<img height="1" width="1" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=1322987724499092&amp;ev=PageView &amp;noscript=1">

Backyard Grilling 101

Posted by Alan Bernau Jr on Thu, May 9, 2019


Have you detected the smell of burning charcoal in the air around your neighborhood? If so, that's proof that grilling season has begun! Burgers, hot dogs, chicken, and corn on the cob seem to take on extra flavor when you grill them yourself, don't you think? Today, I have some quick grilling tips you can put into practice this spring and summer.

Choosing a Grill

Are you in the market for a new grill? Some people are loyal to charcoal grills, while others won't use anything but a gas grill. Of course, both varieties have their benefits and drawbacks.

Grill Size

Both gas and charcoal grills are available in a variety of sizes. You could go with a gas grill with four or five burners or opt for a one-burner model. You could get a 22-inch kettle-style charcoal grill, or you could go all out with a 60-inch stainless steel monster. Your decision will depend on how much space you have for a grill, how many items you want to be able to cook at once, and how often you plan to grill.

Heating Time

It takes just ten minutes for a gas grill to heat up, but it takes a charcoal grill about 15 to 20 minutes to get hot enough to start cooking. So a gas grill could be more appealing if you love spontaneous cookouts!


The price of a grill depends on its size, features, and brand. However, charcoal grills are generally less expensive than gas grills. You could spend less than $100 for a simple charcoal grill, while an average gas grill costs between $130 and $600.


When it comes to maintenance, a charcoal grill requires less attention. You just empty the ashes after every use and brush the grate. Having a gas grill means checking the connections to make sure they're secure, checking your level of propane, and cleaning the grate.

Starting a Fire

One of the easiest ways to light your charcoal grill is with a chimney starter. Chimney starters are inexpensive and allow you to avoid exposure to the chemicals in lighter fluid.

Lighting a gas grill is a lot easier and quicker than lighting a charcoal grill. Remember to follow the proper steps listed in the grill's instructions to light it safely.

Are You in the Zone?

The two-zone cooking method allows you to have more control over the amount of heat you use to cook certain food items. Divide your grill in half, making one side the direct zone and the other the indirect zone. Items in the direct zone get a high amount of heat, while those in the indirect zone receive a low amount. If you have a charcoal grill, position most of the hot coals in the direct zone while leaving just a few in the indirect zone. On a gas grill, light the burners on one side to create your direct zone and use the other side or your warming rack as the indirect zone. If you want to sear meat or cook burgers quickly, then put them in the direct zone. But if you have a large steak or a whole fish, it should be put in the indirect zone so it will cook slowly and evenly.

Tools for Great Grilling

Look for a collection of grilling tools that includes a grilling spatula, tongs, a barbecue fork, and a basting brush. Remember to get a reliable grill brush to clean the grate after every grilling session.

Safety Tips

  • Position your grill at least ten feet away from your home.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher near your grilling area in case of emergency.
  • Use a thermometer to monitor the temperature of your meat so it stays within a safe range. Hamburgers and other ground beef should be at 160 degrees Fahrenheit or above, while fish should be 145 degrees or more.
  • Keep a spray bottle of water close to your grill so you can water down any flames that start to get a little too high.

Get those grills going, and don't forget the ketchup! Thanks for reading. - Alan

Topics: backyard grilling

Everything You Need To Know About Plant Hardiness Zones

Posted by Alan Bernau Jr on Thu, May 2, 2019


Have you ever heard of plant hardiness zones? If you're planning a garden, knowing what zone you live in can have a direct effect on the success of your garden. Learn about plant hardiness zones and how to use this valuable information to create a flourishing garden this year.

What Are Plant Hardiness Zones?

The United States is divided into 13 different plant hardiness zones. The states contained in each zone share certain climate conditions. Experienced gardeners take into account what zone they live in so they can plant flowers and vegetables with the best chance of thriving. For example, if you were to read up on planting roses, you'd see that different varieties of roses fare better in different plant hardiness zones.

How Are These Zones Created?

Each of the 13 zones of the plant hardiness map are separated by a difference of 10 degrees Fahrenheit. The lowest number connected with each of the 13 zones stands for the average yearly minimum temperature. Furthermore, some of the zones on the map are separated into smaller regions labeled A and B The A and B regions have a temperature difference of five degrees Fahrenheit. If you have regions A and B in the zone where you live, remember that region A is colder than region B.

The USDA Plant Hardiness Map

It's easy to use the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map to find your zone. One quick way to find your zone is to enter your ZIP code in the search bar. You'll see your state pop up as well as its zone number. Or you can scroll down the list and click on your state to get a closeup of your zone on the map. Find your county within your state and match its color to the map key provided to find the zone number. I like the color system; it makes it easy to quickly find a particular zone. Once you know what zone you live in, you can check the specifications for any plants you want to add to your garden.

Practice Using the Zone Map

One way to get comfortable with using the plant hardiness zone map is to research where certain types of flowers grow best. Do you like Gerbera daisies? If so, you'll want to know that they grow best in zones 9 to 11 because they're not cold-hardy flowers. On the other hand, peonies can be grown in zone 2 all the way to zone 9. These flowers tolerate the cold very well. Looking at different types of flowers and pinpointing their zones on the map allows you to become familiar with how this map is organized.

Changes Made to the Map Over the Years

The USDA plant hardiness map of today looks different than the one we had in 1990 due to climate change. Using the Arbor Day Foundation's interactive map, you can see the movement of the zones to account for warming temperatures.

Make sure to use the most up-to-date USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map to give your garden an extra advantage this spring: Your flowers will thank you! Thanks for reading. - Alan

Topics: plant hardiness zones

April Showers Bring May Flowers... Or Do They?

Posted by Alan Bernau Jr on Sun, Apr 28, 2019


"April showers bring May flowers": That saying is thrown around a lot at this time of year. But have you ever wondered if it's really true? Today, I'm taking a closer look at this well-worn phrase to see if it's really true. Enjoy!

The Origins of the Saying

You may be surprised to know that this phrase can be traced back to a Thomas Tusser poem from 1557. The poem contains the line, "Sweet April showers do bring May flowers." It also shows up in a proverb recorded in 1886, "March winds and April showers bring forth May flowers." It's largely believed that this phrase originated in the U.K. or Ireland because of the large amount of rain those countries receive in the springtime.

Is the Saying True?

This phrase is not as much a scientific fact as it is a hopeful thing to say when dealing with the many, many drippy days in April. The growth of spring flowers depends on more than rain: In fact, temperature plays a more important role in flower growth. As temperatures rise in the springtime, this signals flowers to bloom, whether it rained a lot or a little in the month of April. A rise in temperature combined with more hours of sunlight and a reasonable amount of rain prepares plants thrive through the spring and beyond!

Where Do Flowers Bloom in May?

Lots of plants respond to the warm temperatures and pop up in the month of May. In northern states like New York, some flowers that bloom in May include dahlias, geraniums, grape hyacinth, and peonies. In southern states such as Florida, some May bloomers include oleander, gardenias, African irises, and southern magnolias. Tulips, blue flag irises, yellow irises, and daisies are just some of the flowers that bloom in May in the Midwest.

Blooming at Different Times in the Northern and Southern States

Many flowers bloom sooner in the southern states than they do in the northern ones. This is simply because of the warmer climate in the south. As an example, the French hydrangea blooms in the late spring in Florida. However, it doesn't bloom until early summer in Maine.

Super Bloom!

Maybe you've seen something on the news about a super bloom in central and southern California. A super bloom is a spreading collection, or carpeting, of wildflowers that is WAY larger than the normal amount seen during the average spring. This abundance of wildflowers is caused by a high amount of rainfall in the winter, cold nights, and cool days. The super bloom is going on right now but began many weeks ago. Orange poppies, desert lilies, sand verbena, desert sunflowers, and monkey flowers are just a few of the flowers that can be seen in the super bloom of 2019. I have a feeling the pictures and video on the news don't begin to capture the beauty of these flowers.

Interesting Facts About This Famous Saying

  • A song written by Louis Silvers entitled "April Showers" was released in 1921.
  • The position of the jet stream in Ireland and the U.K. brings on the heavy rains in April.
  • There are 41 people in the United States with the name April Showers.

I hope you put aside a few minutes each day to admire the flowers appearing all around your home this spring. Every flower deserves to be appreciated, even if it's not part of a super bloom. Thanks for reading. - Alan

30 Ways To Be A More Eco-Friendly Homeowner

Posted by Alan Bernau Jr on Thu, Apr 18, 2019


Do you consider yourself an eco-friendly homeowner? Maybe you recycle, take reusable bags to the grocery store, and own energy-efficient appliances. If so, that's great! Check out some other simple things you can do to be even more eco-friendly.

  1. Create a Compost Pile. You probably know you can put coffee grounds, potato peels, and lettuce in a compost pile. But did you know you can compost cardboard, grass clippings, and newspaper as well? Composting decreases what goes into a landfill and enriches the soil with beneficial bacteria.
  2. Get a Low-Flow Toilet. This is a toilet that uses less water per flush. In fact, low-flow toilets use 1.3 gallons of water per flush, as opposed to the 1.6 gallons (or more) used by traditional toilets.
  3. Open Your Curtains. Instead of turning on the furnace when you're cold, make better use of the sunlight to warm your home. If you have south-facing windows, open the curtains to allow sunlight inside for several hours per day.
  4. Get Smart Technology. A smart thermostat ensures that your home's heating and cooling system operates in the most efficient way possible. Presetting your thermostat allows you to be eco-friendly and save on your energy bills, too.
  5. Invest in Quality Furniture. An eco-friendly homeowner spends a bit more on furniture items that are durable and long-lasting. This helps to keep cheap, broken furniture items out of landfills.
  6. Use LED Bulbs. LED bulbs last longer than incandescent bulbs. Also, they're more energy-efficient.
  7. Be Mindful of Your Water Use. Take a moment to think before pouring water down your sink. If you drink just half a glass of water or have water left in the kettle, pour the remainder into the pot of one of your houseplants.
  8. Keep Your Clothes Dryer Running Efficiently. Remove the lint from the lint trap every time you use the dryer. This allows it to operate at peak efficiency.
  9. Extend the Life of Your Refrigerator. Adjust the temperature of your refrigerator to 40 degrees or below so it's not working harder than it needs to. This is the proper temperature for food storage, so it will also cut down on food that spoils and goes to waste. I suggest putting a small thermometer in your fridge just to keep an eye on things.
  10. Put Up Weather Stripping. Putting weather stripping around doors and windows keeps cold breezes out in the winter. This can help you to maintain a warm temperature in your home and cut down on furnace use.
  11. Install Solar Panels on Your Home. When you use solar panels to power your utilities, you're lowering your impact on the environment. Plus, installing these panels can increase your home's value if you ever want to sell.
  12. Select an Energy-Efficient Washing Machine. Some washing machines are designed to gauge just how much water is needed to wash a load of clothes, so they don't use too much. Getting one of these is an easy way to save water.
  13. Use the Oven in an Efficient Way. After preheating the oven, open it only once to put in your baking dish or pan. When you continually open and close the oven, it loses heat and must use additional energy getting back to its set temperature.
  14. Choose a Shower Over a Bath. When you take a five-minute shower, you're using about 50% less water than you would if you took a bath.
  15. Unplug Appliances. Have you ever heard of energy vampires? Household appliances are using energy even when they are on standby, so start unplugging.
  16. Install Timers on Your Lights. Have you ever run out the door to work or school and forgotten to turn off the porch light or an interior light? You can avoid this waste of electricity by installing timers on your outdoor and indoor lights.
  17. Use Drought-Tolerant Plants in Your Landscape. Russian sage, salvia, lavender, and coneflower are all drought-tolerant plants that add color to a garden. Plus, they require minimal watering, which makes them eco-friendly. I especially like that many of these types of plants attract butterflies!
  18. Wash Clothing in Cold Water. Unless you have a load of extremely soiled clothing, set the water temperature to cold. The clothes will be clean, and less energy will be used in the process.
  19. Fill Your Dishwasher. You can use water and energy more efficiently if you wait until the dishwasher is full before starting it. Also, make sure the dishwasher itself is labeled as energy-efficient.
  20. Fix Dripping Faucets. A dripping faucet is not just annoying; it can add up to a lot of wasted water. In many cases, a small replacement part is all it takes to fix the issue.
  21. Get a Tankless Water Heater. A tankless water heater provides hot water when it's needed. This makes it more energy-efficient than a traditional water heater that stores a supply of water and keeps it hot until someone wants to use it.
  22. Use Old T-Shirts as Rags. Make some cleaning rags out of old shirts or socks. Washing and reusing these rags reduces paper towel use.
  23. Keep Your Refrigerator Coils Clean. Take a little extra time to vacuum or sweep dust off the coils beneath your refrigerator. Dust and debris can clog a refrigerator's filter, making it use more energy than necessary to operate.
  24. Air-Dry Your Clothes. If you have a place to put up a clothesline in your yard, try air-drying some of your clothes. Though it takes a bit longer, this method is very eco-friendly.
  25. Check the Quality of Your Home's Insulation. Poorly insulated walls allow warm and cool air to escape your home. When you have effective insulation, you can keep your home at a comfortable temperature while not overusing your AC or furnace.
  26. Adjust the Direction of Your Ceiling Fan. If you have a ceiling fan, set its paddles to turn counterclockwise in the summer and clockwise in the winter. In the summer, the counterclockwise paddles will direct cool air down into the living area. Paddles turning clockwise in the wintertime will pull cool air toward the ceiling, forcing warmer air downward.
  27. Change the Filter in the Furnace. Changing the air filter in your furnace every three months contributes to the efficiency of your heating system. If you have pets, you may want to change the filter more frequently to get rid of pet hair and dander.
  28. Teach Your Kids Good Habits. Turning off the light before leaving a room, turning off the faucet while putting toothpaste on a toothbrush, and loading the dishwasher completely are all eco-friendly habits your kids and grandkids can pass on to their families. Just imagine these habits being practiced by future generations!
  29. Keep a Box for Scrap Paper. Before recycling a piece of paper, be sure to use both sides. Use one side of a piece of paper, put it into your scrap paper box, and take out a piece when you need to jot down another note.
  30. Make a Rain Barrel. The water you collect in your rain barrel can be used to water your garden, fill the birdbath, or water indoor plants. It reduces runoff and the spread of pollution into nearby rivers.

Thanks for reading! - Alan

Topics: eco friendly homeowner

5 Edible Themed Gardens You Can Grow This Year

Posted by Alan Bernau Jr on Wed, Apr 17, 2019


When you think about gardening, maybe you picture a beautiful gathering of pansies, petunias, and peonies. Or perhaps you envision a collection of peppers, broccoli, tomatoes, and kale. Both of those ideas are great, but have you ever thought of creating a garden with an edible theme? An edible themed garden is designed to fulfill a particular purpose for you and your family. If you're curious about edible themed gardens, you've come to the right blog! Check out the details on five popular edible themed gardens you might want to try.

  1. A Cocktail Garden: Do you enjoy cocktails of all kinds? If so, think about all of the fruits, vegetables, and spices you could grow in a cocktail-themed garden. Some examples include basil, cilantro, hot peppers, sage, rosemary, cucumbers, strawberries, and tomatoes. You can serve your own homemade cocktails at your first outdoor party this spring!
  2. An Herbal Tea Garden: A cup of herbal tea is all the more delicious when it's made with ingredients from your own garden. If you like the sound of this garden, be sure that your plan includes chamomile, lemongrass, stevia, mint, pineapple sage, lemon balm, ginger, lavender, and thyme.
  3. A Burrito Garden: Are burritos on your list of favorite foods? If so, think about growing a garden brimming with ingredients for a fabulous burrito. Some delicious ideas for your garden include tomatoes, black beans, cumin, peppers, cilantro, onions, and spinach. Once your garden starts producing, you could have your friends over for a make-your-own-burrito night!
  4. A Pizza Garden: Chances are good that there's more than one pizza-lover in your family. This type of garden can supply you with tons of ingredients to pile onto your latest creation. Onions, tomatoes, bell peppers, spinach, basil, and oregano are all must-haves for your pizza garden. To add another fun twist to this garden, plant it in the shape of a pizza! Create a circular garden using rocks as a border. Then, divide your pizza garden into sections (slices) with rock borders and dedicate space in each section to different veggies and herbs. Now this is a garden that kids and grandkids will be excited to help with!
  5. A Snack Garden: This is a fun idea for a garden if you love finger foods. A snack garden is full of things you can pick off the vine and eat. Some items commonly seen in a snack garden include strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, sugar snap peas, and cherry tomatoes. This garden idea is great for showing young kids how satisfying it is to grow your own veggies and fruits. As the kids get older, they can take on more responsibilities in caring for the snack garden.

Creating an edible themed garden can be even more fun than making a traditional garden. Of course, you could always do both. Happy growing! Thanks for reading. - Alan

How To Attract Pollinators To Your Garden

Posted by Alan Bernau Jr on Thu, Apr 4, 2019


Part of the fun of having a garden is observing the activity in it every day. I enjoy seeing butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds work their way through a gathering of colorful blooms; don't you? While entertaining us, these creatures are also doing the important work of spreading pollen. Today, I'm looking at how to make your garden attractive to pollinators in all shapes and sizes. Enjoy!

Plant Flowers in Bright Colors and Different Shapes

Bright colors are the name of the game if you want pollinators to make a beeline for your garden. Red, orange, yellow, pink, and purple flowers are all favorable options if you like to see a lot of butterflies and hummingbirds. Butterflies especially like fragrant flowers with flat petals that are easy to land on. Some enticing flowers with flat petals include Mexican sunflowers, purple cornflowers, and red dahlias.

Hummingbirds love tubular flowers. This shape makes it easy for them to access the nectar. Try some cardinal flowers, columbines, or hollyhocks if you want to put out the welcome mat for hummingbirds this spring and summer.

Purple, blue, violet, and white flowers are special favorites with bees. Bees can't see the color red, but they recognize blue and purple flowers as having a lot of nectar, which makes them a big favorite.

Maintain a Flourishing Flower Garden

Keep a constant supply of flourishing, nectar-rich flowers available in your garden and you'll have pollinators galore! One way to do this is to plant several types of annuals. Cosmos, sunflowers, alyssum, ageratum, pansies, and annual daisies are all great options. Petunias are also on the list of annuals that pollinators absolutely love. I don't think any garden is complete without a gathering of purple, bright red, pink, and bright white petunias fluttering in the wind. Plant some perennials in your garden as well: Perennials popular with pollinators include purple salvia, verbena, pink coneflowers, and orange day lilies.

Plant Your Flowers in Large Clumps

Pollinators like flowers to be close together, and when you're planting in clumps, yellow zinnias are an excellent choice. These flowers bloom in profusion, creating a sea of yellow petals that's hard to miss. Other flowers to plant in big clumps include black-eyed Susans, yarrow, foxglove, and purple coneflowers.

Grow Vegetables Beloved by Bees

If you want to attract bumblebees to your vegetable garden, make sure you plant some of their favorites. Examples include tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumbers, and beans.

Hover flies, which aren't bees but look like them, can benefit your garden by pollinating as well as killing pests. These pollinators are attracted to parsley, peppers, beets, celery, and carrots.

Set Up a Bird Bath

In addition to giving the birds a cool drink of water, a bird bath can be used by butterflies, bees, and other insects. Chances are good that if a pollinator stops for a quick drink in your bird bath, it will stay to partake of the nectar in your flower garden as well!

Use Eco-Friendly Materials

Another way to make your garden appealing to pollinators is to make it eco-friendly. For instance, use organic pesticides and fertilizers. It takes a bit more effort to create and nurture an organic garden, but you'll know that visiting pollinators will be safe from hazardous chemicals.

Interesting Facts About Pollinators

  • Hummingbirds are attracted to strawberries.
  • Bees look for flowers with ridges and stripes on their petals because they act as a roadmap to the center of the bloom and its nectar.
  • A flower's fragrance is a non-issue for hummingbirds: They don't have a sense of smell.

I hope you include some of these flowers and veggies in your garden this year. Give those pollinators a reason to come back again and again! Thanks for reading. - Alan

6 Landscaping Tips To Prevent Backyard Flooding

Posted by Alan Bernau Jr on Thu, Mar 28, 2019


Does your backyard have a tendency to take on a lot of water when the spring rains start to fall? Maybe you've noticed large pools of water in various places on your lawn just after a storm. A flooded yard can damage your grass or harm your foundation. In addition, the water can find its way into your basement, causing a big mess followed by a costly cleanup. Luckily, there are ways to prevent backyard flooding. Consider these six tips for your backyard this spring.

  1. Add an Extension to Your Downspout. This trick can be helpful if water pools on the ground beneath your downspout during a storm. By extending your downspout, you'll be helping the water move farther away from your home. Of course, make sure to choose an extension with the right fit for your downspout. These extensions are available at hardware and big-box stores.
  2. Install a Driveway Made of Permeable Pavers. If you have an old concrete driveway that contributes to the flooding in your yard, consider creating one with permeable pavers. Essentially, this is a driveway made of paving stones with spaces left between them. Rainwater runs down between the stones and travels through the layers beneath and back into the ground. Permeable pavers are available in different colors and sizes, adding a dose of style to your landscape.
  3. Set Up a Rain Barrel. Place a rain barrel beneath your downspout. It will catch the rain flowing through your gutters before it reaches the yard. You can use the water you capture in your rain barrel to water your garden, water your indoor plants, or refill the birdbath!
  4. Make a Swale. When you create a swale, you're giving water a natural way to flow out of your yard. Some swales are lined with stone, while others are bordered by plants and other vegetation that soak up the rainwater flowing by. I like the idea of using a purely natural way of removing water from a yard. In fact, a well-planned swale can be one of the highlights of your landscape!
  5. Put Down Heavy Mulch. If you have a few low areas in your yard that collect water during a storm, try filling them with mulch. This helps with drainage until you can find a more permanent solution, such as making a swale or installing a French drain.
  6. Create a Rain Garden. Plant your rain garden in the lowest area of your yard. A rain garden contains plants that can absorb lots of water. Some examples of plants include irises, New England asters, scarlet beebalm, and foxglove. Making a rain garden is not just a practical way to prevent flooding; it can also add beauty to your yard. Many homeowners run their downspout extension straight toward their rain garden to help the drainage process.

If you're having trouble with flooding in your backyard, try one of these ideas and let me know how it works for you. As always, thanks for reading. - Alan

Topics: backyard flooding

The Beginner's Guide To Gardening Tools

Posted by Alan Bernau Jr on Wed, Mar 27, 2019


Do you appreciate seeing a garden full of blooming flowers or vegetable plants? Maybe you've always wanted to start your own garden but weren't sure how to go about it. In order to be successful in gardening, it's helpful to have the right collection of tools. Today, I have a list of tools that can help you to bring a beautiful garden to life this spring!

  1. A Hand Trowel: A hand trowel is a small spade with a sturdy handle made of wood, plastic, or metal. Its pointed tip is great for digging, transplanting seedlings, breaking up roots in the garden, or tearing up weeds. It's best to get a stainless steel hand trowel so it can endure lots of root-cutting and digging! If you have a few flower pots or a planter on your front porch, I suggest using your hand trowel to take flowers out of their garden-store containers and put them into the soil. A hand trowel is easy to control, so you can put the flowers exactly where you want them.
  2. A Garden Hose With an Adjustable Nozzle: If you already have a garden hose, then you're ahead of the game! To make your gardening work even easier, get an adjustable nozzle that fits onto the end of your hose. A nozzle helps you control the amount of water you put on your flowers. For example, you can set the nozzle to mist when you want to water flowers with delicate petals that need to be treated with care. Set the nozzle to soak when you have large bunches of hardy flowers that require lots of water.
  3. A Wheelbarrow: A wheelbarrow made of heavy-gauge, seamless steel is a reliable choice. Getting one with a rubber wheel allows you to move easily over all types of terrain. A wheelbarrow is useful when you want to move a few heavy items at one time. For instance, you can use it to move a big load of mulch across your yard so you can distribute it around the base of each tree. A wheelbarrow is also helpful for carrying leaves as well as bags of soil and fertilizer.
  4. A Garden Hoe: A paddle-style garden hoe with a wooden handle is a valuable tool to have in your garden shed. It has a rectangular head excellent for breaking up roots and weeds and spreading soil around in a garden. Try to find a garden hoe with a single forged head. This is a durable choice made to tackle stubborn weeds and roots. Keep in mind that there are a variety of garden hoes designed to handle different types of soil along with different tasks in the garden.
  5. Pruning Shears: A pair of pruning shears with an ergonomic handle and stainless-steel blades is another valuable addition to your inventory of garden tools. The ergonomic handle provides extra comfort if you have to deadhead lots of flowers or you have a long line of bushes to trim.
  6. A Handheld Garden Cultivator: This essential garden tool has three long tines and a wooden or metal handle. The tines on a cultivator can reach down into the soil to break up stubborn roots and weeds. Look for a garden cultivator with stainless steel tines. Stainless steel tines are strong and can endure a lot of vigorous digging.

Don't forget to care for your tools so you can keep them as long as possible. I think you'll find that gardening is a lot more enjoyable and rewarding when you have the right tools to work with. Thanks for reading. - Alan

10 Things You Never Knew About The Spring Equinox

Posted by Alan Bernau Jr on Tue, Mar 19, 2019


Have you seen any daffodils poking their heads out of the ground yet? Maybe you're hearing more birds chattering in the morning around your neighborhood. Those are just two signs that spring is on its way. Many people consider the spring equinox to be the official first day of spring. This year, it falls on Wednesday, March 20. In celebration of the coming season, I thought I'd share some facts you may not know about this special day.

  1. "Equinox" Means "Equal Night": Because of the word "equinox," many people mistakenly believe there are exactly 12 hours of day and 12 hours of night on the spring equinox. Actually, atmospheric refraction causes us to have a bit more than 12 hours of daylight on the spring equinox. But let's not get bogged down in the details!
  2. Climate Scientists Recognize a Different Date as the First Day of Spring: Climate scientists use a meteorological calendar to determine the first day of spring. The date of the equinox comes from the astronomical calendar, but the first of spring for many climate scientists is March 1. The meteorological calendar helps them better predict temperatures and weather patterns.
  3. The Sun Rises Due East and Sets Due West on the Spring Equinox: This is the chance to see an interesting sight in the sky. Also, it's a great time to reaffirm your sense of direction!
  4. The Great Sphinx Eyeballs the Sun: The Egyptians built the Great Sphinx in Giza so its face points directly toward the rising sun on the spring equinox. I hope the Sphinx has a pair of sunglasses handy.
  5. An Egg Can Be Balanced on One End During the Spring Equinox: Yes, it's possible to balance an egg on one end on the spring equinox, but it's actually also possible on any other day of the year. It's not the arrival of the spring equinox that matters as much as your supply of patience.
  6. It's Also Known as the Vernal Equinox: The word "vernal" comes from the Latin word "ver," meaning "spring."
  7. Saturn Has an Equinox, Too: You may think that Earth is the only planet to have a spring equinox, but that's not true. Saturn has a spring as well as a fall equinox. However, the seasons on Saturn are a lot longer, so the equinoxes of this planet happen every 15 years. I wouldn't want to wait that long; would you?
  8. The Japanese Celebrate Shunbun no Hi on the Spring Equinox: Shunbun no Hi is a national holiday in Japan. Many people spend it visiting with loved ones, enjoying nature, and tending to the graves of their family members.
  9. The Arrival of the Spring Equinox Isn't the Same for the Northern and Southern Hemispheres: We live in the Northern Hemisphere, so our spring equinox is fast approaching. But people living in Australia and other places in the Southern Hemisphere are moving toward the arrival of autumn instead.
  10. Easter and the Spring Equinox Are Connected: Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox. That's why Easter Sunday falls on a different date each year.

Think spring: It'll be here before we know it! Thanks for reading. - Alan

The Ultimate Cleaning Guide To Every Room In Your Home

Posted by Alan Bernau Jr on Tue, Mar 12, 2019


Are you thinking about spring cleaning yet? Making a plan can help you get your cleaning done ahead of schedule. I have some cleaning tips for you today as well as some shortcuts and tricks that can make even the toughest jobs more manageable.

The Kitchen

Is your kitchen one of the busiest rooms in your home? Chances are good that you answered "yes" to that question. That's why it's so important to keep your kitchen clean. Start by cleaning the tops of your cabinets with a soft cloth and multi-purpose cleaner. Next, clean your cabinet doors, drawers, handles, and counters with multi-purpose cleaner. Clean your sink using dish soap, warm water, and a sponge. Finish the room by sweeping the floor, then mopping it. Make your own floor cleaner by combining a quarter-cup of white vinegar and a quart of water.

The Living Room

Start your living room cleaning routine by dusting all of the tables using a microfiber cloth and a cleaning solution made with a quarter-cup of white vinegar and a quart of water. Take the pillows and cushions off of the sofa and chairs to vacuum beneath them. Use an old, dry paintbrush to clean the dust out of any pleated lampshades in your living room. This trick lets you pretend you're creating a beautiful work of art! Clean the screen and back of your television with a microfiber dust wand. Finish the job by running the vacuum over the carpet.


The first step in thoroughly cleaning any bedroom is to remove all of the sheets and blankets and even the fitted mattress cover from the bed and throw them into the washing machine. Use a microfiber dust wand to clean the surfaces of dressers, tables, and any other furniture. If you have a ceiling fan in your bedroom, there's a great trick for cleaning its paddles: First, put a mixture of one part white vinegar to one part water into a spray bottle. Spray a bit of the mixture into an empty pillowcase, and place it over each paddle of your fan. When you pull the pillowcase toward you, it cleans off the dust, leaving it inside the pillowcase instead of on your floor. When you're done, vacuum the carpeting in your bedroom. Don't forget the area underneath your bed!


Start your bathroom cleaning by using a microfiber dust wand to clean the light fixtures as well as the tops of the cabinets and towel racks. Next, clean the counter and the sink with multipurpose cleaner and a soft sponge. Use your multipurpose cleaner on the toilet as well as around its base. If you want to freshen up your toilet bowl, try this trick: Pour a cup of white vinegar into the bowl, leave it overnight, and flush it in the morning. White vinegar can remove stains and mineral deposits. If the tile grout in your powder room is in need of cleaning, a baking soda and vinegar mixture can do the trick. (You may have noticed by now that I like the idea of using natural cleaners like white vinegar around the house.)

The Laundry Room

Wire shelves are a common feature in a laundry room. Pour a half-cup of vinegar into a spray bottle of warm water and clean the shelves with a soft cloth. Mop the floor with a dust mop, and be sure to reach behind the washer and dryer if you can. If your washing machine has taken on a bit of an odor, you can refresh it with a simple trick: Set the washer's water temperature to hot and dump two cups of white vinegar into the machine as it fills up. Don't put any clothes in for this cycle.

The Dining Room

If you have a chandelier or other light fixture in the dining room, clean it with a microfiber dust wand. Then, clean the dining room table with your favorite furniture cleaner. Vacuum the top and underside of each dining room chair with the dusting brush attachment on your vacuum. Finish by mopping or vacuuming your floor.

The Mudroom

A mudroom can really live up to its name! A multipurpose cleaner and soft cloth can be used to clean a bench, cubbies, a table, or other furnishings in this room. Use a wet or dry mop to clean the floor, depending on how dirty it is.

The Garage

Sweep the leaves, spiderwebs, and other debris out of the garage using a push broom. If you see an oil stain on your garage floor, put cat litter on it and let it sit overnight. Sweep the cat litter up and throw it away the next morning.

Things You May Forget to Clean

There are some things in our house that we use on a daily basis but often forget to clean. Next time you clean your house, pay special attention to these items:

  • The shower curtain rod
  • Vents and registers
  • Light switches
  • Garbage cans in the kitchen and bathroom

But don't feel like you have to do it all in a day, or you might get overwhelmed. Take a couple of weeks to work through all of the rooms in your home. This allows you to get the cleaning work done in a gradual, relaxed way.

Thanks for reading. - Alan

Customer Reviews

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required