Richard Felber1. Choose the pots. Make certain there are one or more holes in the bottom of your container to allow water to flow out freely. Insufficient drainage can cause roots to drown, and the plant to die prematurely.
Almost anything can be used as a container for plants, so what type of pot you choose depends upon your style preference and budget. If you prefer lightweight containers, which are easy to move around and can weather winter temperatures, look for resin, fiberglass, and plastic. Added bonus: These materials are not porous, so they absorb less moisture than unglazed clay or wood -- leaving more for the plant.
2. Choose the potting mix. Do not use soil from the yard or garden. It can be filled with weed seeds, insects, and fungal diseases.
Buy potting soil at your local garden center. It is a loose and light mixture of materials like peat moss, vermiculite, and, often, decomposed organic matter. If you are planting succulents or cacti, use a mix especially formulated for them.
Blog Posts by Real Simple Magazine
Richard Felber1. Choose the pots. Make certain there are one or more holes in the bottom of your container to allow water to flow out freely. Insufficient drainage can cause roots to drown, and the plant to die prematurely.Read More »from How to Care for Potted Plants
Formula Z/SRest easy with these smart, simple, and affordable ways to keep out burglars and secure your valuablesRead More »from Burglarproofing Your Home
There's a burglary every 15 seconds in the United States -- and more than 6 million home break-ins every year. The good news: Your house doesn't have to be one of them. There's plenty you can do, experts say, to make it tougher for housebreakers to make off with your hard-earned, perhaps irreplaceable stuff.
What to Do Inside Your Home
A few smart moves within the house can keep a burglar out -- or at least minimize his haul.
Put lights and a radio or a television on timers. People who leave the lights on all day "might as well put out a sign in their front yard saying they're out of town," says Ann Lindstrom of ADT Security Services, the nation's oldest alarm-system company. Look for the type of timer that can be set for random on and off times (one brand is Leviton, about $40 each). Otherwise, it's too easy for crooks to get wise to the fact that your lights are coming on at the
Ngoc Minh NgoProblem: You'd like to spruce up your house, but you can't seem to find the right red paint (Painting Tricks and Timesavers) to complement your olive green couch.Read More »from When to Do It Yourself, When to Hire a Pro
Enter: The color consultant. She can help you select colors that work for your space and spare you from testing 15 different reds on your walls. She can also lead you to unexpected, possibly more daring choices.
Cost: Around $50 to $75 an hour (enough time to pick colors for two rooms).
To Find One: Contact the International Association of Color Consultants/Designers at www.iaccna.org .
Consider Doing It Yourself When: You have the time and the inclination to sort through paint chips and design magazines for inspiration. For ideas, try Choosing Colors, by Kevin McCloud (Watson-Guptill, $35, www.amazon.com).
Problem: Your bookcases are buckling under their heavy load.
Enter: The carpenter. A professional knows exactly what to do, from choosing the right veneer to finding the proper wall studs that will prevent it all from
Amy WilsonHalloween will be here before you know it. Show off your smarts with some trick-or-treating trivia from Real Simple.
- Trick-or-treating harks back to the Middle Ages and All Souls' Day, when poor people in Britain would beg for soul cakes, a sweet-bread treat, and pray for dead relatives in return.
- When trick-or-treating first became popular in the United States in the 1800s, more children played mischievous pranks than asked for candy. By the 1950s, though, the focus had switched to good old family fun, with sugar-hyped children dressed in costumes.
- The candy-collecting tradition has spread from the United States to Canada, Australia, and Western Europe, where more and more little goblins now trick-or-treat. In parts of England, children carry lanterns called punkies (which look like jack-o'-lanterns) and parade through the town on the last Thursday of October. In Ireland, rural neighborhoods light bonfires, and children play snap apple, in which they try to take a bite
Anita CaleroThe trouble with noise isn't loudness but suddenness. A cat fight outside the bedroom window or a horn honking out of nowhere jolts you into alertness. But a steady stream of sound, no matter the volume, usually isn't disruptive. And if that steady sound can mask the cats and the cars, it can help you fall asleep and stay that way.Read More »from If noise is keeping you awake at night
Add white noise. "Background noise is good for two reasons," says David Neubauer, M.D., associate director of the Johns Hopkins Sleep Disorders Center, in Baltimore. "It helps block outside noises, like road-repair workers and your neighbor's stereo. Beyond that, psychologically, it's soothing." A constant stream of low sound or a variety of recognizable ones -- ocean waves, rain, summer crickets â-- can keep sudden noises from waking you up. Plus, some people find the sounds themselves calming.
Try... Fans, window air conditioners, or anything else that drones continuously. A sound machine is ideal if you don't want to run a fan or an air conditioner all
Alexandra RowleyA guide to making heavy-duty chores easierRead More »from Deep cleaning in 3 steps
Deep Cleaning Appliances
Considering the money invested in them, appliances deserve a thorough scrubbing on a regular basis. In addition to giving you the satisfaction of knowing they're spanking-clean inside and out, your good work can optimize their performance and even extend their lives.
Clean spills and deodorize with this routine from San Francisco Chronicle cleaning columnist Tara Aronson.
Step 1: Fill a coffee mug with water and a few slices of lemon; put it in the middle of the microwave's tray. Cook on a high setting for about three minutes, then turn off the microwave.
Step 2: Leave the mug inside for another three minutes or so. The steam will soften food spills, and the hot lemon will give that lingering pasta-sauce odor the boot once and for all.
Step 3: Open the door and take out the mug. Wipe down the walls with warm, soapy water to remove residue and food. Then rinse and dry with a clean dishcloth.
From a party you want to skip to a loan you shouldn't lend -- how to say no to life's relentless requests.Read More »from 3 guilt-free strategies for saying no
Thinking you are a bad person for saying no is a symptom of "the disease to please." "Saying yes when you need to say no causes burnout. You do yourself and the person making the request a disservice by saying yes all of the time," says author Duke Robinson. Here's how to do the right thing -- for yourself and others -- in 10 common scenarios where you know that opting out is your best option. Don't feel guilty. Just take these tips from experts on etiquette and communication -- and a cue from your favorite two-year-old -- and say no.
Saying No for the Sake of Your Wallet
Request: A friend in need asks for a Trump-worthy loan.
What you should say: "I wish I could, but as a rule, I don't lend money to friends."
Why it works: It's clear that you are not singling out this person as untrustworthy.
Why you shouldn't feel guilty: Lending any amount of money can cause problems, says
Too many cooks in the kitchen? Sounds like a party. Guests bring the tomatoes, you supply the wine, and everyone goes home with fresh homemade pasta sauce.
Divide and Conquer
Set up your kitchen so each task has a designated spot and let guests pick their stations (see recipe for instructions). A little teamwork can make peeling and chopping fun. (Wine helps, too.)
Everything you need to get things simmering.
Tomatoes: Ask guests to bring the main ingredient. For a party of six, figure on each person contributing 5 pounds of tomatoes toward a big batch of sauce. The host provides the other ingredients (see recipe).
Signs: Mark workstations with note cards in place-card holders. Binder clips turned upside down also work.
Snacks: Rev up the troops with a "Take a Break" area, complete with a spread of Italian cheeses (try Gorgonzola, Robiola, and bocconcini), prosciutto, olives, fruit, honey, bread sticks, and crackers.
KitchenRead More »from Cooking with Friends
Frances JanischCoat Rack as Jewelry HolderRead More »from New Uses for Old Things: Coat Rack, Nail Polish
Original Purpose: Keeping your raincoats off the hall floor
Aha! Use: Storing your best-loved (and most frequently worn) necklaces and bracelets within easy reach.
Reward: Tangle-free baubles that decorate your wall when not decorating your neck.
Use Nail Polish to Color-Code KeysEllen Silverman
Original Purpose: Giving yourself a well-groomed look from tip to toe.
Aha! Use: Color-coding keys. Lay keys flat and apply a thick coat of a different shade to the top of each key.
Reward: Keys of distinction.
Fall Closet Cleanout Plan
Timesaving Tips and Tricks
Shop Your Closet
Frances JanischWhen cleaning the kitchen always start with the sink. "Keep it empty and shining," says Marla Cilley, author of Sink Reflections (Bantam, $10.20, www.amazon.com) and creator of www.FlyLady.net, a housekeeping website.
A sparkling sink becomes your kitchen's benchmark for hygiene and tidiness, inspiring you to load the dishwasher immediately and keep counters, refrigerator doors, and the stove top spick-and-span, too.
- Wipe down the sink after doing the dishes or loading the dishwasher (30 seconds).
- Wipe down the stove top (one minute).
- Wipe down the counters (one minute).
- Sweep, Swiffer, or vacuum the floor (two minutes).
- Mop the floor (five minutes).
- Wipe the cabinets, backsplashes, and appliances (10 minutes).
- Wash the dish rack (four minutes).
- Wipe the switch plates and phone (one minute).
- Wipe the inside of the garbage can (one minute).
- Empty and scrub down the inside of the refrigerator (30