Clean Your Balconies & Terraces With These 6 Tips


Homes and apartments with terraces and balconies provide a welcome retreat for fresh air and barbecue cooking. Unfortunately, they also collect dust, grease, and bird droppings from our feathered friends who build nests in nooks.

Cleaning your balcony or terrace on a quarterly basis will make the chore less difficult than if you only tackle the task once a year. Because many of us live in apartments with neighbors who don’t want water running down onto their property, we offer steps for both dry and wet cleaning.

1. Empty your outdoor space
The first step toward making your terrace as spotless as possible is to remove all plants and furniture. If you live in a high rise building, and need to bring items indoors, clean them off first with a damp cloth while outside. Lay down a large piece of plastic, an old sheet, or a drop cloth so you don’t soil interior floors and carpets.

2. Clean out debris and dust
Next, sweep or vacuum the area to pick up cobwebs, dead insects and other debris. A handheld wet/dry vacuum just for outdoors is a helpful tool.

Always use the top down approach when cleaning. Begin cleaning high places first as debris and dust will fall to the floor. Check your local market for cleaning tools that offer extension rods for cleaning out of reach places. Be courteous to neighbors and use a dust pan. Don’t sweep debris over the side.

3. Wash your balcony
Using a hose or power washer to clean is a great temptation because it is convenient. But neighbors may not appreciate water cascading over the side of your balcony or terrace. Cement manufacturers warn against the use of power washers because as water exits the nozzle at a high pressure it creates flakes and voids in the concrete’s surface. Over time, this can erode the surface and cause the cement to soak up water like a sponge.


A gentle mixture of one part bleach to one part water applied with a brush or mop will sterilize the ceiling corners, floor and railing. Use a mop and a bucket with wringer to keep water from spreading to unwanted areas. If you are concerned about water dripping over your balcony, roll up towels and place them around the perimeter of the space.

4. Rinse out cleaning products
After sterilizing, clean with a soapy liquid cleaner to remove extra grease and grime. Then clean once more with plain water to remove any soap residue. Use old towels to dry the surface.

5. Clean the barbecue
To soak up grease from a grill, try putting baking soda or kitty litter over the stain. Let it sit for at least 24 hours. Then try a concentrated detergent or degreasing product to remove the rest.

6. Clean the French windows
Large glass doors can be cleaned with a mixture of vinegar and water or glass cleaner. To minimize streaking, experts suggest using a squeegee and the “S” method to clean. Make “S” motions as you pull the squeegee down the glass.

Of course, the easiest way to keep your terrace or balcony looking great all year long is to prevent dirt from forming. Place a mat under the barbeque grill for capturing spills. Use outdoor carpets that you can vacuum, shake out or wash. Wind chimes and other decorative items that discourage birds from nesting in nooks or flying into glass windows are also helpful.

5 Successful Summer Gardening Tips

5 Successful Summer Gardening Tips

When summer heat starts to beat down on your garden, use these tips to keep it strong.

Unlike us, our gardens can’t run for the cover of air conditioning when scorching summer days keep us indoors. For those of you who are truly committed to your gardens, we salute you!

To keep plants perky, focus on these five key factors, then consult our basic tips to find out when your plants have met their match — or just need a little extra love.

1. Pruning
Perennials: Most perennials bloom for a four- to eight-week period, but deadheading (pruning dead flowers) can help promote a second set of blooms. Since a plant’s goal is to produce more seeds, pruning dying flowers sends it the signal to grow more.

Annuals: A majority of annuals bloom all season long, but for those that don’t self-clean, deadheading can help grow new blooms. If your annuals start to look less than appealing, cut them back 4 to 6 inches to encourage new growth that’s compact, fresh and green.

2. Watering
For an easy trick to see if your plants are thirsty, stick your finger in the soil to the middle joint. If it’s wet or damp, forego watering. As you’re tending to container plants, pick them up when they’ve been watered and when they’re dry. You’ll start to notice the difference in weight, which, over time, can help you to determine when they need to be watered.

In the full summer sun, container plants may need to be watered twice a day. If it’s hard to find the time, move them to a protected area. For trees and shrubs, use the previously mentioned soil-testing trick. With experience, you’ll start to get a feel for how often plants should be watered.

Water plants during the early morning and early afternoon, as wet foliage at night can lead to mold and mildew, so it’s important to give plants time to dry. However, if given the choice of wilted plants in the evening or not watering — water. Just be careful to keep the foliage dry.

Watering from the air can result in rapid evaporation, so water from the soil line. Weeper hoses are useful since they help water to directly seep to the roots. Lay them on the ground next to plants, and set your timer for about an hour.

3. Fertilizing
Container plants lose nutrients quickly due to frequent watering during the summer, so fertilize as often as every day, but at least once a week. Try using half of what the fertilizer calls for, since over fertilizing can cause plants stress.


4. Mulching
It isn’t too late to mulch! If you have less than 2 to 4 inches of mulch in your garden beds, consider mulching to help conserve water and reduce weeds. Weeds steal water and nutrients from your soil, so it’s important to keep them at bay. When mulching, we prefer organic mulches mixed with our outdoor and kitchen composts.

5. Pest Control
Embrace good bugs like ladybugs, bees, praying mantises and spiders while avoiding unwanted bugs like aphids or Japanese beetles. Placing birdhouses, birdbaths and birdfeeders throughout your yard attracts birds that control populations of unwanted insects, not to mention gives you lovely birdsongs throughout the day.

As far as pesticides go, match to your pest, and always start with the least harmful formula first. Our simple, gentle do-it-yourself pesticide is a good start: Mix 1 tablespoon of cooking oil with a generous squirt of dish soap in a spray bottle. Add water, and test a spot on your plant before going to town. When spraying, be sure to get the back of leaves since they’re popular hiding spots for pests.

When is it Time to Throw in the Towel?

  • When assessing whether a plant has met its match or just needs a little extra love, keep these basics in mind:
  • Grass goes dormant without water in the heat, so it’s best to leave it alone.
  • If a tree’s twig snaps when you bend it, it’s a sign the branch, and possibly the rest of the plant, is dead. Take a small branch off and scrape it. If it has some green, it’s likely alive.
  • When annuals have browned, it’s time to pull them out.
  • If conifers lose their needles, they won’t come back.

Do you know of a trick we didn’t mention? Share it with the community by leaving a comment below.

5 Creative Ways to Make Your Front Door worth Knocking On.

5 Creative Ways to Make Your Front Door worth Knocking On.

Front doors are untapped blank canvases for creativity. They’re also responsible for making a great first impression. These 5 DIY home décor ideas can help spruce up your front door.

Decorating your front door is not only incredibly easy but can also be a way to express yourself better. What’s more, should you be in the shower or busy with some household chore and can’t answer the door immediately, your beautiful door designs can keep people engaged while they’re waiting. Here are 5 creative front door designs to considerably liven up your front door.

Umbrellas & Rain Boots

There’s no better way to use umbrellas and rain boots in the summer than to create a simple front door decorative piece with them. Stick some freshly plucked flowers and ferns in a pair of rain boots or tether them to your umbrella; there, you’ve created a simple yet tasteful masterpiece.


Monograms are a neat way to honour your family name. And nothing does it like giant letter monograms. Making your own isn’t difficult either. All you have to do is purchase a really large letter from a craft store. If you can’t find a store that has one, simply cut one out from some sort of hardboard. Now, simply cover your letter/s with buttons, shells, fabric or paint; just get creative!

Chalkboard Signs

If you’re the kind of person that would like your front door to embody the flavour of the season then this idea works perfectly. To begin, use chalkboard paint on the interior of a tray, frame or cupboard door. You could also fill your chalkboard with welcome message or an inspiring quote!


Flower Basket

A flower door basket filled with foliage and fresh flowers and foliage is sure to enliven your front door.

Empty Frames

Empty frames can be embellished with stuff lying around the house like fabric flowers, dried flowers or scrapbook paper. What’s more, you can put up Instagram photos of beautiful sceneries within the frame too!

With these 5 ideas you can turn your front door into a masterpiece. Expect your doorbell to ring a lot more!

Extend Your Outdoor Living


Cool Plants for Fall

It’s not all bad that summer is winding down: Take advantage of cooler weather (and possibly fewer bugs), and make this September one to remember—outdoors.
True, mums and pansies are natural choices for chillier nighttime temperatures, but are there are colorful alternatives. Try Osteospermum ‘Soprano Purple,’ cuphea, Mexican bush sage or pot marigold, and that’s only the beginning.

Fabulous Fall Fruit

Add some autumn-producing edibles.

This is a great time to be working outside—harvesting your own fresh veggies and fruit. Gardeners in warmer climates can sow kale and harvest in two months; kale can stand temperatures down to 24 degrees Farenheit or so, and even tastes better after the first frost. Bareroot fruit trees are generally not available until spring, but container-grown trees can go in the ground in fall in many parts of the country.

Masses of Grasses

Look for the bad boys of ornamental grasses.

For many gardeners, the fall flowers that matter are the ones atop their Miscanthus, switch grass and pampas grass. Try combining grasses that have similar height but slightly different color of plume. Some of the dwarf grasses are great for containers on the deck.
Tip: ‘Little Zebra’ adds all the movement and sound of its larger cousin but doesn’t flop in midseason like so many large zebra grasses (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Strictus’) do.

Tough Turf

Take care of aerating, seeding and fertilizing.

Gardening by the Yard host Paul James suggests a couple of top lawn care tips for late summer and early fall:
  • Fertilize the lawn with a balanced fertilizer (not a fertilizer high in nitrogen).
  • Don’t scalp the lawn, hoping you can save on having to do fewer mowings.

Fall Flowers and Foliage

Keep gardening in mind when you celebrate football season.

What do Mexican sunflower, Gaillardia ‘Fanfare’, ageratum and Heuchera ‘Obsidian’ have to do with football? Everything if your favorite team’s colors are orange, red, blue or black. Kick off the fall season with a bit of team spirit in your garden. Let your neighbors know who you’re rooting for with a color display of your favorite football team’s colors. From flowers and foliage to fruit and fall color, nature can help you support your team.
Tip: Create an easy and colorful arrangement by clipping your favorite coleus (in team colors, of course). Stay in theme by arranging cuttings in a team glass or watertight helmet—change water frequently. Not only do you have an impromptu indoor bouquet for the tailgating table, but you’ll get a head start on rooting cuttings for next season’s garden.

The Life Outdoors

Enjoy the good life—outdoors and in-style. Lifestyles writer Lourdes Dumke offers four basic tips for creating an outdoor room:

Get inspired and create an outdoor room.

  1. Create structure. Define your outdoor space with structural elements, such as walls, rugs and ceilings, just like with an indoor room.
  2. Add furnishings. Get creative with outdoor furniture. You can spend a fortune on durable pieces made for the outdoors or go thrifty with flea-market finds. Use paint to add color to furnishings, walls or structures.
  3. Add lighting. Go moonlighting with night lighting in your own backyard. Extend the daytime into the evening and enjoy your nights on the back porch or patio. Go simple with oil lamps or get more involved with professionally-installed lights.
  4. Add accessories. Finish the space by covering the details. Add throw pillows to furnishings or create a bouqet of flowers cut fresh from the garden.

Dining Outdoors

Cook outdoors in style.

This is not just your grill anymore. Make the most of your outdoor space by bringing the cooking outside.
Tip: Want the luxuries of having an outdoor kitchen but can’t afford the high ticket price all at once? Invest in a good grill first, then add the additional items, like a small refrigerator and sink, later.

Playing With Fire

Add an outdoor fireplace to your backyard.

Incorporate the element of fire into your outdoor autumn plans. From tiki torches and citronella candles to stone fireplaces and movable firepits, draw warmth and lighting from a fire’s flames. When nights are cool, extend the season by using outdoor heaters, suggests landscape designer Scott Cohen of The Green Scene, Canoga Park, Calif.

Lighting the Landscape

Take on an outdoor lighting project.

With days getting shorter and nights getting longer, it may feel as though you go to and from work or picking up the kids in the dark. Illuminate the evening hours and extend your time outdoors with lighting. With simple solar lights to more involved lighting systems, the sky’s the limit with what you can do.
Tip: Use lights to brighten up pathways while also uplighting and accenting specimen plants or focal points along the way.

10 Things to Plant This Fall


Pride Of Lions Daffodil

Take advantage of fall’s cooler weather to dig in your yard and add a few plants. Autumn is the perfect time to plant many different items, including grass, trees, tulips and daffodils. The season’s lower temps help plants to transition easier from pots to planting beds, and it’s also a welcome respite from summer heat for gardeners. Pests and disease problems typically dwindle in fall, and in many regions, seasonal rains help give plants a solid start. What should you be planting in fall?

1: Bulbs

Fall is the time for planting bulbs that flower in spring and summer, including crocus, tulip, daffodil, alliums and all of the lilies, such as Asiatic, Oriental, Orienpet, turk’s cap and martagon. Get bulbs in the ground when soil temps hit 55 F. This generally occurs when you no longer hear crickets, night temps hover between 40 F and 50 F or fall color is just past peak. You can plant as long as the ground is not frozen, but it’s best to get it done during the 8 weeks following the first frost.
 2: Grass
Cool-season grass thrives in fall, whether you’re planting seed or sod. Cool-season grasses include fine fescues (red, chewings, hard, tall), Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass and bentgrass. Fall is the right time to overseed cool-season lawns to thicken turf.

3: Cool-Season Veggies

Keep fresh vegetables coming by sowing seeds or transplants of cold-tolerant veggies. Depending on where you garden, seeds need to be in the ground by late August or early September, but you can find seedlings for sale at farmers’ markets and garden centers. Candidates for fall planting include a host of salad greens, like lettuce, spinach, kale, collards, arugula and mizuna. Other autumn veggies include radish, turnip, kohlrabi, broccoli and Brussels sprouts.

Chicago Botanic Garden

4: Cool-Season Annuals

Dress chilly days and frosty nights with colorful annuals that thrive when temperatures dip. Cool-weather bloomers include pansy, viola, sweet alyssum, flowering stock, calendula and lobelia. For colorful leaves that look great even in light snows, plant flowering kale and cabbage.

5: Peony

Autumn is the right time to get peonies into the ground. It’s the season when specialty peony nurseries ship bareroot peonies, so the greatest selection is available. Remember when planting bareroot peonies to keep them shallow—2 inches deep is best.

Chicago Botanic Garden

6: Shrubs

The window for planting shrubs (evergreen and deciduous) is long—from early fall until the ground freezes. Of course, in coldest zones, it’s best to tuck plants into soil in early fall, so new roots can grow before the ground freezes solid. If you need a shrub and aren’t sure what to plant, check out the selection at a local nursery in early autumn to see which plants boast the best seasonal color.

7: Trees

Trees thrive with fall planting because warm soil coaxes roots to grow, while cool air near leaves reduces the sapling’s moisture needs. Choose trees that offer multi-season interest, including fall color. Plant trees from early fall until the ground freezes.

Julie Martens Forney

8: Cuttings of Tender Plants

In early fall, take cuttings of plants that won’t survive frost, including pineapple sage, scented geranium, fancy-leaf begonia, Mexican bush sage and plectranthus. Root cuttings in water, or dip them in rooting hormone and stick them directly into a rooting medium. Use bottom heat to ensure best rooting.

9: Perennials

Tuck perennials into planting beds as soon as you can in fall so plants establish roots before soil freezes. Be sure to mulch newly planted perennials to help prevent frost heave, especially in coldest zones.

10: Evergreens

For best results, plant evergreens by mid-fall to give roots ample time to penetrate into soil. In cold regions, it’s also a good idea to spray newly planted evergreen trees and shrubs with an antitranspirant to help prevent winter burn on leaves or needles. 

Growing Rutabaga Greens


 woman  harvesting beetroot in field

Although vegetable gardeners commonly grow rutabagas for the golden root bulbs that ripen in fall, the green leafy tops are edible as well. And while developing rutabaga plants need to be thinned throughout the growing season to achieve the best yield of mature roots, those “thinned” greens often get thrown away inadvertently instead of being collected and cooked. The smallest green leaves can even be added raw to salads.

Similar to turnip greens, to which they are closely related, rutabaga greens also have characteristics in common with cabbage, another near relative. That can be a headache for gardeners and cooks because it means the tops are attractive to the same range of insect pests that feed on both those crops: various beetles and worm and caterpillars, as well as aphids.

So in growing rutabaga greens it is prudent to nurture the plants with a foundation of healthy soil, plus even watering and a system of lightweight row covers. Strong plants are better able to resist pest damage than sickly plants. Consider this – paper wasps can go a long way toward pest control because they eat lots of cabbage worms, so let wasps share your garden.

Another natural deterrent, at least against aphids, is the lovely flowering nasturtium plant, which can be grown as a companion among the rutabagas (and also has edible components of its own).

To get the most enjoyment from homegrown rutabaga greens try planting all different types of rutabagas – American Purple Top, Joan, Laurentian Gilfeather, Macombers, and so on. That way the crop includes many gradations of flavor and texture. And those types mature at slightly different rates, so there will be a continuous supply of greens.

Let’s look at some ways to get the most out of rutabaga greens while still allowing the bulbs to mature. Rutabaga seeds are planted directly in the soil about half an inch apart, usually in mid-summer for a late fall harvest. The optimum distance between plants by the end of the season will be six to eight inches. So thinning must take place periodically to keep the plants from being crowded.

At the first thinning use the tender little shoots as toppings for salads or soups, or instead of lettuce in sandwiches. The next several thinnings will take place as the greens are considerably larger and with more distinctive leaves. Wash the leaves and cut off the roots. Steam or boil these greens with a ham bone or other flavoring.

When harvesting the greens from larger rutabagas cut off and discard any tough stems before chopping and cooking the leaves. Pluck just a few leaves from each plant, while the roots are still developing; don’t cut across the whole stem. 

Rutabaga greens resemble turnip greens but the leaves are less “hairy” and rather more cabbage-like and smooth. Rutabaga greens have less of a tangy bite than either turnip greens or mustard greens. But enjoy them all in the colder months when other green vegetables are scarce in the garden.

How to Winterize Your Lawn



Spread the Fertilizer

Apply fertilizer with a spreader, available at home stores. A walk-behind or motorized spreader is more accurate than a hand-held version. As you move the machine back and forth over the grass, grip the handle like a trigger and it releases pellets when you “shoot.” Follow the instructions on the fertilizer package. Apply only the recommended amount. This is not a case of “If a little is good, even more is better” — too much fertilizer can burn your grass.


Flynnside Out Productions

Aerate the Lawn

Provide some extra air for grass roots by aerating your lawn — taking out spikes of soil across your lawn to make holes for planting seed. Aerating is low-cost maintenance and even if it’s the only thing you do for your yard, you should see improvement. There are motorized aerators for rent, manual versions that work like pogo sticks, pushing out two plugs of soil at a time, and even shoes you can use to aerate while you walk. The pogo-stick versions are good exercise, but beware: the motorized versions can require substantial upper body strength to use. 


Julie A. Martens

Spread Cool-Weather Grass Seed

Purchase grass seed that says “cool season” or “cool weather” on the package, such as most fescues. Scatter it over the lawn with the same spreader you used for the fertilizer, or use a hand-held spreader for less fuss. Try to get the seed evenly distributed so you won’t have clumps of grass later. 


Steve Simzer

Rake and Water the Lawn

Drag a rake over the lawn to break up soil clumps and cover the seeds a bit.

Water the lawn with the garden hose, using a nice gentle spray like rain. After that, keep the soil moist but don’t overwater it or let it dry out. You may have to mow your lawn a few more times before the cold weather sets in, and you can also fertilize another time in a few weeks to help the grass grow. During the cooler months, you should see a lot of growth as a result of your labors.

How to Compost Fallen Leaves

Learn About Leaf Mold

Fallen leaves make wonderful free compost. Composted leaves contain leaf mold, which has high amounts of calcium and magnesium, both important to healthy plant growth. Leaf mold also retains moisture that, when added to garden soil, helps young plants stay hydrated. 


Determine Bin Placement

Determine where the compost bin will be built. Ideally, it will be on soil, in full or partial sun, and near the garden. The farther away the bin is from the garden bed, the more hauling that needs to be done. Measure out a 4′ square in the ground and mark the corners. 


Create the Bin Frame

With a circular saw, cut a point onto the ends of four 2″ x 2″ x 5′ pieces of lumber. This will make it easier to drive the lumber into the ground. Use a hammer to drive one stake into each corner of the 4′ square marked onto the ground. Drive each stake 12″ into the ground, trying to keep each one straight and square to one other. 


Complete the Bin

Use a staple gun to attach one end of a roll of 4′-tall chicken wire to one of the stakes. Secure with approximately 6 to 10 staples. Continue wrapping the chicken wire around all the stakes, securing to each one with multiple staples. Secure to original stake with staples to form a fully enclosed bin.


© iStockphoto/jmaehl

Fill the Bin

Use a lawnmower with bag attachment to collect fallen leaves. This breaks up the leaves and jumpstarts the decaying process. When the bag is full, simply empty it into the compost bin. If the leaves are very dry when placed into the bin, hose them down a bit to get them damp.


Tend the Bin

To speed up the composting process, add to the leaves a handful of lime and a handful blood meal. Turn the leaves with a pitch fork now and periodically throughout the season. If the compost pile starts to appear dry, spray it down with a garden hose and turn with pitch fork.