Preparing Your Home and Garden for Spring

As the cool winter begins to subside, everyone is looking forward to the coming of spring. Spring means lighter and warmer days. Nevertheless, you cannot fully enjoy spring if you do not prepare your home and garden for it. Preparing your home and garden for spring means a lot of work, so it is important to evaluate the work ahead in order to accomplish them in time. Start by checking the outside of your home and check out doors and windows. It is also a good idea to check out your exterior wall as well and find out if there are cracks, holes or leaks due to the cold season.

It is necessary to review your major home ventilation, hating and air-conditioning systems. Before the climate changes, make certain that filters are replaced or cleaned and the air conditioner in good condition. Clean windows, ceiling fans and clean the fireplace. Do not forget to check the emergency systems in your home such as the smoke alarms, home alarm, carbon monoxide alarms and fire extinguisher and make certain they are in good working condition. Check other areas in your home as well, like the roof, clean the gutters and remove twigs, leaves and branches on the roof.

Prepare your garden for spring since winter could definitely affect it. Winter has frozen your plants, trees, destroyed plants, flowers and left your garden in a kind of mess. The first thing you should do is to find out when winter ends officially so you can begin rehabilitating your garden. Remove twigs, dry leaves and other items that could mean obstructions on your garden. Clean the entire are with a rake and prepare your garden tools. Make sure they are sharp and ready for use. Start buying bulbs, seedlings and garden decorations.

Cultivate the soil so it will be ready for new plants to be planted. Prepare your walkways and areas adjacent to your landscaping. Make sure to replace old and cracked garden hoses and remove tree limbs and debris from the sidewalks. If there is no more snow in your area, it is a good time to begin planning your spring landscaping and lawn maintenance. Pressure wash paver and concrete areas that have turned dirty during winter and power wash brick walls, vinyl siding and the vertical surfaces in your home if necessary.

By preparing your home for the spring is rewarding today and still rewarding three months from now. Remember that your home goes through many changes due to climatic changes and as it ages. Spring preparation and maintenance is good for every homeowner. Furthermore, it is more important if you plan to sell your home soon. Homebuyers want to make certain that all home systems are well-maintained and taken cared of before they purchase. If you are unsure, consider hiring a professional home inspector. A home inspection covers your home from top to bottom. So, what are you waiting for? Prepare your home now because the warmer climate is just around the corner. Time to go outdoors and enjoy the sun.

Home and Garden Show Trends

Recent spring home and garden shows showcase the latest trends in home design and remodeling. Some of those trends include:

Going Green – Energy-efficient HVAC systems and appliancessave you money on your utility bills and can also save you money on your taxes. Homeowners doing renovation or remodeling work to their primary residence may deduct 30% of a project’s cost, up to $1,500. Many exhibitors were touting the tax benefits of geothermal heating systems, high efficiency solar panels, solar water heating systems, insulated vinyl siding, and solar ceiling fans.

Luxury Features – Homeowners may have cut back on their remodeling budgets, but some luxury items are still hot, including bigger and better hot tubs, built-in wine racks for the kitchen, and water features in and on decks. Faux finishes and murals for ceilings and walls still appeal to many consumers, but in a nod to recent green awareness, some companies now advertise the use of low VOC paints.

Recent Trends Still Popular – Year-round sunrooms remain a cost-saving remodeling option for many homeowners. Granite is still the biggest thing in kitchen countertops, although Silestone and other manufactured stone finishes remain a viable option. Glass tile is continuing to grow in popularity, and stainless steel is still the finish most consumers prefer for appliances.

Do It Yourself – The economic downturn has created a resurgent interest in do-it-yourself, especially among women. A number of booths were exhibiting ergonomic tools and tools designed specifically for women, right down to a smaller size and pink or purple handles.

Top 10 Home and Garden Books For Every Gardener and Designer

My husband and I have been gardening together for over thirty years. He has a degree in horticulture and I have a degree in library science. So, when we combine our love of books and gardening, we end up with a vast gardening resource library.

I want to share my favorites and think they will become your favorites as well. Below I’ve listed my top 10 favorite home and garden books that I believe beginners and professional designers alike should consider purchasing for your own home reference library.

Top 10 Home and Garden Books For Every Beginner and Designer

1. The Well Tended Perennial Garden: Planting and Pruning Techniques by Tracy DiSabato-Aust is a classic. Tracy is well known in the gardening world for her 20 plus years experience in maintaining gardens and in this book she tells you exactly how to prune perennials. Also, In the very first chapter, she speaks of designing a garden with its maintenance in mind. Her advice is to ask yourself “Who’s going to maintain this garden, me or a professional crew?” Great question!

2. Landscaping With Perennials by Emily Brown is another favorite of ours. Advice on garden layouts for slopes, shade, bogs, parking strips, creating cutting gardens, island beds, or a fairytale woodland garden is all here. Included are line drawings, photographs, plant lists and more. A real delight to read.

3. Gardening With Color by Mary Keen. A garden designer and consultant herself, Mary has filled this book with gorgeous full page photos. Excellent advice on designing with the six color categories for gardens including: blues, reds, greens, grays and white, and yellows makes this book another great choice for your library.

4. Armitage’s Garden Annuals: A Color Encyclopedia by Allan Armitage helps the gardener select proven specimen annuals that are interesting, important, and often overlooked. Armitage is a horticulturalist, teacher, and respected expert in his field and this plant reference guide is a perfect companion to his earlier Manual of Annuals, Biennials, and Half-Hard Perennials. Attractive and easy to use with inspiring pictures.

5. Designing the New Kitchen Garden: An American Potager Handbook by Jennifer R. Bartley was published in 2006 but I’m just now finding out about it. This lovely book describes how to create a garden that is not only beautiful and well laid out, but is also productive. Who wouldn’t want a kitchen garden, or potoager, as part of their landscape? If you love growing your own fresh fruits and veggies, learn how to do it in style!

6. All New Square Foot Gardener by Mel Bartholomew is my new favorite gardening book. This method has been around for 25 years so you know it works. I was skeptical at first. How can you “grow more in less space” like he says in 4’x4′ square boxes? Pictures with detailed instruction explains how to build these raised beds for your garden or deck. Great for everyone as well as kids and wheelchair bound gardeners. Learn more at www.squarefootgardening.com

7. The Complete Compost Gardening Guide by Barbara Pleasant and Deborah Martin helps gardeners to not become compost failures. Unique, easy to implement techniques using heaps, bins, or enclosed composters make composting easier to create and tend.

8. Plant Propagation: The Fully Illustrated Plant-by-Plant Manual of Practical Techniques by Alan Toogood. The title says it all. Learn how to get free plants and save yourself a ton of money…maybe even start a business. Very good pictures with directions. You’ll learn a lot from this book.

9. Gardening With Grass by Michael King and Piet Oudolf shows how to use ornamental grasses to transform a ho-hum garden into a stunning garden. They even list perennials, by color and height, that grow well with particular variety of grasses. Planting grasses are highly recommended to extend your summer garden into fall.

10. The Way We Garden Now by Katherine Whiteside is a nice book if you are feeling overwhelmed by your garden. This book lets you pick-and-choose from ten easy, manageable projects like adding edibles, planting bulbs, dealing with hedges, putting up deer fencing and even container gardening. Fun and engaging to read.

Any one of the books listed above will give you a great deal of insight on how to have an awe inspiring garden that will make your garden a paradise for you and your family. That’s why the are my top 10 books on home and garden that every gardener and designer should consider having on their bookshelf.

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Best Value Home Design Software – Better Homes and Gardens Picture Painter Home & Landscape

There is more than just a few home design software available in the market today. Although a majority of these programs are able to deliver excellent functionality, there are some that just don’t deliver value for money. While so home design applications retail for less than $50, there are those that have quite a hefty price tag, sometimes even in the 500-dollar region. It then becomes a question of needs rather than wants. In order for a user to ensure that he is purchasing a piece of software that will be worth his money, he will first need to identify what it is he wants from the said program.

Painting the Picture

Now down to only $49 (formerly at $69), Better Homes and Gardens Picture Painter Home & Landscape is definitely one of the best value home design software out there. This program takes a unique approach in home design in that it makes use of an actual picture as the basis of each project – thus the name, Picture Painter. What this one of a kind software does is it takes an actual image of the existing house (which is either scanned or uploaded by the user to the computer) and integrates it into the program to allow the users to tinker with its design. Instead of starting from scratch, Picture Painter allows users to literally repaint their homes to see what it would look like in different colors. And of course, there are a lot more features on board that will allow users to play with their homes’ designs in their quest to find the perfect look and feel for their future dream house.

Never Wonder Again

One of the reasons why a lot of folks have their qualms about redesigning their homes is because of the fear that it might not look good once the remodeling phase is completed. With the help of Picture Painter, users will no longer have to wonder and speculate ever again as this program will show them exactly how their new house will look like once the changes have taken place. Aside from changing the home’s color, users can also change the textures of their exteriors. Moreover, landscaping changes can also be visually represented on Picture Painter to ensure that users get exactly what they want. This way, a lot of time, money, and effort is saved.

Great for Interiors Too

While Picture Painter focuses on how one’s home’s exterior will look like, it also offers a wide array of features for any changes one might wish to make inside the house. For starters, users can choose from over 6,000 branded furniture and fixtures and literally drag them into whichever room they’d like. Among these renowned brands are Huntwood, Kraftmaid, Armstrong, Mohawk, LG Electronice, Whirlpool, DuPont Corian, Sherwin-Williams, and a whole lot more.

What’s even better is that the whole process is quite simple and very user-friendly – it’s just like editing a picture. In fact, the manufacturer even promises that no design experience whatsoever is needed to excel in this wonderfully-designed program.

Especially when the affordable price is included in the equation, Picture Painter definitely proves to be one of the best value home design programs in the market today.