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Archive | Spring Spruce Up

Succession in the Garden

(Family Features) Spring in the garden is a dangerous time. The temptation is to go out on those warm, sunny days and plant ‘til you drop. Not only is that strenuous on your body and mind, it can also lead to the proverbial glut of food in a few months.
A better solution is to plan out your annual edible garden so crops mature in a more orderly fashion. Succession planting requires a little knowledge of the type of plants you’re growing, a little planning to have room for them to grow, and the patience to plant each crop in turn. Also, other gardening techniques, such as crop rotation and interplanting, can help maximize growing space and help your plants avoid many soil-borne diseases and insects.

Planting for Success

Succession planting is a simple concept: Plant small rows or beds of plants periodically during the growing season. As one planting’s harvest begins to fade, the next planting’s harvest will be ready. The key is knowing what vegetables can be planted in succession, and the best time of year to do it.

Photo courtesy of Family Features

To succession plant, start in spring with cool-season crops that can be planted early, such as lettuce, spinach, peas, broccoli, greens, pak choi, carrots, radishes, and beets. For example, instead of planting one long row or bed of lettuce, consider planting a short, 2-foot-long row or bed. Two weeks later, sow another 2-foot-long row, and so on until the weather gets too warm for lettuce. Since the plants mature in one to two months you’ll get a continuous harvest of lettuce.
For warm weather crops, such as bush beans, summer squash, or cucumbers, follow the same planting pattern. Plant one bed after the last frost date, and another three or four weeks later. Since these crops take at least 60 days to mature, in regions with short growing seasons you may have time for just two successive crops before the weather gets too cold.
As late summer weather cools, you can start planting lettuce again for a fall or winter crop, depending on your location. Because the amount of daylight decreases in autumn, plants grow more slowly in fall than in spring, so allow more time for them to mature.
The other key to succession planting is leaving room to plant. The temptation is to plant everything all at once and fill the garden. It’s important to plan for subsequent plantings. Cover unused beds with straw or other mulch to deter weeds.
Pull out old crops as soon as they finish producing. Don’t let those peas hang on just because there are a few fruits on the vine. Pull old lettuce and spinach plants as soon as they show signs of bolting. By being a little hard-hearted, you’ll create lots of room to grow a second and third crop. It takes a little planning in advance, but you’ll be amazed at where you can tuck in a few broccoli or pak choi plants or a small row of beans.
For more tips and garden information, visit www.garden.org.
Charlie Nardozzi, a nationally recognized garden writer, book author, speaker and radio and television personality, has appeared on HGTV, PBS and Discovery Channel television networks. He teaches and inspires home gardeners to grow the best vegetables, fruits, flowers, trees and shrubs in their yards.

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Grow your own harvest at home

Family Features

Imagine dining on the best-tasting fresh produce around — and all you had to do was step outside.

From container grown tomatoes to backyard farms, edible gardening is a growing trend. More than 41 million households grew some kind of vegetables, fruits, berries or herbs last year, according to the 2009 Edibles Gardening Trends Research Report conducted by the Garden Writers Association Foundation.

The survey showed that the main reasons people grow their own food include:
—to save money on food bills (54 percent)
—for better quality food (51 percent)
—to grow food they know is safe (48 percent)

If you plan to grow your own produce, here are some things to help you succeed.

Create a Garden Plan

When looking through seed catalogs or eyeing seedlings, it is tempting to get a little bit of everything. But you will have more fun and be more successful with some simple planning. Consider:


—How much room will your plants need to grow? Melons need space to stretch out long vines, while carrots don’t take up much room. Will beans need a 5-foot trellis, or grow into 12-inch bushy plants?

—How much room do you have? Do you want a 10 x 10 foot plot, or would a smaller raised bed fit with your outdoor entertaining?


—Most produce needs a minimum of six hours of sunlight in order to thrive. Take a few days figuring out where, when and how long the sun hits your gardening spot.


—Talk with your family about what they will eat. Pick some favorites to grow, then encourage everyone to try one new vegetable.

—Make a sketch, drawing little circles to represent your plants. Use the spacing recommended on the seed packet or plant tag as a guide.


—Starting a garden is an investment, so think through your budget. Make a list: potting mix and garden soil, seeds and plants, plant food, and pots or materials for raised beds.

—Consider the time needed to tend your garden. A few hours up front will get you started, then weekly watering, weeding and feeding during the growing season — and harvesting!

Getting Started

In-Ground Gardening

Preparing the Soil. Think of soil like a house’s solid foundation: a garden needs a strong, healthy base. Without good soil, plants can’t thrive.

—Mark out your garden, and dig the soil to a depth of six to eight inches. Remove any rocks, debris and weeds. Make sure to get all the weed roots to avoid reappearances.

—Most soil is missing the nutrients that growing plants need. Improve your soil by digging in a mix of organic materials and slow-acting plant food, or by top-dressing with a soil mix made specifically for gardening in-ground or in raised beds. Soils such as Miracle-Gro Garden Soil or Miracle-Gro Moisture Control Garden Soil amend your soil with needed nutrients. Rake a four-inch layer into your garden.


Spring comes at different times to every part of the country. Usually 60 degrees signals the end of large fluctuations between day and night temperatures. This temperature allows the soil to warm up, which is needed for germination and for young plants to take root and grow healthy, starting the season out right. While you’re waiting, you can start some seeds indoors, or try early season plants that do well in cooler temperatures.

—Easy season plants: spinach, salad greens and peas.
—Things to start indoors: tomatoes, peppers, celery, cauliflower, head lettuce, eggplant, broccoli, Brussels sprouts.
—Plants to start indoors or out: beans, peas, most lettuce, and corn.
—Root plants for only outdoors: carrots, turnips, potatoes, parsnips, etc.

Once your seeds start to sprout, give baby plants a little extra room by transplanting into bigger pots. Then help the transition with a taste of the great outdoors by putting the seedlings outside for a few hours at a time. This helps the plants get used to the new environment without suffering shock. To help prevent transplant shock and stimulate root growth, use a starting solution such as Miracle-Gro QuickStart.

Feeding and Watering

Even though the soil surface is wet or dry, you can’t always tell what’s going on below. Stick a long screwdriver into your garden soil. If it goes in easily, you’ve watered enough. Or purchase a moisture meter. To water effectively, do it:

—after planting
—before leaves wilt
—in the morning

Once plants are established, make watering and feeding a regular routine. Just like your body needs nourishment, fertilizing — or feeding — plants helps supplement the nutrients that the soil lacks, and encourages a bountiful harvest. Direct water and plant food at the base of the plant. Try plant foods such as Miracle-Gro Shake ’n Feed All-Purpose Plant Food, which continuously feeds your plants for up to 3 months, or feed and water at the same time through leaves and roots with a product like Miracle-Gro LiquaFeed.

Enjoying the Harvest

Consider planting an extra plant or row of crops for your local food bank. Many food pantries don’t always offer fresh produce. Check to see what is needed and if your food bank takes produce donations. To locate a food bank near you, visit feedingamerica.org.
For more garden tips, videos and ideas, go to miraclegro.com.

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Cleaning From Top to Bottom

Tips and Secrets for a Cleaner, Healthier Home

Family Features

When it comes to the routine of cleaning, homeowners tend to be more concerned with stacks of dirty dishes (66 percent), piles of laundry (58 percent) and dust balls on their carpet (57 percent), according to a survey commissioned by 3M, maker of Filtrete air cleaning filters. But they often forget about other areas of the home — such as bedding, shower doors and even stuffed animals — that can be breeding grounds for bacteria, mildew, dust mites and foul odors.

Healthy Housekeeper Laura Dellutri offers these tips for cleaning your home from top to bottom and making it healthier in the process:

Start at the Top: Ceiling fans, tall mantles and bookshelves, and the tops of door frames tend to fall under the “out of sight, out of mind” motto. These areas often harbor dust, so it’s important to wipe them down regularly to help remove dust buildup. Start at the top and work your way down, collecting all of the dust and dirt that falls to the floor while you’re cleaning.

Wipe Down Windows and Walls: Don’t clean windows the old fashioned way — newspaper can cause ink residue and paper towels leave lint behind. Your best bet is to use microfiber cleaning cloths and a professional window squeegee to get a streak-free, spotless shine. To prevent streaks on shower doors and walls, apply lemon oil to the door twice a month. This will help repel soap scum and shampoo, while also adding a nice shine.

Think Horizontally: Dust mites are nearly everywhere. In fact, the American Lung Association estimates that roughly four out of five homes in the United States have detectable levels of dust mite allergens in at least one bed. Reduce dust mites by encasing your mattress and pillows, and wash your bedding in hot water about once a week. Also, since dust mites are microscopic, place strips of duct tape on the mattress case to prevent the dust mites from sneaking through.

Clean the In-between: While cleaning what you can see, don’t forget to clean what you can’t see — the air you breathe. Use a high performance air filter in the home, such as the Filtrete 1-inch Ultimate Allergen Reduction filter from 3M, to help capture particles such as pollen, smoke, dust mite debris and pet dander from the air that passes through the filter. Be sure to change your filter at the start of every season, or every three months.

Freeze the Fur: Stuffed animals can harbor dust mites, so it’s important to pay special attention to them. Place stuffed animals in a large plastic bag and freeze them for four to five hours. Remove them from the freezer and plastic bag, and use a vacuum with a HEPA filter to remove any leftover dust particles.

Finish With Floors: To keep floors in tip-top shape, vacuum and clean them weekly. You can easily make your own floor cleaner by adding a few drops of mild liquid dish detergent to a gallon of water. Hot water can break down floor finishes after time so use water that is barely warm. Finally, don’t forget to clean the floor under large pieces of furniture, which may require you to temporarily move them elsewhere. Corners of rooms and the back of closets often are overlooked, so be sure to clean these areas as well.

Kitchen Clean-Up

Certain areas of the home, especially the kitchen, can breed and harbor germs that not only cause odors but can spread to family members. These low-cost cleaning tasks, when done regularly and properly, can be effective in making the home healthier for your family:

Trash cans: Trash cans should be cleaned monthly using a chlorine bleach and water solution. Simply combine one cup of non-chlorine bleach for every three gallons of water and pour the solution into the trash can. Swish the solution around in the trash can, and wait about five minutes for the chlorine to kick in and kill the germs.

Refrigerators: Cleaning the refrigerator monthly will improve the safety and quality of your food. If you are tired of cleaning spills and food particles from your refrigerator, then cover shelves with washable shelf liners. They will catch most of the food spillage, and will make cleanup quicker and easier. Once a month, throw them in the dishwasher for a good cleaning, and then place them back in the refrigerator once they are dry.

Sinks: Since bacteria can accumulate in cracks and crevices, pay extra attention to these areas when disinfecting. Also, stainless steel sinks can be tough to clean and can look spotty due to water spots and lime build up. To keep the sink shiny, use a soft buffing wheel to restore the luster. Then, use a cloth to generously apply mineral oil to the sink. Water will bead up and roll off the sink, keeping it shiny and helping prevent spots.

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Give Your Home A Fresh Look For Spring

(NAPS)—Spring cleaning has become a ritual in homes across America. But, as families focus on decluttering closets and revitalizing their indoor spaces, many overlook simple, inexpensive outdoor projects that can give a home a real “facelift” and make it look and feel like new.

Giving old outdoor furniture a new ‘in” look can be easier than many realize.

Giving old outdoor furniture a new ‘in” look can be easier than many realize.

Clean the exterior. It’s amazing how much better, and how much newer, a home can look after a good cleaning. And with the availability of cleaners that can be applied with pump sprayers and hose mount applicators, it’s never been easier to give a house a “facelift” without power washing or costly repainting. If your house is wearing a coat of mold, mildew, dirt and grime, try a cleaner like Jomax® House Cleaner and Mildew Killer. It removes the most stubborn stains without scrubbing and is safe to use near plants, grass and shrubs.

Refresh the driveway. Thanks to the evolution of new water-based technologies, restoring a driveway to its “like new” appearance is easy for even inexperienced do-it-yourselfers. EPOXY SHIELD Blacktop Coating, with its advanced acrylic formula, brings asphalt back to its original jet black color and makes it look brand new again. The low-odor formula rolls on like paint and lasts longer than traditional asphalt-based sealers to enhance the first, and last, impression your home gives visitors.

Spruce up your deck. Both wood and composite decks need to be cleaned regularly to prevent deterioration and look their best. Biodegradable deck cleaners like Wolman™ DeckBrite™ excel at removing ground-in dirt and mildew stains without whitening or damaging the surface like chlorine bleach can—and they’re easy to use. Wolman has a full line of transparent, semi-transparent and opaque stains and finishes in a wide array of colors, so you can achieve any look you desire.

“Upcycle” your outdoor furniture. You’d be surprised how easy and inexpensive it is to make an old, tired patio set better with just a few cans of spray paint. Today’s spray paints come in a full palette of colors so you can personalize your outdoor space while saving your old furniture from the landfill. Try “dressing” your patio furniture in a classic color like Painter’s Touch Ultra Cover 2X Espresso. One can of 2X delivers twice the coverage so the paint goes further and projects get done faster.

For more project ideas and product information, visit www. rustoleum.com and www.paint ideas.com.

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Give yourself a lawn you can enjoy

(ARA) – Your lawn is your carpet in the summer; a soft surface to run, play, and relax on … so why does it have all those bald spots and thinning patches? That wouldn’t be comfortable to walk across on your living room rug, so why put up with it in your lawn?

No lawn is perfect, but every lawn can be a full, comfortable surface to hang out on. It’s a lot easier to grow luxurious grass than you may think and figuring out how doesn’t have to be confusing. The experts at Scotts offer a few tips:

The basics

If your lawn has patches and holes, seeding can easily help fill in bare spots. A generally healthy-looking lawn with just a few bald spots doesn’t have to be a challenge, spot seeding will probably work nicely for you. Even if you have tried this in the past, don’t lose hope. Just follow these quick steps and remember that the keys to success remain the same no matter what – start with quality seed, ensure that the seed makes good contact with the ground and keep it moist.

Finding the root of the problem

Why is your lawn thin? What is the source of those bare spots? It’s important to find out what’s causing bare spots so you can possibly eliminate the cause while treating the problem. A patch next to your driveway, an area under a tree, a high traffic path, or a spot often visited by the dog – all these areas can be riddled with difficult bare spots, but they don’t need to be a challenge anymore.

Solve it with seeding

Fixing a bare spot is actually pretty easy. All you need to do is to rake the ground and remove the dead grass or weeds. For best results apply seeding soil, such as Scotts Turf Builder Seeding Soil, over the area to a depth of about 1 inch. Then scatter some seed down in the area. Finally, give the grass seed a good watering and remember to keep it moist.

An even easier option is to simply apply an all-in-one seeding product like Scotts Turf Builder EZ Seed.  This is the only product you’ll need, no need to even cover it or the bare spot with soil.

Keeping grass seed adequately watered has always been the challenge. How do you know how much water is too much? Or too little? EZ Seed eliminates guesswork – when you first put the seed down, water it until it turns a deep, rich brown. When the color lightens to milk chocolate, it’s time to water again.

Once you’ve established a thicker lawn, be sure to give it the nutrients it needs to thrive. Follow a feeding menu appropriate for your region’s climate. An all-over feeding with lawn nutrients, like Scotts Turf Builder, will keep grass thriving and prevent future problem spots.  Be sure to follow package directions on how to apply. Just a couple of times a season can end up saving you time and energy in the long run. In fact, compared to an unfed lawn, a well-nourished lawn develops a denser root system that requires less watering and tightly knitted grass roots to help block out weed growth, maximizing your results while minimizing your efforts.

By following this simple advice, you’ll no longer have a thinning or patchy lawn. Instead you’ll want to show off your luxurious grass carpet to all of the neighbors. So go ahead, take your shoes off and enjoy.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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Plant a healing garden

(NAPSA)-Here’s an idea that’s growing in popularity: Plant a garden to help you or someone you care about heal physically, spiritually or emotionally.

For most of history, gardens have had a strong relationship to health and healing. Today, people use healing gardens to restore the body, spirit and mind. Gardens create a sense of calm, balance, hope and inspiration, which greatly improve the recovery process. A healing garden is an opportunity to observe and be a part of the life cycle, giving a sense of purpose and fulfillment. Gardens offer fresh air, exercise and sunlight, important for reducing stress, anxiety and depression.

That’s why hospitals, nursing homes, hospices and cancer-support centers across the nation use healing gardens for their patients. In fact, doctors at the Jupiter Medical Center in Florida discovered that patients who had a view of the healing garden from their rooms took less pain medication and had shorter hospital stays than those without such a view.

Healing gardens are often used to help women in their battles against breast cancer. That’s important, since the National Cancer Institute estimates that one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point during her lifetime.

When planting a home healing garden, consider the following to maximize its healing qualities:

  • Overall layout: Include places to sit and reflect, pray, meditate or relax, such as a wooden swing. Picture what calms or inspires you and include these elements and items. A small pond, garden art, wind chimes, even interesting rocks might add to your garden’s tranquility. Enclose it with shrubs or fencing to create a secluded retreat and include paths for walking.
  • Aromatic plants: Sweet-smelling plants can enhance the relaxing atmosphere. Plant herbs such as basil, rosemary, sage, lemon thyme or lavender. Surround your garden with scented trees, such as pine and eucalyptus, to create shade and shelter. A new compact, reblooming lilac, called Bloomerang, has clusters of purple-pink, sweet-scented flowers, making it excellent for creating a fragrant hedge.
  • Healing plants: Include medicinal plants to symbolize the health aspects of your garden. Lavender, sage, basil, thyme and St.-John’s-wort have been prized for centuries for their medicinal qualities. Fruits and vegetables can symbolize-and supply-nutrition. For example, the fruit of Sambucus, also called elderberry, is rich in antioxidants. An elderberry called Black Lace has intense purple-black, finely cut foliage. Its fruit can be used in jam or even wine.
  • Attracting wildlife: Add a birdbath, bird feeders or birdhouses and put in plants that attract butterflies. A new shrub, Lo & Behold Blue Chip buddleia, attracts flocks of butterflies as well as hummingbirds. It’s the only miniature butterfly bush with loads of fragrant blue flowers that bloom continuously.
  • Color: Plants with bright colors can lift the spirits. To show support for overcoming breast cancer, consider pink flowers. A newly available choice, Invincibelle Spirit Hydrangea, is the very first pink-flowered “Annabelle” hydrangea. You can see more than 100 blooms on a single plant. Its dark-pink buds open to hot-pink flowers, which mature to a soft pink. In addition, for every Invincibelle Spirit sold, Proven Winners ColorChoice will donate a dollar to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

These plants are at better garden centers. To find the one closest to you, see www.provenwinners. com/findaretailer.

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Spring cleanups start soon

By Judy Reed

As the weather warms up and residents begin to spring clean, some municipalities are offering drop off sites to help get rid of the clutter. Check out the list below to see when it’s offered in your area.

Algoma Township: Spring cleanup days set for this week, April 13-17, at the township hall, 10531 Algoma Avenue. Hours will be Tuesday through Thursday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Friday 9-5,  and Saturday 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Proof of residency required. Bag it, box it, or barrel it. Tires must be cut in four pieces. Fencing flattened, propane and fuel tanks cut in half. Barrels must have open end or full of holes. No liquid or other hazardous waste. No yard waste. Disposal of batteries is $1, units with Freon $15.00, units without Freon $3.00. Call the township for more info 866-1583.

City of Cedar Springs: The annual brush pickup will be the last Monday of every month, beginning April 26, and ending September 27. Have brush out by 6 a.m. Stack branches in one direction toward the street. No stumps, roots or branches larger than six inches in diameter. There is no longer a spring trash cleanup date, since Duncan Disposal, the city’s preferred waste hauler, does that for residents. The first hydrant flush will be April 16 and end Sept. 27. Leaf pickup starts October 11. For more info call 696-1330.

Courtland Township: No spring cleanup, they have a fall cleanup.

Nelson Township/Sand Lake: Spring cleanup days are Friday, June 25, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday, June 26, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Residents should bring trash to the water tower in Sand Lake. Proof of residency required. Will also collect E-Waste at the same location. Please call the township for more info at 636-5332.

Oakfield Township: No cleanup scheduled.

Sand Lake: See Nelson Township.

Solon Township: Spring cleanup dates have been set for two consecutive Saturdays, May 1 and May 8, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the old horse farm, 15185 Algoma. Proof of residency required. Must be residents—not just landowners. Bring voter registration. All items should be boxed or bagged, 45 pounds maximum. Tires must be cut in four pieces, car or light truck only, limit four. Appliances such as washers, dryers, etc. will be accepted, but not appliances that used  Freon, such as refrigerators or air conditioners. No batteries, oil, antifreeze or other hazardous waste. One load allowed 4-foot by 8-foot and 4-foot high, pickup or trailer. Call township for more specifics at 696-1718.

Spencer Township: Spring cleanup days are Friday, June 18, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday, June 19, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Bring trash to Spencer Township Fire barn, 12131 18 Mile, Gowen. No roof tear-offs or big appliances, Tires must be cut in four pieces. Disposal of batteries is $1, units with Freon $15.00, units without Freon $3.00. Call township at 984-0035 for more info.

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