Creating that Curb Appeal with a Front Door Make-over

My front door needed a make-over in a bad way!

I have lived at my home for 14 years and my front door was not high on my ever-elongating to-do list. Finally, I decided to tackle it and I love the results.

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My front door is solid wood, not plywood glued and stapled together, but 100% one piece of solid wood. It’s a little heavy, which is one reason I decided not to unhinge it to do all of this work. First, I started by removing the diamond-shaped frames from the outside and applying a paintable wood putty to the nail holes and any other dings and dents. Then I sanded the door. I had to do a lot of sanding! I started with 40 grit sandpaper and a handheld sander. Afterward, I moved to an 80 grit, then a 120 grit using a clean paint brush in between sanding in order to remove the wood dust.

After that was done (whew!) I used a damp sponge to help remove any remaining dust, then I let it dry.

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Taped off deadbolt and door knob. Filled and spackled hole from previous door knob.

I also had a 1-1/8″ hole in my door from an old door knob that had busted. In order to fill the hole that went all the way through my door, I had to cut a wood dowel rod down, glue it into the hole, and spackle and sand it smooth.

After the door was dry and dust-free, I taped off the dead bolt lock, the door knob, and the edge between the door and the door frame.

Properly repainting a door would mean removing the door from the hinges and removing all of the hardware.

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I taped over the hinges and the door  frame making sure not to be sloppy while painting.

Since I was doing this alone, I was not about to do all that extra work. I was very diligent in placing the tape and while painting.

 

I used three coats of an exterior paint so that the door will hold up to the weather better, letting the coats dry before applying another.

I spaced this project out over two days. Applying the spackle/putty and sanding was done on the first day. All of the taping and painting was done on the second day. All together, this project took about 9 hours. The sanding was the most labor-intensive and time consuming part.

After finishing all of the painting and doing any additional touch-ups, my door was finished! 20170625_164646

My husband and I added a new screen door as well. It looks so much better. 20170701_182230

Now all I have to do is the concrete steps leading to our front door, a new light fixture, new address numbers, etc., etc. and the curb appeal will be all set! Ah, dreams…….

Let me know if you’ve done a project like this recently or if you’ve been inspired by mine! Thanks for reading. ~ April

 

Sage

When I think of sage, I automatically think of Thanksgiving dinner. There’s always cornbread dressing with sage, sausage, and apples at my house; my turkey is rubbed inside and out with sage; I also burn it as incense frequently in the fall, so just the smell of sage reminds me of harvest time, pumpkin carving, Halloween, and the upcoming winter.

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Sage growing in my garden during the fall.

Funny thing is, sage grows all season long in my area. It’s one of the first herbs that I can harvest and one of the last. I just cut some today and it’s still going strong. We’ve had two overnight frosts so far this year and it hasn’t hurt it one bit as evidenced in the photo with the maple leaves that have already turned and fallen onto the ground this October.

Drying sage is so easy too. I wash it after I harvest it, rubber band a bunch together then hang it upside-down from a push pin. About 7-10 days later, I can seal it up in a container to use whole, grind it in my mortar and pestle, or simply rub the leaves between my hands to make rubbed sage. Organic ground sage and organic rubbed sage runs about $4-6 for an ounce to two ounces. Add the fact that sage is a perennial in zone 5 (where I live) I bought a few live plants for under $10. Talk about cost-savings! Theses plants will last me forever given that I pay some attention to their water needs and that I’ve planted them in the a spot they’ll prosper.

Speaking of which…sage loves sunny to mostly-sunny areas in your yard. It tolerates some drought as it prefers well-drained soil, but you can’t let it get too dry. I’ve planted it next to my rosemary that requires similar conditions and they’ve done great together. Sage is an offshoot of the mint family, so it’s pretty sturdy (even if your son accidentally runs through it in the garden or your cats decide to lie down on it), but it doesn’t have the “take over the garden” aspect that mint does.

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Sage drying in my kitchen.

Sage spreads through its root system, so when I planted it, I gave it about one foot in either direction to grow out. Once your sage gets a little too crowded, it easily sets foot in another area by simply dividing it and replanting. I recommend resting the sage plant you’ve divided off and replanted for a season before you harvest it. This will allow the root system to establish itself, store energy for a winter, and then have plenty of energy stored for the following season producing a wonderful new sage plant. Also, I would recommend not dividing a plant that is less than three years-old.

I harvest only the leaves for consumption, but everything on this plant is edible. When I do harvest the plant for other purposes, I leave as much root in the ground to regrow and I use the woody stems for incense once they’ve dried thoroughly (takes about one month). However, you can harvest the whole plants, roots and all, dry it and use for various purposes like teas, tinctures, and salves.

Historically, sage has been  used medicinally in a tea for relief from diarrhea, indigestion, and anxiety. More holistic traditions have used sage for menstruation maladies like cramps, irregular periods, and to help the symptoms of menopause. That being said it is advised by most holistic practitioners not to consume large amounts of sage during pregnancy because it contains estrogen. Always seek a medical professional (CMA disclosure).

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Grounding sage in a mortar and pestle.

Sage is a great herb to grow in the garden for teas, incense, medicinal purposes or simply to dry and hang due to its wonderful fragrance when dried. I can’t tell you how much I love this smell. Once you’re familiar with it, you’ll want to savor the scent and you’ll never forget it.

Many artsy-craftsy people make sage wreaths similar to those cinnamon wreaths you find in stores at Christmas just because the smell is so wonderful. I recommend growing it in your kitchen herb garden along with your other favorite go-to herbs, even if you’re like me and tend to use it only in the fall. Trust me, you’ll have amassed enough of a quantity by then to last you well after the holidays.

 

Native Perennial Series: Chamomile

Chamomile is a lovely plant for a garden. It has a soft vanilla fragrance, interesting leather-like leaves, and adds a nice, bright element to the colors of the garden with its small white and yellow daisy-like flowers.

Chamomile, that is native to the United States, is also known as Pineapple Weed or Wild Chamomile. Its Latin name is matricaria discoidea. It has been used for centuries by Egyptians, Romans, and Anglo-Saxons in a tea, tincture, or salve to cure stomach aches, skin irritations, menstrual cramps, and many other ailments. Sometimes this plant is confused with Feverfew  (tanacetum parthenium) as the flowers look similar and they both help thwart headaches.

chamomile_peter-rabbitChamomile’s medicinal qualities and its hardy nature also appear in many historical works of literature. Peter Rabbit’s mother gives him chamomile tea to cure his belly ache after he’s eaten too much food in Mr. McGregor’s garden as written in Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Peter Rabbit.

In Shakepeare’s King Henry IV (part one, act 2, scene 4) Prince Henry is told:

For though the chamomile, the more it is trodden on, the faster it grows, yet youth, the more it is wasted, the sooner it wears.

Good to note that chamomile is an excellent plant to place along the edge of pathways due to its durability. Stepping upon it will release its soft vanilla fragrance with every footfall.

Chamomile easily propagates by seed.

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Chamomile grown in my very own garden!

Once planted and left to go to seed, those seeds will germinate in the earth and pop up the next spring. Plant chamomile where it is warm and sunny as it prefers sunny areas and well-drained soil.

To save chamomile for drying in use for tinctures, salves, and teas, it is best to clip the flowers the day they open up all the way. They dry easily in brown paper bags and this is the best way to preserve the plant. Add with other herbs in teas, enjoy it by itself, or add it to potpourri for a pleasant smell in the bedroom, kitchen, laundry, or bath.

Chamomile’s vanilla-like scent and unique look will add years of enjoyment in a native perennial garden. Enjoy its beauty while you sip on some calming, chamomile tea!

Read more of my native perennial series here. Thanks for visiting!

Image sources:  Peter Rabbit photo is from http://www.luponde.co.uk/wp/?p=150; header photo is from https://pixabay.com/en/matricaria-discoidea-pineappleweed-846635/; insert photo credit April McLeish

Native Perennial Series: Bee Balm

Bee Balm (or bergamot) is a native perennial to most of the United States and it grows very well in my area of Northwest Indiana.

It is an unusual-looking flower that has an unusual, but pleasant, scent like oranges. Bees and other natural pollinators love beebalm! This plant flowers in early summer and lasts for weeks. When the day is at its sunniest, the warmth helps exude this beautiful flower’s fragrance. A person can just walk by it and smell this sweet scent.

Traditionally, Native Americans used beebalm in a tea to help alleviate the symptoms of colds and sore throats. They then introduced this plant to the early settlers who also found it very helpful medicinally.

Whether this plant is used medicinally or simply for ornamentation, it brings a unique architectural element to anyone’s garden. It will propagate by self-seeding, unless it is dead-headed before seeds form. Bee balm grows about three feet tall and its flowers are edible! Throw them in a salad for a nice, citrus flavor.

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Beautiful blooming bee balm (say that five times fast)

Bee balm comes in different colors, as well. The ones I grow in my garden are a deep pink color (see my photos), but there are also white, purple, and scarlet bee balm varieties (click on the links to see photos).

Sometimes this plant is referenced as bergamot, oswego, wild monarda, or horsemint. Search these names as well in order to find plants or seeds to add to the garden.

Bee balm flower heads dry very nicely preserving its color and scent. This makes bee balm a very popular addition to potpourri. It’s also wonderful in aiding to scent homemade bath salts.

Gardeners won’t be disappointed with this plant. It attracts beneficial pollinators and beautiful butterflies. Since it’s a native perennial, hardly any extra care is needed as it’s disease resistant. The smell of this flower is wonderful, it cuts and dries well, it is easy to take care of, and its benefits include medicinal properties and support for the area’s pollinators.

If you’re interested in other native perennials, check out the rest of my Native Perennial Series on my Garden page. More is added all of the time. Please feel free to comment and share. Let me know if you would like me to showcase one of your favorite native perennials. Send a photo, if you have one, for me to use on my blog! ~ April

 

 

Purple Coneflower (echinacea): Beautiful and Beneficial

Purple coneflower (echinacea) is one of the easiest native perennials to grow in the midwest United States. I live in northwest Indiana and these plants have propagated like crazy. Not only is it beautiful, but it benefits our health and our environment. If you’re looking for a great starter plant to beautify your yard and benefit the local bee or butterfly population, start growing purple coneflower (echinacea).

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A ladybug rests on a purple coneflower.

 

 

Purple coneflower is a native plant to the United States, which means it was not brought here from another location. It has been on this continent for centuries. It has adapted to the soil, rainfall amounts, pests, and diseases that could make it impossible for another type of plant to survive without a large amount of expensive, chemical care. Since it is a native plant, no fertilizer or pesticide is needed to have these beautiful plants flower and propagate.

Purple coneflower is a native species. They will attract the natural pollinators of the area. Some of the beneficial insects that frequent these flowers are ladybugs, bees, and butterflies. Goldfinches will benefit as well and be a daily visitor to your yard simply by allowing purple coneflower to go to seed in the late summer. Look at the ingredients list in any store-bought goldfinch bird seed and you will see this as the ingredient. Save yourself money and grow your own! Even purple finches have stopped by my home for a visit.

 

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Purple coneflower that has gone to seed along with a grasshopper photo-op.

If you harvest the roots of echinacea, as it’s known medicinally, you can use it as an immune-booster. Again, look at the ingredients lists of some of the  homeopathic cold and flu remedies and it will be on that list. Native Americans and early settlers used the dried roots as a tea for fighting off illnesses. It has antiviral, antifungal, antibacterial, and antiallergenic properties (source:  All About Herbs).

 

Purple coneflower grows approximately two to three feet tall, depending on its age, and prefers sunny areas although it will grow well in partial shade. It has a daisy-like flower and comes in many different colors. The main types of coneflower are echinacea angustifolia, echinacea pallida (these are the best grown for medicinal purposes) and echinacea purpurea.

If you’re looking for a carefree flower to add a cottage element to your yard, or simply want to attract beneficial pollinators like butterflies and bees, plant purple coneflower (echinacea). It will be attractive and help support the natural wildlife in your area.

 

Plant Native Perennials – Save Bees

Commercial pesticides are killing thousands of bees everyday. We need the bees to pollinate our plants. Without pollinators, our grasses, grains, trees, shrubs, flowers (really any vegetation) can’t grow. Pollination is the only way that the fertilization process begins in order for seeds to develop. Without seeds, we have no plants.

We need to bring back the natural pollinators. Two things need to occur in order for this to happen:

  1. We need to stop using the commercial pesticides that kill them.
  2. We have to regrow the pollinator population.

We aren’t going to turn the tide of big agriculture in a blink of an eye. One thing the average consumer can do is to buy organic, thus eventually eliminating the use of pesticides. Another very important act the average person can do is to grow native perennials from your surrounding area. Growing even one plant will make a sudden impact. Growing native perennials will give the natural pollinators a place to strive during the spring and summer months, as well as, a place to lay eggs and hibernate in the fall and winter months.

In my area in northwest Indiana, I grow purple coneflower (echinacea). I’ve seen many

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photo credit April McLeish

species of butterflies, bees, flies, moths, caterpillars, and beetles swarming around these plants. I also don’t deadhead the flowers, because the goldfinches love the seeds. They come back every year and I get to watch them from my kitchen window. We’ve even had purple finches visit a few times over the years. Also, purple coneflower will self-seed and grow new plants all on their own.

I encourage you to find your area’s local native perennials by contacting the local agriculture extension office (this is the one for my area), or do a quick search on the internet. Perennials are naturally more disease-resistant and drought resistant because they are adapted to the environment already. Not only will your flower garden be absolutely beautiful, but you will be helping to save the bees!