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The Best Apps For Plant And Flower Identification

Posted by Alan Bernau Jr on Fri, May 31, 2019

plant-and-flower-identification 

Have you ever seen a flower, plant, or tree and wished you knew its name? Maybe you recently spotted a plant in your yard that looks a lot like poison ivy and you want to know for sure. Well, guess what? There's an app for that! In fact, there are many plant identification apps. Check out these apps that can help you identify mystery flowers and plants all around you.

  1. PlantSnap. This Android app is easy to use and gives you accurate plant identification results in seconds. All you do is snap a picture and upload it to the app. The results come from a database of 585,000-plus plant species. This app is a free download.
  2. FlowerChecker. Take a photo of a plant, upload it in the app, and get your plant ID results from an expert botanist in an hour or less. FlowerChecker is compatible with Apple devices and costs $1 per successful identification of a plant.
  3. iNaturalist. If you like talking with other nature lovers about flowers and plants, this may be the app for you. Simply take a photo of a plant and share it in the app. Other nature-lovers will chime in with what they think you're looking at. This free app is compatible with Android devices.
  4. PictureThis. This free app has more than 30,000,000 users! Take a picture of a plant, upload it, and get identification results shortly thereafter. The results are provided by plant enthusiasts all over the globe. This app is Android- and iPhone-compatible.
  5. GardenAnswers. This free app is compatible with both iPhone and Android. Take a photo of a plant or flower, hit submit, and receive ID results from experts in horticulture. If you want fast, accurate results, this is a great choice!
  6. LikeThat Garden. The free LikeThat Garden app is compatible with Apple devices. Take a photo and get your results from the app's extensive database of plants and flowers. Read detailed descriptions and view more pictures of the plant you're interested in.
  7. Plantifier. Take a picture of an unknown plant or flower and let a community of plant enthusiasts help you to identify it. Plantifier is a free app and compatible with both Apple and Android devices.
  8. iPflanzen. Instead of taking a photo, iPflanzen asks you to provide information on the traits of an unknown plant. Results come from an extensive database of flowers and plants. I like the idea of an app that gets kids and adults studying the colors, shapes, and sizes of flowers. This free app is compatible with Apple devices and can work with other apps, including iGarten and iForest.
  9. Garden Tags. Take a picture of an unknown plant and share it with the community on Garden Tags. Get plant identification from fellow plant-lovers. This is a free app compatible with Android. In addition to plant IDs, you can get gardening tips and advice on this app.
  10. NatureGate. Instead of taking a photo to get an ID, enter information on a plant including its number of petals, color, habitat, and leaf shape. Entering information about a plant really gives you the opportunity to study it. NatureGate is a free app and compatible with iPhones.

A walk in the woods is even more enjoyable with the help of these and other plant identification apps. If you're a science teacher, take your students on a field trip to the woods and challenge them to identify at least 20 flowers. If you're a parent, while you're on vacation in the mountains or at the lake, work with your kids to discover and identify unfamiliar flowers together. Make a game of seeing which family member can identify the most flowers in 30 minutes! Talking about the flowers they've identified is another way to get kids excited about the natural world around them.

Next time you see an interesting-looking flower or plant, consult your go-to plant ID app and get all the answers. Thanks for reading. - Alan

Topics: apps plant identifcation

Guide To Getting Your Pool Ready For The Summer

Posted by Alan Bernau Jr on Thu, May 30, 2019

getting-pool-ready-for-summer

A backyard swimming pool is a great thing to have, especially in the depths of a humid summer. If you're lucky enough to have your own swimming pool, I have a quick guide to help you with the grand opening this year!

Take Off the Pool Cover

Before removing the pool cover, use a broom or leaf blower to clean off the leaves, sticks, and other debris so they won't fall into your pool. If any water has collected on top of your pool cover, use a submersible pump to drain it off. After removing the cover, use a hose to clean it and spread the cover out on the grass to dry. Once it's dry, fold it up and put it into storage.

Add Water and Reconnect Plumbing

Turn on your garden hose and put it into your pool. You want the water level to reach the mid-point of your skimmer so it can start to filter your pool water again. As the water rises, turn off the breakers to your swimming pool so you can replace all of the drain plugs on the filter and heater. Take the opportunity to reconnect the plumbing parts of your swimming pool equipment that were disconnected for the cold weather months.

Start the Pump

Once the water level is halfway up the skimmer, prime your pool pump. Be sure to remove the winterizing plugs you put into the skimmer and returns so the water flows freely.

Check the Pump for Leaks

Running the pump and the heater gives you the chance to look for leaks in your pipes. If you see one, use a piece of duct tape to mark the leaking area so you can get it repaired. If you don't have any leaks, run the pump all day and night so you can flush out all of the pipes completely.

Clean the Pool

With your pump running, the water in your pool is circulating and the skimmer is picking up floating debris. The drain at the bottom of your pool is also picking up debris. If the water in your pool is clear and you see leaves and other debris on the bottom, then get out your pool vacuum. Switch the valve on your filter to the waste setting so whatever travels into your vacuum goes directly to the waste port.

Test the Water

Once you're done vacuuming, take a sample of your pool's water using a testing kit. These kits test for chlorine, pH, and bromine. Go to the deep end and dip your sample vials at least a foot beneath the surface to get an accurate reading. Put the proper drops into the sample water and follow the directions as you read the results. Ask one of your children or grandkids to help you: It's a great opportunity for them to learn a simple lesson about chemistry! Once you have the results, start adding the necessary chemicals to your pool water according to their instructions.

Maintain Good Circulation

Continue to circulate the water in your pool for about 12 hours a day to make sure the system is working as it should. Check your chemical levels each day and add more if necessary. You want to get back to the point where your pool's chemical levels balance out.

Common Issues

Leaks in the pipes around your pool's pump or filter are a common occurrence. Take a few moments to tighten the connections before calling in a professional to make a repair.

Another common issue is algae. This is the green stuff that grows on the bottom of a pool and moves up its walls. You can shock the pool with chemicals to get rid of the algae growth.

Helpful Tips

  • Get a friend to help you open your pool. It's much easier to fold a pool cover, spot leaks, etc., with two people. Plus, the job is more enjoyable with a good friend.
  • Open your pool several days before Memorial Day if you can. Opening your pool before the traditional day allows you to avoid the crowds at the pool supply store and have quick access to a pool professional if you need one.

Good luck with opening your swimming pool this year! Thanks for reading. - Alan

Topics: getting pool ready for summer

The Basics of Companion Planting In The Garden

Posted by Alan Bernau Jr on Tue, May 21, 2019

companion-planting-in-the-garden

Do you love the idea of having your own garden full of tomatoes, beans, onions, squash, beets, melons, and cucumbers along with other veggies and fruits? Well, before you jump right in and start digging, consider companion planting. This type of planting can increase the odds that you'll have a flourishing, colorful garden this year.

What Is Companion Planting?

Companion planting is just what it sounds like. It's putting two or three plants together in a garden that will benefit one another as they grow. Of course, there are some veggies and fruits that are more companionable than others.

Vegetables and Fruits Perfect for Companion Planting

Lettuce and Tomatoes

Am I placing an order for a hamburger? No, these two items are companion plants. Tomato plants grow to be very tall. Their height provides shade and protection to lettuce, a cool-season veggie that grows near the ground. Eggplants can be substituted for tomato plants if you prefer.

Carrots and Radishes

These two veggies grow well together because they both grow underground but radishes are harvested first: They help loosen up the soil, then are harvested and make way for the carrots to grow.

Melons, Squash, and Herbs

If melons and squash are on the list of fruits for your garden, plant them beside dill, parsley, and fennel. These herbs are attractive to pollinators like butterflies and bees, and melons and squash require the help of pollinators to grow.

Onions and Peppers

The biggest part of an onion grows beneath ground level, so they claim very little space in your garden. Plus, they repel garden pests like slugs, cabbage worms, and aphids. These pests love to munch on peppers, making onions a suitable companion plant.

Corn, Pole Beans, and Pumpkin

The tall corn in this planting scenario gives the pole bean vines support as they grow. The pole beans add to the richness of the soil by releasing nitrogen into it. Pumpkins grow low to the ground and help to keep the soil moist for all three plants. In addition, pumpkins have spiny stems, which are a deterrent for rodents that want to chomp on the beans and corn! This companion combination is known as the three sisters.

Veggies and Fruits Not Suitable as Companion Plants

Not every plant is a good neighbor: There are some veggies and fruit plants that would just as soon stay clear of one another.

Tomatoes and Potatoes

Tomatoes and potatoes are not suitable for companion planting. They're both vulnerable to the same type of blight, so if one gets infected, the other will, too.

Green Beans and Onions

These two work well together in a casserole dish but not so much in the garden. Onions of any kind can slow down or even stop the growth of beans.

Cucumbers and Sage

It would seem like there's little harm in planting these two items together. However, a fragrant gathering of sage can attract garden pests such as aphids and whiteflies. These pests would accept the invitation and start to gnaw on your cucumbers.

Taking some time to plan can help you end up with a flourishing garden of vegetables and fruits. Thanks for reading. - Alan

How And Why You Should Mulch Your Yard In Spring

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

mulch-yard-in-spring

Take a look at your gardening to-do list for spring. Do you have mulching on your list? If not, it's a good idea to pencil it in. Putting down mulch in the month of May gets your yard and garden ready for the hot temperatures and blazing sunshine of summer. This week, I have some more reasons why you should mulch in the spring as well as how to go about it.

Reasons to Mulch Your Yard in the Springtime

When you put down a layer of mulch, it absorbs moisture. This moist layer protects your plants from the harsh sunlight and high temperatures of summer. Another reason to mulch in the spring is to prevent weed growth. You don't want to spend a lot of time pulling weeds in the spring, right? Mulch prevents sunlight from reaching the weeds, so they don't grow. In addition, a layer of mulch stops soil from washing away during rainstorms. The nutrients in the soil help plants and flowers to flourish.

How to Mulch

If you've never put down mulch before, the first step is to figure out where you want to put it. Your garden is an excellent place for mulch. Many people put it around trees and shrubs. If you have a walkway, think about putting mulch down as a border or even between concrete stepping stones.

The next step in the mulching process is preparing the spot. For instance, if you're putting mulch around a tree, lay down a circular border of stones or bricks. This border allows you to put down mulch in an even way around your tree and keeps it from tumbling into the grass. Make a border for your flower beds, garden, or anywhere else you plan to mulch. I like the idea of using the same type of border material around trees and flower beds. I think it brings even more harmony to the look of a landscape.

After creating your border, it's time to get some mulch. You can go to any garden store or big-box store with a garden department to purchase an appropriate amount of mulch. Organic is the best option because it adds nutrients to the soil as it breaks down.

Now, it's time to spread the mulch! Put on your gardening gloves and dump a bag or two of mulch into your wheelbarrow. Using a wheelbarrow makes it easy to transport mulch to different areas of your yard. Whether you're putting mulch around trees, shrubs, or flower beds, make sure the ground is completely covered. You can spread it easily and evenly with a garden hoe. Taking the time to spread mulch carefully around the base of each plant makes it look even neater.

What to Avoid

  • Avoid mulching plants not yet rooted in the ground. The mulch can suffocate them instead of helping them grow.
  • Don't put mulch down over leaves, trimmings, and weeds. Clear this debris out before putting down a layer of mulch.
  • Don't dump mulch onto the ground in a large pile. The goal is to put down an even layer that covers the ground.

Along with all of the above benefits of mulching, it can make your yard and garden look even more attractive during the spring and summer months. Thanks for reading. - Alan

Backyard Grilling 101

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

backyard-grilling

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!

Price

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.

Maintenance

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

plant-hardiness-zones

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-may-flowers

"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

eco-friendly-homeowner

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

edible-themed-garden

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

how-to-attract-pollinators

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

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