Home Hints & Tips

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DIY “man cave” tips for the perfect home escape

<p><em>Building a private space in your home where you can get away and relax is the perfect DIY project. Kennards Hire equipment specialist ‘Benny from The Block’ shares his tips to help get your man cave up and running.</em></p> <p>“Man cave” might conjure up a vision of Pirelli calendars and poker nights, and you’re partly right. But today’s man cave can be a music room, TV room, party room, or workshop. The important thing is that it's a private space where you can get away from the routines of domestic life.</p> <p>One person that knows the benefits of some quality ‘me time’ is <em>The Block’s</em> equipment specialist, Benny. Besides working all hours keeping contestants supplied with quality equipment, he’s also a busy dad to a 3-year-old. Building a private space in your home where you can get away and relax is the perfect DIY project, and Benny’s happy to share his tips to help get your man cave up and running.</p> <p><strong>Budget friendly</strong></p> <p>“Building a man cave from scratch is a big task but converting a garage to a man cave is a way to make the job budget-friendly, and well within the skillset of the average DIYer,” said Benny.</p> <p><strong>Back to basics</strong></p> <p>First you need to work out how big of a space you’re working with. Measure up, get some graph paper and work out how you might use it.</p> <p>Then decide all the fittings. How many power points and lights are needed? Will you need heating or cooling? Will your man cave have a sound system, bar fridge or computer? These are all important questions to ask yourself when getting started.</p> <p>“After deciding on your budget and how you will use the space, it's time to de-clutter and give the garage a good vacuum to create a blank canvas. An <a href="https://email.directgroup.com.au/owa/redir.aspx?C=ulyvlZG98NNcNzH7AG52u2087iAAWXJ5KXOcQLR76o6ECYvF0FfYCA..&amp;URL=https%3a%2f%2fwww.kennards.com.au%2fvacuum-cleaner-industrial.html%3ftrackParams%3d2467-1-4-99.33">industrial vacuum cleaner from Kennards Hire</a> makes this easy," said Benny.</p> <p><strong>Fixing the floor</strong></p> <p>A concrete slab is a ready-made and durable floor, which saves you money on putting down a new one. Benny suggests a <a href="https://email.directgroup.com.au/owa/redir.aspx?C=2H9Aub9kukGYFu4c09CES5tpNtzL7y9kw4XLI-eAThSECYvF0FfYCA..&amp;URL=https%3a%2f%2fwww.kennards.com.au%2fconcrete%2fsurface-preparation%2fconcrete-renovator1.html">concrete renovator</a> to remove paint, epoxies, resins, grout and adhesives, then take a high speed <a href="https://email.directgroup.com.au/owa/redir.aspx?C=PhhWYzygov2a4m7kJcpgOIffRKKXCkBdWFuUMvzJHTiECYvF0FfYCA..&amp;URL=https%3a%2f%2fwww.kennards.com.au%2fconcrete%2fsurface-preparation%2fburnisher-400mm.html">concrete burnisher</a> to buff the surface to a fine, smooth finish.</p> <p>The final step is to apply a high gloss epoxy floor coating such as <a href="https://email.directgroup.com.au/owa/redir.aspx?C=LFktHd_U2JUVVoRBck3geb1EK6hQgHa6JB4rrW14pMOECYvF0FfYCA..&amp;URL=https%3a%2f%2fwww.kennards.com.au%2ffloor-sealer-epimax-pro-333wb-xp-clr-20l.html%3ftrackParams%3d5670-1-1-100">Epimax Pro</a>, a water-based concrete sealant that’s easy for any DIYer to apply and clean up.<strong> </strong></p> <p><strong>Insulating for year-round use (and soundproofing!)</strong></p> <p>Next is temperature control. Is your garage insulated? Good insulation will make your man cave more comfortable, all year round, and helps reduce heating and cooling costs. Insulation will also reduce noise transfer to give you some peace and quiet.</p> <p><strong>Interior lining</strong></p> <p>If your garage is brick, you might want to line the interior walls to lighten up the space. Plasterboard is reasonably easy to install with two people, and it’s forgiving if you make mistakes. But it can also be a slow and messy job if you’re doing it by hand and hiring a <a href="https://email.directgroup.com.au/owa/redir.aspx?C=SnJeBJZCu8QJX0ANcktuLeAFpcRHrHt-pntseAO9B5aECYvF0FfYCA..&amp;URL=https%3a%2f%2fwww.kennards.com.au%2fsander-plasterboard-includes-vacuum.html%3ftrackParams%3d4130-1-1-94.15">plasterboard sander with vacuum</a> from Kennards Hire can reduce the time and mess.</p> <p><strong>Finishing touches</strong></p> <p>“Paint is a cheap and easy way to achieve the look you want for your man cave - whether you're going for a bright and airy studio or a bar after dark vibe. If you have a large area to cover or you just want to speed up the job, an <a href="https://email.directgroup.com.au/owa/redir.aspx?C=UOOoCIM86WWYC_i760FbW4YcKsk0o6Plv35kl6IIAPGECYvF0FfYCA..&amp;URL=https%3a%2f%2fwww.kennards.com.au%2fsprayer-airless-large.html%3ftrackParams%3d3382-1-3-99.37">airless sprayer</a> can speed things up,” said Benny.</p> <p>“Finish off by furnishing the space. A pool table, a bar, surround sound TV, bookshelves, a piano, a potter’s wheel … the only limit is your imagination and your budget.”</p>

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Block-busting DIY tips from The Block’s Benny and Dave

<p>For the seventh consecutive year, Kennards Hire is again the official hire company supplier of Channel Nine’s longest-running reality TV series, <em>The Block</em>. </p> <p>Now in its 16th season, five teams are busily transforming five family homes from five decades in the Melbourne bayside suburb of Brighton.</p> <p>As returning equipment hire sponsor, Kennards Hire introduced the five highly competitive couples to their new Kennards Hire man-on-the-ground, Ben McTaggart – affectionately known as “Benny from The Block”. And now, along with landscape specialist Dave Franklin, we can reveal the pair’s favourite backyard and frontyard DIY tips:</p> <ol> <li><strong> Timber deck restoration reminders</strong></li> </ol> <p>“When getting started on your restoration you need to first clean down the deck and assess any damage. Make sure all the nails are punched firmly down before firing up the <span><a href="https://www.kennards.com.au/floor-sander.html">floor</a></span> sander to even out any chips or marks in the timber. Depending on how much work is needed, an <span><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.kennards.com.au/sander-orbital.html?trackParams=2441-1-1-100.00" target="_blank">orbital</a></span> sander is another useful option. Then it’s time to grab your preferred oil or stain and seal everything in to get your deck looking good as new.”</p> <ol start="2"> <li><strong> Outdoor ambience </strong></li> </ol> <p>“A sunken area with a fire pit, some cushion seating, candles and a hanging chair are great, simple ways to set the mood in an outdoor space. But the key to creating the perfect ambience in a backyard of any size is outdoor lighting, establishing a beautiful atmosphere that you can enjoy well into the night.”</p> <ol start="3"> <li><strong> Home pool excavating </strong></li> </ol> <p>“Pool excavating isn’t just for professionals, and with the right equipment is a fun job for DIYers looking to tackle a larger project. Before getting started you will need a permit, however once sorted use a <span><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.kennards.com.au/turf-cutter.html?trackParams=96474-1-1-100.00" target="_blank">turf cutter</a></span> to take up the turf and mark out the area of the pool. Make sure you check for any electrical or gas lines, before hopping on the <span><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.kennards.com.au/excavator-mini-1-8t1.html?trackParams=75-1-29-100" target="_blank">excavator</a></span> or bob cat to get digging.”</p> <ol start="4"> <li><strong> Equipment needed for a retaining wall</strong></li> </ol> <p>“To understand what you’re dealing with and the right equipment needed, first work out whether it’s going to be a sleeper or masonry wall. You will then need a <span><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MkJiAkSPCVU&amp;feature=youtu.be" target="_blank">laser level</a></span> to establish the height, plus an excavator and <span><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.kennards.com.au/plate-compactor-60kg.html?trackParams=676-2-5-100" target="_blank">compacting plate</a></span>. But every job is different and it’s best you consult a Kennards Hire team member who can give you the right advice for the job.”</p> <ol start="5"> <li><strong> Finishing touches</strong></li> </ol> <p>“If you have any old pots laying about the backyard, you can wash them up and breath in new life with a fresh coat of paint. Finish off by spreading mulch around the garden and planting some natives. It’s a simple way to revitalise your outdoor space.”</p>

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Mum’s miracle hack for restoring ruined chopping boards

<p>An online Melbourne mum and avid Tik Tok user by the name of <a rel="noopener" href="https://www.tiktok.com/@mama_mila_/video/6862601561869241606" target="_blank">Mama Mila</a> has wowed fans with her amazing hack to bring scratched wooden chopping boards back to life – and it’s so easy you can get it done in just minutes.</p> <p>“This hack is so quick and it's completely chemical-free,” writes Mila. “Just cut a lemon in half and rub the entire board with the juice. Once you've rubbed the board with lemon juice, sprinkle coarse sea salt and rub that in with a cloth.”</p> <p>Leave it for a few moments, and then rinse the board and leave it to dry.</p> <p>“Finally, rub it with mineral oil as this prevents it from absorbing moisture and cracking over time.”  </p> <p><strong>METHOD</strong></p> <ol> <li>Cut a lemon in half and rub the lemon juice into your wooden chopping board.</li> <li>Sprinkle coarse sea salt and rub it in with a microfibre cloth.</li> <li>Leave for a few moments, then rinse the board and leave it to dry.</li> <li>Rub is with a mineral oil to prevent it from absorbing moisture and cracking over time.</li> </ol> <p>Thousands who viewed the quick and easy hack were blown away by just how simple and effective it is, writing “OMG” and “this is fantastic”.</p> <p>“I need this,” another wrote, “my board just cracked.”</p> <p>Others said they would definitely try it for themselves.</p> <p><strong>IMAGES:</strong> Tik Tok / <a rel="noopener" href="https://www.tiktok.com/@mama_mila_/video/6862601561869241606" target="_blank">Mama Mila</a></p>

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DIY gorgeous hanging decoration for less than $50

<p>An enterprising Aussie woman has shared how she made a gorgeous wall decoration for under $50 using supplies from Bunnings and Spotlight.</p> <p>When she discovered that designs similar to the one she wanted to make retailed for upwards of $180, <a href="https://www.instagram.com/p/CDF8HloA2dk/">Keira Rumble</a>, owner of Krumbled Foods, decided to make have a go at making and hanging the decorations herself.</p> <blockquote style="background: #FFF; border: 0; border-radius: 3px; box-shadow: 0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width: 540px; min-width: 326px; padding: 0; width: calc(100% - 2px);" class="instagram-media" data-instgrm-captioned="" data-instgrm-permalink="https://www.instagram.com/p/CDF8HloA2dk/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" data-instgrm-version="12"> <div style="padding: 16px;"> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; align-items: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 40px; margin-right: 14px; width: 40px;"></div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 100px;"></div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 60px;"></div> </div> </div> <div style="padding: 19% 0;"></div> <div style="display: block; height: 50px; margin: 0 auto 12px; width: 50px;"></div> <div style="padding-top: 8px;"> <div style="color: #3897f0; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: 550; line-height: 18px;">View this post on Instagram</div> </div> <p style="margin: 8px 0 0 0; padding: 0 4px;"><a style="color: #000; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; line-height: 17px; text-decoration: none; word-wrap: break-word;" rel="noopener" href="https://www.instagram.com/p/CDF8HloA2dk/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" target="_blank">So turns out I’ve become a DIY’er in 2020 and I’m not mad about it 🤣💁🏼‍♀️ After I built this bedhead, I decided that I needed something to hang above it. I kept on seeing similar wall hangings going for a cool $180+ each. These hangings cost me $9-11 each, they were so easy to make (check out my story highlights under DIY) and I did them while kicking back and watching Schitts Creek on Netflix. Better yet, all you need is 3 things, raffia + little 3m hooks both found at @bunnings and craft rings. Paid Partnership @bunnings #DIYJULY #diy #pinterest #raffiadiy #homedecor #homediydecor</a></p> <p style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 17px; margin-bottom: 0; margin-top: 8px; overflow: hidden; padding: 8px 0 7px; text-align: center; text-overflow: ellipsis; white-space: nowrap;">A post shared by <a style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; line-height: 17px;" rel="noopener" href="https://www.instagram.com/krumble/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" target="_blank"> Keira Rumble</a> (@krumble) on Jul 25, 2020 at 10:01pm PDT</p> </div> </blockquote> <p>She made a trio of circular wall hangings using only three materials that cost a total of $47.40 and shared the DIY process with her 404,000 Instagram followers.</p> <p>Rumble used Grunt Craft Raffia Rope, Command Medium Clear Adhesive Wall Hooks from Bunnings and bought three craft rings from Spotlight. </p> <p>Not only did she save money by making the decoration herself, she also enjoyed the creative design process.</p> <p>But while the craft project was simple to make, Keira said the method was repetitive and time consuming complete.</p> <p>'This makes it an easy project to multitask and do while watching television (I created mine whilst watching Schitts Creek on Netflix) or alternatively it's a great way to relax and unwind after a long day,' she wrote on Instagram.</p> <p><em><strong>How to make a wall decoration like Rumble’s:</strong></em></p> <p><strong>Materials:</strong></p> <p>4 x <a href="https://www.bunnings.com.au/grunt-100m-craft-raffia-rope_p4310756">Grunt 100m Craft Raffia Rope </a></p> <p>2 x <a href="https://www.bunnings.com.au/command-medium-clear-adhesive-wall-hooks-2-pack_p3950277">Command Medium Clear Adhesive Wall Hooks </a></p> <p>3 x craft rings from Spotlight</p> <p><strong> </strong><strong>Method: </strong></p> <p><strong>Step 1: </strong>Research to get your DIY inspiration on Pinterest and Bunnings.com.au</p> <p><strong>Step 2: </strong>Start by measuring out your desired length for the raffia and cut into equal lengths. For a more organic look, each length of raffia doesn't need to be exact</p> <p>Note to create a three-ring wall hanging like this, you'll need approximately four packets of 100m raffia rope</p> <p><strong>Step 3:</strong> Fold a piece of raffia in half and thread it through itself to attach to the ring. Continue repeating this until you've filled your ring. Remember to regularly bunch pieces of raffia you've threaded together tightly to create overlap - this will ensure your wall hanging is full and has enough volume</p> <p><strong>Step 4:</strong> To complete your wall hanging, trim the ends of the raffia (if required) to create a more even circular shape and hang on your chosen wall with a hook! </p> <p>She then stuck the adhesive wall hooks to the wall and placed the gorgeous decorations above her bed.</p> <p>The social media post swiftly received more than 12,000 'likes' from Keira's followers who were more than impressed with the result and some were inspired to make the design themselves. </p> <p><em>Images: <a href="https://www.instagram.com/p/CDF8HloA2dk/">Keira Rumble</a> / Instagram</em></p>

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Woman rescues $3000 couch using a $3 ALDI find

<p>A woman has revealed how she made an incredible “$2549 saving” using a $3 product from ALDI.</p> <p>Alex Oates, from Melbourne, purchased an expensive second-hand couch online for $450, but when she went to pick it up she discovered it was in a “much worse state than the pictures showed”.</p> <p>Originally costing $2999 from Freedom Furniture, Alex was adamant that she could return it back to its original condition.</p> <p>“I probably searched Facebook Marketplace for two months until I found the couch I wanted,” the 30-year-old mum told news.com.au.</p> <p>“But when I picked it up it had heaps of stains that you couldn’t see in the photos. There were spot stains, pen scribbles and rub marks from their dog. It looked terrible.”</p> <p><img style="width: 382.53968253968253px; height: 500px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7837301/screen-shot-2020-08-11-at-121757-pm.png" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/c9c62c6797d14681b84d09fc6533f5c2" /></p> <p>Luckily for Alex, she previously invested in a Bissel machine - a popular upholstery cleaner - and decided to use Di San, a $3 stain remover from ALDI, to deep clean the couch.</p> <p>“I couldn’t guarantee it was going to work but it was worth a shot for a couple of hours of my time and a $2500 saving off buying it brand new,” she said.</p> <p>“I sprayed the spot stains with the Di San and let them sit while I removed the cushion covers and sprayed them before running them through the washing machine,” she explained.</p> <p>“I then got the Bissell machine and put the Di San solution into the tank and filled with water and cleaned the couch.”</p> <p>After two hours of hard work, Alex managed to remove all the stains except one, which was located at the bottom of the couch. </p> <p>“We are 100% happy with the results, hubby was very weary about it when I first said we would go second-hand but he’s now very happy with the couch.”</p> <p>The post quickly gained people’s attention, with many praising Alex for restoring the piece of furniture rather than buying it brand new. </p> <p>“OMG I love hearing stuff like this. Well done. You give me hope as I’m currently looking for a new couch myself and probably the same budget as well,” one woman wrote.</p> <p>“Looks fabulous … great score,” another said.</p> <p>“You did a great job, well done,” some added.</p>

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Eagle-eyed shopper reveals secret meaning behind code on ALDI packaging

<div class="post_body_wrapper"> <div class="post_body"> <div class="body_text "> <p>An eagle-eyed ALDI shopper has found a little known fact on the back of several supermarket goods.</p> <p>She shared the findings on the popular Facebook group ALDI Mums and pointed out an easy-to-miss code on the back of ALDI's seafood products that provides information about which country and region the fish originated from. </p> <p>Australian products are required to have location details on the packs, but the extra known detail allows customers to source even more information.</p> <p>All you have to do is flip your ALDI seafood item over and locate a number and use the digits to look up the information.</p> <p>“I know seafood gets a bad call out,” the shopper posted to the group.</p> <p>“I just wanted to share something with you all that I learnt and hopefully it will solve all the ‘do you know where your fish comes from’ dramas.”</p> <p>She went on to explain that each box has a “code” for the fish area/catchment area it is caught.</p> <p>“You can then look it up to know which areas your fish has come from and what practices they use.”</p> <p>The shopper shared an image of her seafood buy, sharing the code "FAO 81", which reveals the catchment covers a significant part of the Southwest Pacific.</p> <p>“Hope this helps everyone in the future,” she wrote.</p> <p>Many of the Facebook members thanked the woman for sharing her handy tip.</p> <p>“That’s great info! Thanks for sharing,” one person wrote.</p> <p>“This is so helpful, thank you,” said another.</p> <p>“Very useful information thanks for sharing,” a third commented, while a woman added, “Very interesting. I looked it up on Google. Great how it shows the world areas.”</p> <p>The original poster explained that she understands that the German supermarket chain is making "great progress to be sustainable, responsible and accountable".</p> <p>“Personally, I don’t buy non-Australian and was pleasantly surprised to see this info.”</p> </div> </div> </div>

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Tip of the lid: savvy Kmart fan shares thrifty $7 hack

<p><span>If you have saucepan lids lying around your kitchen and nowhere to store them, then keep reading.</span></p> <p><span>It turns out file racks aren’t just for sorting all the documents in your home office – they’re quite handy in the kitchen too.</span></p> <p><span>One savvy homeowner has shared her hack for storing saucepan lids using an inexpensive file rack from Kmart.</span></p> <p><span>“For anyone else who’s short on storage in their kitchen (this is underneath an island bench) we’ve used this metal file rack to store our saucepan lids,” Rosie Francis shared on Facebook.</span></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><span><img style="width: 368.9700130378096px; height: 500px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7836762/screen-shot-2020-07-01-at-11414-pm.png" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/70aa82d32702457abff5d4362c2fae8d" /></span></p> <p><span>She then shared a photo showing her lids neatly organised according to size.</span></p> <p><span>It didn’t take long for other Kmart fans to reveal how they make use of the file rack, helping them organise everything from trays to chopping boards.</span></p> <p><span>“I have my baking trays and slice tins in one,” said one user.</span></p> <p><span>“I use them for baking trays and chopping boards,” another added.</span></p> <p><span>“Great idea. I hate my lids pile in the cupboard,” said another.</span></p> <p><span>And what’s even better, is that it only costs $7.</span></p>

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Woman’s amazingly helpful discovery during home renovation

<p>A Queensland woman has made an unexpected discovery on the wall of her home during a renovation.</p> <p>The woman was peeling off the wallpaper in her room when she found a scrawled note dating back to over 22 years ago, which detailed a tip from the previous owner.</p> <p>“If you ever need to wallpaper this room again, it will take 8 rolls of wallpaper,” the note read.</p> <p>“I bought just six rolls at $17 per roll [on December 5, 1997] and didn’t have enough. It really pissed me off.”</p> <p>The message was signed off by Jon on December 21, 1997.</p> <p><img style="width: 500px; height: 281.25px; display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7836514/wallpaper2.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/af4b27211df04024a6ee9d214c362dd7" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>Source: Facebook/ Bunnings Mums Australia</em></p> <p>The woman shared a snap of the finding on the Bunnings Mums Facebook page with the caption: “Only a DIY mum would be this helpful.”</p> <p>People flocked to comment the post, praising the former owner as “thoughtful” and “brilliant”.</p> <p>“Thanks for the tip Jon. I hope you’ve finally gotten over it. I’m sure it’s a story that’s still told,” one wrote.</p> <p>“There needs to be more people like Jon in the world,” another commented.</p> <p>One asked whether the advice would be suitable to the conditions today: “But what if wallpaper now comes in different standard widths or lengths?”</p>

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“Works awesome!”: New cleaning hack will get rid of tough shower stains

<p>A new shower cleaning hack has gone viral, much to the delight of people who clean around the world.</p> <p>The new trick sees people using a magic sponge with a dishwasher tablet inside the sponge which helps remove tough stains.</p> <p>One mum shared her impressive results with the popular Facebook group<span> </span><em>Mums Who Clean</em>.</p> <p>“My husband is a mechanic, so our shower cops a lot from all his hand washes to get the grease off,” Lauren said.</p> <p>“I tried the magic sponge and dishwasher tablet. Five minutes and not much effort!”</p> <p>She revealed her technique, explaining that she lets the magic sponge get very wet before removing part of the sponge and inserting the dishwasher tablet into the sponge.</p> <p>Lauren explained that she removed the “power ball” part of the dishwasher tablet.</p> <p><img style="width: 0px; height:0px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7836176/body-shower.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/c465a27f9a174cbaa03c3359a3a28a69" /></p> <p>Other group members excitedly revealed that they had tried the hack with exciting results.</p> <p>“I did the same thing tonight! Amazing results here too!” said one.</p> <p>Added another: “Works awesome! Did mine today with the same trick, it’s never been this clean before!”</p> <p>Wrote a third: “I gave it a go and worked a dream. Didn’t even have to scrub hard.”</p> <p>Said one more: “I used this as well on shower I had scrubbed with everything. Worked like a charm.”</p> <p><em>Photo credits:<span> </span><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.facebook.com/groups/mumswhoclean/" target="_blank">Facebook / Mums Who Clean</a></em></p>

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The science is in: Gardening is good for you

<p>“That’s all very well put,” says Candide, in the final line of Voltaire’s novel of the same name, “but we must go and work our garden.”</p> <p>I studied this text at high school before I became a gardener and professional horticulturist. We were taught that Candide’s gardening imperative was metaphorical not literal; a command for finding an authentic vocation, not a call to take up trowels and secateurs.</p> <p>In fact, Voltaire himself really believed that active gardening was a great way to stay sane, healthy and free from stress. That was 300 years ago.</p> <p>As it turns out, the science suggests he was right.</p> <p><strong>The science of therapeutic horticulture</strong></p> <p>Gardens and landscapes have long been designed as sanctuaries and retreats from the stresses of life – from great urban green spaces such as Central Park in New York to the humblest suburban backyard. But beyond the passive enjoyment of a garden or of being in nature more generally, researchers have also studied the role of actively caring for plants as a therapeutic and educational tool.</p> <p>“Therapeutic horticulture” and “horticultural therapy” have become recognised treatments for stress and depression, which have served as a healing aid in settings ranging from prisons and mental health treatment facilities to schools and hospitals.</p> <p><strong>Gardening and school</strong></p> <p>Studies of school gardening programs – which usually centre on growing food – show that students who have worked on designing, creating and maintaining gardens develop more positive attitudes about health, nutrition and the <a href="http://www.kohalacenter.org/HISGN/pdf/HPP_2011_MMR_Sample1.pdf">consumption</a> of <a href="http://search.proquest.com/openview/61a8bb123ec000d6a6348aeb950645fa/1?pq-origsite=gscholar">vegetables</a>.</p> <p>They also <a href="http://horttech.ashspublications.org/content/15/3/439.short">score better</a> on science <a href="http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/syllabi/435/Articles/Klemmer.pdf">achievement</a>, have better attitudes about school, and improve their <a href="http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/15330150701318828">interpersonal skills</a> and <a href="https://food-hub.org/files/resources/Blair_The%20Child%20in%20the%20Garden_J.%20Environ%20Educ_2009.pdf">classroom behaviour</a>.</p> <p>Research on students confirms that gardening leads to higher levels of self-esteem and responsibility. Research suggests that incorporating gardening into a <a href="http://kohalacenter.org/HISGN/pdf/Thechildinthegarden.pdf">school setting</a> can boost group cohesiveness.</p> <p><strong>Gardening and mental health</strong></p> <p>Tailored gardening programs have been shown to increase quality of life for people with <a href="http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1300/J004v16n01_02">chronic mental illnesses</a>, including <a href="http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1300/J004v16n01_02">anxiety and depression</a>.</p> <p>Another study on the use of therapeutic horticulture for patients with clinical depression sought to understand why gardening programs were effective in lessening patient experience of depression. They found that structured gardening activities gave patients existential purpose. Put simply, it <a href="http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.3109/01612840.2010.528168">gave their lives meaning</a>.</p> <p>In jails and corrective programs, horticultural therapy programs have been used to give inmates positive, purposeful activities that lessen aggression and hostility during and after incarceration.</p> <p>In one detailed study from a San Francisco program, involvement in therapeutic horticulture was particularly effective in <a href="http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1300/J076v26n03_10">improving psychosocial functioning</a> across prison populations (although the benefits were not necessarily sustained after release.)</p> <p>Gardening has been shown to help improve the lives of <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Jacqueline_Atkinson/publication/265575473_AN_EVALUATION_OF_THE_GARDENING_LEAVE_PROJECT_FOR_EX-MILITARY_PERSONNEL_WITH_PTSD_AND_OTHER_COMBAT_RELATED_MENTAL_HEALTH_PROBLEMS/links/55094b960cf26ff55f852b50.pdf">military veterans</a> and <a href="http://www.joe.org/joe/2007june/iw5p.shtml">homeless people</a>. Various therapeutic horticulture <a href="https://dspace.lboro.ac.uk/dspace-jspui/handle/2134/2930">programs</a> have been used to help people with learning difficulties, asylum seekers, refugees and victims of torture.</p> <p><strong>Gardening and older people</strong></p> <p>As populations in the West age, hands-on gardening programs have been used for older people in nursing homes and related facilities.</p> <p>A systematic review of 22 studies of gardening programs for older adults found that gardening was a powerful <a href="http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/01924788.2013.784942">health-promoting activity</a> across diverse populations.</p> <p>One <a href="http://journals.lww.com/jcrjournal/Abstract/2005/09000/Effects_of_Horticultural_Therapy_on_Mood_and_Heart.8.aspx">study</a> sought to understand if patients recovering from heart attack might benefit from a horticultural therapy program. It concluded:</p> <blockquote> <p><em>[Our] findings indicate that horticultural therapy improves mood state, suggesting that it may be a useful tool in reducing stress. Therefore, to the extent that stress contributes to coronary heart disease, these findings support the role of horticultural therapy as an effective component of cardiac rehabilitation.</em></p> </blockquote> <div class="embed-responsive embed-responsive-16by9"><iframe class="embed-responsive-item" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Yvir4sm2G7Q"></iframe></div> <p>While the literature on the positive effects of gardening, reflecting both qualitative and quantitative studies, is large, most of these studies are from overseas.</p> <p>Investment in horticultural therapy programs in Australia is piecemeal. That said, there are some standout success stories such as the <a href="https://www.kitchengardenfoundation.org.au/">Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation</a> and the work of nurse <a href="https://www.anmfvic.asn.au/membership/member-profiles/steven-wells">Steven Wells at the Royal Talbot Rehabilitation Centre</a> and beyond.</p> <p>Finally, without professionally trained horticulturists none of these programs – in Australia or internationally – can take place.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/65251/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: http://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/chris-williams-300083">Chris Williams</a>, Lecturer in urban horticulture, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-melbourne-722">University of Melbourne</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="http://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/the-science-is-in-gardening-is-good-for-you-65251">original article</a>.</em></p>

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Online plant delivery announced for Australia

<p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Making your way out to a garden centre can be difficult to stock up on plants and gardening supplies, but a new online plant delivery service is set to change that.</span></p> <p><a href="https://www.instagram.com/theplantpeople_au/"><span style="font-weight: 400;">The Plant People</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> are a Brisbane-based nursery that take care of everything from seeding, growing and potting low-maintenance indoor plants that are ideal for those who want some greenery in their home.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The company delivers throughout Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory so no matter where you are, the plants can be delivered to your door. </span></p> <blockquote style="background: #FFF; border: 0; border-radius: 3px; box-shadow: 0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width: 540px; min-width: 326px; padding: 0; width: calc(100% - 2px);" class="instagram-media" data-instgrm-captioned="" data-instgrm-permalink="https://www.instagram.com/p/B6Pq3ZJjWdu/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" data-instgrm-version="12"> <div style="padding: 16px;"> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; align-items: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 40px; margin-right: 14px; width: 40px;"></div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 100px;"></div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 60px;"></div> </div> </div> <div style="padding: 19% 0;"></div> <div style="display: block; height: 50px; margin: 0 auto 12px; width: 50px;"></div> <div style="padding-top: 8px;"> <div style="color: #3897f0; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: 550; line-height: 18px;">View this post on Instagram</div> </div> <p style="margin: 8px 0 0 0; padding: 0 4px;"><a style="color: #000; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; line-height: 17px; text-decoration: none; word-wrap: break-word;" rel="noopener" href="https://www.instagram.com/p/B6Pq3ZJjWdu/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" target="_blank">Introducing the space where we keep our collection of plants. We think other people might call it a living room. Unsure. A green haven from @kvitka_v_byte_ #theplantpeople</a></p> <p style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 17px; margin-bottom: 0; margin-top: 8px; overflow: hidden; padding: 8px 0 7px; text-align: center; text-overflow: ellipsis; white-space: nowrap;">A post shared by <a style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; line-height: 17px;" rel="noopener" href="https://www.instagram.com/theplantpeople_au/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" target="_blank"> The Plant People</a> (@theplantpeople_au) on Dec 18, 2019 at 11:00pm PST</p> </div> </blockquote> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The company deliver ready-to-display plants to your door, such as succulents, ferns, Swiss cheese plants, elephant ears and many of the other varieties of indoor plants.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">They are a family-owned business who have been raising plants for over ten years and offer a guide for those who are new to owning plants, including what to do if your plant looks wilted on delivery.</span></p> <blockquote style="background: #FFF; border: 0; border-radius: 3px; box-shadow: 0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width: 540px; min-width: 326px; padding: 0; width: calc(100% - 2px);" class="instagram-media" data-instgrm-permalink="https://www.instagram.com/p/B5UbEL2grut/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" data-instgrm-version="12"> <div style="padding: 16px;"> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; align-items: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 40px; margin-right: 14px; width: 40px;"></div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 100px;"></div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 60px;"></div> </div> </div> <div style="padding: 19% 0;"></div> <div style="display: block; height: 50px; margin: 0 auto 12px; width: 50px;"></div> <div style="padding-top: 8px;"> <div style="color: #3897f0; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: 550; line-height: 18px;">View this post on Instagram</div> </div> <p style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 17px; margin-bottom: 0; margin-top: 8px; overflow: hidden; padding: 8px 0 7px; text-align: center; text-overflow: ellipsis; white-space: nowrap;"><a style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; line-height: 17px; text-decoration: none;" rel="noopener" href="https://www.instagram.com/p/B5UbEL2grut/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" target="_blank">A post shared by The Plant People (@theplantpeople_au)</a> on Nov 25, 2019 at 10:47pm PST</p> </div> </blockquote>

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Many Aussie plants and animals adapt to fires but the fires are changing

<p>Australia is a land that has known fire. Our diverse plant and animal species have become accustomed to life with fire, and in fact some require it to procreate.</p> <p>But in recent decades the pattern of fires – also known as the fire regime – is changing. Individual fires are increasingly hotter, more frequent, happening earlier in the season and covering larger areas with a uniform intensity. And these changes to the fire regime are occurring too fast for our native flora and fauna to adapt and survive.</p> <p><strong>Our fire-adapted plants are suffering</strong></p> <p>Many of Australia’s iconic eucalypts are “shade intolerant” species that adapted to exist within a relatively harsh fire regime. These species thrive just after a major fire has cleared away the overstory and prepared an ash bed for their seeds to germinate.</p> <p>Some of our most majestic trees, like the alpine ash, can only regenerate from seed. Those seeds germinate only on bare earth, where the leaf litter and shrubs have been burnt away.</p> <p>But if fire is so frequent the trees haven’t matured enough to produce seed, or so intense it destroys the seeds present in the canopy and the ground, then even these fire-adapted species can <a href="http://www.lifeatlarge.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0018/650007/Reshaping-alpine-landscapes-summary.pdf">fail</a>.</p> <p>The current fires are re-burning some forests that were burnt only a decade ago. Those regenerating trees are too young to survive, but also too young to have started developing seed.</p> <p>With the disappearance of these tree species, other plants will fill the gap. Acacias (wattles) are potential successors as they mature much earlier than alpine ash. Our tall, majestic forests could easily turn into shrubby bushland with more frequent fires.</p> <p>Even within a burnt area, there are usually some unburnt patches, which are highly valuable for many <a href="https://theconversation.com/burnoff-policies-could-be-damaging-habitats-for-100-years-30240">types of plants and animals</a>. These patches include gullies and depressions, but sometimes are just lucky coincidences of the terrain and weather. The patches act as reserves of “seed trees” to provide regeneration opportunities.</p> <p>Recent fires, burning in hotter and drier conditions, are tending to be severe over large areas with fewer unburnt patches. Without these patches, there are no trees in the fire zone to spread seeds for regeneration.</p> <p>Eucalypt seed is small and without wings or other mechanisms to help the wind disperse it. Birds don’t generally disperse these seeds either. Eucalypt seed thus only falls within 100 - 200 metres of the parent tree. It may take many decades for trees to recolonise a large burnt area.</p> <p>That means wind-blown or bird-dispersed seeds from other species may fully colonise the burnt area well before the Eucalypts. Unfortunately many of these windblown seeds will be <a href="http://hotspotsfireproject.org.au/download-secure.php?access=Public&amp;file=fire-weeds-and-native-vegetation-of-nsw.pdf&amp;type=">weed</a> species, such as African Love Grass, which may then cover the bare earth and exclude successful Eucalypt regeneration while potentially making fires even <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-invasive-weeds-can-make-wildfires-hotter-and-more-frequent-89281">hotter and more frequent</a>.</p> <p><strong>Animals have fewer places to hide</strong></p> <p>Young animals are significantly more vulnerable to disturbances such as fire than mature individuals. So the best time to give birth is a season when fire is rare.</p> <p>Spring in the southern zones of Australia has, in the past, been wetter and largely free from highly destructive fires. Both flora and fauna species thus time their reproduction for this period. But as fire seasons lengthen and begin earlier in the year, vulnerable nestlings and babies die where they shelter or starve as the fires burn the fruits and seeds they eat.</p> <p>Australian fauna have developed <a href="https://theconversation.com/animal-response-to-a-bushfire-is-astounding-these-are-the-tricks-they-use-to-survive-129327">behaviours that help them survive</a> fire, including moving towards gullies and depressions, climbing higher, or occupying hollows and burrows (even if not their own) when they sense fire.</p> <p>But even these behaviours will fail if those refuges are uncharacteristically burning under hotter and drier conditions. Rainforest, marshes and the banks of watercourses were once safe refuges against fire, but we have seen these all <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/nov/24/world-heritage-queensland-rainforest-burned-for-10-days-and-almost-no-one-noticed">burn in recent fires</a>.</p> <p><strong>What can be done?</strong></p> <p>All aspects of fire regimes in Australia are clearly changing as a result of our heating and drying climate. But humans can have a deliberate effect, and have done so in the past.</p> <p><a href="https://nph.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/j.1469-8137.1998.00289.x">Indigenous burning</a> created a patchwork of burnt areas and impacted on the magnitude and frequency of fires over the landscape. These regular burns kept the understory under control, while the moderate intensity and patchiness allowed larger trees to survive.</p> <p>There have been repeated calls of late to <a href="https://theconversation.com/our-land-is-burning-and-western-science-does-not-have-all-the-answers-100331">reintroduce Indigenous burning</a> practices in Australia. But this would be difficult over vast areas. It requires knowledgeable individuals to regularly walk through each forest to understand the forest dynamics at a very fine scale.</p> <p>More importantly, our landscapes are now filled with dry fuel, and shrubs that act as “ladders” - quickly sending any fire into tree canopies to cause very destructive crown fires. Given these high fuel conditions along with their potentially dangerous distribution, there may be relatively few safe areas to reintroduce Indigenous burning.</p> <p>The changed fire conditions still require active management of forests, with trained professionals on the ground. Refuges could be developed throughout forests to provide places where animals can shelter and from which trees can recolonise. Such refuges could be reintroduced by reducing forest biomass (or fuel) using small fires where feasible or by <a href="https://www.agriculture.gov.au/forestry/national/nbmp">mechanical means</a>.</p> <p>Biomass collected by machines could be used to produce biochar or other useful products. Biochar could even be used to <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13593-016-0372-z">improve the soil</a> damaged by the fires and excess ash.</p> <p>Midstory species could be cut down to prevent the development of fire ladders to tree crowns. Even the overstory could be <a href="http://theconversation.com/forest-thinning-is-controversial-but-it-shouldnt-be-ruled-out-for-managing-bushfires-130124">thinned</a> to minimise the potential for crown fires. Seed could also be collected from thinned trees to provide an off-site bank as ecological insurance.</p> <p>Such active management will not be cheap. But using machinery rather than fire could control biomass quantity and distribution in a much more precise way: leaving some biomass on the ground as habitat for insects and reptiles, and removing other patches to create safer refuges from the fires that will continue to come.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/129754/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: http://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/cris-brack-98407">Cris Brack</a>, Associate Professor, Fenner School of Environment and Society, <a href="http://theconversation.com/institutions/australian-national-university-877">Australian National University</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="http://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/many-of-our-plants-and-animals-have-adapted-to-fires-but-now-the-fires-are-changing-129754">original article</a>.</em></p>

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Why you should clean with herbs

<div class="page-header clearfix"> <div class="tg-container"> <div class="detailPageHeader"> <div class="postIntro">Homemade herbal cleaning products are mostly composed of just one main substance – the cleaning agent – which means that you're not paying for bulking additives, artificial colours or perfumes. You can choose the type and strength of the scent you want; fresh herbs or essential oils almost invariably leave a delightfully fresh, clean smell.</div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="tg-container categorySection detailSection"> <div id="primary" class="contentAreaLeft"> <div class="share-buttons"> <div class="addthis_inline_share_toolbox" data-url="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/home-tips/why-clean-with-herbs" data-title="Why clean with herbs? | Reader's Digest Australia" data-description="Homemade herbal cleaning products are mostly composed of just one main substance – the cleaning agent – which means that you're not paying for bulking additives, artificial colours or perfumes. You can choose the type and strength of the scent you want; fresh herbs or essential oils almost invariably leave a delightfully fresh, clean smell."> <div id="atstbx" class="at-resp-share-element at-style-responsive addthis-smartlayers addthis-animated at4-show" aria-labelledby="at-029fd6d1-4439-4dc9-8fe6-9e3c12bc7441"> <div class="Maincontent"> <p>There is also gathering evidence that links the use of chemical cleaners such as bleach with the development of asthma in both children and adults. Some chemicals can set off allergic reactions or contact dermatitis in sensitive people. And one 2010 US study discovered that women who held cleaning jobs while pregnant had a higher incidence of birth defects in their children.</p> <p>So, whether you’re already committed to a greener way of cleaning or you just want to save money and simplify your life a little, herbal cleaning makes a lot of sense.</p> <p>Try these two recipes to clean your surfaces and floors, the easy way, with the power of herbs.</p> <h4>All-purpose herb vinegar spray</h4> <p>This all-purpose, environmentally friendly, non-toxic spray is great to have on hand for wiping, cleaning and deodorising almost every surface (except marble). If you don’t have any fresh herbs, add drops of essential oil instead.</p> <p><strong>Ingredients</strong></p> <ul class="no-bullet"> <li>fresh or dried herbs (you can also use herbal tea bags)</li> <li>distilled white vinegar</li> </ul> <p><strong>Preparation</strong></p> <ol> <li>Roughly chop 1 to 2 large handfuls of fresh or dried herbs (such as lemon verbena, peppermint, rosemary, lemon balm or lavender), or place 5 to 10 tea bags in the bottom of a wide-mouthed glass jar.</li> <li>Add vinegar to fill the jar. Replace the lid, leave for a few days to infuse, then strain out the herbs. (If you are using tea bags, you can gently warm the vinegar before pouring to ensure maximum diffusion.)</li> <li>Decant into a plastic spray bottle. This spray is perfectly safe and very effective to use at full-strength, but it can also be diluted half-and-half with water for lighter jobs.</li> </ol> <h4>Eucalyptus floor wash</h4> <p>With its powerful natural antiseptic, disinfectant and cleaning properties, eucalyptus oil can be put to work in every room of the house. This simple solution can be used on both timber and lino floors. When washing a timber floor, remember not to saturate it. Your mop should be damp, not dripping wet, and the floor should be well-swept or vacuumed before mopping.</p> <p><strong>Ingredients</strong></p> <ul class="no-bullet"> <li>1 teaspoon eucalyptus oil</li> <li>2 tablespoons methylated spirits</li> <li>5 litres hot water (about half a bucket)</li> </ul> <p><strong>Preparation</strong></p> <ol> <li>Combine all the ingredients in a bucket.</li> <li>Wring out a mop in the solution and use it to damp mop the floor. Leave to dry; you don’t need to rinse.</li> </ol> <p><em>Written by Reader's Digest. </em><em>This article first appeared in </em><a href="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/home-tips/why-clean-with-herbs"><em>Reader’s Digest</em></a><em>. For more of what you love from the world’s best-loved magazine, </em><a href="http://readersdigest.innovations.com.au/c/readersdigestemailsubscribe?utm_source=over60&amp;utm_medium=articles&amp;utm_campaign=RDSUB&amp;keycode=WRA93V"><em>here’s our best subscription offer.</em></a></p> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div>

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5 of the best air-cleaning plants according to NASA

<p>The best plants are the ones that do double duty – and all of these purify your air of toxic chemicals. Even better, they’re easy to grow. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, our homes can have three to five times more pollutants than the outdoors. You could be living in a “sick” house and not realize it: Substances like xylene (in paint and lacquers), benzene (furniture wax, insect sprays) trichloroethylene (cleaners, adhesives), and formaldehyde (upholstery, air fresheners) – can produce symptoms like headaches, sore throats, or allergy-like breathing troubles. The NASA Clean Air Study was designed to find effective and simple ways to detox the air in the space station – and it reveals that common house plants have air purifying superpowers.</p> <p><strong>1. Boston Fern</strong></p> <p><span>Boston ferns are native to tropical forests and swamp areas so they will thrive in low light and high humidity – they’re ideal for your bathroom. The moisture from your shower will hydrate the plant, requiring little extra care from you. Besides being a pretty and decorative addition to your bathroom, the Boston fern helps remove xylene and – the NASA study revealed – it was the top house plant for removing formaldehyde.</span></p> <p><strong>2. Spider plant</strong></p> <p>Talk about a plant that keeps giving. It removes impurities from the air like formaldehyde and carbon monoxide. NASA’s study found that spider plants removed 95 per cent of formaldehyde from a sealed plexiglass chamber in 24 hours. Even better, the main plant sends out shoots, called “spiderettes” that flower and eventually grow into baby spider plants that you can transplant. That also helps: Research indicates that people are more relaxed and happy after caring for plants – say, for example, when they’re re-potting them.</p> <p><strong>3. Bamboo plant</strong></p> <p>This plant boasts elegance and height in addition to removing harmful elements like benzene and formaldehyde. Bamboo palms also help keep indoor air moist, making it a welcome addition in dry winter months. This palm takes a bit more care: It loves bright, but not direct sunlight and needs monthly fertilising and regular misting; when it outgrows its container (every two to three years), you’ll need to re-pot it.</p> <p><strong>4. Devil’s ivy</strong></p> <p>Devil’s ivy is actually quite angelic. It’s considered one of the most effective indoor air purifiers from benzene, formaldehyde and xylene. Plus, if you’re new to growing house plants, this is a great first plant to get. It’s lush, hardy and inexpensive. Another nice feature is that it can grow up to 2.5 metres long and in a variety of directions. In a hanging basket, it will trail downwards. Place it a pot and train it to climb a totem or trellis or place in a pot on a mantle or coffee table and let it grow horizontally.</p> <p><strong>5. Gerbera</strong></p> <p>These colourful and cheerful daisies were mainly outdoor plants until florists started using them in arrangements. Grown indoors, they can produce flowers at any time of the year, in white, red, orange, pink and purple. The flowers usually last around four to six weeks, but even without the flowers, the gerbera or Barberton daisy has lush, dark green leaves that are effective at filtering out formaldehyde, benzene and trichloroethylene. They are most happy with full sun and plenty of water and well-drained soil.</p> <p><em><span>Written by Lisa Marie Conklin. Republished with permission of </span></em><span><a href="https://www.mydiscoveries.com.au/stories/top-spot-australians-retire-2019/"><em>Handyman</em></a><em>.</em></span></p>

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3 things a first-time gardener needs to know

<p><span style="font-weight: 400;">As it’s the beginning of a new year, many are thinking about what kind of hobbies they’d like to take in 2020. If gardening is on your list, here are three things that beginner gardeners need to know.</span></p> <p><strong>1. Don’t start too big</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Beginner gardeners might just see what kind of seeds they want to grow and begin planting, but according to Barbara Murphy, a master gardener coordinator and horticulturist with the University of Maine, this is the opposite of what you should do.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Starting too large is the most common mistake made by first-time gardeners,” said Barbara Murphy, a master gardener coordinator and horticulturist with University of Maine Cooperative Extension for 23 years.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Limit yourself to 10 feet by 10 feet, [3 metres by 3 metres]” she says. “If you grow frustrated because of too many things happening the first year, there’s a good chance you won’t feel like gardening for a second. You can always expand as your skills develop.”</span></p> <p><strong>2. Know your soil</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Knowing what your garden needs soil wise is vital for success.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Good soil preparation is important to success, but be patient,” said Rosie Lerner, an extension horticulturist with Purdue University to <a href="https://www.staradvertiser.com/2020/01/05/features/advice-to-first-time-gardeners-think-small-and-find-your-spot/"><em>Star Advertiser</em></a>. “Don’t force the soil when it’s wet. Soil structures will compact and get tight. That makes it tough for water and air to move through and greatly inhibits growth.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Squeeze the soil gently in your hand. If it crumbles a bit when squeezed, it’s ready for use. “It can take a long time to get good soil texture, and just minutes to destroy it if you work it while it’s too wet,” Lerner said.</span></p> <p><strong>3. Get rid of insects as quickly as possible</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Insects are bad news for growing gardens.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Make regular visits to your garden to check for plant pests,” Murphy said. “Don’t worry about the adults. You want to go after the eggs before they develop into juvenile leaf cutters. Most eggs are on the underside of leaves. Use soapy water and picking or simply remove the infested leaves.”</span></p>

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6 home improvement projects that practically pay for themselves

<p>These smart upgrades pay off big in resale value and enjoyment of your home.</p> <p><strong>1. Give cabinets a new life</strong></p> <p>“Replacing your cabinets is a huge cost that is not completely necessary if the cabinets are less than ten years old, functional, and made from a high-quality wood,” says John Milligan, Product Development Manager at N-Hance Wood Refinishing. Refinishing can cost around $3,000 to $8,000 and can potentially bump up the value of your home between 3 and 7 percent.</p> <p><strong>2. The biggest bang for your buck</strong></p> <p>A fresh coat of paint instantly updates and transforms the entire interior of your home, and when you consider the relatively low cost of paint, it’s about the biggest bang for your buck you can get. “Greys are back in vogue, and create a neutral palette that lets your decor really pop,” says Steve Frellick, licensed contractor and founder/broker of Yonder Luxury Vacation Rentals.</p> <p><strong>3. Roll up the carpet</strong></p> <p>If you’re lucky, your wall-to-wall carpet will last about ten years. Well-maintained hardwood floors, on the other hand, last for at least 25 years. “Hardwood floors have a massive appeal and add an extreme level of warmth and comfort in your home and a definite return on your investment,” says Frellick. In fact, a recent Remodeling Impact Report from the National Association of Realtors showed that a whopping 91 percent of the cost is recovered.</p> <p><strong>4. Exterior facelift</strong></p> <p>New cladding is like a facelift for the house, resulting in enhanced curb appeal. But replacing worn out cladding isn’t just about looks: damaged cladding creates moisture and mould, and it leaves insulation exposed, causing your heating and cooling bills to skyrocket.</p> <p><strong>5. The grass is always greener in your yard</strong></p> <p>Dragging out and moving sprinklers every week is not only time-consuming; it adds to your water bill. A better idea? Drip irrigation. “This puts water where plants need it – at the root zone – and it uses much less water over time, as the emitters are placed right near the plants and drip at a reduced rate,” says plant merchant Tyler Davis. It’s easy to install, and will pay for itself in a short time with water savings, he adds. A green and well-manicured lawn can add $2,000 to $7,000 to the resale value of your home.</p> <p><strong>6. Give yourself some space</strong></p> <p>Creating more usable space is something you’ll never regret, whether you use it for storage or more living space. “Having a finished basement or attic can be as simple as putting up and painting gyprock and putting down flooring,” says Shayanfekr. The costs will vary greatly depending on the square metreage and materials used, but the Remodeling Impact Report from the National Association of Realtors shares that you’ll generally recoup over 50 percent of costs at sale time.</p> <p><em>Source: </em><a href="https://www.rd.com/home/improvement/home-projects-pay-for-themselves/"><em>RD.com</em></a></p> <p><em>Written by Lisa Marie Conklin. This article first appeared in </em><a href="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/home-tips/12-home-improvement-projects-practically-pay-themselves"><em>Reader’s Digest</em></a><em>. For more of what you love from the world’s best-loved magazine, </em><a href="http://readersdigest.innovations.com.au/c/readersdigestemailsubscribe?utm_source=over60&amp;utm_medium=articles&amp;utm_campaign=RDSUB&amp;keycode=WRA93V"><em>here’s our best subscription offer.</em></a></p>

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How to eradicate aphids

<p class="p1"><span class="s1">A</span>phids are small, soft-bodied insects that feed on sap and leave a sticky deposit as they suck the juice from leaves and stems.</p> <p class="p3"><span class="s1">They love nasturtiums but attack everything from herbs and vegies to vines, shrubs and trees, including roses, camellias, stone fruit and citrus.</span></p> <p class="p3"><span class="s1">Aphids can be green, yellow, pink, brown, grey, black or woolly, and are only 2mm to 4mm long.</span></p> <p class="p3"><span class="s1">These tiny insects are usually found clustering in large numbers on stems, flower buds and leaves, causing curled or distorted growth.</span></p> <p class="p3"><span class="s1">Populations start building up in mid and late spring, developing from small colonies into heavy infestations in a matter of days.</span></p> <p class="p3"><span class="s1">They don’t just destroy new growth but also spread disease, transmitting broad bean wilt, cucumber mosaic and other viruses.</span></p> <p class="p3"><span class="s1">Aphids also secrete a sugar-rich substance called honeydew that attracts and feeds a type of fungus called sooty mould.</span></p> <p class="p3"><strong><span class="s1">Methods of control</span></strong></p> <p class="p2"><span class="s1">Aphids multiply rapidly, so a control program is very important.</span></p> <p class="p2"><strong><span class="s2">PICK</span></strong><span class="s1"><strong><span> </span></strong>aphids off by hand and squash them, making sure to wear gloves.</span></p> <p class="p2"><strong><span class="s2">BLAST</span></strong><span class="s1"><span> </span>aphids from plants by hosing regularly with a strong jet of water.</span></p> <p class="p2"><strong><span class="s2">WIPE</span></strong><span class="s1"><strong><span> </span></strong>off indoor plants with a cotton ball dipped in methylated spirits.<span> </span></span><span class="s2">SPRAY</span><span class="s1"><span> </span>plants with insecticide, using low-toxicity formulas to protect edibles, pets and beneficial insects.</span></p> <p class="p2"><strong><span class="s2">ATTRACT</span></strong><span class="s1"><span> </span>natural predators like ladybirds into the garden by planting achillea or Queen Anne’s lace.</span></p> <p class="p2"><strong><span class="s2">PRUNE</span></strong><span class="s1"><span> </span>and bin heavily infested stems and shoots to stimulate new growth.</span></p> <p class="p2"><strong><span class="s1">Mixing home remedies</span></strong></p> <p class="p1">Insects are repelled by garlic and cayenne pepper, so use it to make a spray that can be applied to plants as often as needed.</p> <p class="p2">Handle the solution carefully because capsaicin, the active ingredient in pepper, is a very powerful eye and skin irritant.</p> <p class="p1"><strong><span class="s1">COMBINE</span><span> </span></strong>six unpeeled and crushed garlic cloves with one tablespoon of cayenne pepper in a clean bucket.</p> <p class="p1"><strong><span class="s1">ADD</span></strong><span> </span>a litre of warm water and stir the mixture well for one minute then cover the container and leave in a location out of direct sunlight, letting it stand for two days.</p> <p class="p1"><strong><span class="s1">STRAIN</span></strong><span> </span>the solution into a plastic spray bottle and use within 24 hours.</p> <p class="p1"><strong>Spotting and treating infestations</strong></p> <p class="p1">Aphids usually attack soft, new young growth and can cluster unseen on the underside of leaves. Monitor plants throughout spring, checking the leaves for signs of aphid activity, and treat infestations immediately.</p> <h4 class="p1"><strong>Herbs</strong></h4> <p><strong>PROBLEM<span> </span></strong>Leaves are distorted, yellowing or sticky</p> <p><strong><span class="s1">SOLUTION</span></strong><span> </span>Companion plant with nectar-rich species like scabiosa or sweet alyssum and include dill, fennel and chives to attract beneficial insects.</p> <h4><strong>Vegetables</strong></h4> <p class="p1"><strong><span class="s1">PROBLEM</span><span> </span></strong>Leaves are curled, puckered or sticky</p> <p class="p1"><strong><span class="s1">SOLUTION</span></strong><span> </span>Spray insecticidal soap directly onto aphids. To make your own, mix two tablespoons of pure soap flakes in a litre of water.</p> <h4 class="p1"><strong>Flowers</strong></h4> <p class="p1"><strong><span class="s1">PROBLEM</span></strong><span> </span>Insects cluster on buds and leaves are curled, distorted or yellowed</p> <p class="p1"><strong><span class="s1">SOLUTION</span></strong><span> </span>Apply a botanical insecticide such as neem, spraying the foliage in the early evening.</p> <h4 class="p1"><strong>Shrubs</strong></h4> <p class="p1"><strong><span class="s1">PROBLEM</span></strong><span> </span>Distorted, sticky leaves.</p> <p><span class="s1"><strong>SOLUTION</strong></span><span> </span>Make a pepper and garlic spray for heavily infested foliage and use as needed. It will very effectively protect roses from both sucking insects and fungal issues.</p> <h4 class="p1"><strong>Fruit trees</strong></h4> <p class="p1"><strong><span class="s1">PROBLEM</span></strong><span> </span>Leaves are misshapen and stunted</p> <p class="p1"><strong><span class="s1">SOLUTION</span></strong><span> </span>Prune off and dispose of infested leaves, stems and shoots then spray the tree with white oil, making sure to coat the pests.</p> <h4 class="p1"><strong>Citrus species</strong></h4> <p class="p1"><strong><span class="s1">PROBLEM</span></strong><span class="s2"><span> </span>Black insects cover new growth, leaves wither and buds drop</span></p> <p class="p1"><strong><span class="s3">SOLUTION</span></strong><span> </span>Prune affected shoots to encourage new, healthy growth and apply pyrethrum, also spraying it around the base of the tree.</p> <p><em>Written by Artemis Gouros. Republished with permission of </em><a href="https://www.handyman.net.au/eradicate-aphids"><em>Handyman</em></a><em>.</em></p>

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5 ways to enrich garden soil

<p>Healthier garden soil means healthier plants. It is the foundation of successful gardening and thus worth paying attention to.</p> <p>Here are 5 ways you can enrich your garden soil.</p> <p><strong>1. Spread grass</strong></p> <div id="page1" class="slide-show"> <div id="test" class="slide"> <div class="slide-description"> <p>Grass clippings add nutrients as they decompose. They also provide shade, keeping roots cool and reducing water loss in hot weather.</p> <p>Mix them with leaf litter or dig into the soil to avoid them forming a mat that will repel water.</p> <div class="at-below-post addthis_tool" data-url="https://www.handyman.net.au/5-ways-enrich-garden-soil"><strong>2. Use manure</strong></div> <div class="at-below-post addthis_tool" data-url="https://www.handyman.net.au/5-ways-enrich-garden-soil"> <div id="page2" class="slide-show"> <div id="test" class="slide"> <div class="slide-description"> <p>Cow manure improves soil micro-organisms and chicken manure, which is high in nitrogen and phosphorus, is great for the lawn and vegie patch.</p> <p><strong>TIP:</strong><span> </span>Don’t use manure from carnivores, such as dogs and cats.</p> <div class="at-below-post addthis_tool" data-url="https://www.handyman.net.au/5-ways-enrich-garden-soil"><strong>3. Lay straw</strong></div> <div class="at-below-post addthis_tool" data-url="https://www.handyman.net.au/5-ways-enrich-garden-soil"> <div id="page3" class="slide-show"> <div id="test" class="slide"> <div class="slide-description"> <p>Lucerne hay and pea straw strengthen the soil, so they’re highly recommended. They also break down fairly quickly, which gives the soil a quick nutrient injection, and can be dug in to speed up the process.</p> <div class="at-below-post addthis_tool" data-url="https://www.handyman.net.au/5-ways-enrich-garden-soil"><strong>4. Use bark</strong></div> <div class="at-below-post addthis_tool" data-url="https://www.handyman.net.au/5-ways-enrich-garden-soil"> <div id="page4" class="slide-show"> <div id="test" class="slide"> <div class="slide-description"> <p>These mulches take longer to break down, so they don’t need applying as often.</p> <p>They shade the soil, help retain moisture, repel weeds and look decorative, but don’t add many nutrients to the plants.</p> <div class="at-below-post addthis_tool" data-url="https://www.handyman.net.au/5-ways-enrich-garden-soil"><strong>5. Add compost</strong></div> <div class="at-below-post addthis_tool" data-url="https://www.handyman.net.au/5-ways-enrich-garden-soil"> <div id="page5" class="slide-show"> <div id="test" class="slide"> <div class="slide-description"> <p>A well-rounded source of goodness, compost allows water to penetrate the soil. It provides slow-release nutrients, attracts worms and encourages a healthy root system. Best of all, you can make it from kitchen scraps.</p> <div class="at-below-post addthis_tool" data-url="https://www.handyman.net.au/5-ways-enrich-garden-soil"> <p><em>Written by Handyman. Republished with permission of </em><a href="https://www.handyman.net.au/5-ways-enrich-garden-soil"><em>Handyman</em></a><em>. </em></p> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div>

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3 hacks to keep your herbs fresher for longer

<p>Herbs are a must-have for any chef who wants to add that little something extra to their favourite dish, but the shelf life of herbs leaves something to be desired.</p> <p>Nutritionist Dr Joanna McMillan knows this pain of bulk buying herbs and hoping for the best, so she’s shared her hacks for keeping herbs fresher for longer with <em><a href="https://au.lifestyle.yahoo.com/hack-forkeeping-herbs-fresher-for-longer-212750312.html">Yahoo Lifestyle AU</a></em>.</p> <p><strong>1. Create a mini greenhouse</strong></p> <p>This hack might sound a bit odd, but if you’re able to create a mini greenhouse, your herbs will stay fresher for longer.</p> <p>McMillan suggests placing the cut stems of your herbs in a small glass of water and covering the whole thing in a plastic bag. Keep the bag sealed up tight with an elastic around the base of the glass.</p> <p>This keeps the humidity high.</p> <p>Simply store the mini greenhouse in your fridge and use the herbs as soon as possible.</p> <p>Another way to do this trick is to sandwich your leftover herbs between two damp piece of paper towel and place the herbs in your fridge crisper drawer.</p> <p><strong>2. Don’t cut the herbs in the first place</strong></p> <p>McMillan recommends avoiding buying bunches of herbs in the first place if you don’t have plans to use all of the herbs at once.</p> <p>Instead, she says you should purchase the tiny pots of herbs that are now stocked in supermarkets. This helps keeping your herbs fresh as you can store them on your windowsill (if you remember to water them to keep the herbs alive) and they’ll be fresh until you’re done using the crop.</p> <p><strong>3. Don’t lose your leftovers</strong></p> <p>Food wastage is an issue at the moment, so another way to ensure that you get the most out of your herbs is to chuck them into your freezer.</p> <p>McMillan suggests that you freeze your leftovers as chopped herbs in a zip lock bag or in little ice cube trays that are filled with olive oil.</p> <p>By keeping them in the ice cube trays, you’re able to use them quickly and whenever you need a flavour boost.</p> <p>By following these hacks, you’re bound to keep your herbs fresher for longer and give your cooking a boost of flavour.</p>

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