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10 Ways to Protect Your Garden from Critters


Live peacefully with hungry animals, big and small.


Those fuzzy little bunnies are adorable hopping around your back yard — until they munch on your newly planted veggies and mow down your marigolds. Like it or not, your wild neighbors aren’t selective about what’s yours and what’s theirs. “Your yard and garden are part of a larger system,” says Matt Tarr, associate extension professor and wildlife specialist at the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension. “They’re a continuum of the habitat around your home.”

While it’s not possible to make your garden completely critter-proof, here are a few ways to minimize the nibbling and live peacefully with hungry animals, big and small:


1 Identify the culprit.


Choosing the right kind of management methods, such as how tall a fence you might need, means you have to figure out who’s eating what. “Critters most likely to case the quickest damage are deer, rabbits and groundhogs,” says Tarr. Look for telltale signs: Deer may leave tracks in the soil and make clean snips on herbaceous plants or tear woody plants. Rabbits make sharp cuts on herbaceous and woody plants and may leave pellet droppings. Groundhogs leave large mounds of dirt 10 to 12 inches in diameter at entrance to their burrows, typically eating greens, not woody shrubs. Birds peck holes in fruit or steal it before you even know it’s ripe.

2 Fence it.


Fencing is the most effective (and sometimes only!) way to keep unwanted visitors out of your garden. “Put up a fence from day one to prevent them from finding the food source in the first place,” says David Drake, extension wildlife specialist and professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. A fence that’s a few feet tall will work for most rabbits, though persistent bunnies and groundhogs may burrow under. To prevent that, bury it about 10″ deep. Chicken wire, hardware cloth or rabbit fencing are the least expensive alternatives for small mammals. A fence that’s at least 4 feet tall will work for many deer situations. But if your neighborhood is overrun by deer, you may need one that’s 8 feet tall. Plastic bird netting can be placed over small edible bushes like berries the week or so before they ripen, to protect fruit.

3 Choose less tasty plants.


When they’re hungry enough and competition for food is high, animals will eat anything. “Nothing is foolproof,” says Tarr. But there are certain kinds of plants that are less appealing than others, especially plants that are highly aromatic, fuzzy or have prickles. Thus, while hostas, arborvitae and azaleas are often favorites for deer, they’re generally not interested in many types of ornamental grasses, holly and barberry.  Look around your neighborhood to see what’s fared well, talk to nurseries and consult your local coop extension service for lists of less tempting regional plants.


4 Protect new plants.


Those brand-new nursery plants, which have been pampered and fertilized before you bought them, offer delectable, tender new growth. “Whether a plant is tasty or a deterrent to animals has to do with the nutrient and chemicals a plant produces,” says Tarr. “Plants recently purchased from a nursery are nutritionally superior. The animals can sense those micronutrients, and they’re naturally attracted to them.” New plants also cannot withstand as much grazing damage as established plantings. Fence off or use trunk wraps or protectors for new plants and shrubs once you put them in the ground.

5 Garden in pots and raised beds.


Sometimes you can eliminate nibbling opportunities by elevating pots or planting in raised beds. A raised bed two feet or taller will limit rabbit damage, especially if you add a short fence on top. Pots can be mounted on railings, or try planting greens in window boxes out of the reach of hungry bunnies.

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6 Don’t be too tidy.


If you live in a less urban area, let the shrubs and grasses around the edges of your yard go a little wild. “If there are a lot of other opportunities for food around you, your garden will be less attractive,” says Tarr. “Animals will be less likely to come out into the middle of the yard to your garden to expose themselves to predators if there are other good food sources along the edges.”


7Contain your compost.


Open compost piles attract all kinds of creatures that then discover the other delicacies in your backyard, says Drake. Use a self-contained compost bin with a lid to keep marauders away. And if you feed your pets outdoors, be sure to bring their bowls inside after meals so you won’t attract skunks, opossums and raccoons.

8 Scare them away.


Metallic streamers, or bird tape or an old-fashioned scarecrow may keep birds away, though you’ll have to move it around daily. “You can’t let it just sit there. Otherwise, once they get used to it, that particular technique loses its effectiveness,” says Drake. Motion-activated sprinklers or lights are another possibility for mammals.

9 Try repellants (with fingers crossed).


Odor repellants are granular and attempt to keep the animal away from an area in the first place with a bad smell. Taste repellents are sprayed on vulnerable plants. They repel by flavor or by causing the animal to feel sick when they ingest the treated plant. “It’s sort of like if you ate at a buffet and became ill,” says Drake. “You wouldn’t want to go back there anytime soon, and neither does the animal.”  It’s important to note that while repellants may upset wildlife tummies, they are not designed to hurt the animals — just to train them to stay away from a specific area. But taste is personal, so some animals will eat treated plants anyway or will get used to the bad taste. Also, these products typically have to be used year-round and must be reapplied after rain.  Of course, you’ll want to keep your pets away from repellants of any sort, too. Homemade repellents using human hair, bars of soap, garlic or a host of other ingredients don’t work much better. “Try them until you get sick of trying them, then put up a fence,” Drake suggests.


10 Do a reality check.


“In any given year, a number of factors including the severity of the winter and the number of animals in the area affect how much damage you may incur,” says Drake. There are good years (when you’ll see little loss) and bad years (when you’ll feel like you opened up a free salad bar for the neighborhood critters). Keep your perspective though, and realize what you’re doing in your yard benefits the local wildlife, too, even if you didn’t get to enjoy that heirloom tomato you planted. As a gardener, there’s always next season!

6 Eco-Friendly Home Décor Finds

6 Eco-Friendly Home Décor Finds

Recycled Glass Jug


The touch of twine on the neck gives this recycled glass jug a pretty, earthy flair. Use it as a doorstop in an entryway or as décor on a screened-in porch.

Woven Chindi Metal Bench


Made in India with repurposed fabric scraps, this one-of-a-kind bench offers a great way to add some eclectic flair into your space.

Recycled Rope Doormat


Leave dirt and debris at the door with this durable mat at the ready. The recycled polyester is resistant to mildew, so it can withstand the springtime mudroom mess.

Common Good Dish Soap


A concentrated, plant-based formula enhanced with natural extracts is stored within a sleek glass bottle to tackle a multitude of kitchen messes.


Reclaimed Teak Garden Stool


Whether adorning your indoor workspace or your exterior potting shed, this reclaimed teak stool will be a—ahem—natural fit wherever it’s placed.

Farmstead Stoneware Striped Serving Bowl


Crafted in Portugal with lead-free glazes and scrap materials, this handmade bowl may have had minor environmental impact, but its bright colors are sure to offer major wow-factor.

Photo by

How to Reduce Food Waste

How to Reduce Food Waste

Every year, the United States chucks nearly 40 percent of its food. Dana Gunders, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the author of The Waste-free Kitchen Handbook, offers money- and planet-saving tips.



Photo by Peter Oumanski

Your book says the United States wastes 50 percent more food now than it did in the 1970s. Why is that?
Portion sizes have grown tremendously since then. Plus, it’s become normal for restaurants and caterers to produce excessive menus and buffets and for consumers to buy more than they need.

We’ve come to expect large amounts of food.
Yes. Research NRDC has done found that people are not comfortable with empty white space on plates or in fridges or grocery carts. There’s an urge to fill those spaces with food. And in our culture, throwing food out is acceptable. In fact, leaving something on your plate is considered posh.

What else contributes to food waste?
A lot of produce won’t get picked for market because it’s not pretty enough to be sold. It gets tossed or turned into the soil.

What’s the environmental impact?
About 70 percent of our water and 50 percent of our land is devoted to agriculture. So when we’re not eating that food, it’s a huge unnecessary use of resources. About 33 million cars’ worth of greenhouse gases are produced to grow food that never gets eaten.

What types of food get wasted most?
Fruits and vegetables. Tied for second are dairy products and bread. Meat is third, but it has the biggest impact. If you throw out a hamburger, that’s the equivalent of taking a 90-minute shower, in terms of the water it took to produce it.

How can we waste less produce?
If you need small amounts of specific fruits or veggies for a recipe, buy them from the salad bar so the excess won’t rot in your fridge. Or buy frozen versions, which have almost the same nutritional value with none of the pressure.

What else can we do?
Be realistic. What tends to happen is you buy all these groceries on the weekend because you’re feeling aspirational about how much you’re going to cook. But by Wednesday, life has happened and you’re ordering takeout. And then the broccoli goes bad. Instead, plan for that. If you can, shop often and buy less.

How else can we be conscientious shoppers?
Use a shopping list or an app. And take a last look in your cart before checking out. Think about when in the near future you’re going to eat each item. If you don’t have a clear answer, don’t buy it.

You also talk about conducting a “waste audit.”
For two weeks, jot down what you throw out to pinpoint what you are wasting and why. Did dinner plans change? Did you get wooed by a sale and buy too much? Write down the cost so you feel the financial pain.

How closely should we follow expiration dates?
Take them with a grain of salt, as they’re not federally regulated. A “use by” or “best by” date typically says when the product will be at its best quality. There may be a change in taste, color, or texture.

So we may be throwing out food that’s still OK?
Yes. A big misunderstanding is that when food is old, it will make you sick. The main reason for illness is pathogens like salmonella and E. coli that contaminate food at the farm or processing plants.

What do we need to be careful of?
Mold, green potatoes, and rancid meat, oil, or nuts.

What are some ideas to use up food?
Toss a mishmash of items into a tortilla or in fried rice or pasta salad. You can also sauté wilted lettuce with butter and garlic. Even if you waste a little bit less, it’s still an accomplishment.

Best Practices for Beginner Painters


Want to start a paint project but don’t know where to start? Here are a few techniques to get you started.

Embarking on a DIY painting project for the first time may seem intimidating. Here are a few simple tips to get you started to make the process of achieving professional results quick and easy.


Step One: Get the right supplies

This is a crucial step for anyone tackling a painting project, whether on the pro level or DIY. Make sure you have the right rollers and brushes for your particular paint project. It’s also important that you add the right painter’s tape to your list of essentials. The tape will help achieve clean results without the premium price.


Step Two: Prep your room

Walls aren’t ready for painting until they’re clean; taking the time to thoroughly cleanse your walls is worth the extra effort. With a sponge, scrub the walls to be painted with water and mild dish detergent to remove all dust, fingerprints and grease spots. After the surface is squeaky clean, wait until the walls are completely dry before applying any paint or primer.


Step Three: Priming your wall

Priming your wall is an additional, but necessary step to attain a smooth finish and allow your paint to adhere to it.  Priming also helps maximize the sheen of your paint job, providing a flawless effect. Opt for a primer based on your project and apply it to your walls with a paint roller. Use a paintbrush to apply the primer in any tight areas. Once walls are dry to the touch, which can take up to three hours, you can start painting.


Step Four: Begin Painting

When the paint is thoroughly stirred and ready to apply, gather your clean brush and roller and begin coating your walls. First, utilize your brush for nooks and crannies that your roller can’t reach – around trim and in the corners of walls. Use your roller to paint the wall using the “W” technique; start painting near a wall corner, and roll on your paint in large “W” patterns across the surface. Next, fill in the gaps without lifting the roller unless more paint is needed. Continue this process in sections until there are no visible brush or roller strokes remaining.

Taking on a new home improvement task can be daunting, but with the right tips and products, your job can be all that you envisioned and more.


10 Perfect Paint Colors for a Kitchen

10 Perfect Paint Colors for a Kitchen

Need help narrowing down a wall color for your cook space? We asked the pros to share their go-to hues for a gorgeous-looking kitchen.


Photo by William Abranowicz

6 Great Whites

It’s the undisputed ideal—but there are just sooooo many white paints to choose from. Decorating pros reveal their tried-and-true favorites.

Decorator’s White by Benjamin Moore
“This is a true white without any undertones. It’s the cleanest and crispest you can find, making it a great choice for kitchens.” —Tobi Fairley, Little Rock, Arkansas–based designer

Clunch by Farrow & Ball
“If your cabinets are a deep shade, this is your ideal white for the walls. It’s bright and fresh, to balance out the cabinets’ rich tones.” —Tracy Morris, Washington, D.C.–based designer

White Dove by Benjamin Moore
“With just a hint of gray, this is a warm, natural-looking white that makes a great backdrop for art, too. It’s my all-time favorite. —Elaine Griffin, New York City–based designer

Precious Pearls by Dunn-Edwards
“An easy way to give your kitchen an upscale look is to paint the walls with this white, which has beautiful, slightly shimmery opalescent undertones.” —Nate Berkus, Los Angeles–based designer
to locate a store near you.

Ballet White by Benjamin Moore
“This is just the right white for a modern kitchen. It looks slightly beige or gray, depending on the natural light in the room. I love it with a clean-lined cabinet.” —Tracy Morris

Antique White by Sherwin-Williams
“This white is one of my standbys because it’s so warm. It gives a kitchen a cozy, lived-in feeling.” —Tobi Fairley

4 Gorgeous Non-White Wall Colors for Kitchens

Kitchen with blue cabinets

Deep blue, cheery yellow, rich tan, poppy green: You can’t lose with these designer-approved hues if you want to bring a splash of color to your cook space

Woodlawn Blue by Benjamin Moore
“There’s just enough warmth in the base of this blue to keep it from veering too ‘baby.’ If you want a cook space that feels calm, cool, and collected, this is your shade.” —Tracy Morris

Golden Straw by Benjamin Moore
“I’ve put this apricot-y yellow in a million kitchens because it looks good with everything, especially wood-tone or white cabinets. It’s practically a neutral, but with a sunshine-y oomph.” —Elaine Griffin

Smoked Trout by Farrow & Ball
“Funny name but great color! This tone oozes Old-World charm. It works in a traditional setting or a transitional one. Choose it if you’re looking to do something a little different with your kitchen without going

The 20 Greatest Spots to Buy Textiles Online

The 20 Greatest Spots to Buy Textiles Online

Where to shop for bedding, drapes, rugs, and more.



Photo by Levi Brown


ABC Home
This revered New York City–based furnishings emporium overflows with top-of-the-line luxury linens from brands like Frette and Libeco. Don’t overlook the house brand, abcDNA, which turns out plush velvet quilts and luscious organic-cotton sheets in dreamy pastels. Deal hunters: Watch for the annual winter and summer sales (in December and June into July), with discounts of up to 60 percent.

The Company Store
Designers like Thom Filicia load up on anything-but-basic basics here—solid sheets (in 16 colors) in silky 300-thread-count cotton at refreshingly affordable prices. With a couple of clicks, add a custom monogram for an extra $6 to $12.

Kerry Cassill
The online arm of this Laguna Beach, California, store is a bonanza for Kerry Cassill’s Indian-inspired motifs. You’ll find a gorgeous mash-up of block-print mandalas, breezy florals, and ticking stripes that work so effortlessly well together, people will think you took a master class in layering.

Serena & Lily
The company got its start a dozen years ago with nursery bedding, but Serena & Lily has grown up to offer everything you need to decorate your entire home. Designers such as Thomas O’Brien flock here in particular for “the nicest, most versatile bedding.” There’s a vast selection of classic, crisp whites and splashy-but-sophisticated embroidered patterns. (Check out the popular Gobi linens, stitched in the prettiest spectrum of seasonally updated hues.)

Blankets, Quilts, and Throws

Brahms Mount
It doesn’t get any better than this for impeccable cotton, wool, and linen blankets. Woven on antique looms by artisans in Maine, they will be passed down in your family for generations. The most common patterns are classic herringbones and stripes, with the occasional twist, like an ombré wool throw. Oh, and P.S. Free shipping!

Roberta Roller Rabbit
Textile designer Roberta Freymann has a passion for travel, and that’s obvious in her global-inspired line of whimsical, colorful pieces. “Her cheery Indian block-print blankets, throws, and bedding are like happy pills for your home,” says designer Elaine Griffin. And free returns means no buyer’s remorse.

Curtains and Drapes

Loom Décor
Ordering custom window treatments has never been simpler. This site offers 400+ affordable fabrics to choose from (in florals, houndstooth prints, trellis patterns, and more) and has stylists on hand to web-chat with you to get a sense of your space and whittle down options. “I use the site a lot,” says designer Jenny Komenda. “I love the quality of their craftsmanship, and they work fast on custom orders. Usually they’ll get them out in a week or two.”

Restoration Hardware
Head here for luxurious, beautifully textured fabrics, like Belgian linens, velvets, and Thai silks in a tastefully muted gradation of colors (mainly whites, creams, and grays). “When it comes to ready-made window treatments, these look as close to custom as they come,” says Nina Freudenberger. The rod collection, too, is unparalleled, made of metals in a spectrum of varied shades with gorgeous finial options.

The Shade Store
Whether it’s wooden blinds, solar shades, or velvet curtains you’re after, this site has everything, and it’s all handcrafted Stateside. “All the styles feel modern yet timeless,” says Christiane Lemieux, the founder of the home-furnishings retailer DwellStudio and the executive creative director at Wayfair. “I used the Shade Store’s cream linen sheers in my own bedroom to give the windows a pretty, polished look.” Swatches are on the house, as is shipping. And for non-DIYers, the company offers measuring and installation services.


John Robshaw Textiles
Glamour abounds when it comes to John Robshaw’s striking pillows, made by artisans throughout India and Southeast Asia. The designer’s hand-block prints are done in linen and cotton blends. Don’t miss the ethereal ikat collection, hand-woven in Thailand.

Judy Ross Textiles
New York City designer Judy Ross turns out exquisite hand-embroidered linen and wool pillows using the centuries-old chain-stitch technique. The eye-popping, graphic prints are like mini canvases for your sofa.

Lulu & Georgia
Sort by size and cushion fill, then feast your eyes on a windfall of options, including bold brushstroke prints and retro needlepoints, with many under $100.

Urban Outfitters
Personality-driven pieces for the budget-minded are this seller’s forte. Find lavishly patterned pillows (geometric, tie dye, zigzag) and even animal-shaped cushions—all at irresistibly low prices.


The dazzling flat weaves of Brooklyn-based rug designer Aelfie Oudghiri, handwoven in India, make any space look more worldly, at down-to-earth prices (from $89 for a two-by-three-foot rug). The bold patterns feel one-of-a-kind, in happy-chic color combos like blush pink and citrus green. And should you want to tweak the palette or need a nonstandard size, they take custom orders.

Dash & Albert
Practical as they are, indoor-outdoor rugs often look drab and feel plastic-y. Cut to Dash & Albert and you’ll find that they are soft, virtually indestructible and come in a rainbow of patterns that instantly upgrade a room. (O’Brien swears by the stripes and plaids for entry-ways.) Also find a full range of wool, sisal, and cotton offerings—all well-priced and in sizes big and small.

Madeline Weinrib
Designer Madeline Weinrib rocked the rug world back in 1997, when she brought out her first collection, featuring knockout motifs in supersaturated colors. Since then, her stunning creations have been in every decorator’s back pocket, with good reason. “These graphic patterns work in almost any style or room,” says Freudenberger.

Safavieh Home Furnishings
Classic, tasteful floor coverings that stand the test of time (think subtle swirls and stripes) are the focus here, many of them part of designer collaborations with big names, such as Ralph Lauren and Jamie Drake. Don’t miss the clearance section, where you’ll find a bevy of bargains.


Garnet Hill
It’s all in the details with this 39-year-old company’s signature plush, generously sized Egyptian-cotton bath linens. Available in 18 saturated colors, the terry features extra-long loops for the highest absorbancy. Craving some pattern? Choose from cheery polka dots, Greek keys, and a splashy, floral Lily Pulitzer collaboration.

Scents and Feel
Turkish fouta towels—those thin, fringed, fast-drying beauties that are a favorite of design pros and bloggers—are the mainstay here. Dozens of styles lay in wait, for a multitude of uses. Depending on the size, they can work as hand towels, beach blankets, dishcloths, tablecloths, or runners.

Prepare for bathtime bliss. There’s a seemingly never-ending selection of towels in every conceivable color and pattern at bargain prices. Designers across the board rave about the exclusive Nate Berkus collection, which rivals the weight and the softness of the top-end luxury brands.

5 Decorating Finds for Small Spaces

5 Decorating Finds for Small Spaces

Looking for functional pieces of furniture that don’t eat up all of your living space? Check out these modern finds for a possible solution.

Murphy Entry Bench


In a small space, multipurpose products should be your go-to choice. This streamlined mango wood bench has storage below for shoes or a basket of dog-walking accessories.

Adesso Cormac Chair


Even in tight quarters, it’s nice to have a cozy chair to read and relax in. This upholstered armchair’s tapered wooden legs and curved base make it feel airier than a traditional club chair.

Norden Gateleg Table


In need of a dining table or work station that will fit into a multipurpose room? This two-sided, drop-leaf table seats two to four people and can sit flush against the wall if extra floor space is needed instead. A trio of drawers in the center makes it ultra-functional.Ghost Side Chair


Give the illusion of more space by incorporating transparent chairs around the dining table or alongside your desk. This version will provide the necessary seating without taking up visual space in the room.

Wood and White Metal Leilani Tulip Dining Table


A small-scale round pedestal table will give you the surface area you need for meals at home without the added bulk of multiple legs.

3 Easy Gardening Hacks to Get You Ready for Spring

3 Easy Gardening Hacks to Get You Ready for Spring

Shoe Organizer as Vertical Garden


Photo by Travis Rathbone

Love the idea of an herb garden, but just don’t have the room? Maximize your vertical space by hanging a shoe organizer on a sunny fence, shed, or porch door. First poke small holes in the bottom of each pocket for drainage and then fill with herbs or other small plants. Bonus: When you water your plants from the top row, the overflow water will drip into the plants below.



Ice Cream Cone as Seed Starter


Photo by Travis Rathbone

Have a couple sugar cones that have gone stale in the cabinet? Repurpose them as seedling starters. Just fill a cone with soil and your favorite seeds. “This works best for seedlings that grow within a few weeks,” says Heather Rhoades of the gardening website The reason why this summer treat vessel works so well? It’s biodegradable, making replanting easy.


Wine Bottle as Self-Watering Planter


Photo by Travis Rathbone

Rinse out a wine bottle and fill it with water. Replace the cork and hammer a nail through it to create a small hole. Remove the nail and place the neck of the bottle in the soil at a slight angle. Water will drip out and hydrate your plant once the soil dries around it. (Will water a medium-size plant for your entire one-week vacation.)