Enjoy the Sandman for 5 More Minutes on the Festival of Sleep Day

Beep, beep, beep, bang! After a deep sleep, the last sound you want to hear is the alarm clock, and you might even take your frustration out on it by slamming the snooze button or pushing it off the nightstand. Sleep can be hard to come by due to stress, anxiety and noise pollution, and some people have a history of insomnia that they just can’t shake. Everyone knows that eight hours of sleep every night is important for overall health, but you can’t always guarantee a good night’s sleep, no matter how hard you might try.

On Monday, January 3, feel free to not set your alarm and relish in those peaceful dreams, because it will be the Festival of Sleep Day! This is the perfect time to dedicate to sleeping — it’s after the holidays, and it will give you a chance to catch up on your slumber so you can take on the New Year.

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The History of New Year’s Eve Resolutions

New Years Eve - Times SquareWhat are your top five resolutions for the New Year? Everyone has something that they can work on, and the new calendar year enables you to start over with a clean slate. Maybe you want to get fit, quit smoking, be more adventurous, eliminate your debt or enjoy life more.  Setting resolutions can be empowering, because this annual ritual gives you a chance to assess your life and make adjustments where you see fit.

If you’re having trouble coming up with a resolution, one that is perfect for everyone’s list is resolving to spend more time with friends and family. Between life and work — and sometimes lack of sleep — remembering to keep an open communication with loved ones can easily fall by the wayside. Fortunately, Baby New Year is giving you the gift of time to work on these things.

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DIY Garden Design for the Garden Shed

Garden ShedThe garden shed while function and beautiful occupies the most unused and unappreciated garden space.  Garden sheds typically have been placed in out of the way locations but close enough to be convenient to the garden.  And while stylish and functional that have been left out of the normal gardening design.  But there is no reason why a garden shed cannot be practical not only from storage but also as a stunning garden space.

Garden sheds provide large amounts of gardening space both horizontally and vertically.  The horizontal space can be planted just as a normal garden but keep in mind that there does exist so considerations that need to be thought through.  First the amount of foot or machinery traffic needs to be thought out.  Nothing beats planting a beautiful bed of tender perennials to find that they do not survive being stepped on.  Also whether there is any hardscape around the garden shed such as pea gravel, rock, concrete, or asphalt.  All these will have to be added to the design plans along with where the garden shed is entered and by what path.  If the hardscape is not the convenient way of getting to the garden shed this also will need to be considered.

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How to Grow Celery the Right Way

Celery PlantPeople avoid growing celery for a variety of reasons. Some people swear off planting celery after a crop failure caused by planting the seed directly in the garden. Other reasons for failure are planting the seed at the wrong time of year, planting the seed too deeply, or not giving the tender plants enough moisture and organic matter. Or, maybe the whole idea of growing celery, with its completely different shape, seemed like an exotic adventure. If you avoid buying celery seed every year, maybe this year it’s time to try something new and grow some crisp, delicious and fragrant celery. It’s easy, if you follow a few rules.

The most important thing to remember when growing celery is the temperature must be just right. Not too hot or too cold. A daytime temperature in the 60’s with nighttime temperatures between 40 and 55 degrees F. is ideal. In most locations, this is early spring soon after the last average frost date. Celery can handle a light frost, but will bolt, or flower, if temperatures remain consistently below 40 degrees F.

Start seed in seeding trays or individual pots eight to ten weeks before the last average frost date for your area. The seed is very tiny and is available in pelleted or coated form which makes finding it much easier. Use a soilless potting medium which is specifically suited for starting seed. It is sterile, has a small amount of fertilizer that is safe for tender young roots and wetting agents to stay moist. It is important to use a sterile mix because it takes celery seed as long as three weeks to germinate. The time lapse gives mildew and fungal diseases, which thrive in unsterilized potting soil, plenty of time to grow and attack young seedlings.

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Designing a Kitchen Garden

Kitchen GardenA kitchen garden or potager (French jardin potager) is a separate space away from the residential garden that includes the lawn and ornamental plants.  A historical example of this type of garden can be found in the Gardens of the French Renaissance and is made up herbs, vegetables, fruits, edible flowers, non-edible flowers with permanent perennials or woody plantings outlining the area and under planted with annuals.  These plants are chosen for their functionality, color, and form.  Many are trained to grow upward and form espaliers, which are fruit trees, trained to grow up walls in a ladder shape. But while the design may seem complicated it really is easy if taken one step at a time and if done correctly requires very little work once established.

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Around the Globe: Celebrating Christmas and Ringing in the New Year

New Years Eve in Sydney, Australia
The stroke of midnight on New Years Eve in Sydney, Australia

Sharing time with family and friends is an important part of the equation for a joyful Christmas and elated New Year. However, the small details are probably what make these moments more rewarding and memorable. Roasting marshmallows by the fire, playing board games, enjoying wine and savory appetizers — these simple activities are what bring everyone together.

In your home, what is on the itinerary for Christmas and New Year’s Eve? Maybe you will share a family meal together on the day commemorating the birth of Jesus, but on New Year’s, you might plan on heading to a friend’s house for a party. Remember, if you bring a date to both events, you can kiss under the mistletoe and when the clock strikes midnight!

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Growing Green Beans

green beansGreen beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) are grown for their immature tender green pods. They are also known as snap beans because you “snap” off the ends of the pods when preparing them for storage or cooking. Green beans were once known as string beans because of the long fiber that ran down the side of the pod, which was also removed before cooking. Luckily, newer varieties are stringless, which makes snapping and preparation a breeze. Tender green beans are delicious in casseroles, steamed or eaten fresh off the vine. They were once only grown on long vines, but bush varieties are now available that produce beans on low-growing plants. A few of the most reliable bush varieties for home gardeners are Blue Lake 274, Topcrop and Bush Kentucky Wonder. Try the pole bean varieties known as Blue Lake or Kentucky Wonder if you have a large trellis. Some experts say the harvest window for pole beans is longer than the bush varieties, but experienced gardeners will tell you differently.

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Growing Sweet Corn

Sweet CornAlthough you can buy sweet corn still wrapped in the husk right off the grocery store shelf, there is nothing like the taste of sweet corn freshly picked from the garden. Growing sweet corn is a challenge for even the most seasoned gardener, but your chances of success are greater by preparing the soil early and following a few guidelines.

Sweet corn is the product of many years of cross-breeding different corn varieties to increase the sugar levels in the kernels. Sweet corn is not the same as corn grown for cattle feed, flour or industrial use because it is harvested while the kernels are fresh instead of dried. When growing sweet corn, keep in mind corn is a fast-growing grass and like grass, it needs good soil fertility and plenty of moisture to grow tall and healthy.

Knowing how corn fertilizes itself will help you understand how corn is planted. Corn has male and female flowers on the same plant. The male flower appears from the top of the plant and produces pollen. As the pollen is shed, it rains down on the female flower located in the area where the leaf meets the stalk. The female flower looks like a small ear of corn with strands of sticky pollen-gathering silk extending from the top. Each strand of silk is responsible for gathering pollen and fertilizing one kernel located inside the ear. That is why corn is planted closely together, to ensure complete fertilization. Incomplete fertilization creates ears with uneven or misshapen kernels.

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Grill Cover Purchasing Guide

Big Green Egg CoverSo, you have purchased a new backyard grill, and now it is time to protect it from the elements. Most barbecue grills are made out of stainless or porcelain coated steel; which holds up well under the elements, but also has the tendency to rust over time. Purchasing the correct grill cover will shield your investment from harsh weather conditions for years to come.

There are three important keys in selecting the correct grill cover for you grill. The first key is to purchase a cover that fits your grill. An improperly fitting cover will not protect your grill properly.  The second important step is to choose a cover that is made out of a sturdy material. The final key to choosing the correct grill cover is to choose one that has some kind of tie down mechanism.

Size and Shape

In order to find a grill cover that fits it is imperative that you know the exterior dimensions of your grill. If a grill cover is too large, it will not stay in place when the wind picks up; if it is too small, then it will quickly show signs of wear and tear on the edges and corners.

The shape of your grill is also a key consideration when shopping for a cover. If you own a Big Green Egg, for example, a rectangle shaped grill cover will not work.   Fortunately, the Big Green Egg manufacturers custom made grill covers for each of their grills.  By choosing the proper shape cover, you will ensure that there is not excess material that can catch water and be battered in the wind.

Most manufacturers sell covers specifically built for their grills. Purchasing a cover this way will ensure that it fits your grill properly.  If the manufacturer does not make a grill cover for you barbecue, then look for a generic one that is has the proper dimensions.

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Think Outside the Box: The Top Ways to Use a Backyard Shed

Garden ShedAre you finding it hard to organize your life within the perimeters of your home? Building onto your house can be a costly expense, and you also have to survive the construction process, which is usually long and drawn out. An alternative option that will give you some sanity back almost immediately is a backyard garden shed. This is an affordable option that can be setup in less than a day’s work. Although metal and vinyl sheds are commonly used for storage purposes, you can think outside the box and achieve your goals.

Before purchasing an outdoor shed, it’s wise to consider the limitations of your home and what you’re hoping to accomplish with this structure. For instance, if you’re going to start your own business or utilize your workout equipment, you’re probably going to want a larger space that has sufficient insulation. On the other hand, you might just need a smaller yet durable structure to store holiday decorations.

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