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12 Of The Easiest Houseplants For A Beginner To Grow

Posted by Alan Bernau Jr on Fri, May 18, 2018

easiest-houseplants-for-a-beginner

It's fun to watch a houseplant grow and change over time. Plus, we love them because they release oxygen into a room. But did you know that many of them absorb toxins floating around indoors? Getting a new houseplant or two for your home this spring is a win-win! This week, I have a few ideas to get you started on your way to owning a wonderful collection of houseplants.

12 Easy Houseplants for a Beginner to Grow

  1. Spider Plant. Place your spider plant in an area of your home where it will receive indirect sunlight. Give your plant a moderate amount of water each week, but don't make the soil soggy. These plants are great for sitting near a window in a living room, kitchen, or hallway. Spider plants grow quickly but can stay in a medium-size pot. They are known to absorb formaldehyde, benzene, and carbon monoxide from the air.
  2. English Ivy. This houseplant needs a medium to low amount of sunlight as well as about one inch of water per week. A hanging pot of English ivy will be happy near a window in a room of moderate temperature. This plant grows quickly, so be sure to make room for its many vines. They absorb indoor air pollutants such as styrene, mold, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, and benzene. They can clean the air in a room measuring 200 square feet!
  3. Pothos. A pothos plant does well in partial sunlight with a moderate amount of water each week. Push your finger about a half-inch into the soil to see if it's dry. If so, your pothos needs water. These are fast-growing plants, so don't be surprised as you watch your pothos vines grow longer with each passing month. Pothos absorbs formaldehyde and benzene particles from the air.
  4. Snake Plant. Give this hardy plant a low level of sunlight and a small amount of water and watch it flourish! A snake plant is a slow grower and releases oxygen when it gets dark. So why not put one in your bedroom and reap its benefits as you sleep? It absorbs airborne toxins such as formaldehyde, toluene, xylene, and benzene, too.
  5. Peace Lily. Give this plant a moderate amount of water and put it in a place where it can receive partial sunlight. Acetone, benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene are just a few of the airborne toxins this plant absorbs. The relaxed lighting requirements for this plant means it can flourish in practically any room. It can grow to be three feet high!
  6. Heartleaf Philodendron. Let this plant dry out between waterings, and put it in a place with moderate sunlight. This plant with attractive leaves absorbs benzene and formaldehyde from the air. Leave plenty of space around it for its quick-growing vines.
  7. Aloe. Aloe releases a lot of oxygen and absorbs formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, and carbon dioxide. Every few days, stick your fingers two inches into the soil to see if it's dry. If it is, water your aloe plant. I like the idea of keeping this plant in the kitchen. The juice from its leaves can soothe burns or rough skin, so if you burn yourself on a hot plate, you'll have your aloe plant close at hand!
  8. Boston Fern. Keep your Boston fern in the bathroom so it can enjoy the humidity from the shower. It needs a moderate amount of water and partial sunlight, so it's best if you have a window in your powder room. This traditional houseplant is rated number one at removing formaldehyde from the air. It grows quickly but slows down in the wintertime.
  9. Rubber Plant. Give your rubber plant a space that receives partial sunlight. Some rubber plants can grow to be eight feet tall, so make sure you have a large area for it in your home. Water this plant only when the soil is dry. It's excellent at removing formaldehyde from the air.
  10. Bromeliad. These plants need partial, bright sunlight to flourish. After a thorough watering once a month, watch to make sure the water drains out of the bottom of the pot. Spray a mist on this tropical plant two times a week, or put it in the bathroom after someone has taken a hot shower. This plant can grow to be several feet tall, so it will likely need to be repotted as it grows. Formaldehyde and benzene are two of the many toxins this plant removes from the air.
  11. Jade Plant. This simple yet attractive houseplant absorbs acetone from the air. Keep its soil moist, and put your jade in partial sunlight. Make sure the pot is sturdy to support its heavy stems. This small, compact plant would be an excellent addition to a home office on a desk near a window.
  12. Dracaena. Some types of dracaena grow to be three feet tall, while others sprout up to six! Water your dracaena once a week, and make sure the water drains out the bottom of the pot so it doesn't sit in soggy soil. An area with partial sunlight is perfect for this houseplant. Dracaena is effective at absorbing acetone from the air.

Good luck with your new additions, and thanks for reading! - Alan

Topics: easiest houseplants

The Dangers of a Dead Tree On Your Property

Posted by Alan Bernau Jr on Fri, May 11, 2018

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Do you have a tree in your yard that's not looking so good? Maybe you suspect that it may be dying, but you're not sure. A dying or dead tree can be a hazard in a yard or on another piece of property. This week, I'm thinking about how to determine if a tree is dying or dead and what to do about it.

How Do I Know if a Tree Is Dying or Dead?

Fortunately, there are many ways to spot a dying tree. One way to make a judgment is to take a pocket knife and scrape a thin layer off of a small twig. If the tree is living, the interior of the twig will be green and moist. Alternatively, if its interior is brown and dry, you may have a dying tree in your yard. Try the same test on a couple other twigs to see if you get the same results. Another sign of a dying tree is cracks or splits in your tree's bark. Do you have lots of missing or malformed leaves up in the canopy of your tree? If so, that's a sign that your tree may be dying, too. If you're still not sure about the condition of your tree, contact an arborist who can tell you for sure. I suggest taking some pictures of your tree with closeups of its trunk. Email them to the arborist so they can make an initial evaluation of its condition.

When Is the Best Time to Cut Down a Tree?

In the spring is the best time to cut down a dying or dead tree. If a tree is going to bloom, it will happen in the spring. If you see no sign of blooms on your tree, then that's another sign that it is dying or dead.

Methods for Cutting Down a Tree

Often, cutting down a tree is best left to the professionals: They have the right tools and have experience with the process. But if you are going to cut down a tree yourself, you must have the right safety gear, including goggles, heavy-duty gloves, earplugs, and leg protection. You have to own or rent a chainsaw designed to handle the type of tree you plan to cut down. Is it a small tree, or has it been standing there for 30 years? It's also necessary to evaluate which way you want your tree to fall and give it adequate space, so it won't cause damage as it comes down. Also, you must cut the tree in a certain way to ensure that it falls how you want it to. And after the tree is down, it must be cut into sections and hauled away.

Why Is it Dangerous to Have a Dead Tree on Your Property?

A dying or dead tree can fall on a house or car, causing costly damage. Also, large branches can fall without warning, putting family members, visitors, and pets at risk. Termites are big fans of dying and dead trees, too, so your tree could be overrun by pests that occupy your yard. And dying or dead tree starts to decay and stands there with bare branches throughout the year, so it can be an unattractive element in your otherwise appealing yard.

If you're wondering about the condition of a tree in your yard, take a closer look at it and try the twig test. If you do find that you have a dead tree, give some thought to planting a new one so you and your family can watch it grow taller each year. Take care, and thanks for reading. - Alan at Alan's Factory Outlet

Topics: dead tree on property

Guide To Growing A Cocktail Garden

Posted by Alan Bernau Jr on Thu, May 3, 2018

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If you enjoy a delicious cocktail now and then, you may want to start your own cocktail garden. That way, if you need cilantro, strawberries, mint, or another ingredient for a cocktail recipe, you'll have it right at your fingertips. Check out some growing tips for your burgeoning cocktail garden.

Herbs

Mint: Grow your mint in well-drained soil in an area with partial shade. Get mint plants at the farmers' market and plant them approximately two feet apart. Mint plants can grow to be two feet tall, so they need a lot of room to spread. If there is a dry period, give your mint plants some water. You can use mint in an old maid, a Ginger Rogers, and, of course, a mint julep. I like the idea of growing mint because it can be used in all types of drinks, even a refreshing lemonade!

Sage: Get your sage plants at the farmers' market and find a space for them in your cocktail garden that gets full sunlight. They are drought-tolerant so water them only if the soil is completely dry. A sage bee's knees cocktail and a sage gin martini are two cocktails to try with your homegrown sage.

Basil: Basil is another member of your cocktail garden that needs full sunlight. Also, basil plants grow best in moist soil. Plant them about ten to 12 inches apart. Use basil in delicious drinks like a cucumber, basil, and lime gimlet or a strawberry-rhubarb Bellini with basil.

Cilantro: Put your cilantro plants in full sunlight about 12 inches apart. The soil should be moist but not soggy. Some cocktails that include cilantro as an ingredient include a cilantro mojito or a jalapeno cilantro margarita.

Fruit

Strawberries: Plant your strawberry plants in a place in your garden that receives at least eight hours of full sunlight. Your strawberries need one to two inches of water each week to flourish. There are many cocktails that involve strawberries, like a strawberry gin and tonic or a strawberry gin smash.

Raspberries: Raspberries need full sun to grow. Soak the roots of your raspberry plant for about two hours before planting it in your cocktail garden. Leave two or three feet between your plants, and provide them with an inch of water each week. The raspberry caipirinha, the raspberry margarita, and the berry cosmo are three types of cocktails to try.

Tomatoes: If you like Bloody Marys or tomato gimlets, then you need a good supply of tomatoes. Put your tomato plants in the full sun, and provide them with a stake or trellis so they have support as they grow. Be sure to give your tomato plants an inch of water each week.

Vegetables

Horseradish: If you love to drink Bloody Marys or horseradish vodka, then you need to have some horseradish on hand. To grow horseradish, find a spot in your cocktail garden that receives full sunlight. Water your horseradish once a week if you go through a period without any rain.

Cucumber: Plant your cucumber plants at the base of a trellis so the vines have support. Choose an area with full sunlight and well-drained soil. A spicy spa-garita or a summer wind are two cocktails with cucumbers.

Flowers

There are many edible flowers you can use as garnishes for cocktails or non-alcoholic drinks. Growing violas is easily done in moist soil in an area that receives partial shade. Cover them with about 1/8 of an inch of soil. The Delft blue is one cocktail that includes violas as a garnish. Meanwhile, a cocktail called the real fruit lemon drop uses pansies as a garnish. Pansies are grown in well-drained soil and full sunlight, but they do best in cool temperatures.

I hope you start your own cocktail garden and use its plants in all sorts of recipes. Thanks for reading. - Alan

Topics: garden of herbs

The How-To Guide To Composting

Posted by Alan Bernau Jr on Thu, Apr 26, 2018

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Maybe you've thought about starting a compost pile, but you weren't sure if you could do it. Well, it's easier than you think. Today, I'm giving you the steps of creating a compost pile and just a few of the benefits of taking on this project for your family.

Great Reasons to Compost

When you compost, you are keeping fruit and vegetable peels, coffee grounds, egg shells, and more out of the landfill. You are disposing of these items in a natural way that will put nutrients back into the soil. Another reason to compost is you can use it as a natural fertilizer for your garden. This means you can skip using chemical fertilizer that can run off and end up in nearby streams and other waterways. Composting helps soil to retain moisture, which means you don't have to water your garden as often during the spring and summer. I like the idea of teaching kids how to compost so they can continue the tradition with their families someday!

The Steps of Composting

The first step in the process is to find a compost bin. Some bins are made of plastic, while others are made of wood. There are bins available for purchase, or you may want to build your own compost bin. Think about the amount of material you plan to compost before selecting a bin.

Next, choose a location for your compost pile that is out of the sun and allows plenty of air circulation around. If you're creating an actual pile instead of using a bin, avoid putting it close to trees because their roots can steal nutrients away from your compost.

The third step is to start creating your layers. Use twigs as the first layer of your pile so you have drainage and air circulation. Next, cover the layer of twigs with leaves. Follow that with a layer of green, then a layer of brown, and add a little moisture without making it soggy. Green layers should be full of nitrogen-rich items such as coffee grounds, fruit peels, eggshells, vegetables, and flowers. Brown layers should include carbon-rich items such as coffee filters, shredded newspaper, small pieces of cardboard, dryer lint, napkins, paper towels, and dried grass clippings. Alternate green and brown layers to create a balanced compost pile.

Items That Do Not Go in Your Compost Pile

Scraps of fish and meat shouldn't go into your compost pile because the odor will attract mice, raccoons, cats, and neighborhood dogs who will dig through your compost pile and spread it around your property. Also, don't put animal waste, large branches, dairy products, coated paper, or sawdust in your compost pile.

Things to Keep in Mind

  • Don't dump large amounts of citrus fruit peels onto your compost pile. The acid in these fruits can kill worms and other creatures that are helping to break down the elements in your compost pile.
  • After adding items to your compost pile, mix them with the lower layers.
  • Compost that is ready to be used in your garden will have a dark appearance and smell like earth. It will also have a crumbly texture.

I hope you decide to start a compost pile so you can help both your garden and the environment! Thanks for reading. - Alan

Topics: guide to composting

How, When, And Why You Should Aerate Your Lawn

Posted by Alan Bernau Jr on Mon, Apr 16, 2018

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Did you know that aerating your lawn can improve drainage? This is just one of the many benefits of aeration. It's a simple process that can make all the difference in the condition and appearance of your lawn. This week, let me help you learn about aerating and how it contributes to the health of your lawn.

Why Aerate Your Lawn?

Over time, your lawn's soil can become compacted. This makes it difficult for sunlight, water, and air to gain access to the roots of your grass. Poking holes in your lawn, or aerating, allows the sunlight, water, and air to seep down to the grass roots. All of this nourishment in the springtime leads to a beautiful lawn of green, healthy grass through the warm-weather months.

How to Aerate Your Lawn

When it comes to aerating your lawn, you have some options. You can go with a power, push, or handheld lawn aerator. There are even special spiked shoes you can buy that aerate your lawn as you walk across it! Whatever method you choose, be sure the soil is moist, not wet, before you begin the process. I suggest running a quick test with the help of a small garden trowel. Stick the trowel into the soil and pull it out. If the soil falls off of the blade, then it's OK to aerate. If it sticks to the blade, then the soil is too wet. Moist soil allows the spikes of the aerator to travel deep into the ground. Start at one side of your lawn and move across it with your aerator. When you reach the other side of your lawn, turn around and aerate on your way back to the starting point. Aerating in two directions helps you cover all areas of your lawn. As you pull the plugs of soil up out of your lawn, drop them on the grass as you go. They will decompose, giving the soil even more nutrients.

When to Aerate Your Lawn

When you aerate depends on whether you have warm- or cool-season grass. If you have warm-season grass, such as centipede grass or carpet grass, then it's best to aerate late in the springtime. Alternatively, fall or early spring is best if you have cool-season grass such as Kentucky bluegrass. Aerating should be done in mild temperatures so that grass has a chance to grow back and fill up the holes.

How Often Should I Aerate?

The answer to this question depends on the amount of traffic on your lawn. Maybe you have kids or grandkids constantly running and playing on your lawn. This type of activity can lead to soil compaction, so aerating once a year would be appropriate. However, if your lawn has very little traffic, aerating it every three to five years should be fine.

You might even want to get your kids or grandkids to help you with aeration this year. They can each work with a handheld aerator. It's a great opportunity to teach them how to keep grass healthy!

Thanks for reading. - Alan

Topics: aerate your lawn

Backyard Cleanup, The Spring Edition

Posted by Alan Bernau Jr on Thu, Apr 5, 2018

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Spring is finally here! Like me, you're probably ready to get outside and start clearing your yard of any remains of winter. There are several things you can do to get your home and your yard shipshape for the season.

Inspect the Condition of Your Home

Take a walk around your home to do a visual inspection. The freezing and thawing that happens throughout winter can cause all types of damage. Are the railings of your balcony or deck secure? Do you see any broken or uneven steps in your outdoor staircase? You have plenty of time to make these repairs before spring shifts into full gear! Other things to look for include cracks in a cement patio or bricks in a patio that have been forced out of position. Repairing these items now can help you get more years out of your patio or deck.

Evaluate Your Yard for Dangers

After all of the snow melts away, it's time to look for dangers lurking in your yard. For example, you may have an exposed tree root someone could trip over. You may see a large stone in your yard that could be a hazard for someone walking along. You definitely want to remove things like this before you start your mowing duties. Areas of sunken ground can also be safety hazards, but you can fill them in to make your lawn safer and more attractive. Also, look for large fallen branches and sticks so you can remove them from your lawn in preparation for mowing. Checking the condition of your yard can prevent you from running over sticks, stones, and other objects that may damage the blades of your mower.

Clean Your Patio Furniture

Do you have a large set of patio furniture, including a table, umbrella, chairs, and a settee? Or maybe you have just two lawn chairs. No matter how many pieces of patio furniture you have, hosing them off and wiping them with a clean, soft cloth can make them look their best for spring. Cleaning your patio umbrella and chairs can prevent small spots of dirt from becoming large stains. You can get years of use out of a patio umbrella as well as your other furniture by cleaning everything each spring and summer.

Inspect Your Gutters

Look at the state of your gutters. Are there any sagging areas or places where you see clumps of leaves? Loose nails, blocked downspouts, and broken portions are other things to look for during your inspection. Making small repairs to your gutters and clearing away debris will help them to work more efficiently when the spring rains arrive. I suggest getting a friend to help you inspect your gutters if you need to use a tall ladder.

Pest Problem?

Looking closely at your lawn and its plants, flowers, and trees is a great way to determine if you have a pest problem. Of course, you need to differentiate good insects from garden pests. For instance, you don't want to get rid of the spiders you see because they eat aphids, and aphids are notorious garden pests. Keeping the good insects around can help maintain the health of your lawn.

Trim Trees and Hedges

Spring is a great time to trim broken or damaged limbs on bushes and trees. Use handheld pruners instead of hedge clippers for shaping hedges: It's easier to get the appealing shape you want with handheld pruners. Trimming your trees and bushes prompts new growth.

Getting your home, patio, and yard ready for spring can really improve the look of your property during the warm weather season. Thanks for reading. - Alan

Topics: backyard cleanup

28 Quotes That Will Inspire You To Get Back Into The Garden

Posted by Alan Bernau Jr on Thu, Mar 29, 2018

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Do you find yourself gazing out the window at your backyard garden? This is a sure sign that you're ready to start planting, weeding, and watering again. I found some quotes that will help inspire you to create a memorable garden this year. Take a look!

  1. "The love of gardening is a seed once sown that never dies." (Gertrude Jekyll)
  2. "My garden is my most beautiful masterpiece." (Claude Monet)
  3. "Weather means more when you have a garden. There's nothing like listening to a shower and thinking how it is soaking in around your green beans." (Marcelene Cox)
  4. "You can bury a lot of troubles digging in the dirt." (Unknown)
  5. "It was such a pleasure to stick one's hands into the warm earth, to feel at one's fingertips the possibilities of the new season." (Kate Morton)
  6. "In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt." (Margaret Atwood)
  7. "I know the pleasure of pulling up root vegetables. They are solvable mysteries." (Novella Carpenter)
  8. "An optimistic gardener is one who believes that whatever goes down must come up." (Leslie Hall)
  9. "A weed is but an unloved flower." (Ella Wheeler Wilcox)
  10. "My extravagance is my garden; it's the first thing I look at every morning when I wake up. It gives me so much pleasure." (Ina Garten)
  11. "Gardening is a profession of hope." (Brian Brett)
  12. "One of the most delightful things about a garden is the anticipation it provides." (W.E. Johns)
  13. "The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body but the soul." (Alfred Austin)
  14. "I like gardening. It's a place where I find myself when I want to lose myself." (Alice Sebold)
  15. "When the world wearies and society fails to satisfy, there is always the garden." (Minnie Aumonier)
  16. "Half the interest of the garden is the constant exercise of the imagination." (Mrs. C.W. Earle)
  17. "It's difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts when eating a homegrown tomato." (Lewis Grizzard)
  18. "There are no gardening mistakes, only experiments." (Janet Kilburn Phillips)
  19. "My green thumb came only as a result of the mistakes I made while learning to see things from the plant's point of view." (H. Fred Dale)
  20. "In the night the cabbages catch at the moon, the leaves drip silver, the rows of cabbages are series of little silver waterfalls in the moon." (Carl Sandburg)
  21. "I've always felt that having a garden is like having a good and loyal friend." (C.Z. Guest)
  22. "Gardeners learn by trowel and error." (Unknown)
  23. "Gardening is the art that uses flowers and plants as paint and soil and sky as canvas." (Elizabeth Murray)
  24. "A garden is a friend you can visit any time." (Unknown)
  25. "All through the long winter, I dream of my garden. On the first day of spring, I dig my fingers into the soft earth. I can feel its energy, and my spirits soar." (Helen Hayes)
  26. "Gardening requires a lot of water, most of it in the form of perspiration." (Lou Erickson)
  27. "It's a golden maxim to cultivate the garden for the nose, and the eyes will take care of themselves." (Robert Louis Stevenson)
  28. "Sweet flowers are slow and weeds make haste." (Shakespeare)

If you feel inspired by these quotes, I suggest you grab a piece of paper and start drawing up a plan for what will go where in your spring garden. Use different colored pencils to map out the sections in your garden. Most importantly, get excited about springtime!

Thanks for reading. - Alan

20 Spectacular Facts About Spring

Posted by Alan Bernau Jr on Tue, Mar 20, 2018

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Could a metal garage from Alan's Factory Outlet be a great way to start off your spring season?

First day of spring is today! It's nice to read those words, isn't it? In celebration of spring, I thought I'd share some interesting facts with you about this lovely season. Enjoy!

  1. Honeybees swarm more in the springtime: This is how they start new colonies.
  2. With the arrival of springtime in the Northern Hemisphere, it turns to autumn in the Southern Hemisphere.
  3. In Japan, the cherry blossom is the national flower. When these blossoms open in March or April, it signals the beginning of spring.
  4. Have you noticed that the birds around your neighborhood are chirping more and singing louder these days? In the springtime, birds get more vocal to attract mates. You may even see a bird or two tapping on your window.
  5. The first flowers to appear in the springtime, or shortly before, include daffodils, tulips, lilies, irises, and dandelions.
  6. Spring begins on March 20 this year, but it's not always the same date. In past years, spring has begun on March 21, and it began on March 19 in 2016.
  7. Benjamin Franklin brought up the idea of daylight saving time in 1784.
  8. More sunlight in the springtime can boost levels of serotonin in your brain, which can elevate your mood.
  9. Shedding is another sign of the approach of spring. Horses, dogs, cats, and other animals begin shedding their winter coats in preparation for the warm weather.
  10. Many birds migrate in the springtime. Be sure to leave your bird feeders up, since many birds depend on feeders for sustenance during this time.
  11. Persephone is the goddess of spring.
  12. In Colorado's Rocky Mountains, spring now begins three weeks earlier than it did in the 1970s.
  13. Birds, deer, rabbits, and other animals have babies in the springtime so their young have enough time to put on fat and grow strong by the arrival of the cold season.
  14. Easter is celebrated in the spring. Eggs play a part in the celebrations because they represent rebirth and renewal.
  15. Maple trees begin to drip syrup in February and usually continue through April. A stack of pancakes with maple syrup sounds great to me right now; how about you?
  16. Tornadoes are most likely at this time of year.
  17. If you stood at the equator on the first day of spring, you would witness the sun moving overhead from south to north.
  18. Spring fever is a real thing. Our bodies change with the warmer temperatures by producing more hormones and craving different foods. It makes us restless to get out and go!
  19. In Japan, the arrival of spring is similar to a new year's celebration. Many Japanese start new hobbies, thoroughly clean their homes, and make plans for the new season.
  20. Contrary to popular belief, the first day of spring (aka the vernal equinox) rarely has exactly 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness.

Happy spring! Thanks for reading. - Alan

Jump Start Your Garden By Starting Seeds Indoors

Posted by Alan Bernau Jr on Wed, Mar 7, 2018

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Do you want to get a head start on your garden this year? If so, consider growing some seeds indoors, then transplanting them outside. This will allow you more time to focus on your summer plants, and you can start enjoying your vegetables and flowers sooner! This week, I have some tips for you if you want to become an expert at growing seeds indoors.

The Basics

  • A Container: To successfully grow seeds indoors, you must have the right kind of container. You may want to use individual containers and grow a single seedling in each one. Make sure each container is about two to three inches deep. Planting your seeds in individual containers prevents the roots of one plant from tangling with another and causing problems during the transplant stage.
  • Soil: Purchase soil designed for growing seeds. Before putting the soil in each of your containers, pour small amounts of water on it until it's a crumbly consistency. Next, spoon the soil into each container and pack it down to eliminate air pockets.
  • Seeds: Read the instructions on your seed packets. Some seeds need to be put just beneath the surface of the soil, while others need to be a little deeper to grow. Cover your seeds with soil and moisten the soil in each container.
  • Water: Check the condition of your soil each day. Keep it moist but not soaking wet. I suggest using a spray bottle to mist your seeds so you don't accidentally overdo it. Use liquid fertilizer to give your seeds the nutrients they need to grow.
  • Light: A south-facing window should give your seeds enough light to grow. If you don't have a window that will allow your seeds enough light, consider getting some grow lights. Having grow lights provides you with more control over the amount of light you give your seedlings.

Seeds That Grow Well Indoors

Some types of seeds are especially easy to grow indoors, including tomatoes, zinnias, marigolds, basil, cosmos, and nasturtium. These seeds germinate quickly and need very little attention, and having success growing these seeds can give you the confidence to try growing other types of seeds next year. If you've never grown any seeds indoors before, I would start with no more than ten varieties of seeds so you don't feel overwhelmed with too many kinds to keep track of.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

One common mistake to avoid is putting soil from your garden into your growing containers. Garden soil may contain diseases and bacteria that can kill your seeds.

Another mistake to avoid is misjudging how much water to give your seeds. One solution to this is to make a self-watering system.

Using paper cups, yogurt cups, or even an egg carton as a container for your seeds is perfectly fine. But don't forget to poke a hole in the bottom of your DIY containers for proper drainage.

Tips for Growing Your Seeds

  • Make labels for your containers so you don't forget what is in each one.
  • When it's time to move your seedlings outside, go through the hardening off process first. For a few hours a day, put your container outside in an area with little wind and partial shade. Do this over the course of ten days to get your seedlings used to the outdoors.
  • Don't expect all of your seeds to grow. There are always a few that don't appear despite your best care. This is why you should go with several types, so you have plenty that do grow!
  • Most seeds should be planted indoors approximately six weeks before the last frost in your part of the country.

If you want to get a jump on the spring season, try growing some seeds indoors! Happy growing, and thanks for reading. - Alan

Topics: start garden indoors

Emergency Equipment Safety Checks For Your Home

Posted by Alan Bernau Jr on Wed, Mar 7, 2018

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If you live in a motor home some of these safety tips could apply to you.

You probably have a smoke alarm and maybe a fire extinguisher or two in your home. But just having these things isn't enough: These and other pieces of emergency equipment need regular maintenance to make sure that they work when you need them. This week, let's take a look at how to maintain these important items.

Smoke Alarm

It's important to test your smoke alarm once a month. Normally, there is a test button on a smoke alarm that you can press to test the device. If it's working, it should sound an alarm that lasts a few seconds. Also, make sure to change the batteries in your smoke alarm once a year. If your smoke alarm starts beeping before then, that's a signal it needs new batteries. If your smoke alarm doesn't work even after installing new batteries, you can buy a replacement at a big-box store or often even from your local fire department. If you have a smoke alarm that is hardwired, it runs on the electricity traveling into your home, but you should check to see if it has batteries as a backup power source. These will need to be changed annually so your alarm will work even in a power outage.

Carbon Monoxide Alarm

Most carbon monoxide alarms have a test button just like a smoke alarm. Press the button to test the alarm each month, and replace its battery each year. If the battery is running out of juice, your carbon monoxide alarm will beep, alerting you of the issue. Pay close attention to the instructions on the package of your carbon monoxide alarm so you know when to go to your local hardware store or big-box store to replace it. I suggest that you install your carbon monoxide alarms near the bedrooms in your home. That way, if there is a carbon monoxide leak during the night, your family will be alerted right away.

Fire Extinguisher

Do you have a fire extinguisher in your home? If not, it's a good idea to have at least one in or near the kitchen. For the monthly maintenance of your fire extinguisher, examine the locking pin to see if it's in place. Look for any corrosion or rusting on the extinguisher. The next step is to examine the pressure gauge to see if the unit is operable. Lots of fire extinguishers used in the home have a pressure gauge with green and red areas on it. If the arrow is in the green area, then it's operable. If the arrow is pointing to the red area, it won't work. If this is the case, read the instructions to see if you can refill your extinguisher; sometimes, local fire departments will refill fire extinguishers for homeowners. Otherwise, just replace it with a new one.

Sprinkler System

If you have a sprinkler system in your home, you have a valuable extra layer of safety. The monthly maintenance of a sprinkler system involves checking to see if the water shutoff valves are in the open position. Also, if you have a water storage tank, look to see if it's full. Examine the insulation around the pipes connected to your sprinkler system to see if it's intact; this can prevent them from freezing in the cold weather. Next, conduct a flow test. Your sprinkler system should have a flow-test valve you can open, allowing water to run out for a minute or so. If your sprinkler doesn't pass the flow test, contact the company that installed it for guidance. In addition, it's important to make sure the sprinkler heads around your home aren't blocked by stacks of boxes or high shelves.

Having emergency equipment in your home can help to keep your family and property secure. The small amount of time you take to maintain these simple items could save lives. Thanks for reading. - Alan

Topics: Home Safety Checks

 

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