Monday, February 29, 2016

Growing Veggies in rentals

Renting has its own set of restrictions.  There are the obvious restrictions such as the fact that you can't just knock out a wall because you suddenly decide you want an open concept living space.  But there are also some subtle restrictions that you don't think about until after you move into a rental.  

Vegetable gardening is sometimes one of those "hidden" restrictions.  Not because your landlord is against your having a garden, but usually because you don't really have the space for one.  

For people who are elderly or disabled, having a vegetable garden can seem like a pipe dream because of all the stooping and bending required with traditional gardens.  Then there's the tilling involved, the digging, getting rocks out of the garden spot, bad soil....the list is pretty endless.  

So imagine my joy when I ran across the following website!  I have never known anyone who has actually tried this type of gardening, but nonetheless, I immediately ordered this book!  It has been awesome!

If you are like me and live in an urban setting, where to get the bales might seem a bit daunting to you.  Not to worry!  Get out the old phone book, find a nursery and they can get you all the bales you could ever want.  Some of them even deliver.  If you have to go get them yourself, it's not as bad as it may seem.  The bales are about 2x4 feet and they are held together by cords so all you have to do is grab the cord and throw it in the back of your pickup or trunk of your car.

These bales can be slapped right on top of concrete, put into a container of your choice or you can just lay them flat onto the ground.  They are amazingly forgiving of their platform.  If your landlord is afraid the bales will kill any grass beneath them (they will) then reassure him/her that once the bales compost, the grass will be even more beautiful than before....or....agree to put them on the driveway, patio, against the house or can even put them into existing flower beds already on the property.

This is a super easy and very low maintenance way to grow both vegetables and flowers.  For years I did the old fashioned "in the ground" version and bale gardening has it beat all over the place.

One upside to bale gardening (aside from the fact that it's raised) is the fact that I don't have to till the soil.  I also don't have to weed.  I also don't get as many pests that want to eat and/or ruin my vegetables and my dogs don't want to dig in my raised veggie garden.  

You can be as simple or as detailed as you want in the planning of your bale garden.  Below are a few photo's that can give you ideas as to the layout.

A single bale sat inside a container.   

A larger version - more bales in a larger container.

Look at this idea!  A tomato archway!

How's this one for creative and charming?

Placing the bales up against your house (or a fence) will not only prevent you from having to weed those areas but will also keep the bales from killing the lawn if your landlord is concerned about that.

You can make your bale garden as large or as small as you want.

You don't have to just grow can stick flowers in there too. 

With this type of gardening there is no tilling involved.  No digging with a shovel.  No worries about digging into an underground utility like your gas or water lines.  No worries that maybe your soil isn't as healthy as you would like so that means no testing of the soil, no improving the soil.  No weeding involved.  None of the usual headaches associated with gardening from the ground.

What do you need to get started?  You need bales of straw - not hay - straw.  You will need potting soil (1 large bag per bale) and you will need vegetable garden fertilizer.  If you are going to plant climbing vegetables, down the road, you will need to fashion a trellis so they will have something to climb on.  

You can get fancy with this or you can stay rustic and simple.  It's all up to you.  

First you condition your bales so they begin to "cook".  This process takes about 2 weeks from start to finish.  Once your bales are conditioned, all you have to do is add your vegetable or flower plants or seeds and then keeping it watered, watch it grow.

For more details in the process of conditioning your bales, please visit the following website  

I can promise you will love this method!!....and so will your landlord.

As always, enjoy your space!

Friday, February 5, 2016

You've Rented a what?

You've done your research on neighborhoods.  You've asked around about the reputations of various Property Management Companies.  You've checked out a ton of rentals.  You've jumped through all the hoops necessary to rent that perfect space.  You've packed, had the utilities transferred, hired the movers and're in your new space......what now?  

Your stuff looked okay in your old space.  But it looks worn, dated and downright junkie in your new space.  Should you throw it all out and start from scratch?  It's frustrating to realize that you actually paid hard earned money to get someone to move all this crap to your new rental.

Don't despair!  Even junkie stuff can be freshened up.  Once you do that and add a few inexpensive will feel as if you've gone out and bought all new stuff!

The single most expensive pieces in your house (aside from appliances - BTW you can buy paint for the appliances too) are (1) your couch and (2) your bed.  Let's start with the couch and we'll do the bed next month.

If your couch is soiled from too many years of dogs sleeping on it or too many years of kids eating pizza on it, but the bones of the couch are good (meaning the frame isn't broken) a good slipcover will be all you'll need to completely transform your couch.  

Before you do anything to your couch, let's assess the condition.  If your frame is in good shape, we can work around everything else.  If your cushions are saggy and maybe ripped, that's not a huge deal.  Depending on how bad they are, you can either buy some pillow stuffing, stuff the cushions or you can buy the hard foam used to make the cushions, take out the old foam and replace it with new foam.  If the cushions are okay but maybe the bottom of your couch is saggy.  Again, depending on how bad it is, you can either grab a few thick cardboard boxes out of the dumpster, flatten them out, cut (or fold) them to fit the seat area beneath your cushions and that will add tons of support to your couch OR you can cut plywood to fit which will be a more permanent fix because after a year or so the cardboard will have to be replaced.  You can always purchase ready made supports for your couch, but those tend to be a bit more pricey than free cardboard boxes.

What if during moves, the legs broke or you took them off to fit the couch through the door and lost one?  Not to worry.  You can actually buy replacement legs at most big box stores.  They all screw in so screw the new ones in and done deal!  If you don't want to do that....put bricks under there.  One for each corner and one in the middle front and one in the middle back.  Once you put your slipcover on the couch, no one will ever know they're there. 

Now back to slipcovers.....

Slipcovers are awesome!  I hate putting them on and I hate having to re-tuck them every morning but I hate looking at a couch that looks as if I found it in an abandoned house even more.    Look for sales.  I got mine on sale from  Originally it was $179 and I got it for $98.  It's machine washable and I can put it in the dryer.  It washes like a dream. $98 for a slipcover is way cheaper than the $800 I originally paid for my couch.  I feel like I came out a winner.  Ever change the paint color in your living room or den only to discover it either doesn't go with the fabric on your furniture or it makes your furniture look old?  Using slipcovers solves that problem.  They come in all colors and all designs so finding one that compliments your wall color is a breeze.

But what if you don't want to purchase a slipcover?  Painter's cloth makes a great alternative. You can use sheets but if you use them you want to use really thick sheets.  You don't want to use an old sheet that has worn thin over the years or one that has a mysterious stain on it.  Thin sheets will show the couch beneath it and it'll just look like you had an old couch and threw a sheet on it.  Not good.  Painter's cloths are usually made of a linen type material and while they are washable...they will wrinkle...a lot....once you wash them.  So ironing them will be a must. Another must if you go this route will be to make sure you run a seam all the way around or else when you wash it, the edges will unravel and  you will have a mess on your hands.  Not much on sewing?  The take the edges and fold them over about 1/8 of an inch each time until you've rolled it 3 or 4 times.  Then using a regular stapler, staple the edges all the way around.  This will keep the edges from unraveling.  If once finished, you can see the staples, get a nice ribbon or complimentary piece of cord and hot glue it to the edges that show.

There are different types of slipcovers on the market.  Let's look at a few.

First we have the easiest to "install".  The completely loose slipcover.  While these are super easy to put on your couch - basically just take out of the box and slap it on the couch - they also are the easiest to become disheveled looking so you have to constantly smooth them out. Because there is very little sewing done on these at the manufacturer and because they have no zippers, button or ties, they are also usually much cheaper than the other styles of slipcovers. They come in a plethora of colors and fabrics so you can easily have one for cold weather and one for hot weather without breaking the bank.

The one below is loose but it has a simple tie around the arms that helps to keep it in place and give it a more finished look.

The next slipcover is a little bit more fitted meaning that it has elastic at the base of the back where it meets the cushions.  This adds more support to the cover keeping it neat and tight better than the loose slipcovers.  Gives it a more tailored look.

Now we have the tight slipcovers.  Usually they're made of a spandex type material that is stretchy.  Personally, while I love the look of them, I loathe putting them on.  For me, this is a two or possibly 3 person chore.  As such, I tend to stay away from this type.  I am not talented enough to deal with these.  But they look great!

Let's look at a before and after.  What a transformation!

I have a couple of antique occasional chairs that I adore!  Originally they were covered in a thick tapestry material but over the years (and through multiple cats) that tapestry began to unravel and thin out.  Paying $600 a chair to have them professionally recovered with another tapestry material just wasn't in my budget.  So linen it was!   While I am not talented enough to cover a couch, I can cover a chair just fine.  

Another inexpensive material is burlap.  Since most burlap comes in widths of 60 inches, using it to cover something as large as a couch would take some sewing...but using it on a chair works great.  

I cut 4 pieces of the burlap, tuck and staple it and voila  I have a custom slipcovered chair in under an hour.  

Step 1: You need a piece for each of the arms, a piece for the back of the chair and piece for the seat.  No need to be exact, you will want extra fabric for the tucking and stapling so too much is always better than not enough.

Step 2:   Begin with the arms.  Lay the fabric over the arms so that you have more than enough fabric to tuck into the seat by the arms and to reach the underside of the chair on the outside. Also make sure you have enough width to cover the entire arm area.  If you need two pieces to get the width covered, that's fine.  Simply turn the edges so that the edge of the material isn't showing.  

Step 3:  Once you've tucked it securely, pull the material until it's taut and holding it tightly with one hand, staple the fabric to the underside of the chair frame with your other hand.  Once you've finished stapling, simply trim off any excess fabric.

Step 4:  Do the same thing on the other arm, then the back of the chair and lastly the seat of the chair.  Done!

Tips:  Depending on how your chair is designed, you may find yourself with a pucker on the back of your chair or maybe it balloons a bit and doesn't fit snugly on the backside.  Not to panic,  before you staple, simply fold the fabric on the backside so you get a pleat, then staple. I actually love the pleat as if gives it that tailored look that I love.  Also, always staple into the frame of the chair.  Otherwise the first time someone sits in it, the staples will jerk loose and your work is ruined.  Not to worry about stapling to the frame.  A simple staple puller will take the staples out whenever you want.
If you have a dining chair that only needs the cushion recovered, that is the easiest thing in the world to do.  Pop off the seat (they are usually just nailed or screwed in place - sometimes they are just sitting in place).  Cover the cushion tightly with your chosen fabric and staple it in place. Flip it over and set it back in place.  Done!  With seldom used chairs, you can go with a lighter thinner fabric just fine without worries.  Get tired of it?  Rip it off and do it again.
Once you have your furniture looking spiffy and new....time to address your accessories.  Once your couch and chairs look new you will be surprised how old your coffee table and side tables will look.

Again, not to worry.  Head down to the hardware store, get some primer, paint and sandpaper and get to work on those!

You don't need to sand the tables down to the grain.  All you want to do is sand them enough that all the shine is off the finish.  I like to use paint that has the primer already built in so I can skip that annoying step....I hate to prime.  

Let's look at a couple of coffee tables that have certainly been saved from the curb.

The first one was an all wood coffee table that had become scratched up and the varnish had faded and turned that ugly orange color that varnishes turn after years of sunlight and use.  

Painting the top of your tables is awesome as long as you remember 2 little things (1) the paint will scratch so if your table gets a ton of use.....put a couple of coats of poly on top to prevent your hard work from becoming history and (2) Water is not a friend of paint.  If you don't apply at least 2 coats of poly on the top of your table the first guest or kid that puts their iced tea on your tabletop will ruin your work.....quickly.

If you are going to paint the top of your table....have fun with it!  Get a nice stencil and go crazy with it.  After all, it's only paint.  If you don't like the finished result or you want a change, paint over it.  Can't get easier than that.

Having said that I love to paint all of the table except for the top.  I like to sand off the old finish and re-stain it.  If down the road you tire of the stain choice, it's easy to sand that off and redo it.

Now that your furniture has been updated and made "new"....enjoy your new space!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Feeling a little bit crafty??

Decorating Ideas utilizing Cans & Bottles!

Even if you rent, you can personalize your space.  Warning:  Always check with your landlord before removing or adding any fixture.  Once you've gotten the okay from your landlord, you are ready to make these amazing fixtures.  Most landlords don't mind as along as you put the original fixture right back where you found it before you move....some landlords might like the new one so much, they won't mind if you leave it....who knows?

But what do you do if your landlord doesn't want you to alter his property at all or if you don't want to leave them when you move?  You can still make these amazing fixtures.

Instead of wiring them for electricity, you can use candles.  Another way to make them more portable would be to hang them from your ceiling with plant hooks and add an actual plug in type cord to the fixture so you can hang your fixture and then plug it in rather than hardwire it.

Here are some great ideas for empty coffee cans, mason jars (or any pretty jars with a screw top) and empty paint cans!

This is actually SO easy!  Go to Michael's (or your favorite hobby store) buy 4 lamp kits, drill holes in the lids and board, thread the lamp cords through the board, connect the wires and voila!!  Instant mason jar lamp. However, it's the whole connect the wires thing that stumps me every I took mine to a local lighting company and they did that for me.  Still cheaper than purchasing them already made AND I had an extra bonus in that I was able to pick and choose the materials.  Win-win. BTW they are using rods normally intended to drop a ceiling fan.

Yet another use for those pallets I mentioned in an earlier post!  This one I know I can do because there's no electrical involved!

What a great light!  I may just have to make a visit to my friendly electrician when I get this assembled!  Notice the first one is made utilizing a wire basket!

This would look awesome over my sink!

Nothing beats the playful light of a punched tin shade!

These paint can lights are great for an industrial look!

These crafty ideas are super easy.  Pick your materials, put them together and then (in the case of people like me, who are electrically challenged) head down to your local lighting or electrical company and get them to wire it up for you!  Done!

Enjoy your space!