TIP OF THE WEEK

Collecting rainwater for use in your garden is good for the environment and can save you money. Here’s a step-by-step guide to setting up a rainwater collection system, according to This Old House:

1. Place several solid-concrete barrel blocks in the garden next to a downspout and ensure they are level;

2. Set a rain barrel on the blocks with the spigot facing toward the garden;

3. Detach and remove the downspout;

4. Use self-tapping gutter screws to attach a water diverter to downspout elbow (a diverter prioritizes filling the barrel first, but once it’s full, will allow excess water to continue through the downspout);

5. Mark and trim the top end of the downspout with aviation snips to accommodate the diverter;

6. Slide downspout onto the diverter and secure with gutter screws;

7. Attach a rubber hose to the diverter outlet and use nylon cable ties to fix the hose to the downspout;

8. Install soaker hose to the barrel’s spigot, run the hose around the plants in your garden and cover the hose with a thick layer of mulch.

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GARDENING

Benefits of plant covers, plastic mulch

For those in colder climates, growing warm-season vegetables can be challenging. By using plant covers and plastic mulch, however, gardeners can create warmer air and soil temperatures around the plants, increasing the growth rates. In The Columbian, Vancouver gardening specialist Allen Wilson describes the benefits of these covers and mulch.

Plant covers come in two types: Clear polyethylene covers use metal hoops to support tunnels over the plants; spunbonded polypropylene covers, however, require no support and are laid directly over the rows of plants. The spunbonded polypropylene covers allow water through for irrigation. Both trap radiant heat, provide 2 to 4 degrees of frost protection and guard against insects.

Plastic mulch is used to warm soil and the air around the plants. “Black, red and solar plastic mulch also prevent weed growth by blocking light,” according to Wilson. “Black plastic mulch absorbs sun energy and transfers the heat to the soil where it touches. Red and solar plastic mulch allow radiant waves to penetrate, warming the soil faster than black plastic while preventing the shorter light waves that stimulate weed growth.”

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HOME BUYING

Rates fall for third straight week

Mortgage rates fell for the third straight week for the week ending Feb. 6, according to Freddie Mac.

“Markets staged a rebound with increases in manufacturing and service sector activity. The combination of very low mortgage rates, a strong economy and more positive financial market sentiment all point to home purchase demand continuing to rise over the next few months.”

Thirty-year fixed rates decreased by 6 basis points to 3.45% in the week. Rates were down from 4.41% from a year ago. The average fee remained unchanged at 0.7 points.

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HOME RENOVATION

These projects are worth the investment

According to the National Association of Realtors’ 2019 Remodeling Impact Report, the home renovations with the greatest recovered cost percentage at resell are new wood flooring, hardwood flooring refinishing, HVAC replacement and insulation upgrade.

NARI members estimate that homeowners who install new wood flooring recover 106% of the costs. Hardwood flooring refinish follows at 100% recovered. HVAC replacement came at 85% and insulation upgrade at 84%.

The projects ranked by value at resale without regard to price were: Complete kitchen renovation, kitchen upgrade, HVAC replacement and a new master suite.

NARI also ranked projects in terms of their appeal to buyers. Complete kitchen renovation, kitchen upgrade, HVAC replacement and new wood flooring were at the top.

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