By Andrea Justus

As the weather improves a good number of us are looking at our gardens and landscaping and thinking, where do I start?  Here are some easy tips for preparing your garden.

Remove all dead garden debris as it may harbor pests or disease from last year.   After the debris is removed it is time to weed.

Remove all growing weeds by the root using a hand weeder – tilling can break apart and spread roots resulting in more weeds down the road.  It is tempting to use technology to get things done faster.  I prefer not to use weed spray in my vegetable garden and find that pulling by the roots lasts longer. My favorite hand weeder is the type that telescopes with a claw on one side and a hoe on the other.  A weed hoe is also helpful in soft soil to loosen the plants so you can pull them by the roots.

Prepare the soil – Incorporate compost by digging in with a garden fork. Refresh soil in raised beds, talk with your local gardening supply store or Master Gardener for soil amendment recommendations.   Incorporate appropriately labeled dry vegetable fertilizer before planting vegetables.   Time release fertilizer is best as the plant can absorb it over time.

Know the appropriate planting dates for summer vegetables. There are many resources available including the library, plant labels, local plant nurseries, and the Virginia Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners.  See  http://loudouncountymastergardeners.org/ for the Master Gardeners events calendar for planting information and to learn where in the county they are holding lectures or Garden Clinics in season.

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Have stakes, trellises, twine, hoses and other garden tools ready for when the vegetables are ready to be planted.  Pay attention to planting depth, for tomatoes plant them up to the first set of leaves to establish strong roots and plants. After planting it is helpful to sprinkle some Preen between the rows  to minimize summer weeding, (do not use Preen in beds if you are going to plant seeds for a second harvest).

Water in all plantings.  Consider covering the rows and walkways in straw to keep weeds down and help plants retain moisture. Hand watering works well for many people, remember that what you water grows whether it is weeds or vegetables.  You can avoid watering weeds by using a garden watering system of hoses with water holes every 12 inches. These systems are relatively inexpensive, convenient, and last a long time especially when covered in straw.

Get started! Rediscover the fun of growing things and share the hobby.

To talk to Andrea about gardening, or finding the farm of your dreams, click here!

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“But how will that affect the future resale value of my home?” is a common refrain from many clients when they are considering decorating and / or improving their home. This is an interesting question and my answer is usually not expected.

 

Typically, I encourage my clients to pursue their passion and improve their home for their enjoyment. We have all seen formulas for returns on certain improvements. To those formulas, I san “So what?”

 

You take vacations, attend theater, shop for unnecessary, but desirable things, go to the spa,  and  purchase a host of other “pleasure” related things without concern of  future return. All of a sudden, when it comes to changing a wall color or adding a distinctive fabric, the breaks screech to a halt and the fretting begins. So the question is, how long do you plan to stay in your home? This answer will help you determine the wisdom of painting a wall chartreuse or building the outdoor kitchen.

 

Over the last 30 years, trends have shifted. Perfectly operating appliances have been discarded and many people have spent thousands of dollars keeping up with their neighbors’ improvements. However, what really makes you happy? Is the color du jour really your taste? Will you cook more at home with stainless steel appliances over the ones you have, and will you bathe/shower  longer or better in  the huge tub and/or shower? Will you be happier if your bank account has an extra zero?

 

Celebrating my 30th anniversary since my career change to real estate, this year, I have become pragmatic about improving, enhancing, or diminishing home values. Over this period I have learned valuable lessons.  I share 5 of those lessons with you below:

 

1.      Happy homes sell.

2.      Well-decorated homes with personality (regardless of color scheme) sell.

3.      Clean, well maintained homes, and tidy landscaping sell.

4.      Location sells.

5.      The right price will sell any time.

 

It is easy to get caught up with TV trends and neighbors’ improvements. I always recommend careful examination of the motivation of a proposed “improvement.” Unless, you will wake up and be deliriously happy  to see and/or use the improvement, bank the cost. If, on the other hand, you will enjoy the improvement, without concern about future return, then treat it as if it were a vacation and get it done. 

 

Be happy in your home and pay attention to its maintenance – both indoor and out. The worst that can happen is you’ll eventually have to repaint a few walls or you have paid to enjoy a particular feature that was important to you.

 

Have some fun and enjoy your home.

No matter how much you want to move, parting with a home can be an emotionally difficult experience. Especially when buyers come in and start criticizing everything.

To a buyer, your living room is not the place where your baby took her first steps, it’s the room they can’t see through the carpet stains.

Every deal has give and take, but as a seller you get to set the starting point: Condition of the House. Think of your house as a car, how would you prepare your car to sell if you couldn’t just take it to a dealer and trade it in? Get your house clean and in at least reasonably good repair (unless, of course, it’s totaled).

If you want your house to sell quickly and for near (or above!) your asking price, then you might want to put a bit of extra work in before the house goes on the market.

DECLUTTER. DECLUTTER. DECLUTTER.

If we can’t see the house through the possessions, it’s going to take longer to sell or sell for a much lower price.

If you can’t bring yourself to actually get rid of things, just put them in storage. The main thing is to get them out of the house.

Stuffing everything in the closets or garage is only an okay solution, not a good one. People love closet space and big garages, those actually aren’t parts of your house that you want to hide behind a wall of boxes or junk.

Also, if you put your possessions in storage, you can feel easier about having people come look at your house. Obviously, we want to assume the best about people, but it’s still wise to be proactive about protecting your home and family.

REPAIR THINGS

If you are hoping that they won’t notice that thing over there, then they probably will. Especially if it’s water damage, mold, or something missing that really shouldn’t be missing. Faucets. Broken towel bars. Door knobs. Burners. Linoleum peeling off the floor. Screens.

UPDATES OPTIONAL

Everyone wants to know if they should upgrade their appliances, their floors, or their cabinets, in order to sell their house. Well, that depends. How old are your appliances? How nasty is the carpet? How chewed up is the hardwood? If these things are in terrible condition, you should probably consider that a repair. If they are in good condition…you might not need to make changes.

My question is: Why don’t you upgrade when you can enjoy the upgrades for a little while first?

This process can be very difficult, but your realtor should be able to help you prioritize and get your home ready for buyer’s critical eyes.