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Planning Your Square Foot Garden


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

grid gardeningg

photo/mich gagne,

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!


aug coupon 2013 copy



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

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Glover Park Hardware Now Offering Complimentary Curbside Pickup!

Glover Park Hardware Now Offering Complementary Curbside Pickup!

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Five Cool Ways to Use a 5-Gallon Bucket

There are so many ways to use a 5-gallon bucket– aside from it’s obvious utility for painting and transporting materials, these buckets are large, versatile, and useful with just about any DIY project. Here are some of our favorite ways to use these buckets–and don’t forget to stop into Ace July 20th and July 21st for our CMN Bucket Sale– 20% off your entire purchase and a free limited edition bucket when you donate $5 to Children’s Miracle Network!


nate container garden deck bucket 1. Make Your Own Vegetable Container Garden- 5 Gallon Buckets are the perfect vessel for just about any plant! Without the rounded lip typical of most pots, you can fill these buckets with a few extra inches of soil, giving your plants some extra room to grow. Tomatoes are a favorite to plant in these buckets as they require a lot of room both for their roots and their limbs, though most any plant will flourish in these buckets. And, with a few 1 inch holes in the sides, these buckets can make great strawberry planters! Make sure to drill a few 1/4 inch holes in the bottom of the bucket to allow for drainage.

DEWALT BUCKET ORGANIZER2. Portable Tool Chest– Most hardware stores (including Ace) sells a toolbelt specifically designed to hang on buckets. If you are a contractor or simply do a lot of work around the house, these tool buckets are a great way to organize your tools but still be able to bring them with you on a ladder, in your car, or just about anywhere! Store your power tools and larger hand tools in the middle, and your accessories and smaller hand tools in the bucket tool holder.

buckte-mouse-trap-ramp3. Mouse Trap— As disgusting as this may sound, these buckets make really effective mouse traps. Most of the tools you need to build the trap are likely lying around the house (a tin can, dowels, a scrap of wood and some peanut butter will do the trick!), and the trap doesn’t need to be reset between mice, making this the perfect trap for a basement or crawl space. It’s not the prettiest thing, but many will swear by this technique! Instructions here.

5-gallon-bucket-aquaponics4. Aquaponics– It may not be the prettiest looking fish farm you’ve seen, but all those lush edible leafy greens will make it worthwhile! Aquaponics is a system that uses fish to fertilize plants. It is a self contained ecosystem, where a basin of live fish produce nutrient rich waste which in turn is absorbed by the plants stationed above the system. All you need to build this system is a few empty plastic bottles and a small pump that you can purchase at most hardware stores. It is a little tricky to explain the system, so here is some information about aquaponics, as well as the instructions to build your own system at home. You can’t grow fish large enough to eat in a 5-gallon bucket, but using a large storage tote instead allows you to grow fish as well as produce.

FOEL5ZPFV15TC1T_LARGE5. Bike Panniers– A few drill holes and some straps, and you’re bike pannier is ready to go! It can be as simple as you want it to be, but here are some detailed instructions on how to make a long lasting bike pannier– though square buckets are the preferred style, it is easy to adapt the project for a round 5-gallon bucket.