Practical Garden Tips

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Me vs. Dandelions:  This Time I Am The Eco-Victor

Are you fighting the good fight against weeds?  Do you wish to eradicate them while maintaining an organic yard?

For way too long, I have battled a row of dandelions between my driveway rock wall and the pavement.  Getting at the roots as you can see from the photo was impossible as they were lodged underneath, and no way was I going to resort to nasty chemicals.  I chipped away as best I could to dislodge the root systems, but within a week or 2 these tormentors taunted me again.  Two weeks ago, I fetched my arsenal big guns (holy heck, why did it take me so long to think of this?).  I sprayed each of the dandys with a mixture of baking soda and vinegar and let nature take its course. 

I completely forgot about them until 2 days later as I pulled into the driveway I noticed the withered remains.  While I could chalk it up to lack of rainfall, I purposefully did not treat other areas of my dry driveway, and those weeds are doing just marvy.  Now that I know this works, goodbye to those too.

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Caveat:  this technique, while powerful, could be devastating to plantings you wish to retain.  Using the mixture is ideal in areas where complete weed eradication is desired like driveways and sidewalks without concern about harmful chemicals leaching into your herbs and veggies or run-off into nearby waterbodies.


Fresh layer of potting soil creates a striking look

Fresh layer of potting soil creates a striking look

Good Doyt

As a toddler, my son was a vehicle fanatic.  Gawking at construction vehicles launched him over the moon.  One of his favorite DVD's featured a backhoe relocating soil and at one point, the narrator mentions the importance of good dirt.  My son latched onto that phrase and each time he watched, he would shout, "good doyt."

From that day on, whenever I work in my gardens I think about "good doyt."  Using high quality potting soil provides optimal nutrition and support for your plants' root systems.  As a bonus, fresh, dark brown potting soil (as well as mulching for your gardens) creates aesthetic curbside appeal for your patio or garden beds. 

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Gardening experts recommend a complete repotting each spring to loosen soil around the roots and ensure the proper size vessel allowing your plants room to grow. However, if your schedule is too tight for repotting or your budget is too thin to purchase yards of dirt, then opt for a top off layer to achieve "the look."   You will be amazed at the striking difference once you replace the old, matted dirt.

If a home sale is on your horizon or you just want your gardens to have a higher wow factor, consider freshening up your gardens and pots with a new layer of soil.


Keep the Pests Away

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It took me a while to find a practical solution to keeping the deer, birds, etc. away from my blueberry bushes.  I tried bird netting for a few years, but it was the bane of my garden existence.  It ripped my nails, frequently got tangled in the branches dislodging unripe berries, and made it extraordinarily difficult to harvest the fruit.   I have now replaced all of the netting with green tulle.  It camouflages rather well with the plants and it is so much easier to quickly pick the berries.  Although I felt bad about disposing the netting, the recycling center took it off my hands.

Trying this in my garden, I will keep you posted as to how this is working.  I am using dryer lint to surround my new plantings particularly veggies that are slug targets.  So far it seems the slugs have been avoiding the plants (knock on wood).

 

 


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Practical Renovation/Fixer Upper Tips

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You may not know this, part of my business involves engaging contractors to facilitate rapid and lucrative home sales by putting your home's best look forward. Engaging contractors particularly in this crazy sales and home repair market, is no easy task. All sorts of contractors are booked months out. They are short-staffed. And most importantly they can name their prices. OUCH.

If you are looking to hire a contractor, the last thing you want to do is hire the wrong contractor and unnecessarily run up the costs or experience job delays. If you are inexperienced, doing the project yourself could also result in needless headaches. This morning a list of Common Mistakes to Avoid When Hiring A Contractor appeared in my inbox courtesy of Home Advisor.   Click here to view article

Whether you are doing repairs, spring touch-ups or getting ready to put your home on the market, these tips could help you avoid some project landmines.

Tips Reprinted from Home Advisor June 16, 2017 blog:

1. Poor Communication

Open communication is the golden rule of dealing with home improvement contractors. As long as you find a reasonably honest person, asking straightforward questions and clearly delineating what you want and expect from your home projects will eliminate the vast majority of potential problems. Put this verbal communication in writing to protect yourself from unreliable contractors.

2. Waiting Until You Need a Contractor

Not addressing major problems early on can lead to costly replacements in lieu of repairs. Spending $500 on a 20-year-old heating system is not a good investment, but it can take a week or more to find and install the right replacement heating system. As soon as you see signs of trouble, get someone out to your home for a look. Also, be sure to run your heating and air conditioning for an hour during the off-season. Much like a CEO, you should be concerned with the long-term financial status of your home.

3. NOT Hiring a Home Improvement Contractor

There are a number of different home improvements that present themselves as viable DIY projects, only to morph into money-sucking monsters. Fence building, deck building, exterior house painting and drywall repair can all fit into this category. None of these projects are impossible to DIY, but the average homeowner should always lean toward hiring a pro when there is even the slightest doubt.

4. Hiring Someone Who Shows Up at Your Front Door

Avoid door-to-door solicitation. Depending on what your gut tells you, respectfully ask for a business card and look up the company or call the local chapter of your Better Business Bureau to report suspicious behavior.

5. Hiring Someone to Fix a Problem Without Diagnosing It

Don’t hire a pro to solve a problem without addressing the cause. Perhaps the worst thing you can do is ignore recommendations for further repairs. If a contractor can show or explain why damage is occurring, don’t bypass the problem.

6. Being Enticed by Low/High Bids

You should always be wary of bids that are substantially higher or lower than those of the competition. High bids sometimes result from a busy contractor who isn’t looking to take on more work unless the profit margin makes it worth it. Just as you would with a suspiciously low bid, ask both the individual contractor and the rest of the bidding contractors why one single bid is so much higher or lower than the others.

7. Not Looking Far Enough

Don’t be afraid to look for contractors outside of your immediate area. Most home improvement contractors service multiple counties. Many contractors are willing to travel and provide bids — especially for larger projects.


Whew, What a Save!  Removing Stains from Wood Furniture


Months ago, a white stain appeared on my kitchen table.  No one remembers leaving a perspiring glass or bowl on the table.  Regardless when I glanced to the left from my chair that white shaped blob bugged me.  With guests expected, I would try to strategically arrange my husband’s placemat over the stain, but that not only looked awkward, it was slightly out of range of his eating area.

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Fast forward a few weeks when my mom inquired about removing an ink stain from her Formica kitchen table which then set me to work on solving my own exasperating problem. I was now determined to banish that ugly water stain.  When it first manifested, I tried several home remedies.  Baking powder (which actually removed some of the finish…still working on that), vinegar, and toothpaste with no luck.

My web search led me to try just one more option, ironing.  I selected the lowest setting and placed a cloth napkin on the table and began ironing.  In total, it took nearly 10 minutes so don’t expect immediate results.  However, keep checking as you go to adjust the temperature, location, and to watch progress.  Important caveat:  use cotton not polyester fabrics to iron.  The latter gave off too much moisture while the cotton wicked it up.  And, you can knock out some ironing at the same time.

As you can see from the after shot, the stain is virtually gone (it had been where the pen point is).  On the area where the finish had been rubbed off previously, I smeared a touch of mayonnaise.  That helped a little, but not enough.  After wiping that off, I applied some coconut oil.  And voila.  See the photo.

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Yay, no more awkwardly placed placemats and no more embarrassing stain!

Word of caution, please use a low setting if you try this and do so at your own risk!


Paint Recycling

Its the "fixer-upper" time of year.  Lots of folks are busy working on their landscaping; cleaning out garages; pressure washing sidewalks, driveways, and porches;  lacquering outdoor furniture; and painting. 

A fresh coat of paint can make drab rooms or a tired exteriors appear bold, clean, and inviting.  If you are selling your home, your realtor may have suggested livening up a room or two or toning down others to enhance marketability.

Once you embark on a painting project, what do you do with the leftover paints, primers, lacquers, and waterproofing sealers? 

You could:

  • save leftovers for a future project or touch-ups
  • donate unused paint (ScrapPDX-be sure to check scrappdx.org/donate/items-we-accept for guidelines)
  • recycle used paint

The PaintCare recycling program offers latex and oil-based drop-off sites throughout Oregon for five gallon cans or smaller regardless of age.  They will ensure that the paint is converted into fuel, other products, or properly disposed.  

You have already paid the recycling disposal fee at the time of purchase, so it makes economic and environmental sense to take advantage of this program if you have a location nearby.  To find your nearest location:  click here for Paint Care's search tool or call 855-724-6809.  Locate sites outside Oregon on the link.  Products accepted for collection are included on the featured flyer and also available at Paintcare.orgIf you have other waste disposal or recycling questions, be sure to contact Metro at oregonmetro.gov.

Practical Appliances & User Manuals

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After purchasing a new appliance, write the serial and model numbers on the user's manual or keep track of your appliances in an App or software file. Then if service is ever needed, you have all the information handy to relay to the tech or repair company. I have found this especially useful as my eyes have gotten older and print seems to have gotten smaller. It also saves time as I don't have to scour or move the appliance to locate these details.

I also find it useful to include tech support or repair company telephone numbers and any repair notes with the files. Trying to track down "800" tech support numbers can sometimes be more difficult than locating the proverbial needle in the haystack.