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Getting your kids into gardening

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Summer is a great time to get the kids outside and learning about nature, especially when nature’s so close to home – the garden! Why not plant a tree, create a window box, start a vegetable garden or plant flowers in personalized container planters?

If you have a recently moved into a new home, planting a tree is a fantastic way to plant your roots (literally!) at your new address. It’s importance to do some research first, and be sure to involve the kids in this initial step. Find out what kind of soil you have at home, consider how much space you are working with and decide how big you want the tree to grow. Some trees will do well in cold Ontario winters and others are good for small to medium-sized backyards, including Newton Sentry Sugar Maple (12 metres height, spread of 2.5 metres), Single seed Hawthorn (10 by 4 metres), Pencil Point Common Juniper (10 by 1.5 metres)and Upright English Oak (15 by 5 metres).

If you don’t have the space for sprawling flowerbeds, container gardening is the way to go. Let your kids help choose the flowers. A good rule of thumb to think of when selecting flowers is this: you need a thriller, some fillers and a spiller. The thriller is your bold, centrepiece plant – purple fountain grass or large red coleus are good options. Next you need your fillers, those that will surround the thriller. Begonias, dusty miller or marigolds would work well. Your spiller is the plant that will eventually cascade over the edges of your container – sweet potato vine and verbena are good choices. Purchase a good quality potting mix and remember that container plants dry out very quickly on hot, sunny days. Let kids take on the responsibility of daily watering.

Finally, teaching children the basics of growing their own food is a lesson they won’t soon forget. Keep it simple and small to start and select a few vegetables they enjoy eating. Peppers, tomatoes, green beans, lettuce mixes and snap peas are good options. Choosing a spot for your garden is an important step – aim for full sun as veggies need 6-8 hours of sun per day. Ask an expert at your local garden centre for tips on perfecting the soil in your vegetable garden.

If you have a crafty kid at home, have them create DIY plant makers for your garden. Pick up plain, wooden paint stirrers at your local hardware store, paint them various colours and write the names of your vegetables or flowers on them. You could also find small, flat rocks, paint them bright colours and write the names on them.

Jennifer Birch

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Planning your Basement Renovation

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Planning on doing a basement renovation this summer? Whether you plan to transform your basement into an office, bedroom, kitchen or family room, here are some basics you should consider before starting the work:

Have a master plan – Is your space big or small? Tall or low ceilings? Do you need a second or third bathroom in your basement? Laundry facilities? A temperature-controlled wine cellar? Figure out what you need and use the plan to guide you.

Ceilings – Consider a suspended or dropped ceiling if your basement is high enough. That way you can access the plumbing, electrical wiring and other guts of the home that are often hidden in basements. Ceiling tiles were once quite unattractive but today come in a variety of colours, textures and styles such as tin and beadboard.

Flooring – Since basements are prone to moisture and leaks, be sure to install a sub-floor. The space between the sub-floor and the existing floor acts as a barrier to moisture problems. The rest depends really on your budget and usage. If the room is a shrine to your big-screen TV, you may want to carpet it for cosy nights by the telly. A home gym might lend itself more to concrete, ceramic or vinyl tile, though those options will mean a cold floor. Laminate and hardwood are considerations for basements with little or no moisture issues. Know that moisture will destroy laminate and volatile humidity levels are not good for hardwood.

Lighting – Since many basements have few or no windows, lighting is an important consideration in your overall design. Try to maximize your use of natural lighting so don’t cover windows with heavy drapes. Let the sunshine in as much as you can. Recessed lighting is a great option if you have a dropped ceiling. They offer bright, concentrated light to any area and take up very little space so they’re perfect for lower ceilings. Throw in some ambient lighting and you’re good to go.

Insulate – Come winter you’ll be thrilled that you spent the extra money insulating your basement. Doing so not only keeps the whole house warmer, it saves you money on your energy bills.

Jennifer Birch