A clean, decluttered home provides a much-needed sanctuary from the daily grind. It’s hard to fully decompress if your home is dirty or untidy, and the average American worker spends nearly one hour on housework daily in an attempt to keep a clean house. But there’s a misconception that in order to truly clean your home, you’ve got to don rubber gloves and spray harsh chemicals to do it.
In fact, one of the primary reasons for cleaning your home regularly is to clear out the many toxic chemicals that have accumulated in your household dust. Flame-retardant chemicals and phthalates are among them (along with thousands of species of bacteria and fungi).
However, if you clean your home with commercial sprays, wipes, scrubs and polishes, you’re putting toxins into your home environment instead of removing them. The same goes for most laundry detergents, dryer sheets and air fresheners. Even those strong-smelling lemon and pine scents — the ones many people believe are the epitome of a clean home — are created by toxic volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
You needn’t expose yourself or your family to these toxins any longer, as it’s simple to clean your home with nontoxic cleaners. You can even recreate the same “clean” scents you love using essential oils, and your home will smell much better for it while offering you therapeutic benefits at the same time. As an added bonus, by creating your own nontoxic cleaners, you’ll probably save money too, compared to buying commercial cleaning products.
Five Essentials for Your Natural Cleaning Arsenal
Are you ready to ditch your toxic cleaners in favor of a safe, naturally clean home? Go ahead and purge your cabinets of your old cleaning supplies to make room for these natural cleaning essentials. You might find that you have some of them in your kitchen cabinets already:
Baking Soda In preparation for the Statue of Liberty’s 100th anniversary in 1986, 99 years’ worth of coal tar had to be removed from its inner copper walls, without causing damage. Baking soda — more than 100 tons — was the cleaner of choice, so there’s a good chance it can remove dirt and grime around your home too.
Use as a safe non-scratch scrub for metals and porcelain. To clean your oven, sprinkle a cup or more of baking soda over the bottom of the oven, then cover the baking soda with enough water to make a thick paste. Let the mixture set overnight. The next morning, the grease will be easy to wipe up because the grime will have loosened. When you have cleaned up the worst of the mess, dab a bit of liquid detergent or soap on a sponge and wash the remaining residue from the oven. To unclog a drain, pour one-half cup to 1 cup of baking soda down the drain, then slowly pour one-half cup to 1 cup of vinegar in after it. Cover the drain and let it set for 15 minutes. If it bubbles like a volcano, it means it’s working as planned. Flush with a gallon of boiling water. Deodorize dry carpets by sprinkling liberally with baking soda. Wait at least 15 minutes, then vacuum.
White Vinegar Distilled white vinegar has been found to be useful for disinfection against Escherichia coli (E. coli), provided it’s used in a freshly prepared solution of at least 50 percent vinegar.9 For disinfecting, one study found that spraying vinegar, then spraying hydrogen peroxide, was effective for killing a variety of bacteria, including E. coli, listeria and salmonella.10 You can also combine vinegar and water for an excellent window cleaner, or spray it onto a dusting of baking soda to clean your sinks, tubs and tile floors.
Vinegar and water makes a great all-purpose countertop cleaner as well, but for stone counters, use rubbing alcohol or vodka with water instead, as the acidity may harm certain surfaces like marble and granite. For heavier duty cleaning, like mildew on your bathroom grout, spray vinegar straight onto the area, let set for 30 minutes, then scrub with a sponge and warm water.
Lemons Lemons, both the juice and peels, can be used throughout your home for cleaning and deodorizing.
Consider the following uses:
Garbage disposal: Freeze lemon slices and vinegar in ice cube trays.
Refrigerator: Soak a sponge in lemon juice and let it set in your fridge for a few hours; it works better than baking soda to remove odors.
Room freshener: Simmer a pot of water and add lemon peels, cloves and cinnamon sticks.
Humidifier: Add lemon juice to the water in your humidifier, then let the machine run for deodorizing.
Breath: Drinking lemon water helps freshen your breath (rinse your mouth with plain water afterward since lemon juice may erode your teeth).
Trash cans: A few lemon peels added to your garbage can will help with odors.
Fireplace: Dried citrus peels can act as kindling in your fireplace, adding a wonderful smell and acting as a flame starter. Simply let the peels set out for a few days before using.
Hands: Add lemon juice while washing your hands with soap to help remove stubborn odors like garlic.
Cat box: Place lemon slices in a bowl near your cat box to help freshen the air.
Cutting boards: Sprinkle coarse salt on your cutting board then rub with a cut lemon to freshen and remove grease. This trick also works for wooden salad bowls and rolling pins.
Furniture polish: Combine lemon oil, lemon juice, and olive or jojoba oil to make a homemade furniture polish. Simply buff with a cloth.
Windows: Lemon juice cuts through grease and grime on windows and glass. Try combining it with cornstarch, vinegar and water for a phenomenal window cleaner.
Coffee maker: Run a cycle with plain water, then add a mixture of lemon juice and water to the water tank. Let it set then run the cycle through.
Hardwood floors: Combine lemon and vinegar to make a grime-fighting nontoxic floor cleaner.
All-purpose cleaner: Combine water, baking soda, vinegar, lemon and lemon essential oil for a wonderful kitchen or bathroom cleaner.
Castile Soap Castile soap is natural, biodegradable and chemical-free, plus incredibly versatile (as are most natural cleaning supplies). You can use it for personal care, laundry and cleaning around your home. For instance, mixing baking soda with a small amount of liquid castile soap makes an excellent paste for cleaning your tub and shower.
For a homemade antibacterial solution, mix 2 cups of water with 3 tablespoons of castile soap and 20 to 30 drops of tea tree oil. Spray onto the surface (such as toilet seat and sink), then wipe off. You can even make a homemade dishwasher detergent by mixing equal parts of liquid castile soap and water.
Coconut Oil Antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal compounds in coconut oil have been shown to inactivate microorganisms such as bacteria, yeast and fungi. Around the home, coconut oil is particularly useful for cleaning, sanitizing and conditioning wood items, such as cutting boards and furniture, but you can also use it for lubricating squeaky hinges and sticky mechanisms instead of WD-40.
It also works well for moisturizing and softening leather goods in lieu of leather conditioners and for removing chewing gum from virtually any area, including carpets and hair.
Homemade Natural Laundry Detergent
Ingredients: 6 cups washing soda 3 bars coconut oil soap (4.5 to 5 ounces each) Lemon essential oil (optional)
To Make: Cut soap into small chunks. Add to a food processor along with the washing soda. Blend until you have a fine powder. You may want to lay a dish towel over the top of your food processor to prevent a fine mist of powder from floating into the air. Also, let it settle a bit before opening the container or the powder will float onto your kitchen counter! Pour into a clean container (keep the essential oil next to the jar and add five drops with each load)
Although it doesn’t quite feel like it yet, Fall is just around the corner. What better time to start prepping your home for the weather to come? We’ve gathered the most important Fall home maintenance tasks to get you and your home ready for this next season.
1. Purchase a Programmable Thermostat
Having a programmable thermostat is completely worth the investment, especially once the the weather cools down. If you set your thermostat back while you’re away during the day, you could save up to 10% on your air conditioning/heating bill each year. Many programmable thermostats can even be accessed from on your phone.
2. Fertilize your Lawn
Applying fall lawn fertilizer will help prevent winter damage and spring weeds. Ask a local garden center or check online to find out which type of fertilizer you need and when to apply it.
3. Reverse your Ceiling Fan
During winter, warm air rises up to the ceiling fan while cool air will stay close to the ground. By flipping a switch and reversing your ceiling fan, cool air is forced up, and warmer air is pushed down.
4. Clean the Gutters
If rain gutters are blocked they can overflow which can cause water damage to your home, including the foundation and basement. Take out your ladder, and clear out any leaves, branches, or debris from the gutter.
5. Plant Bulbs for Spring-Blooming Flowers
There are beautiful several Spring-blooming flowers but they must be planted at just the right time during the Fall. Some popular ones are the tulip, iris, daffodil, hyacinth and lily.
6. Clean the Fireplace and Chimney
Before you fire up the fireplace this Winter, make sure it’s clean and ready to go. Your fireplace & chimney should be cleaned and inspected every 50 burns to ensure that it’s ready to be used.
7. Check Smoke Detectors
Replace all batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors throughout your home. Once you’ve replaced the batteries, press the test button to insure they are working properly.
8. Remove Warm Clothes from Storage
The seasons will begin to change and soon you’ll be trading in your tank tops for coats. This is a great time to sort through all of your warmer clothes and decide if you still want to keep everything you stored away. If you don’t think you’ll wear it this Fall, donate it to your local thrift store.
9. Check Windows & Doors for Leaks
As the year comes to a close, the weather will get colder. If your windows are not sealed properly, your home could lose lots of heat, causing your gas and heating bills to spike! Check for leaks now and have a worry-free winter.
10. Organize the Garage
With the hustle and bustle of the summer, the garage most likely could use some tidying up. Install some shelving or add some hooks to keep your garage more organized year-round. Why not pull out your Fall decorations while your at it?
Whether it’s your first house or what you hope will be your last, buying a house is often a very stressful process. Until the moment you take possession of your home, there’s always a chance something could go wrong. Here are seven ways to simplify the process of buying a house.
1. Get your paperwork in order
Start getting your paperwork in order before you even start looking at properties online. If you’re applying for a loan, you’ll need your last two years’ worth of tax returns, current pay stubs, bank statements for the last three months, cancelled rent checks, or copies of your lease. You may also need your divorce decree and bankruptcy paperwork if either of those situations apply. Remember that getting money out of a 401k or a trust for your down payment or outright purchase can take longer than you anticipate, so find out how long it’s going to take and what’s involved if that’s a route you’re considering.
2. Find a real estate agent you can trust
Before you start the mortgage or loan application process, finding out what’s going on in the market is vital. Speak to a few of our professional agents here at McLeRoy Realty, and listen to what they say about what you’re likely to get for the house you’re selling. In addition, speak with them about what you’ll likely pay for your new one.
Choose the agent you believe is the right fit. Staging, keeping a home show-ready, and listening to tactfully delivered feedback from people who’ve viewed your home means you’re going to be interacting with your agent a lot.
3. Start researching banks, credit unions, and loan officers
While it might seem simpler to use a bank or credit union that offers home buyers one-stop shopping, what the term really means is the bank has a vested interest in the sale through controlled business arrangements with realtors, attorneys, and possibly even home inspectors, and may receive a portion of the commissions. That’s no way to guarantee objectivity. To check a loan officer’s record, ask for their ID number and take a look at NMLS Consumer Access. If you’re using a mortgage broker, check their credentials with the Better Business Bureau.
4. Get your financing in order
Once you’ve chosen your loan officer, bank, credit union, or mortgage broker, get pre-approved for a loan or mortgage and get a pre-approval letter. This will not only help you figure out what you can afford before you start looking, it tells realtors and sellers you’re serious. Depending on how long your search takes, you may need to renew your pre-approval—they’re usually only valid for 60 to 90 days.
5. Find a home inspector you can trust
If you’re looking at older homes, a good home inspector will be able to warn you of areas where there are problems with termites, water seepage, or shoddy construction. Do your due diligence. One of the best ways to find a good home inspector is to talk to a tradesperson you’ve used in the past, one who takes pride in their work and wants everyone in the industry to do the same. Try to find a home inspector who’ll let you accompany them when they make their inspection so you can ask questions on the spot.
6. Consider investing in title insurance
While it may seem like an unnecessary expense, making sure there are no liens against the property you’re buying is important. The last thing anyone needs is to find out the home they just bought is owned by someone other than its previous occupant. It costs between $1,000 and $3,000 on average, or .05 percent of the purchase price. You can sometimes get a reissued title insurance policy if the seller went through this process. That can save you some money. Get your real estate agent to ask the seller’s realtor about this. Additionally, some banks may require you obtain title insurance if you’re getting a mortgage, so be sure to inquire with your lending officer.
7. Get your tradespeople lined up
If you’re already a homeowner and have been through renovations or repairs, you may have a plumber, an electrician, a roofer, a flooring person and a general carpenter you know and trust. If you’re moving to a new city or you’re a first-time homebuyer, you’re going to have to rely on in-person and online recommendations.
One of the best places to find good tradespeople is an independent home supplier. They know who’s sloppy and who’s not, and they’ll often have business cards for tradespeople behind the counter. Here’s hoping these seven ways to simplify the process of buying a house make the experience a little less stressful. Happy hunting!
If you’re into lush lawns and attractive flower beds, the lazy days of summer may not feel so lazy after all. While there is much to be said for spending a sunny afternoon lounging in your hammock, you’ll feel better about taking a break after you’ve completed your summer yard care routine. Summer is a busy season for plants, and they’ll look to you for a little TLC along the way. Provide some basic lawn care and maintain your flowerbeds and your landscape will reward you with a beautiful outdoor space in which you can relax.
Summer Maintenance for Lawns
Among the most important care tips for your summer yard is maintaining the grass—and keeping your summer landscape looking its best means frequent mowing. Before you mow, check the height setting on your mower. You should never remove more than 1/3 of a blade of grass when mowing. Resist the urge to cut the grass as short as possible so you so you can use your lawn mower less. Taller grass shades the soil better and requires less irrigation as a result.
Remember that the summer heat makes it difficult to keep a healthy lawn. Both you and your grass will tolerate mowing better if you do it in the morning rather than in the afternoon heat. Each time you mow, do so moving in a different direction. This helps to prevent mow lines and ruts in the yard. It also helps keep grass from becoming overly coarse.
Ideally, it’s best to apply fertilizer, insect controls and weed killers during your lawn care routine in the spring. If you didn’t, it’s not too late to do so now. Apply these chemicals carefully when using them in the summer months. Use only the recommended amounts and water the lawn after applying chemicals to avoid burning your grass.
Practice Proper Watering Techniques
It’s natural for lawns and gardens to need watering during the summer but don’t just turn on the sprinkler for a while and call it good. Taking a more nuanced approach will help your plants without unnecessarily inflating your water bill.
Always water your plants in the morning or evening. Watering during the day allows the sun to quickly evaporate any water you provide before your plants benefit from it. Remember to water deeply as well.
You should water your lawn until the soil is damp at a depth of about 6 inches. You can stick a screwdriver in the ground and check it for moisture to determine when you’ve reached your goal. Planting beds need water too and should receive about an inch of water per week, including rainfall.
Pay special attention to any plants growing in containers when you water. Plants in the ground can spread their roots, stretching a bit deeper to find water if necessary. Plants grown in containers aren’t as lucky. Their root depth is limited by the container in which they’re planted, so they dry out more quickly than plants in the landscape.
Grow Native Plants
One of the best ways to streamline your summer yard care is to choose native plants for the landscape. Native plants are those that are naturally found where you live. After living where they do for generations, these plants evolve and adapt to local growing conditions.
Cacti, for example, evolved to deal with intense summer drought conditions along with extreme desert heat. If you plant a cactus in its native desert, it will thrive without any help from you. Plant a cactus in the winter snow, however, and it will quickly die from the cold or rot away from too much moisture.
Choosing landscape plants that live where you do makes landscape care much easier. Unless you have a bout of unusual weather, native plants will require very little attention.
Summer Yard Care for Flower Beds
Hopefully, you found the time to mulch your flower beds in the spring. If you didn’t, do so as soon as you can in the summer. Mulch helps the soil around your plants stay moist during dry weather, and it protects plant roots from the heat.
Mulching absolutely reduces the number of weeds in your flower beds, but you’ll still need to do some weed control. Keep an eye on your planting beds and weed them as needed. The best time to weed is after it rains when the ground is still damp. Weeds pull out of wet earth much more easily.
Flowering plants and shrubs look beautiful in bloom but lose their luster when blossoms start to die. Deadhead your plants when the flowers start to fade. Doing so makes your landscape look nicer and promotes new flowers on many different plant species.
Unfortunately, many insect pests may like the same plants that you do. Check your garden often for chewed leaves, aphids or other signs of a problem. If you find these pests, get rid of them. Aphids may easily fall off your plants with a shot of water from your garden hose, but other insects can prove to be more tenacious. Your local garden center will understand the pests in your area and can offer advice about which products can safely eliminate them.
Remember Your Hardscape
It’s easy to forget about your hardscape when your beautiful blooming garden is distracting you, but these landscape features need some summer love too. Whether you spray them or pull them by hand, remember to pull weeds that pop up in between your patio or sidewalk pavers.
Clean up your driveway, patio and sidewalks regularly during the summer. Dropped leaves and flower petals can stain some surfaces as they decompose, so make sure they don’t sit too long on hardscape surfaces.
Summer is also a good time to repaint and repair outbuildings as necessary. Now is the time to reseal your deck or fix that broken fence panel. You may have crossed some of these items off your to-do list in the spring. If you didn’t, there is no time like the present.
Harvest on Time
If you plant your own summer vegetable garden or fruit trees, pay close attention to when your harvest is ready and gather it promptly. If you wait too long, rabbits, deer and other hungry critters may eat your bounty before you do.
Even worse, overly ripe fruits and vegetables may fall from the plant and rot if they are not harvested quickly enough. Rotting food on your landscape can smell bad and attract a lot of the wrong attention. Mice and flies are just a few of the undesirable critters that may start hanging around your property if you fail to harvest your crops on time, so harvest crops as soon as you can. If you’re too late, pick up and dispose of any food you grew but can’t eat.
Japanese maples are the most desirable garden trees that exist. A tree in fall is guaranteed to turn heads and gather admiring looks and the enormous variety of leaf forms, colors and tree shapes means that no matter what your taste or space restrictions, there will be a tree for you. Some grow into small trees 20 feet or more in height, others remain as low shrubs reaching five feet only after many years of growth. They may be upright in form, pendulous or cascading, with red or green leaves and as well as their stunning fall coloring, many have remarkable colors on their new spring leaves too. There are also a wide number of varieties with red or purple leaves all summer, which bring a unique highlight to any garden.
These trees have a reputation for being hard to grow, but this is largely undeserved. With attention given to their location in the garden and some minimal care, they will thrive and increase in beauty every year. Compared with many other trees and shrubs they have few pests or diseases and are versatile enough to thrive in locations ranging from full shade to full sun. They can be grown in the garden, in containers and of course they are ideal subjects for the ancient Japanese art of bonsai.
An Overview of Japanese Maples
Japanese maples grow wild across the hills of Japan, Korea and into Mongolia and Russia too. As a wild tree it grows 20-35 feet tall, occasionally more, and usually has several trunks, rather than a single central trunk. The bark is smooth and gray on older limbs, but green, red or sometimes pink on younger shoots. This tree grows in the shade of larger forest trees, which is why it is more shade-tolerant than most other deciduous trees. Being a maple tree it has the typical lobed leaf, with veins spreading out like the fingers of a hand and ending in five to nine lobes, with one lobe in the centre of the leaf. However the leaves are much smaller than on typical maple trees and since many garden forms have deeply divided leaves they may not be immediately recognized as maple trees. Japanese maple produce small flowers in spring and the seeds are the small ‘keys’ typical of all maples, which twirl down to the ground in fall.
For many centuries the Japanese people have travelled to the countryside to see the fall color, like east-coast Americans admiring the sugar maple. More than an excuse for a picnic, momiji-gari is considered a lofty spiritual experience.
They Are Naturally Variable
Unlike many plants, where each individual is very much the same as another, these trees are naturally very variable, with different leaf-forms, colors and tree shapes. Japanese gardeners began to collect these forms, and produce more from seedlings, so that today at least a thousand different forms are known. Many forms were developed in Japan and these of course have Japanese names, while others were bred in Europe or America and usually have English-sounding names. Although some purists only grow original Japanese varieties, many of the best and most popular were developed in the West and have been introduced back into Japan.
In the 19th century travelers and botanists began to bring trees back from Japan and they quickly became very popular with gardeners in Europe and America. The Swiss botanist and doctor Carl Peter Thunberg named the tree Acer palmatum, because the leaf looked like a hand. The Japanese name momiji means the hand of a baby. Of the many forms introduced and bred, the most popular are those with red summer leaves; those with finely divided leaves; and those that are pendulous and cascading. However many of the other forms are very worthwhile garden plants, including forms with colored winter twigs, unusual leaf shapes and ones grown for particularly spectacular or unusual fall coloring. So making a different choice from the main-stream will always bring something special and unique into your garden.
In gardens Japanese Maples are hardy form zone 5 to zone 8, with some being hardy into zone 9. Some varieties will thrive in zone 4 as well. In areas that are too cold the branches may suffer from damage in winter and die, although often the main stems will re-sprout. In hot regions the main danger is heat and sun-scorch, which can cause the leaves to shrivel in summer. When this occurs trees will sprout normally the following spring. Growing trees in shadier locations and making sure they have sufficient water will normally prevent this problem in summer. In very warm areas there may not be sufficient winter cold to stimulate the buds to re-grow and this does make it impossible to grow these trees in tropical and sub-tropical places.
Japanese Maples in the Garden and Landscape
With the move to smaller gardens and tiny town gardens there is often a need for a tree, but most shade trees grow too large for small spaces and quickly become problems that mean they have to be removed, often at considerable expense. The larger forms of Japanese Maples make ideal small trees, staying less than 15 feet tall for a long time and only very slowly reaching 20 feet or more. With some pruning they can be kept small indefinitely. This also makes them ideal for growing in planter boxes and large containers too, where they can be moved around as needed and where they will not have to compete with larger trees for water and nutrients.
In larger gardens they are ideal for growing under mature, large trees and will thrive happily in the shade of deciduous trees, where they can be grown directly underneath them. Beneath evergreen trees they can be grown on the north-facing or east-facing side, in the shadow, but they will find the continuous shade directly underneath dense evergreens less than ideal. Beneath open pines and trees that do not have dense shade they will however grow well.
These trees can also be grown in full-sun and there they will develop a denser crown and often show stronger fall colors. In cooler areas this is an ideal location but in warmer regions it becomes more likely that the leaves will dry and shrivel, so shade, especially from afternoon sun, is best in zones 7, 8 and 9.
Choose a location where you tree can easily be seen, so that you can enjoy it at any season. Cascading trees look very beautiful on slopes or by water, while upright trees make great background plants or specimens. They make beautiful companions for other shade-loving plants like Azalea, Rhododendron, Holly and Hemlock. A beautiful and special garden can be created beneath large shade trees using these plants, which will be interesting at all seasons of the year.
If you have a courtyard garden or just a deck or terrace, you can successfully grow a Japanese maple by planting it in a container or planter box. For a young tree this does not have to be very large, but remember that smaller pots need more frequent watering, especially during the summer months. All sorts of containers can be used, but make sure that whatever you use has a drainage hole. Trees in containers can be moved around so that they can be admired at special seasons and also to give them more, or less, direct sun depending on the season.
Although in the minds of many people these trees are connected with oriental style and Japanese gardens, in fact they can and do fit well into almost any garden style, so don’t think that you have the ‘wrong’ garden for them. From woodland gardens to town courtyard gardens, these trees always make a special impact. One of the best things about a Japanese maple is that they become more and more beautiful as the years go by. Old, mature trees have a dignity and grandeur that cannot be beaten and they also become valuable assets. Old trees sell for thousands of dollars.
Growing As Bonsai
For some the highest use of this wonderful tree is to grow it as bonsai. This ancient Japanese and Chinese art uses living trees to create beautiful art objects that can grace a terrace or a dining table. In Japan, houses have special niches for displaying objects and bonsai trees are often brought indoors to show their beauty. Bonsai is a specialized form of gardening that is not difficult but takes some special knowledge. Any Japanese maple can be used, from upright to cascading, and the training enhances the natural beauty of the tree. If trees are grown indoors as bonsai they must spend some time outdoors or refrigerated in winter to keep them healthy. In Japan bonsai trees are grown outdoors and only brought inside for short periods to admire them. Just as they do in the garden, trees as bonsai become more beautiful and more valuable as they mature.
Japanese Maple Care
Choose the location carefully when planting your tree. Protection from afternoon sun and drying winds is helpful in all but the coolest areas, although some varieties are more heat resistant than others. If you are planting a cascading form, a slope, bank or the top of a wall will show the beauty of this tree better than planting it on flat ground.
Caring for your new tree begins with preparing the soil. Your tree will do well in most kinds of soil, as long as it does not stay wet for long periods. Flooded soil is not suitable. Whatever the soil you have, your tree will do better if you add a generous amount of organic material before planting. This can be garden compost, well-rotted animal manures like cow, sheep or horse manure, rotted leaves or peat-moss. One or two buckets of material should be dug well into the soil where you tree is going to be planted. Add some bone-meal, rock phosphate or superphosphate to give good root growth.
For planting in containers or planter boxes, make sure your container has drainage holes or it will be impossible to stop the soil from flooding and killing your tree. Holes can be drilled in most containers – for ceramic ones use a slow-speed drill and a masonry bit, making a small hole first and then enlarging it with larger bits. Use a potting soil for outdoor planters and top-up the pot each spring with fresh soil.
When planting, make sure you use plenty of water during the planting operation. Do not plant into dry soil and then just sprinkle the surface afterwards. Mulch of a rich organic material should be put on over the whole root area after planting. For the first year or two, make sure to water your tree regularly, once a week from spring to fall and twice a week during hot weather. In warm areas winter watering may be necessary during sunny and dry periods.
Your tree will not need staking, but if you are growing a cascading form it is possible to create a taller tree with a very attractive form by staking a few branches upright, keeping them staked until they are firm and support themselves. This will create a multi-tiered tree that is very attractive and eye-catching.
Mulch and Fertilizer
In spring renew the mulch and apply a small quantity of tree fertilizer, scattered over the whole root zone. Young trees also benefit from liquid fertilizer during the early years, applied in late spring and early summer.
Trees in planters and containers should be fed with a liquid fertilizer once a month from the time growth begins until late summer. Be careful to follow the directions and use a half-strength solution or the foliage may burn. Do not fertilize a dormant tree as this may stimulate sudden new growth which could be damaged by frost. Water trees in containers whenever the upper inch or so of the soil becomes dry. Always water thoroughly until a little water comes through the drainage holes.
Pruning and Trimming
Pruning is not normally required, except for removing any small branches that may naturally die as the tree develops. Long shoots can be trimmed back a little to encourage denser growth, but trimming and heavy pruning could destroy the natural habit of your tree, which is its greatest asset. Trees in containers may need more regular trimming to keep them within the space available, but unless you are growing bonsai, trimming is one chore you can forget with your Japanese maple.
If you enjoy pruning and trimming your plants, some growers do prune their trees to develop a more mature appearance earlier than would happen naturally. The time to do this is in winter, when you tree is dormant – February in cooler areas and January in warmer regions. Remove small branches coming from the lower parts of the major stems and any branches that are crossing or rubbing against each other. Leave branches where you want to have major limbs, spacing them out so that the tree looks more open and even a bit sparse. Shorten back long stems to encourage denser growth. Always cut just above a pair of buds. A second trimming of new shoots in early summer will also help your tree to look more mature. Look at the pictures of mature trees of your particular variety to see what a mature tree looks like and try to prune your young tree in that way.
The Major Types of Japanese Maples
After thousands of years of collecting and breeding, there are at least a thousand different varieties of Japanese maples. Some are quite similar to each other and only of interest to collectors, but there are many unique and special forms of outstanding beauty which are very popular with all gardeners. The major areas of difference are:
Leaf form: This varies from quite large and full to small and delicately divided into many narrow threads.
Leaf color: Almost all trees showing attractive fall color, with some trees being grown specifically for this. Others have red leaves in spring and summer and these are perhaps the most popular. Some varieties also show strong colors in the new leaves, which can be pink, orange, red or even white in spring. These colors may change into red or green during the summer. Some trees also have variegated leaves, in yellow and green.
Branch arrangement: Some trees have upright branches and look like ‘regular’ trees, while some have horizontal branches, forming a low, wide tree. Others have branches that fall at lower angles, forming pendulous, weeping and cascading forms.
Overall size: Because of their relatively slow growth rate, and depending on climate and growing conditions, it can be hard to predict the ultimate size of a tree. Some will grow into small trees perhaps 15-25 feet tall, while others, especially cascading forms, remain low and spreading forever and may never even reach five feet in high, although they can be much wider across.
So we will look at some specific types, especially the most popular and available ones. With such a wide variety to choose from there is sure to be the ideal tree for your particular needs and desires, not matter where you live or what you garden is like.
Upright Japanese Maples
There are a whole range of varieties which grow into upright, multi-stemmed trees between 10 and 25 feet tall. These usually mature into trees with a rounded crown, nearly as wide across as they are tall. Trees in shade will be narrower and more upright than those grown in full sun. These trees are the ideal choice for a smaller shade tree and all have spectacular fall coloring. Some of the most popular have red foliage all summer long, but the green-leafed forms should not be neglected as they have a lot to offer.
Varieties with Green Summer Leaves
Coral Bark is a unique tree that brings a whole new dimension to these remarkable plants. Also known as ‘Sango-kaku’, it forms an upright tree with green, divided leaves that turn a perfect butter yellow in fall. But it is in winter, when the garden is sleeping, that this tree really stand out, as the younger branches and twigs are brilliant coral pink from the day the last leaf drops to the moment when the new leaves emerge in spring. Winter in the garden can be boring, so a tree like this is just the thing to bring interest to the drabbest of seasons. This is also one of the easiest and undemanding of all the varieties, requiring no special care at all, so for the beginner that makes it the perfect choice.
Osakazuki is the perfect way to bring vibrant fall color into a small garden. This is one of the fastest-growing maples and it will be almost 20 feet tall in ten years, eventually reaching perhaps 25 feet, with a rounded but upright form, perfect for the smaller garden. This is a tough, hardy tree that will thrive in light shade and it is the ideal courtyard tree. With elegant green leaves in summer, it turns the most amazing palette of gold, orange, red and copper every fall – truly a remarkable tree.
Varieties with Red Summer Leaves
Bloodgood is probably the most well-known and widely grown variety, and there is a good reason for that. This is the hardiest variety of all, growing happily with winter lows of minus 30, but also happy in hot summer weather. So for gardeners in zone 4, Bloodgood is the premium choice. In time in can grow into a tree 20 feet tall, with an upright habit and semi-horizontal branches. The leaves are not as finely divided as some other forms, giving more substance to the tree and they are deep pink in spring, purple-red in summer and crimson in fall. The tree will grow well in shade, but in colder areas it also grows well in full-sun and there it will have the strongest summer color.
Emperor, or ‘Wolff’, will grow into an upright tree about 15 feet tall, holding its purple-red leaf color from spring to fall, when it ends the season in a blaze of scarlet. It is also very fast growing, so a worthwhile specimen will develop in just a few years. It has another unique quality that makes it very useful in colder areas. Sometimes a tree will survive winter without any damage, but if you live in an area with spring frosts, early shoots on your trees and shrubs can be damaged. This tree is slower by a couple of weeks in leafing-out than other varieties, so it is much less likely to be damaged by a late frost. If that is a feature of your area, this tree is the number one choice.
Purple Ghost is one of the smallest of the upright Japanese Maples, growing into a tree that is rarely more than 10 feet tall. So if you have a small space or are looking for a tree for a large pot, this is the one to choose. It has rich purple-red leaves that keep their color well all summer, before turning brilliant crimson in fall.
Sherwood Flame is remarkable not only for its beautiful red leaves all summer, but for also having the most vibrant fall display of all the red-leaf forms. Not content with just turning a brighter red, this tree bursts into a blazing crimson bonfire in your garden every fall. While other trees are plain in winter, this tree is known for flowering at a young age and producing a heavy crop of delightful red maple keys, that festoon the branches well into the winter, bringing its own decorations to the festive season. The summer color of the star-shaped leaves will not fade and this tree’s rounded but upright habit will not overcrowded the smallest garden, as it rarely grows above 15 feet tall.
Weeping Japanese Maples
Some varieties have a semi-upright habit, forming a rounded dome with slightly weeping branches, often growing from one or several mainly upright stems. These form medium sized shrubs that are excellent specimens in shrub beds or as part of foundation plantings, as well as being attractive in planters and pots, among rocks or around a pond.
Other forms have branches that hang down and make a mound of stems, unless staked to make them more upright. These cascading forms are best grown on banks or at the top of walls where they can be seen in all their glory.
Varieties with Rounded or Dome-shaped Crowns
Crimson Queen is probably the top-pick of the red-leaved, weeping forms, growing into a large shrub ten feet tall and about the same across. This tree is known for holding its red leaf-color through the summer better than any other form, even in shade, making it certainly the best choice for those locations. It turns bright red in fall. The branches are weeping, creating a graceful rounded form even in young trees.
Inaba-shidare is a large shrub or small tree with an upright trunk and weeping smaller branches, so that it forms a broad, rounded tree. The finely-divided leaves are very dark purple-red in spring, gradually becoming lighter and more vivid as summer comes and then ending in fall a fiery crimson red. This tree is fast growing, so it quickly becomes a real feature in your garden, thriving in sun and partial-shade. ‘Inaba-shidare’ has to be one of the top picks of the red-leaved trees.
Red Dragon is the answer when you have a sunny location and need a tree that will not scorch. This variety is the most sun-tolerant form available and will stay fresh and happy in sunshine all day long. The leaves emerge cherry-pink in spring, turn red for the summer and become crimson in fall – a glory all year round. The tree is rounded to cascading in shape, and some summer watering is worthwhile in very hot locations.
Varieties with Pendulous and Weeping Branches
Garnet is unique for its remarkable leaf coloring. This small, weeping tree has leaves that emerge in spring a vibrant shade of red-orange. Remarkably, this color does not fade, but is retained all summer long, before turning the richest deep red in fall. Garnet remains small, with a perfect weeping form, making it ideal on a bank, at the top of a wall, by a pond or in a tall pot. It is shade tolerant and also thrives in warmer, more humid climates than many other varieties. It will grow into a shrub just 6 to 9 feet tall, but 8 to 12 feet wide, so leave room for it to spread.
Green Cascade says everything you need to know with its name. It will grow into a cascading shrub just 5 feet tall but up to 8 feet across. With its cascading habit it is ideal planted at the top of a wall or on a bank, or in the foreground of a shrub border. It does well in warm areas and because the leaves are larger than in many other varieties it is especially resistant to sun, so it is ideal for the sunniest spot in any garden. The leaves may be green all summer, but when fall comes this tree pulls out all the stops and becomes a kaleidoscope of gold, orange and shades of red.
Green Mist has the most finely-divided foliage of almost any of these remarkable trees, so fine that the tree resembles a cloud floating in the garden. A fully cascading form, this tree will flow across the ground on any slope, or spill over a wall or boulder in a delightful way. Because the foliage is so fine, it is best to grow this tree in a well-watered location, with shade from the midday and afternoon sun. Despite the fineness of the leaves it will grow well even in zone 9 if planted in shade.
Tamuke-yama is the fastest growing of the cascading forms. It is also the most heat resistant and so the ideal choice for hotter, humid areas. The leaves are reliably purple-red all summer, turning crimson in fall. With its rapid growth rate it will soon become a feature in your garden, but as it slows with maturity it will never be more than 8-10 feet across. Growing well in sun and shade, for southern gardeners this is the tree of choice.
Waterfall is the ultimate variety for cascading forms. No other tree has such a full, cascading habit of and it will literally stream down a bank or wall, exactly like a green waterfall. The foliage may be a restful green all summer, but in fall it lets loose with a riot of yellow, gold, orange and red that will rival the most colorful of fall trees. It is perfect on a wall or bank, where it can spill in every direction.
Weeping Viridis is larger than many other cascading forms, so it is the ideal choice for a larger property. It will grow to 10 feet tall and 10 feet across, with weeping branches falling to the ground. The leaves are cool green all summer, and then they turn vibrant yellow, orange and scarlet in fall. For a reliable, weeping form this is an outstanding and unique tree that makes the perfect complement to the more common red-leaf forms.
Rare and Unique Forms
Some trees do not fit neatly into the ‘upright’ or ‘weeping’ categories and have some other unique feature that sets them out as special. This may be unusual leaf forms, a different way of growing, or some other feature.
Lion’s Head, or ‘Shishigashira’ is a very special tree that is rarely seen, but deserves to be grown more widely for its unique appearance. Unlike the delicate shape of most forms, it has a bold, upright presence, with rounded and crinkled leaves. The shoots and leaves cluster on the upper parts of the branches, so that a tree looks like the shaggy mane of a noble lion. Fall color is gold to red on this special tree. Despite its rugged and bold look, this tree remains small and is ideal for a unique container plant – especially in an Asian-themed garden, but also making a remarkable statement in any location.
Selling a house is a time-consuming process – especially if you decide to do it on your own, known as a For Sale By Owner (FSBO; pronounced “Fizz-Bo”). From conducting market research to reviewing legal documents, handling negotiations, and more, it’s an involved and highly detailed process that requires a lot of expertise to navigate effectively. That’s one of the reasons why the percentage of people selling their own house has declined from 19% to 8%: To help you understand just how much time and effort it takes to sell on your own, here’s a look at a few of the things you need to think about before putting that “For Sale” sign up in your yard.
1. Making a Good First Impression
While it may sound simple, there are a lot of proven best practices to consider when prepping a house for sale.
Do you need to take down your personal art?
What’s the right amount of landscaping to boost your curb appeal?
What wall colors are most appealing to buyers?
If you do this work on your own, you may invest capital and many hours into the wrong things. Your time is money – don’t waste it. An agent can help steer you in the right direction based on current market conditions to save you time and effort. Since we’re in a hot sellers’ market, you don’t want to delay listing your house by focusing on things that won’t change your bottom line. These market conditions may not last, so lean on an agent to capitalize on today’s low inventory while you can.
2. Pricing It Right
Real estate professionals have mission-critical information on what sells and how to maximize your profit. They’re experienced when it comes to looking at recent comparable homes that have sold in your area and understanding what price is right for your neighborhood. They use that data to price your house appropriately, maximizing your return.
In a FSBO, you’re operating without this expertise, so you’ll have to do your own homework on how to set a price that’s appropriate for your area and the condition of your home. Even with your own research, you may not find the most up-to-date information and could risk setting a price that’s inaccurate or unrealistic. If you price your house too high, you could turn buyers away before they’re even in the front door, or run into problems when it comes time for the appraisal.
3. Maximizing Your Buyer Pool (and Profit)
Contrary to popular belief, FSBOs may actually net less profit than sellers who use an agent. One of the factors that can drive profit up is effective exposure. Simply put, real estate professionals can get your house in front of more buyers via their social media followers, agency resources, and proven sales strategies. The more buyers that view a home, the more likely a bidding war becomes. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the average house for sale today gets 5 offers. Using an agent to boost your exposure may help boost your sale price too.
4. Navigating Negotiations
When it comes to selling your house as a FSBO, you’ll have to handle all of the negotiations. Here are just a few of the people you’ll work with:
The buyer, who wants the best deal possible
The buyer’s agent, who will use their expertise to advocate for the buyer
The inspection company, which works for the buyer and will almost always find concerns with the house
The appraiser, who assesses the property’s value to protect the lender
As part of their training, agents are taught how to negotiate every aspect of the real estate transaction and how to mediate potential snags that may pop up. When appraisals come in low and in countless other situations, they know what levers to pull, how to address the buyer and seller emotions that come with it, and when to ask for second opinions. Navigating all of this on your own takes time –a lot of it.
5. Juggling Legal Documentation
Speaking of time, consider how much free time you have to review the fine print. Just in terms of documentation, more disclosures and regulations are now mandatory. That means the stack of legal documents you need to handle as the seller is growing. It can be hard to know and truly understand all the terms and requirements. Instead of going at it alone, use an agent as your shield and advisor to help you avoid potential legal missteps.
Selling your house on your own is a lot of responsibility. It’s time consuming and requires an immense amount of effort and expertise. Before you decide to sell your house yourself, connect with a McLeRoy Realty professional to discuss your options and learn more about how they can make sure you get the most out of the sale.
One of the biggest hurdles homebuyers face is saving for a down payment. As you’re budgeting and planning for your home purchase, you’ll want to understand how much you’ll need to put down and how long it will take you to get there. The process may actually move faster than you think.
Using data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Apartment List, we can estimate how long it might take someone earning the median income and paying the median rent to save up for a down payment on a median-priced home. Since saving for a down payment can be a great time to practice budgeting for housing costs, this estimate also uses the concept that a household should not pay more than 28% of their total income on monthly housing expenses.
According to the data, the national average for the time it would take to save for a 10% down payment is right around two and a half years (2.53). Residents in Iowa can save for a down payment the fastest, doing so in just over one year (1.31). The map below illustrates this time (in years) for each state:
What if you only need to save 3%?
What if you’re able to take advantage of one of the 3% down payment programs available? It’s a common misconception that you need a 20% down payment to buy a home, but there are actually more affordable options and down payment assistance programs available, especially for first-time buyers. The reality is, saving for a 3% down payment may not take several years. In fact, it could take less than a year in most states, as shown in the map below:
Wherever you are in the process of saving for a down payment, you may be closer to your dream home than you think. Talk to your local McLeRoy Realty professional to learn more about the down payment options available in your area and how they support your plans.
A home inspector will look at a house’s HVAC system, interior plumbing and electrical systems, roof, attic, floors. windows and doors, foundation, basement and structural components, then provide a written report with results.
A home inspection generally takes two to four hours, but may take more time depending on the size of the house.
Attend the inspection so you can explore your new home in detail and ask questions as you go. This process can give you much more informative than the report alone.
Don’t be concerned with the quantity of defects listed on your report — many will be so minor you won’t bother fixing them. Instead, pay attention to the seriousness of the home’s issues. Some can be deal-breakers. Talk to your home inspector and real estate agent about your best ways forward.
NO HOME IS PERFECT
A home inspection checklist can be a valuable tool when you’re selling a property. If you know what an inspector’s going to be looking for, you can sort out minor issues in advance.
Of course, nobody’s expecting perfection. Blemish-free reports are rarer that Trump/Obama slumber parties. And it may be that you’ve already negotiated over some known issues and they’ve been reflected in the price.
However, cherry-picking small problems that are quick, easy and inexpensive to fix can drastically reduce the list of defects a report shows up. And the shorter that list, the better the chances of your sale closing without quibbles.
HOME INSPECTION CHECKLIST: THE COMPONENTS
Here’s what the inspector will review, according to the American Society of Home Inspectors’ (ASHI):
Central air conditioning system (temperature permitting)
Interior plumbing and electrical systems
Attic, including visible insulation
Windows and doors
Clearly, the inspector isn’t going to tear your home apart to inspect piping and wiring. But the more she has access to, the better the final report will be.
IF YOU ARE THE SELLER
It’s in your interests as a seller to provide quick and easy access to everything on that home inspection checklist. Here are some ways you can help:
Leave keys (for instance, for your electrical panel), and label them where the inspector can find them
Make sure all pilot lights are on for fireplaces and furnaces, even in summer — so the inspector can check heating and other appliances
Tidy your basement — There needs to be an unobstructed path down the steps and through to your furnace/HVAC unit/water heater and anything else that needs inspecting
Tidy your attic same as your basement
Clean up key areas in your yard so the inspector won’t need a machete to get to your crawl space, drainage access points or septic tank
If the home is vacant and the utilities have been shut off, have them reconnected
Being helpful won’t necessarily buy you a better report, but even professionals appreciate thoughtfulness.
HOW TO GET A BETTER REPORT
Inspectors are people, too. And, just like everyone else, they associate a clean, sweet-smelling home with owners who care about — and for — their property. It will do you no harm if the inspection starts off from that perspective.
Chances are, you recently prepared your home for showing and it’s already in close-to-perfect condition. But look around for new defects. If a tile’s slipped from the roof or a pane of glass has cracked, get them fixed in advance. Similarly, if your furnace or HVAC is temperamental or is overdue for maintenance, get it professionally serviced.
This is not the time to carry out expensive works. But you might as well go for any quick wins that are available. After all, your buyer’s likely to try to leverage any black marks in the inspection report for a lower price. Who knows? You might even save a few bucks.
WHO PAYS FOR THE INSPECTION?
The buyer usually pays for the home inspection. However, on making an offer, some insist the seller pays. So that’s an item for negotiation.
Sometimes, sellers commission a home inspection before they first offer the home. That can reassure potential purchasers. And it can provide the owner with a chance to fix issues ahead of the marketing of the property.
However, not all buyers are willing to accept a report paid for by the seller. In fact, experts recommend that buyers choose their own inspector, someone without ties to either the seller or the selling agent.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?
HomeAdvisor regularly publishes nationwide average costs for home inspections. It reckons that, in 2018, those range from $277-$388, though you may pay below $200 or well over $400, depending on where you live and size of the home.
As with most things in life, the cheapest isn’t always the best. Especially if your state doesn’t license home inspectors, make sure yours is sufficiently qualified and experienced to do a good job — and doesn’t cut corners. Choosing an ASHI member may add some reassurance about your pick’s competence and ethical standards.
WHAT ABOUT FOLLOW-UP COSTS?
Careful buyers — or ones alerted to potential problems by the inspector — may want to commission further reports from specialists concerning the possible presence of:
Lead piping or paint
Lead and asbestos were commonly used in the construction of older homes but are banned from those recently built. Some buyers also require a check on sewage pipes using a camera service.
HOW LONG DOES THE INSPECTION TAKE?
The duration of an inspection varies widely, mostly depending on four factors:
Number of defects
Thoroughness of the inspector
The helpfulness of the owner when preparing for the inspection
Having said that, expect somewhere between two and four hours unless there are exceptional circumstances.
SHOULD BUYERS AND SELLER BE THERE?
Why not? Ask your inspector if she’d mind your coming along. Few object.
You’ll have a chance to explore your new home further and ask your inspector questions as you go. It can be much more informative than the report on its own. And it can give you some perspective on how major or minor each issue is.
MY REPORT LISTS DOZENS OF DEFECTS! WHAT SHOULD I DO?
Most reports list dozens of defects. Some run into three figures. That’s because there’s no such thing as a perfect home.
What should concern you is not the quantity but the seriousness of the home’s issues. Many will be so minor you won’t bother fixing them, even though you know they’re there. The last owner didn’t.
But some can be deal-breakers. Talk to your home inspector and real estate agent about your best ways forward.
If you live in a hot, dry, sunny region, it makes good sense to choose plants for your garden that thrive in those conditions. Those are the varieties that will do the best and require the least amount of attention and resources. But even if your climate is not predominantly hot and dry, you may still have areas on your property that are consistently warmer and dryer than the rest of your land. Such areas are known as microclimates.
How Microclimates Happen
Many factors can contribute to the production of a microclimate, including:
Whether or not the area is on a slope and the directional orientation of that slope. Rain water or irrigation water flows off slopes quite quickly, which often makes these areas relatively dry, regardeless of how much rain falls. And a southern-facing exposure of a slope can exaggerate this condition.
The elevation of an area. High, exposed areas are typically
The site’s proximity to bodies of water or to reflective surfaces. Bodies of water may create a moister, cooler microclimate, while reflective surfaces, such as bank of windows or a wall of steel siding, can make the garden site very hot and dry.
The area’s exposure to prevailing wind. Sheltered areas tend to hold moisture better, while exposed areas will dry out faster and may be especially hot.
While there’s little you can do to affect your regional climate, there are actions you can take to modify and accommodate to the effects of a microclimate in your landscape.
The landscaping problems presented by an especially sunny and dry microclimate and also your possible response will depend on where the hot, arid plot occurs and how you wish to use that part of your property. Soil at the base of the south side of a building or solid wall is likely to be one of the warmest spots in your landscape because it receives the greatest amount of sun exposure, and in addition it’s backed by a surface that reflects light and heat outwards. Because of this extra heat and perhaps a rain shadow cast by the structure, this area is likely to be dryer than the rest of your property. That suggests that any plantings chosen for this area should be sun -oving and drought-tolerant species.
You don’t have to passively accept the effects of a microclimate. You can take measures to modify the microclimate by making it cooler and more moisture retentive. The obvious remedy to an overly sunny garden bed is a well-placed tree that offers some dappled shade, especially during the hottest part of the afternoon. Thickly mulching the ground around the plants will help the soil retain moisture, as will closely spaced plantings that shelter the soil from exposure to the sun. Of course, trees take years to mature, so you may need to plan a gradual transition in your choice of plants as the shade relief develops.
Wind Makes a Sunny Garden Dryer
A freestanding garden—one that stands apart from any structure—can also experience a sunny and dry microclimate. Although reflected and radiated warmth may not be a factor, the freestanding garden is less protected from moisture-sapping prevailing winds, and if the garden is on an elevation or on a south-facing slope, it can receive more than its share of sun. Once again, sun-loving plants are an appropriate choice and once again the addition of a shade tree or two will eventually mitigate the extremes of the microclimate. If winds are causing the soil to dry out too quickly, consider adding a windbreak on the windward side. While a solid wall or fence can serve to break the wind, it also adds a heat-reflective surface. A hedge of drought-tolerant bushes or shrubs, on the other hand, will interrupt and diffuse soil-drying wind without adding to the accumulated warmth.
When a garden is located on a sharp slope, the effects of water runoff can contribute to the soil’s dryness. Terracing the garden beds to provide level tiers that will better retain moisture can be an effective strategy.
Not every microclimate in the landscape holds a garden plot ,but an area of exceptional dryness and warmth can also adversely affect the vitality and uniformity of ordinary lawn. Perhaps you have a problem swath of grass that parches more quickly than the rest. It seems intuitive that the solution to a dry patch of lawn would be to water it more ,but this can actually contribute to the lawn’s vulnerability to heat and drought. Watering each day causes grass to put down shallow root systems. It’s better to water less often—no more than once a week—and water more deeply to encourage deeper, more robust root growth.
As with sunny, dry garden plots, you can also respond by top-seeding in those areas of the lawnwith more drought-tolerant varieties or cultivars of grass seed, letting the hardier strains gradually replace the susceptible ones. Taking steps to minimize foot traffic while those portions of lawn are stressed can also be helpful.
Early bloomers, like these crocuses, show up extra early in a warm microclimate.Image Credit: pr2is/iStock/GettyImages
Put Your Microclimate to Work
Since flowering plants generally require plenty of sun to reach their full bloom potential, a garden spot with an abundance of sunlight presents an opportunity to make the most of your region’s drought-tolerant flowers. You can get advice on suitable selections from local garden centers and horticultural societies. In cooler climates, gardeners can take advantage of known warm microclimates to get the earliest blooms from spring-flowering plants such as crocus, daffodils and snowdrops. Their blooming will be finished before the summer heat sets in.
If your regional climate allows it, desert-loving plants such as cactus, yucca, and agave are obvious choices for a particularly hot and dry garden spot.
Herbs, especially those that thrive in the Mediterranean, such as rosemary, sage, lavender and thyme, will do well in a sunny and dry microclimate.
Many ornamental grasses require full sun and tolerate dry soil. Varieties suitable for your region can provide a striking background to your flowering plants.
That exceptionally sunny, warm and dry patch in your landscape need not be seen as a problem area; it can also represent an opportunity. In a cool climate, for example, that may be the place where you can push your zone limits. The key is to understand the difference and its advantages of dry, sunny areaas, then to plant it appropriately.References
Put the finishing statement on your paint color of choice by selecting a sheen that enhances the look of the surface. Sheen, or paint finish, is a measure of how much light reflects off a painted surface, resulting in gloss—or a lack thereof. Consider some of the common sheen uses listed below, or break from tradition and get creative with sheen.
Sheen and Gloss 101
Sheens and glosses range on a scale from no shine to high shine. Different levels of sheen can affect how colors appear and add dimension to rooms. While there are many different types of sheen, you are most likely to see these seven key interior paint finishes during your painting journey:
Flat paint is a term for a finish that does not reflect light, resulting in no sheen at all. This lack of reflection allows more paint pigment to come through, is more forgiving of flaws and allows for excellent hide, creating a uniform surface. With its ability to mask imperfections, it offers a flawless finish and is an ideal choice for ceilings and very low-traffic areas.
Use caution when considering flat paint in high-traffic areas that require frequent attention. Stains are harder to remove from low-sheen paint, and constant rubbing or cleaning can result in burnishing.
Matte finish is nearly as shine-free as flat, again providing excellent hide and depth of color, with slightly more durability. Matte finish paint also withstands frequent washing, even when applied in busier areas like hallways and family rooms.
A matte look lends a luxurious touch to many interior spaces, including bedrooms and dining rooms.
Eggshell finish, perennially popular with professional and DIY painters alike, has a low-sheen reminiscent of flat or matte, but it is infinitely more durable than its namesake.
Widely available in a variety of interior paints, eggshell provides an easy-to-clean, nearly shine-free finish, suited for most areas of a home, including family rooms and hallways. While it reflects more light than flat or matte finishes, its soft glow casts colors beautifully.
A pearl finish is a medium gloss that maintains high durability. Both beautiful and easy to clean, a pearl finish lends dimension to trim while being optimal for walls in high-traffic areas. Pearl has a finish that can be used everywhere from wainscoting to doors, and offers mildew resistance for high-humidity areas.
When choosing this finish, make sure you follow manufacturer’s application tips and paint carefully, as paint with a pearl sheen is more susceptible to showing lap marks and other painting flaws.
Often confused with other finishes, the difference between eggshell and satin paint is that satin delivers a higher gloss, while offering better stain resistance and durability than lower sheens, including eggshell.
Satin paint is ideal for areas that crave definition. Use its distinctive lustre to highlight windows, shutters, trim and even interior doors. For front doors, where architectural details like beveling and paneling are customary, consider Satin to achieve a rich, lustrous look that evokes a look of elegance and luxury.
Also in this category is soft gloss paint, which, while not an exact match for satin paint, offers a similar higher-gloss, better-durability finish.
The luminous look of a semi-gloss paint is perfectly suited to highlight the architectural details of your home and create dimension on millwork, trim, and doors. Available in most interior paints, it cures to a smooth, furniture-like finish, and its glossy look makes it one of the best paint finishes for kitchen cabinets.
High Gloss Paint
Offering a mirror-like finish, high gloss sits on top of the sheen chart. This finish is extremely durable and offers elegant shine. It is easy to clean, stain-resistant and will add a stunning look to doors, trim, and even a high-traffic kitchen.
Many interior designers (and adventurous homeowners) like to experiment with high gloss paint in unexpected areas, such as the ceiling or an accent wall. Keep in mind, however, that high gloss paints require careful application and preparation best left to a professional painter. If you’re committed to a DIY-approach, practice your technique and prime any surfaces to ensure they are even and clean prior to paint application. Since a gloss finish reflects light and can accentuate blemishes, avoid using it on areas that are not completely smooth.