Backyard Tips: Yearly Planting Calendar


Want a beautiful garden that stays healthy and looks great all year? Use this calendar to know what to plant and when.

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BACKYARD TIPS: YEARLY PLANTING CALENDAR

Spring has only just begun, but it’s never too early to garden. If you live in a warm region, you can garden all year round, but even if you live in a cold, northerly climate, you can get a jumpstart on a lush, healthy garden by planning now. Read on for tips to create the garden of your dreams.

FIND YOUR HARDINESS ZONES AND FROST DATES

Wondering how you can tell when to plant flowers, veggies, fruits, and herbs outdoors? Use the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map to find out which plants are most likely to do well in your local climate. As you can see from the map, the warmer the region, the higher the zone number. Hardiness zones are based on the average minimum temperatures in that region.

Frost dates, or the most likely dates of the first and last frosts of the winter season, are based on hardiness zones. In zones 5a and 5b, for example, the last frost usually happens in the first two weeks of April, while the first frost will most likely occur in the last two weeks of October. You should start planting your garden after the last frost and expect the season to end with the first frost.

CHOOSE THE RIGHT PLANTS

You can use hardiness zones to choose plants that will thrive in your climate. If you live in a zone with minimum temperatures below freezing, choose frost-hardy perennials that will survive cold winter temperatures to come back strong in the spring. If you live in a tropical or subtropical region, you should still pay attention to the plant’s hardiness rating. Some plants thrive in a warm climate, but others require periods of cold weather to thrive, and some seeds, like lavender, germinate best if exposed to cold.

CALCULATE PLANTING DATES

Calculate your planting dates based on when you hope to put seeds, seedlings, and young plants in the soil. Some vegetables, herbs, and flowers do best when started indoors, and you’ll need to do this about six weeks before your outdoor planting date.

For many vegetables, flowers, and herbs, you can schedule your planting dates so they’re after the last frost, but keep in mind that different kinds of plants will need different outdoor planting dates, and build out your planting calendar accordingly. For example, peas, carrots, and some lettuces like colder weather and will need to be planted outdoors early in the season, perhaps even before the last frost. Because cool-weather vegetables and greens tend to mature relatively quickly, you may be able to get a bumper crop by sowing them anew in the late summer.

Other plants, like corn, tomatoes, and cantaloupe like warm weather and should be planted a few weeks after the last frost when the soil has warmed up. Decide what you’re going to plant this spring well in advance and check seed packets, plant labels, or the internet to determine the best time of year to plant each specific variety. Weather isn’t the only consideration — some vegetables, like pumpkins, take a long time to grow, so you should make sure that you plant them while there are still plenty of days left in the planting season for them to mature.

If you live in a zone with minimum temperatures above freezing, you can enjoy two growing seasons. Plant vegetables and herbs in the spring for a summer crop and again in the fall for a winter crop. Choose tropical flowers, shrubs, and trees for landscaping.

START SEEDS INDOORS

Many vegetables, flowers, and fruits can be sown directly into the ground from seed, but others will do best if started indoors and transplanted outside. Start seeds for tomatoes, broccoli, brussels sprouts, eggplant, cauliflower, cabbage, peppers, lettuce, watermelon, swiss chard, and pumpkins indoors six to eight weeks before your planned outdoor planting date. Some plants, especially peppers and tomatoes, are difficult to grow from seed, so you may want to buy seedlings instead. Check seed packets to determine which seeds can be sown directly into the soil and which should be started indoors.

If you want to grow a productive garden this year, you need to develop a planting calendar based on your region’s climate and the plants you hope to cultivate. Do your research to determine which vegetables, fruits, herbs, and flowers you want to grow in your garden this year. Don’t procrastinate, because before you know it, it’ll be time to start planting.

Spring Cleaning? Here are the Best Closet Organization Systems


We all know what it’s like to be afraid to open our closets for fear of everything falling out. Closets can be one of the hardest parts of a home to keep organized and looking good. Check out the best closet organizers and see which one will work best for your home.

Closets provide most of the storage space in the modern home, whether it’s for clothes, shoes, and accessories in the bedroom or food and spices in the pantry. A well-organized closet looks good and can save you valuable time. Sometimes we just need a little help to get the closet of our dreams—and keep it that way.

But what is the best wardrobe closet organizer for your organizing style and household? Closet organizers vary widely in cost, size, and materials, so it really just depends on your budget and preference. Here we’ll cover some of the best closet organization systems for bedroom closets, along with general closet organization ideas. Let’s get organized!

BEST BUDGET CLOSET ORGANIZER SYSTEMS

When it comes to simple, affordable closet organization systems, you can’t go wrong with ClosetMaid. ClosetMaid has been making closet systems since 1965. Their systems work great, whether you’re looking for a walk-in closet organizer, a closet organizer with drawers, or something simpler like small closet organizer accessories. The best thing about ClosetMaid storage solutions is that their systems can be modified, expanded, or reconfigured as your needs change.

The adjustable ClosetMaid 16” Organizer and Drawer Kit, made of laminated wood, is a sturdy storage solution that includes three shelves and support kits, two drawers, and three clothes rods. The ClosetMaid Fixed Mount Closet Organizer, made of vinyl-coated steel, offers less flexibility in terms of modification but is more affordable and comes with a shoe rack. These types of racks are great for organizing shoes in a closet. If you’re sharing a closet or are simply a shoe lover, you could also consider purchasing a few more standalone shoe racks to make sure every pair has its place.

Rubbermaid also makes affordable closet organizers, and they’re available from popular retailers like Walmart and Amazon. With a range of options, quick installation, and easy reconfiguration, Rubbermaid closet systems will give you the space you need in your bedroom, pantry, laundry room, or other storage areas.

BEST CUSTOM CLOSET ORGANIZATION SYSTEMS

As with most things, you can spend as much on a closet organization system as you want—the options are almost endless. Custom closet systems are an excellent option for an oddly shaped or corner closet as well as small closets.

If you’re looking for a system that’s perfectly tailored to your needs and constructed out of the highest-quality materials, a custom closet organizer from a manufacturer like Closet Factory might be for you. Closet Factory designs custom systems for reach-in and walk-in closets, and each custom closet begins with a complimentary design consultation. Other great custom closet system designers include California Closets, which designs high-end custom closets, and Easy Closet, which will give you a free closet design consultation over the phone. These companies also create storage systems for pantries, home libraries, laundry rooms, and garages. Get more garage storage ideas here.

BEST CLOSET SYSTEM FOR KIDS

Small closet organizers make sense for smaller clothes, right? But how do you organize a small closet? The Little Seeds Grow with Me Closet System, available at Wayfair, Target, and Amazon, is perfect for kids because it can be adjusted to meet their changing needs as they grow and get more involved in their fashion choices. The Grow with Me Closet System features a shoe rack, three shelves, four cubbies, one drawer, and adjustable garment rods for all your kid’s wardrobe storage needs. Rods are placed at child-friendly heights, so your kids can stay in control of what they wear.

BEST MODULAR CLOSET SYSTEM

Modular Closets offers mix-and-match systems that maximize flexibility without the high price tag of fully customized closet options. Use their online tool to get a free closet design based on your closet measurements, or shop their pre-configured options.

BEST SYSTEMS FOR WALK-IN CLOSETS

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Walk-in closets are amazing, but they’re not so great if they’re not well-organized. To organize a walk-in closet, it helps to have zones: one or two areas for hanging clothes, drawers for folded clothes, shelves for baskets with small items like scarves or hats, and a shoe rack. If you have a small walk-in closet, there are small closet tips on how to make the most of your space. Here are a few walk-in closet organizers that can help:

  • The Container Store’s Elfa Décor 10’ His & Hers Closet Wall is one of the best closet organizers for people sharing closet space. This system doesn’t come cheap, but it really has it all: multiple shelves, two drawer systems, four areas for hanging clothes, a shoe rack, and a gliding tie and belt rack.
  • The Rebrilliant Queenborough 72” Closet System is 72 inches wide and combines adjustable shelves and garment rods into a walk-in closet organization system that will give you a sturdy place to store your whole wardrobe.
  • Looking for something a bit more affordable? Rebrilliant also offers a free-standing closet organizer starter kit, available on Wayfair, with seven shelves and one garment rod. This organizer is made out of bamboo and can create a lovely focal point for your closet.

Closet organizer systems can help you turn the chaos of your closet into a neat, orderly space where your clothes, shoes, and accessories are easy to find. You have plenty of other things to worry about; you don’t need to be digging around in your closet, searching for your favorite belt or that one pair of shoes that matches your outfit. Eliminate clutter and hectic, stress-filled mornings with a well-organized closet and spend your energy on more important things like cooking a new recipe, entertaining friends, or just plain relaxing.

Start on your journey to decluttering the rest of your home by checking out more decor ideas as well as home office organization and garage organization solutions. While you’re at it, be sure to look into an American Home Shield® home warranty to keep your home appliances and systems protected from the unexpected.

AHS assumes no responsibility, and specifically disclaims all liability, for your use of any and all information contained herein.

Fall in Love with Your Home This Valentine’s Day


These days, our homes are doing a lot of multi-tasking and heavy lifting for us all: they’ve had to stand in as offices, schools, restaurants, movie theatres, and much more. This Valentine’s Day, why not show your home a little love for being the space that’s always there for you? It can sometimes be easy to take our homes for granted, so here are seven easy ways to give your home a hug.

1. CREATE SOME CUSTOM ART

Painting a picture of the front of your home, or taking a photo and turning it into a frameable photograph, are unique ways to create custom art for your house. If you’re not artistically inclined, there are lots of artists who can paint a custom picture of your home for you. Some cities and municipalities even have historical archives with photographs of older houses, and you can often purchase copies of these photos for framing. Similarly, you can also purchase aerial photos of your property for a more modern take on home sweet home.

2. ILLUMINATE YOUR SPACE

One of the easiest and most overlooked things you can do to literally shed new light on your home is by switching out your light bulbs. The initial cost of switching from traditional incandescent bulbs to energy-efficient LEDs can be a bit of an investment, but you’ll save a lot of money and effort in the long run by never having to change a light bulb again. If your space is too dark, make sure you’re using bulbs with the correct brightness, and consider adding more lighting to the room with a table or floor lamps.

Pro tip: Look for warm white LED bulbs for spaces you want to feel cozy, welcoming, and traditional, like a living room or den. Cool white bulbs contain more blue light and are well-suited for task lighting in kitchens and utility rooms or for when you want a more modern look.

3. WHEN IN DOUBT, PAINT!

Just like the right light can update a room, so, too, can the right paint color. Paint is one of the easiest ways to transform a space and it’s relatively easy to change and update if you want to try something new. Many paint companies have online simulators that allow you to see your space in a new color scheme before you commit. And for a really easy change, consider just changing the color of your front door – it will instantly update the look of your house and up its curb appeal.

4. FOCUS ON ONE ROOM AT A TIME

It can be easy to get overwhelmed when a listicle might suggest tidying your house to spark more joy, or finally tackle that garage organization project you’ve been putting off. We say life is stressful enough these days without that kind of unnecessary pressure! If you really want to take on an organizational or design project, focus on one room at a time and one room only! A spare room is a great place to start because you can turn it into exactly what you want or need. Think about how you’ll get the most use of the space: guest bedroom, home office, baby room, home gym, or all of the above? Go for it!

5. WASH THE WINDOWS

Like new light bulbs, clean windows can dramatically update the look and feel of a room. Unless you live in a small one-story home, washing windows is usually best left to the professionals. Hiring a pro window washer is relatively affordable and they’ll get the job done thoroughly and quickly. Trust us: if you haven’t cleaned your windows in a while, you’ll be amazed at the transformation!

6. LET GO OF PERFECTION

Sometimes it’s not what we do that can make a difference, but what we don’t do. Every home has imperfections, foibles, and things that can be repaired or improved. Take a look at the big picture and save yourself some stress by accepting the little imperfections that don’t really matter to you and your family’s overall enjoyment of your home. You’ll feel better and love your house more when you stop focusing on the things that are wrong and start appreciating all that’s right about your home. (And see tip #7 below for what to do to stop worrying about some of the big things that really do matter around the house!)

7. PROTECT YOUR INVESTMENT

One of the most meaningful ways you can love your home is by protecting it from unexpected calamities. A good home warranty can help do that. Find out exactly what’s covered, what’s not, and how you can tailor an American Home Shield plan to your home and budget.

AHS assumes no responsibility, and specifically disclaims all liability, for your use of any and all information contained herein.

Home Maintenance Guide & Calendar


American Home Shield is here to help you protect your budget, which starts with protecting your home. Their comprehensive Home Maintenance Guide and Calendar allow you to keep track of service dates and details, and stay on top of seasonal maintenance tips and tasks.

Download your free Home Maintenance Guide and Calendar by clicking the images below to help improve the condition and longevity of the systems and appliances in your home. The Home Maintenance Guide also offers quick fixes for common systems and appliance issues so you can decide if it’s a DIY project or time to call a qualified repair professional.

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If there’s one thing homeowners know to expect, it’s the unexpected. American Home Shield helps protect your budget against covered household breakdowns, including components of your air conditioner, heating unit, electrical and plumbing systems, as well as appliances like your oven, refrigerator, and washing machine. You know — the things you count on every single day.

They offer three plans to choose from so you can select the best one for your budget and household, and for more home maintenance and DIY tips, visit their YouTube channel.

8 Tips for Outdoor Holiday Decorating


You don’t want to be the only house on the block that doesn’t look great this holiday season. Use these 8 tips to help you with your outdoor holiday decorating.

The holiday season is upon us and the weather is getting colder. Lawn and garden tools have given way to Christmas ornaments, gift wrap and artificial evergreens in most department stores. It’s time to decorate your home for the holidays, indoors and out – and if you’re the kind of person who loves getting in the holiday spirit, why wait? Use these eight tips to show off your festive spirit.

1. CHOOSE A FOCAL POINT

Decorating your home’s exterior, yard, flowerbeds and other outdoor space around a central focal point can help you tie everything together and build a theme for your holiday décor. Many homeowners choose their front porch or even their front door as a focal point, drawing attention to it with a nice wreath, some lights strung around the railing and perhaps an artificial outdoor tree or two.

However, that’s not your only choice. Your focal point could be a large evergreen tree in your front yard, a large statue of Santa in his sled or a nativity scene. Think about choosing a theme for your holiday decorations so everything flows together and you don’t end up buying more decorations than you need.

2. KEEP IT SIMPLE

You don’t want to go all Clark Griswold with your Christmas lights. Start small, especially if you’ve never decorated the exterior of a home for the holidays before. Spend some time browsing the web for Christmas decorating ideas, and start with a manageable display. For example, just string some lights around the porch instead of lighting up the whole house. You can add to your display later or expand it next year.

3. BUY THE RIGHT LIGHTS FOR YOUR NEEDS

If you’ve never purchased Christmas lights for your home before, or if it’s been a while, you may be surprised at the options available to you. There are net lights for bushes, rope lights for illuminating windows, blinking lights, multicolored lights, icicle lights and various kinds of LED lights. Figure out what kind of lights are best for the display you have in mind, as well as which lights will be the cheapest to run.

4. SHOP SECONDHAND

Looking to decorate for less this Christmas season? Who can blame you – Christmas is already expensive enough, and surely there’s a more environmentally sustainable way to get in the holiday spirit. Fortunately, you can score piles of gently used, secondhand Christmas decorations at most thrift stores. Buy used and vintage wreaths, statues, nativity scenes and other items of holiday décor for a fraction of the retail price.

5. PLAY IT SAFE

When it comes to outdoor holiday decorating, safety is paramount. Use lights labeled with the UL (Underwriters Laboratories) seal of approval and make sure they’re rated for outdoor use. Not sure about getting up on the ladder to string lights along the gutters and around windows? Hire someone to do it, or skip it altogether.

6. DITCH THE STAPLE GUN

When it’s time to hang Christmas lights, leave the staple gun in your toolbox – that’s how your grandpa hung his lights. Electrical tape is a safe, quick and easy alternative that won’t damage your siding, shingles or fingers. It’s also great for protecting electrical connections from the elements. Use Christmas light clips to safely and easily attach lights to shingles and gutters.

7. START AT THE BOTTOM

When decorating something tall for Christmas, such as a large tree, start at the bottom and work your way up. Use a dowel rod staked into the soil to hold an extension cord for powering your lights, and work with the lights illuminated so you can get a better sense of how the finished product will look. Get help stringing the lights around the trunk of a deciduous tree, or zigzagging them through the branches of an evergreen, adding new strings as needed.

8. DECORATE SMART

Save yourself some effort and expense and only decorate parts of the yard that people will see. Have a big tree that passersby will only see one side of? Just decorate that side of the tree. You may want to skip decorating parts of the yard that aren’t visible to the public; however, if you have a back patio or deck that you plan to use throughout the Christmas season, feel free to decorate it with weather-resistant garlands, artificial trees, wreaths, lights or table arrangements.

Decorating for the holidays doesn’t have to be a chore. With a little creativity and these helpful tips, you’ll soon have an outdoor display that will inspire neighborhood passersby to stop and admire your work.

12 Tips to Get Your Home Ready for Thanksgiving


For many households, Thanksgiving is one of the biggest holidays of the year, both in terms of the number of guests and the amount of prep work needed. Getting your home ready to host Thanksgiving dinner requires more than tidying up, dusting, vacuuming and cleaning the bathrooms.

You’ll need to consider what Thanksgiving recipes you need to prepare, make time to shop for ingredients, plan ahead to thaw and roast your turkey and coordinate who’s bringing what side dishes and fixings. You’ll probably have far more dinner guests than you would for your average dinner party, so you’ll need to plan space for everyone to eat. And, if friends or family members are coming in from out of town, you may need to get the spare bedroom and other areas ready for overnight guests.

Use these 12 tips to make your Thanksgiving holiday a success.

1. PLAN YOUR MENU

Sure, you’ll most likely be serving many of the same holiday staples that everyone enjoys on Thanksgiving – turkey, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, stuffing and green bean casserole. But many families like to mix things up with dishes from their specific cultural backgrounds, vegetarian dishes, dishes for family members with allergies and food sensitivities, trendy dishes and so forth. Plan your Thanksgiving dinner menu several weeks in advance so you have an idea of what you’ll be preparing well before the holiday arrives.

2. WRITE YOUR GUEST LIST

You may be hosting the usual suspects, just like every year, or you may even decide to extend an invitation to friends, neighbors or others who don’t have anywhere to go for the holiday. Knowing in advance who will be present can help you plan the menu and seating arrangements.

3. CLEAN OUT YOUR FREEZER

You may need some extra freezer space for dishes that can be made ahead of time and frozen for the big day. Go ahead and toss out that old tub of gravy from last year – you’ll soon have a new one to replace it with.

4. SHOP AHEAD

Assuming you’ve planned your menu well in advance, you can save money on the holiday meal by watching for sales on non-perishable ingredients in the weeks before Thanksgiving. You’ll also be able to stock up on specialty ingredients before they run out.

5. PREPARE MAKE-AHEAD DISHES THAT CAN BE FROZEN FOR THE BIG DAY

Shopping ahead and cleaning out your freezer can help take some of the stress out of Thanksgiving Day by giving you the chance to make some of the dishes in advance. Prepared dishes can be popped into your newly cleaned freezer for as long as two months, ready to be pulled out and cooked on Thanksgiving Day.

6. CREATE A COOKING SCHEDULE

One of the most difficult aspects of cooking any meal is getting everything on the table at the same time. Review your Thanksgiving recipes and create a cooking schedule that breaks down the meal’s culinary challenges day by day and hour by hour. Some dishes, like pies, cakes, and sauces, can be cooked a day or two before Thanksgiving. You’ll need to start prepping other dishes, like the turkey, several days in advance; a large bird needs to be thawed in the refrigerator for about 24 hours per four to five pounds of meat.

7. FIGURE OUT WHO’S BRINGING WHAT

Delegating some of the cooking to your guests can make hosting Thanksgiving more manageable. Get together with guests to decide who’s bringing what side dishes, desserts and fixings so you can cross those off your list.

8. TASTE-TEST NEW DISHES

Are you trying something new this year? Better take the recipe on a test drive before Thanksgiving. Trying out the recipe will let you know whether it’s really any good and will give you valuable insight into how difficult and time-consuming it is to make. You may decide to strike it from the menu after making it once.

9. PLAN THE SEATING ARRANGEMENT

If you’re having a fair number of guests this Thanksgiving, seating everyone can be a challenge. Tackle the seating arrangement sooner, rather than later, so everyone has a place to sit.

10. DEEP CLEAN YOUR HOME

It’s a good idea to deep clean your whole home a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving, so you can stick to a quick once-over the day before the holiday. If you don’t have time to deep clean your entire house, you should at least deep clean your bathrooms and kitchen.

11. PREPARE FOR OVERNIGHT GUESTS

Are family members or friends coming in from out of town? You’ll need to get guest bedrooms dusted and cleaned up, with fresh bedding on the beds and fresh towels in the bathrooms. Depending on how many guests are staying over, you may need to plan to put some people on couches or air mattresses.

12. GIVE YOUR HOME A LAST ONCE-OVER

The day before Thanksgiving, take the time to give your home a last cleaning before everyone gets there. Dust, sweep or vacuum common areas, tidy up, prepare your kitchen and clean the bathrooms.

Getting your home ready for Thanksgiving is no small chore. But if you follow this step-by-step list, you’ll host a Thanksgiving to remember.