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Create an Organized Shed
Try these ideas in your shed (whether it's a freestanding unit in the backyard or just a corner of the garage) and you won't have to dig around for supplies -- you can save the digging for the garden.
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Maintain order with a large shelf unit; install smaller ledges up high for infrequently used items.
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Clamps and Hooks
Mount metal spring clamps and rubber-coated utility hooks to the crosspieces inside the shed door so you can hang those tools you reach for the most. If you don't have a crosspiece, you can attach a 1-by-6 to the door with 1 1/2-inch wood screws. The space above the shelves needn't go to waste either -- add hooks to hang equipment horizontally.
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- PVC cement
- 1 1/2-inch PVC pipe (cut to desired length) with cap
- 2 metal conduit straps
- drill with a 5/64-inch bit
- four 1-inch wood screws
Apply cement to inside of cap; attach to one end of pipe. Let dry until set, about 30 minutes. Position pipe, cap side down, against crosspiece (or a piece of 1-by-6 attached to the wall) so bottom overhangs by an inch. Place conduit straps over pipe at top and bottom of crosspiece; drill pilot holes, and screw into place.
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If the door to your shed is slightly higher than the ground, you will need a ramp that you can put down to make it easier to wheel out large items such as lawn mowers and wheelbarrows.
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A store-bought wooden box with a fitted lid corrals bags of potting soil, fertilizer, or charcoal for the grill. Insert a divider cut 1/8 inch smaller than the depth and width of the box; this will help keep the bags upright and divide a large box into two. If your lid doesn't have a handle, screw in a metal one yourself. Store the box on the floor, under the shelves.
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Protective Racks for Saws and Shears
To prevent tools from getting jostled around and scratching one another, put them in a wall or door rack that holds each tool snugly. Make one by using two 1-by-6 pieces of wood; attach 2-inch wood blocks between the boards at different intervals to hold each tool firmly in place.
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Peg Tool Hanger
Small tools such as trowels, hand cultivators, and pruners can get lost on shelves or in bins. Keep them on the inside of your shed door instead. Drill 1/4-inch holes into the door's crosspiece or into a 1-by-6 attached to the wall; cover the bottom half of 1/4-inch pegs with wood glue, and insert them into the holes. Let the glue set before hanging up items. To hang a tool with a handle but no strap, install two pegs: Drill two holes, spaced to fit the handle's thickness, then glue in pegs.
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Compost, a valuable soil amendment, is decomposed organic matter. Also known as humus, it helps soil hold water, allows for airflow, controls erosion, protects plants against disease, snags airborne nitrogen, lures soil-enriching earthworms, and ferries minerals from the subsoil.
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Keep a stainless-steel bowl on the kitchen counter, then throw all your compost ingredients -- including tea leaves and coffee grounds -- into it. Cut scraps into small pieces if you want the pile to break down quickly. As the meal is cooking, empty the bowl onto the compost heap.
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Building a Compost Heap
Choose a location for your bin that has good drainage and at least partial sunlight. Place the bin 8 to 12 inches away from fences, decks, and buildings to discourage pests. Line the bottom of the bin with 6 inches of cornstalks, coarse twigs, or chopped brush. Add a few inches of fruit and vegetable scraps, grass clippings, tea leaves or bags, or coffee grounds, then twice as much fallen leaves, pine needles, cornstalks, wood ashes, paper egg cartons, twigs and branches, sawdust, wood chips and shavings, dryer lint, or finely shredded newsprint.
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Keep the Pile Moist
Always cover exposed food matter with a layer of dried leaves or grass clippings. This will help reduce any odors that may attract pests. As the compost "cooks" and reduces, turn the pile with a compost fork every few days, and keep adding more layers. The pile should always be as moist as a wrung-out sponge. Too much or too little water can slow down or even stop the composting process. Water the pile with a hose or cover with a tarp during heavy rain, as necessary.
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What Not to Compost
Never compost meats, fish, animal products, oils, bones, fatty foods such as peanut butter, or pet manure. They will attract pests. During the winter months you will be generating more food waste than yard waste, so make sure to supplement the carbon waste with such non-yard sources as paper egg cartons, wood ashes from the fireplace, dryer lint, or finely shredded newsprint.
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Condition Cut Flowers
A beautiful display of fresh blooms from your garden is one of the easiest ways to brighten a room. To maximize the longevity of cut flowers, cut them early in the morning after a cool night has restored their strength or at the end of the day when they are filled with food. Carry a bucket of water with you when cutting to store the cut flowers in. If you cut a stem and leave it exposed to the air, the cut will begin to heal and seal, and the flowers will wilt.
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Make Cut Blooms Last
Never pull or break stems by hand. Use sharp clippers or pruning shears to cut woody stalks and sharp scissors to cut stems, which will ensure clean cuts and reduce the risk of bruising or tearing delicate stems. Recut the stems indoors under water. Cut all green and woody stems at a 45-degree angle to prevent stems from sitting flat in the vase and to create a large surface area, ensuring maximum water absorption.
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Caring for Bulb Stem Varieties
Snip off the white part of tulips, daffodils, and crocuses at the bottom of the stem before submerging it in water. They have trouble drawing water through the thickened tissue at the bottom.
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Caring for Hollow Stem Varieties
Cut amaryllises, lupines, and delphiniums at a 45-degree angle. Hollow stems need to stay full of water. After pouring water into the stem, cover the bottom of the stem with your finger while putting the flower in the vase, so the water stays in the stem.
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Caring for Milky Stem Varieties
After cutting poppies, sunflowers, or zinnias, dip the stem in boiling water for 30 seconds, or sear it with a match, to keep the flower from losing its nutrients.
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Caring for Nodal Stem Varieties
Cut carnations between the nodes of the stalk -- where leaves are attached on the stem -- so that it can more easily draw the water it needs.
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Caring for Thorny Stem Varieties
Wearing gloves, pare thorns off rose stems with a sharp knife, working from the top down to put less stress on the stem.
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Caring for Woody Stem Varieties
Use clippers or shears on lilacs, forsythia, or dogwood. If the stems are thick, smash the bottom with a hammer until it is frayed.
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Showcase Your Flowers
To keep fresh bouquets blooming longer, for every quart of tepid water, add two aspirins or the juice of half a lemon, a teaspoon of sugar, and a few drops of chlorine bleach (to reduce bacteria). Remove leaves that sit under the water line in the vase.
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