Buying a foreclosed home can seem like a dream. What could be better than getting a home for a fraction of the market value? Some may even say that the deals sound like they could be too good to be true. In some cases, those doubters aren’t too far off the mark. There are some hidden dangers in buying foreclosure properties that, if you’re not aware of them, could be disheartening and disappointing. If you are pursuing this route in buying your new home, be sure to look out for these hazards and hidden costs.
1.Destruction of Property – A sad truth about foreclosure properties is that they have often been purposely destroyed. Sometimes the homeowners do this out of frustration over losing their homes, or out of simple carelessness when they realize their home is irretrievably gone after too many missed mortgage payments. If the homeowners have not destroyed the property themselves, there is also a chance that the home has been vandalized by other people because it has been left sitting empty.
2.Poor Maintenance – If homeowners were unable to afford their mortgage payment, they almost certainly were unable to perform routine maintenance on the property. Problems can be as minor as a few leaky faucets, or as major as damaged roofing or central units.
3.It May Be Unclean – A house being left unoccupied for a significant amount of time can mean it will be unclean, either through neglect on the part of the former owners or normal depreciation as the property is left uninhabited and not looked after. When a homeowner is selling the home, they will scrub the house clean or hire a cleaning service to entice buyers. A foreclosed home will not have this benefit. Depending on how long it was left and what condition it is in, there may even be vermin or termites to deal with.
4.Undesirable Renovations – Sometimes homeowners were in the middle of a renovation when they lost their ability to pay their mortgage, so you can wind up with a half finished project on your hands when you purchase the property. There is also a chance that a garage or basement was turned into a living space to rent out in order to try and offset the cost of the mortgage.
5.No Electricity – There is a good chance the electricity will be off in the foreclosed home, so you will have a hard time seeing what you are buying. Depending on the weather it may also be very hot or very cold in the house, and vacancy can take its toll on appliances left behind.
6.Personal Property Left Behind – Many homeowners leave items behind, either because they now have no place to put them or because they were locked out of the house before they could retrieve them. You will now be left with the job of disposing of these items if you decide to purchase the property.
7.Lack of Landscaping – More than likely, nobody has been maintaining the lawn of a foreclosed home. You may have a yard full of dead grass or a lawn so overgrown it seems like a jungle! Your foreclosed home will almost certainly require some degree of upkeep when it comes to to the landscaping surrounding the structure.
8.No Disclosure – Because the owner of the property is a bank and the bank has not actually lived in the house, they have no idea what problems or issues there may be in the home and they have no obligation to tell you even if they did. You will have to get your own home inspection done to uncover potential issues.
9.Stripped Bare – You may find your new foreclosed home completely stripped of appliances, copper piping, and anything else that might be worth money. Many times the previous owners do this to try and make back some money on their lost home. Other times, the home was broken into and robbed after the previous owners left.
10.Judgments and Liens – Foreclosure properties can sometimes come with titles encumbered by judgments or liens that you may have to pay off to close on the deal.
In short, buying a foreclosed property can be a great way to save money. However, be sure to look into all the potential costs involved before making a final decision. Do the math to determine if you will really wind up saving, or if the property will end up costing you when all is said and done.
How often do you really use your home phone? It’s a question many families are asking in a day and age when budgets are squeezed tighter and everyone seems to have their own mobile phone. It wasn’t that long ago when the idea of getting rid of your home’s land line phone in favor of going totally cellular was only entertained by college kids and single folks who were never home anyway. Today, it’s become a legitimate option for a much larger number of us.
However, before you decide to cut your ties to the phone company (or in many cases, the cable company), there are a few things to take into account.
The 411 on 911
One of the most common problems faced by those hoping to bid farewell to their land lines is the question of safety — not from scammers or prank callers, but in terms of what will happen in an emergency. When you dial 911 on a traditional home phone, your call is routed to a local emergency response center, where the person on the other end of the line instantly receives your current location. They can send the police, fire department, or paramedics to help even if you aren’t able to speak.
Dialing 911 on a cellular phone still connects you to a law enforcement agency in your local area. (This is usually still a 911 dispatcher, but in some locations, it might mean you end up talking to the highway patrol’s dispatcher instead.) If you’re experiencing an emergency and need help, the party who receives the call has to reroute your call to the appropriate first responders and will need you to tell them your location. This is obviously a serious problem if you’re injured and can’t speak or are in a situation where every second counts. It’s for this reason that many law enforcement agencies advise you to always call 911 from a land line whenever possible.
A chilly reception
You’re probably used to your cell phone’s signal getting sketchy when you drive through areas where reception is weak. In some cases, you may find that your home or apartment is also prone to signal dropouts, even as you move from room to room. In others, certain building materials may limit or prevent cell reception where you live altogether. Even if you get reception by your front door, you might not have the same connectivity further inside.
Cellular coverage is improving all the time, but there may still be some instances where it’s just never going to get better, for the reasons we mention here. There could be ways to help mitigate the problem, such as signal-boosting antennas, but they’re an investment you need to weigh when deciding if going fully wireless is for the best.
Guilty as (not) charged
Another issue you’re likely to run into are those cases when you need to make a call, only to find that your cell phone is dead, so you’re left to wait until your charger (assuming it’s not lost) provides your mobile phone with enough juice to dial out (check out our tips for getting more battery life out of your phone). Also, if you misplace your phone — they’re getting smaller every year — you might miss an important call. This is obviously a fairly minor problem for most people, as you can always leave your phone plugged in (and in one place) while you’re at home, but it’s worth considering nevertheless (at least until someone comes up with a better charging option).
Before making the call to disconnect your land line, take a moment to make sure that none of the electronic devices in your home need to use it for any reason. Some things — most notably, Digital Video Recorders like TiVo — might use the phone line to call out daily and retrieve data such as program listings. Home security systems rely on a hardwired connection to allow communication to their monitoring centers, too. Many of these services are capable of using your broadband internet connection for these purposes, but the lack of a phone line could still be a deal-breaker if you haven’t opted for a high-speed cable or fiber-optic connection.
Cut the cord
If you don’t anticipate needing immediate 911 service — but really, who ever knows these things? — and you have solid cell reception at home, dropping your land line can be a great way to save money. If you’re not quite ready to take the plunge or are unable to for one of the reasons we’ve mentioned, there are still ways to save on your phone bills, especially if you don’t use your home phone much.
One of the best ways to save is to simply call your service provider and ask to be switched to the least expensive basic rate, or see if the company offers a deal if you bundle phone, cable, and internet services into a single package. In many cases, the total can be less than $20 per month — and that’s a small price to pay for some piece of mind.
We’re getting into the time of year when the electric bill makes you cringe. When it arrives in the mail, a cold sweat might break out. You may need to sit down because the knees are feeling weak. And all that happens before you actually open it!
But all is not lost. There are ways to stay warm and keep your hands off the thermostat. Here are five ideas for making it happen
1. When the sun comes out, open your blinds and let those rays in. They can warm the house. On the flip side, cover the windows when it’s dark to help keep cold air out.
2. Let’s do some detective work. Light a candle and hold the flame near your windows. If you see it flicker, it could mean an air leak. That means hot air going out and cold air coming in. Buy some inexpensive caulking and seal up those leaks. If new windows are in your future, make sure to save up and pay cash, and only do that if the quick fixes are no longer doing the job.
3. Small changes on the thermostat make a big difference on what you pay. If you’re used to having the thermostat at 74 degrees, shave it down to 72. You’ll probably notice the lower heat bill before you notice two degrees.
4. If you do something that heats the house up, make that activity work for you. If you cook something in the oven, leave the door open after you turn it off to warm up the kitchen (watch out for the kids, though). If you take a shower, leave the door open so the steam flows into the other room. That’ll help with low winter humidity too!
And if you’re really committed..
5. Pick your favorite hot beverage and start drinking. The warmer you feel inside, the less work the heating unit will have to do. Prepare the hot chocolate or tea! Also, your wardrobe can help you stay warm. Get those socks, sweatpants and sweatshirts out!
Instant autumn garden
Start with the plants, then pick your containers that will extend the color theme.
Cluster containers of different shapes and sizes in threes or plant a single pot with three kinds of plants, for the best-looking displays.
This theme: Wine Punch
Pops of icy blue in cooling contrast with warm combos of bright pinks and deep purples.
Falling for cocoa
The theme: Deep bronze, burgundy, and plum shades along with leaves that turn reddish throughout the season creating an autumn experience right on your porch.
Lime and chocolate
Billowy burgundy Agonis, trailing lime-colored Grevillea, and curly plum heuchera in egg-shaped pots create a rustic vignette against a weathered wooden garage.
Touch of bronze
Bronze and chartreuse foliage mingle in a 16-inch rose-blushed celadon pot.
Smoke and berries
Bright cotoneaster berries fringe a shapely Atlas cedar in pitted burnt-orange pots. (Large is 18 inches wide; small is 16 inches wide.)
If you like the ideas here, be sure to check out 48 more container garden plans. Before you get started, find out which plants grow best in your climate zone. And if you don’t know which climate zone you live in, you can find your zone here.
Good painters remove or cover door hardware before they paint. The other kind of painter just slops it over any exposed metal and ruins the door’s appearance. Fortunately, any knob, escutcheon plate, or hinge can easily be made to shine again without the need for noxious chemicals, expensive tools, or uncomfortable gear.
The secret to restoring metal’s gleam is simple: A long, hot, sudsy soak in a crockpot. This method, advocated by Brad Kittel, owner of Discovery Architectural Antiques, in Gonzales, Texas, uses nothing more than water, a bit of liquid detergent, and heat to break the paint bond. More often than not, you can slide all the cooked paint layers off with your fingers. A scrubbing with a nylon brush removes the stubborn bits. (Wire brushes or power tools are much too aggressive for this kind of work.)
A beeswax furniture polish after stripping, or a nonabrasive polish like Flitz or Maas can restore the sheen to solid brass or thickly plated hardware. And the next time the door needs painting, do yourself a favor—take the hardware off before the painter shows up.
Step 1: Cut the paint
Protect the surrounding paint from damage by carefully scoring the perimeter of each escutcheon plate with a utility knife. Loosen the set screw holding the knob to its spindle and slide out the pieces.
Step 2: Remove the plates
Carve out paint buildup in the screw slots with the knife. Back out the screws, but don’t apply a lot of pressure or you can slip and gouge the metal. Pry off the escutcheons.
Step 3: Heat and soak
Place the hardware in the crockpot. Cover with water, add a couple of tablespoons of liquid laundry detergent, and turn the heat to medium. Put on the lid and let the contents of the pot cook all night. The next day, the paint will be soft and ready to fall off the metal.
TIP: Use plastic tongs to remove hardware from the crockpot without scratching it.
Step 4: Chemical soak (if needed)
While hot water is amazingly effective at removing paint from metal, it needs some time to work. But if time is something you’re running short of, then a chemical stripper will hasten the process. Fast-acting methylene chloride will do the job in less than an hour; a less volatile, less toxic stripper needs several hours.
TIP: Whichever chemical you use, be sure to protect skin and eyes and always work outdoors.
Step 5: Scrub
Remove hardware from the crockpot (or chemical soak) with tongs and push off any remaining paint with a toothbrush or nylon bristle brush. (A wire brush can scratch the surface.) The paint hardens quickly once it’s out of the pot; dip the pieces back in the hot water to help loosen any stubborn spots.
Step 6: Wax
Protect the metal with beeswax polish, rubbed out with a soft cloth. You can spray on a lacquer finish instead, but if it ever chips or wears off, the metal will have to be chemically stripped
Step 7: Reinstall
Apply a new coat of wax polish about every six months.
The internet is now a pervasive (some folks even say necessary) part of the modern household. Not only do computers, phones, and tablets use the internet, but smart TVs stream huge amounts of content from the web. You can even now enjoy a smart fridge with its own touchscreen and internet connection! Seriously — you can download MP3s, check your email, and organize your photo albums using an internet refrigerator. Give it time and we’ll all be rocking smart toilets. The message is clear: The internet’s here to stay, and greater access throughout our homes (and even in our cars) is a continuing trend.
Wifi is the most common and obvious solution for getting the internet throughout your entire house. A single router broadcasts a wireless signal that passes through walls, floors, ceilings, and any other obstacles.
Of course, wifi has its own downsides and limitations. An improperly secured network leaves your internet open to nefarious individuals who might violate your privacy. Also, wireless access is not yet as robust as a wired connection for use with online games, where any interruption to the flow of data can spell doom and gloom. Wifi also won’t always penetrate thick walls, especially if that wall isn’t standard stud-and-drywall construction or there are several walls between your router and the device trying to use its signal.
For those reasons and more, you might prefer an actual cable for providing internet service to your bedrooms, office, and other rooms in your home. You have options besides a simple wifi network for getting the internet into each room.
Run some cable
Your router probably has jacks on the back for a couple of additional ethernet cables. While the cable that came with your computer might only be a few feet long, this type of cable is also available in huge spools. You probably see where this is going — instead of using a wifi connection, you can run the ethernet cable through the walls, floors, and ceilings of your house so that a cable or jack (or two) is available in every room.
Doing this presents a few challenges. First, compared to most houses, the internet is actually relatively young. Home networking just wasn’t a home-building concern 10 to 15 years ago, and putting in networking cables and jacks still isn’t a universal practice for most home construction. If your home doesn’t already include it, setting up internet cable behind walls will take some know-how and elbow grease.
While poking a hole in drywall isn’t a terribly difficult task, building and construction codes may regulate where your network cable can be placed; you can’t just throw the cable behind some drywall and expect to satisfy code. For example, many jurisdictions require that networking cable must be several inches away from electrical wiring. Running that cable will require drilling holes in your studs so the cable can pass through. You’ll also have to avoid any duct work, plumbing, and other obstacles within the walls.
In addition, you’ll generally want a wall port (like a power outlet for internet cable) for each room, instead of leaving a cable dangling out into the room. You will also need a hub for all these cables if you’re running them to more places than your cable modem has ports, which usually means setting aside a small network nook (or building a LackRack) where your modem and routing equipment can reside. Running network cables throughout your house is pretty straightforward, but it is definitely a serious DIY project and maybe even something you’ll want to hire professionals to do.
If the idea of running network cable through your walls fills you with dread, powerline networking might be more up your alley, since your home probably enjoys electricity in each room already. All those outlets mean your house has a huge system of connected cables for moving electricity around. Powerline networking uses that system for internet communication in addition to its current task. A powerline network won’t keep you from using those electrical wires for their normal purpose even while you’re using them for network traffic as well.
To set up your network, you’ll need a set of powerline networking adapters, which cost around $100 and are available at numerous retailers. You essentially put one adapter in a power outlet to receive the signal coming from your router and put another adapter in the room where you’d like to connect to the internet. The task of setting up a powerline network can get a little more complicated when you do multiple rooms, but the basic practice will stay the same.
The internet coming from powerline adapters can feel a little slower than a standard network, but it’s very reliable. The biggest drawback of powerline adapters is their bulky size. The adapter needs to be plugged directly into the wall outlet, since plugging into a power strip can slow down the connection speed, and adding a surge protector to the equation might scrub the data signal altogether. In many outlet-starved homes, the powerline adapters’ large size could be a significant inconvenience. It’s still probably easier than dragging network cables behind drywall and through studs, though.
Powerline networking isn’t the only way to avoid putting in new cables or resorting to wifi. You can do something similar with your phone lines and television cables using a method commonly referred to as HomePNA. HomePNA uses your existing phone wires and coaxial cable to stand in for internet cable. Using coax and phone lines is especially handy, since most homes have plenty of cable TV hookups and telephone jacks.
HomePNA isn’t much more complicated than powerline networking to setup, though you need to be sure you buy the right adapters. For example, an adapter with ports for your cable television cable’s coax connection won’t necessarily have a place for a phone jack. As more folks eschew traditional landline phones in favor of cell phones, HomePNA is an attractive way to get a little more life out of all the phone jacks already present in your home.
You have options!
If you’re ready to embrace the internet-in-every-room lifestyle, you have options. You could just default to wifi, of course, but that signal might not be strong enough. You can string networking cable throughout the house, make use of some powerline networking, or give your coaxial and telephone lines a new lease on life with HomePNA. Universal internet is definitely here, but getting it into every room doesn’t have to be a headache or hassle.
Most upgrades, renovations, and home improvement projects raise a home’s resale value. But in this episode of Destination Home Sabrina Soto, host of HGTV’s “The High/Low Project,” reveals five renovations that can do just the opposite.
That is, Soto qualifies, if you’re planning on selling in the next five years. “If you’re going to stay in your home for a long time, do whatever makes you happy — surround yourself with Pepto Bismol pink if that’s what you like,” she tells Destination Home. But if resell value matters, here’s what to avoid:
Converting bedrooms into other spaces: If potential homebuyers “see it’s a four-bedroom house, they want to go to the open house and see four bedrooms. You have to take the guesswork out,” says Soto. If you do convert a room, there’s one feature you should absolutely never mess with. Watch the video to find out what that is.
Hot tubs: Soto thinks inheriting someone else’s hot tub is a turn-off — and she’s not alone. “You’d be surprised how many potential buyers find them to be a little gross.” And once a hot tub is installed, it’s not an easy feature to remove from a deck or backyard.
Colored trim and textured walls: It seems like any potential homebuyer would see these features and know they can easily paint over them, but not so fast, says Soto. “I would much rather paint walls than trim any day — it’s a beast of a job,” she says. And textured walls are “a mess to sand down and remove. The fad is over anyway, so just let it go.” If you feel your trim is outdated, see the video for Soto’s tips on what to do.
Children’s theme bedrooms: Spending hundreds of dollars on a mural for your child’s wall is throwing money away. Not only will they outgrow it in a matter of years, but “you’re never going to get that money back when you sell, so just keep it neutral,” posits Soto.
Too much landscaping: Conventional wisdom says you want your yard to look as nice as possible, but heed Soto’s warning: you want to “keep up with the Joneses — but don’t exceed them.” To a potential buyer, gorgeous, overdone landscaping screams high-maintenance.
Time for a Change
Reality TV makes it tough to face real life. There’s no high-powered crew coming, you’re not headed for Disney World, and before you can say “Ty Pennington,” it’s Sunday night. So can you really make a difference in a weekend? You bet.
Shopping List: window boxes, metal L brackets for mounting box, screws or bolts (made from wood or masonry, depending on house), drill bit (for wood or masonry), decorative brackets to cover metal supports
Tools: tape measure, pencil, drill with appropriate bit
Update #1: Install new SHUTTERS on front windows.
Shutters add character. You may be tempted to buy those colored plastic versions and nail them to your home, but don’t. Sure, it may take a little more effort to prime, paint, and install real wood shutters, but it’s worth it.
Carefully measure your windows prior to ordering shutters. Measure from the top of the sill to the top of the window; subtract 1/2 inch to allow room for the shutter to close inside the window opening.
Two to Four Weeks Before:
Order shutters and hardware.
One Week Before:
Paint shutters with a primer coat and two top coats.
You can go simple or decorative when it comes to shutter hardware. We chose a classic steel hinge that mounts directly onto the window frame. Shutter dogs or metal holdbacks keep the shutters resting against the house, not flapping in the wind. These were installed directly into the brick.
Update #2: WINDOW BOXES filled with gorgeous flowers add color below freshly painted shutters.
When choosing window boxes, bigger is better! The box height should be at least a quarter of the window height, and it can be as large as a third of that measurement. Be sure that the box has plenty of drainage holes in the bottom for water to escape — a must for healthy plants.
Two to Four Weeks Before:
Buy window boxes and hardware.
One Week Before:
Paint window boxes, if necessary, with primer coat and two top coats.
Purchase packing peanuts, potting soil, and fertilizer.
Before planting anything in your window boxes, fill the bottom third of the container with packing peanuts. This step ensures good drainage and reduces weight.
Next, add potting soil to fill the box. Sprinkle all-purpose granular time-release fertilizer (such as 14-14-14) on top. Place tall plants in the back of the window box, medium-sized ones in the middle, and trailers to drape over the front edge. Finally, make sure to water the box thoroughly.
Update #3: Inexpensive plastic pots, painted your trim color, lend visual continuity to plantings.
Placement is key: Low saucers on each side of the steps define this area as the entrance without being bulky and in the way. The large pot on the corner anchors the area between the front door and the front walk.
Two to Four Weeks Before:
Purchase plastic pots.
One Week Before:
Paint pots to match house shutter color (two coats).
It’s hard to believe that a window box, a few artfully placed containers, and new, painted shutters could make such a huge difference! These small improvements, however, are great for boosting a home’s curb appeal.
With natural gas and propane prices continuing to rise, you’ll likely be looking to the old fireplace this winter to help cut your home-heating bills. But before you spark up the logs, take heed that fireplaces and chimneys are involved in 42 percent of all home-heating fires. So first make sure yours is up to snuff by following these seven safety tips.
1. Hire a Chimney Sweep
The National Fire Protection Association recommends that chimneys be swept at least once a year at the beginning of the winter to remove soot and debris. Find a certified sweep in your area via the Chimney Safety Institute of America.
2. Check for Damage
In addition to cleaning, a chimney sweep should inspect the chimney structure for cracks, loose bricks, or missing mortar. Chimney liners should also be checked for cracking or deterioration.
3. Cap the Chimney
A cap fitted with wire-mesh sides covers the top of the chimney and keeps rain, birds, squirrels, and debris from entering. Replace or repair a cap that’s missing or damaged.
4. Burn Seasoned Hardwoods
Choose dense wood, such as oak, that’s been split and stored in a high and dry place for at least six months. Green wood and resinous softwoods like pine produce more creosote, a flammable by-product of combustion that can build up in the chimney.
5. Don’t Overload
Small fires generate less smoke, thus less creosote buildup. Also, a fire that’s too large or too hot can crack the chimney.
6. Build It Right
Place logs at the rear of the fireplace on a metal grate. Use kindling, rather than flammable liquids, to start the fire.
7. Use a Spark Guard
Prevent errant embers from shooting out of the firebox with a mesh metal screen or glass fireplace doors. A guard in front of an open flame is especially important when the room is unoccupied.
If you’re lucky enough to live in an area where fall color can be spectacular, you get to watch how deciduous plants can go from solid green to an amazing array of yellows, oranges and reds. Keep in mind that a plant’s ability to produce vibrant fall color depends largely on genetics. Weather plays a minor role, but unless a plant is genetically hard-wired to produce color, there’s nothing you can do to change that.
So enjoy the color for as long as it lasts, knowing that as fall turns to winter, more changes will take place. Here are some tips on getting your yard ready for the chilly season:
• Fall overseeding helps to maintain a green lawn throughout the winter. In the fall, turfgrass tends to develop a distinct two-tone look, as if half the grass is dead and the other half is alive and well. This look, which is common throughout the country, is the result of overseeding a warm-season grass, such as Bermuda, with a cool-season grass like fescue.
The warm-season grass isn’t dead; it just goes dormant once temperatures drop below freezing. The cool-season grass, on the other hand, remains green despite freezing temperatures. Other combinations of warm- and cool-season grasses might include Bermuda and rye or Zoysia combined with fescue or rye. With all these combinations, the result is often the same — a two-tone lawn.
But if you overseed heavily enough with the cool-season grass, you should be able to achieve a nearly solid green lawn all winter long. The best time to overseed is six to eight weeks before the first hard freeze.
If you notice bare spots once the seeds begin to germinate, seed those areas again. Bear in mind, however, that if cold weather comes early, the grass that comes up following the second seeding may not have time to develop a strong enough root system to survive winter. But it’s worth a try.
• Rake up the thick layers of leaves that settle on lawn surfaces. Large leaves in particular, especially when they get wet, can compact to the point where they suffocate the grass below. So it’s a good idea to routinely rake or blow them off the lawn or, better yet, use a mulching mower to shred them into fine pieces.
• Put the raked leaves in the compost pile or use as a mulch. Whatever you do, don’t waste fallen leaves because they’re an excellent source of nutrients and organic matter. You can also add them to flower beds to put a winter blanket on your garden.
• Keep an eye on browning needles on conifers. Various conifers undergo changes in the fall. When those changes include needles turning brown, many homeowners panic. It’s normal for some needles to turn brown, however, as long as the browning takes place primarily within the interior of the plant.
If you’re bothered by the look and the tree or shrub is small enough, you can remove the dead growth by shaking the plant vigorously or cutting it off with pruners. Or leave well enough alone, and in time the dead growth will drop to the ground. Remember, there are deciduous conifers like bald cypress that begin to lose all their leaves in the fall.
• Remove dead annuals and mulch hardy perennials. Annuals typically die when temperatures drop below freezing. But perennials often appear as though they too have bitten the bullet. That’s because their top growth dies back, although in most cases the root ball is hardy enough to survive even extreme temperatures, especially if it’s covered with a layer of mulch. The best time to mulch perennials is after the first hard freeze. Just make sure you don’t cover the crown or center of the plant, because that can lead to rot.
• Prepare tender and hardy plants in containers. Perennials in pots may require additional protection because they aren’t as well insulated. In extremely cold areas, consider placing potted perennials in a sunny spot and covering the pots with mulch or leaves.
Many plants grown as annuals outside their native zone, such as tropicals and cacti, can be overwintered as houseplants. Just make sure you give them a fair amount of light, and mist them daily to maintain humidity. Also, cut back on watering and skip fertilizing altogether until spring.
• Prepare and monitor the progress of the compost pile. Significant changes begin to occur in the compost pile with the approach of fall, and you need to adapt to those changes. Basically, as air temperatures drop, so does the internal temperature of the compost pile, which in turn slows down the process of decomposition. For example, the center of a compost pile in the middle of summer may reach 160 degrees F but drop to only 120 degrees during the fall and winter. At that temperature, there’s still activity within the pile, but it’s a more passive process. However, you can boost the temperature by continuing to turn the pile during cold weather.
More abundant rainfall can lead to anaerobic conditions within a compost pile, which not only slows the decomposition process but can also cause the pile to stink. Top your compost pile with a thick layer of leaves or straw during the fall and winter. This simple step accomplishes two things: It helps prevent excess moisture from building up and insulates the pile so that it maintains a higher internal temperature.