8 Ways to Clean Your Home With Citrus

citrus cleaners

Many people are aware that citrus can be used as a cleaning agent, particularly because it has been included in many of the detergents and soaps on sale over the last few decades. What many people don’t realize, though, is that you can use citrus as a stand-alone cleaner in a variety of situations. Citrus products can also be combined with other natural cleaners–such as vinegar or baking soda–to produce homemade cleaners for a variety of surfaces. Check out these ways you can use citrus to make your housework easier and your home fresher, and enjoy a deep clean that is both economically and environmentally friendly.

1. Make Your Own Citrus Surface Cleaner

Using vinegar to clean countertops and other surfaces is no new trick, but the trade-off is that you always get stuck with the smell of vinegar around the house. Adding citrus to the mix not only helps cut down on that smell, but it adds another powerful and natural cleaner to your all-purpose spray. To make your own cleaner, fill a mason jar about three-quarters of the way with citrus peels, then add enough vinegar to totally submerge them. You can use any kind of citrus peels for this process. The most popular choices are orange, lime, grapefruit, or lemon peels.

This cleaner will not be ready straight away–it needs time to brew before it will be an effective deodorizer as well as a cleaner. This process will take about two to three weeks for the mixture to completely brew, so put it in a secure place–but not so out of the way that you’ll forget about it. It needs to be shaken about once per day to help the newly forming solution mix evenly. Once your time is up, you can drain off the liquid and use it to fill a spray bottle.

2. Deep Clean the Carpet

Citrus carpet freshener is a great way to loosen up dirt while giving the house a cleaner, lighter scent. To make this carpet freshener, you will need three to four tablespoons of freshly grated zest. Again, it does not matter what kind of citrus you use.

You’ll be combining this with one cup of borax and two cups of baking soda in a bowl. Use a whisk or another light utensil to mix the three ingredients thoroughly. Then, you just treat it like any other carpet freshener: sprinkle as needed, let it set a few minutes, and then vacuum away.

3. Steam Clean Your Microwave


Keeping a microwave clean is one of the toughest parts of taking care of a kitchen. The interior can be awkward to access at some angles, and the tough, nuked-on grime that can accumulate from just a dish or two does not always dissolve easily. One great way to take the effort out of this cleaning is to put some fresh lemon slices in a shallow and microwavable-safe bowl of water. Set the bowl in the microwave, and cook it on high for three minutes. After the timer goes off, let it stand for ten more minutes. For the last step, you should be able to wipe the microwave clean. The steam and citric acid should help to dissolve cooked-on deposits, and they can even help lighten some old stains.

4. Lightly Salted Lime Stovetops

Much like your microwave, grease and grime can build up on your stovetop. However, the cleaning process on your stove will be different than it is for your microwave. To clean your stovetop, sprinkle some salt over the area that needs a deep clean. Then, squeeze fresh lime slices over the salt until you wet it down thoroughly. The combination of the two will get you a light, gritty cleaner that cuts through tough spots that overwhelm your general cleaner.

5. Dissolve Hard Water Stains

This tip is great in the bathroom, but if you have hard water issues, it can be applied to any sink or drain around the house. Using half of a fresh lemon to scrub, you can cut through limescale and other deposits without having to rely on harsh cleaners that require gloves and other special tools to handle. This works on both porcelain and steel faucet fixtures, but you need to make sure to rinse the area thoroughly and dry it off afterward. Citric acid that is left to sit on steel for long periods of time can tarnish its surface.

6. Deep Clean the Garbage Disposal

If your garbage disposal is giving you that heady, well-used smell and a regular rinse is just not doing the job, try a few peels and some ice cubes. Make sure that you put a fair load down the drain, but also make sure not to overfill the disposal. Then, just run it until the ice and peels are completely gone, and your degreasing will be complete! Do this process every couple of weeks to keep the disposal fresh, and remember to rinse thoroughly as you use the disposal regularly to get the best results.

7. Citrus Power Stain Lifter


This one will remind you a little of the carpet freshener recipe, but it has couple of extra twists to make it work better for concentrated stain fighting jobs. Take about a quarter cup of grated peels–the fresher the better–and combine them with two teaspoons of cream of tartar. Add in an eighth of a cup of borax and a cup of baking soda, then thoroughly shake it all together in a jar. Whenever you need to lift a stain quickly and without too much fuss, apply this mix to the area, and watch as it lifts the stain before your eyes. Just remember, blot, don’t rub, and rinse thoroughly as you clean the remnants, just like you would with any other stain fighter.

8. Whiter, Brighter Sneakers

Citrus is not limited to being a house cleaner. It turns out that you can use citrus fruits to freshen up some of your apparel as well. Lemon juice is a great natural bleaching agent that takes long enough to work that you generally don’t have to worry about light spills like you do with actual bleach. This makes it easy to use it for a variety of detailed cleaning and whitening jobs, like freshening up an old pair of sneakers. All you need to do for this process is rinse off any dirt or residue, then spritz them thoroughly with lemon juice and let them dry in the sun, and you are all set.

Keeping the house clean without using a lot of irritating chemicals is a lot easier once you understand just how effective fresh citrus fruits can be. Remember, these ideas are a starting point. You can try out zest and juice in some of your existing home remedies to see what else citrus can do for your household regimen. The best part of utilizing citrus as a cleaning agent around your house it that this cheap option leaves your house smelling clean and fresh without any chemical odors.

How to Clean Up a Broken CFL Bulb

Broken CFL

Using CFL (compact fluorescent light) bulbs in your house is a great way to protect the environment and save on energy bills. However, breaking one of these bulbs can create a dangerous situation. When you break a CFL bulb, you need to be very careful how you go about a cleanup process.

A broken CFL bulb can be very dangerous because these bulbs contain mercury, which is poisonous to humans and animals. A correctly performed cleanup operation will ensure that your home is safe and the people within it are not at risk for mercury poisoning. Cleaning up a broken bulb isn’t difficult or harrowing, though. It can be done all by yourself in just a few minutes. Here are a few tips to help you keep your family safe from harm.


Air Out Room

The room where the bulb has broken should be aired out before cleanup begins. This will allow the mercury in the air to dissipate. Instruct any people and pets to leave the room immediately, taking precautions to avoid the area where the bulb was broken. Once everyone has left the room, you should open windows, doors and vents to the outside, but not into the house. The last thing you want is to allow the spread of mercury throughout your home. Let the room air out for about 5 to 10 minutes, if possible.


Shut Off Any Air Supply

The next step to turn off any air supply you have running. Turn off any central air, heat pump or air conditioning systems you have operating in your home or in that specific room. These systems move air throughout your home and spreading air infected with mercury can be very dangerous.

Get Your Materials

There are several items you will need to properly clean up the broken CFL bulb. You will need stiff paper, cardboard or plastic to scoop up the broken glass. You will also need tape, dampened paper towels and cleaning wipes. A glass jar with a metal lid or a plastic bag is also necessary to get the job done correctly and safely. A glass jar with a tight fitting metal lid is the best item to dispose of the broken shards of glass because it keeps the mercury vapor sealed inside. If one is not available, a sealable plastic bag will do if you handle it as little as possible. You may also want to wear disposable gloves or gloves you don’t mind throwing away in order to prevent the glass shards from cutting your hands.

Collect Debris

After you’ve gathered what you need, re-enter the room where the bulb was broken. Leave the windows, vents and doors to the outside open in order to continue to let the mercury vapor dissipate. Using the cardboard, stiff paper or hard plastic, you can scoop up the pieces of glass from the floor. Place the shards into the glass jar or plastic bag. Use the tape to pick up the smaller pieces of glass. Make sure that all glass is removed from the hard surface or carpet.

Once the glass has been picked up and placed in the jar, use the damp paper towels to clean the affected area. Disposable disinfectant towels will also be good for this purpose. When you have cleaned the area with your disposable towel of choice, place it in the glass jar or plastic bag. If you wear gloves while cleaning up the mess, those should also be placed inside the jar or bag. You should then seal the jar or bag tightly.


If you are using a plastic bag to contain your debris, it must be removed from inside your home immediately. Plastic does not seal the mercury vapor inside, so it will continue to leak out into the air. Check your local regulations for the best way to properly dispose of the mercury infected items. Some places require you to dispose of the glass in a recycling center, but others allow you to simply throw it out with the trash. Make sure you know the laws before you dispose of your debris. Once the jar or bag has been disposed of, wash your hands to rid yourself of any remaining mercury.



Allowing the mercury to sit, undisturbed, in a room with no ventilation to the outdoors is extremely unsafe, especially if you have a central air system. While the room does need to air out before it is safe to pick up the bulb mess, it is important to be prompt in your cleanup. Don’t leave it for a couple of days. That only increases the risk of someone getting hurt.



Trying to vacuum up the glass from a broken bulb can put more mercury into the air, where your family can breathe it in. However, you may use a vacuum cautiously after all the larger pieces have been picked up. On a carpeted area, it can be difficult to find all the smaller pieces of glass from a broken bulb. Vacuuming can help, but it should be done with windows open and entry ways into the rest of the house closed. You should always use the hose attachment to the vacuum in this instance. Dispose of the vacuum bag or contents of the vacuum chamber in the same way you disposed of the other debris from the broken bulb.

Leave Windows Closed

Never clean up broken CFL bulbs in a non-ventilated area. This can be extremely dangerous for you and your loved ones. Working in a non-ventilated space means that you will be directly breathing in the mercury vapor, which can lead to mercury poisoning. It can also have adverse effects on your lungs and breathing, as well. Always make sure that when you are cleaning up a broken bulb that contains mercury, the room is as ventilated as possible.

Forget to Wash Your Hands

Even if you wear gloves when you clean up the broken bulb, there is no guarantee that mercury didn’t get onto your hands. After cleaning up the shards of glass and throwing all the debris away in the best and most legal way, thoroughly wash your hands with soap and hot water. This will remove the rest of the mercury on your hands.

Cleanup of any broken CFL bulbs should be prompt and precise. Making sure that the mercury within the broken bulb is not able to come into contact with any people or pets in your home is the best way to prevent someone from being poisoned.

10 Ways to Make Your Home More Energy Efficient

Adjusting the thermostat

Making changes to your home with the goal of saving energy is not only beneficial to the environment, but to your wallet as well. As the cost of energy continues to go up, you can save money on your monthly bill by making a few simple, cost-efficient changes to your home. Sometimes the smallest changes can translate to big savings over time. Here are the top 10 ways to turn your home from an energy-consuming monster to an energy-efficient machine.

1. Get a Home Energy Audit

It is hard to make energy-efficient improvements when you have no idea where to start. Scheduling a home energy audit is one of the best ways to locate your home’s weaknesses and identify exactly what steps need to be taken in order to stop wasting energy. This is an especially important step if you feel like your energy bill is unusually high and you aren’t sure why.

2. Choose Energy-Efficient Lighting


Have you ever walked through a hardware store and gawked at the huge selection of light bulbs? While it may seem daunting to try and choose the most energy-efficient bulb on the market, you really don’t need to put too much thought into it. Simply look for light-emitting diodes (LEDs) or compact fluorescent lights (CFLs). Both options are capable of delivering significant energy savings over time when compared with incandescent lights. In fact, some research suggests that CFLs utilize up to 75% less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs.

Such a large improvement in energy usage can translate into significant savings over the course of a year. Just make sure not to break your CFL bulbs–though they only release trace amounts of mercury when broken, it is better to avoid any potential hazardous situations and take extra care not to break them.

3. Adjust Your Thermostat

Rather than keeping your home extremely cool during the summer and extremely warm during the winter, it is best to raise or lower the temperature on the thermostat by a few degrees along with the change in seasons. If no one is in your home during the day, consider adjusting your thermostat temperature so that your HVAC system doesn’t have to work so hard to keep your home warm or cool while you are gone. Some newer thermostats, such as the Nest, can even be pre-programmed to turn off while you are gone and then turn back on when you are scheduled to return home in the evening. Pulling your shades and curtains closed while you are gone is a great way to compound the energy-saving effects of turning down your thermostat.

4. Wash Full Loads of Dishes

Ridiculous amounts of energy can be wasted by frequently running your dishwasher when it is not full. Instead of washing small loads of dishes throughout the day, wait until you have completely filled up the top and bottom racks before running your dishwasher through a cleaning cycle. If you find yourself constantly running out of clean dishes, it may be time to add a few more plates and bowls to your cupboards in order to avoid frequently washing partial loads of dishes.

5. Don’t Preheat Your Oven

This may come as a surprise to many people, but preheating the oven is unnecessary in most cases and is actually quite wasteful. You can save energy, time and money by eliminating the preheating period and simply adding in a few minutes of overall cooking time to your meals. The main exception to this rule is if you are baking cakes, breads and other pastries, since they can be quite finicky and may not respond well when baked in a non-preheated oven. The kitchen is a great place to begin when assessing and limiting your energy consumption.

6. Update Your Old Appliances

Outdated appliances can be a ridiculous drain on your energy bill, and they are typically bulky and awkward-looking as well. If you have been hanging on to that 20-year-old freezer or ancient stove from your grandma’s house, you may want to consider replacing them both with more energy-efficient models. Not only will you notice the difference in your monthly energy bill, but your entire kitchen will look refreshed and updated as well!

7. Seal Attic Gaps

Attic gaps are some of the most common culprits of excessive energy loss, but they can be difficult to detect. If you have any suspicions that you may be losing energy through your attic, hire professionals to come and conduct a blower-door test. This test pinpoints sources of leaking air so that gaps can be sealed to improve efficiency. Some professionals will conduct the blower-door test for free if you end up utilizing their services to seal the gaps in your home.

8. Replace Single-Pane Windows

If you have single-pane windows, you are actually putting a lot of pressure on your HVAC system and wasting energy. Many experts recommend that all single-pane windows be replaced with low-e (low emissivity) windows listed as U.40 or higher (also commonly referred to as R-3). In some cases, energy bills can be cut by 20% or more once single-pane windows are replaced with more energy-efficient units. Your home will also look more attractive once you replace cheap single-pane windows with sturdier window units, and outside noises will no longer be heard quite as easily within the home.

9. Beef Up Your Wall Insulation

Wall Insulation

Many homes lose a significant amount of energy directly through the walls, especially if they are not adequately insulated. If you built your own home then you probably already know how much insulation is in your walls, but if you purchased a pre-built home you may be left wondering if your walls lack the recommended amount of insulation. Hiring professionals to check out the status of the insulation throughout your home is a great way to identify any problem areas.

10. Plant Shade Trees

When it comes to energy-efficiency, improvements need not be limited to the interior of your home. A carefully-developed landscaping plan can cool your home during the hot summer months so that your air conditioning system doesn’t have to work so hard. While it is important to make sure you don’t plant trees so close to your home that the roots or branches will damage your house, you should plant them close enough to benefit from their shade once they are fully grown. For the quickest benefits, choose trees that are known for rapid growth and have large leaves for maximum shade.

Saving energy is a goal that every responsible homeowner should try to attain. By following these 10 simple tips for making your home more energy-efficient, you can rest assured that you are doing your part to protect the environment while also enjoying substantial money-saving benefits over time.

5 Ways to Protect Your Plants From the Summer Heat

Summer sprinklers

It is easy to forget or ignore how the summer sun can affect plants over an entire season. Prolonged heat stresses garden plants and lawns out, and can quickly undermine all of the hard labor you put into your vegetables and greenery in the spring. To enjoy the beauty and bounty of summer flora all season long, it pays to take some precautions to protect plants from extended periods of heat. Round out your summer garden care with these tips for keeping it green.

1. Mulching Matters

Plants that have shallow surface roots will typically do just fine in warm weather. A true heat wave, however, can turn the top layer of soil to dust, stressing root systems beyond their capacity to cope. The answer is mulch. The benefits of sufficient mulching are threefold (at least). First, mulch reduces the amount of direct exposure soil has to the sun, helping it to retain some surface moisture even as the mercury climbs. Secondly, mulch reduces evaporation, increasing the effectiveness of your daily watering sessions. Due to its moisture-retaining qualities, mulch potentially reduces the frequency that plants need watering. Thirdly, mulch protects against wind, which combines with hot temperatures to over-dry soil. When selecting mulch for your vegetable garden or bedding plants, go for light-colored mulches. They tend to work best because they reflect heat better than darker materials. Effective mulches include:

  • Grass clippings
    For vegetable gardens, let cut grass dry out for a day or so after mowing to reduce the amount of nitrogen. While nitrogen is an important nutrient, it can support plant growth at the expense of fruit and vegetable production.
  • Straw
    This makes excellent mulch due to its light, reflective color. Be sure to get straw and not hay, which may carry and introduce unwanted seeds into your garden.
  • Bark
    This is a great choice for moisture retention and weed control around shrubs and other landscape plants. However, it may be too acidic for vegetables. Some bark mulches have been shown to carry weed-producing seed, but in general, it forms an effective and attractive layer for beds and borders.

2. Watering in the Heat

In a period of extended high temperatures, thoughtful and responsible watering is essential to keep plants thriving. Water is lost at the surface of the soil as well as through the leaves, so sufficient watering is critical. Timing plays a large role. Effective summer garden care during a heat wave involves early morning watering. There is less loss of moisture to evaporation in the earlier, cooler part of the day. In addition, with morning watering, you can avoid the scalding damage to leaves that can occur under the hot midday sun. Morning watering also reduces the slug population and the growth of fungal disease, as conditions stay drier overnight. That said, there are times when you may need to water again in the evening.

Watering Can

Water conservation is an important consideration in a heat wave, and certain states have water restrictions in place during the summer. For this reason, hand watering may be a better option that sprinklers. Ambient heat causes water from a sprinkler to evaporate more quickly than water directed from a hose. Soaker hoses are often the best choice, as water is channeled directly where it needs to go. Soaker hoses may be placed under mulch and out of sight, and regulated on a timer just like a sprinkler.

3. Made in the Shade

Garden centers package and label protective coverings by size and shade factors. A shade factor indicates how much sunlight the material blocks. Typically, shade cloths can protect plants from 25 to 90 percent of the sun’s rays. The choice depends upon the hardiness of the plant. The object of a shade cloth is not to completely cover the plant, but to limit its exposure to all-day sun. It is important to maintain good airflow around the plants, and to make sure the shades can stay put under windy conditions. Thrifty gardeners may rig their own shade covers with netting or row covers, although these homemade versions will lack the shade factor of the ready-made material.

4. Help Plants Help Each Other

Transplants are particularly vulnerable to the effects of heat. To give transplants a fighting chance in hot and dry conditions, use the buddy system. Find a spot in the garden where tender starters may get a little shade from a taller, more established neighbor. The larger plant can provide some protection from the wind, too.

Ideally, the plant you use to provide protection for the transplant will be one that you will pull out after the smaller plants become mature enough to benefit from more direct exposure to the sun. In this way, early vegetable crops such as peas can give way to the midseason delights of summer squash and beans. You can even plant successive crops of the same vegetable, pulling up the mature plants after production slows down. A staggered planting schedule may require a bit of planning, but you will be rewarded with continuous growth throughout the season.

5. Let Lawns Go a Little

This can be a tough one for homeowners who like a fairway-fresh lawn. Holding off on the mowing and leaving your grass a little taller helps the soil retain the moisture it needs to keep the lawn lush, even in the heat. Three inches is the minimum to provide enough shade to be of benefit. Set the mower to six inches during a drought.

Try to avoid the temptation to overfeed your lawn during a hot spell. The ability for root systems to take in nutrients is greatly diminished during a heat wave. Fertilizing in the heat is not only a waste of product, it may also more harm than good. You are much more likely to get the results you are after if you wait until the temperature drops a bit before you supplement the soil. With some preparation and patience, summer garden care will yield a full season of enjoyment under even the warmest conditions.

5 Tips for Starting a Compost Bin

Compost Soil

Compost soil, a dark organic matter created by a compost pile, is an environmentally friendly and economical way to feed your garden. The food scraps from your kitchen, dead flowers, yard waste, animal manure, and shredded newspaper combine to make rich, dark-colored soil that is nourishing for your plants and flowers.

By composting, you’re not only saving money, you’re also keeping organic waste out of the landfill. Using compost instead of conventional fertilizers is also better for the long-term health of your soil. Both organic and conventional gardens can benefit from compost and most people who use compost find that they don’t need other fertilizers. Compost adds nutrients to your soil, helps your plants retain moisture, and introduces microscopic organisms to your garden, which help to aerate the soil and break down organic material.

Starting a compost bin is easy, and maintaining it only takes a few hours a week at the most. Read the tips below to get started on creating a rich compost that will help your garden flourish.

1. Choose Your Bin

The first thing you need to do is establish a place to grow your compost. Although you can create compost without a container, if you want to keep your compost pile compact and tidy or protect it from rain, it’s a good idea to make or buy one. The two things you need to keep in mind are the importance of aeration and the ease of turning the pile, both of which can impact both the time it takes for your compost to finish as well as the amount of time you’ll spend turning it. Some bins make rotating the pile easier, which is useful if you don’t feel like muscling through it with a shovel every few weeks. Below are some options for compost bins:

  • Build Your Own

    There are plenty of economical ways to build your own compost bin, whether you want to build a sturdy wood and chicken wire enclosure or modify a large plastic garbage can.

  • Buy a Rotating Bin

    A rotating bin or a tumbler is a free standing container that can be spun in place to mix and aerate the compost. These can be a bit more expensive than a standard compost bin.

  • Buy a Standard Bin

    A standard compost bin often doesn’t have a bottom, making it easy to open and use. These bins usually hold more volume, so if you have a large garden and don’t mind getting in there to turn the compost, they are a good value.

2. Know Your Greens and Browns

There are two essential elements that will create the perfect chemical balance in your compost pile: carbon, known as “brown” material, and nitrogen, known as “green” material. You need a mix of these in order to feed and grow your compost pile. In general, you need more browns than greens. Don’t get too hung up on the color, though, as this isn’t an exact rule. For example, nitrogen-rich used coffee grounds belong in the green category. Here are a couple more examples:

  • Carbon/Brown Material

    Straw, shredded newspaper, cardboard, dead leaves, wood chips, paper bags, husks and nut shells all qualify as brown material.

  • Nitrogen/Green Material

    Vegetable peels, fruit rinds, coffee grounds or tea leaves, grass clippings, and even weeds if they have not gone to seed are all good green material.

3. Layer

Layering is important for correct drainage and interaction of your materials. You don’t want your compost pile to be too wet, as it will rot, but too dry and the organic materials won’t have the moisture they need to decompose. It should have the moisture content of a wrung-out sponge for the best balance.

Start with a good layer of browns, about five or six inches, and then add two or three inches of greens. If you want to get your compost kick started with a good dose of microbes, you can sprinkle a layer of existing compost, garden soil, or manure on top of this layer. Lightly water it–remember, you don’t want it completely wet, just a little moist. Then continue in the same way: browns, greens, microbial, water, repeat, until you have a pile about three feet high.

There are a few other materials you can also add to your compost pile. Composting is an aerobic process, so if you live in a humid climate or your compost bins don’t have air holes, you can add wood chips to improve the aeration. If you want to keep them out of the landfill, egg shells are abundant in calcium and also have trace amounts of other minerals. Make sure they are completely clean and dry to avoid introducing salmonella. They can take a long time to decompose, so crushing them or grinding them to a powder first is ideal.

Never put meat or fish, inorganic materials, or waste from carnivores into your compost pile.

4. Turn Your Compost

Compost Pile

Once you have your nice compost cocktail, you can sit back and ignore it for a few weeks. Then you need to give it a good stir. If you bought a tumbler, this is pretty easy. If you didn’t, rotate what’s inside the pile to the outside and what’s outside to the inside. Your compost pile should have a distinctive earthy smell and should be hot–especially near the center. The heat is a sign that good decomposition is happening. Once you’ve given it a good stir, leave it alone for another couple of weeks. Repeat this process until your compost is ready. You’ll know it’s done when the pile is no longer generating heat. Once you get to this point, let it cure for another month or two. There might still be a few bits that haven’t decomposed entirely. Screen those out and save them to start your next pile.

5. Feed Your Garden

Now that you have some fresh and rich compost, it’s time that you let your garden benefit from it. You can spread it about an inch thick around your flower bed or your garden, or mix it into your soil before you plant. If you have more than you can use, you can store it in clean garbage cans or plastic bags–or perhaps even give it to your other gardener friends! They’ll appreciate it.

Nothing beats the satisfaction of feeding your garden with compost you made yourself. Once you get started, you’ll be thrilled at the alchemy of the process, and you’ll be eager to feed your compost pile year-round.

8 Delicious Vegetables for Fall Gardening

cabbage garden

As the summer months draw to a close and temperatures start to decline, out natural tendency is to spend more time indoors and less out in the garden. However, this means that we are limiting ourselves from growing some delicious fall crops in our very own backyards! This fall, make the effort to stay outdoors a little longer and cultivate your very own garden of fresh salad ingredients.

There are some wonderful greens and root vegetables that grow happily in the cooler months and even taste better when they come to maturity in colder temperatures. Most fall vegetables are nutrient-dense, which is exactly what your body craves when the cooler months arrive.

The first thing you need to do when fall planting is have a general idea of when your first frost will be, then you can count backwards from there to determine when to plant. Below are some of the best vegetables you can plant for delicious fall eating.

1. Pumpkin


When to plant: Mid summer
When to harvest: 75 to 120 days after planting
Soil type: Any

Pumpkins might be the quintessential fall vegetable. Not only are they a staple of any fall holiday meal, but they are also a significant element of Halloween decor. They do take a lot of effort to grow, though, as they require a whopping 75 to 120 days to mature. Pumpkins thrive off lots of water, lots of space, and a healthy amount of high-nitrogen fertilizer. Pumpkin is packed with Vitamins A, C, E and B-6, stuffed with carotenes, and rich in minerals including calcium and potassium.

Not just for pumpkin pie and jack-o-lanterns, this plant makes delicious soups and can also be baked or steamed. Pumpkin seeds are dense with fiber and iron and some cultures will even eat the greens. There are dozens of varieties with adorable monikers like Cinderella, Baby Bear, Fairytale, and Aladdin, just to name a few. Choose your pumpkin based on what you are going to be using it for–some are better for carving, others are perfect for the fall tradition of baking a casserole or stew in individual little pumpkin bowls.

2. Brussels Sprouts

Brussels Sprouts

When to plant: Mid summer
When to harvest: 90 days after planting
Soil type: Any; Neutral

Healthy and versatile, Brussels sprouts are cropping up in menus across the country with unique and tasty preparations that have made them one of the most popular vegetables on the market. Halved and roasted with olive oil, salt, and pepper they are a delicious side dish, or sliced thin and tossed with walnuts, pecorino, olive oil and lemon juice make for an amazing salad.

Brussels sprouts don’t hit peak growth until the weather starts to cool off, so don’t panic if your plants appear dormant. They’ll take off once the weather cools. They need to be planted in full sun but can withstand temperatures down to 20°. Brussels sprouts take 90 days to reach maturity.

3. Cabbage


When to plant: Summer (indoors), transplant to outdoors once temperature cools
When to harvest: 70 to 100 days after planting
Soil type: Sandy; Neutral

Napa, savoy, bok choy, green and red–there are dozens of varieties of cabbages, most of which are ideal for fall gardening and all of which are delicious given the right preparation. With a little bit of extra care, you can maintain your cabbages well into the winter.

Cabbages dislike hot weather and sun, so if you hit a sudden hot spell, be sure to protect them, and keep your soil moist and cool with compost or bark. Most cabbages mature in about 70 days, although some take as many as 100. With this many varieties of cabbage, it would be wise for you to do your research or check your seed packet for more specific estimates.

4. Broccoli


When to plant: Mid to late summer
When to harvest: 70 days after planting
Soil type: Sandy; Neutral to slightly acidic

Nothing beats the taste of fresh, home-grown broccoli from your garden. This versatile health food can be enjoyed raw, steamed, sautéed, roasted, or pureed into soups. Their dense heads soak up flavor and are especially good in a stir-fry.

It takes about 70 days for broccoli to reach maturity, and it’s important to harvest them before the buds start to flower or else they’ll turn bitter. After harvesting the large head, broccoli will continue to produce smaller offshoots, giving you delicious flavor throughout the fall months. Interestingly enough, broccoli is a member of the cabbage family. Use mulch to suffocate weeds and keep temperatures down around the shallow roots.

5. Beets


When to plant: Beginning to mid summer
When to harvest: 50 to 70 days after planting
Soil type: Sandy; Neutral

Beets are known for their distinctive purple-red color but also come in golden yellow and pink varieties. Try them with goat cheese and balsamic vinegar for a wonderful combination of flavors. The dense flesh also holds up well to canning, freezing or pickling. These qualities make beets a sturdy plant to work with, which is great for beginners.

Beet greens have a higher nutrition value than the bulb and are delicious in a salad or cooked like kale and chard. They prefer neutral soil but need a high phosphorous level to germinate. Beets can tolerate temperatures as low as 30° F and mature in 50 to 70 days, depending on the variety.

6. Kale

When to plant: Early to mid summer
When to harvest: 60 days after planting
Soil type: Loamy; Neutral to slightly Alkaline

Kale is yet another vegetable that has developed a cult following over the last few years, and with good reason. Kale is a wonderful leafy green that is packed with nutrients and antioxidants. It’s perfect for marinated salads, where its firm structure stands up to the marinade without wilting, and it’s delicious stirred into soups in the last 5-10 minutes of cooking. Kale also works well in smoothies and can even be misted with olive oil, sprinkled with salt, and baked until crispy for a delicious and healthy snack.

Kale reaches maturity in about 60 days, and requires neutral or slightly Alkaline soil.

7. Spinach


When to plant: Late summer to early fall
When to harvest: 45 days after planting
Soil type: Loamy; Neutral

Spinach, which is known for being high in iron, is easy to cook and is also delicious raw. It is higher in nutrition than most garden greens, rich in Vitamins A, B and C and high in iron and calcium.

Spinach takes about 45 days to reach maturity, but large leaves can be bitter, so pinch off tender young leaves as soon as they ready, letting the inner leaves continue to mature. Be sure to plant your spinach seeds when your soil temperature is below 70° or they won’t germinate. Spinach can overwinter for a delightful spring crop.

8. Radishes


When to plant: Early to mid fall
When to harvest: 25 to 50 days after planting
Soil type: Any; lots of moisture

Last but not least, consider planting a radish crop. Radishes are ready to be harvested in only 25 to 50 days.

Radishes come in several varieties and add a distinctive, peppery zing to salads. If you’ve only eaten spicy, woody radishes, growing your own will allow you to harvest them early when they are still fresh, crisp and peppery. They need plenty of moisture in well-drained soil, but are extremely tolerant to different types of soil.

Whatever you choose to grow, fall gardening is a delicious and fun way to enjoy the bounty of your hard work through the autumn months. Be sure to start your planning now in order to allow your plants enough time to grow to be enjoyed this fall.

8 Tips for Planning the Perfect Garden

Perfect Garden Planning

Whether you have just bought your first home or are excited to spend your retirement developing a green thumb, designing a garden can be an exciting but intimidating prospect. If you’re looking to infuse new life into your existing landscaping, you’ll have to decide what elements you want to alter and replace and how to plan around those that you wish to keep. If you’re starting with a clean slate, you are blessed with the freedom to do almost anything. However, that blank space can leave you paralyzed with indecision and fear of getting it wrong. These 8 tips can help you create the perfect efficient garden you didn’t even know you were dreaming of.

1. Consider Your Space

The first thing you must do is understand the potential of the land you are working with. Take a look at the area your garden will occupy. Using grid paper or a drafting program, you can create a blueprint of the space. Make copies so you can sketch in several different ideas.

When deciding what features you want to include in your perfect garden, ask yourself these questions:

  • How much space do you have to work with?
  • Are there existing features you’d like to highlight, downplay or remove altogether?
  • How will the layout influence your design?

Consider the elevation at various points–it will influence how the landscape looks, but also which plants will thrive, as some need more or less drainage and shade. Think about the view from your windows, both upstairs and down, and from your porch and other locations where you might sit and view the garden. Choose eye-catching trees, bushes or flowers for the most visible locations, then build around those anchor pieces.

2. Understand Your Climate

Do your research or visit your local garden center to learn which plants thrive in your climate, which ones will require some work, and which ones will simply not survive. If you already have certain species in mind, ask about their hardiness rating and how much sunshine and moisture they require. If you are open to suggestions, the staff can make recommendations specific to your area.

While careful watering and strategic covering can enable some selections to survive in warmer or cooler weather than they would normally be able to, this might be more work than you are willing to do. It’s best to know as much as you can about your climate zone, especially if you are new to gardening.

3. Utility

strawberry garden

It is important that you have an idea of the purpose your garden will serve. Will you grow fruits and vegetables for your family’s consumption? If so, you might consider raised beds or square-foot gardening. Are you hoping to create a beautiful backdrop for summer barbecues and family get-togethers? Incorporate insect repelling plants for beautiful, all-natural pest control. Do you have pets or animals that will live or play in the yard, and if so, how do you incorporate their needs into the plan? Some vegetables and flowers are poisonous to dogs or cats, while others can contaminate the flavor of free-range eggs. You may also need to protect your yard from your pets, so consider a fence or especially hardy flora. Do you want a lot of grassy space for playing or laying in the sunshine, or do you prefer a lot of vegetation? These questions will help you narrow your focus as you plan.

4. Choose a Theme

Think about scenery that you really love, and identify why it appealed to you so much. Try to figure out how you can incorporate those elements into your own landscaping.

For example, if you’ve always loved the clean lines of an English garden, aim for symmetry, strong geometry and monochromatic florals. If you prefer a cottage garden, fill your beds with fragrant, old-fashioned blooms and a quaint touch like a picket fence, bird bath or wind chimes. For a tropical look find bold, leafy plants with bright colors, dynamic water features and hand-crafted décor.

By focusing on a theme you ensure that the elements of your garden come together in a way that makes the whole greater than the sum of the parts.

5. Size Matters

When designing a garden, consider incorporating a variety of different sized elements to create a more interesting design. For example, if you want to have decorative stones in your yard, pick a couple large stones, mostly medium sized ones, and a few smaller ones. You can also do this with trees, flowers, and decorative grasses. Keep in mind that smaller features should be places in front of the taller pieces.

Think about variety in the height and circumference of your plants, as well as in their shapes, colors and textures. Try to repeat certain elements at regular intervals to keep the selection from looking too haphazard, but don’t be afraid to mix things up in between.

6. Think of a House

There’s another way to think about varying the elements of your garden: think of it like a house. The floor might be grass, ground cover, pavers or planting soil. The walls include vertical elements such as fences, trellises and even the outer walls of your home. The ceiling may be purely sky, but can also include awnings, an umbrella or the branches of a tall tree. Furnish your garden with patio furniture, potted plants, a bench, an umbrella or even a whimsical garden gnome.

7. Color Outside the Lines


The right combination of colors can create the effect of a fine painting, but a hodge-podge keeps the eye from perceiving the garden as a beautiful, unified and whole. Most flowers are easy to move if you don’t like their placement, so don’t be afraid to experiment.

If you want to play things safe, there are a few tried and true combinations that look great every time. If you like bold blooms, try a selection of bright primary colors or hot shades of pink, red, orange and yellow. Colors opposite each other on the color wheel look great together–think orange and blue, purple and yellow or red and green. For a more romantic look, use soothing pastels and creams instead of white.

8. Friendly Flora

Variety not only looks great in the garden, but it can help your plants thrive as well. Many plants are natural allies and placing them near one another will help your blooms thrive.

Trees, bushes and anything tall with wide leaves can provide necessary shade for smaller vegetation. Marigolds are known to repel aphids and can protect your vegetable patch from being eaten up. Clover and nasturtiums can even protect cabbage from harm. Rue protects roses and raspberries. There are many beautiful and mutually beneficial combinations that can be incorporated into your landscaping.

The most important thing to remember when designing a garden is to be creative and to trust your instincts. Choose elements that speak to you and your garden will always feel like home.

10 Ways to Save Energy While Cooking & Preparing Meals

Preparing Dinner

Almost everyone wants to save on their monthly energy bills. From turning off your lights to using a portable air conditioner, conserving energy and cutting down on your utility bills is easier than you might think. One way you might not have considered, is to conserve energy while cooking and preparing meals at home. Not only will this make a big difference over time, it’ll save you quite a bit of money.

It is highly important to understand your cooking habits and recognize that energy efficient kitchen appliances might not help much if you do not know how to use them properly. Additionally, it might not be realistic to purchase an entire new set of kitchen appliances, even if you do not currently have a convection oven, which is on average about 20 percent more efficient than a traditional oven.

You might be surprised at how easy going green can be. You also might be surprised to learn that saving energy while cooking can actually save time and make your life easier. Below are 10 quick and easy ways can save energy, cut your utility bills and still make delicious meals while cooking.
[Read more…]

6 Easy Home Improvement Tips to Cut Your Utility Bill

Sealing Window with Caulk

Considering the high cost of energy, it pays to do whatever you can to maximize your home’s use of this precious and expensive commodity. Fortunately, there are small, simple steps you can take to increase energy efficiency that can save you a substantial amount of money.

Try these six simple yet vital energy-saving tips and watch your utility bill start to shrink.

1. Seal Windows & Doors

Test the air-tightness of your home, and you might be astounded at how much energy passes through the cracks and crevices surrounding your windows and doors. Check the seal around your windows and the perimeter of your doors by holding a piece of tissue in front of them. If it moves, even slightly, you have a leak, which will be even more pronounced during windy weather. Rattling windows and doors also indicate air leaks, as does daylight peeking in from around door and window frames. Also check around switch plates and outlets for airflow leaks.

Cut down substantially on energy leakage by sealing off leaks in stationary windows with caulking and using weather sealant around windows and doors that are movable. Also install door sweeps.
[Read more…]

How To Lower Your Energy Bills With A Portable Air Conditioner

During the “Dog Days” of summer, people tend to look for ways to cool off. Some visit a local swimming pool to spend the day in the water. Others seek out a movie theater that has good air conditioning. Shopping malls are also a great choice for people who are looking to cool off during the summer. When these same people go home, however, they rely on their air conditioning units to cool down their homes so that they can relax and not feel the oppressive heat from the outside.

Portable Air Conditioner AP12000S

With energy prices skyrocketing around the country, many homeowners are now being forced to make a choice between a comfortably cool home and a low power bill. This is because many who rely on central air notice that their electricity bill increases dramatically during the months they are running their air conditioner. One way to keep cool and still keep a lower electric bill is by using a portable air conditioner.

Energy Efficient

Portable air conditioning units are much more energy efficient than central air. This is mainly because they can be moved from room to room based on which area needs to be cooled down.

A central air conditioning unit is built to cool the entire home, no matter which room a person might be in. By using the portable unit, you will be using electricity to cool only those rooms that people are using.
[Read more…]