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9 Ways to Rethink Your Landscaping for Severe Weather

Maintaining a yard isn’t for the faint of heart anymore. Severe weather means rains are heavier and more intense. Droughts last a long time and can be dangerous. Then there’s the trickle-down effect. Rising temps are causing more aggressive weeds, and longer frost seasons are giving insect pests more time to reproduce (shudder). But some homeowners have figured out how to change their landscaping to sync with area weather patterns and their desire to do other things than manage their yard and lawn. Here are nine tips from varied sources to help you win over weather – and go low maintenance at the same time. 

#1 Pick Several Species of Plants.

Gardens and landscapes with several different species of plants can better resist pests, diseases, and just plain prolonged bad weather. Native plants are an excellent choice because they’re hardy and can support native wildlife. – Environmental horticulturist Kim Eierman, founder of EcoBeneficial!, from HGTV’s “Climate Change in Your Own Backyard” 

#2 Replace or Reduce Your Lawn.

Some pros call exotic turf grasses “green deserts,” because the grasses have shallow roots and require a lot of work. Consider replacing them with native grasses that have deep roots. Little bluestem holds a lot of moisture but also tolerates periods of drought. – Kim Eierman

#3 Nix the Lawn, Opt for Ground Cover.

Step away from that lawnmower. Use ground cover instead of lawn and say goodbye to mowing. Ground cover retains carbon in the soil, tolerates drought, and prevents both erosion and invasives. More important, it renourishes the soil so you don’t have to continually fertilize it. – Susan Nugent, climate reality project leader, from “South Florida Sun-Sentinel”

#4 Create Rain Gardens.

Plants that need more water can be used in a rain garden, a wet area in your landscaping. Water-loving plants can bloom near a downspout with a rain barrel attached. During droughts, you can add stored water. – Susan Nugent

#5 Plant Pollinators.

They support about 35% of our food supply. When selecting plantings, use biodiversity – differing types of plants to benefit birds, butterflies, and bees. – Susan Nugent

#6 Choose Natural Mulch.

Like cedar, natural mulch keeps insects away. Pine bark mulch is often sold as nuggets, but the shredded form covers better and looks great throughout the season. It decays fairly quickly, enriching soil over time. – Tata & Howard, specialized water, wastewater, and storm water consulting engineering firm

#7 See the Pluses of (Some) Weeds.

Creeping Charlie is one weed hated by lawn-lovers because it can “spoil” a nice lawn and spread like crazy in part shade. But it’s a native plant with attractive flowers, and bees love it. – Henry Homeyer, blogger at gardening-guy.com, “Gardening: Give ‘Rewilding’ Your Lawn a Try,” from “Providence Journal”

#8 Add Stone or Gravel Pathways.

They work as firebreaks and reduce rain runoff. – Bob Vila, from “The 12 Biggest Landscaping Trends for 2022”

#9 Use Boulders and Large Stones.

It doesn’t get much lower maintenance than boulders and large stones. Plus, they conserve water. And they’re versatile and can be arranged in clusters, stacked as a retaining wall, or used to accent changes in elevation. – Ryan Plank, “How to Landscape with Boulders,” from “Lawn Starter”

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5 Ways to Keep Severe Weather from Doing a Number on Your Yard

Contrary to what many may believe, severe weather doesn’t just beat up on the other guy. Mother Nature can wallop anyone’s home and yard.

That doesn’t mean you’ll have to watch your house reduced to briquettes by a wildfire or flooding test your home’s capacity for flotation. But your yard may lose some of its curb appeal if you let nature take its course and you experience events like drought, flooding, hail, high winds, or other uninvited elements. If severe weather is persistent or paired with deficient maintenance, it can set your yard back years. 

It may be time to rethink your ideas about traditional yards and landscaping. Consider new ideas that will stand up to new challenges but still leave you enough time to enjoy your yard – and your life. Here are five tips to get you started.

1. Counteract Drought Devastation

Continuous lack of water is a serious threat to cultivated plants, says Bryan McKenzie, landscape designer and co-founder of the blog Bumpercroptimes.com. Drought slows plant growth, affects the structures of plants, makes them more susceptible to disease, and can even deep-six entire root systems.  

Unless you want to relive the Dust Bowl, understand that drought can have a negative impact on soil. “If you’re in a drought situation, you’re exposing the soil to the sun,” says Joe Raboine, director of residential hardscapes for Belgard in Atlanta. “[Soil] will bake, dry up, and turn to dust. Pesticides in the dust will be dispersed through the air.” 

To thrive, grass lawns need to quaff at least one inch of water weekly, says Luke Lee, a London-based real estate professional who helps homeowners with landscaping design choices. If your home is in an area gripped by frequent drought, consider installing artificial turf (AstroTurf is one type). It will help conserve water and put a damper on grass fires, Lee says.

Another option: Use drought-resistant plants or mulch on the land to protect the soil and allow the soil biome to thrive, Raboine says. One other possibility is edible landscapes, including blueberry bushes. “Blueberries can be planted from the South to far North and thrive in many different and even fairly harsh conditions,” he says. “There’s receptivity to new ideas about how to cover your land, which are really old ways that predate the arrival of lawn mowers to cut your grass.”

2. Prevent Damage from Excessive Precipitation

Too much precipitation from rain and snowfall can damage both plants and soil, says  the marketing director of Manchester, Conn.-based Green Building Elements. Monsoon-like downpours can unleash a torrent of stormwater pollution, which can kill plant roots.

Flooding can rob landscapes of large volumes of nutrients and also choke them from lack of air. If plants remain in standing water too long, growth can be slowed, or they may die, McKenzie says.

Many homeowners grade the soil on their properties rather than accentuating the natural landscape, says Tom Monson, owner of Monson Lawn & Landscaping in Mendota Heights, Minn. When combined with extreme weather like heavy rains, this grading can lead to erosion.

Homeowners in areas with severe weather need to consider where water drains, Monson says. “Many homeowners have installed customized draining systems to protect against flooding. But many have not installed drainage systems, and [their yards] are at risk.”

Water running off a yard can carry oil and debris, which end up in waterways. To avoid getting the evil eye from the Environmental Protection Agency, consider installing permeable pavements in your yard. Two such coverings are interlocking concrete pavers or amended soils. 

Permeable pavements can prevent both pollutant runoff and flooding, says Raboine. They capture the water in the substrate. There, microbes break down pollutants before they can enter the aquifer. 

“The storm water from a driveway can be collected in a tank in the same way water was once collected in a cistern, and later used for irrigation purposes,” he says. 

3. Secure Your Yard from High Winds

Gusts strong enough to propel Dorothy back to the Emerald City seem more common these days. As threatening as they may be to houses and cars, those gusts are also no friend of your landscaping. Strong sustained winds can rip smaller plants from the ground. After a windstorm, distribution of leaves, pine needles, and small branches, as well as large fallen trees, can make your yard look like a disaster zone. Even milder winds can accelerate soil erosion. That’s destructive to landscaping and brings slower growth.

Landscape experts urge several steps. Prune trees and bushes of loose or dead branches. Before an impending storm, tie down any other loose foliage, and secure furniture or decorations, which can be blown around your lot as well. Think about planting fewer ornamental shrubs or trees, and avoid trees that are easily uprooted by heavy winds. Even ponder cutting down a few trees and foliage vulnerable to high winds.

4. Prepare Your Yard for Extreme Heat

Statistics suggest the weather pattern most deadly for humans is extreme heat. It can be just as lethal to the yards of humans. This weather pattern can cause loss of foliage, dormant lawns, stressed shrubs and trees, and insect and disease infestations. So says Owen Mosser, Maine-based garden expert at online publication The Golden.

To keep your lawn green in spite of the summer heat, replacing some areas with water-wise plantings will make your yard more tolerant. Possibilities include Spanish lavender, African daisy, aloes, pride of Madeira, rockrose, and Juniper.

“Pruning dead or infected limbs will keep plant diseases from spreading to the healthy parts of your yard,” he adds. Detect infected plants by spotting abnormal growth or appearance of disease-causing organisms such as insect larvae or bacterial slime. Leaves are also visibly yellow leaves with white blotches, and the stems may become a bit mushy.

5. Protect Your Landscaping From Harsh Winters

Long cold stretches, when combined with the kind of gusts that send wind chills plummeting to minus zero territory, can leave your yard’s future on thin ice.

Prevent this by overseeding your lawn to generate stronger, healthier grass and keep your lawn safe during the winter months, Mosser says. Incorporating mulch also provides insulation, regulates root and soil warmth, and keeps your plants healthy.

“Don’t forget to remove dead leaves and debris,” he adds. “Doing this will prevent your plants from suffocating and infesting fungus and diseases. Mother Nature can be unforgiving sometimes . . . preventive landscaping is key.” 

Bottom line? Make the time and money you spend on your yard a strong investment against severe weather. Preventive landscaping can help ensure your yard stays green. That could also save you some green by fixing problems that could have been avoided.

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4 Ways to Give Your Kitchen Personality

Kitchens are showing more personality these days. As they’ve become a hub, they’re not just for cooking and eating. We’ve been using them for all kinds of activities. We want our kitchens to reveal our interests and taste but still blend with the rest of our home. Here are four ways — little and big — to do that by designing a creative kitchen. 

#1 Aim for a Creative Kitchen

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You love looking at posts on Pinterest or Instagram for inspiration and saving them for mood boards or focused aesthetic. But because of your urge for individuality, you want to incorporate choices in ways nobody else does. As long as you don’t make drastic changes that would take big bucks to reverse if you sold in the next few years, you can get creative. Feel free to fix up your kitchen just the way you love. 

“Do what feels good for you and nobody else,” urges designer Sharon McCormick of Sharon McCormick Design in Hartford, Conn. This may involve a quick, affordable fix. So, you could move a rug from another room to add a spark of color or pattern. Or hang favorite artwork, or display collectibles on floating shelves or in glass-fronted cabinets. 

If you need to focus on investment-grade changes with lasting value, you still have options. Think about hand-scraped floors, wire-brushed and high-gloss lacquered cabinets, or hardware in new elegant shapes and finishes, says Chicago kitchen expert Mick de Giulio of de Giulio Kitchen Design.  

#2 Express Yourself With Kitchen Color

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Kitchen color is the great game changer for a creative kitchen. It’s a quick and easy way to update your kitchen’s look and feel. White, gray, and beige are still popular palettes for kitchens, but livelier hues are showing up, according to a 2021 Houzz survey. If you’re timid about the new shades — lots of blues and greens — consider small doses in a few perimeter cabinets. Or for an island, you could add some backsplash tiles on one wall; one color appliance, like a turquoise range (yep, it’s available!); or a smaller standing mixer or countertop oven. They’re now available in almost any color of the rainbow. 

Paint manufacturer Sherwin-Williams says green kitchens are gaining ground. People want to bring the feeling of plants and trees inside, whether in dark, jewel tones or more muted, soothing hues. Green also pairs well with wood in floors, furniture, or butcher block countertops. 

If you’re not ready to commit to color, consider sophisticated black accents. They’ve become popular for architectural features like window frames, doors, cabinets, faucets, and appliance fronts. “Black is the Sharpie that outlines the kitchen,” says JT Norman, design specialist at Kitchen Magic in Nazareth, Pa.

#3 Blend Your Spaces for Seamlessness

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The kitchen has become more of a room to live in. Even if you already have an open floor plan with adjoining spaces, you may want your furnishings, color palette, and accessories to blend more seamlessly. That way, there’s no jarring change from one room to another. McCormick says this is a shift from years past, when each room was a different color and sometimes a slightly different style. “With this new way, you can bring chairs from one room to another if you need more seating,” she says. “They look right, and it’s also easier on the eye.”

If your kitchen has separate dining and comfy hangout areas, you can still get a cohesive look by coordinating colors and styles. One way to blend spaces is to use the same style of cabinetry. Simple shaker cabinets are still a classic choice. Some homeowners also want panel fronts similar to their cabinets to camouflage kitchen appliances. And even if the color scheme isn’t exactly the same throughout, you might introduce one common denominator of a few similarly colored accessories in each room. 

#4 Go for Convenience With Smart Appliances

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Your tech-savvy side wants to find ways to use the latest developments in kitchen equipment to save time and effort. Why not get a jump on preheating the oven for the chicken you plan to roast after a hard day at work — or reheating the one you bought at the supermarket? Most major manufacturers offer models with Wi-Fi capability. You download an app onto your phone or tablet and program the unit. Voila! The range is warm when you arrive home, so you get to eat sooner. 

Faucets like Delta’s Touch2O Technology let you touch anywhere on the spout or faucet handle with your wrist or forearm to activate water flow if your hands are covered. So, no worries if you’re kneading pizzas for your gang.

You may or may not be ready for a fridge that knows if you’re low on butter or eggs and need to order. “Some buy this technology if they can afford it, even though they may not use it often,” says Chicago designer Susan Brunstrum of Studio Brunstrum.

But here’s something you can easily add and will want — more outlets and USB ports. You’ll be ready to charge everyone’s phone and other tech devices at one convenient charging station.

A creative kitchen can be a more livable space that displays your family’s interests and blends with your other rooms. And best of all, changes don’t have to be big, pricey, or time consuming. They can still make a major difference in ramping up your happiness quotient.

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10 Ways to Make Your Bathroom Feel Like a Spa

Ahhh, the spa. It’s been too long since most of us could go to a real spa (thanks, COVID). We miss the luxury of a hot tub soak and the power of sauna and steam rooms to align our body and spirit. So, we’re doing the next best thing. We’re remodeling our bathrooms with spa-inspired features to get that relaxing vibe at home. Enter the spa bathroom. The trend has even inspired a new word blend: spathroom. 

COVID and more time at home caused homeowners to search out creative ways to enjoy their homes more. “We’re looking for ways to relax at home versus going out. So, bringing that luxury home in the form of a spa bathroom is a logical next,” says Dr. Anna Ruth Gatlin, an assistant professor of interior design at Auburn University.

But a spa bathroom can carry a hefty price tag. A bathroom remodel costs an average $35,000, according to the National Association of REALTORS® “Remodeling Impact Survey.” A budget-friendly remodel can be done for as little as $2,500, depending on the scope of the project and where you live, according to “Forbes Advisor.”

Spa Bathroom Ideas

Improvements that can add value to your home include upgrading your shower, adding storage through shelving, and refreshing your color scheme, according to Property Price Advice. A bathroom that still needs upgrades will make the whole home much less appealing to buyers, says realtor.com®. The website recommends enhancing marketability through simple upgrades like installing new bathroom hardware and adding shelving.

If you make smart choices, you can also get soul-soothing relaxation from spa features like a new steam shower. And that can’t be measured in dollars and cents.

#1 Install a Spa Showerhead.

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Replace your plain showerhead with a more luxurious model to turn your daily shower into a restorative experience. We’re not talking about changing out the whole fixture just the head, so you can do it yourself. You can get a rain showerhead that sprays water directly from above, or heads with adjustable massaging spray patterns.

Japanese meets Scandinavian in ‘Japandi,’ a trend that makes a bathroom look like it stepped out of Ten Thousand Waves Spa in Santa Fe.

#2 Upgrade Vanities.

Updating your vanity can make a big change in a bathroom without costing a lot of money. You can transform a dated vanity with new paint, new hardware, and a new countertop. So you don’t have to rip out and replacing the entire unit. To get a spa look, consider painting a wooden vanity matte black, adding shiny brass pulls, and replacing the vanity’s countertop with a slab of white marble.

#3 Add Some Japandi.

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Japanese meets Scandinavian in “Japandi,” a bathroom trend that combines Zen with hygge for a bathroom that looks like it stepped out of Ten Thousand Waves Spa in Santa Fe. Japandi uses a neutral color palette accented with brass or black fixtures and a lot of wood to push a connection to nature. You don’t have to remodel your entire bathroom in Japandi style. Instead, paint the walls a cool white tone and replace your vanity mirrors with simple round ones. Swap out faucets, cabinet pulls, and towel racks with new black metal ones, and add open wooden shelves. Bathroom paint is an affordable alternative to tile, a fast way to change the look of the room. 

#4 Go for Gold.

Gold and brass have made a comeback, replacing silver and nickel trim as the finish of choice in bathrooms. Now is a good time to upgrade your faucets, towel racks, showerhead, shower trim, and mirror frames with a yellow-tinged metal. “After nearly two decades of loving the cold industrial feel of steel, we’re craving warmer-toned metals in bathrooms,” Gatlin says. It’s a cold world out there. We could all use the warm glow of a gold showerhead or towel rack to warm our souls and lift our spirits.

#5 Install a Towel Warmer.

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Nothing says “Ahhh, I feel like I’m at a spa” like stepping out of the shower and wrapping yourself in a warm towel. You can get that feeling at home by installing a towel warming rack in your bathroom. They range in style from plug-in models that need no electrical work, to upscale models that an electrician will need to wire into the bathroom. Those higher-end models will add lasting value to your home and do a better job of warming those towels and making you feel pampered.

#6 Opt for Natural Wood.

Pull up the tile, linoleum, or (shudder) carpet on your bathroom flooring. Then put down wood floors in a water-resistant material like teak, cedar, or hinoki cypress. This brings nature and warmth into your bathroom. Don’t want wood in a wet place like a bathroom? Think about porcelain tile that’s made to look like wood. You’ll get the warmth of wood grain with the durability of tile. 

#7 Put in Open Shelving.

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A few rows of open shelving made of wood can make your bathroom more spa-like by adding a wood finish. They also provide a place to stash your shampoo bottles, towels, and other grooming supplies that can clutter a bathroom. Open wood shelves will make your bathroom more functional, fast. And more storage almost always adds to a home’s value.

#8 Add a Bidet Attachment to Your Toilet.

Once exclusively a European or Asian thing, Americans discovered bidets during the COVID pandemic when fears of a toilet paper shortage spurred bidet sales. Bidets fit in with the spa bathroom aesthetic because spas are about cleanliness and purity. You can go for a full, standalone bidet. Or you can get the same effect by buying a bidet attachment that fits onto your existing toilet. The best choice for adding value to your house is a bidet toilet seat that fits permanently onto your existing toilet and features a dryer function. 

#9 Go Big With a Spa Shower.

This is a big-ticket item. Spa bathroom showers are usually double the size of a normal shower and tiled from head to toe — no shower curtain, just glass doors or walls. The idea is to create a rainforest waterfall feel. They usually have a wellness showerhead the size of a dinner plate that offers a range of spray patterns along with chromotherapy. 

#10 Build a Wet Room.

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We’re in total room remodel territory now. Wet rooms turn the entire bathroom into a waterproof space. This dispenses with a walk-in shower and creates a bathroom with a shower that’s open to the bathroom and separated only by a half-wall of glass or tile. There’s a freestanding soaking tub in a wet room, too. A wet room looks like the bathroom at an actual spa, with bathroom tile on walls, floors, and sometimes even ceilings. It’s a super high-end bathroom that will add luxury with a capital L to your home.