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Spring Gardens Are Blooming! Here’s What to Do in April

Colder climates may still be shrugging off winter, but most gardeners are excited to be back to work by April. Dry summers in California and the American Southwest call for drought-tolerant plantings and water-wise practices. Butterflies signal spring’s return in the Great Lakes region and elsewhere,while flowering native trees make their presence known in the Northeast. In Texas and the Southeast, warming temperatures mean everything from herbs to vegetables to annuals can be sown from seed. Here’s what to do in your garden, by U.S. region, this April.

 

Rocky Mountain Gardener’s April Checklist

Photo: Lake Irene Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park via Flickr user KrossbowPlanting is the name of the game in the April garden. Plants in all forms can be installed as soon as the soil is warm and workable. In the meantime attend to the last of the spring cleanup chores and get your lawn in shape for the coming season. Enjoy the symphony of greens that’s being played right now by all of the emerging new foliage.

Plant bare root plants. Roses, clematis and young fruit trees are commonly available for sale in our region this month, as well as asparagus, rhubarb, strawberries and grapes.

Bare-root planting is an economical option that comes with a small window of time to implement, so take advantage of the opportunity. Select plants that have not leafed out yet with a well-developed, healthy root system (not dried out or rotted). Plant them as soon as possible – if not immediately – after purchasing and keep them moist until the root system is established. 

Transplant or divide crowded perennials when new growth emerges. Summer and fall bloomers like asters, hummingbird flower (Zauschneria spp), Maximillian sunflower (Helianthus maximiliana), gayfeather (Liatris spp), tall garden phlox (Phlox paniculata), coneflower (Echinacea spp) and ornamental grasses may need attention.

A plant with a dead center or a lack of blooms last year may indicate that it needs to be divided. Here’s how:

  • Use a sharp spade to dig out the plant with as much of its root system as possible (6 to 12 inches beyond the drip line).
  • Remove some of the soil from the root ball and pull or chop it into large sections that include both stems and roots.
  • Replant the divisions – or share them with a friend – and water thoroughly.

Plant cold-tolerant annuals in containers as a colorful welcome to spring. Good flower choices include pansies, violas, English daisies, snapdragons and sweet alyssum. Prep any previously used containers by cleaning them thoroughly with a solution of one part bleach to nine parts hot water. Fill your pots with a growing medium made specifically for container gardens, one that’s lightweight and well draining yet moisture retentive.

Cut back woody perennials and subshrubs to within a few inches of the ground. These include Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia), Powis Castle Sage (Artemesia), bluemist spirea (Caryopteris spp), butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii), leadplant (Amorpha canescens), rabbitbrush (Chrysothamnus nauseosus) and St. John’s wort (Hypericum spp). 

Sow cool-season vegetable crops directly into the ground once the soil temperature is at least 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Plant potatoes, peas, Swiss chard, kale, turnips, carrots, spinach, radishes, onions and lettuces. Keep frost blankets and cloches handy to protect seedlings from the inevitable April snowstorms.

Get your lawn off to a good start.

  • Core aerate your lawn before fertilizing it mid month. Leave the plugs on the lawn to decompose and add nutrients to the soil.
  • Overseed thin lawn areas with high-quality grass seed when the soil temperature reaches 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Rake the area to be seeded to expose the soil, then scatter the seeds in a dense, single layer. Cover the seeded areas with a scant ¼ inch of compost and water thoroughly. Keep the area evenly moist until the seeds germinate. 
    • Note: do not use preemergent weed controls, such as corn gluten, in areas that have been newly seeded.
  • Tune up your lawn mower and sharpen the blades. Sharp blades not only make your job easier (especially if you’re using a push or reel mower), but a crisply cut blade of grass is less susceptible to disease infestations than one that is torn and ragged from a blunt mower blade.

Install plant supports – such as circular cages, loop stakes and grow-through grids – to support tall, floriferous perennials once they come into bloom. Placing supports now will allow the plant to grow into and through the structure with a more natural appearance. Peonies, catmint (Nepeta spp), baby’s breath, delphiniums and tall varieties of yarrow (Achillea spp) are all good candidates for support.

April Checklist for a Smooth-Running Home

Spring has arrived! Wake up your home and prepare for the season ahead by deep cleaning, sprucing up outdoor areas and simplifying your living areas, one shelf at a time. And when you are finished, pour yourself a nice glass of something cold to drink and toast your lovely, freshly cleaned home.

Freshen patios and porches.

The lengthening days never fail to draw people outdoors onto porches, patios and decks to savor the longer-lasting light. Make sure your outdoor spaces are ready for the season by cleaning away cobwebs and leaves, washing floors and refreshing outdoor furniture.

Clean the exterior and inspect window screens for tears.

Increasing your home’s curb appeal is as easy as turning on the hose(or a pressure washer) and giving the siding a quick blast to remove accumulated dirt and debris. Also be sure to check window screens for small tears that can let bugs in, and repair or replace the screens as needed.

Clean ceiling fans and overhead light fixtures.

Grab a tall ladder and (carefully!) get to work. Use a duster or soft rags to remove dust from fans and light fixtures – wet rags will only make the dust harder to remove. For caked on grime, start with a dry duster or microfiber cloth and then move on to a fresh damp cloth if needed.

Deep clean the kitchen and prep for seasonal meals. 

Give your kitchen a fresh spring start with a thorough cleaning. In addition to your usual cobweb clearing and floor mopping, wipe down walls and doors and vacuum behind the fridge and stove. Encourage healthy seasonal eating by cleaning out the fridge and pantry, and stocking the space with fresh local produce and other healthy picks.

Organize one shelf.

If an organized home is a goal you want to reach this year, set yourself up for success by starting small. Working on a single shelf, drawer or cupboard at at time will help you build momentum. Try starting with the spice rack, a bedside table or a frequently used desk drawer.

Simplify the living room.

Pare down books and media to create a more relaxing space. Donate used books, movies and music to your local library or sell them. Organize what’s left, hiding anything unsightly (gaming, equipment, I’m lookat at you) behind closed doors. To keep things from getting out of hand in the future, pencil in a date about a month from your paring-down date to spend an afternoon culling unwanted media.

Streamline files.

Since you will likely be digging through your old paperwork this month as you prepare taxes (ugh, I know), take the time to toss junk as you come across it rather than stuffing everything back into the files. A slimmed-down file drawer will make it easier to find what you need, so it’s worth the extra effort now. 

Lighten up tablescapes.

If you’ve had the same arrangements on your tables for months, now is a good time to shake things up. There is no need to spend money – simply look around your home and see what can be moved or repurposed from another room. Try displaying flowers on the dining table in vintage tea tins or jelly jars, or put fresh herbs in your vases instead of flowers. Streamline the decorative objects you choose to keep out, and store the rest to rotate in at a future date.

12 Great Kitchen Styles – Which One’s for You?

Style is easier to recognize with your eyes than with words: You know it when you see it, and the photo that inspires you most can often surprise you. Think you know your kitchen style? Check out these guides to a dozen favorite kitchen design themes, then tell us which one takes the cake.

#1 – Farmhouse Kitchens

Warm and homey farmhouses anchored a life on the land, and they still offer great functionality and comfort. Their open shelving, wide sinks, classic flooring and big kitchen table make them easy to work in and easy to love. 

#2 – Rustic Kitchens

“Worn”, “distressed” and “rough hewn” may not be the first words that come to mind when we think of kitchens. But today rustic kitchens rival the classic white kitchen in popularity – thanks to their timber, stone, brick, vintage appliances and fireplaces. 

#3 – Modern Kitchens

Definitions of “modern” vary widely, but when we think of modern kitchen designs, we often think of frameless cabinets, sleek and simple hardware, strong horizontal lines and a lack of ornamentation, with the natural beauty of the materials shining through. 

#4 Traditional Kitchens

Traditional kitchens are defined by their details, which can include arches, decorative moldings and corbels, raised-panel cabinets, a mix of antique finishes and furniture-like turned legs – even a chandelier. Whether they have a classic American or old-world flavor, they still carry the stamp of their owners’ personal style.

#5 Contemporary Kitchens

Contemporary kitchens can be very sleek, but while a purely modern kitchen often celebrates structure and grid, a contemporary kitchen is often more playful in form and finishes, including elements of other styles and creating its own reflection of the times.

#6 Transitional Kitchens

Think of a transitional kitchen as the great moderator. With the warmth and welcome of traditional design and the clean, simple lines of contemporary style, transitional spaces project balance and harmony. Because they offer a great deal of flexibility, they’re a great choices for homeowners whose taste spans the two.

#7 Craftsman Kitchens

Craftsman style arose in the early 20th century as a reaction to the mass-produced fussiness of the Victorian era. Its rich woods, built-ins, handcrafted tiles and well-made simplicity continue to charm us.

#8 Cottage Kitchens

Cozy, happy and unpretentious, a cottage kitchen harks back to simpler times and evokes a sense of easy, carefree living. Beadboard, soft colors, vintage hardware, wood floors and colorful accents and curtains will infuse your kitchen with cottage comfort. 

#9 Paris Bistro Kitchens

If you long for a sugar-laced café au lait on Rue Monmartre, why not bring a little Parisian style into your house? Intimate kitchen lighting, pretty cookware on display, tile floors and a striped awning ought to do it.

#10 Classic Kitchens

What is classic? The answer is as varied as cooks are. Still, white or cream kitchen cabinets, simple architectural details and black accents offer a blank slate that homeowners can personalize with contemporary, traditional and eclectic touches as they see fit.

#11 Mediterranean Style Kitchens

Flared hoods, hand-painted tile, warm wood cabinets, beamed ceilings and arched cooking alcoves are just some of the features that put Spanish revival kitchens on the most-wanted list.

#12 Eclectic Kitchens

Do you rebel against styles and refuse pigeonholes? It’s your housel you can mix and match for your own distinct kitchen style however you please. The trick: be a rebel with a cause. Get ideas for a very personal kitchen, with touches of modern and rustic styles, well-traveled flair, humor and irreverence.

How to Work With a Kitchen Designer

Whether your kitchen needs a minor face lift or a complete gut job, soliciting help from a certified kitchen designer can be well worth the investment. The rule of thumb: if a kitchen project costs more than a few hundred dollars, it may be time to call a pro.

Not only do kitchen designers have access to planning tools and technology that most homeowners don’t, but they have the inside scoop on trends, new materials, building codes and technical quirks. And their kitchen remodel expertise can save you a lot of time, money and frustration. Use our tips to help the process flow smoothly from start to finish. 


Kitchen Island

Photo: American Cabinet & Flooring | Designer: Randy Wilson

Know the different types of kitchen designers

If you’re ordering cabinetry and more through a national chain or other retailer, there likely will be designers on staff who can help you plan. The main advantage: often, there’s no additional cost for their services, although some charge a percentage of the total sale or work under another fee structure. Other designers work independently at an hourly or per-project rate. Because they’re not affiliated with a particular store or brand, they can sometimes be more objective about materials. 

If you choose an independent professional, ask for recommendations from friends an others in your community, and browse the Houzz professionals directory or the National Kitchen and Bath Association website for reputable designers in your area.

In any case, request to see examples of the designer’s previous work and ask for client references in order to ensure that he or she is a good match for your needs.

Note the ups and downs of your existing space

Perhaps your kitchen operates just fine, but the finishes are long past their prime. Or maybe you’re planning a soup-to-nuts renovation and have no idea how to retool the space. Be prepared to share with the kitchen designer what you like and what you hope to change to give a firm place to start.

Do your research…

Your initial meeting with the designer will go more smoothly if you have a general idea of the look, flow and equipment you want. Browse decorating websites and magazines for kitchen design photos that speak to you, and how them to your designer. A picture can communicate clearly what you may struggle to capture in words. 

…but stay flexible

The kitchen designer may spot holes in your wish list or mix materials that won’t work for you no matter how much you love them. Conversely, he or she may introduce you to options you’d never considered. And he or she will keep you from sacrificing function for beauty, which is a recipe for misery down the road. Be open to suggestions – after all, expertise is why you recuirted a designer. 

Know your budget

Have a firm idea of what you want to, and are able to, spend to avoid a disconnect between plans and reality. If you have the means for pro-grade appliances and high-end finished, your kitchen designer can work those into the scheme from the beginning. If you don’t, make it known upfront. Although miracles mau not happen on a shoestring, a designer has the experience and the know-how to stretch your dollars as far as they’ll possible go. 

Settle on a time line and a number of draft plans

Kitchen designers don’t expect to nail it on the first try – some back and forth is usually built into the process. Agree upon how many drafts of the plan you’ll see before you sing a contract and part with any cash. you should also confirm a time line for the work, though circumstances beyond anyone’s control can throw even the best-orchestrated jobs off schedule.

Keep changes minimal

Depending on how far along in the process you are, change orders can be anything from a mild nuisance to a major issue. Not only will they hold up progress, but they’ll also put a dent in your wallet. That said, if there’s a change that must be made for you to enjoy and use your revamped kitchen the way you intend, it’s better to speak up than to end up dealin with the flaw on a daily basis.

Be patient

A good kitchen plan takes time to create, and so does bringing it to life. Putting in effort on the front end, from choosing finishes to thinking through the work zone, will pay off in the long run. And the last thing you want is a rushed construction job, so don’t hurry the contractors – no matter how anxious you are to put your new kitchen to work.

February Checklist for a Smooth Running Home

Romancing the home includes fresh air, fresh flowers and fresh supplies – and taking timeless sickness prevention tips to heart.

Stay toasty warm at home while saving energy, enjoy the light of lengthening days streaming through your freshly cleaned windows and take a break to plan next season’s garden over a cup of tea. From preventive (dealing with flu-season germs) to the purely fun (give your house a valentine), this checklist is filled with helpful tips to keep your home running smoothly all month long. 

Keep warm at home

You can stay toasty and conserve energy with a few simple actions:

  • Close doors to unused rooms

  • Move furniture away from heating vents

  • Be sure the chimney flue is closed when it’s not in use

  • Use door snakes and door sweeps to stop drafts

Keep your thermostat set to a reasonable level and set out plenty of warm quilts and throws to snuggle under.

Clean the air

Refresh your home with green plants or even grass planted in wooden or zinc trays. Also be sure to crack a window or two each morning, if only for a few minutes (even when it’s cold). Getting fresh air into your home is especially important in winter, when closed environments tend to increase allergens and illness.

Disinfect

Pay special attention to places where germs tend to congregate. Desks, phones, doorknobs, handles and remote controls top the list. And if anyone in your household is sick, be especially vigilant in trying to prevent it from spreading to everyone in the house.

Touch up walls and make windows shine

With lengthening days bringing a bit more light into our homes, now is a great time to polish up the windows and walls. Fill small holes in walls and touch up the areas with paint, use your vacuum attachment to clear dust from high corners, and wipe down baseboards and windows.

Protect bathrooms from moisture, mildew and mold

It can be hard to give bathrooms enough ventilation at this time of year, and unfortunately that can lead to mildew or even harmful molds. Now is a good time to give the bathroom a thorough cleaning, paying special attention to grout, the ceiling and any other areas showing signs of excess moisture or mildew.

Clear out the pantry and upgrade your emergency kit

Midway through winter is a great time to give your pantry a thorough sorting. Toss the forgotten tins of Christmas cookies, consolidate bulk items into airtight containers and wipe down shelves. While you are in there, be sure you have enough emergency supplies on hand – visit the American Red Cross website for a complete list of recommended supplies.

Start a project file

Take advantage of winter downtime to daydream about home and garden plans. Keeping your ideas organized will help you stay on track to complete your projects, so start by storing everything in one place. A paper file or bulletin board is great for tear sheets, but a basket or box is better for storing bulky samples. You can even create your to-do list in an ideabook. Choose what will work best for you.

Treat your house to fresh flowers

Give your house a special valentine by bringing home cut flowers every week this month. In February most markets have great deals on cut blooms, so scoop up an armful of whatever is on sale. Experiment with new ways of arranging your flowers once your bring them home – cut them short, divide them up into bud vases of different heights, plunk them in pitchers or teapots… get creative!

*You are reading an article from an ideabook originally posted on houzz.com