Archive for Recycling

Preserving the Poinsettia Plant

Posted in Around Your Home, Lifestyle with tags , , , on January 3, 2012 by Pat Hansen

One of the most common questions after Christmas is “How can I care for my poinsettia plant so that it will bloom again next Christmas?”

While this can be done, it requires work, as it is an exacting process. For those who are undaunted, the process for saving your poinsettia and getting it to re-bloom begins with the care you give it the first season.

When You First Bring Your Poinsettia Home

Light – Place near a sunny window. South, east or west-facing windows are preferable to a north facing window.  Poinsettia plants are tropical and will appreciate as much direct sunlight as you can provide.

Heat – To keep the poinsettia in bloom as long as possible, maintain a temperature of 65 – 75 degrees F. during the day. Dropping the temperature to about 60 degrees F. at night will not hurt the plant; however, cold drafts or allowing the leaves to touch a cold window can injure the leaves and can cause premature leaf drop. 

Water – Water the plant whenever the surface is dry to the touch. Water until it drains out the bottom, but don’t let the plant sit in water.

Humidity – Lack of humidity during dry seasons, particularly in winter, is an ongoing houseplant problem. If your home tends to be dry and your poinsettia is in direct light, you will find yourself watering frequently, possibly daily.

After Christmas Care

January – March Keep watering the poinsettia whenever the surface is dry.

April: Starting April 1st, gradually decrease water, allowing the plant to get dry between watering. Take care that the stem does not begin to shrivel. This is a sign the plant is too stressed and is dying. In a week or two, when the plant has acclimated to this drying process, move it to a cool spot like the basement or a heated garage. You want to keep it at about 60 degrees F.  Continue watering and allowing the plant to get dry between waterings.

May: In mid-May cut all stems, including the main stem, back to about 4” and repot in a slightly larger container, with new potting soil.  Water it well. Place the newly potted plant back into the brightest window you have and once again keep it at a temperature of 65 – 75 degrees F. Continue watering whenever the surface of the soil feels dry.  Watch for new growth. Once new growth appears, begin fertilizing every two weeks with a complete fertilizer.  Follow the fertilizer label recommendations.

June: Move the poinsettia outside, pot and all.  Keep it in a partially shaded location and maintain your water and fertilizing schedule.

July: In early July, pinch back each stem by about 1”.  This is to encourage a stout, well-branched plant. If left un-pinched, the poinsettia will grow tall and spindly.

August: By mid-August, the stems should have branched and leafed out. Once again, pinch or cut the new stems, leaving 3-4 leaves on each shoot.  Bring the plant back indoors and back into your brightest window.  Continue watering and fertilizing.

September: Continue regular watering and fertilizing. Make sure the temperature stays above 65 degrees F.

October: Poinsettias are short-day plants, meaning their bud set is affected by the length of daylight. To re-bloom, poinsettias need about 10 weeks with 12 hours or less of sunlight per day. You will have to artificially create these conditions and it is crucial to be diligent.

Beginning October 1st, keep your plant in complete darkness from 5 PM to 8 AM. Any exposure to light will delay blooming. Use an opaque box or material to block out light. Many people place their plants in a closet, but if light gets in through the cracks or if you open and use the closet, it will affect the bud set.  Move the plant back to the sunny window during the daytime and continue watering and fertilizing.

November: Around the last week of November, you can stop the darkness treatment and allow the plant to remain in the window.  You should see flower buds at this point.

December: Stop fertilizing about December 15th.  Keep watering and treat your plant the way you did when you first brought it home.  If all has gone well, it should be back in bloom and ready to begin the process all over again.

While the process is long and somewhat tedious, persistence will pay off with a satisfying sense of accomplishment.

Part 1 – Where is Green Headed?

Posted in Lifestyle with tags , , , on August 4, 2011 by Kevin Fox

Most people have a general notion of what Green Living or Green Building is about, namely sustainability and energy efficiency.  Green is thought to be better for the environment as well as better for personal health.

Green living involves lifestyle changes such as the following:

  • Recycling
  • Changes to save energy around the home
  • Making purchasing choices to buy more local products or those which minimize impact on the environment
  • Making choices for sustainable products
  • In general reducing your carbon footprint

One of the directions Green is headed is toward Zero-Net Energy (ZNE).  In its simplest terms this is a goal whereby buildings, whether residential or commercial, return power to the energy grid equal to their consumption over a period of time.  The reality is a bit more controversial and complicated since there is no widely accepted definition of what factors ZNE should actually include.  For example, ZNE may also include the concept of zero carbon emissions, which, in itself, is difficult to define and measure.  Like-wise, is it really Green if a component of a building relies upon government subsidies to be economically viable?

There can be no disagreement, definitions and politics aside, that low or zero energy consumption is a worthy goal for homes and businesses.  More on this topic in next week’s Blog

Learn more about Green Building at http://www.epa.gov/greenbuilding/ and http://www.nahbgreen.org/

How to Have a Successful Garage Sale

Posted in Around Your Home with tags , , on June 13, 2011 by Pat Hansen

Garage Sales are a great way to get rid of excess stuff and make a little cash. June is a good time for this. Kids are out of school and available to help. They may also want to sell some of their no longer used toys and possessions to make a little spending money.

The key to a successful garage sale is organization.

  • Check with your municipality or Homeowners’ Assoc. to see if you need a permit or approval. No point in paying a fine or being shut down.
  • Organize. Set aside space in the garage for all items you want to sell. If you haven’t used something in more than a year, sell it. Group similar items together by room or function (i.e. kitchen, bedding, clothing, electronics, toys, etc.) Have everything clean and dust-free.
  • Advertise. There are ways to promote your garage for free. Place signs around the neighborhood. Post an ad on Craigslist. Use Facebook and Twitter to spread the word. Post flyers on the grocery store bulletin.

On the day before the garage sale:

  • Get supplies together. Price tags or stickers should be visible on all items.  Items with same asking price, such as tapes and books can be placed in one container. Be sure to have plenty of small bills and change on hand. An apron or a canvas nail pouch with pockets comes in handy for this. Keep larger bills in a safe place, preferably inside the house.
  • Set up the garage sale merchandise.  Since you’ve already organized everything, this should go pretty smoothly. Be sure to arrange everything so that it allows for a nice flow of traffic. If you need additional tables, a sawhorse with a plywood top and white tablecloth, works well.
  • Open for business. Start early for the garage sales addicts. It’s going to be a long day or two, so have fun with it. It’s a great way to meet some of the neighbors, while at the same time, getting rid of excess stuff.
  • Have a sale. When it comes close to closing time, run a clearance promotion to unload even more merchandise. For example, in the last hour or two of the day, customers can get anything they can fit into a grocery bag for $5.00.
  • Close up shop. Hopefully, you have sold everything, but if not, the Salvation Army can come and pick up the remaining items. They are always in need of donations.

By following these tips and putting in some effort ahead of time, you will increase your chances of having a more successful garage sale and putting more money in your pocket.

Top 10 – Greener on the Cheap

Posted in Around Your Home, Green Building with tags , , , , on November 23, 2010 by Kevin Fox

10.  Install new furnace filters.  Your furnace filters are designed to remove dust and dirt that would    damage your furnace’s blower.  They should be changed every month.  The Greener solution is to buy permanent, washable filters which often have a life-time warranty.  The concept is the same, however, so wash monthly.  A clean furnace will last longer and cost less to operate

9.  Unplug appliances when not in use – figures range from 5 to 10% of the nation’s electrical demand is wasted on idle electrical devices and appliances

8.  Install an insulation blanket around your hot water heater.  For about $20 you can reduce your monthly water heating bill by up to 25%

7.  Replace burned out standard light bulbs with compact florescent (CF) bulbs – paybacks range from 4 months to 2 years depending on your lifestyle

6.  Install faucet aerators throughout your home.  Aerators restrict the flow of water through your faucet by means of a metal or plastic screen.  This restriction reduces the flow rate which in turn saves water and dollars

5.  Dial back your thermostat a couple more degrees – up or down depending on the season.  Hopefully you have already installed a setback thermostat.

4.  Only operate your dishwasher and clothes washer when you can do full loads

3.  Recycle if your waste disposal company offers it.  If they don’t find a local drop-off, but only go when you can combine trips

2.  Buy and use re-useable grocery bags. Avoid those, recently in the news, from China that may contain lead.  If you can find bags made from re-cycled material – even better

1.  Stop buying bottled water.  Buy a reusable bottle made out of stainless steel or aluminum and fill it with tap water

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