Home and garden tipsLoading

    Home Tip: Get your grill in shape

    Clean the exterior of the barbecue with warm, soapy water and a sponge. Use fine steel wool for tough cooked-on grime. Check for rust and touch up the surface as needed with rust-resistant spray paint. With a stiff wire brush, clean the grill grate, then spray with nonstick cooking oil such as PAM. Refill propane tank, if needed.

    Courtesy of Home Depot

    Home Tip: Save water

    Want to save water? Get a free Water Wise House Call. If you get your water from the city of Sacramento, you can arrange a visit by a trained conservation specialist who will check your appliances and plumbing and help tune up your outdoor irrigation, too. Call "311" to schedule your visit, or go to www.SpareSacWater.org.


    Home Tip: Upholstery stains happen

    When cleaning up a spill, blot with a clean white towel – don't rub. That guards against damaging the fibers or setting the stain.


    Garden Tip: One good thing about hot days

    Most lawns stop growing when temperatures top 95 degrees. Keep your mower's blades set on high.


    Garden Tip: Avoid blossom-end rot

    Avoid blossom-end rot on tomatoes, peppers, squash and watermelons by maintaining uniform soil moisture. Plant veggies in well-drained soil and water deeply once or twice a week. Mulch will help the soil retain that moisture. Try not to disturb sensitive roots; avoid cultivating more than 1 inch deep within 1 foot of plants.


    Home Tip: Freshen up the fridge

    Freshen up the fridge. When cleaning the refrigerator, add a dash of lemon extract to the rinse water for a fresh scent. An open box of baking soda - kept inside the refrigerator - will absorb new odors.

    Bob Fila | Chicago Tribune file, 2008

    Home Tip: Club soda cleans more than just stains

    Club soda works wonders in lifting out stains. But it's also an effective cleaner on metal fixtures, according to "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Green Cleaning." Use club soda to clean chrome on faucets and utensils.


    Garden Tip: Watch out for slugs and snails

    Watch out for slugs and snails. Moist spring weather brings them out in force. An hour after nightfall, check your tender plants with a flashlight and hand-pick snails and slugs off foliage. To deter snails, sprinkle wood ash or crushed eggshells around plants.

    Neudorff Natural Gardening

    Garden Tip: Mosquito season

    With warmer weather comes mosquito season. Empty standing water out of saucers under pots. Also, eliminate any other standing water that may have accumulated during recent rains.

    Kathy Keatley Garvey
  • Summer weather

    Home Tip: Install a rain sensor on your irrigation system

    Forgot to turn off your sprinklers? Consider installing a rain sensor on your irrigation system. Available at home-improvement stores, these sensors cost about $30 and will automatically stop your sprinklers from watering on rainy days.

    Lezlie Sterling | lsterling@sacbee.com
  • Pat Allen's succulent collection

    Garden Tip: Don't get stuck repotting cactus

    When repotting cactus, use several thicknesses of newspaper wrapped around the prickly plant. Thorns and prickles – which often will penetrate fabric – can't poke through nonporous paper. Don't forget thick gloves, too.

    Lezlie Sterling | lsterling@sacbee.com
  • At Home with Curtis Popp

    Home Tip: Freshen up the fridge.

    When cleaning the refrigerator, add a dash of lemon extract to the rinse water for a fresh scent. An open box of baking soda – kept inside the refrigerator – will absorb new odors.

    Autumn Cruz | acruz@sacbee.com
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    Garden Tip: Want abundant tomatoes, peppers and squash this summer? Plant flowers with your veggies. Flowers attract pollinators while also deterring pests. Flowering herbs also work well for this purpose and do double duty; you can use them in the kitchen, too. Among the most effective companion posies: Marigolds, nasturiums, bee balm, dill, sage, borage, chamomile, fennel and hyssop.

    RANDALL BENTON | Bee file, 2010

    Home Tip: Properly discard your leftover pesticides

    Leftover pesticides – such as chlorpyrifos, Diazinon, Lindane and pyrethroids – can create a danger to your home and the environment. Don't put them down the drain or in the trash. Instead, dispose of them properly at a Household Hazardous Waste facility. For sites nearest you, visit www.sacgreenteam.com or cityofsacramento.org/utilities.

  • Garden Tip: Finished reading the day's Bee? Turn it into mulch

    Another use for your Bee: Mulch it. Newsprint makes effective, low-cost mulch. Use at least six pages to get enough thickness to block out weeds while retaining moisture. You can top the newsprint with bark to make it more attractive. Eventually, the newsprint will break down, adding fiber and a little nitrogen to the soil. Putting compost underneath the newsprint will benefit the plants. Some color inks contain metals that may harm foliage, so choose the black-and-white sections over colorful glossy inserts. The Bee's primary inks are biodegradable and safe for plants.

    Scott R. Craig
  • 1M24WATER

    Garden Tip: Water with the weather

    It's time to water with the weather. If rain is in the forecast, shut off the sprinklers. For every inch of precipitation, lawn sprinklers can stay off a week.

    PAUL KITAGAKI JR. | Bee file, 2009
  • Tomato Virus

    Garden Tip: How to prevent leaf curl

    Did your peach trees look funky last spring? To help prevent leaf curl, apply a copper fungicide spray to peach and nectarine trees after they lose their leaves. Leaf curl, which shows up in the spring, is caused by a fungus that winters as spores on the limbs and around the tree in fallen leaves. Sprays are most effective applied in fall and winter. Choose a fungicide with at least 50 percent copper.

    Max Whittaker | AP

    Home tip: Accidents happen

    Accidents happen – often it seems while entertaining. If a drink gets spilled on carpet or upholstery, try this: Blot up excess, then apply a 1/2 teaspoon detergent dissolved in one cup warm water with damp towel. For coffee, mixed drinks and red wine, leave on 3 to 5 minutes. Blot. Apply undiluted white vinegar using a damp towel. Except for red wine stains, apply water with damp sponge. Finish blotting with a pad of towels.


    Garden tip: Paperwhite narcissus bulbs

    Paperwhite narcissus bulbs can grow and bloom in a bowl without soil. Fill a shallow bowl or dish with 2 inches of rocks or pebbles. Place bulbs in the dish with the root end nestled in the rocks. Add water until it just touches the bottom of the bulbs. Place the dish in a sunny window. Add water as needed.

    Florence Low | Sacramento Bee Staff Photo
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    Garden Tip: What makes fall leaves so colorful

    It's not the autumn chill, it's longer nights that trigger leaves to change color in autumn, says the U.S. National Arboretum. Frost actually ruins vivid fall colors by causing leaf cells to rupture and die. Weather makes the annual color change shift from year to year. The ideal conditions for fall color: warm, sunny days and cool nights with little wind or drought stress.

    Jason Branz

    Home Tip: Don't miss home improvement tax credit deadline

    Several federal tax credits for energy-efficient home improvements expire Dec. 31. Those improvements need to be installed by that deadline, not just purchased, says the Alliance to Save Energy. Among the upgrades with available credits: Insulation; windows, doors and skylights; non-solar water heaters; metal and asphalt roofs; heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems; and biomass stoves. Learn more at www.ase.org.

    ANNE CHADWICK WILLIAMS | Bee file, 2009

    Home Tip: Save energy during dryer use

    When your dryer is still warm from the last load, pop in more clothes. By drying loads in succession, you can take advantage of existing heat in the dryer, says the Whirlpool Institute of Fabric Science. Use moisture sensing settings if available to avoid over-drying, which wastes energy and can cause clothing to shrink.


    Garden Tip: Find drought-tolerant plants for fall and winter

    Some drought-tolerant plants look their best in fall or winter. For examples, check out the Water-Efficient Landscape demonstration garden at the Fair Oaks Horticulture Center in Fair Oaks Park, 11549 Fair Oaks Blvd., Fair Oaks. The garden is open daily dawn to dusk. Especially lovely now are ornamental grasses, coffeeberry, lantana, sedum, aster, verbena and many salvia varieties.

    Ellen Zagory | UC Davis Arboretum

    Garden Tip: Bag up your leaves for composting

    Overwhelmed by fallen leaves? Besides composting now, bag some up and save them for your compost pile next year. Those autumn leaves can be used as "browns" – carbon-rich material – in the spring and summer, when browns are in short supply. To make good compost, browns are mixed with "greens," nitrogen-packed material such as grass clippings, coffee grounds, tea bags, vegetable waste and young weeds. Learn more at the University of California's agriculture and natural resources website, http://ucanr.org. Follow the links to "compost."

    Courtesy of Jeffrey Restuccio

    Home Tip: Keeping your kitchen drain clear

    Reduce the chances of a clogged kitchen sink by pouring boiling water down the drain once a week, says Kimberly Delaney, author of "Green Home, Clean Home." A teakettle-full is all it takes. The high temperature melts soap buildup and fatty desposits. It also kills bacteria. This trick is good for bathroom sink, shower and tub drains, too.

    Big Stock Photo
  • sprinkler

    Garden Tip: Gauge your lawn's water needs

    Unsure if your lawn needs more water after a storm? Your lawn needs about an inch of irrigation a week. If one inch or more of rain falls, turn off the automatic sprinklers for five days. If another half-inch falls during that period, keep the sprinklers off until there are another five days without rain.

    BRIAN BAER | Bee file
  • Home Tip: How much does a little lint cost?

    It can really add up. After every load, clean the dryer lint trap to maintain proper ventilation and heating. That can save you $34 annually, says the Whirlpool Institute of Fabric Science. Also, keep the dryer's outside exhaust clean. A clogged exhaust lengthens drying time and increases energy use.

    Florence Low | Sacramento Bee Staff Photo

    Home tip: Remove rust from metal outdoor furniture

    To remove rust from metal outdoor furniture or bolts, use naval jelly, available at hardware or home improvement stores, with a wire brush. Wear rubber gloves and follow directions on the package.


    Garden Tip: Keep flowers blooming into fall

    Prepare for a fall full of flowers by paying a little extra attention to your garden. Cut off spent blooms (a process called deadheading) from roses, annuals and perennials, then give them a boost of fertilizer. Make sure to water plants before feeding. Roses will rebloom about six to eight weeks after deadheading.


    Home Tip: Discarding old medications

    Flushing over-the-counter medications or expired prescription drugs down the drain can be harmful to rivers, streams and our drinking water. Instead, take them to local household hazardous waste facilities. Dispose of them at the Sacramento County's North Area Recovery Station, 4450 Roseville Road, North Highlands; call (916) 875-5555 or click on www.sacgreenteam.com for hours and more details. For more options, click on www.dontflushyourmeds.com.


    Home tip: Does your patio furniture need a bath?

    Does your patio furniture need a bath? This solution cleans off that grime from metal, wood and plastic outdoor furnishings. In a 2-gallon or larger bucket, mix together 2/3 cup trisodium phosphate (TSP), 1/3 cup laundry soap powder, 1 quart bleach and 3 quarts warm water. Put the solution in a spray bottle and clean away. Wet furniture with a hose first. Remove cushions before spraying. Use a rag and soft-bristle brush to remove embedded dirt. Rinse thoroughly and let dry.


    Garden tip: Blackberries bear fruit on second-year growth

    Blackberries bear fruit on second-year growth, so canes sprouting now will yield next year's crop. To avoid creating a thicket, older canes are removed after fruiting. (For most varieties, they will not bear again.) After harvest, cut spent canes close to the ground. Tie up new green canes to a trellis, then feed the plant with compost. When new canes reach 5 feet long, pinch off the growing tip.

    AUTUMN CRUZ | acruz@sacbee.com
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    Garden tip: Working with Irises

    Summer is the time to divide and transplant bearded iris rhizomes. Iris need to be dug up and divided about every three years for continued bloom. Irises can be stored in a dry location until ready to plant. Before planting, soak the rhizomes overnight in water to tell them it is time to start growing. After planting, they need to be kept damp until rooted.

  • Weather

    Home tip: Let a lemon help your housework

    Let a lemon help your housework. Clean dirty grout with lemon power. Squeeze a fresh lemon over the grout and let the juice soak in for a few minutes, then wipe clean with a damp sponge. Cut the remaining rind into a few chunks, put it in the garbage disposal and grind; that will freshen the disposal and get rid of odors.

    Renée C. Byer | rbyer@sacbee.com
  • glass

    Home tip: Make your own window and glass cleaner

    Make your own window and glass cleaner. Mix one cup of white distilled vinegar with one quart of warm water. Put in a spray bottle and clean away.

    OWEN BREWER | Sacramento Bee Staff Photo
  • Bees Doing their Thing

    Garden tip: Give the bees a hand

    If your melons and squash aren't setting fruit, give the bees a hand. With a small, soft paintbrush, gather pollen from male flowers, then brush it inside the female flowers, which have a tiny swelling at the base of their petals. (That's the embryo melon or squash.) Within days, that little swelling should start growing.

  • 7N21I6PIZZA

    Home tip: Do pizza and paint go together?

    Do pizza and paint go together? They can in the toolbox. When trying to open a window that's been painted shut, run a pizza cutter between the window frame and the window sash to break the paint bond, suggests DIY expert Danny Lipford. Just make sure you wash the pizza cutter before you serve your next pizza.

    Florence Low | Special to The Bee

    Garden tip: Shopping for summer color?

    Shopping for summer color? Purchase annuals without flowers - that way you'll enjoy the blooms longer. Choose shorter, bushy plants because taller ones are more established in their plastic pots and may not transplant as well. When transplanting annuals, loosen the roots a little by hand to stimulate stronger growth.

    Sheryl Manies | Feather River Recreation and Park District

    Home tip: Looking for ways to cut down on cleaning?

    Looking for ways to cut down on cleaning? Start by preventing the mess, say Michele Adams and Gia Russo of Daily.ThredUp.com, a site where moms discuss a different topic each day. A well-planned storage system is the backbone of a clean and organized house. No space in closets and drawers? De-clutter cabinets and closets first, then organize each one. Less clutter means less mess to clean.

  • Beutler Corp. AC

    Home tip: Shopping for a new air conditioner?

    Shopping for a new air conditioner? Look for the Energy Star label. It means that unit meets strict energy efficiency guidelines created by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Besides getting maximum performance out of your new air conditioner, you'll also save money on utility bills and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

    Manny Crisostomo | mcrisostomo@sacbee.com

    Home Tip: Give your patio a summer pick-me-up

    Give your patio or porch a summer pick-me-up with some colorful accessories. Even on a tight budget, vibrant pillows or tropical flowers and plants serve as a quick, smile-inducing makeover. For entertaining, use brightly printed place mats and colorful platters to add fun and festive flair.

    Andy Alfaro | aalfaro@sacbee.com

    Garden tip: Before starting your lawnmower, check the oil

    Before starting your lawn mower, always check the oil level. Start by removing the dipstick, wiping the oil from it, and inserting it back into the engine. Then, remove the dipstick again to check the level. Add oil if necessary in accordance with the owner's manual. According to the makers of Honda lawn mowers, oil should be changed once per season. If the oil was changed before storing the equipment for winter, another oil change is not necessary.

  • outside seating

    Home tip: How do you clean outdoor wicker furniture?

    How do you clean outdoor wicker furniture? Just spray it with plain water to remove dirt and dust, pat dry, then protect it with paste wax. For resin furniture, spray with water only and let dry; no wax necessary.


    Garden tip: Make cut flowers last longer

    Make cut flowers last longer with a splash of 7-Up or Sprite. Add 1/4 cup of the soft drink (regular, not diet - you want the sugar) to water in the vase before inserting flowers. Trim an inch off flower stems to get rid of air bubbles that may block water uptake.


    Garden tip: Watch out for caterpillars

    Watch out for caterpillars and hornworms in the vegetable garden. They can strip a plant bare in one day. Pick them off plants by hand in early morning or late afternoon. Identify the beneficial butterflies-to-be (and relocate them to somewhere else in the garden), then dispose of the others. How do you tell which is which? Visit www.bugguide.net or http://butterflywebsite.com.

    RANDY PENCH | Bee file, 2005

    Garden tip: Most outdoor cushion fabric coverings are washable

    Cushions and fabric coverings on most outdoor furniture are washable. Using mild liquid detergent, wash these pieces by hand. Return fabric coverings to the cushions and frames while still damp; that way the fabric won't shrink.


    Home tip: Avoid a balky lawnmower

    Avoid a balky lawnmower or other hard-starting garden equipment. When storing outdoor power equipment, add gasoline stabilizer to the fuel and run the engine for a few minutes outside to ensure all the gas is treated. According to the makers of Honda power equipment, this prevents fuel-related problems from occurring when the lawnmower is removed from storage. Old fuel or fuel left in the carburetor for months can cause gumming of the carburetor and the intake valve. Even fuel that's just a month old can make it hard to start the engine.

  • Harvest Sacramento picks fruit for the poor

    Garden tip: Sun burn on citrus trees

    To prevent sunburn and borer problems on young citrus trees, paint the exposed portion of the trunk with diluted white latex (water-based) interior paint. Dilute the paint with an equal amount of cold water before application.

    Autumn Cruz | acruz@sacbee.com

    Garden tip: Attract bees to your garden

    Attract bees to your vegetable garden by incorporating some flowering plants. Sunflowers, yarrow, cosmos and marigolds (the single variety) draw pollinators that will also visit nearby squash and tomatoes. Bees particularly like yellow, blue and purple flowers.

    Kathy Keatley Garvey | UC Davis

    Home tip: Stains and finishes

    With modern stains and finishes, cleaning wood floors has never been easier, according to the Wood Flooring Association. Regular sweeping and vacuuming will go a long way in keeping them clean. Other pointers: Keep dirt and grit off floors by using mats at entry points. Place felt-tipped protectors on bottoms of chair legs. Keep pets' nails trimmed. Dust-mop at least once a week, more frequently if heavy soil is present. Clean floors periodically with a professional wood floor cleaning product.

    OWEN BREWER | Sacramento Bee Staff Photo
  • garden

    Garden tip: No space for a garden?

    No space for a garden? Look up. For maximum landscape interest in a small, vertical space, grow some annual flowering vines. They can disguise ugly walls and fences while providing a burst of summer color. When trellised, they can create shade and privacy while hiding undesirable views. Some candidates for this vertical gardening: Morning glory, nasturtium (the vining varieties) and scarlet runner bean.

    Roberta Walker

    Garden tip: Easter lilies

    After the holiday, Easter lilies can find new life in the garden. They do well replanted in the ground. Choose a sunny, well-drained location. Remove the plant from the container and loosen the bulb's root system. Plant the bulb 2 to 3 inches deeper than it was in the container and cover with soil. Water thoroughly and feed with an all-purpose garden fertilizer. Soon after transplanting, the old top will wither and die, but don't worry. The bulb should send up new shoots. Left outside, these lilies typically bloom in May or June.

    Florence Low | Sacramento Bee Staff Photo
  • Recycling

    Home tip: Recycle your aluminum cans

    It's become almost second nature to most beverage sippers, but it's important to recycle your aluminum cans. Recycling one can saves enough energy to run a computer for three hours. The city of Elk Grove offers more tips and links to local recycling centers at www.egtrashrecycleservices.org.

    Hector Amezcua | hamezcua@sacbee.com
  • mower

    Garden tip: Lawn mower won't start

    Lawn mower won't start? It could be stale gas. According to lawn mower engine maker Briggs & Stratton, gasoline goes stale in about 30 days. Stale gas results in hard starting of equipment. To avoid this problem, use only fresh, lead-free gasoline with an ethanol content that does not exceed 10 percent. Fill the fuel tank only three-quarters full, allowing room for expansion without overflowing.

  • RB Sierra Sunrise Garden

    Garden tip: Spring gardening

    Sunny spring days kick the vegetable garden into high gear. Warm weather brings rapid growth, with tomatoes and squash enjoying the heat most. Both need warm nights as well as days, preferably warmer than 50 degrees. To help this growth spurt, deep-water your seedlings, then feed with a balanced fertilizer. A little bone meal can spur the bloom cycle and help set fruit.

    Randall Benton | Sacramento Bee Staff Photo
  • painting

    Home tip: Cleaning paintbrushes, rollers

    Cleaning paintbrushes or rollers is hard, messy work. If you still have more painting to do, wrap the brush or roller in a plastic bag and put it in the freezer. It will keep fresh indefinitely. No room in the freezer? Wrap the brush or roller in airtight plastic and keep it at room temperature. This can preserve it for a few days before you go back to painting.

    Thomas Cordy | Sacramento Bee Staff Photo
  • planting

    Garden tip: Aphids driving you crazy?

    Aphids driving you crazy? Sulfur and potassium bicarbonate sprays are both effective in protecting young shoots. To make your own spray, process a few cloves of sulfur-packed garlic with 1 quart of water in a blender or food processor, then spray leaves and shoots. Or mix 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon liquid soap (such as Dr. Bronner's Castile soap) and 1 quart water in a spray container. Shake well.

    Autumn Cruz | Sacramento Bee Staff Photo

    Home tip: Women's cleaning habits

    When it comes to cleaning, remember: Like mother, like daughter. Women's cleaning habits form as girls, and 94 percent still use the cleaning habits they first learned. According to a new national survey, the Scrubbing Bubbles Dirty Work Index, 81 percent of moms teach their daughters how to clean, and 50 percent of women still call Mom first for cleaning advice. Mom's best tips: Once it's clean, keep it that way. Pick up stuff as you move from room to room.

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