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Container Gardening

Beautiful Affordable Art Open House Buyers and Sellers Kitchen Decorating Trends Top Ten Battery Basics Control Energy and Humidity 23 Sink Styles Energy Efficient Sparkling Streak-Free Windows

Container Gardening: Choosing The Right Plant For The Pot

(NAPSI)—It’s a growing trend: Twenty-one million households are planting container gardens. It saves space, helps control pests and overcome soil issues, and lets you enjoy fresh, homegrown produce even without a yard.

To ensure your success, it’s important to pick the right plant for the pot. Fortunately, seed companies are developing vegetable seeds well adapted for container gardens.

“Today’s container gardeners now have access to even more plants that are compact in size, yield more, taste great and feature unique colors and shapes,” said John Marchese of Seminis Home Garden seed.

To help you get started, consider these tips from experts at the University of Illinois Extension:

Choosing a Container

• Anything that holds soil and has drainage holes in the bottom may be transformed into a container garden for terrestrial plants.

• For vibrant plant growth, the containers must provide adequate space for roots and soil media, allowing the plant to thrive.

Soil

• Soils for containers need to be well aerated and well drained while still being able to retain enough moisture for plant growth.

• Never use garden soil by itself for container gardening, no matter how good it looks or how well things grow in it outside.

• Containers often use soilless or artificial media that contain no soil at all.

• When these mixes are used, they should be moistened slightly before planting. Fill a tub with the media, add water and lightly fluff the media to dampen it.

• When filling containers with media, don’t fill the pot to the top. Leave about a one-inch space between the top of the soil and rim of the pot.

Fertilizer

• A regular fertilizer program is needed to keep plants growing well and attractively all season.

• The choice of fertilizer analysis will depend on the kinds of plants you grow. High-nitrogen sources would be good for plants grown for their foliage while flowering and vegetable crops would generally prefer lower-nitrogen and higher-phosphorous fertilizer types.

Choosing Plants For Your Container Garden

• Plants that thrive in like soil, watering and light conditions make successful combinations. When combining plants, size, texture, proportion, color, setting and lighting all play a role.

Caring For Your Vegetables

• Containers offer the advantage of being portable. As the seasons, temperature and light conditions change, you can move your containers so they enjoy the best conditions for peak performance.

• Most fruit-bearing vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, squashes and eggplant require full sun.

• Leafy vegetables such as lettuce, cabbage and spinach can tolerate more shady locations, unlike root vegetables such as radishes, carrots and onions.

• There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to watering. You have to watch your containers and understand how much moisture each plant needs. Feel the soil—if the first inch or so is dry, add water until it starts to drip out of the drainage holes.

Special Seeds

“Just because they are using a smaller space to grow the plant doesn’t mean the fruit has to be small, too,” Marchese explained. “For example, if container gardeners are looking for a compact plant that produces large and tasty tomatoes, they should try a new hybrid tomato variety called Debut.”

Container gardeners don’t have to sacrifice flavor for a more conveniently grown plant either. “Husky Red is a medium-sized tomato hybrid that has great flavor. We have also developed a cherry tomato hybrid version called Husky Cherry Red that has the potential to set lots of sweet, flavorful fruit,” added Marchese.

Other compact hybrid tomato varieties include Patio, which produces about a 4-ounce tomato, and a saladette tomato variety called Yaqui that produces large-sized fruit.

Learn More

For more information on home garden varieties, visit www.seminis.com.

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Fill Your House With The Beauty Of Affordable Art

(NAPSI)—Giving your home more personality and treating yourself and your family to the delights of custom art can be easier and more affordable than you may think.

To help, here are some tips:

• Remember, when you hang an artwork, the center point of the picture or group of pictures should be at about eye level for the average person.

• In general, it’s wise to use smaller pictures, photos or paintings for narrow walls and larger pieces for bigger wall spaces.

• If you are going to hang a piece of art over furniture, remember that the artwork should not be longer than the furniture is wide. Some say that about 75 percent of the width of the furniture is a useful target when it comes to the length of the art.

• Many decorators believe that it’s wise to display art in a way that groups three “like” items together. Maybe your arrangement will group three pieces by the same artist, or three pieces that have the same subject matter or are similarly framed.

Whatever grouping you decide on, make sure your wall decor matches your personality. The good news is that selecting the right art for your home is getting easier thanks to a website that helps people find the art they love, so they can love their space more. The site, Art.com, offers original content, curated collections and advice.

• For example, its Photos-to-Art service lets users turn their own photos into personalized artwork. Simply upload customized photos and choose the type of artwork you want, including large-scale artistic canvas, wood mounting, photographic poster prints and custom-framed pieces. As an extension to this service, Art.com recently launched a mobile iPhone app that allows users to upload customized photos from their phone camera or Instagram.

• Art.com also helps you to select handpicked art that reflects current design trends for every aesthetic-from Modern Rustic to High Drama to Modern Man Cave, among others.

• Users can browse more than 1.5 million images by artist, by subject or by collection.

• ArtCircles, Art.com’s app for iPad, takes you through the world’s most inspiring art collection as seen through the eyes of various curators. You can tag your favorites, create your own collection, share it with your social networks and even view the artworks in your own space by holding the iPad up to your wall. Once you’ve found the right art for your space, you can buy it directly from your iPad.

To view the collection and for more information, visit the website at www.Art.com.

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Open Houses Benefit Buyers And Sellers

(NAPSI)—The next time you’re thinking about buying or selling a house, you might want to open your mind to the benefits of an open house.

What Buyers Should Do

Buyers should make the most of each open house they visit and remember to keep an open mind. Here are some tips for visiting open houses:

• Check everything in the house including appliances, the size of closets, storage areas and the views from the windows.

• Walk around the property and check such things as the brick and mortar and siding.

• Drive around the neighborhood and get a feel for the area.

• Talk to the Realtor® hosting the open house and pick his or her brain about the condition of the home, recent upgrades and the neighborhood.

What Sellers Should Do

As a seller, an open house is about putting your home’s best foot forward. Here are some tips for a successful open house:

• Declutter and clean the house.

• Replace burnt-out lightbulbs and wash the windows.

• Mow the front lawn and clean the walkway.

• Fix maintenance issues such as dings in walls or leaky faucets.

Two More Things To Consider

1. Last year, 45 percent of all buyers used an open house as a resource in their home search process, according to the National Association of Realtors® Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers. Open houses are a way for buyers to get an idea of what they can afford and what is available in their market. For sellers, it’s a chance to market the home and attract potential buyers.

2. Whether you are buying or selling, working with a Realtor® is key. Some 89 percent of buyers purchase their homes through a real estate agent. Only 9 percent of sellers sold their home without assistance from an agent.

Realtors® have invaluable insights into what sells a home and are the most trusted resource for real estate information. They know what buyers value in their local markets. They can help sellers protect their investment and buyers build theirs.

Learn More

For further facts and tips, visit www.houselogic.com/buyandsell.

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Kitchens Are Defining The Look Of Today’s Homes

(NAPSI)—Kitchens are cooking up some of today’s hottest decorating trends. That’s the word from experts who say families are using their kitchen as never before.

Gathering there to do homework, socialize, watch TV—even cook—they’re making the kitchen, in many cases, the busiest room in the house.

However, while kitchens may be busy, the decorating trends associated with that family focal point are anything but. Instead, those trends feature clean lines, sleek appliances and innovative storage solutions.

Said Janice Jones of national homebuilder Pulte Homes, “In the past, home design was driven by practicality, but now homeowners want function and design to meet. The kitchen is now a driving force in defining the decor of the home overall.”

Jones added that the company’s 700-plus new home communities across the country feature fully furnished model homes because the majority of homebuyers prefer to see the design ideas “in action.”

Pulte also allows homebuyers to design their dream kitchen with a click of a mouse with its new interactive Kitchen Studio. Images on www.pulte.com allow users to visualize a custom kitchen space by selecting from a variety of colors and finishes—from flooring to wall color.

Here are some of the leading trends for 2013:

• Islands: New kitchen layouts and designs are open and island-centric. They call for multi-functional spaces that allow everything from homework to craft projects.

To keep the clutter off the island but near the kitchen, the innovative Pulte Planning Center is a multifunctional space used for bill paying, family organization, homework or as a computer room. Consumers also want multipurpose islands, so kitchens now have two islands.

• Color & Appliances: Two-tone colors and contrasting colors on cabinets, counters and appliances are an emerging trend in kitchen design. “This is the biggest visible news in the appliance world in years,” said Jones, adding that the new look was inspired by popular high-tech gadgets, such as smartphones.

• Storage: Megasize storage for bulk and food items is in demand. Other innovative storage solutions include larger deeper drawers in lieu of cabinets on the lower surfaces; pop-up cabinets for heavier kitchen appliances, such as mixers; vertical pull-out drawers for large trays; and shallow storage compartments in previously wasted areas under the sink or stovetop.

To learn more, visit www.pulte.com.

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Top Ten Battery Basics

(NAPSI)—If your home is like most, you have some 26 different battery-operated devices—from flashlights to smoke detectors to cordless phones—around the house.

To keep things running smoothly, homeowners should include testing those devices and replacing the batteries with fresh ones and discarding properly of old batteries, according to Interstate Batteries’ Gale Kimbrough, also known as “Mr. Battery.” Here is a good spring checklist to make the most of your battery-operated devices.

1. Smoke Alarm Test: Test smoke alarms once a month and change the batteries at least twice a year. Ensure there’s at least one working smoke alarm on every level of your house, particularly in or near sleeping areas. It’s also time to replace the batteries if the detector emits a warning sound, such as chirping or beeping. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, about 3,000 people in the U.S. lose their lives in residential fires every year-you don’t have to be among them.

2. Flashlights For Emergencies: Make sure flashlights with fresh batteries are stored in multiple places in the house and car—in a cabinet or drawer, near your bed and in the glove compartment.

3. Charge Batteries After Storage: A battery will eventually lose its charge if unused. Check to see if your stored batteries need recharging.

4. Keep the Batteries Clean: Clean dirty battery contacts with a cotton swab and rubbing alcohol. This helps maintain a good connection between the battery and the portable device.

5. Don’t Mix Batteries: Don’t mix old batteries with new ones to prevent the potential safety hazard that can come from the battery leaking or rupturing and possibly injuring someone or damaging the device.

6. Organize Batteries: Consider getting a battery organizer with varying battery sizes to accommodate a wide range of household devices. Have a storage unit to hold AAA, AA, C, D and 9V alkaline batteries with a built-in tester and store it in a drawer or mounted on a wall for easy access.

7. Weather Preparedness: A power outage is a bad time to realize you need new batteries in your portable battery-powered radio.

8. Prep Your Camera: A digital camera can quickly drain the life out of an alkaline battery. Be camera ready by installing alkaline batteries specially designed for high-drain applications.

9. Recycle Batteries: Discarded batteries, if not properly recycled, can deposit lead, acid and mercury into lakes, streams and landfills.

10. Test Your Car Battery: Have your auto battery checked to make sure it is fully charged.

Kimbrough says Interstate All Battery Center makes battery maintenance easy, with thousands of different batteries available to help with just about any household gadget: “Powering the Things That Make Life Better.”

Learn More

For store locations and further information, or to order online, visit www.interstatebatteries.com or call (866) 842-5368.

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A New Spin on Controlling Humidity and Energy

(NAPSI)—There’s good news for homeowners who want to control both the energy costs and humidity levels in their homes.

Continuing in the tradition of its best-in-class ventilation products, Broan-NuTone has expanded its revolutionary line of Broan and NuTone ULTRA Fans and Fan/Lights with the addition of 16 models with ULTRA Sense Humidity- or Motion-Sensing Technology.

The new fans and fan/lights provide humidity- or motion-sensing capabilities while featuring the fastest, easiest, most universal installation to save contractors time and thus homeowners money. They also help meet stringent green building and ventilation codes.

The humidity-sensing models detect a rapid rise in humidity to turn single-speed fans ON and multi-speed fans from low to high. This means that they will react to shower humidity much faster than other competitive fans or wall controls that wait for a relative humidity set point to be reached. Users can enjoy a humidity-free, comfortable environment much more quickly when taking a bath or shower. The motion-sensing models are equipped with a sensor that turns multi-speed fans to high when someone walks into the room and reduces fan speed to low after a user-adjustable time delay.

By automatically turning the fan ON or up to maximum speed after sensing a rise in humidity or movement, ULTRA Sense Technology can help prevent mold and mildew caused by excess moisture in a room. Likewise, by automatically reducing fan speed to OFF or low, ULTRA Sense Technology helps reduce wasteful energy costs.

In addition, the fans and fan/lights with ULTRA Sense technology provide the five benefits of the original ULTRA Fans and Fan/Lights:

• ULTRA Quick Installation Technology: The fan can be installed in minutes in retrofit applications.

• ULTRA Green Energy-Saving DC Motor: ULTRA offers extremely energy-efficient operation-well beyond ENERGY STAR® requirements.

• ULTRA Silent Sound Technology: All models operate at less than 0.3 sones for an extremely relaxing environment.

• ULTRA Lucent Lighting Technology: To brightly illuminate rooms for most any task, ULTRA comes with two 18-watt ENERGY STAR−qualified bulbs.

• ULTRA Smart Control Technology: The entire ULTRA line maintains powerful operation over a wide range of real-world installations.

According to fan expert Patrick Nielsen, “Because ULTRA Fans and Fan/Lights help contractors save time on installation, homeowners save money. They also provide long-lasting benefits to users, such as extremely quiet operation, unbelievable performance and, now, the ability to detect humidity or motion and either turn a singlespeed fan ON or increase the speed of a multi-speed fan.”

For more information, visit www.BroanULTRA.com and www.NuToneULTRA.com.

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Making Your Kitchen Healthy And Close To Carefree

(NAPSI)—Nobody wants to spend more time cleaning their kitchen than they need to. So what’s the secret to creating a carefree kitchen? Choosing durable kitchen products that are easy to use and nearly maintenance free.

Fortunately, modern materials and ingenuity mean many kitchen items and surfaces are a lot easier to keep in top shape than they used to be. For example:

• Resin-coated stainless steel knives are now available, making them dishwasher safe.

• When you get down to it, ceramic tiles and flooring do not require special cleaners or sealants to maintain and can come in a wide range of looks, from wood to marble.

• Another idea is to get a glass-coated stainless steel oven—they’re fingerprint free and easy to keep clean.

• When selecting a faucet, look for faucets from companies like Blanco, with long-lasting ceramic disk cartridges that are easy to replace and work for years to keep the faucet from leaking.

• As for the kitchen sink, select one that can resist dropping a pot of boiling water in it without worrying about chipping, scratching, staining or denting.

Made to deal with life’s messy realities, Silgranit II by Blanco offers affordable and stylish options in eight fashion colors. It features an ultradurable and cleanable surface of 80 percent rock-hard granite that resists scratches, stains and heat. It is resistant to food acids and alkalis, easy to maintain, colored all the way through and carries a limited lifetime warranty.

Because it’s so easy to clean and maintain, you can even reduce your use of harsh cleaning chemicals that can harm pets, kids and the environment.

Looking for more ways to live healthier? Consider implementing these tips into your kitchen habits:

1. “Look for cleaners that don’t contain chlorine or ammonia,” suggests Sonya Lunder, MPH, a senior researcher with Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit organization that researches environmental issues. “Choose those that say ‘petroleum-free,’ ‘biodegradable’ or ‘phosphate-free’ instead.”

2. Choose the right pan: According to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, using a six-inch pan on an eight-inch burner can waste more than 40 percent of the burner’s heat. Also, consider reducing use of Teflon-coated pans, which can emit chemicals when heated.

3. Be cool, clean your fridge: For maximum efficiency, clean the coils twice a year and be sure the gaskets are in good condition.

4. Be bright: Use compact fluorescent or LED lighting. They last longer and use less electricity than standard bulbs.

5. Reduce, reuse, recycle. Consider composting, too. Blanco offers the SOLON built-in compost system that makes it easy and saves valuable counter space. Silgranit II sinks include HYGIENIC+PLUS™, a patented formula that is a shield against dirt and bacteria. Independent laboratory tests confirm that the unique built-in hygiene protection reduces bacterial growth by an average of 98 percent.

Learn more: You can see the 23 sink styles and eight colors of Silgranit II by Blanco and get further facts and tips at www.blancoamerica.com.

 

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Cleaning Tips For Sparkling, Streak-Free Windows

(NAPSI)—It doesn’t have to be a chore to have clean, sparkling windows. Here are a few time-saving tips that’ll brighten your home:

Replace your dirty air filter: Manufacturers suggest replacing your heating and cooling system’s air filter every one to three months. That’ll help reduce the amount of dust and pollen in your house.

Choose the right window cleaner: Some window cleaners perform better than others. The Good Housekeeping Research Institute recently tested 17 cleaners and reported that the JAWS Glass & Hard Surface Cleaner (Jawscleans.com) was the only one to leave the surface completely streak-free. “In fact, unlike other higher-priced window cleaners, you can use this non-toxic, non-ammonia cleaner in direct sunlight and still avoid streaks,” said JAWS International CEO Bruce Yacko.

Squeegee, paper towel or microfiber cloth? Squeegees do a great job on large windows. Paper towels leave lint on the glass. One option: Microfiber cloths tend to trap more dirt and aren’t abrasive. They cost less than $1 each and can be washed hundreds of times.

Other time-saving tips:

• Vacuum or use a small brush to sweep the dirt and dust from the windowsill, frame and tracks.

• Work from top to bottom.

• Mist the window with the cleaner and use your microfiber or lint-free cloth to wipe horizontally. Be sure to flip the cloth to dry the window. Or use two cloths—one to wipe and one to dry.

Most experts recommend that you clean your windows at least twice a year—because letting the sunshine in can make living in your house more enjoyable.

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