Jun 272011


Gardening is a delightful, money-saving hobby. But it also involves a series of skills that need to be learned. Your best teacher is right outside your door—your garden. As we tend our yards, the garden gives us feedback. It shows us what is working and what’s not.

The leaves on your flower and vegetable plants can tell you about the state of your soil. Are the leaves a healthy bright green? Or are they turning light green to yellow? That’s often a sign that the plant isn’t getting enough nitrogen. Do the older leaf edges look as if they are scorched? Then maybe your plant doesn’t have enough potassium. Are the older leaves reddish purple, especially on the underside of the leaf? Then the problem may be not enough phosphorus. Try adding a small amount of balanced fertilizer and see how your plant responds.

Do you ever wonder how often you need to water? Push your finger a couple of inches into the soil to find out when it needs water.

By observing and recording information, you’ll learn which varieties of vegetables, fruits and flowers do best in your garden and how much of each crop to plant.

Science project

Turn your inner scientist loose in the backyard for homemade science projects. Create a couple of small experimental and control plots. Then use them to try different plant spacing, planting times or pest control methods to see which ones work best. Gardens are terrific educational tools for both children and adults.

Try planting different flowers and herbs mixed in with your vegetables and see which ones help attract beneficial insects and confuse the unfriendly pests. Sally Jean Cunningham’s book Great Garden Companions has good suggestions to get you started.


Our yards can teach us about design too. When you are in your garden, look around. Does your yard have the look and feel that you want, whether that’s serene, woodsy, formal, natural, abundant or whimsical? Are there are places to entertain and play? Are there comfortable spots to sit, relax and enjoy the view? Is there a view? Have you planned some focal points for your yard? Even the humble vegetable patch can be designed to be beautiful as well as practical. Little by little, we can create a place we enjoy spending time.

Our gardens provide us with feedback on our efforts. If we pay attention, we can learn to be better gardeners.

Sep 062010

Woman with piles of books

10 ways the library can help you save money and lead a richer life

There’s a wonderful source of free materials, events and help—the local library. It’s one of my favorite places. It helps people in so many ways.

1. Do you want to landscape your yard, decorate a room, fix a faucet, make a present, learn a craft, invest for the future, study world history, learn another language or plan a vacation? The library has books that will help

2. The cookbook section provides a wealth of ideas for meal planning. There are books for every taste, ranging from quick, child-friendly meals to sophisticated fare. The library also has books on preserving the harvest from the garden.

3. Are you looking for work? Your library has books on career planning, resume writing and job hunting. I’ve found many books that have helped me build my home business and learn new work skills.

4. The library supplies plenty of material for that terrific free activity—reading. It has fiction and nonfiction, recent best-sellers, old favorites and the classics. If you’re not sure what to read, just ask a librarian for suggestions.

5. The library is for little readers too.  Children can find book to help with school projects and information on their latest interests.  Many libraries also have free story times for children.

6. Libraries have more than just traditional books. They lend audio books on tape or CD. You can listen to a book while you are stuck in traffic, or cooking dinner or doing crafts. Some libraries also lend music and videos and offer computer and Internet access.

7. Do you want to make new friends? Check your library for special events, classes, book clubs, discussions and workshops.

8. Reference librarians are treasures. They can help find the address of a wholesale supplier for a home business, suggest a book for a school project, and dig up a statistic for a business report. Many libraries will supply reference information by telephone or e-mail, so that you don’t even have to leave your home or office to get help.

9. Check to see if your library provides access to electronic databases via their web site. I can find articles from subscription-only newspaper, research information from medical and academic journals, check several encyclopedias, download legal forms, do stock research and even get auto-repair information.

10. We’re not limited to the books in our local library. Through the marvels of Inter-Library Loan, we can borrow books, articles and microfilm from libraries and universities across the United States.

Ben Franklin helped to start the first lending library in the U.S. Thanks, Ben.