Keep your garden growing with winter herbs

November 5, 2010

Shakespeare wrote “There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance.” May I humbly add that it is also very good with roasted chicken and in a savory pot pie?

Summer’s end does not have to mean the end of the simple joy of plucking a branch of rosemary, a stem of fresh thyme, parsley, or a few aromatic bay or sage leaves.

Varieties of four garden herbs available at Newcastle Fruit & Produce include Italian parsley, golden sage, Tuscan blue rosemary and lemon thyme. By Greg Farrar

Many favorite herbs can be potted and grown in a sunny spot near a patio or porch door, and whisked inside for a day or two when the temperature dips below 32 degrees. It is best to remove saucers outdoors during the winter to help prevent root rot.

Another handy method is to place potted herbs on sunny windowsills. Grown inside or out, a minimum six hours of sun — when it shines — is required.

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Keep your deck looking like new this spring and summer

May 7, 2010

As the weather gets warmer, most people search for more outdoor activities in which to take part. Some go to the pool and some head to the mountains, but some just head to the back porch to relax.

No matter what kind of deck you have, there are a few easy steps you can take to keep your deck looking good for the spring and summer. The first thing to do is clean your deck, said Ron Spillers, president of West Coast Decks in Issaquah.

“Probably the easiest way will be using deck detergent, which you can find at any home improvement store,” he said.

Of course, if you have not cleaned your deck in some time, mold or algae may have started to grow, especially given the often-soggy conditions in the Pacific Northwest.

Craig Koelling, an owner of Evergreen Wood Restoration based out of Mercer Island, said that using a light bleach solution is the easiest way to wash away mold and algae.

“Err on the weak side,” Koelling said. “If it’s strong enough to work, it’s strong enough to hurt.”

He said he recommends using a 10-1 ratio of water to bleach in a solution with a little dish soap, and he said about once a year he gets a call from someone who badly damaged his or her deck by applying pure bleach to it.

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Try plants that work hard for the money

May 7, 2010

We work hard for our money, so why shouldn’t the plants we buy? Some plants are annuals that bloom nonstop all summer but must be replanted each year. Others are perennials that may be long lived, but only bloom for a few weeks or sometimes only a few days.

Smaller yards and tighter budgets have created a need for plants that have a longer season of interest. Evergreen foliage, colorful bark in winter, and perennials and shrubs that have long blooming seasons can help stretch our gardening dollars. Some plants may be gorgeous in photos, but turn out to be a big disappointment once planted in a homeowner’s yard.

In short, we want Donna Summers, not prima donnas. Some plants are difficult unless you give them exactly what they want. Good perennials and shrubs prosper without much help from the gardener, thriving without crowding out their neighbors. Read more

Do you know when you need a building permit?

May 7, 2010

Many residents are not sure if they need a building permit for a given project. The International Building Codes, to which the city adheres, specifies conditions when building permits are not required.

Permits are not required for these residential projects:

  • One-story detached accessory structures used as storage space or for playhouses. The structure cannot exceed 120 square feet, and it must be within the building setback line, typically 5 feet from side property lines and 20 feet from the rear property line.
  • Fences less than 6 feet tall.
  • Rockeries and retaining walls that are not more than 4 feet tall, unless they are supporting a surcharge. Retaining walls more than 30 feet tall are now allowed in setbacks.
  • Sidewalks and driveways less than 2 1/2 feet above grade and not over any basement or story below, and which are not part of an accessible route.
  • Painting, papering, tiling, carpeting, cabinets, countertops and other similar finish work.
  • Temporary theater stage sets and scenery.
  • Residential window awnings supported by exterior walls that do not protrude more than 4 1/2 feet and do not require additional support.
  • Prefabricated swimming pools with walls that are entirely above grade and less than two feet deep. The capacity of the pool must be less than 5,000 gallons. Read more

Open a window to federal remodeling tax credits

May 7, 2010

As warm weather approaches and the tax credit for energy-efficient replacement windows is in full swing, now is the perfect time to consider upgrading your home with new windows to help save on cooling costs in hot summer months, and to also save on heating costs when winter rolls around again.

The tax credit for energy-efficient replacement windows and doors, originally introduced in 2009 as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, is set to expire at the end of 2010, which makes this year the best time for homeowners to replace their windows and upgrade the look and feel of their home.

Here are some tips and guidelines to help homeowners make the most of the energy-efficient replacement window tax credit:

How do I qualify for the tax credit?

The federal government established strict standards for windows to qualify for the tax credit. Replacement windows must have a glass package with a U-Factor rating — the rate at which heat is prevented from escaping — of 0.30 or lower. Qualifying windows must also possess a Solar Heat Gain Coefficient rating of 0.30 or lower. The lower the window’s Solar Heat Gain Coefficient, the less solar heat it transmits.

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Eat your landscape: Incorporate edibles into your ornamental landscape

May 7, 2010

Walking along the garden path can be a tasty experience if you add “ornamedibles” into your landscape. No longer is there a need for a segregated part of your property labeled “the garden.” You can add productive, as well as beautiful plants to every part of your yard.

By choosing to design a border with edible plants as well as ornamental plants, you extend the “roi” or return on investment for your property, too. Today’s smaller lots need to work overtime for every inch of value. Vegetables, fruits and herbs all deserve a space where they can grow and be prolific, and sometimes that means the front yard.

Sage or salvia officianalis offers a multitude of foliage colors to choose for your style of garden. Here is a photo of how the “tri-color” sage was used for a showy and “water-wise” border to a hot sidewalk. On the upper left is purple corn.

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Bringing peace to your inner space

May 7, 2010

Looking for ways to spiffy up your indoor décor for spring? It’s as close as the nearest paint shop.

“Color is so important,” said Alexa Milton, an interior designer based in Issaquah. “People should really look at living with more color because it does enhance your lifestyle.”

Spring, usually a rainy season in Issaquah, is the perfect opportunity to affordably spruce up your indoors when you don’t feel like heading outdoors yet. It can also keep you from feeling drab before summer begins.

“It is important to work with color within your home because of how much it can change a home in a very affordable way,” said Carrie Jayne, an Issaquah resident and owner of Carrie Jayne Designs. Color “can affect the look of your home by changing both the mood and the style of your home.”

Bringing outdoor colors inside is a great way to enhance indoor space, Milton said.

For instance, if you like the color of the tree outside your window as the light shines through it, re-create it as a color on an accent wall in your home.

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Cash in your clunker appliances

May 7, 2010

Many homeowners may not realize their appliances are a big energy drain — and a drain on their wallet. Cash for Appliances Washington, now available throughout the Evergreen State, offers consumers extra cash back to help them make the switch to a new energy-efficient refrigerator or clothes washer.

Refrigerators manufactured before 1993 cost about $80 to run on average each year, compared to current Energy Star-qualified models that cost as little as $30 annually. Clothes washers that are more than 10 years old add an extra $135 per year in utility costs compared to a new Energy Star-qualified model. In addition to obtaining extra cash back after purchase, participants will save money month after month on their utility bills.

Cash for Appliances Washington rebates are only available until funds run out. The program offers $100 cash back on new, qualified Energy Star clothes washers and $75 on new Energy Star refrigerators when the old unit is recycled. These cash-back incentives are in addition to the incentives offered through Washington utilities for purchasing new and recycling old appliances.

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Sustainability-focused development gears up for construction

May 7, 2010

Officials with Trails at Newcastle, a sustainability-oriented development that will be built east off Coal Creek Parkway between Southeast 79th Street and 135th Avenue Southeast, plan to break ground this summer.

“The timing is right in the market,” said Ben Kaufman, owner of GreenWorks Realty and Development Group, which will build the development.

The development has been in the planning stages for more than six years. The site on which it will be built is 6.4 acres, but one-third of the property is protected wetlands. The development will include 32 homes centered on a pedestrian walkway and will offer parking on the property’s periphery, according to the development’s website.

The site on which the buildings will be constructed is host to some invasive plant species, and about two years ago the group brought in more than 100 goats to eat their way through the plants and perform initial clearing.

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Add a little color, texture to a monochromatic room

May 7, 2010

Q: We try to live an “eco-savvy” life, including things we use in our home — for decorating as well as everyday items, such as cleaning materials. Now our bend toward natural possessions has resulted in a collection of natural colors: all neutrals, like beiges and wood tones. As much as we wanted this to be our look, the end result is almost boring. How can we follow our “natural instincts” and also have an interesting home?

A: Technically, monochromatic means one color, but can quickly become synonymous with neutrals — beiges, browns, creams and grays. To take the dullness out of monochromatic decorating, use different textures, juxtaposed to give the eye something to focus on in the midst of all that same color.

Think slick and shine. For example, a gray glass coffee-table top against the rough-and-tumble texture of a wheat-colored shag rug. Consider a cream silk pillow on a brown velvet sofa, or vice versa. Although the colors are all subtle, a contrast in textures attracts our attention.

Clodagh, an award-winning New York designer who uses one name, is widely celebrated for her harmonious, even holistic interiors; however, occasionally she spikes the neutral brew with a sudden jolt of color.

Clodagh often fills a room with organic materials and natural colors — beiges and ochres that might have been coaxed from boiled tree bark and earth minerals. But a bolt of blue-on-white breezes in to punch things up.

“Vivid paintings can take on the eloquence of stained glass if hung on walls of the right color,” the designer writes in her book, “Total Design: Contemplate, Cleanse, Clarify and Create Your Personal Spaces.”

Walls that are “taupe, parchment, paper-bag brown or, surprisingly, red can reinforce strong pieces,” she said.

So, hang a dazzlingly colorful work of art to set the rest of the room to thrumming.

Source: Creators News Service

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