Monthly Archives: December 2015

Make Your Home Affordable With Green Living

e4There is no single prototype for living green. Lowering energy bills is the best way to increase long-term affordability of home ownership. Some builders create smaller spaces with a luxury feel or rustic Santa Fe style adobe housing. The quest to lower electric bills increases the foreign market for solar and wind energy.

It is not one size fits all. Going green is based on lowering your carbon footprint. It includes a new solar or hybrid car, solar pool heaters, solar hot water heaters, increased attic or wall insulation, and energy-efficient home monitoring systems to reduce energy use.

Installing solar lights along the driveway is easy and affordable. Solar gates are used on ranches for over a decade preventing expensive electric wiring in remote areas.These solar gates work very well with back-up batteries.

Water issues are a key driver in green living. It requires switching out shower heads for those which use less water and replacing old toilets with low-flow toilets. Overhauling older home systems with new solar air conditioning, tank-less hot water heaters, water efficient dishwashers, and solar exterior house lights bring a new hipness to older homes.

California has experienced drought for over a decade. Electronic metering and remote metering systems reduce water usage and lower water bills. Native landscaping often lowers the water bill in many areas of the world.

Green living is centered around living with less waste and higher energy efficiency. Green home are optimized for energy-efficient appliances, solar heating and cooling systems that use less energy and water. Green building materials could be recycled or natural.

Green energy includes windmills, recycled water for lawns, cisterns to collect water, and/or solar energy. It could be lowering water usage and rezoning AC systems to react to smartphone APP. It is possible to use smartphone APPs to lower the thermostat for your home while riding down the office elevator to your car? Many home automation systems control kitchen appliances, light bulbs, hot water heaters, home thermostats, and pool systems. The best systems offer exterior and interior lights, along with home security systems. The smartphone APPs are encrypted and fairly safe. Nothing is perfect and hackers can get past the encryption protecting car computers for navigation. Switch passwords often and never give these to your neighbors.

Windmills and solar farms can seem expensive. These renewable energy systems can be financed. Home owners can sell the excess power to the local utility company. Windmills have few maintenance issues and may last a century or longer.

Using Houseplants for a Thriving Lifestyle

3tStudies have proven that like outdoors, indoor plants filter and clarify the air surrounding them, a natural alternative to artificial air fresheners. Certain plants are more proactive in their fight against unwanted air pollutants. For example, Aloe (Aloe Vera) is a very easy to take care of plant that filters toxins found in chemical cleaners and paint products. Consider adding a decorative houseplant or two to a room prone to unwanted & lingering smells as an inexpensive and attractive solution.

In office culture, it is common to receive or give a gift of an indoor plant. Most often the plant is placed in a window to provide a barrier between the chaotic, sometimes distracting outside world, or between cubicles to provide more color in an open, uninteresting space. Similar ideas can be incorporated when decorating a home. To add privacy without surrendering natural light to curtains or blinds, a tall plant in a windowsill may be all that is needed between a room and the realities beyond.

Unlike the size restrictions of an office space, decorating a home with indoor plants can turn to a canopy of exciting, large plant options. A modern planter or classical plant urn hosting a stoic, thriving may be the statement piece missing in a living room, hallway or library for example. Like a bouquet of fresh-cut flowers on a dinner table, a potted plant filling the space beneath a hanging piece of art is simple, chic and complementary.

Incorporating plants into interior decorating is not a new concept. Art Nouveau designed houses and rooms embraced plants and nature into all mediums of art and decorative design; rooms bloomed with living and depicted plants in hues of green and gold. In the 1970s, houseplants practically dominated and controlled every crack and corner of free space, turning a simple living room into a everyday botanist’s sanctuary.

Today there are a variety of ways to include plants in a household. Small, matching sets of succulents that need very little attention can be placed almost everywhere. Glue a magnet strip to small, lightweight ones and turn your refrigerator’s humdrum facade into something that practically greets you everyday in the kitchen. An unsightly heating unit or uninteresting corner space can also quickly be covered up by an attractive plant and planting box or urn.

Discuss with your local floral shop or nursery different indoor plant options suitable for the locations you have in mind. Consider the amount of light the areas receive and the dimensions of the space available. Ask specific questions such as how often, and how much water or care is needed and equally important, how big the plant will get. No matter how big or small the additions of houseplants may be the refreshing sight of an indoor plant always brings a breath of fresh air to any home.

Annual Seed Starting

2eSeeing tiny sprouts break through the ground and peep through the melting snow is sure to make any gardener antsy for Spring, and these last few days of warm weather have certainly been teasing. Although some regions cannot promise consistent warm weather this early in the year, there is still an opportunity to get a head start on the season by starting seedlings in a greenhouse, garden window, or well-lit part of the house. Let’s take a look at some of the early stages of starting seedlings and the transformation process from indoor and to outdoor plant.

Prepare a Seed Starting Mixture and Sterilize Planters

Sterile seedling mix is crucial not only for the initial growth stages of plants, but also preventing for plant diseases, which can be extracted from soils which are not properly sterilized.

A seed starting mix can easily be purchased from a greenhouse or garden store. Creating a home-made seed starting mixture is easily done with four simple ingredients:

· 4 parts screened compost

· 1 part perlite (which can be purchased from most garden stores)

· 1 part vermiculite (also can be purchased from most garden stores)

· 2 parts coir (fiber extracted from coconut husks)

It is also important to sterilize the heat mats and other containers before the seeds are distributed.

Organize and Disburse the Seeds

Gardeners interested in cultivating something new can check out seed companies, like Jung Seeds, which have a wide repertoire of seeds from which to choose. Seed Savers is another unique organization, which not only sells seeds, but also promotes the conservation of the endangered garden by collecting, sharing, and growing heirloom seeds and plants.

Certain seeds are extremely tiny black specs, and some even look like dust, so once the seed order arrives it is not a bad idea dilute them with sugar to ensure they will evenly distribute when sowed. To do this, pour two to three tablespoons of sugar into a small container, sprinkle in the seeds, and then thoroughly mix everything together. Smaller seeds, such as impatients, will not need to be covered with soil, as simply wetting them down after disbursing will cover the seeds enough.

Transplant the Seeds

Once the seedlings begin to sprout, they can be transplanted into individual pots and placed on a deck, patio, or other sheltered outdoor area for a few hours a day for an adjustment period of about 10 days. The adjustment period, also called “hardening off” gradually exposes the plants to various environmental changes, including sun and wind exposure. If they are immediately transplanted into full sun exposure, they will be at risk to sunburn and other damage. After 10 days, the plants will be ready for full outdoor residence. Hardening off can also occur in outdoor cold frames.

If the seeds will be started in a greenhouse, make sure the structure’s heating, cooling, ventilation, and other growing accessories are in perfect working order before cultivation begins. Now is also a great time to sharpen gardening tools, stock up on fertilizers, and think about laying out the garden’s structure (if not already done). Now that the seedlings are started, it’s only a matter of weeks before the gardening will be in full swing!

Early Spring Chores to Start the Garden Off Right

eFor most parts of the country it seems like winter is coming to a close. With warmer weather finally in sight, the urge to do something outside might be starting to set in, and March is the perfect time to get out of the house and into the garden. Want to get a head start for the official gardening season but don’t know where to start? Don’t worry we have you covered with some spring gardening chores to get you outside and get a jump start before the season starts.

Get Your Tools Ready

This is probably one of the most important, yet overlooked, tasks that needs to be done for gardening season. Just take a simple inventory of your equipment and see what you have, if you are missing something, put it on your shopping list. Once you have everything, make sure all your tools are clean and ready for the work ahead.

Prune Away

Spring is the prime time to prune your deciduous trees, shrubs, leggy perennials, hybrid tea roses, and floribundas. Sometimes it can be difficult to select what branches to prune away and which ones to keep. This pruning trick will help you make sure the correct branches are staying.

  • Take a look at the tree or shrub you are going to prune, keeping in mind its desired shape. Look at it from multiple angles, perspectives, and distances. Make sure to look up into its canopy.
  • Instead of pruning right away, tie colored indicators, such as twine or ribbon, around each limb you are considering pruning. Keep it like this for a few days, and every time you walk past it, think about what it will look like if you would remove the selected parts.
  • Don’t be afraid to change your mind! It is OK to remove the ribbon or even put it on another limb. Then, take a few more days to see if those are the cuts you really want to make. This will help you feel better about your pruning cuts and ultimately happier with the pruning result.

Clean Your Perennial Beds

Now is the time to clean out your beds and get them ready for gardening season. Follow this system for the easiest ways to get your beds ready for spring.

  • Rake leaves and debris before the spring bulbs come up and new growth begins.
  • Get rid of last year’s dead foliage. Make sure to clear foliage from hostas, daylilies, irises, and peonies from your garden, and do not compost them! These plants typically harbor undesired insects and disease that most compost piles cannot kill.
  • Trim back your evergreen perennials. Get rid of the winter ravaged foliage from your hellebores, epimeduim, and liriope to make it easier for the fresh foliage to pop up.
  • Trim damaged boxwood branches. Make sure if you want to do any trimming to do so during mid-March while they are still dormant.
  • Cut back any ornamental grease or other perennials you left over the winter.

Spring Cleaning

Take the time now to clean up your garden by fixing steppingstones, removing leaves from ponds or water features, and touching up the mulch. Also, make sure to clean out any birdhouses to make room for them before they start nesting. Lastly, take advantage of a nice spring day and clean your rain gutters to prevent your plants from drowning in excess water.

Taking care of pre-spring chores will ensure you are able to enjoy your garden as much as possible this season. The beautiful spring weather has already arrived in some parts of the country. Get the early spring gardening chores out of the way, and don’t miss a second of precious gardening time.