6 Ways To Create A More Serene Stress-Free Home

Your home is supposed to be your haven, the place where you can relax and wash away the stresses of the day. But, if your house is messy, cluttered, or designed in a way that opposes certain Feng Shui principles, it could actually be adding to your stress. Apply a few tips to make your home the serene spot it should be.

Plant a garden

It might seem seem like getting dirty in the yard could raise stress levels, but it turns out just the opposite is true for many people. It’s “so effective at combating depression, stress, and anxiety that it’s often used in ‘horticultural therapy‘ at psychiatric hospitals,” said Rodale’s Organic Life.

Perfect Backyard Vegetable Garden Design Plans Ideas |

For maximum benefit, choose crops that “can also have an impact on your mood,” they said, including “potent antidepressant foods and herbs” like Swiss chard, which is “packed with magnesium, a nutrient essential for the biochemical reactions in the brain that boost your energy levels. Cherry tomatoes are another great choice because, “Tomato skin is rich in lycopene, a tonutrient that actually stops the buildup of pro-inflammatory compounds linked to depression.”

Bring some plants indoors, too

A little greenery sprinkled throughout your home can be beneficial physically because it improves air quality. Researchers have also found a link between houseplants and a person’s emotional state.

According to the Royal Horticultural Society, say that ‘bringing the outdoors inside’ can offer some of the benefits that are lost by retreating indoors,” said the Daily Mail. Plants reduce stress levels, improve mood and filter polluted air. A review of the scientific evidence suggests that workers are more productive when their office is filled with greenery, and hospital patients even tolerate pain better if there is a plant on the ward.

Perhaps most importantly, plants also trap and filter pollutants that are linked to thousands of deaths a year.”

Declutter

There’s a big difference between having a few too many knickknacks on the shelf and dishes in the sink and being a full-blown hoarder, but too much clutter can definitely have an effect on your emotional state. In fact, there is a proven link between clutter and depression, researchers at UCLA’s Center on Everyday Lives and Families (CELF) discovered. Among their findings: “A link between high cortisol (stress hormone) levels in female home owners and a high density of household objects. The more stuff, the more stress women feel,” said Houselogic. “Men, on the other hand, don’t seem bothered by mess, which accounts for tensions between tidy wives and their clutter bug hubbies. Women associate a tidy home with a happy and successful family. The more dishes that pile up in the sink, the more anxious women feel.”

A few Houselogic’s easy decluttering tips include:

  • Adopt the Rule of Five. Every time you get up from your desk or walk through a room, put away five things. Or, each hour, devote five minutes to de-cluttering. At the end of the day, you’ve cleaned for an hour.”
  • Don’t let dishes pile up. “A clean sink will instantly raise your spirits and decrease your anxiety.”
  • Pare down photos. “Put snapshots in a family album, which will immediately de-clutter many flat surfaces.”
  • Aim to actually see your refrigerator again. “Researchers found a correlation between the number of items stuck to the fridge door and the amount of clutter throughout the house. Toss extra magnets, file restaurant menus, and place calendars in less conspicuous places.”

Add a water feature

Live on a busy street or have other noise you’d like to mask? Maybe you just need an easy way to add a relaxing feature to your environment. A fountain may be your answer.

“Studies show that being near water reduces stress levels. As little as five minutes with nature can help reduce stress hormones, but being near water may have a stronger impact,” said Masterplan Landscape Design. “Evaporating water produces negative ions, which are invisible, tasteless, odorless molecules that we inhale. Negative ions have been shown to boost moods and lower stress hormones.” 

If you’re building a pool, keep the fountain idea in mind. Not only will it add the de-stressing benefits to your yard and provide a great focal point, but pool fountains and waterfalls have an added benefit in helping keep water cool – great for areas where hot temps can make the pool feel like a bath by mid-summer.

Reconsider your color

Color theory shows that certain hues can bring energy and excitement while others can help us feel more relaxed and serene. For instance, if you find yourself unable to sleep in a red bedroom, blue might be a better choice.

Color can have a huge impact on our experience of a space – but that doesn’t mean it has to be colorless to be calming,” said Houzz. “Color is personal, so spend time getting to know how color (or a lack of it) affects you, and intentionally choose your home’s colors to create a tranquil feeling. For some, an all-white space would be the ultimate in calm and relaxation, while someone else may get that same calm, cool feeling in a rich mineral-green room.”

Apply the principles of Feng Shui

Color therapy, decluttering, and bringing nature indoors are all considered principles of Feng Shui, but a few more can impact how you feel at home.

“The benefits associated with the promotion of organization, relaxation and productivity that’s central to Feng Shui” could be realized by something as simple as leaving your shoes at the door – a “purposeful way of leaving all outside events and potentially negative stressors out of your home or ‘safe haven,'” said HealthCentral.

Another top tip: Create sacred sleep quarters. “Sleep deprivation is linked to maladies ranging from anxiety to heart disease to breast cancer,” they said. “Feng Shui suggests choosing a bedroom away from a noisy street and positioning the bed in the back corner of the room, diagonally opposite from the door. Additionally, while in the bedroom, avoid artificial light from electronic devices, as this stimulates the brain to stay awake.”

 

Written by Jaymi Naciri

Saying Good-bye to Your Garden

You can make parting easier by taking ideas and plants with you

Moving is a fact of life for most Americans. About 12 percent of us, or 1 in 9 – will move in any given year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Leaving the gardens we have lovingly designed and tended is a difficult part of any relocation. How do we make it easier on ourselves? What plants can we take with us? Is it best to dig them up, take cuttings or harvest seeds? These 10 tips will ease the transition and will help you take some of what you love with you – plants, ideas and inspiration for a new garden.

  1. Make a record of the garden you’re leaving. You can use a loose-leaf notebook, a bound garden journal or an online filing system that accepts notes, digital images and other information. Pick whichever form of record keeping appeals to you; you want an easy system that you will use.

Collect whatever details you have about what you’ve planted: how it succeeded (or didn’t), which plants or combinations you loved best, hardscape materials and any designs you’ve made. Gather seed packages, plant catalogs (add notes), plant labels, seed stakes, garden journals and photographs. If you’re using a digital filing system, scan the papers and file them with notes attached. If you’re using a notebook or bound journal, file them in pockets in the notebook or tape them to the pages of the journal.

  1. Take photos, videos or both. If you haven’t been shooting photos or video of your garden all along, start before you leave. Don’t forget to capture plant combinations that worked particularly well, such as this Pikes Peak Purple penstemon (Penstemon x mexicali), still blooming in southern Colorado in October, backed by the upright form and lovely fall color of little bluestem grass (Schizachyrium scoparium).

  1. Gather images from all seasons and from various times of day. You’ll want to remember how plants looked at different times in their lives and different times of the year. For example, the orange-scarlet autumn color of the skunkbush sumac (Rhus trilobata) in this photo is lovely paired with the golden blossoms of rubber rabbitbrush (Ericameria nauseosa).

Take photos at different times of day to show what was blooming at what hours, how the light fell, those great shadow patterns at sunset and the pools of shade at midday.

 

  1. Describe design elements and hardscape. Make sure to note things that you’re really pleased with, including design elements and hardscape. Did a patio come out especially well, both the materials used and the shape? Did you build raised garden beds you really loved? Take photos and make notes of a particularly successful (or unsuccessful) design element’s materials, dimensions and relationship with other elements. Don’t think you’ll remember – chances are you won’t.

 

  1. Document projects in progress. Didn’t finish a project? You can record it anyway. What did you like about it? What would you change? What was the process of planting and construction? Is the project specific to that particular site or are there elements you could use again?

Those details of how the project flowed and how it fit your expectations and what you can take away from it will influence what you do in your new garden, so make sure you record as much information as you can.

  1. Note relationships and what you’ve learned about wildlife, desirable or not. Which plants attracted the most butterflies? What was the late-blooming flower that the migrating hummingbirds focused on every year, returning to sip its nectar? What about the bulbs that were always full of tiny native bees in early spring? Which plants did the cottontails munch to the ground? What did the deer avoid?

Blossoms of the native bractless blazingstar (Mentzelia nuda var. stricta) in this photo, for instance, open in the evening and attract bumblebees to gather their pollen. Bumblebees are larger and heavier-bodied than most native bees and, thus, are more chill-tolerant and able to be active in the cooler hours of early morning and late evening. Planting flowers that attract certain pollinators is one way to ensure those species’ survival.

 

These common sunflowers (Helianthus annuus) are another example of a plant that is critical to a certain kind of wildlife. They never fail to attract goldfinches, called “wild canaries” for their chiming, bell-like calls and sweetly melodic songs. Goldfinches clamber over the flower heads and pry out the fat-rich sunflower seeds with their pointed beaks. The seeds provide critical calories and vitamins for goldfinches in their migration.

  1. Research your new planting zone and garden site. Before you move, get an idea of how different your new location will be from your current one. Is it in the same USDA plant hardiness zone? To learn more detail about climate, substrate and ecological conditions, look up what ecoregion you’ll be in on the Environmental Protection Agency’s maps. An ecoregion map is a map of an area’s natural communities, including their biological, geologic, soil and climate attributes – all useful information for gardeners.

To find your ecoregion on the EPA’s general map of the U.S., click on the region that includes your state, and then find your ecoregion from the more detailed map. (Level III ecoregions are probably the most useful for gardeners.)

 

  1. Identify favorite plants in your existing garden. Once you have an idea of the conditions in your new site, decide which favorite plants in your current garden will thrive in your new place. Then do some research. Familiarize yourself with any restrictions on transporting plants from one region to another (the National Plant Board is a place to start). Next, learn the best way to bring them to your new place: as whole plants dug up and potted, as cuttings to root, as bulbs or tubers, or as seeds. If you have time to prepare, make a spreadsheet, a list or a calendar with times of the year that are best for preparing each plant for the move.

For tough English irises, like the ones in this photo, it’s best to dig their tubers in the fall after the leaves have turned brown. If you’re not moving right away, store the tubers in breathable bags in a cool, moist place so that they won’t dry out or sprout.

 

  1. Label your selections. This seems self-evident, but in the rush of preparing for a move, you may assume that you’ll remember what those seeds are in the pill bottle or envelope. You think that you’ll remember what’s in that pot with a dormant plant and no identifying characteristics, or the zip-close bag containing cuttings wrapped in a wet paper towel, or the paper bag full of papery bulbs. Maybe you will, and maybe you won’t.

To be sure, note the name, species or variety and the date collected on a label or right on the container with a permanent marker. That way you’ll be sure you’re planting what you intended to.

  1. Take care of your selections before and during the move. If you’re bringing plants in pots, keep them watered and comfortable – not too hot or too cold. Most moving companies won’t take live plants, but they will move pots with dormant plants, so make sure your plants have what they need to survive the trip.

If you’re moving seeds, cuttings, bare-root plants, bulbs, corms or tubers, package them appropriately for their journey. Cuttings, bare-root plants, bulbs, corms or tubers need to stay moist and in the dark. Don’t allow them to freeze or broil. You don’t want them to sprout or break dormancy before you get them into the ground, and you also don’t want them to dry out. Seeds come in their own natural packaging in the form of a seed coat. But even these embryonic plants need cool and dark conditions to stay alive.

Good luck with your move and your new garden.

 

 

Written by Susan Tweit

The Sterling Garden Club Annual Plant Sale

The Sterling Garden Club will be holding their plant sale on the Sterling Common on Saturday, May 19 from 9 to noon.  Members have been busy dividing the own amazing collection of plants to provide a great variety of plant materials for your garden.  The club has a special collection of daylilies, with colors and cultivars to please the most discriminating gardeners. 

The profits from the plant sale will go to the Sterling Garden Club Scholarship Fund to help a deserving  local senior going to college.  Come early to have the best selection.

Fall Landscaping: How to Prepare Your Yard for Winter

Although it is just the end of October, and we are in the middle of our first snow storm, these landscaping ideas are important.  But you may have to work more quickly after the snow melts to everything finished.

FALL LANDSCAPTINGFall landscaping chores are your last chance to prepare your property for winter, and to protect that curb appeal you’ve worked so hard to create. So pull on some gloves, grab your tools, and get ready to mulch, prune, and plant before the next snow and frozen ground
turn the lights out on your landscaping.

Spread mulch

“Fall mulching is better for the plants than spring mulching,” says Dan Taft, owner
of The Cutting Edge in Chantilly,  Va. “It helps protect roots from frost and helps retain moisture during a cold and dry winter.”

Spread 2 to 3 inches of fresh mulch around shrubs and trees. Taft warns home
owners to avoid using free mulch from municipal piles, which often contain
disease spores; instead, buy hardwood shredded mulch from home and garden
centers, he says.

“Cheap, dump mulch mainly is made from trees that have died from disease,” Taft
says. “Many diseases will linger in the mulch, like leaf spot and pine bark
borers. You don’t want ground-up diseased plants around your landscaping.”

Remove the dead and dying

Fall isn’t the time to prune, because that encourages growth when healthy plants
should remain dormant. But don’t shelve your shears and loppers yet. Fall is
the time to neaten your landscaping before putting it to bed for the winter.

“If you remove dead landscaping in fall, you don’t have to look at it allPlants and Shrubs
winter,” Taft says.

  • Remove dead annuals.
  • Deadhead spent blooms, and cut back dead and desiccated ornamental grasses and perennials.
  •      Lightly prune dead and dying branches from shrubs and trees. Carefully
    remove dried blossoms from hydrangea, but don’t remove dead-looking
    stalks, where new buds will form in spring.
  • After the first frost, cut back tea roses to about a third of their height.

Wrap delicate shrubs

Heavy snow, ice, and high winds can dry and split your delicate and pricey shrubs. To
protect your landscaping from the winter elements:

  • Hide small plants under overturned plastic pots or buckets.
  • Wrap shrubs, such as boxwoods, in burlap.
  • Surround vulnerable trees with shredded leaves.

Take advantage of fall sales

Early fall until the ground freezes is a good time to plant trees and
shrubs. Not only do cooler weather and autumn rain put less stress on young
landscaping plants, nurseries often have sales to empty their shelves before
winter

“They need to sell every plant by Dec. 1,” Taft says. “Nurseries generally pay
a third of the price that you’re paying. So don’t be afraid to offer less than
the asking price. If you’re buying several things, the manager may give you a
break.”

Let’s hope Mother Nature gives us another few weeks of Indian Summer weather, so we can do the final clean up in our yards and be ready for Spring.

By: Lisa Kaplan Gordon

Tips and Tricks about Landscaping for Curb Appeal

A well-landscaped yard creates curb appeal and helps your property retain maximum value. Here are a few tips and tricks for sprucing up your outdoor spaces yourself.

A beautiful yard is a head-turner, no doubt about it. The good news is that even if you can’t tell a tulip from a turnip at the garden center, you can still create eye-catching curb appeal by paying attention to the basics of good landscaping.  Ignoring your yard—or doing something that’s out of character with the neighborhood—can jeopardize the assessed value of your home. 

Poorly maintained landscaping can be as much as a 5 or 10% deduction.”  Appraisers are quick to praise the allure of a well-tended lawn and good-looking landscaping when it comes time to sell your home, but most do not assign any specific increase in monetary value for upkeep.

Although landscaping will add to the appeal of the property and it may sell quicker, it’s hard to quantify specific value.   Nevertheless, most professionals agree that curb appeal and a well-maintained appearance prevent your property from losing value. Here are some suggestions for boosting the curb appeal of your yard:

Green up the grass

If your house has a front yard, make sure it‘s neat and green.  You don’t want bare spots, sprawling weeds, or an untrimmed appearance.

“It’s so simple to go to Home Depot, buy fertilizer, apply it every six weeks, and water it,” says Mitch Kalamian, a landscape designer in Huntinginton Beach, Calif. “It will green up.”

If the yard looks really scruffy, you may decide to invest in some sod. According to the National Gardening Association, the average cost of sod is 15 to 35 cents per sq. ft. If you hire a landscaper to sod your yard for you, labor will add 30% to 50% to the total cost of the project.

Another alternative is to plant low-maintenance turf grasses.  Turf grasses are durable and drought-resistant. Expect to pay $18 to $30 for enough turf grass seed to plant 1,000 sq. ft. of lawn area.

Add colorful planting beds

Flower beds add color and help enliven otherwise plain areas, such as along driveways and the edges of walkways. In general, annual flowers are a bit cheaper but must be replaced every year. Perennials cost a bit more but come back annually and usually get larger or spread with each growing season.

If you’re not sure what to plant, inquire at your local garden center. Often, they’ll have a display of bedding plants chosen for their adaptability to your area. Also, they‘ll be inexpensive because they’re in season, says Peter Mezitt, president of Weston Nurseries in Hopkinton, Mass. Try pansies in the summer, and asters and mums in the fall to add vibrant color. “That’s what we do around the entrance to our garden center,” Mezitt says.
 

Add landscape lighting

For homeowners who have made a sizeable investment in landscaping, it makes sense to think about adding another 10% to 15% to the bill for professional lighting.  “You can’t see landscaping after dark,“ says Brandon Stephens, vice president of marketing for a landscape lighting firm in Lubbock, Texas, “and buyers are not always looking at houses on a Saturday afternoon.”

The cost of a system runs from $200 for a DIY installation to more than $4,000 for a professional job. If you‘re doing it on your own, the key is to light what you want people to see, such as mature trees and flowering shrubs

Plant a tree

The value of mature trees is particularly difficult to determine. Lucco says that in his market, mature trees contribute as much as 10% of a $100,000 property’s overall value. In addition, a properly placed shade tree can shave as much as $32 a year on your energy bills. Expect to pay $50 to $100 for a young, 6- to 7-foot deciduous tree.

Many people are spending more time in the home and yard, and the time enhancing the landscaping will be repaid not only with the great curb appeal that results in a higher sale price, but also personal enjoyment in this beautiful environment.