won’t break the bank, mix ¼ cup ammonia, 2 tablespoons of white vinegar, and 1 quart of warm water. Don gloves and wipe down your wood and wicker with a soft rag dipped in this solution.

If you’ve got metal furniture, your challenge is most likely to be oxidation. White vinegar mixed 50/50 with water will remove the oxidation from the surface. Dirt can be washed away with a mild soap and water solution.

If you’re trying to freshen plastic, don’t use bleach; it will weaken and discolor your furniture. Instead, ¼ cup white vinegar in a quart of water is a safer choice. Use a soft rag so that you don’t scuff the delicate, plastic surfaces. If you do have a stained area that needs a bit of a scrub, use baking soda and water on rag and buff gently in small circles.

Clean your windows

Clean windows might be the first thing you picture when you imagine your house gleaming after a spring clean. Since you’ll be cleaning your windows often, invest in a good squeegee with a wet cover and dry cleaning cloths.

Set up a wide-mouthed bucket with the cleaning solution you’ve chosen. Warm water and vinegar are a favorite option, though mild soap and hot water can work, too. Dip your squeegee and wet cover into your bucket, and spread the cleaning solution all over the window, working from the top down.

Remove the cover, and use the bare squeegee, again working from top to bottom, this time removing the cleaning solution from the window. After each pass, wipe the squeegee with your dry cloth. Once you’ve finished with the squeegee, use the dry cloth to clean up any water that remains in the edges or bottom ledge of the window. Wipe the sill for the final touch on your gleaming windows!

Prepare flower and garden beds

After you’ve cleared your yard of debris and pruned back your large plants, you can begin to prepare your flower and garden beds for this year’s plants.

On a day when the soil is still damp, but not too wet, head outside with a trowel or shovel and turn over at least the first 12” of dirt in your flower and garden beds. Then, lay down at least an inch or two of rich compost. Finally, lay down plant nutrients specific to the plants you intend to plant. Be sure to mix the compost and plant nutrients evenly into the soil. Now you can celebrate spring by planting your garden in fresh, healthy soil.