Home and Garden Feed

H&H Home Builders added to the Corridor Search business directory

The Coralville Courier is pleased to announce the addition of H&H Home Builders to the 'Home Builders', 'Home Improvement' and 'Contractors, General' categories in the Corridor Search business directory.

H&H Home Builders“Certified Green Builders of Iowa”

H&H Home Builders, your certified green builders of Iowa have been constructing Energy Star Compliant homes since bursting onto the building landscape in 1995 as "North Liberty’s Premier Builder." H&H Home Builders feel very fortunate to be a vital part of quality, growth and development in our area and would like to offer their services to you as part of your next quality building experience. H&H designs and builds high quality custom homes in the Iowa City, Cedar Rapids Corridor at reasonable rates. "The Name Means Quality"

Our Commitment to Green Building:

H&H Custom Home Builders have constructed Energy Star Compliant homes since we burst onto the building landscape in 1995 as ‘North Liberty’s Premier Builder’. Since then, Energy Star Guidelines have evolved into what we consider today as the pinnacle of efficiency and we, as builders of ‘green’ homes, have kept pace with those guidelines and have adapted them into each home that we build. H&H Home Builders will build you what is known today as a ‘green’ home, but what has always been lesser known as a ‘sustainable’ home. Sustainable homes are quality built so that they last not just decades, but are built to maintain value, encouraging pride of ownership for generations to come. An H&H ‘green’ Home uses raw materials in a responsible way, using fewer resources, resulting in the use of less energy.

As the standards continue to get tighter, we too will strive to meet and exceed those guidelines; our commitment to you as your builder. We will continue to research and utilize quality building products that are made from recycled and renewable materials. H&H Home Builders offer free consultations and design ideas, various lots to choose from, customization options, and a one year warranty on all new construction. Our homes will always be revered as ‘Quality’ and ‘Valuable’ The choice is yours to make. Let us help you design quality into your next home building experience.

H&H has been featured in Room Magazine & Better Homes and Gardens

Home BuildersH & H Home Builders
North Liberty, Iowa

Randy Hahn
Mobile: 319.936.2030

Gerald Hingtgen

via www.hhgreenhome.com

10 home-improvement things to do before the holidays | www.austin360.com

Attention, planners: We are 13½ weeks from Thanksgiving and the start of the holiday season. Start your home-improvement engines.

Today for Your Home, we suggest 10 things you could do in a few hours on a weekend — or by calling in the pros as needed — to get ready for the holiday season and the guests who might be traipsing through your doorway.

via www.austin360.com

From parties to relaxing, gazebos offer elegant shade, shelter in summer's heat | TheGazette


What structure could better fit this traditional month of hot days and nights than the shaded confines of a gazebo? That venerable edifice has marched through the centuries, through all manner of cultures, in all architectural versions — and still thrives in the 21st century, lending its singular charm to the denizens of a digital age.

via thegazette.com

7 Surprising Alternative Uses for Clorox Bleach

Chlorine bleach isn’t just for washing machines anymore. This staple of the laundry room—while well known for getting stains out of clothing—has a multitude of potential uses in and around your home. Regular household bleach packs a ton of cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting punch. And best of all, it costs just pennies per project! Bleach is a safe way to remove stains, kill germs and deodorize containers. For safety’s sake, be sure to keep bleach in a childproof cabinet, away from other household chemicals, particularly ammonia, since the combination can be toxic. Here are just a few of the surprising uses for bleach around the house:

via yahoo.com

The Joe Lunchpail Garden - A guide to the average backyard garden, Part II

By Mike Thayer

This is Part II of the Joe Lunchpail Garden series, today's piece is about picking the right plants, plotting your garden and prepping your soil.  You can review what was discussed in Part I by clicking here.

Zoning Your Garden

Iowa Planting Zone MapIt's important to know what kind of plants are appropriate for the area.  You can find a "planting zone" or hardiness level on the back of most seed packets and on those little plastic tags stuck in the soil of starter plants.  Knowing what's "in the zone" will help you determine what kind of plant varieties you want for your garden.  According to the plant hardiness zone map put out by the USDA, Iowa is in zone 5.    Most stores that sell plants and seed packets are pretty good about selling what's appropriate, but sometimes a few varieties slip in that aren't.  As a weekend gardener, make sure you're buying something that is "Iowa" suitable.

Basically, for our area in the lower half of Iowa, you'll want to start planting what' s considered "cool weather" veggies about a month before the last frost - plant around mid-April.  The "cool weather" veggies can handle a little frost, seed varieties like spinach, lettuce, peas and radishes. Other veggie varieties can be planted around mid-May where the Mother's Day rule applies.  DO NOT plant the following veggie seeds or starter plants in your backyard garden before Mother's Day:  Beans, corn, tomatoes, eggplant, squashes, cucumbers, peppers, melons.  Pretty much anything can be safely planted after Mother's Day, but don't wait much past early June though if you're planting seeds, as some plants won't have enough time to give you a full harvest before the first fall freeze comes around.

There's room to grow

No matter what size garden you decide on, there's more room to it than you might think.

Let's say you decide on a backyard garden plot of 18' x 7'.  It's a typical backyard Joe Lunchpail garden size but by doing what's called "Companion Planting" you can turn your garden into a better than average producer.  How do you do that?  It's simple really, don't plant everything in single rows.  Plant quick growing plants like radishes with slow growing carrots.  Inter-plant onion sets with broccoli.  Don't plant lettuce in a single row, sow your seeds in a six-inch wide row instead and mix up the varieties, it will make for a better salad.    Peas can be done in a similar fashion, plant a row that has edible pods and just six inches from it, plant a row that does not have edible pods or has a longer maturity date.  Don't EVER single row the onions, they can go just about anywhere there's some extra space, a couple inches will do, around broccoli, around tomatoes, around anything that takes awhile to mature.  You'll enjoy picking a few as table fare as you wait for the broccoli or whatever to mature later in the season.  Be creative, try to match up fast growing veggies with slow to mature varieties.  A fun one is planting pole beans with corn.  The pole bean climbs the corn stalk, it's a race to the top.

In general, try to plant your vegetable rows in an east-west direction.  North-south planted rows, start off OK, but as plants get taller, they can eventually shade each other out of needed sunlight as the sun moves across the sky.

Consider planting some flowers in your garden.  Marigolds planted around your border for instance helps to keep certain pests away from your soon to be delicious produce.  Certain flowers can also help attract the good insects that will help to pollinate your garden and make those veggies.  Frills and function!

Now Let's Talk Dirty!

Let's face it - fertile soil - that's loose and full of nutrients does not exist in every Joe Lunchpail backyard.  We've all seen those garden shows where the gardening "star" can be seen using a garden tool in the dirt as if it's a hot knife through butter.  Keep in mind that those show gardens have had years of compost, amendments and pampering put into them, so don't get discouraged.  Most soils while not perfect, will grow veggies and flowers and if not, the soil can at least be doctored up and done so inexpensively.

Having good soil is key.  A garden in clay will not be a very productive one for you.  Mixing in some sand and compost will go a long way towards improving matters, although means getting your hands a little dirty.......  but isn't that what gardening is all about anyway?

Tilling that soil

if you're a weekend gardener and have a garden of decent size it's worth your while to rent a tiller.  it saves you the trouble and back-breaking work of shoveling and hoeing 'til (pun intended, get it, 'til?) your feet hurt and your hands are blistered (didn't wear gloves huh?).  There are a number of places around to rent a tiller and in my opinion, this is the fastest and most economical way to add nutrients to your garden.

TIP:  Tilling can be more than a one person job.  Loading/unloading, picking up and returning - you might tag the spouse, son, daughter or a friend to help you out with that.  Also, keep in mind that when renting, a front tine tiller is arguably harder to handle than a rear tine tiller.  It comes down to a matter of personal preference. 

Things you can do before you 'til:  Have a pick-up truck or a friend that will let you use theirs for  a couple hours?  If you have a medium to large garden, a load or two of black dirt will do wonders for your soil.  Locally, black dirt is available at S&G Materials.

Call S & G Materials today at 319-354-1667, or visit our shop.
S & G Materials
4059 SE Izaak Walton Rd
Iowa City, IA 52240

Hours of Business:
Monday to Friday 7:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Saturday 7:00 AM - 12:00 PM

Getting a pick-up load or two of black dirt  beats the heck out of buying a bunch of 40 pound bags of top soil at the local garden shop.  Buy plants there by all means, but the dirt, not so much....  You get far more dirt for the buck at S&G Materials.  

Other items to consider adding to your garden as a top dressing before tilling: 

  • Epsom salts:  Plants love magnesium, they get greener, bushier and that's what the epsom salts give you.   Healthy plants fight off pests and disease better.
  • Sand:  If you've got a lot of clay in your garden, this will help break things up and improve drainage.  You can get sand at S&G Materials.
  • Pete Moss:  This is a natural, all purpose soil conditioner.  If you've got clay soil, it helps loosen it up.  If you've got sandy soil, pete moss helps firm it up.  It also hangs on to those nutrients, helping plant roots to feed.

That's it for Part II, next up, scheduling planting times, learning NOT to use your garbage disposal and working towards that bumper crop.

No drought concerns for Iowa this growing season

Iowa DroughtAccording to the U.S. Drought Monitor website, only the northern corner counties in the Hawkeye state are considered "Abnormally Dry," with the rest of the state in excellent shape heading into the growing season.  No Iowa county registers as "Moderate Drought" or higher.

The counties in white, benefited from the 2-5 inches of snow water equivalent (SWE) that was locked in the snowpack from the last winter storm. 

The 30 day outlook for precipitation has been forecast as normal according to agriculture.com.  

Precipitation forecast



The Joe Lunchpail Garden - A guide to the average backyard garden, Part I

By Mike Thayer

If you're the typical weekend gardener, then this guide is for you.

IMG_0027 - Copy (2) - CopyThis is a guide designed and catered for the not-so-serious but wants a decent garden kind of person.  This guide is not fancy, it lacks pages upon pages of beautiful garden pictures, but it does provide content, content, content and is also catered to the local area.

Got Dirt?

Plan your successful garden at the kitchen table.  Sketch out your thoughts on a piece of paper while sipping on your favorite beverage.

Even if you've had an established garden for years, mapping out your garden and deciding on plant varieties can save you time and perhaps money come spring.

I like to plan my garden out during the late winter months, when cabin fever takes hold and I'm suffering from football withdrawals.  Ii also like to check out the garden sites on the internet (I'll list links later in this series) and the mail order see catalogs around this time, getting ideas and buying a few things.  Buying in late winter helps ensure you'll receive your order in time for when that spring urge to start putting plants in the ground hits  you.

The first step i f you don't already have an established garden is to select an acceptable site.  No weekend gardener/typically average Joe Lunchpail backyard is absolutely perfect, but you'll have a harvest you can be proud of if you locate your garden where it will get six to eight hours of sunlight daily.  The site should drain well, be "reachable" by garden hose, but not to close to the dog house, unless extra fertilizer is desired.

If you don't have a flat backyard, don't worry about it.  Slight slopes can be good thing for drainage, but steep slopes will require terracing and that means the weekend gardening thing just became a "take-a- vacation-in-order-to-make-a-garden-spot" major project.....    Unless you decide that's what you want to do, you may want to consider container or patio gardening.

Don't have room for a big garden?

How about a couple small ones instead?  Have a little plot for your tomatoes, have another little spot somewhere for your onions, carrots and radishes.  Sow some lettuce seeds in a flower pot instead of those petunias and you've got yourself a nice salad garden, fresh from your backyard.  There are a number of tricks and things  you can do that will save you time and space which will be discussed later in this series.

Space limits may mean you can't have everything you want in your garden, you may have to pick and choose.  Too much in a garden or not having enough room to operate can lead to problems and a disappointing harvest.

TIP:  Flower pots aren't just for flowers anymore.  If you've got a window ledge that just collects dust, put a little flower pot on it sown with parsley.  Down the road, you've got fresh parsley to top a dinner entree.  And don't think you'll be sacrificing beauty by swapping out flowers for vegetables.   A flower pot filled with a variety of lettuces can actually be quite striking.  Eggplants with their broad leaves and purple flowers can make a nice display.  Peppers, one of my favorite potted plants, can actually live for years if brought inside during the cold winter months.

If you are space limited, it's especially good to keep a garden diary.  Knowing what you can or can't do will pay dividends later.  A diary doesn't have to be anything fancy, heck, you could make some quick notes on the calendar hanging in your kitchen.  I often do that for rainfall.  Making a simple note of what you planted and when, if it was a wet spring or a dry summer and the what/how many when you harvest will go a long way towards helping you speed up your planning and execution process for next year.

Next up in Part II, Zoning Your Garden

Artificial Christmas Trees, Christmas Ornaments & Home Decor

You won't find these features anywhere else. Balsam Hill™ has designed these innovative options to make your tree truly spectacular.

via www.balsamhill.com


Repurposing that old file cabinet - turn it into a grill

By Mike Thayer

File cabinetSo I had this old file cabinet on hand, just sitting in my garage no longer being used for its intended purpose....

"How can I re-use this?"  I asked myself.

I was thinking about storing power tools in it, but came up with a better idea!

A Sunday project, I turned an old four-drawer tall metal file cabinet, into a charcoal grill!

Here's the "How To" laid out like a recipe:


  • An old metal vertical filing cabinet (four drawers, three drawers, doesn't matter)
  • Black auto engine paint (it can take the heat), about three cans
  • About one dozen metal screws
  • Grill grates


  • A drill and drill bits


Remove all drawers and clean all cabinet parts, inside and out with warm soapy water.  After it's dry, paint all parts black (or whatever color you wish).  I used auto engine paint because it can take the heat.  It's a bit more expensive, but you won't have to worry about paint peeling and flaking off later.     After all parts are dry, you're now ready for assembly.  Set the cabinet on the side with the drawer cavity openings facing the ground.  You may want to do this where you're actually going to use the grill.  I would recommend having it set on concrete blocks, decorative bricks or a bed of rock.  Next, screw the cabinet drawers side-by-side to the 'new top' of the cabinet, with the tall end of the drawers being the 'back' of your grill area, two screws for each drawer to secure them to the cabinet base should do it. You're almost done.  If you pre-measured your drawer size and bought some of those universal grill grates like I did, place those grates on your "new" charcoal bins - the drawers.  The grates should fit snugly on top of the drawers at the tall end (the grill back), but you'll have to drill a couple holes and strategically place some screws to hold the grates in place at the business side of the grill.  Do NOT drill the screws all the way in, you just want to keep the grill grates from sliding left to right and you'll want to be able to easily remove them for cleaning purposes.

File cabinet grillThat's it, you're done!  I like the flat-top style layout of the grill.  I can fire up one drawer when I grill for one or two, fire up a second drawer for family or small get-togethers or fire up the third and fourth drawers for parties!  And the beauty of this design is, you don't have to put a grate over every drawer.  For one of the drawer spots I purchased a stainless steel grill pan to use for veggies and fish, it didn't need any strategically placed screws to hold it in place either.  You can put a butcher block cutting board over one of the drawers, it's easily placed and removed.  Or, you can set up a permanent cutting station/counter space over one of the drawer spaces using a more permanent material like a couple tiles of marble or granite.  My cost for this grill was just under $60.  I'm real pleased with how this project turned out, it grills nice and should last for many a grilling season!  In breaking it in and only using one drawer, I grilled up four pounds of skirt steak, a dozen hot dogs, five burgers and I still had plenty of heat left, I could have grilled more!  

Do you have an idea for repurposing a file cabinet?  Comment below!

15 Great Ideas for Decks

Party on the deck
A good deck can capture a view, create a comfortable outdoor room, and add a feeling of spaciousness to your home by blurring the boundaries between inside and out.

This partly sheltered deck serves as an indoor-outdoor space connecting a family room with a patio. Classically simple, it is a great transitional element for nearly any style of house. You can even build it yourself!

Read on....https://shine.yahoo.com/at-home/15-great-ideas-decks-073300562.html