Spring Cleaning With Storage Bins

It may not seem like it with all the snow we’ve had lately, but spring is right around the corner. In our grandparent’s day, many people welcomed spring with a thorough house cleaning. Wood and coal heating systems left dust and smells on all the fabric in the house and the savvy housekeeper wanted to wash the curtains, beat the rugs, and wash the walls.

Air Out the House

Today, we have much more efficient heating systems, but it is still nice to open the windows and let the air flow through the house. It’s also nice to do our modern version of spring cleaning and plow through all the clutter that has accumulated over the winter. Organizing the clutter and packing away winter things is a good way to accomplish that task.

Clear out the Clutter

To get started, gather everything you want to store in one place. Next, sort it by purpose: kitchen items, extra clothes, craft supplies, games, DVDs, fabrics and sewing supplies, etc. Go through all of this stuff and separate out what you haven’t used or worn in more than a year and donate to charity or sell it online.

Store What You Don’t Use Often

Storage bins fill this purpose very nicely. Totes and clear bins stack neatly, take up less space, and if they’re see through, you know what is in them without having to search through them. Bins allow you to store like items together so they’re easier to find when you need them and they stack neatly, decreasing the amount of floor space needed.

Loading the Bins

Determine the sizes of bin you need for the supplies that made the cut, and make a trip to the hardware store for your bins. Now you’re ready to start packing the bins. Once you’ve organized and packed all the things you want to keep, place labels on each bin identifying its contents. This will make finding things next time very easy.

Store it Away

Stack the bins in their storage areas and enjoy your clutter free house again, knowing that you will be able to find things when they are needed again.

Some Tips for Planting Vegetables

With March fast approaching, our minds turn to the thrill of planting vegetable and flower gardens. We have to decide whether to start seeds or buy plants for the gardens. You will probably do some of both. If you are inclined to start your own seeds, you can have as many plants as you want. Sometimes, it is more economical in dollars and time to buy the plants.

Some plants can stand a little cold, some like to grow in cool temperatures in the early spring and fall, some may need to be covered if frost or snow threatens, and some must wait for warmer weather.

Check your seed packet for when to plant seeds indoors. Early Spring is when soil can first be worked (generally 2-3 weeks before Last Frost Date); After Last Frost (LFD) is generally between May 15 and June 15 in Zone 4; Late Summer is sometime from June to September.

Planting Chart

Here is a planting chart for some commonly grown vegetables.

Vegetable When to Plant What to Plant Fall Crops?
Asparagus 2-3 wks before LFD Outdoors Crowns No
Beans After LFD outdoors Seeds No
Beets After soil reaches 50° outdoors Seeds Yes
Broccoli A2-3 weeks before LFD outdoors Plants Yes
Cabbage 6-8 Weeks before LFD outdoors Seeds -6-8 Weeks Yes
Carrots 2 wks before LFD outdoors Seeds or Plants Yes
Cucumber 2 wks after LFD outdoors Seeds No
Onions 4-6 wks before LFD outdoors Onion Sets  Yes
Peas 4-6 wks before LFD outdoors Seeds  Yes
Peppers 8-10 wks before LFD indoors Seeds No
Tomatoes 6-8 wks before LFD indoors Seeds No

Check out The Old Farmer’s Almanac for more detailed information on growing vegetables and flowers:

https://www.almanac.com/plants/hardiness/4

 

Keeping A Garden Journal

Regardless of whether you are a serious gardener or you just grow a few flowers and tomatoes, a garden journal can be a tremendous asset.  Each year, you will have successes and failures. This is true if you are a novice or a master gardener. It’s just the nature of the endeavor. Keeping a journal to record these successes and failures will help you avoid the same mistakes or repeat what you did right from season to season.

Planning the Garden

Your journal can be used to plan what you want to plant in the new season. Some plants can’t be planted in the same plot year after year, so knowing where you planted them in season A, will help you avoid planting them in the same place in subsequent seasons (crop rotation). Additionally, plants have their likes and dislikes as to other plants. The journal will help you avoid placing plants together that aren’t compatible (companion planting). Both crop rotation and companion planting will be addressed in more detail in the next few articles.

Identifying Plants

Making a simple drawing of your garden in the journal will help you make decisions about what to plant, whether by starting seeds or buying plants at the garden center. When you have decided on where you want vegetables or flowers to grow and have put their names on your garden plan, you will be ready to select seeds and/or plants.

Documentation

It is very helpful to include pictures of seed packets and plant tags in the journal so you will know from year to year which brands or varieties worked best for you. Perhaps you put one or two see packets or plant tags per page and leave space between them to make notes about how long the seeds took to germinate, how fast or well they grew in the seed starting mix, and when you planted them into the garden. You may also want to document how much fruit or flowers they produced or what diseases they had. All information that you include will be useful in future gardens.

 

Time to Think About Starting Seeds

Seed packets have arrived in the store and are ready for your selection to start planting. Right now, you can start onions and peppers indoors. It’s possible to grow seedlings in a south window, but your seedlings will start growing toward the light and you’ll have to turn them frequently. They may also get leggy.

Seed Starting Trays

You can start seeds in almost any container, but seed starting trays are the most convenient. You can purchase seed starting mix at the store that will give your plants the best start and they can grow longer before needing to be transplanted. Only grow what you and your family like to eat. If you can do some calculating and determine how much produce you will use during the summer and how much you want to store, can or freeze for the winter, you’ll have a good idea of how much to plant.

Seed Packets

Be sure to read the seed packets for how deep to plant the seeds. Some seeds won’t germinate if they are covered. The packet will also tell you how many weeks before planting outside you need to start the seeds.

Growing Under Lights

The best way to start seeds indoors is to grow them under florescent lights. Regular shop light fixtures with one warm and one cool bulb will work just fine, but you can also use grow lights if you want. The lights should be placed about two inches from the seedlings and should be moved up as the plants grow. If you have a small fan, a gentle breeze blowing across your seedlings will make them stronger and they will be used to wind when they get outdoors.

Temperature is Key

Your seedling trays should be in a place that is between 65-85 degrees, depending on the seeds. Tomatoes and peppers usually like warmer temperatures than plants that can grow in a cooler environment.

Build Your Own Seed Starting Rack

I use a 30-inch-wide by 6 foot long table in my basement and hang the florescent lights from the rafters on chains that I can raise and lower. A timer keeps the lights on 16 hours each day and shuts off automatically.  If you’d like to build a seed starting stand from 2x4s, check out these instructions at one of my favorite web sites, Old World Garden Farms.  https://oldworldgardenfarms.com/2013/01/08/how-to-build-an-indoor-seed-starting-rack-cheap/

 

Why Change Your Furnace Filter

When you hear someone refer to the HVAC system, the initials refer to heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. The air is constantly circulating through your home and flowing through the furnace filter before being sent through the ventilation system to your rooms.

Filters

Some furnaces require the filter to be changed every month for the most efficient filtering of the air and if you have pets in the house, it can be critical to do this once a month chore. Not only do filters protect the air coming out of the furnace, but they also protect air going into the furnace through the filter so the insides of the furnace stay cleaner.

Air Exchange

Other newer systems may use a filter that can go six months or more.  A good HVAC system exchanges indoor air with outdoor air to reduce indoor moisture, odors, and other pollutants. As the air is exchanged, the filter collects the dust, pet hair, and other particles in the air and filters them out so the air in your home is cleaner. If the filter is left dirty, or full of particles, this residue makes your system less efficient and shortens the life of the furnace.

Schedule Filter Changes

If your furnace requires monthly filter changes, pick one day of the month to take care of this on the same day each month. Keep a supply of filters so you only have to buy more a few times a year. If you can go longer between filter changes according to your owner’s manual, do this on the same date, such as June 1st and December 1st, or whatever length of time is recommended.

Changing filters is too important to leave it to chance. You will be protecting your family against dust, odors, allergies, and pollutants.

 

Why Change Your Furnace Filter

When you hear someone refer to the HVAC system, the initials refer to heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. The air is constantly circulating through your home and flowing through the furnace filter before being sent through the ventilation system to your rooms.

Filters

Some furnaces require the filter to be changed every month for the most efficient filtering of the air and if you have pets in the house, it can be critical to do this once a month chore. Not only do filters protect the air coming out of the furnace, but they also protect air going into the furnace through the filter so the insides of the furnace stay cleaner.

Air Exchange

Other newer systems may use a filter that can go six months or more.  A good HVAC system exchanges indoor air with outdoor air to reduce indoor moisture, odors, and other pollutants. As the air is exchanged, the filter collects the dust, pet hair, and other particles in the air and filters them out so the air in your home is cleaner. If the filter is left dirty, or full of particles, this residue makes your system less efficient and shortens the life of the furnace.

Schedule Filter Changes

If your furnace requires monthly filter changes, pick one day of the month to take care of this on the same day each month. Keep a supply of filters so you only have to buy more a few times a year. If you can go longer between filter changes according to your owner’s manual, do this on the same date, such as June 1st and December 1st, or whatever length of time is recommended.

Changing filters is too important to leave it to chance. You will be protecting your family against dust, odors, allergies, and pollutants.