Pest Control Alternatives for your Vegetable Garden

One way to practice a more sustainable lifestyle is by eliminating harmful chemicals from your garden. This is actually easier to do now than it was a few years ago, because many companies are responding to the demands of home gardeners to grow their vegetables organically – free of chemicals.
Here are a few tips on how to keep your garden producing fresh fruits and vegetables without using harmful chemicals to keep those pesky critters away.
Pest Control
If your garden is plagued with pests, there are several things you can do before resorting to “pest control” chemicals.
First, several plants will actually deter predators from your garden. For instance, planting marigolds around the perimeter of your garden will help repel bugs and small critters. Check with your local nursery to find out what plants can repel the pests you have in your yard.
b2ap3_thumbnail_pest-controlOther barriers can also be created to prevent rodents from getting into your garden. Chicken wire with small holes can be added around your garden area to keep rabbits out, and taller “cages” around your plants will help keep squirrels away.
Electric fences can also prevent unwanted guests; most of these are designed to surprise critters without harming them. While this may be a last resort, it could be deemed necessary if you have extreme problems with squirrels.
For an infestation of grub worms or insects, you may want to consider organic pest control. Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) is a type of bacteria that can be purchased in spray or powder form. Bt is a natural way to kill off insects, yet it is not harmful to humans. It can be purchased at your local nursery.
b2ap3_thumbnail_lady-bug-150x150Don’t forget about those natural predators in your garden. They can also be used to help get rid of unwanted pests. Adding ladybugs to your garden, for example, will help eliminate aphids from attacking plants. Having a pet dog or cat can also help get rid of unwanted rodents.
Not all invaders to your garden should be considered unwelcome, however. You actually need insects to help pollinate plants and decompose the soil. Earthworms are excellent at helping to decompose organic matter in the soil and provide nutrients for plant growth.
A general rule of “green” thumb is that unless insects are eating your plant leaves and harvesting your veggies before you get the chance, you may want to leave them alone. Part of living a sustainable lifestyle is learning which organisms can actually promote plant growth and a viable ecosystem.

Building a Raised Flower Bed

If the plants you want in your flower bed or vegetable garden require good water drainage, it can be frustrating having a yard that just won’t cooperate. Some plants can handle excess water that comes from poor drainage; in fact, it might cause them to bloom more lushly. However, other plants don’t cope as well, and it will cause them to die a gruesome, bloated death.

b2ap3_thumbnail_raised-flower-bed-300x158There is a simple process to finding out how well your yard drains (or retains) water. Dig a hole approximately ten inches deep and then fill it with water. Come back to the hole the next day (when all the water has disappeared), and fill it back up again. If the water in the hole isn’t gone within 10 hours, your soil has a low saturation point. This means that when water soaks into it, it will stick around for a long time before dissipating. A low-saturating yard makes it difficult for most plants to thrive. The only way you are going have a healthy garden under these conditions is to remedy the situation before planting.

How do you do this? By creating a raised flower bed.

Building a raised bed is fairly easy to do. It involves creating a border for a small bed, and adding enough soil and compost to it to raise it above the rest of the yard by at least 5 inches. (You’ll be amazed at how much your water drainage will be improved by this small modification.)

If you want to position a raised garden in a non-grassy area, you won’t have as many steps. Start with building a bed out of 2×4s. After you’ve created the bed, simply add soil and fertilizer (such as manure).

If you want your raised garden where a grassy area already exists, you’ll need to first begin by cutting out the sod around the perimeter of the garden and turning it over. Once this is complete, add a layer of straw to discourage the grass from growing back. From there, build your bed, add the soil (and manure) that a normal garden would need.

Planting your plants in your new area shouldn’t pose much difficulty; it is essentially the same process as any other planting. Just be sure to build your bed high enough that the roots don’t extent too far into the original ground. The whole point of creating the raised bed is to keep the roots out of the soil that holds lots of water.

Once you have plants in your new bed, you should notice an improvement almost immediately. The added soil facilitates better root development, while evaporation is prevented and decomposition is discouraged. All of these things together make for an ideal environment for almost any plant to grow.

Is Refinancing Worth the Headache?

Why is it that some homeowners may never refinance their mortgage while others refinance frequently? Sure there are some financial benefits that come from refinancing, but there are also a few “hassles” that go along with the process. And frankly, for some the benefits simply do not outweigh the hassle.


Don’t Call Me Lazy

Let’s face it. We all have visited a friend’s house to find dust bunnies under the couch or unfolded laundry lying on the floor. But laziness is usually not the culprit when a homeowner opts to not refinance. In these cases, the homeowner may simply decide not to refinance because they are happy with their current monthly mortgage payment. For these folks, the opportunity to lower their monthly mortgage payment is simply not worth the time and energy it takes to first investigate refinancing options, then compare lenders and finally pay closing costs and other fees associated with a refinance. It’s not a simple or quick process – and they recognize this.

In a climate where interest rates are ever changing, perhaps for some homeowners the savings just isn’t enough to go through the process. They may already have a decent interest rate – one that they are comfortable with. For these homeowners, going through the refinance process isn’t worth the small savings they’d receive.

Factors to Consider

In order to figure out whether or not going through the hassle of refinancing really pays, homeowners should look at the following factors:

  •     What is your monthly savings? Homeowners need to figure out how much they’d pay under the new lower-interest rate (using a mortgage calculator). Subtract that amount from the current monthly mortgage and that difference is your monthly savings.
  •     What is the total cost to refinance? The process isn’t free. There are points and closing costs, loan fees, title searches and appraisal costs to consider.


  •     How many months will it take to pay off the refinance? Divide your total costs by your monthly savings.

Example: If the total cost to refinance is $3,300 and your monthly savings is $150, it will take 22 months for you to break even. If you don’t plan to stay in your home for that long, then it doesn’t pay to refinance.

The bottom line is that refinancing a mortgage is truly a personal decision. Some homeowners will jump at the chance to save a little money, while other may be content with the “status quo.” It really is an individual preference.

Improve Your Bathroom Storage

Bathroom storage space is an important aspect of any bathroom, especially if you have a large family or one that will be growing soon. While it might be necessary to spend some time renovating existing space to add storage, it will be well worth it in the end.

b2ap3_thumbnail_DSC0504A-300x199A quick way to create extra bathroom storage space in any bathroom is to remove the doors from the under-the-sink storage. From there, you can install additional shelves to this space and use baskets or other creative pieces for storage. This will provide a more efficient use of the space.
You can also replace your vanity with one that has more drawer storage. Vanities come in a variety of sizes and options, so there is bound to be the right storage solution for your needs.
Another easy bathroom storage solution for your bathroom is to build vertically. For example, you can build vertical cupboards on your bathroom counter (perhaps between the Jack and Jill sinks). This allows you to save much of your counter space for other things, yet add to the amount of bathroom storage in the room. Vertical cupboards can even be added to the floor of the bathroom, similar to how an armoire works in the bedroom.
Depending on the space in your bathroom, you may also be able to build shelves into the walls. These shelves can be left open for storing towels, soaps or even displayingb2ap3_thumbnail_DSC0026_28_30-final-for-print-300x199

Of course, another obvious way to add bathroom storage is by adding shelves to the walls. Natural areas for hanging shelves are near the sink and tub/shower. Additionally, you can add pegs underneath these shelves –
providing a spot to hang towels.
Overall, options abound for adding storage to your bathroom – if you just get a little creative. Click here to view some our Bathroom projects.
Happy Remodeling!

What Every Homeowner Should Know About Lead Paint

As we consult with homeowners, we find that many of them aren’t fully aware of Federal regulations pertaining to lead-based paint that may affect the smallest of home remodeling project – even replacing one window. This law requires contractors to engage in “lead-safe work practices” when working on homes built before 1978.


The Background

As many consumers already know, lead was added to paint for a number of years – up until 1978, when it was officially banned from residential construction. However, before then lead paint was used in more than 38 millionhomes, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Since April 2010, remodelers must be lead-paint certified and follow specific guidelines to prevent lead contamination. Such projects include any repair, renovation and/or painting project that disturbs lead-based paint in homes, childcare facilities and schools built before 1978. The list of contractors that this affects is extensive. Besides remodelers and carpenters, other trades include plumbers, heating and air conditioning contractors, painters and window installers, just to name a few.

If you are a homeowner of a home built prior to 1978, it is important that you select a remodeler who is trained and certified in lead-safe practices. Sure, if lead is detected in your home, it is more expensive to work with a certified remodeler, but don’t cut corners by working with a contractor that doesn’t have the proper training.

Lead Paint Dangers

The remodeling process disturbs the lead paint – leaving behind dust from sanding, which can be breathed in, and paint splinters and chips that a small child or pet could ingest. In young children, lead poisoning can cause learning disabilities, hearing loss and behavior problems. In adults, lead poisoning can lead to hypertension and high blood pressure. Pregnant women run the risk of passing the poison on to their unborn child.

What Are Lead-Safe Work Practices? The EPA offers a free brochure on its website called “Renovate Right” that provides guidance to homeowners and contractors about the safe removal of lead paint. Any contractor should follow specific work practices, including these three simple procedures:

1. Contain the work area. The first step to creating a lead-safe work area is to contain the area that is being disturbed. This involves sealing off the area by using heavy-duty plastic and tape – everything from doors to vents to the floor and furniture will all be covered in plastic. It may look like a bit of a contamination area you see in movies, but it is important to keep the dust and debris in one zone of your home and not airborne or tracked elsewhere.

2. Minimize dust. Although your remodeler can’t eliminate the dust created from a home improvement project, paint removal methods do exist that create less dust than others, such as using water to mist areas before sanding or scraping. Contractors will also attach a HEPA filter vacuum to their power tools.

3. Scrupulous cleanup. Once the work is completed and before taking down the plastic that isolates the work area from the rest of the home, the area will be meticulously cleaned using a HEPA vacuum on all surfaces, followed by wet mopping.

Taking these steps ensures that all the lead particles have been removed and your family is safe from the harmful effects of lead. To get your lead-safe certified guide to renovating right, visit:

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