April 5, 2011 9:45 am
RISMEDIA, April 5, 2011-Your interests might be in gardening or redecorating, or maybe you're getting ready to sell your home. Either way, spring is the time for those home related projects. Many spring projects are more than just rejuvenating to the spirit. Some can also save money, make money, and/or improve your health.
Growing vegetables is a simple and rewarding pursuit, and nothing tastes as good as home grown. Gardens are also very scalable-a garden can be as small as a few pots on a condo balcony, and a large backyard garden might provide enough produce to get a family through next winter. Timing is the most critical factor. Each vegetable has its own timetable and characteristics. Some can be started from seeds indoors, and they must be planted early enough to be put in the garden when the weather is warm enough. Because southern climates are warmer, the date you plant the seeds and put the seedlings out will vary depending on where you live. Seed packets will contain that information, so read the backs before you buy any. If it is too late to start a particular seed indoors, you can still buy young plants and plant them directly in the garden.
Warm-season plants (tomatoes, eggplant, peppers and several others), can be started indoors from seed in March or April, depending on where you live. There are also "cool-season" crops-lettuce, radishes and peas-which should go in earlier and yield their produce earlier. All benefit from warm and sunny window locations, as well as plant lights.
If you are planting outside you'll want to till the ground for best results, and work in needed nutrients, lime. etc., when you do. This is also a good time to remove weeds. Soil test kits will help you identify what's needed. Renting a power tiller may be needed for a large area, but you can use a shovel or a three-prong cultivator in a small garden.
Herbs are great garden additions because they have far better taste when fresh. Most require relatively little space to grow if that is an issue. Some, like oregano, thyme and sage, will come back year after year, and others, like chives, will self seed if you let them.
Some people prefer flowers instead of vegetables, or a combination of the two. Some of the same factors mentioned above apply to flowers. Some flowers, like marigolds, discourage deer and are a smart addition to a vegetable garden if deer are a pest in your area. Other flowers attract welcome guests, like hummingbirds. Flowers that are particularly attractive to butterflies might best be kept apart from gardens, since some butterfly caterpillars are also fond of vegetables.
Spring is also a great time to clean up and clear out your home. These days many people just sell their stuff on eBay, Craigslist or Amazon because it is more convenient and they usually make more money than selling it at a yard sale. It can also make space and defray some of the costs of some fairly inexpensive redecorating. A new rug, chair, and/or painting can change the whole mood of a room.
Clearing out space is also a good idea if you are thinking about selling your home this spring. In that case, think twice before replacing anything you sell. One of the principles of home "staging"-the art of making your home more attractive to buyers-is to have less stuff in your rooms because it makes them look bigger. Planting flowers is another way to add curb appeal, and what prospective home buyer would not like the thought of harvesting fresh veggies from their garden this summer?
Other cost effective curb appeal projects include adding shrubbery to an under landscaped yard and repainting inside and/or out if your home needs it. A home inspection is a good idea because you can identify and take care of any minor problems before a buyer's inspection identifies them. Buyers can be turned off by a long list of needed repairs because it suggests lack of ongoing maintenance and the potential for even more problems. If the inspection uncovers more serious problems, you may want to factor them into the price and sell the home "as is."
Remodeling projects are also popular in the spring. Homeowners have gotten more conservative in terms of their scope in recent years. This is a reflection of both weaker home prices and a weaker economy. Nevertheless, remodeling is often a more sensible alternative than moving to upgrade your housing resources. Between commissions and other expenses, selling costs can easily approach 10% of a home's value. In some cases it is the only alternative because of the housing market.
By contrast, sensible remodeling costs can often add 80-90% of their costs to your homes net value. That can also move into the positive ROI range if you're willing to do some of the finish work (like painting) yourself.
As always, we recommend that homeowners get everything in writing. Contractor disputes are common and can best be avoided when areas of potential misunderstanding are eliminated. That is best done by using a comprehensive contact that covers everything.
Courtesy of the American Homeowners Foundation and the American Homeowners Grassroots Alliance, www.AmericanHomeowners.org.
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