The Best Time to Buy Everything for Your Home, From Linens to TV

Calendar: bgblue/iStock; products: Amazon.com

Calendar: bgblue/iStock; products: Amazon.com

If you’ve bought a home recently, odds are you aren’t rolling in money right now. In fact, between your mortgage payments and bills for repairs and much-needed upgrades, your coffers might be pretty bare—which is a shame, since part of the fun of owning a home is furnishing it. Right?

But even if money is tight, that doesn’t mean you can’t splurge a little—especially if you time your purchases right. There are good (read: cheaper) times to buy certain items and not such good times. Know thy difference! All you need is a little patience and the ability to curb your I-want-it-NOW instincts to save big bucks on everything from televisions to carpeting and tools.

Here’s your month-by-month guide on what to buy when you want to save big.

Linens: January

Find deep discounts on bedding, bath towels, linens, and other related products during January “White Sales,” with closeout prices both online and in stores. And don’t worry, other colors will be discounted, too; it’s called this only because linens were available only in white waaaay back when this sale was invented in 1878.

You can also find deals on linens in August when students head back to college and department stores are pushing dorm room supplies.

Furniture: January and December

Looking to buy a couch, dining room set, or any other big-ticket piece of furniture? Shopping after the new year can save you some serious scratch. The reason: Designers and manufacturers release new models in February, making furniture stores eager to ditch their outdated inventory, which hogs a whole lot of floor space. That means you could save 30% to 60% on a couch. Who wouldn’t like an extra thousand or so in their pockets?

Televisions: February and November

Black Friday is a no-brainer for TV purchases, but you can also take advantage of Super Bowl frenzy in late January and February to score a great deal on a big TV.

“Sales of TVs are often at their highest around then, since consumers want to watch big games on bigger screens,” says Kendal Perez, a savings expert with CouponSherpa.com. But it’s not just Super Bowl demand that lowers the price: The latest and greatest in TV technology is unveiled at January’s Consumer Electronics Show, which drives retailers to discount older models to clear the store shelves. (Yes, stores still exist.)

Snowblowers and shovels: April and May

Don’t wait till snow falls to buy your cold-weather gear. Pick up a new snowblower and shovel in the early spring, when “they’re less in demand and retailers want more room for barbecues and patio furniture,” says Perez. You might find decent deals on Black Friday, but they likely won’t beat spring discounts.

Carpeting: May

May is the slow season for carpeting, so if you’ve been waiting to go wall to wall—or replace your worn-out shag—hit up your local carpeting center this month. Homeowners are too busy thinking about the outdoors to bother renovating their indoors, so you’re likely to find good deals on square footage.

Gardening supplies: April

Everyone’s stocking up on gardening supplies during the spring, and you’ll find big-box home improvement stores such as Lowe’s and Home Depot competing for customers with amazing “Spring Black Friday” (yes, it’s a silly name) sales, usually in middle to late April.

“Expect deals like five for $10 mulch, BOGO free seed packets, and discounts on other gardening essentials,” Perez says.

Tools: June and November

Millions of wives and children seeking the perfect Father’s Day gift makes June a great month to refresh your tool collection. You’ll find dozens of sales on everything from drills to nails to saws. Black Friday is another great time to catch especially good deals on tools.

Outdoor furniture: July and August

Don’t pick up your new patio furniture at the beginning of the season—wait until late summer, when the bulk of buyers have already done their shopping and retailers are putting their inventory on deeper discounts.

Picnic and grilling supplies: August and September

You’ll find acceptable discounts on new picnic and grilling supplies in May and June, but the best deals will be found in August and September, “when retailers are pushing out inventory to make room for winter-related accessories,” says Perez. Expect savings of up to 75%—and if you need a lawn mower, pick it up at the same time to score an even better deal.

Major appliances: Holiday weekends

Retailers aren’t tricking you: Those holiday markdown sales really are the best time to buy new appliances. If you’re itching for a new fridge and Presidents Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, or any other major retail holiday is around the corner, hold your horses.

“Most holiday weekends will feature some kind of discount or special financing on large appliances,” says Perez.

Different holidays are better for different bargains. Memorial Day is best for that fridge, because new models arrive in June. Look at Labor Day and Columbus Day for washer-dryer units, dishwashers, stoves, and ranges, whose lines are often refreshed over the holiday season. But even if it’s not the “right” holiday for your must-have major appliances, still wait for the next shopping day—sales during holidays will still be better than standard prices.

Paint: Summer holidays

“Many homeowners take on paint tasks and other home improvement projects when the weather is warm,” says Perez. You might think more homeowners out to buy means prices rise, but the opposite is often true: With more competition on the market, retailers are more likely to lower prices to entice buyers. Look for paint promotions during Memorial Day and Fourth of July weekends, a great time to stock up on your favorite colors.

 

Posted by Jamie Wiebe on realtor.com

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Save Money, Get Healthy: How To Grow Your Own Food In An Apartment

Grow a salad without a yard? Challenge accepted.

Follow these tips to grow your own food in no time, with or without outdoor space.

Growing your own food is appealing for many reasons: You know exactly where it came from, you can control your chemical use, and it’s a cheap source of healthy food. But without an expanse of land, gardening can seem impossible. But it’s easier than you might think to grow produce in an apartment setting, even if all you have to work with is a windowsill on the 20th floor of your New York, NY, apartment building. The first step is to figure out your Plant Hardiness Zone, which determines what plants “will be most successful based on where you live,” says Jenny Prince, brand manager at American Meadows, a gardening retail site. Then read on for tips on how to pick the right types of plants and get them to grow. Happy harvesting!

Consider an herb garden

Chives, oregano, parsley, lemongrass, and basil are easy to grow indoors. Try to keep them near a window and use a breathable pot, such as one made of terra cotta, with drainage holes — the bigger and deeper the pot the better, says Rebecca Lee, founder of RemediesForMe.com, a resource on holistic healing. And don’t overwater them! “Herbs only need to be watered once a week,” says Lee. “Make sure the soil is completely dry, bring the plant to the sink, and run the water until the soil is completely wet. Let the water drain, repeat, and then bring the pot back to its saucer to let it completely drain.” If you’re just starting out, skip the seeds and buy baby plants, or seedlings, from a nursery. Just be sure they’ve been raised indoors because you don’t want to drastically change their environment.

Get your greens on

Lettuce, spinach, arugula, and chard tolerate low-light conditions, so they’re easy to grow indoors or on a shady balcony garden, says Prince. Greens also grow well in window boxes because of their shallow roots, which is ideal for apartment dwellers.

Don’t be afraid to mix and match plant types

“Thrillers, spillers, and fillers is a common design technique for container gardening,” says Prince. Container gardening is the idea of planting a variety of plants in one large pot — or container. “The idea is to choose plants that behave really differently but complement each other visually.” For example, you could plant eggplant or mini bell peppers (thrillers because of their dramatic texture and color) with romaine lettuce, spinach, chives, or oregano (fillers because they are bushier, medium-height plants) and finish the pot with cascading cherry tomatoes or sweet potato vines (you guessed it; these are spillers because they fall over the sides of the container).

DIY an ideal growing environment

Too much sun on your balcony or roof? Use an awning to create shade or place sun-loving plants like tomatoes in front of or next to shade lovers to block the light. Too little sun? Paint a pallet white and lean it against the wall to redirect what little sunlight you do get. For hot, dry climates, Prince says to make sure your pots are resting in drip trays that you keep filled with water, or invest in self-watering planters.

Be choosy about where you buy your plants

You’re selective about the produce you buy, so employ the same caution when buying seedlings, advises Prince. “Try to buy from a nursery rather than a big box store,” she says. “Often the plants you buy at big box stores aren’t well cared for. (Think pesticides and synthetic plant food.)”

Eat what you grow

Once your garden is producing veggies, fruits, and herbs, reap what you sow. This is especially true for herbs, because the more you pick them, the more they’ll grow. One tip? A pair of herb scissors can make harvesting a cinch. “When harvesting, avoid tugging at the leaves,” says Lee. “This can strain the entire plant and dislodge its roots.”

Posted by Michelle Hainer on Trulia

Tips for Watering Lawn in Summer

Watering the lawn efficiently and appropriately involves more than simply watering every day.

When the weather is hot, how can you tell if your lawn and garden are getting enough water?

First, it’s not necessary to water lawns and plants every day. As a general rule, more plants are killed through over-watering than under-watering.

Second, understand the properties of the soil in your area. Water penetrates and behaves differently in differing types of soil — e.g., sandy or loose soil vs. clay. Check with your local nursery for watering tips for your local area. Set up a system that allows effective watering with penetration of 6″ to 8″ below the ground surface.

The basic fact is that you’ll need to find out how deeply the water is penetrating into the soil. To do that, all that’s needed is a shovel. Pick an inconspicuous spot where you’ve been irrigating. About 30 minutes after watering, dig a small hole and use your hand to check how deeply the water has penetrated. In most lawn and garden situations, it’s best if water is penetrating 6″ to 8″ beneath the surface of the soil.

Check several locations to see if irrigation is even throughout the yard. If there are dry spots, you may need to modify your irrigation techniques.

Watering systems are not always uniform in how they disperse water. Even if you water regularly, you may find that there are wet spots and dry spots around your yard. To check whether your watering system is working evenly across your yard, here’s a trick you can use to test it. Take some plastic cups and place them around your yard before you water. You can place a few coins in the bottoms of the cups to prevent them from blowing over.

Once the cups are placed, turn on your sprinkler system. Water will collect in the cups as you water.

After watering for about 30 minutes, compare the level of water in each of the cups. You may discover that there is more water in some of the cups than in others. Frequently, areas within close proximity to the sprinkler receive less water than areas several yards away. You may need to check the directions that come with your sprinkler to make it apply water more uniformly.

For watering shrubs and beds, there are techniques and tools that are more effective than ordinary lawn sprinklers. Dripper systems use a hose attached to a faucet and timer. Small holes are placed at appropriate locations along the length of a polyethylene hose. Tiny adapters are inserted into the holes to allow small 1/4-inch hose branches to be installed along the length of the hose. Water emitters of various types are attached at the ends of the smaller branches.

Water emitters — such as small spray-heads — can be placed strategically beneath individual plants to deliver water exactly where it’s most needed.

2008, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Another useful tool is the soaker-hose system. Like the dripper system, the soaker system uses a timer and a main hose to which smaller branches are attached. In this case, the smaller hoses are manufactured with “weeping pores” that allow water to soak out all along their length. Once the porous branches are attached to the main hose, and placed strategically at the bases and root systems of plants, the water is turned on. The soaker hose allows moisture to soak gently into the soil.

Find this and more landscaping tips on www.diynetwork.com

It’s Not Too Late to Grow These 11 Tasty Plants

It may be mid-July, but that doesn’t mean you’ve missed out on all the gardening fun. These tasty veggies and herbs are just the thing for a late-summer garden that will keep on giving come autumn. Get our best tips for these late-summer specialties, below.

Beans

DK – How to Grow Practically Everything, 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

 

 

Your Super Simple 3-Step Program for Houseplant Maintenance

You’ve kept a collection of houseplants alive. Congratulations! Now this is how you can make them thrive.

Shutterstock ID 349499291; PO: Cat Overman;

Shutterstock ID 349499291; PO: Cat Overman;

There are no one-size-fits-all answers when it comes to houseplants, and a plant tag can only tell you so much. Each species is unique, hailing from climates ranging from dry deserts to Mediterranean landscapes to tropical rainforests, and even two plants of the same species can have totally different needs depending on a number of factors. Fertilizing depends on the type of plant and the label instructions, while pruning times and methods rely on a plant’s blooming time and growth pattern.

Grow a lush and flourishing indoor garden filled with a variety of plants by following this three-step program. Start with a good reference, and inspect for problems every time you water. Finally, fill out a maintenance checklist for each plant in your collection to provide the most personalized and accurate care possible.

Find a reference

Since each plant has entirely different needs, it’s essential to find trustworthy references that will tell you everything you need to know about each specific plant.

While you can find info on any plant with a quick Internet search, you’ll find that some sites have more information on certain plants than others. If you own a collection of houseplants, I highly recommend picking up a book such as “The House Plant Expert” by D. G. Hessayon.

Inspect while you water

Even with all the knowledge in the world at your fingertips, your senses are the best tools in your arsenal. Every time you water, inspect each plant for problems such as pests, yellowed leaves or slow, lanky growth.

Shutterstock ID 224849716; PO: Cat Overman;

Shutterstock ID 224849716; PO: Cat Overman;

Refer to the list below to help you narrow down problems, or check out this info on troubleshooting houseplant problems.

A plant needs to be watered more if:

  • The top inch of potting mix is dry
  • Leaves are wilting (unless soil is moist)
  • Water runs over the soil and drains along the sides
  • The plant feels lighter than usual

A plant needs to be watered less if:

  • The soil feels more soggy than moist
  • The roots are beginning to rot
  • You see fungus gnats every time you water

A plant needs fertilizer if:

  • It has been over a few months since purchasing the plant
  • The time-release fertilizer pellets or fertilizer spikes are spent
  • The palm fronds are yellowed
  • The plant is growing at a glacial pace
  • It’s been over a year since you fertilized
  • You can’t remember the last time you fertilized

A plant needs to be repotted if:

  • The existing potting mix drains too quickly or slowly
  • The plant’s roots coil tightly together in the pot, forming a solid mass
  • The potting mix is practically older than dirt

A plant is getting too much sun if:

  • The exposed leaves are getting scorched and bronzy
  • It’s a shade-loving plant but is receiving direct rays of sunlight

A plant isn’t getting enough sun if:

  • Its new growth is spindly and stretched out
  • The plant actually appears to reach for more light
  • The leaves are very dark green
  • It’s in a room without a window, such as a bathroom

Create a care sheet for each plant

You can solve a lot of problems with a good reference and eye for detail, but it can be difficult to keep track of an entire collection of plants around the house. For example, two rubber trees (Ficus elastica) in the same house require different care depending on a number of factors: the brightness of the room, your home’s heating system, the type of potting soil, the overall health of the plants and even the type of fertilizer being used.

Instead, create care sheets for each plant. (We have one you can download and use.) Print one sheet for every houseplant in your collection, or keep notes on your computer, tablet or phone if that’s more convenient for you.

Fill in the basic needs and take notes whenever you feed, repot, move and prune plants, so that it will be easier to diagnose problems that arise. Place the worksheets in a folder and use them to pencil in dates on the calendar to remind you when it’s time to fertilize or prune.

Posted by Steve Asbell on Zillow

9 Tips for Preparing a Fabulous Flower Bed

Dust off your vases, pitchers, and extra coffee mugs. Your home will be overflowing with fresh-cut blooms in no time.

Have you ever ended up with a bed of dead flowers, mountains of mulch and a whopping garden center receipt? Let’s do something about that, shall we?

Get your gardening groove back with these nine tips.

1. Start with a clean slate

There are two kinds of flowerbeds: Those that have been well-prepared, and those that are covered in weeds.

Give your unplanted bed the once-over. Does it receive enough sunlight? Does water tend to collect there? Have you removed all weeds, roots, and rocks so that your plants will thrive? It’s a lot easier to fix these problems now than it is once you’ve planted the flowers and laid the mulch.

Shutterstock ID 395535262; PO: Cat Overman

Shutterstock ID 395535262; PO: Cat Overman

2. Start seeds

Start a flowerbed from seed to save money, raise unusual varieties and enjoy the satisfaction of having grown a whole garden from a handful of tiny seeds.

Since some seeds transplant poorly, check the packet and make sure you don’t have to sow directly in the ground. Start seeds in trays, pots or in coir pots, using a seedling mixture, place them in a sunny spot, and transplant as soon as they have developed sturdy stems.

3. Prepare nursery plants

Nursery-grown bedding plants give you instant gratification, but the short time between purchase and planting is crucial to their survival.

Pack them closely in your car to avoid damage, and take them home immediately so that they don’t fry in your car during other errands.

Water nursery plants as soon as you get home, as often as necessary after that, and a few hours before planting to help their fragile roots survive the trauma of transplanting.

4. Get the winning edge

Even the most carefully planned border can look sloppy without a clearly defined edge. Avoid those inexpensive and quickly deteriorating edges made of plastic, and choose a more natural and long-lasting alternative.

The cheapest solution is to make a shallow trench around the bed with your spade and maintain it throughout the season. For something more refined and permanent, set an edge of brick, concrete or stone in leveling sand. The initial cost may be higher, but they will save you a lot of work and make mowing easier.

5. Plan for the seasons

Choose annuals if you plan on replacing them in a season or two, and plant perennials if you’d like them to last longer. Plant evergreen shrubs or ornamental grasses to provide structure and year-round interest.

Also consider the plant’s eventual height: Plant low-growing flowers (usually annuals) at the front of the bed where they can be easily viewed and then replaced at the end of their season.

Shutterstock ID 395790778; PO: Cat Overman;

Shutterstock ID 395790778; PO: Cat Overman;

6. Give them space

Follow the guidelines on the seed packet or plant tag as closely as possible. One that is often overlooked is the amount of space to leave around each plant so they have room to grow. To cover a lot of ground quickly, choose spreading varieties like ‘Superbells’ and climbing nasturtiums.

7. Dig the perfect hole

Dig each plant’s hole to be twice as wide as the original pot, so the roots will have plenty of room to grow. To give them an even better head-start, make a little trench around the inside of the hole so the roots will spread down and out.

This step isn’t necessary for annuals, since they won’t be around long enough to enjoy their strong root systems, but it is helpful if you have clay soil.

8. Plant it right

When planting transplants and nursery plants, always place them so that their crowns (where the plant meets the soil) are level with the soil in the bed. If the crown is above the soil level, the plant may dry out when soil washes away from the roots. If planted too low, soil will settle around the crown and rot the plant.

Push the soil around the transplant and firmly tamp it in place with a trowel so no gaps are left between the roots.

9. Mulch better

Mulch is essential for conserving moisture and preventing weeds, but one inch is all you need. Established garden beds don’t even need mulch because the plants themselves are then capable of protecting the soil.

Avoid landscaping fabric, since it actually keeps moisture from percolating into the soil. Instead, lay down sheets of newspaper before mulching.

Mulches vary by region, but whichever kind you use, follow this one rule: Don’t ever pile it up against the plants. They’ll rot in no time, and you’ll soon have nothing more than an ugly bed of mulch in their place.

Posted by Steve Asbell on Zillow

7 New Year’s Resolutions For Homeowners

Leave your bad home habits behind in 2015, and start the year off right with these home-related resolutions.

Rethink your resolutions and add these attainable home goals to your list.

New year, new you, new home. The calendar change always invites all sorts of resolutions, some of them attainable, many of them impractical and stress-inducing. Especially if you just closed on that house for sale in Denver, CO. But changes needn’t be big or difficult to be life-altering. Here are seven simple real estate–related New Year’s resolutions you can make for 2016 that will pay big dividends with minimal effort.

Start making extra mortgage payments

It’s the financial reality you hate to face: the amount of money you actually end up paying for your house over the length of a 30-year mortgage. So what do the interest savings look like if you make one extra mortgage payment over a 12-month span? In short, pretty good — if you keep it up for the duration of your loan, you’re likely to save tens of thousands of dollars. It’s especially worth considering in the first five years of a mortgage, when the majority of your monthly installment goes to interest payments rather than the principal.

The only thing to keep in mind is that once you start making the extra payment, that extra money is locked up in your home equity (and not sitting in your bank account as an emergency fund).

Get new homeowners’ insurance quotes

You probably don’t think about this too often because your insurance automatically renews every year. But as it happens, you may now be eligible for some discounts that weren’t available when you first applied — and your existing insurance company isn’t obligated to check in every year and see if you now qualify. Call your agent and see if you can knock down your yearly installment; if they won’t budge, then start shopping around for a better rate.

Have your home reassessed for tax purposes

Did you know that your house gets reassessed by your county only every few years? Which means your assessed property value might be higher than your current market value, which means you might be paying too much in taxes and not even know it. In most states, you can simply go online and request a reassessment for free. A note of caution: Be wary of outside companies offering to get your home reassessed for you for a small fee — it could be a scam.

Get an energy assessment

Yep, those gas and electric bills can get out of control in the winter months, but they don’t always have to be static. Some states have nonprofits that will come to your home and offer an energy assessment free of charge, but otherwise you can hire a professional energy auditor. That person will then make a series of suggestions both small (LED light bulbs) and large (solar panels) so that you can stretch your energy dollar. Even tiny lifestyle changes, such as unplugging unused devices or programming your thermostat on a schedule, can make a difference.

Plant a vegetable garden

You have some time with this, given that it’s only January, but then again, there’s no time like the present to start strategizing a kitchen garden. Growing your own food saves money and, in its own way, helps the environment too. It also benefits your health, as you’re more apt to eat fruits and vegetables that you’ve cultivated yourself. And of course, as head farmer, you get to decide what pesticides and fertilizers you (don’t) use. Start small, only growing veggies and herbs you love to eat, and if you lack backyard space, start garnering inspiration from blogs featuring rooftop, fire escape, and flower box farmers.

Start composting

If you’re anything like us, this has been on your to-do list for years. But somehow it just feels too time-consuming or messy, especially if you live in the city. Keep it simple and buy a composting kit that walks you through the steps. If you don’t have an actual use for your own compost, there are small outfits around the country that will pick it up for a minimal fee; some cities even include compost pickup in their trash services.

Buy a rain barrel

So simple, yet so valuable. Just a few benefits of collecting rainwater and repurposing it later: It cuts down on your water bill, it lessens the moisture around your home’s foundation, it’s healthier for your plants and garden, and it helps reduce runoff pollution (and hopefully inspires your neighbors to do the same).

Rainwater is also great for washing your dog and car, as it’s free of salt and other chemicals. (Poor dog! Poor car!) If you’re in a drought district, the benefits of a rain barrel are obvious. And remember that composting you just started? Adding rainwater to your brand-new pile is a far more sustainable practice than mixing it with tap water. Just be sure to check local laws: some communities have rules against collecting rainwater.

Posted by Meaghan Agnew on Trulia