Tag Archives: Garden

Starting Your Garden: Tips for New Home Owners!

Truth be told, my husband and I have been in our home for over two years, so I’m not sure we totally qualify as “new homebuyers” but this is the first home that we’ve owned and anyone who has been in that position knows that it takes lots of time to learn the ropes!

Garden 8One of the many reasons that I had my eye set on moving into a single-family home was the ability to be surrounded by greenery! Having lived in apartment complexes for the previous eight years of my life, I was craving the white picket fence and suburban atmosphere that I grew up in.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t excited about having to get my hands dirty and the responsibility that comes with keeping a yard in good condition. That being said, I now have ‘sweat equity’ and a vested interest in my yard and that helps motivate me to spend the time cultivating it.

So moving forward!

Both my husband and I grew up in households with amazing landscapes and while we both helped with childhood chores, we had absolutely no idea what to do when we moved into our own home!

Through advice from our family and friends, and lots of trial and error, we’ve learned quite a bit over the last two years. Below are some of my favorite and useful tips of the trade.

Maintain What You Have
One of the most important things that I learned about our yard is the importance of focusing on maintaining the existing vegetation. If you are moving into a new home, the last thing you have on your never-ending “To Do” list is to rip up a flower bed and replant, but beyond that we found it helpful to focus on keeping the existing yard alive and thriving. Through this process you can learn a lot about your space. For example, which plants are thriving? Do you like the previous homeowner’s selections? How much water is required to keep your yard looking great? What parts of the yard get the most sun/shade? What color are plants when they bloom?

Garden 6We took at least six months–partly due to a lack of time, but also so we could learn the answers to these questions and more before we started investing in new plants and vegetation. Oh and we lucked out just a bit, because our home’s previous owner had great taste in plant life!

Determine What Needs to Go
During the six months that we maintained our existing vegetation, we took careful note on which plants were not working out. In our yard this included plants that seemed to struggle (i.e., a potted gardenia that was getting way to much sun), plants that created too much mess (i.e. a Rose of Sharon bush that was lovely but oh-so-messy) and plants that were just plain ugly.

Garden 5This was also a good time for my husband and I to take a look at our monthly watering bill and understand what the costs (in both cash and time) would be to maintain our garden.

Visit a Nursery for Inspiration
Next was a trip to the nursery – or in our case our local Home Depot – to meander the aisles and look for inspiration. I’d caution you to avoid buying anything on your first few trips. Without some good solid research, you’ll find that you may waste money buying plants that won’t end up thriving in the place that you envision them. Rather, focus on what colors and style plants you’d like and be sure to read their tags to determine what the care specifications are.

Garden 3It’s also great to ask for help. The store’s general floor crew may be a bit hit-or-miss, but generally speaking, the nursery-specific staff is typically a great resource. I also like to look at where the plants are placed in the store (full sun vs. covered shade) to get a better sense on where they will thrive.

I also love checking out landscaping ideas when I’m on a neighborhood walk/run. This is a great way to scope out plant ideas that will work well in your climate.

Read Online and Ask for Advice
Once you have a great list of plants that you’d like to consider, then it’s time to do your research. And I don’t just mean looking at the pretty pictures on Pinterest. There are some fantastic websites online that discuss best practices related to plant care, and it’s good to do this reading before you drop $100 on a trunk full of plants.

Do you have a family member with a similar yard or an especially green thumb? Shoot him/her an email and ask for their on-the-job advice.

We are working on converting part of our yard to succulents and I have had lots of conversations with my mother-in-law who did a major yard conversion a few years ago and now has some of the most beautiful succulent arrangements that you can imagine.
While my garden doesn’t quite look like this…

Garden 4…I am learning a lot more about what my options are with frequent trips to explore the variety of succulents that are available.

Garden 2Make a Plan
By now you’ve probably gathered quite a bit of information, so it’s a great time to make a master plan. Take some time to sit down with all your notes and research and make a “To Do” list of what you want to do. This should include plants that you’re going to remove, relocate and add to your yard.

Garden 7Also, consider breaking up your plan into stages, which can be much more manageable for those with a busy work schedule. In our case, we took a weekend to dig up the plants that we were tossing and/or relocated others to more desirable areas of the yard, and then focused on adding new plants on a separate weekend.

Beta Testing
We also discovered the practice of keeping the newly purchased (or transplanted) plants in their temporary containers for a few days before we planted them into the soil. This allowed us to see how the plants would thrive in their future homes and ensured that sun/shade levels were cohesive.

Garden 1This simple practice has saved us quite a bit of time, headache and money by allowing us to move plants that don’t quite seem to be thriving before we make the effort to get them settled.

Embrace Plant Failure
Lastly, we found that despite time spent researching and talking to plant gurus, there were just a few times when our efforts just plain failed. While it’s sad to scoot plants into the green waste bin, it’s part of the process and we found that it has helped us to better understand our yard.

Now let me be clear, our yard still has QUITE a bit of work to do, but we’ve enlisted all of the tips that I’ve mentioned in this post, and they have certainly helped us find our way as we develop the look of our own yard.
Signature 3 (Mar 2016)

How to Pick the Perfect Pumpkin – Experts Weigh In

The air is still warm with what feels like a late summer breeze, but according to the calendar and our coffee cups – pumpkin-spiced everything! – the fall season is here. When you’re ready to pick out a pumpkin, whether for decorating or baking, we’ve got some great information from experts to share with you this week! Two California-based farms were kind of enough to provide their advice for today’s blog post.

“Picking the perfect pumpkin isn’t about looks as much as it is about freshness.  Pumpkins have a very long shelf life, so you have no idea how long a pumpkin has been in a big box store when you get it home to carve or decorate. For pie pumpkins and regular pumpkins, you can judge freshness by how firm the flesh is.  The more “give” the pumpkin has, the older it is. For a very fresh pumpkin, try to go to a local farmer or pumpkin patch, pick it from the field, and find whichever one is visually appealing to you!” – Justin Bloss of Vierra Farms / Dave’s Pumpkin Patch, West Sacramento, CA

“Select winter squash that are hard and heavy for their size – avoid cracked shells or those with decayed areas. Hard-shelled squash can be stored at room temperature for 2 months, and in a cool, dry place for 3-6 months. Squash that is already cut should be wrapped in plastic and will stay fresh in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Cooked and mashed squash can be frozen and stored for up to 6 months.” – Cindy Groverman of Petaluma Pumpkin Patch, Petaluma, CA

If you’re in Northern California, make sure to visit Dave’s Pumpkin Patch and Petaluma Pumpkin Patch to check out their beautiful fields and wonderful selection of very fresh pumpkins!

We’d love to see the squash that you choose for your homes this fall. Please upload your photos to social media and tag us on Facebook or Instagram. Happy pumpkin picking! pumpkins2

Cleaning Chart in the Cloud

One (of the many) major lifestyle changes that came with purchasing our new home was the immense amount of household chores that were added to my weekly “To Do” list.  Whether it is taking care of the yard, or cleaning the guest bathroom—the work certainly multiplied from our tiny one-bedroom Silicon Valley apartment.

With a schedule filled with traveling, social commitments and long days in the office/commuting, I have not been able to find a good day to just set aside as my “cleaning day.”

Because I love the feeling of a freshly cleaned house (and loathe the feeling of having a dust bunnies in my hallway), I have had to adapt my cleaning practices to ensure things are getting done on a regular basis.

The first (and most essential) best practice that I am using is my Electronic Cleaning Chart.  Yes, I know it sounds dorky, but boy does it keep me on track!  For you techies out there, I keep my household chores on Google Drive (but any other cloud-based spreadsheet program will work).  For me, having online access allows me to check out my chart from whichever electronic device I happen to be nearest to.

The concept of my chart is quite simple.  You list out your what cleaning items you want to track (“Tasks”), how often this should be done (“Interval”), the date you last completed this (“Last Completed”) and a formula, which automatically updates and lists the target date for the next cleaning (“Next Due”).

Cloud Cleaning Chart 1

I have found a number of benefits of this Cleaning Chart.  First, the chart can be customized. You can add/delete different chores as they come up in your own household.  This has been particularly helpful for me as a new homeowner, because it has taken quite a bit of time for me to realize all the little chores (both inside and out) that we need to do.  As you will see on my chart, I still have quite a bit of work to build out the “Outside Chores.”

Cloud Cleaning Chart 2Secondly, it allows you to compartmentalize your cleaning, by providing an instant “To Do” list from which you can complete what you have time for. With my busy schedule, one weekend I will have only 30 minutes to do some quick cleaning, and on others, I will have the entire morning.  The chart allows me to check off what I have time to do, but keeps me on track so I do not lose the “big picture.”

Cloud Cleaning Chart 3Third, if you have a significant other in your life, this is a great way for you both to synchronize up on household chores.  Maybe you add color-coding to mark chores designated for each party.  Alternatively, maybe you both just chip away at the list, as your schedules allow.  Either way, it keeps your household running, even when the inhabitants are going many directions.

Cloud Cleaning Chart 4Like most habitual tasks in this world, the key is finding what works for you and your own schedule.  Often times this involves testing different methods to see what helps you get in your own rhythm.  The great thing is that the world of social media, including Pinterest and personal blogs, have created a library or resources for you sift through.

While not an exhaustive list, here are a few links to other Cleaning Charts that I found interesting (for those looking for a different method).

Do you have a fabulous cleaning method or process that works for you? If so, we’d love to hear what keeps you on track.