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How to Attract Birds to Your Garden

How to Attract Birds to Your Garden

Every year a group of workers safely rid our garden of insects’ pests. Actually, the workers are swallows–fabulous bug eaters and skillful fliers that come back every spring. This year they arrived about three weeks ago. Throughout the day and into early evening they are hard at work vigilantly catching bugs on the wing. In fact, one swallow can easily devour hundreds of pesky insects each day.

Ranch Wood Seed Feeder Create a Bird-Friendly Place

You can attract these and other backyard birds by providing basic creature comforts like food, water, shelter, and a cozy place to raise a family. A great place to start is by shopping for birdbaths and bird feeders at your local Kmart. Placing several bird baths at different heights will attract more bird species than one bath alone. Bird feeders come in many different styles and the more you have the more birds you’ll attract. If squirrels are a problem in your area, be sure to include a squirrel-proof feeder, which is basically a feeder inside a cage with openings that only allow access to small birds.

Provide a Variety of Food Sources

Add in plant food sources as well, such as seed-bearing annuals like calendula, cosmos, marigolds, sunflowers or zinnias. Feature asters, salvia, coneflowers, coreopsis and other seed-bearing perennials. Include hollyhocks, clematis, rosemary, honeysuckle, and other nectar-rich flowers and vines for hummingbirds.

Create Bird-Friendly Shelter

Trees and shrubs provide shelter, a rest area, protection from predators and nesting sites. Though many backyard birds will utilize nest boxes, so be sure to place a few around your yard at heights ranging from 8 to 12 feet above the ground.

Diversity is the goal when planning your bird garden for your feathered friends. Growing bird-friendly plants, trees and shrubs at various heights of the vertical space will make your yard an attractive haven for the birds in your area.

Read Kris’ Recent Blogs & Guides

° How to Make Herb-Infused Vinegar & Wetherbee’s White Bean Salad Recipe – NEW & HOT!
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° Go Wild with Hanging Flower Baskets for Mother’s Day
° How to Attract Birds to Your Garden
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Kmart Garden Products (s)

° Birdhouses, Bird Bathes & Feeders

 

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Soil Testing

We’ve all done it as kids–played in the dirt, that is. And as kids we often referred to the ground in which plants grow as dirt. But the soil that sustains garden plants is so much more than plain dirt. Soil is alive and teeming with an intricate network of living organisms. In fact, one teaspoon of healthy garden soil contains more than 700 million living bacteria, protozoa, fungi and beneficial nematodes.

Healthy soil not only supports these living organisms, but it also provides support for plant roots while storing water and needed nutrients that are essential for sustaining plant life. The type of soil, however, varies widely depending on your location, climate and annual rainfall.

For example, clay soil is common in Georgia and in the Pacific Northwest where I live. Sandy soil is often found in hot, dry deserts of the southwest and the cool coastal environment of Cape Cod. But few of us are blessed with loamy soil, which is rich in organic matter and well-drained, yet moisture-retentive.

As it turns out, the type of soil you have is a determining factor in whether or not a plant will thrive or strive in your garden. Understanding your soil type and how to make it that much better can be key to helping your plants thrive.

Clay soil can be molded like modeling clay when wet and is always compact–much like a deck of cards–leaving little space for water or air. As such, it’s difficult to work with when wet, slow to warm up in spring, and bakes to a hard crust in summer. Dig in lots of organic matter to loosen and improve its texture. Ample additions of perlite or pumice will also loosen and greatly improve its texture. In addition, clay soil tends to be low in calcium. But you can up the levels by adding oyster shell, crushed egg shells, or even powdered milk to planting holes or on the soil surface in spring.

Sandy soil is granular in texture and feels rough and gritty. While it’s easy to work with, the soil dries out quickly and doesn’t hold nutrients well, demanding light but frequent watering and feeding. Additions of water-retentive vermiculite or peat moss , with its coarse water-retaining fibers, will increase the water-holding and nutrient-holding capacity of sandy soil. Pick up a bag or two at your local Kmart.

Silt-type soil is somewhere between sandy and clay, with a smooth and silky texture when damp, and a smooth and powdery texture when dry. The soil, however, can compact easily and therefore benefits from additions of organic matter.

Loamy soil is soft, dark and crumbly. It’s the type of soil we all strive for but few of us have, with the ideal balance of clay, sand and silt for a well-drained, water-retentive and very fertile soil. Annual applications of organic matter will help maintain its fertility and texture.

Whether your soil is heavy clay, sandy, or somewhere in-between, it can always be improved by adding annual amounts of organic matter, such as straw, dried grass clippings, shredded leaves, compost, aged sawdust or manure. Organic matter also provides food for earthworms, microbes, and other beneficial creatures that live in the soil, which, in turn, protect plants from diseases and convert the organic matter into a plant-friendly form of fertilizer.

Not sure which type you have? Plunge your shovel into the earth and see what you dig up. As for me, I’m off to the garden to dig a few holes and play in the dirt–oops, I mean, soil. Some things never change!

Read Kris’ Recent Blogs & Guides

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°A Taste of Honey

°Indoor Plants with Heart Shaped Leaves

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°Cooking with Quinoa

°Poinsettia Care

°Healthy Houseplants

Kmart Garden Tool(s)

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Garden Solutions Center Blogs

Take your passion for gardening to the next level with inspired posts.

Ask the Expert

Garden Solutions Center Blogs

Take your passion for gardening to the next level with inspired posts.

Pick the Right Mulch for the Job

Pick the Right Mulch for the Job

Mulch provides a variety of benefits to your garden. In addition to conserving moisture, it protects soil microorganisms that increase the disease resistance of your plants and help control weed growth. Landscaping and garden mulch also breaks down over time, adding nutrients to the soil, and mulch makes the garden more attractive.

Familiarizing yourself with the following organic garden and landscaping mulches will help you pick the right mulch for the job.

mulchBark mulch

Chipped or shredded bark is a decorative addition to the garden that decomposes slowly, which means it requires infrequent replacement. Use bark mulch around trees and in beds containing trees and shrubs.

Decomposed leaves

Readily available from the outdoors or purchased bagged as leaf mold, decomposed leaves break down fairly quickly, adding nutrients to the soil and breaking up heavy clay. Use decomposed leaf mulch around perennial plants and in flower beds where it can be turned in to feed the soil when you cultivate between seasons.

Peat moss

A product of peat bogs, peat moss is a mulch alternative that acidifies the soil. Use peat moss around acid-loving plants—such as blueberry, azalea, rhododendron and camellia—to improve their health.

Compost

Dark, rich compost makes an attractive mulch for the garden and does double duty by adding a wide variety of nutrients to the soil and improving soil structure. Because it’s nutrient-rich, compost is an excellent addition to the vegetable garden, where it will work its way into the soil as the season progresses.

Worm castings

Composed of worm excrement, worm castings are rich in micronutrients and act as a natural slow-release fertilizer for the soil. This mulch option is appropriate for all areas of the garden, including the vegetable garden and flower beds. It does especially well when applied on top of the soil and then covered with bark mulch.

 

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How to Remove Mold in your Bathroom

Even the cleanest bathroom has an ongoing battle with mold. Mold loves dark, moist areas and a bathroom is its perfect home. There are thousands of different types of mold – some more dangerous than others. Some mold gives off toxins but most are just growing organisms that can destroy walls and tile grout. Mold is a living fungus that reproduces when it has enough water and uses the surface it’s growing on for food. So mold growing on a porous drywall ceiling is breaking down and destroying the drywall. With a few simple tricks and a DIY recipe we can keep mold from growing in your bathroom.

Make sure you ventilate the room as much as possible -Without moisture mold can’t grow.  You want to run your ceiling fan for at least 10 minutes AFTER the steam has disappeared from the bathroom mirror. Moisture stays in the air long after you can see it, so let the fan run the entire time you are getting ready in the morning.

Keep the window open even slightly so you have continual fresh air -The fresh air will help the damp surfaces dry faster.

Hang wet towels outside of the bathroom -Wet towels can take up to 24 hours to dry and create unwanted  extra moisture in the bathroom.

Wipe down surfaces with a microfiber cloth – wipe down damp surfaces in your shower and sink area with a microfiber cloth. This will help everything dry faster and stop mold in its tracks. Make sure to take the damp microfiber cloth out of the bathroom when you are done.

Hang wet bath carpets outside of the shower area – When you step out of the shower you are dripping wet and all that water ends up on a bath mat or carpet. This carpet can take days to completely dry.  Hang these rugs outside of the shower area so that they can dry completely

Use a squeegee to remove water on the shower walls and glass doors – This will not only stop the mold but keep your shower clean. People who squeegee their shower almost never have to clean it.

Make up a daily mold and mildew spray by placing vodka or rubbing alcohol and 20 drops of tea tree essential oil in a spray bottle. The alcohol will evaporate very quickly and the tea tree oil will work to kill the mold and mold spores. You can spray this mixture on tile grout and drywall daily to stop the growth of mold in your shower area. It’s great to use on textured ceilings that are difficult to wipe down.

Shake out your shower curtain- Shower curtains are a breeding ground for mold. The moisture in the pleats of the curtain are perfect spots for mold to grow. By shaking out the curtain you are removing all the excess moisture and helping it to dry faster. Remember to keep the curtain completely drawn once you are done in the shower.

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Kmart Online

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Your Kids and Your Garden

Your Kids and Your Garden

Your kids and your garden, two things you want to live in harmony but that’s easier said than done. Not all kids take to tending plants; after all, gardening can be hot and dirty, and it doesn’t offer immediate gratification. A child’s interest in gardening requires nurturing, just like a garden does.

Four Big Rules of Gardening with Children

These four guidelines will start you down the garden path with your offspring. How you put these guidelines into practice depends on you, your child and the kind of garden you grow.

Set an example. It’s true — kids do learn by example. Watching you garden will plant the idea in your child’s mind that gardening is what grownups do. That idea might not take hold until your child is an adult, but one fine spring day your adult child will wake up and think “I want to plant marigolds today!”

flower potsDiscover what interests your child. There are thousands of doors into the gardening universe. Open the door closest to your child’s natural interests, whether that’s looking under leaves for bugs, taking kitchen scraps to the compost pile, picking dandelions, pouring cups of water into flowerpots or just reading under a shade tree.

And give your child a say in what you plant. If Shasta daisies or bright daylilies catch your child’s eye as you stroll through the garden center, add them to your shopping cart.

Be realistic. Don’t saddle your child with the responsibility of a whole garden. A garden takes more planning, preparation and maintenance than you can expect of most children — heck, even adults who love gardening get tired of it by the end of the season. Have a family garden that everyone (in other words, mostly you) takes care of together. You can designate a small area as your child’s, or even just a plant or two. Of course, you’ll still take care of it.

Don’t use gardening as punishment. Except, of course, with teens.

Ideas for Making Gardening Fun

Plant long-lived spring-flowering bulbs. Spend a nice autumn afternoon tucking crocuses or daffodils into the ground. Dig the hole and let your child drop the bulb in. Your child — and probably you as well — will forget about them over the winter and have a joyful surprise when they pop up in early spring.

Start some from seed. While it’s true that radishes are easy to grow from seed, what kid likes radishes? Instead, plant the big seeds of beans, marigolds, pumpkins, sunflowers, watermelon and sweet corn in late spring, when the soil is warm. Choose early maturing varieties, both to speed up the payback and to avoid the heat of summer in the Deep South and the early arrival of winter in the Far North. To avoid tears, protect plants from insect pests and animals.

Involve the other senses. Gardens offer more sensory stimulation than just looking at pretty flowers and eating tasty vegetables. There’s no end to the number of fragrant plants, including herbs that don’t release their scent until you crush a leaf. For a crash course in floral fragrances, visit a public rose garden and sniff a wide sampling. Use words like flowery, spicy and fruity to describe the scents. Also take a sniff in the scented geraniums section of the garden center, where aromas include chocolate, pineapple and lemon.

Plenty of plants are fun to touch, as well. The perennial groundcover lamb’s ears has soft, furry leaves. Succulents have fleshy leaves. Snapdragons open their mouths when you squeeze the side of the flower. Obedient plant and sensitive plant move when touched.

The rustling of leaves is the most common plant sound, but some produce seed pods that sound like rattles, such as false indigo and love-in-a-mist. On the topic of love-in-a-mist, kids also enjoy the sound of plants with funny names, such as balloon plant, gas plant, kiss-me-over-the-garden-gate, Joe-pye weed and rattle-snake master.

Eat in the garden. Get more veggies into your kids by introducing them to the novelty of eating right in the garden. Good candidates for garden grazing include sugar peas, green beans, chives, mint, cherry tomatoes and even sweet corn — all organically grown, of course.

Grow your memories. Grow something that reminds you of your childhood — peonies, lilacs, sweet pea, whatever — and talk from time to time about the memories it brings up for you. Your child will understand, at some level, that plants connect us to our past. Besides, those plants will make you smile, and every child likes to see a parent smiling.

 

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Spring Hiking and Basic Gear

Spring Hiking and Basic Gear

Spring has sprung, and it’s time to hit the trails. Before heading out for that inaugural first hike of the season, take time to organize your day hike and backpacking essentials. Never head out for any hike without the right gear.

What to take hiking

Whether striking out for a short or long hike, every hiker should carry basic essentials. These include:

  • A first aid kit
  • Whistle
  • Compass and a map
  • Water, plus a way to purify water
  • Food
  • Extra clothing plus rain gear
  • Sunscreen, sunglasses and hat
  • Multipurpose tool and/or pocketknife
  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • Fire-starter and waterproof matches
  • Cell phone

Your first aid kit should include more than just basic bandages and aspirin. Be sure to have supplies to treat burns, punctures, bug bites and injuries such as twisted ankles. Always include cold packs, tweezers and even a snake bite kit.

Never solely rely upon a cell phone GPS as a guide tool. A quality compass is an essential tool all hikers should carry and know how to use. A compass doesn’t need a power source or satellite signal to work. Likewise, it’s smart to carry a topographic map of the area where you’re hiking if you need to find a water source or return route if you end up off the original trail.

Brita  Soft Sided Water Filtration Bottle, 24 oz Blue Being prepared for all eventualities can save your life when hiking. Always carry water and a way to purify water from a natural source if the occasion requires it. Water purification tablets are lightweight and easy to add to your day-pack. If you find the taste of water from park pumps or fountains not so palatable, consider carrying a water bottle with its own filtration device, such as Brita’s soft-sided water filtration bottle.

Hiking apparel and shoes

Your hiking supplies extend beyond your day-pack or backpack. Look for hiking boots that offer support and comfort not only for your feet but also for your ankles. Hiking along uneven trails without supported ankles is a recipe for a twist or sprain. Before buying new hiking shoes/boots, consider the type of trails you’ll be traveling and if you plan to be out in wet and/or cold conditions.

Layers are important when hiking. Avoid cotton because it lacks insulation properties if it gets wet and also does not wick moisture away from your skin. Instead, look for synthetic blends, including thermal wear for hiking in colder weather. Wool and fleece are other great options for layering, and don’t forget a waterproof outer layer. Socks are a critical item and should offer comfort and breathability, as well as help protect feet from blisters. Opt for socks designed specifically for hikers to ensure a comfortable fit.

Other hiking must-have items

Depending on the size of your pack and the length of your hike, you may also consider adding items such as insect repellent, gloves, an emergency blanket (look for the reflective kind that folds up into a small square) and even a roll of duct tape, which can come in handy for a variety of emergency repairs to shoes, backpacks and more.

 

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Garden Solutions Center Blogs

Take your passion for gardening to the next level with inspired posts.

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Take your passion for gardening to the next level with inspired posts.

Gardening: Farm-to-Table Cooking

Gardening: Farm-to-Table Cooking

Home cooking allows you to select healthy recipes made from fresh, natural ingredients without the additives found in processed foods. Processed foods often contain high levels of sodium, saturated fats, chemicals and sugar. The average American eats as much as 22 teaspoons of sugar daily, much of it from processed foods. One of the healthiest and tastiest ways to ditch the processed foods is to indulge in farm-to-table cooking.

What is farm-to-table cooking?

Farm-to-table cooking begins with buying fresh food from an individual or group who produces or grows the food on a small scale. Farm-to-table also includes buying from local growers because, typically, the closer you are to where your food is grown and harvested, the better it will taste. Growing your own vegetables, fruits, herbs and spices is another way to enjoy farm-to-table cooking as well.

What to grow in home garden

If you’re new to gardening, contact your local University Extension Office for information about the soil conditions in your area and which vegetables, fruits and herbs grow best. Consider a range of produce and include common recipe ingredients such as tomatoes, bell peppers, potatoes, onions, garlic, basil, carrots, green beans, lettuce, peas, radishes, zucchini, squash and cucumbers. Remember that plants such as tomatoes often need a cage to support growth and keep the fruits from drooping into the soil.
Charcoal Companion Non-Stick Circle Kabob Skewers / Set 4

Recipes from the garden

Fresh, delicious meals cooked farm-to-table don’t have to be complicated. Easy recipes from the garden range from fresh salads to grilled veggie kabobs and flavorful pasta dishes that will delight your family as well as dinner guests. One of the easiest garden-fresh recipes even a novice cook can make with ease is Summer Veggie Pasta.

 

From the garden:

  • About 10 cherry tomatoes, halved, or 2 medium tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 1 medium zucchini, peeled and sliced
  • 1 medium summer squash, peeled and sliced
  • 3 basil leaves, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced

Other ingredients:

  • About 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon each black pepper and red pepper flakes
  • 1 pound angel hair pasta, cooked

Pfaltzgraff  Rustic Leaves 9.5'' Vegetable Bowl - With Butterfly Sauté the vegetables in a skillet with the olive oil and other ingredients. Once the zucchini and summer squash are crisp-tender, remove from heat. Place the cooked pasta in a large serving dish and pour the vegetable sauté over the pasta. Sprinkle with fresh, grated parmesan cheese. Serves three to four people.

 

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Family Fun with Easter DIY Crafts

Family Fun with Easter DIY Crafts

Easy DIY Easter crafts

Dress your kids in bunny ears for Easter. Make ears by stapling or gluing construction paper ears to a paper headband that circles a child’s head above the eyebrows. First, help kids draw and cut out two long graceful ears. Have them color a pink center on the front of each oval, to look like the inside of the ear. Wrap a paper band around the child’s head, mark the size, remove and staple. Staple or glue the ears to the inside of the back of the band (with the prongs of the staples to the outside) and you’re done. Fast and easy!

Crayola  Classic Colors Non-Washable Marker Mini baskets are easy to make, too. Rinse square milk cartons and cut off the top two-thirds. Have kids cover the bottoms with construction paper and decorate them with markers or stickers. Make holes with a heavy-duty hole-punch and tie on a handle made from braided yarn or pretty fabric. The baskets are just the right size to hold a nest of Easter grass and a single colorful egg.

Holiday crafts with eggs

Coloring eggs is fun and easy. For something special, though, use painters tape to make striped, spiral or abstract eggs. This project is easy, especially if you prepare everything in advance.

First, boil and cool the eggs. This can be done a day or two ahead. At the same time, arrange your area, with newspaper padding to catch spills and protect surfaces. Also set up a place for the eggs to dry. This can be as simple as a few empty egg cartons.

McCormick  Food Color & Egg Dye, AssortedWhen you are almost ready to start, prepare the colors. Use food coloring or egg dye if the eggs will be eaten, although craft dyes do produce more vivid colors. Then, tear off strips of painter’s tape or masking tape about 6 inches long. One by one, cut or tear them into narrow strips. These can be straight, scalloped or curved. You can also cut squares and circles of tape.

Now everyone can begin. First, each child should dye an egg a pale color like yellow or pink and let it dry. Next, apply the tape, smoothing the edges down carefully. Tape resists the dye, so the shell underneath stays pale.

Straight strips make stripes, and crossed strips make plaid or checks. To make a long spiral, wind a curved strip around an egg. The best eggs might be the ones with random patterns.

You can repeat these steps indefinitely, although colors can get muddy after a while. Each time, be sure to let the egg dry completely before removing the tape. Now arrange the eggs and baskets where everyone can admire what they’ve accomplished with these easy DIY Easter crafts.

 

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