ENJOY YOUR JULY FOURTH FESTIVITIES (AND THE REST OF YOUR SUMMER) WITH SAFETY IN MIND

Summer is here, at last, with all of its enjoyable warm-weather activities: picnics, hiking, fishing, gardening, swimming, boating, bar-b-ques, and, of course, celebrating the anniversary of our nation’s independence on July 4th.  And, unfortunately, it’s a fact of nature that all of these are accompanied by a certain amount of risk.  Handyman Matters is here to help you have a safe and wonderful time this summer.  Here are a few tips to keep in mind to reduce the risk of spending any time being treated for injuries from easily avoidable accidents.

PROTECT YOURSELF – Stay hydrated and use sunscreen!  This seems pretty obvious, but it’s ridiculously easy to step outdoors for what you think will be just a few minutes, only to wind up distracted by some task that will have you boiling underneath the sun’s harsh rays without even realizing it.  Both sunburn and dehydration sneak up on you, so don’t give them a chance.

KNOW YOUR LIMITATIONS – With the advent of spring and the return of green grass and flowers comes the temptation to spruce up things around your home and yard.  Maybe you’re eyeing a landscaping project, taking down storm windows, cleaning gutters, sanding and re-staining patio furniture, washing all the second-story windows, or something else.  Whether it’s a large project or small, don’t jump in until you’ve fully considered the amount of time you can dedicate to it, as well as your personal skill level.  Don’t compromise the project—or your safety—by biting off more than you can chew.  You’ll wind up frustrated (or worse, yet—with a frustrated spouse!) and a home improvement project only halfway done by autumn, and looking nowhere near the way you pictured it in your head!

BE SAFE, BE SAFE, AND BE SAFE – Don’t mount a rickety ladder to wash windows, clean gutters or to check the condition of your roof.  Don’t undertake any of these or any other outdoor activities when a thunder and lightning storm beckons.  Make sure you alert someone before attempting any task that involves working with power tools or takes you up into a tree or onto a ladder—the statistics on people lying injured while unaware family members are just steps, away are staggering.  Don’t be one of them!

Don’t prune trees or shrubbery anywhere near power lines.  Don’t dig on your property until you know precisely where any utility cables are buried.

BE CAREFUL AND CAUTIOUS IN YOUR CELEBRATING – The Fourth of July holiday comes with some uniquely potential hazards:  grilling, open flames, fireworks, and, in many instances, alcohol.  Adding to the mix are children and pets dashing around, a heightened recipe for disaster.  It’s important to exercise caution and to resist temptation.  Leave the fireworks to the experts.  Don’t leave grills, bar-b-cues or open flames unattended for even a few seconds.  If you are entertaining a small group of friends or family, be vigilant.  Have fun, and relax—just don’t relax too much—it’s the responsibility comes with being a good host.

Handyman Matters wants you to have a summer to remember—but for all the right reasons!  We stand ready to assist you with any summertime projects that can help you enjoy your house and yard to their fullest.  After all, we’re in this for the long haul—we want you to be a customer for life!

You can always reach us by calling 1(866)FIX-MY-HOME.

GETTING YOUR YARD AND PATIO READY FOR SUMMER ENTERTAINING

With spring close at hand and summer not far behind, it will soon be time to conduct a back yard inspection to make sure that your home is ready for entertaining family and friends over the next several months.

patio-ready-summerOftentimes, just a little “sprucing-up” is required to have your backyard looking its best again, but it all begins by conducting a careful inventory, looking at everything through the eyes of a guest.  Prepare to make a few notes as you walk around the areas where you will be entertaining, and ask yourself four questions:

  1. What needs cleaning/trimming?  Is the grass overgrown?  Are the lawn cushions looking soiled or faded?  Are your windows streaked or muddied from a winter’s worth of storms?  Do you have trees and bushes that could use a good trimming?  Are the gutters clogged or overflowing?
  1. What needs repairing?   Stand in the middle of the yard and turn around slowly, taking in everything you see.  What could stand a fresh coat of paint or stain?  Are there boards dangling or missing from the fence?  Do your kids have a tree house or playground equipment that has seen better days?   Is the gate sagging or are the hinges loose?  Is it a struggle to open or close the sliding patio door?
  1. What needs replacing?  Is the bird feeder cracked or dangling by a frayed thread?  Are the vinyl straps on the patio furniture loose or broken?  Has the umbrella over the deck table seen its last season?  How old and how reliable is your grill?
  1. What presents potential hazards?  Most importantly, determine whether there’s anything around the yard or patio that could cause injury.  Are there loose flagstones in the garden, crumbling or loose bricks on the low patio wall?  Are there wobbly deck railings, or cracked boards on steps?  Are there dark corners, stumbling hazards, low-hanging beams or any other hazards where adding outdoor lighting could reduce the risk of injury?

Entertaining company on summer afternoons and evenings should be a laid-back, stress-free experience.  And, in truth, people are there to enjoy one another’s company.  Things don’t have to perfect for everyone to have a good time.  But a little clean-up and repair ahead of time will go a long way towards enhancing your time with friends and family.

For assistance in sprucing up your home and yard for the summer months, you can always rely on the friendly and capable craftsmen at Handyman Matters to help out with any project, large or small.  Call 1(800)FIX-MY-HOME or go to www.handymanmatters.com where you can enter your zip code to find the number of the location nearest you.

Choosing an Outdoor Kitchen Design Worthy of Your Summer BBQ’s

There are certain sectors of the home that hold unprecedented potential for entertaining.

A billiards basement, the dining room, a large, open kitchen… It seems like that’s it, and then you step outdoors. For much of the year, a backyard is mostly defined by its taxing upkeep.  It can be hard to remember the glory days of summer, until spring arrives, and you find yourself spending more time outdoors.

With the right additions to your home, anyone can create an outdoor kitchen perfect for warm weather entertaining.  From affordable alterations, to entire upgrades, here are some outdoor kitchen designs for those summer BBQ’s.

Grills

The center of all outdoor kitchens is the grill. The grill that you choose will have the power to shape the rest of your outdoor kitchen design.

  • Charcoal Grill – If you’re willing to clean more and cook longer for the satisfaction of a smoky flavored meat, this grill is for you.
  • Gas Grill – For the less committed griller on the go, easy to use and clean, and fast.
  • Smoker – The crock pot of the back yard. These are for all day BBQ projects, and are ideal for the true foodies out there.
  • Wood Oven – Similar but different. This appliance is more expensive but perfect for the pizza enthusiast looking for a texture a typical grill cannot fully provide.

Seating

Envision a BBQ… where do you see your guests sitting?

Is there a standardized picnic table, or does your outdoor kitchen design cater toward something a little more built in?

Similar to their indoor counterparts, bar and bench seating can be a cozy way to border your outdoor kitchen with guests.

Counters & Bar

Ask yourself how much of the cooking process will take place outdoors.

  • Do you need extra counter space for prep work?
  • Do you want a spot for guests to relax and eat appetizers while you grill?

Counters also provide for a more traditional looking kitchen, building a grill into the rest of the kitchen set-up.

Appliances

The final amenities to your outdoor kitchen design.

  • TV – are you planning on watching the game outdoors? Installing a TV under an awning enables you to have the comfort of the living room, while grilling in the sun.
  • Heat Lamps – Nighttime BBQ’s can experience a drop in temperature. Or perhaps you’re looking to construct more of a year-round kitchen; heat lamps will allow you to grill in any weather.
  • Fire Pit – For the less traditional seating area in your outdoor kitchen there’s the fire pit. Roast marshmallows or have a controlled summer bonfire while eating your favorite grilled dinner.

Need Help?

Looking to create an outdoor getaway within your own home – Handyman Matters can help!

From deck installations, to constructing patios, counters, or cabinets, our craftsmen can work with you to plan the outdoor kitchen design of your dreams.

For a free project estimate just call 866-FIX-MY-HOME.

Complete Guide To Planning Your New Patio

There are more decisions that go into planning a patio than may be obvious at the start.

For example:

  • How important is privacy?
  • What about prevailing winds?
  • How about your gardening interest?
  • Do you want a picture-book effect with borders of colorful annuals, or do you want to spend time just sitting?

Imagine your patio as outdoor living space, not just somewhere to clean mud off your shoes or for haphazard deposits of bicycles, toy and garden tools.

Today, patios are planned as extensions of livings rooms, with sliding door between, providing a physical connection and ready access.

A small patio slab is seldom satisfactory.  Plan one of adequate size even if the project must be completed over a longer period of time.  Make simple sketches on paper and work toward this goal in small steps, if necessary.

The most common type of patio construction is poured concrete.  You can also use brick or other loose aggregates, but concrete is a pretty good step-at-a-time material, because the slabs are usually poured in the form of grids and therefore can be done in stages.  Concrete is durable and fluid enough to be cast in curves and flexible in surface texture and coloring. It’s also relatively easy to maintain.

Take time to consider all the surface options and then proceed with the one that seems most attractive and suited to your intent and the style of your home. Do you plan to entertain a lot of guests?  Will you be putting your barbecuing skills to the test?

Trends In Patio Design

patio design ideas

Here are five hot trends in patio design to help elevate your backyard patio from a nice patch of bricks to your favorite spot to entertain and relax this summer:

  1. Make the backyard a destination: More people are foregoing costly summer vacations in favor of sinking that travel money into creating a getaway spot in their own backyards. Enterprising homeowners are using decorative concrete to create mini theme parks with faux rock water features, sculpted pools with water slides and garden bridges.
  2. Cost-sensible, eco-conscious: Environmental awareness doesn’t have to take a backseat to luxury. Backyard oases must also emphasize eco-consciousness, incorporating environmentally-friendly materials like concrete, which is sustainable. But they also like the organic look and feel that the material can impart. Concrete patios can mimic the look of natural stone – even lava – without the eco-impact associated with quarrying the real thing. Plus, concrete costs considerably less than many natural stone products.
  3. Furniture built to last and last: Anybody can go to the local home improvement store and pick up a patio set. The truly trendy backyard designer turns to permanent backyard furniture, custom-made to fit your yard’s style. Custom concrete furniture can take on any shape, from pool tables and benches to patio tables and planters. It lasts a lifetime and never needs to be painted or refinished.
  4. Light my fire: When it comes to creating ambiance, few home improvements pack the wallop of a fireplace. Outdoor hearths are growing in popularity as homeowners continue to recreate all the appeal of their home’s interior in the backyard. Whether you choose gas or wood-burning, custom designed or pre-cast, adding a fireplace to your outdoor landscape is sure to light up its appeal.
  5. Size – and shape – matter: We’ve all seen patio disasters – the sprawling slab that totally dominates a tiny backyard, or the postage-stamp-sized patio that appears lost in a sea of grass. Homeowners are no longer leaving patio size to chance. Instead, they’re putting a lot of thought and planning into right-sizing their patio to create a living area that meets their needs and fits the profile of their backyard.  Determining how your space will be used and how much you have to work with before you undertake any remodeling will save time and avoid regret later on!

Patio Design Ideas

Whenever you are researching patio ideas there are numerous elements to look at: lighting, furnishings, heating and the types of functions you will want to utilize it for.

Will you be utilizing this outdoor space largely for relaxing or will you use it as an additional living and entertaining spot?

Fire Pit

Patio designs which include a fire pit could make the space not just cozy and relaxing but very exotic also.  A fire pit can be built into the outdoor patio with bricks or stones, or it may stand alone and still have the flexibility to be moved as needed. Most important is the fact that as soon as the sun goes down and the weather is cooler, the special event can still continue.

Water Features

You will discover quite a few patio ideas that also contain beautiful water features. A fountain or small waterfall can also be built with the use of the many unique and gorgeous rocks which are now offered and very easy for almost any homeowner to install. You can to find pre-built water features online or at home improvement stores that anyone can merely set in place, fill with water and plug in. The sound of trickling water sets the ambiance for relaxed entertaining.

Lighting

Light is another yet extremely significant element to think about in patio designs. There are many affordable choices of lighting on the market today. You’ll find several solar or low voltage selections that produce excellent illumination and create plenty of atmosphere for virtually any outdoor living space.

Shade

Shade is another factor to consider in patio design. The form and degree of shading you are going to want depends on the direction your patio is facing and the amount of natural light you want. Canvas awnings are a colorful and affordable way to manage both shade and temperature.

Patio Furniture

The finishing touch will be the pieces of furniture you choose.

Modern patio furniture is very weather resistant and can last for quite a few years. Almost all outdoor patio furniture can be casual and stylish at the same time.

Patios Canopies

patio-canopy

Patio canopies are particularly convenient for residences with a swimming pool, backyard deck, or other large and exposed areas.  For added comfort, privacy and security, manufacturers even offer screen attachments to close off a desired area.  For wide-open patios, canopies effectively allow an extension to the house or even a new room, giving the homeowner wider space and more comfort.

The exposure that patios have to rain, snow, sun and the elements has encouraged canopy manufacturers to come up with varying models of different materials, from retractable awnings to aluminum patio cover kits.

Some covers are made from heavy-duty vinyl and are available in various sizes.  Some companies offer lattice patio cover kits, created primarily for garden settings.  The market includes types made from aluminum material that feels and looks like wood, without posing any of the typical problems identified with wood, including peeling, warping, repainting, or attack by termites.

Other desired features include wind-release protection and awning flexibility.  There are portable and permanent models, created for every type use imaginable.  Combined with appropriate lighting in the evenings, patio canopies bring a festive air to a backyard party or barbecue.

An online perusal can provide a wealth of information regarding the styles and types of canopies available to homeowners these days.

Ready To Plan Your Patio?

Will your patio be a do-it-yourself event, or something elaborate enough to warrant utilizing profession construction services?  Be armed with answers to all of these questions before you undertake the process.  An outside area for relaxation and entertaining can be terrifically rewarding, and therefore deserves a good deal of consideration at the start of the project.

Tips to Prepare your Deck for Outdoor Entertaining

Getting your deck structurally sound and safe is just the first step to having a great outdoor space for use in the summer. There are a lot of things you can do to make sure that your deck is not only safe and functional, but that it also becomes the envy of all your friends, and the center of your neighborhood’s summer cookout season. These simple ideas will ensure that, rain or shine, your deck, patio, or porch is ready for anything you, or Mother Nature, throw at it.

1. Enclose your deck with mosquito netting. Netting is ideal for climates that are warm and humid – especially during the hot summer months – because they help keep out insects and pests.

2. Install a fire-pit. Fire pits act as a center focal point for your deck, and they also allow for year-round use during the early spring and fall months when the weather starts to get chilly.

3. Build tiki-torch brackets. Soft outdoor lighting is great for setting the mood and atmosphere of your outdoor space. Brackets allow for a safer way to utilize this fun and alternative form of lighting.

Here’s one option for tiki torch mounting

4. Consider covering, or partially covering, your deck, patio or porch. This will help prevent furniture and outdoor appliances from getting ruined by weather or sunlight.

5. Outfit your deck with comfortable seating and gathering areas. Decks are a place to socialize and congregate – outdoor couches and lounge chairs are a stylish and comfortable way to relax outdoors.

outdoor patio set
There are many options for outdoor seating

6. Build in plenty of storage/counter space. When cooking and grilling outside, storage becomes key for keeping your food and utensils within arm’s reach. Build counter-tops, cabinets and even install a small refrigerator for convenience.

7. Build levels into your deck. A great way to divide your deck space into separate sections for cooking and lounging is to create levels connected by small stairs. This creates not only an eye-catching layout, but adds the illusion of additional space.

8. Turn your deck into an outdoor cinema. A popular choice nowadays for many homeowners is installing a large television into a covered area (in case of rain or bad weather) on the deck.

9. Make space for sound. Installing a surround sound system is a great deck addition for throwing parties and entertaining people..

outdoor speaker in rock (looks like a rock)
Here’s one outdoor speaker option that blends in

10. Upgrade to a stationary grill. A regular grill is a great addition to any deck, yard, or porch, but to really impress the neighbors and cook top-notch food for large gatherings, consider designing your deck with a built-in grill from the start. Not only are they better at cooking than portable grills, they are often larger and can accommodate more food.

Call Handyman Matters today at 1-866-FIX-MY-HOME to schedule all of your outdoor projects or enter your zip code above to find a location near you!

A Guide to Outdoor Christmas Lights

christmas lights

There’s a trend these days towards using outdoor Christmas lights as decoration throughout the year in gardens, porches, patios and walkways. There’s a wealth of novelty lighting available these days that can be switched out to serve as entertainment lights in the summer and as holiday accents in December.

In fact, more and more often, the regular mixture of holiday lighting schemes are being utilized all year round. In many instances, it isn’t even necessary to change the colors to observe a particular season. It’s really just the traditional red-and-green light configuration that needs to be confined to end-of-year decorations.

seasonal-lightingBy the same token, any kind of fairy light or colored light can be used at Christmas time to provide that holiday “feel.” There’s no real need to take them down at the end of the season, particularly the battery-pack operated types, when they can provide year-round accents for your yard and garden. LED lights are also energy-efficient and usable twelve months of the year.

For variety, you can change the configurations, wrapping them around tree trunks, illuminating walkways, or even creating a starry canopy underneath a tree. This can make a lovely seating area for you and your guests to enjoy long summer evenings under the stars as well as “stars” of your own making.

Star Holiday Light

The only guidelines you need to keep in mind are for safety and convenience sake:

  • Ensure that all walkways and paths to and from your home are well lit – and your guests won’t want to converse in poorly-lit areas where they cannot see one another’s faces.
  • Buffet tables and other snacking and cooking areas need to be properly illuminated – so that guests can admire and appreciate your culinary efforts by sight, not just taste!

You can also have a lot of fun with outdoor lighting inside your house:

  • They can be wrapped around banisters or draped in strategic places where the effect can be appreciated without being overwhelming.
  • Bedrooms can be adorned with LED- or battery-operated strings, twinkling in children’s rooms all night long in pastel or fairy lights that add a cheery sparkle throughout the holiday season. These types of string of lights have become increasingly versatile and inexpensive in recent years. There’s a wide variety to select from—your local home and garden outlet can provide a wealth of ideas. You only need to be restricted by your own imagination!

Have you decorated your house with or yard with lights year-round? Share with us in the comments!

How To Clean Your Gutters Before Winter (6 Easy Steps)

Gutters

Having a lawn with a lot of trees is like having a dog with long hair: your house and lawn is destined to be covered with leaves.  Now that it’s mid-October, it is time to think about winterization and cleaning out your gutters before any heavy snowfall – my least favorite task.  It is best sometimes to just pull the band aid off quickly.  Don’t think, find something old and long sleeved, grab gloves, and let’s power through this.

What you will need

  • Long sleeved, work clothes
  • Plastic scoop
  • Heavy duty gloves
  • An extendable ladder
  • Trash backs
  • A hose

6 Simple Steps To Clean Gutters

  1.  Extend ladder and place it near the top of the downspout. If possible, buy a standoff stabilizer to attach to the top of your ladder.  This will make it so that you are balanced against the roof instead of on the gutter. Check out our recommended ladders and stabilizers for gutter cleaning.
  2. Fasten a trash bag to the ladder near the top, and begin scooping out leaves near the downspout and work backwards.
  3. After cleaning out the whole of the gutter, we will test for leaks and blockages using the host. Run the hose from the furthest point, towards the downspout. The stream of water will be a good indicator of what to do next.
  4. If the stream flows steadily towards the downspout but doesn’t drain, that means more attention is needed to clean out this funnel. Luckily, there is a hose attachment that can do this. Take the attachment and instead of running it top down, feed it in from the bottom and run water through it to try and clear the clog.  After a minute or so of this, try running the water from the top of the spout.  If it still doesn’t drain, repeat this step.
  5. If step three led to stagnant water in parts of your gutter, they may not be hung correctly. In order to drain, gutters need to decline at the rate of ¼’ per ever 10 ft towards the downspout.
  6. Finally, while preforming step three, keep an eye on leakage. Note the spots where you find a heavy drip.  If the leak is occurring at the seam of 2 gutter lengths, this is fairly easy to repair with gutter sealant along the crack.  Same goes for end cap leaks.  However, if the leak comes from a full on hole and not a crack the repair process will be more extensive.

Clean gutters are the first step to preparing your home for inclement weather.  Need help with the weatherization process? Give Handyman Matters a call at 866-FIX-MY-HOME.

Is Your Backyard Ready For Summer?

With summer—and barbeque season—close at hand, it’s time to conduct a backyard inspection to make sure that your home is ready for entertaining family and friends over the next several months.

How well did the lawn and flower beds come through the winter?  Are there brown or bare patches in the grass?  Have the shrubbery and other bushes become scraggly and overgrown?  Could the lawn furniture stand a good power-washing?

Often, just a little “sprucing-up” is required to have your backyard looking its best again, but it all begins by conducting a careful inventory, looking at everything through the eyes of a guest.  Prepare to make a few notes as you walk around the areas where you will be entertaining, and ask yourself four questions:

  1. What needs cleaning/trimming?  Is the grass overgrown?  Are the lawn cushions looking soiled or faded?  Are your windows streaked or muddied from a winter’s worth of storms?  Do you have trees and bushes that could use a good trimming?  Are the gutters clogged or overflowing?
  2. What needs repairing?   Stand in the middle of the yard and turn around slowly, taking in everything you see.  What could stand a fresh coat of paint or stain?  Are there boards dangling or missing from the fence?  Do your kids have a tree house or playground equipment that has seen better days?   Is the gate sagging or are the hinges loose?  Is it a struggle to open or close the sliding patio door?
  3. What needs replacing?  Is the bird feeder cracked or dangling by a frayed thread?  Are the vinyl straps on the patio furniture loose or broken?  Has the umbrella over the deck table seen its last season?  How old and how reliable is your grill?
  4. What presents potential hazards?  Most importantly, determine whether there’s anything around the yard or patio that could cause injury.  Are there loose flagstones in the garden, crumbling or loose bricks on the low patio wall?  Are there wobbly deck railings, or cracked boards on steps?  Are there dark corners, stumbling hazards, low-hanging beams or any other hazards where adding outdoor lighting could reduce the risk of injury?

Entertaining company on summer afternoons and evenings should be a laid-back, stress-free experience.  And, in truth, people are there to enjoy one another’s company.  Things don’t have to be perfect for everyone to have a good time.  But a little clean-up and repair ahead of time will go a long way towards enhancing your time with friends and family.

For assistance in sprucing up your home and yard for the summer months, you can always rely on the friendly and capable craftsmen at Handyman Matters to help out with any project, large or small.  Call 1(866)FIX-MY-HOME or go to www.handymanmatters.com where you can enter your zip code to find the number of the location nearest you.

Gardening For Beginners: Tips & Tricks For Novices

Are you a new homeowner, or a novice gardener, looking to change up your yard as the growing season gets underway?  Good for you!  And here are a few tips and things to remember to help you get started.

For starters, keep in mind that yards and gardens are like kids… they need frequent tending and supervision.  They are a commitment, not something you can get going and then leave to their own devices.

Begin by cleaning up the winter debris—removing leaves, pine needles and trimming away dead branches and bushes—from your property.  Now you’ll have a cleaner canvas from which to develop a plan.

Will you want to install a sprinkler system, or can you manage all of your watering needs via hose and the outdoor faucets?  Depending on the amount of sun your yard receives, as well as the amount of rainfall you might get, you could be watering as often as every couple of days or as infrequently as once every ten days or less.  But bottom line, it’s going to need water from one source or another.

Start Small

If this is your first year tending to a garden, ease yourself in slowly.  Whether you’re planting flowers or vegetables or a combination of both, vigilance is required.

Weeds somehow have a tendency to grow twice as fast as your plants.  Not only can a garden go from looking beautiful to looking ragged in a matter of days, the undesirable plants will begin to choke out the desirable ones.

Make a trip to your local garden center or nursery before you plant or even till the ground.  It’s well worth the time to consult with an expert who can advise you as to what plans will thrive in your area, as well as the type of soil you may have on your property, and what fertilizers and plant foods work best.

Don’t spend your money on things that look nice in magazine photos or in yards you’ve seen where the growing conditions might be very different than yours.  Learn the optimum time for planting, and which things can—and should—be started earlier in indoor pots in order to have a head start when you transplant them.

After you’ve spent a full season caring for a smaller section of yard or garden and you have a better understanding of the time and commitment level it will require to keep things looking beautiful, you can decide if you’d like to undertake a larger area next year.  You’ll find this is a better way to ease yourself into yard work and gardening, rather than becoming overwhelmed, stressed and frustrated by having bitten off more than you can chew.

And of course, the capable craftsmen at Handyman Matters are available to help with any and all aspects of giving your yard and garden the appearance you would like it to have—anything from tilling the ground, to putting up a fence, to pouring concrete for a new patio, and all tasks in between.  Call 1(866)FIX-MY-HOME to talk to the Handyman Matters location nearest you!

Planning Your Spring Gardening And Landscaping

It’s that time of year when cabin fever sets in, and we’re impatiently waiting the arrival of spring.  We start making plans for our yard and garden in anticipation of the warmer months. We consult home and garden magazines, watch HGTV programs, and just generally daydream about how spectacular our flowerbeds and walkways are going to look this season.

The tendency is to dream big or unrealistically when we see what other people have achieved.  It’s fine to go all out if that’s what you want, but you should be armed with all the best information before you start spending time and money on the plants and trees you thought looked prettiest in somebody else’s yard.

Here are questions to ask yourself before you actually start turning up the soil on your property.

How much time am I actually going to be able to devote to maintaining my garden once it’s in place?  Will weeds get out of hand, or plants wither, because I don’t have the time to keep up with the yard work?

Am I looking at plants native to where I live? How big will they grow?  How much rainfall can I expect, and what are the temperature ranges in my area?  What kind of plants can my soil support?

Perhaps the single most important determination to make is the primary function you desire from your yard.  Do you have kids who will be playing there a lot?  Do you like to barbecue or host a lot of events?  Do you view your yard as your “quiet space,” a spot for reading, reflection, or perhaps bird watching?  The answers to these will shape the kind of yard that works best for you.

Additional things to take into consideration before breaking ground or making any big purchases is to determine how much sunlight and/or wind your proposed garden area will receive.  Ditto for placing a new patio or barbecue pit.  If your proposed area for a patio will have your guests sitting in shade in late September, or in direct sun in mid July, it might be good to re-think those plans.

A good landscaper can help you make those kinds of decisions, and a friendly employee at your local nursery or home improvement store can guide you to informed choices for the plants that will thrive in your garden’s soil and surroundings.  And, of course, the qualified craftsmen at your local Handyman Matters office are happy to help you construct the deck, patio and yard of your dreams.  Call 1(866)FIX-MY-HOME or enter your zip code at www.handymanmatters.com to find the location nearest you.