Category Archives: Uncategorized

Running out of room for plants? Make a rope shelf by a window!

IMG_0644 It was a gorgeous summer, and your houseplants have enjoyed their extended stay on sunny porches and decks, stretching their branches and adding new leaves to their foliage. But, as the nights grow colder the need to find the space to keep your plants happy indoors in the pending months may post a challenge. At least, that’s my predicament as I roll into September, and with so few windows in my city rowhouse, it’s time to think outside the planter for some new shelving solutions for my plants.

Believe it or not, this DIY Rope Shelf project took only about 2 hours from start to finish- including the time it takes for the paint to dry. If you’ve got a drill, you’ve got everything you need to create a customized shelf that’s easy to install just about anywhere in your home.

DIY Rope Shelf

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  • Power drill
  • Drill bit (for making the pilot holes for your rope; choose a bit that’s slightly larger than the rope)
  • Level & Ruler
  • Roping (we used sisal rope, but feel free to use thick ribbon, strands of yarn, or anything else that can hold weight)
  • Paint or stain
  • Ceiling hooks (we recommend a hook that can hold at least 45lb)

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Step 1: Cut your wood to size and drill pilot holes for rope. The example shown is 25’’ long, so we drilled our pilot holes 1 inch in from the edge of the board on both sides.

Step 2: Paint and prep your wood shelves. You can use virtually any color paint, or if you prefer a more natural look, we recommend using stain. Tip: for a more interesting look, paint the edges of the shelf with an eye popping color. Or, use a stencil to create a unique design.

IMG_0639Step 3: Feed the rope through your shelf, tying loose knots where you want the shelves to hang. Cut and measure out 4 lengths of rope. It’s really important to use loose knots, as you’ll no doubt need to readjust slightly when installing the shelves. Tie the ends of the ropes together on each side of the board to create a loop from which you will hang the shelf. Tip: Sisal and jute rope tends to unwind when cut, so taping the end of the rope with electrical or painters tape allows you to feed the rope through the board without fuss.

Step 4: Install the ceiling hooks into your wall. Using a level, mark the spots on the wall where the hooks will be installed, spacing them the same distance as your shelf length. If installing in drywall, install your hooks into a stud or use a heavy weight anchor if installing directly into drywall. Use a concrete anchor if drilling into concrete. When in doubt, ask your local Ace Hardware store for advice on which anchors to use.

IMG_0641Step 5: Hang your shelf and adjust height using a level. Hang the shelf using the loop you made in Step 3. Place a level on each shelf and adjust the knots until your shelf is flat. Start with the top shelf, and then readjust the knots under the bottom shelf to eliminate any slack that may have been created during the adjustments. Voila! Your shelf is complete!

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Customize Your Garden with Painted Terracotta Pottery

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We have some really great pottery vendors at A Few Cool Hardware Stores, but a little DIY customization can make a big impact in your garden. It hadn’t occurred to us to use our most basic terracotta pots as a blank slate for endless opportunity, and when combined with the versatility and superb coverage of Rust-Oleum 2x coverage paint & printer spray paints we converted the most basic of pots into beautiful pieces of art for our garden.

What You’ll Need:

1x terracotta pot (pictured is a 10” pot)

1x painter’s tape

1x white primer spray paint (we use Rust-Oleum’s 2x Extracover in flat white)

1x clear gloss spray paint (Ace brand works great!)

Spray paint:  colors of your choosing, depending on the design (pictured is Rust-Oluem Satin Off-White)

Exterior paint or craft paint your choice of color (we used some leftover black exterior Benjamin Moore house & trim paint, but practically anything will do as long as it’s rated for outdoor use)

Basic art brushes

Step 1: Prep and prime your pot.

Using painters tape, preserve the raw rim of the pot (or skip this step if you plan to paint the rim). Prime the pot using a spray primer, making smooth continuous sweeps across the surface of the pot. You want to hold the can approximately 8” away to ensure clean coverage- holding the can too close will cause the paint to pool and drip. The primer creates an even surface for the paint to hold onto the pot; fairly even coverage is ideal and a second coat may be needed. Be sure to avoid getting any paint on the inside of the pot as it can leech into your soil.

Step 2: Paint your base coat.

Once the primer dries, it’s time to get painting! Again, smooth continuous sweeps held about 8” from the surface are ideal when it comes to achieving even coverage. If there are spotty areas, revisit them while the pot is still wet, making restrained sweeps over to ensure the paint is even across the entire surface of the pot.

Step 3: Trace & paint your design.

Next, it’s time for your unique design. For this pot, we chose a simple black and white design featuring a row of traced triangles. Using scrap paper, we cut our triangle to size and began tracing our design around the top section of our pot. Once you have the patterned traced, use an exterior paint and basic art brush to fill in your design. Don’t fret if it’s not perfect- imperfections add character!

Step 4:  Time for the finishing touches!

Remove the painter’s tape and apply a coat of clear gloss spray paint to achieve a nice shine and create a protective coating for your finished pot. Add plants and enjoy!

Some other design ideas:

other pot ideas

  • Paint your saucers to match the pots and add an extra pop of color!
  • Use stickers or prefabricated stencils to create a more elaborate design; simply add them between your first layer of paint and top coat and peel once dried to create a contrasting image!
  • Create several similarly themed designs for a show-stopping stoop.
  • Create a watermelon pot (second from top)!
    • Use a brush to apply a thin layer of exterior paint on the rim of the pot.
    • To create the seeds: an eraser tip makes perfect circles, while controlled brush strokes using a small art brush creates a random pattern (as pictured).
  • Go freehand- draw your own triangles of various sizes and orientation to create contrast (3rd from bottom).
  • Use shape tape between your first layer of paint and top coat for a funky pattern (pictured at bottom).

Planning Your Square Foot Garden

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As an urban dweller, land is hard to come by. Sure, I may have a great patch of concrete in the backyard where grass may have once existed, but when it comes to finding a plot in a local community garden or utilizing the green space in my neighborhood, we’re talking about at least a two year waiting period before any green spaces become available. It wasn’t until a year or so ago that I discovered how easy gardening can be when using a system called “square foot gardening”. Intended to give you the highest yield per square foot, these gardens are the perfect solution for urban gardeners looking to supplement their summer pantries with home grown goodies.

Step 1: Build your Raised Bed & Soil

For a raised bed, you want about a 4’x4’ patch to give you sufficient yield (that’s a 16 sq. ft. garden, or enough to grow roughly 16 different plants). Prefabricated options made of weather resistant cedar are easy to assemble and readily available at your local Ace Hardware. If building from scratch, you want to designate a minimum 6’’ depth for sufficient root growth. We recommend using cedar or pre-treated lumber for a weather-resistant garden box that lasts several seasons. Next, create a “grid” for your box, drawing a line in the soil every 12’’ to create individual plots. For a 4’x4’ raised bed, you’ll have 16 squares total, each one measuring 1sq.ft.

For your soil, a good rule of thumb is 1:1 top soil to soil conditioner with high humus content such as all natural compost or Leaf-Gro. It’s best to find a product that also has peat moss added to the mix. Adding one 8qt bag of vermiculite for every 4 cu. ft. of soil will improve water retention and soil aeration. A 4’x4’ garden box requires approximately 8 cu. ft. of soil. We recommend topping your soil with a sprinkling of worm castings as it is good all natural solution to top-down fertilizing as you water your garden.

Step 2: Map Out Your Garden Using Our Square Foot Garden Planner

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photo/mich gagne, snapguide.com

Using our Square Foot Gardening Grid, map out which plants will go in your garden using the Square Foot Gardening Planner to determine many seeds will need to be planted per section of your grid. Use the Companion Planting Guide to avoid planting two uncooperative plants together. For instance, kale requires an entire square foot of soil to produce a mature plant, so you will only seed in the center of your plot; whereas scallions can afford up to 9 seedings per square foot.

Step 3: Seed and Transplant

IMG_3184Now that your garden is ready, it’s time to get growing! Space out your seed placement based on your square foot garden planner. Seed should be planted twice as deep as their diameter: larger

seeds (like peas) can be planted about an inch deep, while smaller seeds (such as basil) will be planted fairly close to the soil surface. Cover seeds with soil and pat firmly but gently to keep them in place. Water generously but be careful not to overwater. Not all seeds in a packet are guaranteed to germinate; by placing 2-3 seeds in each hole and weening out the smallest and weakest seedlings, you eliminate the risk of only planting unproductive seeds. If transplanting seedling, wait until they are approximately 2’’ tall and plant part of the stem in the soil to encourage strong stalks as plants reach maturity.

Step 4: Water, Care, and Enjoy!cedar raised bed

Plants should be watered early morning or late afternoon to avoid excessive evaporation during the hottest hours of the day, when the sun is overhead.  Continue to remove the “weakest link” seedlings in your garden until you are left with a single productive plant per allotted space per grid. When harvesting, clip from the stem versus pulling yields off the stock to encourage future growth and reduce any stress placed on the plant. Feed between plantings using worm castings or additional soil conditioners for plants with multiple yields per season, i.e. salad greens, radishes, etc.

 

 

Rats! Dealing With Your Rodent Problem

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Winter brings all types of critters who can’t resist using a warm, cozy home as a respite from the cold outdoors. If you see one mouse in the house, it’s likely more are lingering in the cracks and crevices. Here are some tips for dealing with a rodent problem in and around your home. If you have any questions, stop by your local Ace to chat with an associate to find the best solution for your home.

The Snap Trap: The spring loaded mousetrap has hardly changed since it was first invented in 1874. Over a century later, they are still used as one of the most affordable and effective methods to kill a rodent. If you prefer not to see the mouse, catch and contain snap traps are available.  Our Ace expert says, “Wear disposable gloves when setting snap traps to prevent coating the trap with any oils & scents naturally found on your skin. If you don’t catch anything in the first 48 hours, try moving the trap to a new location.”  Price Range: $1-$6 per trap.

Glue Boards: The adhesive coating found on the top of these traps stops live rodents and insects in their tracks. Most use a scented adhesive, but we recommend placing bait in the middle of the trap such as dog food, peanut butter, or dried goods.  The downside to using these traps is they don’t kill the animal, so this is not the best trap for anyone who is squeamish or uncomfortable handling the mouse. Price Range: $1-5 per trap.

Baits & Poisons: If the problem is more than a few mice, poison may be the solution. Since it is lethal when consumed, pet owners and parents of small children should use extreme caution when using bait inside the house. We recommend a bait station, which contains the poison in a tamper proof container. Our Ace experts say, “Mix a little peanut butter with your bait to make it more attractive to mice and rats.” Price Range: $4-$12 for single use stations to multipacks.

Catch and Release Traps: If you don’t want to kill the mouse, you can use a catch and release trap. Most use bait to draw the animal, which then triggers a door to close and capture the mouse. Unfortunately, these traps don’t guarantee the mice won’t return, especially to places that provide a food source. Price Range: $2-$6 per trap

Sonic and Botanical Deterrents: Sonic chasers use a high frequency sound to “chase away” rodents, who find the noise to be fairly unpleasant. The sound is not harmful to humans, cats, or dogs, but can be damaging to small mammals like hamsters, rabbits, and chinchillas. Botanical deterrents feature naturally derived ingredients that are unpleasant and even fearful to rodents. Active ingredients include spearmint oil and fox blood and urine. Our Ace Expert says, “Use Spearmint oil from your local natural food store and splash it around the inside perimeter of your house. Mice may not like the smell, but we think it is fairly pleasant!” Price Range: $12-$20 per box, $8-12 per bottle of spearmint oil

Problems with Rodents Outdoors: As unpleasant as they are in a trash can or yard, the outdoors are their homes, not ours. Still, that doesn’t mean you can’t take a stand and kick them out of your yard! If you want to eliminate a group of mice or rats, you can use an outdoor bait station (but make sure to keep pets and children from tampering with it) or a large spring loaded rat trap. Products like Shake Away Rodent Deterrent should be used around the perimeter of your home to deter nesting behaviors.

Steel Wool Is Your Friend! You can buy all the traps in the world, but the problem really starts with the weak points in your walls, floors, and ceilings. If you can find the source of the problem (like cracks in the mortar or spaces between the molding), we recommend you plug any gaps or cracks with some steel wool or gap sealer. Ask an associate in stores for the best strategies for keeping those rodents out for good!

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Our Made in DC vendor for Summer 2013- Susanne Kasielke! Exclusively available at Woodley Park Ace

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