Gift Ideas Using 5 DIY Natural Products

Check out these handmade gift ideas using natural products to make bath and beauty gifts everyone will love. These quick and easy gifts are great last-minute ideas.

5 Natural Products That Make Great Gifts

Perfect Last-Minute Gift Ideas

 

Are you in the Christmas spirit yet? The holidays are here and so is the season of giving. It’s time to trim the tree, and ponder your gifts for friends and family. If you haven’t finished your list yet, have no fear. There’s still plenty of time to fill the stockings.

Instead of hitting the stores for a shopping spree, consider making gifts. Natural beauty products are great for your friends and family. Who doesn’t love handmade gifts? Here are five of the best.

 

  1. Shampoo

 

Shampoo is beauty product that is often full of chemicals and harmful ingredients. You can actually make natural shampoos for healthy hair growth. There are great shampoo recipes that contain only natural ingredients and keep hair soft and silky, especially during the holiday season.

 

Consider adding vitamin E oil to the recipe for extra shine. Coconut oil and green tea are also great ingredients to make any type of hair more smooth. Give your friends and family natural shampoo and healthy hair goodness this year. A good hair day is a wonderful gift!

 

  1. Foot Scrub

 

Along with the holidays come long days of being on your feet. Whether it’s long walks in the snow or cocktail parties spent in high heels, feet get extra sore this time of year. Homemade foot scrub is a fun gift for friends and family.

 

A peppermint foot scrub is perfect for the holiday season. The herbs and other ingredients provide great moisture and therapy for achy feet. Peppermint essential oil is also an item you’ll love to have in your home during the winter for use for other natural remedies. Your friends and family will thank you for this scrub. Plus, the peppermint scent is a holiday must.

 

  1. Exfoliating Scrubs

 

Consider making exfoliating scrubs for the people on your list. Many commercial brands contain harsh chemicals and are bad for the skin. In all exfoliating scrubs, plastic microbeads have been banned due to their harm to the environment. Ecomyx Beads are an all-natural alternative to plastic microbeads and make a great exfoliator.

 

Give your friends and family homemade exfoliating scrubs with all natural ingredients. The scrubs are easy to personalize based. This gift helps skin look radiant all winter long!

 

  1. Bath Bombs

 

There’s nothing quite like a hot soak in a bathtub when the weather turns cold and bitter. You can find great recipes for natural bath bombs that everyone will love this Christmas. They’re basically homemade happiness in a bubble bath.

 

You can add natural herbs like mint leaves or lavender seeds, and once the bath bomb dissolves, the herbs release and coat the water. The gift of bath bombs gives a reason to take time and relax. Everyone deserves some rest and relaxation during the holidays!

  1. Lotion Bars

 

All natural lotion bars are a great handmade gift. Silky, smooth skin remedies are a luxury during winter when the cold and wind can easily dry and crack skin. With just a few ingredients, you can make natural lotion bars for anyone. They’re an ideal, last-minute gift if you’re in a hurry and need something quick — but still want it to be homemade and amazing.

Everyone loves a handmade gift for the holidays. Natural beauty gifts are a great way to give healthy, happy gifts to your friends and family. Show you care this Christmas and give the gift of handmade love. Christmas is just around the corner, so get your craft on and start making these recipes!

 

~Megan

Visit Megan at her blog, Your Wild Home!

 

 

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Avoid High Energy Bills With 6 Tips For Winter

Check out these 6 tips for winterizing your home and save money on your energy bills! It’s easy. Learn more from regular contributor, Megan Wild.

 

How to Avoid High Winter Energy Bills

With These 6 Easy Tips!

With Christmas approaching quickly, the last thing you want to deal with is high energy bills just to keep your home warm and festive for the holidays. How can you put a price on Christmas spirit through decorations, trees, and lights? It may feel priceless to you, but the power company will be cashing in on those holiday memories by charging for every kilowatt hour.

Don’t be a Grinch and take away all things Christmas — instead, look for clever ways to save money on your bill this winter.

Install a Programmable Thermostat

If you don’t have one already, invest in a programmable thermostat for your home and make sure you actually use it. Turn the heat down a bit when no one is home and set the thermostat to come on about an hour before you arrive so the home is warm and inviting when you walk in.

Additionally, consider turning the temperature down two to three degrees and wear comfortable lounge pants and long-sleeved shirts in the house to stay warmer. Research shows that you could save as much as ten dollars per degree on your energy bill each month.

Seal Any Leaks

The windows and doors of your home may be costing you additional heating expenses each month. You don’t want to pay to heat up the outside of your home, so why are you letting heat escape? What’s even worse is that, while you’re paying for the heat to leave your home, you’re also allowing cold air to enter, which creates a higher daily need for electricity.

The best thing you can do to reduce this problem is to seal up your windows and doors to prevent cold air from entering and hot air from escaping. To seal window and door leaks, you can use caulk and weather stripping in most cases. If the sealing materials don’t make much of a difference, it may be time to look into double-paned windows, which are more energy-efficient and less drafty.

Another tip that’s often overlooked when it comes to your doors and windows letting cold air in is something that won’t cost you any money and very little time. Lock them up! When you lock your windows and doors, they close more tightly than when they’re unlocked. The tighter closure makes them push against the weather stripping harder, reducing the amount of cold air that comes in.

Invest in Routine Maintenance

Be sure that you’re getting your heating system serviced each year. A professional can come out and inspect your system and do any servicing it needs to keep it running efficiently all winter long.

Taking the time to do this each year not only reduces your heating bill because the heating system is more efficient, but it also may help you find heating repair needs before you end up without heat when there’s a foot of snow on the ground. Just think of routine maintenance as a little insurance policy for a cozy winter at home.

Be Aware of the Fireplace

Your fireplace isn’t just an entry point for Santa this holiday season — it could also be letting in cold air and increasing your heating bill. Unless you have a fire burning, be sure to close the damper in your fireplace to prevent cold air from coming in full-force.

When you have your heating system serviced each year, go ahead and call in a professional to inspect your fireplace and clean and seal it if necessary. The professional will know which areas cause the most drafts and how to seal them without endangering your family.

Modernize Your Christmas Lights

You may think you save a little money by using the same lights each year and just replacing a bulb here and there, but are you really? If you’re using standard Christmas lights that have been around for decades, you could be using more power than you actually need to make your home look beautiful.

Throw those lights out and invest in some LED holiday lights that are Energy Star qualified to reduce your power consumption. Energy Star-Certified lights use 75% less energy than your traditional incandescent lights, are cool to the touch and are known to last as much as 10 times longer than traditional lights.

These lights are more expensive, but the investment will pay off when you look at your power bill in January.

Use Your Ceiling Fans

You may think that your ceiling fan is just something handy to have in the summer to keep air moving in your home, but that’s not entirely true. In the winter months, you should flip the switch on your ceiling fan to have the blades turn clockwise. The blades will produce an updraft, forcing the warmer air at the ceiling down below, making the room feel warmer.

These are just a few ways to save on your energy bills. Instead of robbing your family of those magical Christmas memories of twinkling lights and fun decorations, take a little time to put these tips into action. With the reduced costs, your wallet may just grow three sizes this month!

 

~Megan

Visit Megan at her blog, Your Wild Home!

 

 

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Renewable Energy – Make The Switch Over Winter

Interested in switching to renewable energy? Learn more about the different types, and if they will work for you. Find out how to make the switch, get tips from Megan.

How to Make the Switch to Renewable Energy

Over the Winter and Save

 

If you’re like many homeowners out there, you know the importance of transitioning your household to renewable energy, but you’re really not sure where to begin. All the information out there can is a little overwhelming. What kind of system should you change to?

Do you want wind power? Solar Power? Would they even work in your area? How much will the installation cost? With all these questions running through your head, it’s understandable that you wonder if renewable energy is even worth the time and effort.

You’ll be relieved to find out that transitioning to renewable energy really isn’t as difficult as it may seem, and won’t cost you an arm and a leg. All it takes is a few small changes within your home, and you’ll be on the way to reducing your carbon footprint — and simultaneously saving some dollars in the process.

Here are some small and large changes you can undertake to get your household on track to 100% clean energy.

Easy Changes

Not all improvements for your home have to be major changes. Some of the quickest and most efficient ways to save on your energy bill are done with the simplest of transitions.

 

  1. Switch the Light Bulbs

One of the easiest things you can do to cutting down on energy costs and make your house more energy efficient is switching out traditional light bulbs for energy-saving ones. These could be LED lights, CFLs or halogen incandescent lighting, which last years longer than traditional light bulbs, saving you money.

If you’re unsure of what type of light bulb you should look for, make sure that it has the ENERGY STAR label given by the EPA.

  1. Inspect Your Home

Whether you have a newer or older home, an easy way to reduce energy waste during the winter months is to check the caulking on all your windows, doors and weather stripping and look for any weak spots and air leaks. It’s an easy fix that has a big impact on how hard your heating system runs during the winter. Besides, who wouldn’t want to eliminate those chilly drafts? Cozy is so much better for you and the environment.

  1. Track Your Carbon Footprint

Tracking your carbon footprint is a great way to get the whole family involved in making smarter choices about energy use. The EPA has even made it super simple by developing a calculator specifically for the home. Knowing your current CO2 emissions level is exactly what you need to begin making changes, which could be as simple as having a family checklist for turning off devices at night or committing to using less electricity.

Ambitious Changes

By slightly more ambitious, this means that you will want to look at some changes that might require a bit of a larger investment or implementation, but will still ultimately save your household money and be eco-friendly.

  1. Switch to Energy Efficient Appliances

Heating your home during the cold winter months can have a huge impact on your energy bill — and ultimately your bank account. Use the same ENERGY STAR method to find heating and cooling systems, washer/dryers and even dishwashers that are more energy efficient. This will be the most effective in driving down the cost of your monthly energy bill.

However, if replacing all of those units at once isn’t in the cards, you can also take simple steps to maintain your existing units by investing in a programmable thermostat, changing out air filters regularly or just having an expert out for regular maintenance.

  1. Switching to Battery Power

One of the great innovations from Tesla is a home battery, which you can power your home from to be more energy efficient. It sounds a bit too good to be true, but it’s actually rather easy to install and can help your home become almost 100% energy efficient. The Tesla Powerwall is a rechargeable battery that can take itself off the power grid periodically to save on energy costs and also cut down on your household energy use. The newest model can run a two-bedroom household for an entire day.

Large-Scale Changes

Even though these choices are the most ambitious of the lot, doesn’t mean they’re extremely difficult. Switching completely to clean energy will just be a larger investment than the previous options, but will have a huge payoff for your pocket and the planet.

Invest in Solar Power

Solar energy is one of the easiest ways to convert your home to 100% clean energy. Installing a full solar panel system can even transition how your heating and cooling system run. In fact, if you invest in solar energy, you can receive a 30% tax deduction from the government. You can even couple your efforts together with the Tesla Powerwall. The battery will store the energy taken from the solar panels, and use it when on days when energy production is lower.

Harness the Wind

Energy generated from the wind doesn’t always have to come from the huge wind farms you see across the US. There are also at-home options for you to incorporate into your household. Wind power is actually more stable than solar power, so if reliability is one of your concerns, wind energy might be a better choice.

Whatever additions or changes you decide to make to make your home more eco-friendly, it’s important that you try. Not only is it beneficial to your monthly budget, but you‘ll also do your part to help reduce CO2 emissions across the country, which is a very achievable goal. Everyone just needs to do their part.

 

~Megan

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Tips To Reduce Possible Water Damage

Winter is coming; prepare now for the spring thaw. Get tips on reducing the possibility of water damage to help protect your home and property.

Tips To Reduce Possible Water Damage

Help protect your home and property

 

As the cold of fall and winter settles in, most are consumed with the worry of snow. Why? Because spring happens. It’s inevitable. For most people who inhabit the frigid winter areas to the north, it is eagerly anticipated, with days marked off on a calendar and seedlings warming in a window. Every day there is still snow on the ground, they measure it, marking the thaw.

No matter where you live, however, spring thaw means rivers can overflow and flood. Even without a river overflowing, days of spring rains or even snow melting around the foundation of your home can cause flooding. That’s why autumn before the snow falls or winter rains begin, is the perfect time to protect your home and property from potential water damage.

From the Bottom Up

When cleaning your house, you probably start at the top and work your way down so when you clean your ceiling fan blades, you can vacuum any dust that falls. However, a house is built from the foundation up so the builder knows it will be on solid ground. When protecting your home from potential water damage, you want to make sure your foundation stays firm.

You may have already taken steps to direct rain gutters away from your foundation, but you can also take advantage of low spots on your property by creating a dry creek bed. This can direct water away from your house. You can also try a rain garden in the low spots, which uses native plants that love the occasionally soggy soil. You may even install an underground pipe that drains water buildup in a low spot even farther away. If water persistently builds up on your driveway and flows into your garage, consider re-paving with gravel or pavers that allow water to get into the ground below.

Sometimes, no matter how much you try to protect your foundation, spring thaw can still cause basements to flood. As soon as you can, turn off all electricity to the house before you step into standing water in the basement. Remove the water as quickly as you can to prevent mold and other bacteria from growing in the damp walls and floor. Items that have been waterlogged need to be dried out or disposed of, including baseboards, furniture or carpeting.

In Over Your Head

Before snow or ice prevents you from getting to your roof’s rain gutters, make sure they are cleared of any debris that would block melting snow from draining off, or cause ice to build up and lift shingles. Inspect the ceilings in all rooms of the house, especially inside closets where water stains may be hidden until the damage has become significant. Look for any discoloration in ceiling paint. Windows should also be inspected for water leaks which can run inside walls undetected and lead to mold growth.

Skylights, chimney flashing, and vents in the attic can also leak unnoticed until there is significant damage to a ceiling. Look for signs of moisture or rust around any ceiling vents, or vents that persistently drip water when it rains. Have your attic inspected periodically, especially along joists that may allow water to run from the actual leak to another part of the attic. Indications of water leaks in the attic can be dark stains on wood, mold or obvious water.

It’s important to remember that damage also doesn’t necessarily just exist inside your home. Have you been wondering why your garden doesn’t bloom each spring and summer? The flow of water in your yard could be impacting your plants negatively if they’re getting too much (or not enough) due to the slopes and dips of your yard.

Protecting your home and garden from potential water damage can be as simple as creative landscaping and routine inspections. Preventing mold from water damage is always much easier than removing mold after the fact.

 

~Megan

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Potted Plants Keep Your Deck Colorful And Festive

Keep gardening through the autumn and winter months with potted plants. get ideas for colorful and festive ways to make your deck a garden to enjoy. Find out how from our regular contributor, Megan Wild.

Potted Plants

Keep Your Deck Colorful and Festive

Just because the autumn weather has set in doesn’t mean you have to put away your gardening tools until next year. In fact, there are actually loads of ideas to keep your deck looking bright and festive throughout the winter. With colorful, creative and decorative planters and the right choice of greenery, it can even be an activity for the whole family to enjoy.

Setting the Stage for Your Perfect Garden

Before you run out and buy out all the potted plants at your local greenhouse, make sure you’ve prepared your deck space properly. This can entail making sure the decking is properly sealed and prepared to handle multiple planters that will be watered periodically. Without adequately sealing, the constant watering of greenery on your deck can trap moisture in the wood and eventually cause the wood to rot.

To cut down on water use and make your garden more sustainable over the winter months, consider incorporating rain barrels or a rain garden to catch water runoff. This will be especially helpful during months when the snow melts and the spring thaw begins. You can also do research on which native plants in your area require less watering and can withstand heartier temperatures.

Now that you’ve prepped your space and have your plant ideas in mind, here are five easy and fun ideas to make your deck space vibrant and colorful for the autumn into the winter.

  1. Personalize Your Planter

Make it a family affair and repurpose an old cardboard letter to fill with your favorite plants in the shape of your family’s last name. Each member of the family can pick out their favorite addition to the planter, making it perfectly unique to your garden deck.

  1. Choose Bold Colors

One of the best things about fall plants is you have a great variety of succulents that have deep, rich colors of wines, greens and golds. Check this great list of thrillers, fillers and spillers so you have the best variety to put into your planter. They are sure to be eye-catching.

  1. Recycle Materials to Create a Unique Look

You can really make a statement and give new life to different materials by getting a little creative with your planter choices. For example, an old red wagon is great for succulents and will give your deck a fun conversation piece — and maybe a new purpose for old toys no longer in service.

  1. Get a Little Rustic With Reclaimed Wood

Reclaimed wood is such a versatile material and is another way to breathe new life into used materials. You can build your own reclaimed wood planter, or even put together a great little end table to display your recently potted bright chrysanthemums and deep Heucherella sweet tea. Make it fun for the kids too and add in a painting activity for the boards. You can personalize them each or just use solid colors — it’ll be a fun decision to make together.

  1. Utilize All Your Space

Even if you have a small deck space to work with, you can still find ways to have a great garden and utilize your available space. Grow bags are a great way to do this. They are a vertical way to grow anything from herbs to flowers and can add a homey look to any deck, especially in an urban setting.

Whether you’ve got a large or small space to work with, there are great options out there to make your deck garden unique and colorful. You can also do so while keeping the environment in mind with sustainable watering systems and responsible plant choice. And finally, it’s also an activity that can be fun for the whole family.

 

~Megan

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5 Tips To Growing Gourds In Your Garden

Celebrate Fall in your garden! Here are 5 great tips to growing gourds in your garden, brought to us by regular contributor, Megan Wild.

 

Growing Gourds – Celebrate Fall In Your Garden

Get 5 Great Tips!

 

Tips for Growing Gourds

You’ve probably started seeing them in fall décor, and in the spring you might have seen them put out for birds to nest in. You don’t need to shell out money for these decorative staples: Did you know you can grow your own ornamental gourds as a fun project with your children, or just to have a surplus for decorating next season? While they have a long growing period before the gourds can be harvested, they are very easy to start from seeds.

Here’s how you can grow your own gourds and enjoy them from season to season.

Getting to Know Your Gourds

Gourds are a vining fruit that actually includes watermelons, pumpkins, squash, melons and cucumbers. There are three basic types of gourds that are grown for decoration or for crafts and utensils.

  1. Vegetable sponge gourds (luffa) have an exterior shell that is removed after they are harvested. It is the center of the gourd that is used as a sponge. Once dried, the luffa sponge can be used as an exfoliating scrub when bathing. If you make your own soap, you can also slice a luffa and pour your homemade soap over it in a mold to make an exfoliating bar.
  1. Ornamental gourds are typically the ones used in decorating. They can be unusually shaped and brightly colored. Small ornamental gourds can be dried and preserved, but large ornamental gourds will not be suitable for drying.
  1. Utilitarian gourds will be green while they grow, but will dry to a brown color with a tough shell. These can be used for bird houses, crafts and if left to grow on the ground with a flat side, can also be cut in half to use for bowls.

Constructing Your Garden

Since gourds are big sun lovers, you should select an area in your yard that gets full sun with well-drained soil. You may also want to enrich the soil with compost or organic material. If you intend to use your gourds for decoration, you should construct a trellis that will support your growing gourds, unless you are planning to grow utilitarian gourds for bowls.

Preparing the Seeds

Gourd seeds can have a hard outer shell, which can cause them to take an extra-long time to germinate. To help speed up the process, you can scarify them by roughing up the surface with sandpaper or a nail file. You will need to gently rough up both sides of the seed. After you have done that, soak them in a bowl of lukewarm water for 24 hours, and then let them completely dry so they won’t rot before they sprout.

Caring for Your Plants

If you have a long winter, you can start your seeds indoors. Be sure to wait until all danger of frost is gone before planting them in your garden. Since gourds are a vine, they will need plenty of room in the garden if you will be letting them grow on the ground. If you will be using a trellis, make sure it will support the weight of your growing crop.

While they can be resistant to pests and disease, they don’t like weeds, so be sure to weed your garden regularly. If you are growing in a climate that tends to be extremely hot and dry, you will want to make sure your gourds get plenty of TLC and water.

Gathering Your Harvest

If you plan on drying, or curing, your gourds, you should start by leaving them on the vine as long as possible. Check them every few days to make sure they haven’t started to rot or have become a snack for wildlife. A good indication that your gourd is ready to cut is when the vine has turned brown. Curing gourds can take a while, so be patient and don’t try to rush them. You may want to plan on using your dried gourds the year following the harvest to give them sufficient time to dry.

If you are growing gourds for decoration, don’t seal them with any kind of varnish or shellac, since that will seal in moisture and cause them to rot. If you want them to appear polished, you can use a liquid floor wax instead.

Growing gourds for decoration and crafting can become a fun hobby for novice gardeners, bird lovers and children. It can also become a lucrative business depending on your creative skills and imagination. With so many different uses for gourds, as well as their various colors and sizes, the only limit to what you can make with them is what you don’t think of.

 

See what Lorelai does with her pumpkins. Click HERE!

 

~Megan

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How-To Create A Terrarium For Your Home

There is just something wonderful about having plants indoors, isn’t there? Well, regular contributor, Megan Wild, is here to show us an easy way to create a terrarium for your home.

 

How to Create a Terrarium for Your Home

An Easy DIY  to Beautify Your Home

If you’re a lover of the environment, it’s not as difficult as you might think to bring a little slice of nature into your home. Even the smallest apartment has room for a miniature garden, and the idea is actually pretty trendy these days.

Regular contact with nature is shown to help us de-stress and chill out, and having plants around can provide some of those same effects in indoor spaces. Not only that, but plant life can also improve the quality of your indoor air. Plus, this is a great activity for date night or an activity that can easily fit into your staycation schedule if you’re trying to stay within a budget.

So how do you bring a garden into your apartment, especially if it’s small? One cool way is by creating your own terrarium, a glass container for plants that is easy to put together and even easier to take care of.

Choose a Container

Before you gather your other materials, begin by deciding on a glass container. You can purchase one from a craft or antique store, or just use whatever interesting container you might have lying around. Fishbowls, old coffee pots, mason jars and clear vases are all viable options.

Consider whether you’d prefer an open terrarium or one sealed with a lid. Sealed terrariums are unique in that they have the potential to house a small-scale water system. The transparent glass lets in light and heat, which evaporates the water inside and causes it to condense on the walls of the container. Eventually this water will rain back down onto the plants and repeat the cycle.

What Kind of Plants Should You Use?

You really can’t go wrong with any type of plant as long as it’s small enough to fit inside your container. Make sure it won’t grow too tall!

Remember that different types of plants will need different amounts of water and different varieties of soil. Do a bit of research before you begin to put your terrarium together.

Make Your Own Terrarium

You will need the following materials:

  • Glass container
  • Small plants
  • Stones, pebbles, sand, glass chunks or aquarium gravel for drainage
  • Crushed activated charcoal to keep soil fresh
  • Soil
  • Optional landscaping pieces such as moss or decorative figures

  1. Prepare Your Container

Before you start filling your container with materials, it’s important to plan out your arrangement. Consider how your plants will fit inside and make sure they’re not overcrowded. You’ll probably want some negative space to fit in some decoration pieces.

Are you planning to hang your terrarium? If so, make sure to set up the proper hooks so that your terrarium is secure. Make sure to choose a spot that is sunny, such as next to a window. You should also thoroughly wash your container so there isn’t any unwanted residue that could potentially harm your plants or damage your soil.

  1. Add Drainage Layers

The bottom layer of your terrarium should be made up of rocks or sand. The exact amount will vary depending on the size of your container, but typically an inch or two will suffice.

This layer allows water to flow through the soil and into the bottom of the container to keep your plants from drowning.

  1. Add Charcoal

Activated charcoal can be found in gardening stores, in pet supply stores as a supplement for aquarium filters or online. It can come in shards or in powder form – either type will work for your terrarium.

Use enough to create a layer that covers your drainage layer. The charcoal reduces bacteria and fungi and keeps your soil healthy and smelling fresh.

  1. Add Soil

The type and amount of soil you should use will vary based on the types of plants with which you are working.

If you are replanting store-bought plants, your soil layer should be approximately as high as the pots your plants came in.

  1. Plant

Break up any large clumps of soil clinging to your plants’ roots. If your plants have multiple stems, you can choose to break them up into multiple smaller parts – just be gentle!

Use scissors, pruning shears or a sharp knife to trim and loosen the roots if they are particularly long.

Dig out a space in the soil to bury the roots, avoiding letting them touch the edges of the container if you can. This gives them more space to expand as your plant grows.

  1. Decorate

Finally, feel free to add a personal touch to your miniature garden. Moss or other groundcover can add a more natural touch, but you can also incorporate little toys and figurines, more stones or pretty much anything you can think of. Be creative!

That’s all there is to it. With a little bit of work, you can bring the beauty and benefits of a natural garden into your apartment or home.

 

~Megan

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Throwing An End-of-Summer Party

Give summer a last hurrah by throwing an end-of-summer party! Find great tips and ideas from our regular contributor, Megan Wild.

 

Tips for Throwing an End-of-Summer Party

Say Good-bye to Summer with a Festive Bash!

 

Summer is starting to wind down. It may seem like it’s only been here for about three days, but you can still squeeze a few small drops of summertime fun out of it! While Labor Day has already passed, we still have a few more weeks of reasonable temperature left, so get your friends together to go out with a bang!

Go With a Summery Theme

You don’t have to choose a theme, of course, but it does make the whole party feel a bit more cohesive. Tropical is a pretty clear choice, too, but you can always branch out some. Beach themes, rainbows, flowers or even something different, like fairies, can make for a really fun summer party.

Even if you don’t want to do an actual theme, try to pick a color scheme to stick to. It’ll wow guests without making too much extra work for the hostess (or host)!

Make Use of the Summer Produce

The end of summer is prime time for a few choice food options. Melons are always a big hit now, and tomatoes are ripe for the plucking. This is also the best time of year for things like zucchini and peaches. Try making dishes with these options, like Watermelon, Blueberry & Feta Salad, or perhaps some of these End-of-Summer Recipes. A seasonal produce guide can help you plan your menu for the summer party, especially since produce that’s in season will be cheaper!

Make Serving Simple

The key to simple self-serve is to space things out. Try and place things around so that people can pick and choose where they’d like to go. A table by the grill, one near the fire pit, drinks by a flower bed and a few appetizers close to the door or gate should do it. It keeps everyone from having to crowd around one area and gets the conversation flowing as everyone has a chance to talk.

You can even set up a kids’ area near some toys to keep the little ones entertained! If you plan to have lots of kids for a birthday party or some other family-friendly event, make eating fun, too! A big box of crayons and a tablecloth made of paper means little ones can spend their time playing instead of asking for the next activity.

Create the Right Atmosphere

There are really two aspects to creating a fun-going atmosphere: music and lighting. No matter what, you can’t go wrong with lanterns and string lights, or even this DIY Solar Lamp. When evening starts to set in, break out a few candles, and don’t be afraid to use the citronella ones! If you already have outdoor lighting, such as solar-powered garden lights, those should help add a dreamy atmosphere to your fun.

Of course, lighting isn’t everything. Music sets the mood before sunset, and even before you can see the festivities! Birthday parties should be fun, with dance music for adults or kids’ music to get little toes tapping. A swanky garden party will sound elegant from the driveway with classical instrumentals, and a laid-back barbecue will always be fun with a classic rock playlist.

Keep Bugs at Bay

No one likes to spend a party swatting away mosquitoes or fishing bugs out of their drinks. The end-of-summer always seems to be when the bugs get the most aggressive, as well, so do what you can to keep people bug-free. The most common idea is citronella candles, and they do work wonderfully. However, you can also offer other options.

Put out Bug Umbrellas, paper cupcake wraps to cover drinks, and try to incorporate some insect repelling herbs, like mint and rosemary, into the food. Insects don’t care for those smells, and it’ll help drive them away. Besides, there’s nothing as good as a honey-mint drizzle over fresh fruit salad! You can also check out these 35 Plants That Repel Mosquitoes.

Show off the Last of the Flowers

While autumn does bring some beautiful colors, nothing really beats the flowers from summer. Use this last shindig as an excuse to show off the last of the blooms around you.

If you’re lucky enough to have plenty of flowers still in the garden, plan to have some of the gathering spots around them. Place food and drinks near your late bloomers to draw people close to them. If your flowers aren’t nearby, then snip off some blooms and place them around. A few small, scattered arrangements add an air of whimsy without making the florals seem over-the-top–a perfect touch for your summer party.

Label It!

Many people don’t automatically announce a food allergy, especially if it’s not life-threatening. Others might be trying to stick to a specific diet. For those reasons, try to label things. It doesn’t have to be laborious, but some kind of simple system can be very helpful. A few different groups of things like “Vegetarian,” “Vegan” or “Allergen-Free” can save everyone an enormous headache, and keep them all safe. If that doesn’t fit with your setup, try a simple menu instead.

An end-of-summer bash is the perfect way to say goodbye to the warm weather. Remember to consider it from the guests’ point of view. The biggest factors are food, music and entertainment. Everything else is just gravy. So get outside and soak up the sun!

 

~Megan

Visit Megan at her blog, Your Wild Home!

 

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5 Most Valuable Home Improvement Investments

A garden beautifies your home. Get a few key tools to make the most of time and energy, and ensure you have the right tools for the gardening job.

5 of the Most Valuable Home Improvement Investments

 

Working on the house and getting out in the garden is a great way to get some fresh air with a side of meditation. Plus, you get a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment when a task is completed.

To help you make the most of the time and energy you spend on your home and garden projects, ensure you have the right tools for the job.

You don’t need to get overwhelmed by the hundreds of tools on the market, and you certainly don’t need to break the bank buying them all. Instead, get a few key tools and you’ll make your gardening easier and faster.

Here are five tools to start with:

  1. Work Gloves

There are many types, brands and price points when it comes to work gloves — the key is to get a pair. They won’t last forever and you’ll learn what style and size you like.

They protect your hands from thorns and thistles on plants, blisters from wear and tear, and they shield you from dangerous substances such as fertilizers and other chemicals.

If you injure your hands, you won’t be able to accomplish the tasks you set out to. So make sure to cover up your most useful tools — your hands! Then, you’ll be able to work harder and longer.

  1. Power Drill

No gardener and DIY-er should be without a power drill. These easy-to-use tools help make quick work of building a garden box, fixing a broken fence or hanging a trellis.

It’ll save your arms, wrists and hands from the laborious work of twisting in screws by hand, and can prevent wood from splitting when nails get hammered into place.

There are many options when buying a drill. Don’t be fooled into thinking you need a pink drill — just find a good, reliable, user-friendly one and you’ll be set.

  1. Hand Rake

This small hand tool is great for garden preparation and maintenance. It’s one of many kinds of rakes, but is probably the smallest one you’ll find.

It usually comes with three prongs on it, which you use to break up soil when you prep it for planting or for the winter. It also comes in handy with weeding, as it allows you to loosen and pull unwanted vegetation from around your flowers and veggies.

  1. Air Compressor

This appliance is versatile in its uses around the home and yard. When hooked up to the right attachment, an air compressor can become a pesticide sprayer, nail gun, a power washer, a paint sprayer and a tire pump.

As there are various models and sizes of air compressors, so make sure you rent one first to figure out which one fits your needs and space. While smaller models can be easier to move, larger models can accommodate more tools and have varying levels of power. So, make sure to do your research on its uses before making a final investment.

  1. Shovel

Get a shovel to help with jobs involving lifting and moving different materials, including gravel and dirt.

A shovel is handy when you’re building new landscaping or changing up what you’ve already got in your yard. It’s also helpful when you’re prepping a garden space for planting or getting it ready for winter dormancy.

Before you buy, check out your options and make sure you pick it up and try it out — seriously! You want to make sure the various parts of the shovel are a good fit for you. Ensure the grip is comfortable in your hand and the handle is the right length.

Getting a project done is a heck of a lot easier when you have the right tools for the job. Invest in these five key versatile tools and they’ll help to get you started. Although they aren’t the only tools you can use in your next project, they’ll assist you in making quicker work of your to-do list.

 

~Megan

Visit Megan at her blog, Your Wild Home!

 

 

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Plant Diseases – How To Identify Them In Your Garden

Learn how-to identify common plant diseases. And get prevention and disposal tips from our regular contributor, Megan Wild.

 

 

How to Identify Garden Plant Diseases

Identification, Prevention, and Disposal

 

Gardening can be a true pleasure. It gets you outdoors to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine, but it isn’t always easy. Whether you choose to grow fruit, flowers or a little bit of both in a large vegetable plot, you’re dependent on the weather and soil conditions for a large part of your success. Even if you get all the rain you need and avoid ill-timed frosts and freezes, your garden can fall subject to insect damage and plant diseases.

 

Luckily, identifying plant diseases is easier than ever with the help of the internet. Early identification and treatment are the best way to save your plants from imminent disaster. Check out these tips for preventing plant diseases and treating the most common sources of distress for gardeners.

 

Basic Prevention Methods

 

Strong plants are less likely to succumb to disease, so your prevention plan should start from the moment you plant the seeds. Choose plant varieties that are disease resistant and well suited for your growing area. For example, if you live in a dry area, choose drought-hardy varieties. Consider selecting native plants that will work best in your soil and climate.

 

Once your seeds have been sown and transplants set out, make sure your plants receive adequate water and fertilizer throughout the growing season to keep them strong and healthy. Some plants are light feeders while others need extra nutrients, so do a little research to know how to care for each of your plants. Make sure to prevent invasive species from getting into your garden.

 

Common Plant Diseases

 

If your plants are wilting or discolored despite your best efforts, you might be dealing with an infection. Check your plants for signs of insect damage first — you’ll usually be able to see bugs, eggs or holes in the leaves. Once you’ve ruled out the creepy-crawlies, compare your plant’s issues to these common diseases to diagnose the problem:

  • Powdery Mildew: This fungal infection covers plant leaves with a white, powdery substance. It’s common in periods of high humidity when plants are stressed by drought. Keep plants watered and prune to improve airflow.
  • Black Spot: The bane of rose gardeners everywhere, black spot is another fungal infection that strikes leaves subjected to too much moisture. Water roses directly at ground level and remove infected leaves to prevent its spread.
  • Tomato Blight: This fast-spreading disease begins as dark brown spots on the leaves of tomato and potato vines. The fungus overwinters in the soil and spreads across plants from the ground up, causing it to lose leaves and eventually die. Remove infected plants to prevent its spread.
  • White Mold: This fungus grows in wet conditions and looks like a cottony patch on your plants blossoms or leaves. Use drip irrigation instead of overhead watering to keep leaves dry, and give plants plenty of space to increase airflow and keep white mold at bay.

 

Disposing of Diseased Plants

After carefully tending your garden all year, I know how painful it can be to have to say goodbye to once promising plants. Pruning off a portion of your favorite plants — or worse, uprooting them entirely — is never ideal. Disease prevention often requires gardeners to make hard choices to prevent infections from taking over your entire garden.

 

There are a few methods you can use when removing diseased plants from your garden; they include composting or burning. Many choose to avoid composting because if the diseased or invasive plant has ripe seeds, because in the right conditions, the plant could still germinate. If you choose to burn these plants, a wood grinder can make quick work of large of diseased plants, bush branches, or tree parts, making them easier to fit into your fire pit or burn pile.

 

In the end, it’s better to lose one plant than all of them. Each time you deal with a new disease or pest, you have the opportunity to do some research and learn more about your garden. Soon you’ll be armed with a wealth of experience and experimentation that leads you to the perfect, thriving garden for your particular microclimate.

 

~Megan

Visit Megan at her blog, Your Wild Home!

 

 

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