GateHouse News Service's weekly Home Help with tips on high-tech home improvements, revamping old lamps, and how to grow citrus plants indoors.
Did you know it's almost the year that Michael J. Fox went "Back to the Future?" While we don't have hover boards or flying cars, our innovations have changed drastically since 1985, especially when it comes to technology in the home. Now there are many affordable innovations that are simple to use and can add unique benefits and enjoyment to routine activities.
High-fashion, high-function faucets: Kitchen faucets continue to increase in functionality and style - but imagine the convenience of having a faucet that can sense what you're trying to accomplish, and with a simple wave of your hand, immediately responds to your needs. New MotionSense technology from Moen offers you three ways to operate the faucet. In addition to the traditional handle, you can activate the kitchen faucet by using the Wave Sensor - by waving your hand over the faucet to turn on and off - or the Ready Sensor - by placing your hands or an object under the spout.
Trouble-free towels: Continue your hand-free experience in the kitchen by adding an Innovia Automatic Paper Towel Dispenser. This unique product provides the exact amount of paper towel that you choose - without a single touch. A simple wave of the hand delivers one towel; or for bigger jobs, simply hold your hand in front of the sensor until you've achieved the desired amount. Unlike others on the market, it retracts unused sheets back into the clean and dry compartment. Replacing towels can be done with any brand or size within seconds.
Water-saving washers and dynamic dryers: Previously, a washer and dryer did exactly what their names say - wash and dry. But for homeowners looking for the new era of high-tech cleaning machines, there is a wealth of options. Most washers today are high-efficient, meaning they use 20 to 66 percent less water than traditional agitator washers - an appealing benefit for the environmentally conscious, or for those just hoping to save on their water and electric bills. Plus, most are available with large-capacity tubs to accommodate bigger loads. And, with less water being used and high-speed spin cycles to remove more water, clothes feel dryer when they come out - saving time and energy on the drying cycle.
Home Selling Tip: Market your home as pet-friendly
Pet owners want a home that will be comfortable for their furry family members as well as the human ones, according to Frontdoor.com. Ways to make your home seem more pet-friendly can be as cheap as hanging leashes near the door and putting out water bowls. Hanging pictures of you and your pet on your fridge and walls can also help prospective buyers imagine their pet living in your house. If you want to go all out, installing an attractive, sturdy fence can add huge appeal to your house for dog owners.
Did You Know ...
Properly load your dishes! To optimize cleaning, load the dishwasher so that dishes are facing in toward the center, in line with the jets. Glasses, plastic and small items should be placed on the top rack facing downward, and large items like pots, pans and dinner plates should be placed on the bottom rack along the sides.
-- Family Features/OxiClean
Decorating Tip: New life for lighting
Light is an important element for any room - but are your lamps looking a bit lackluster? Turn older lamps from trash to treasure with a coat of spray paint. Today's spray paint offerings provide endless choices - from shiny metallics to subdued hammered or brushed finishes - which can create the style you desire in minutes. Plus, new products, such as KrylonDualPaint and Primer, offer a simple one-step solution to make your transformation quick and professional looking. Finish off by illuminating your creation with a new lamp shade to complete a magnificent makeover in no time.
Garden Guide: How to care for indoor citrus plants
Sooner or later the gardener has to try growing a citrus tree inside. There's something so winter-defying about it — the notion of growing tropical fruits when outside the driveway has been iced over for days. But, as most gardeners know, success can be fleeting. Tell that to the thousands of folks who get citrus plants as holiday gifts every year or the thousands of gardeners who have brought one inside to overwinter. Chances are, a month after they've been unwrapped and lovingly placed by the window, the little orange, lemon or kumquat trees look more than worse for wear.
In fact, most of them succumb because they're not getting the conditions they need, says master gardener Paul James, host of "Gardening by the Yard."
Still, he says, overwintering citrus indoors can be done — with a great deal of the right conditions and a dose of good luck. "These recommendations are the ideal. Not everyone can provide all of them." The closer you get to ideal, however, the better the chances are you'll be able to keep your citrus alive and thriving.
- Plant deep. A wide and deep container, either terra cotta or plastic. Citrus roots are fairly deep, so you'll need a fairly tall pot.
- Use an all-purpose potting mix. It's nice if it's slightly acidic, and you can sometimes find potting mixes especially made for citrus.
- Give your tree chilly nights. "The temperature during the day is not a big deal," says Paul. "However, at night, citrus likes to be chilly, kind of like me and you." A temperature between 50 to 55 degrees is ideal.
- Provide as much light as possible. "This is a big problem for a lot of people," he says. "Place in a south or southeast-facing window. If you don't have enough light, you can always add fluorescent or spotlights with full-spectrum lights." With modern insulated windows, put the plant pretty close to the window. If the window isn't insulated, back off a foot or two.
- Maintain an evenly moist soil. Don't treat citrus like other plants — that is, letting it dry out between waterings. Instead, keep it moist. "During the winter, however, don't over water, or you'll get root rot, which is fairly common. When the soil is dry an inch below the surface, add water." Don't let water sit in the saucer below the container.
- Keep the humidity high. Citrus requires a humidity of 50 to 60 percent. Most households, however, measure only 20 percent during the winter. "Misting daily is very important, and few people do that. Try to get in the habit of it. Maybe if you're fixing dinner, take a break and give it a spray." Group plants together to make it easier to keep humidity elevated, and set saucers of water around the plants.
- Watch for pests. The most likely are whiteflies and spider mites. "Insecticidal soap controls virtually all the pests for houseplants and it's non-toxic."
- Fertilize lightly. "You have to be careful when fertilizing in winter," he says. "The citrus will have a slow growth rate anyway, so I'd suggest maybe once a month with a weak liquid fertilizer, diluted from a quarter to a third of what the manufacturer recommends." Paul uses organic products such as seaweed extract.
- Prune lightly when necessary. "If it's a little straggly or misshapen, you can cut all the way back to the main branch, or you can do just a little pinching to make it bushier."
- Some citrus works better indoors than others. You'll have the best luck with dwarf plants that have been bred for container gardening, and if you select from these varieties: Meyer lemon, lime, sour orange, grapefruit, kumquat, mandarin, or limequat.
-- Marie Hofer for hgtv.com
GateHouse News Service