TIP OF THE WEEK

Here’s the secret to growing veggies in the fall

Summer’s end doesn’t mean it’s time to say farewell to fresh garden veggies. Now is the perfect time of year to build or purchase a cold frame.

This small protective structure for your yard surrounds plants in the ground, absorbs sunlight and heat by day, and offers a barrier to frost and snow by night. Here are three ways cold frames can lengthen the summer growing season, according to the National Gardening Association.

* Keep the summer crop going and build around existing herbs and veggies, like basil, squash and cucumbers.

* Start a new batch of salad greens by sowing lettuce and spinach seeds.

* Plant a new set of cool-season veggies, like broccoli, kale, carrots, spinach and radishes. Bonus: Cool temperatures will turn the starches into sugars, sweetening the flavor.

With any luck, a little cold frame magic will make freshly harvested vegetables a reality for your Thanksgiving table.

HERBS

Fresh herbs at your fingertips, even in autumn

The fall gardening experts at Bonnie Plants offer some gardening guidance for planting easy herbs this fall:

Herbs such as parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, mint, chives, lavender and cilantro are prolific producers, and some, like mint and rosemary, are especially easy to grow. Herbs need at least four to six hours of natural light per day to grow indoors, so choose a sunny spot near a window where they’ll be protected from drafts and cold.

Frequent water is a must, but irrigation can wash nutrients out of the soil. Plus, some potting mixes only have a short-term supply of fertilizer while others are slow-release. Read the label on your potting soil and follow the brand’s recommendations for fertilizing frequency. Timed-release granular fertilizer or a plant food you mix with water will help keep herbs nourished.

MAINTENANCE

3 homeowner disasters that cost little to prevent

Homeowners insurance brings peace of mind, but it doesn’t cover everything. Protect your investment, and know the three main causes of damage you won’t find in your homeowners policy, according to Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association:

Termites: Apply treatment to your foundation every few years, and inspect your house annually for signs of infestation.

Mold: In the spring and the fall, check under the sink and in your utility areas for signs of leaking and seeping pipes.

Sewer backups: Tree roots or an overwhelmed stormwater system can back up right into your home, damaging floors, walls and even the electric system. If this is a concern, check with your insurance agent about a supplemental policy, which costs $40 to $50 a year.

Left unchecked, any of these can cause tens of thousands of dollars of damage to your home. Luckily, a little awareness and preventive maintenance take minimal time and money.

GARDENING

3 steps to long-lasting garden bouquets

Show off those beautiful garden flowers in your favorite vase. For gorgeous displays that last for days, follow these tips from Michigan’s Genesee County Master Gardeners program.

* The best time to cut most flowers is just before they are fully opened. Skip the tight buds and past-peak blossoms.

* If possible, do your cutting late in the afternoon or early in the evening, when flowers have the most food stored.

* Before arranging, you’ll want to condition the flowers so they’re holding as much water as possible. Submerge the stems halfway in a container of warm water (100-110 degrees Fahrenheit) at least an hour.

Cut flowers add beauty and color to our homes and make thoughtful gifts for any occasion. With a little know-how, you can extend the life of your flowers.

— Brandpoint