Springtime Gardening Tips

There’s nothing quite like garden in full bloom. And nothing says spring like a row of Pink lilybreathtakingly beautiful flowers blossoming in riotous color. But all that beauty comes after some serious work. There’s planning, planting, maintenance and more. Fortunately, it’s not that difficult to turn your own patch of grass into a botanical work of art.

Here’s how to make it happen:

1.) Prepare your garden

Before you put anything in the soil, you’ll need to get the ground geared up for planting. First, remove all weeds, making sure to pull out the roots. Next, revitalize the soil from its long, dry winter by adding fertilizer or compost.

2.) Determine sunlight exposure

Make sure you know exactly how much sunlight each area of your garden gets so you can purchase the appropriate flowers for each spot. Some plants can handle the midday summer sun, and some will die from that exposure. Others will do well in a shaded area, and some need just a bit of filtered sunlight to thrive. Observe your garden’s sun exposure throughout the day and do your research before purchasing any seeds or plants.

3.) Pick your flowers

It’s always exciting to pick out the flowers that will bring your garden to life. Before you drop a bit of everything into your shopping cart at the nursery though, consider these two factors:

  1. Annuals vs perennials: There are advantages and disadvantages to both. Annuals include begonias, cosmos, geraniums and marigolds. Though they only live for one season, they are typically cheaper than perennials and bloom all season long, giving you more time to enjoy their beauty. Conversely, perennials, which include tulips, lavenders, hibiscus and hydrangeas, last several years but have a shorter blooming life and are usually more expensive. Do you like to change up your garden every year? Would you rather not have to plant each year? Consider each element carefully before making your selection.
  2. Variety will make your garden pop. For incredible results, diversify the colors, heights and flower types throughout your garden. Place a monochromatic flower, such as an orchid, near bicolored tulips. Plant climbing roses, or a vine like sweet peas, near a lower flower bed. Use a row of evergreens to create a darker backdrop for brilliantly colored flowers. Invest in one spectacular flowering tree, like a flowering crabapple or cherry blossoms.

4.) Choose vegetable plants

No garden is complete without some edibles. Here are 4 easy-to-grow veggies to get you started:

  1. Zucchini. The summer squash grows quickly and is simple to plant and care for. To speed up the process, soak your zucchini seeds in moist paper towels and wait for them to sprout before planting.
  2. Peas. Snap and snow peas take several months to grow. You can plant them early in the season; even before the soil is completely warm.
  3. Tomatoes. Sweet cherry tomatoes grow quickly and will turn any salad into a gourmet dish. Choose an area for your vine that gets full sun exposure.
  4. Cabbage. Cabbages need hardly any care; just be sure to use a slug bait to keep those hungry critters away.

5.) Plant!

Here’s the fun part! Before you get started, though, check your seed packet for the best planting time in your region. Make sure you aren’t planting too early or too late in the season.

It’s also important to plan your garden in full detail before you start digging. Measure the spaces you allotted for different kinds of plants, and make sure your plans are realistic so you don’t wind up frantically trying to undo a half-hour of planting because you ran out of room in the designated area.

On the day of planting, your soil should already be moist and prepared for seeding. When planting each seed or flower, determine how far beneath the soil that particular plant needs to go. Then add fertilizer as per the package instructions, gently incorporating the fertilizer into the soil. Next, place your seed or flower in the soil and fill the hole with soil. Lastly, add mulch to help ward off weeds and diseases.

6.) Maintenance

The amount of water each flower needs for growth can differ greatly. Research every plant in your garden carefully to make sure they are all getting the right amount of water. You can also choose to have a sprinkler or a drip system installed to simplify the process. Weed your garden regularly to keep it looking stunning and always trim wilted, dead blossoms off plants to allow new growth to form. Also, check your newer blossoms regularly for leaning and drooping – they may be in the need of support in the form of bamboo stakes or forked branches.

Now that your garden is in full bloom, pull out your most comfortable lounging chairs, pour yourself a tall glass of lemonade and enjoy the beautiful fruits of your labor!

Your Turn: How does your garden grow? Share your best gardening tips, secrets, and advice with us in the comments!




Don’t Drink The Water! How To Be On Alert For Water Purifier Scams

For millions of Americans, warming weather and longer days mean more than just baseball and allergies. It’s a great time to be rolling up your sleeves, opening up the toolbox and getting started on home improvement projects. With recent crises like the water quality in Flint, Michigan, prominent in headlines across America, many consumers are beginning to pay more attention to their own local water quality. 

There are many legitimate ways to improve your home’s value by improving its plumbing. You could add an in-line purifier, a water softener or a tankless water heater. However, not all plumbing improvements are created equal, and many people don’t think about what comes out of the tap unless it’s brown or has a foul odor.

Imagine, then, two men coming to your door wearing navy blue jumpsuits. They say they’re from the water company and they need to do some tests on your tap water for public safety. They pour a small quantity in a beaker and claim to be testing for lead, mercury or some other contaminant. They tell you that, if the substance they add turns red, your water is dangerous and potentially toxic. They add a few drops and swirl it around. Lo and behold, your tap water turns a menacing blood red!

These gentlemen are quick to reassure you that this is not an unsolvable problem. It’ll take them a few days to get the parts together, but they can install a system to treat your water for just a few hundred dollars. If you write them a check now, they can get to work right away and have you and your family safe in minutes!

Of course, there is no real danger… in your water. These men don’t work for the water company and the substance they added to your water was food coloring. They might install a $20 water purifier, which is available at any hardware store, to your kitchen sink, and walk away with hundreds of your dollars. You’ve just been the victim of a water purifier scam.

Now that you know how it works, you can take steps to help keep yourself from being a victim. Like most other scams, the advice is pretty straightforward. Ask for identification, do your own research and be proactive. 

Who are you, again? 

If your life goes according to plan and you never encounter a major plumbing disaster, you may never see an employee of the water company. Your only interaction with them will be a monthly bill. On that bill, though, is a number you can call to connect with a service manager. A quick phone call to verify the identities of the “workers” who offer to help you out should scare away most scammers.

Don’t be afraid to ask anyone who comes to your door for proper identification and don’t be shy about verifying that information. Anyone who represents a legitimate organization will want you to know they represent someone you trust. That will bolster their credibility and make the rest of their job easier. It’s only people who are trying to deceive you who want to short circuit your research.

Water companies, like any other employer, try to keep their employment costs low. If they had so little work to do that they could send people door-to-door to test water for free, you’d be paying much more on your monthly bill than you do currently.
Also, be careful of people who claim to be “certified” by a government agency, like the EPA. The EPA doesn’t endorse any specific brand of water purifier, nor would it. There are many different water filter suppliers across the country, and no single one would be appropriate for all situations. If a product bears an EPA seal, that means the company has registered its product with the EPA and nothing more.
Test your water yourself
If you have concerns about the quality of your drinking water, there are a number of services available for putting your mind at ease. For starters, your water company is required to provide analysis and test results to members of the public.  Call your water company and ask for the latest test results of the water supply if they have not already provided it to you. Take that information and compare it to EPA standards for clean drinking water.
If you have a well, many state and local environmental agencies will conduct testing for bacteria and other common contaminants for free or for a reduced price. Maintaining clean drinking water for all citizens is a public health concern, and many agencies are willing to cooperate to ensure your water passes that standard.
If you have concerns about the water supply in your house, you can order a chemical analysis of your house’s tap water. There are kits for sale in many hardware stores that will test for acidity, runoff contamination and bacteria. These are the most common problems facing home plumbing systems. Many labs also offer independent chemical analysis, though these may run hundreds of dollars, depending upon the level of detail required.
Fix it!
There are many solutions available for DIY water purification. These can be as simple as a water filter pitcher, which removes many common impurities and can help with taste and odor.  If you’re looking for something on a larger scale, many companies sell whole-house water filtration systems, though these can also cost hundreds of dollars.
As people become more health conscious, drinking water may become a serious issue for home-buyers. Purifiers and softeners can also help to extend the life of your plumbing and fixtures by eliminating mineral deposits before they have a chance to corrode your house plumbing. These improvements may also be worthwhile in terms of the value they add to your house.
Access to clean, safe drinking water is an important part of everyone’s well-being. Don’t let scammers play on your fear and destroy your peace of mind. Whether you’re looking for help finding a reputable contractor or are undertaking a serious renovation on your own, stopping by Destinations Credit Union can be a great first step.