What to Plant in the Fall in Your Garden

Just like spring, fall is ideal for planting. Why? Because the cooler temperatures, rainfall, and short, bright days will help plants make a fast and easy transition to your landscape. In fact, the entire first half of autumn gives them the opportunity to grow roots and settle into their dirt-y home. But before you get into your car and drive to the nearest garden or home improvement center, you should know what to plant in the fall to ensure you’ll have a bountiful spring harvest. Keep reading to learn more.

A Lesson on Fall Planting

Yikes! You only have a six-week window before your ground freezes. Once it does, root growth goes dormant until spring. Why six weeks? Because it allows plants time to get acclimated to withstand the cold and snow. However, when your ground actually freezes will vary from year-to-year. In fact, you may find that you don’t have frozen ground at all. Just let it go and wait to plant until mid-November because it’s a safe planting deadline for most areas. As long as your plants are in the ground before it freezes, you’re good.

Speaking of freezing ground. Any plants you have in nursery pots should be in the ground before winter. Don’t worry because it’s good for them to be planted and protected in the ground rather than in plastic pots that can crack and split. You can always move your plants in the spring to a better location. Also, make sure you water them after planting and continue to do so until your ground freezes. Even though fall can be rainy, your plants may require additional water. They may also need a lot of mulch to keep them insulated. Not only will it protect your plants, but will provide them with a great environment to develop roots.

When it comes to fall planting, it’s important to give your plants a chance to experience root growth, which goes on until temperatures average 48-degrees Fahrenheit. Come spring, you’ll see and enjoy the fruits of your labor!

What to Plant in the Fall!

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If you’re a seasoned gardener, you may be worn out from gardening by the time fall rolls around. If you’re a beginner, fall may be the best time for you start because of the cool weather. Whatever the case, it’s easy to plant bulbs in the ground or pots or planters on your patio. And quite frankly, nothing soothes the soul like seeing snowdrops peeking through the snow. With all of this in mind, let’s dig into what to plant in the fall!

Cool-Weather Vegetables

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Lett-uce (get it) talk about planting this tasty and leafy main attraction of a green salad. Keep in mind that butterhead and romaine tolerate the cold. Sow lettuce seeds in pots or garden beds eight weeks before your area’s first fall frost. Stagger your sowings at least two weeks apart. When you reach the four-week mark before your area’s first frost, sow your lettuce.

Like garlic? The best harvest is during fall planting. Plant your bulbs quickly, so the roots have time to grow. However, you don’t want to plant them too early because they may sprout through the soil. Plant garlic about four to six weeks before your ground freezes. Once planted, add a heavy layer of straw because it will protect and insulate the soil, support worm activity, and further root growth.

Are you a fan of The Office? If you are, then you know that Dwight Schrute, the highest-ranking salesman, and assistant to the regional manager at the Scranton branch of the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company may have been onto something with his beet plantation. Beets are great to plant in the fall. The trick is to soak the seeds overnight for quicker germination.

There’s a reason why Brussels sprouts are on menus and dining room tables during the holidays: they hold up in an early frost. This makes them a perfect addition to your fall garden. Brussels sprouts are also low in cholesterol and saturated fat and a good source of calcium, fiber, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, riboflavin, thiamin, and vitamins A and B6. See that. Your mom was on to something when she told you to eat your Brussels sprouts!

Plant collard greens in the early fall so you can harvest them for winter. Plant them in moist and fertile soil in rows at least three feet apart. Collards actually taste better after frost exposure, have many vitamins, and taste great in stir-fries.

Radishes are easy to grow and add color to your salad! Plant them four to six weeks before the average date of the last frost in your area. Sow seeds 1/2-inch deep and one inch apart in rows 12-inches apart. After they sprout, thin to about 2-inch spacings, so they have room to grow. Keep in mind that radishes need sun, so do not plant them in too much shade. Plant them consecutively every two weeks (or so) while temperatures are still cool for a continuous harvest.

One thing to remember is that you’ll have to water your planted vegetables. Check out our blog post, Tips for Watering Your Garden, because some may require more water than others. And here’s a vegetable planning guide that gives you more ideas on what to plant in the fall.

Fall Bulbs

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Perennials can live for more than two years, and they’re less work than annuals that only grow for one season. For instance, hostas can be divided and replanted. Peonies don’t require much work and can be planted or transplanted in the fall. They thrive in a variety of climates and soil and need partial to full sun. To grow peonies, avoid planting them too deep. Water them carefully (at least one time each week) until your ground freezes, but avoid overwatering.

Snowdrops are delicate bell-shaped flowers that face downward on thin green stems. Plant (mix a garden fertilizer rich in nutrients into the soil) them in groups under deciduous trees such as oak, maple, hickory, and white ash, so they get sunlight in the spring and shade in the summer when they go dormant. You may also plant snowdrops around evergreens or in open spaces in a rock garden or perennial flower bed. Deep freezes and snowfall don’t affect them, they multiply easily, are deer-resistant (instant pest control) and can handle the shade or full sun.

If you want a colorful spring, plant hardy fall bulbs such as anemone, crocus, daffodil, hyacinth, iris, and tulip because they can tolerate the cold. To create a unique look, plant several varieties with different bloom times and enjoy their beauty throughout spring.

Lawns, Trees, and Shrubs

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Would you like to reduce your water bill? Then here’s what to plant in the fall: low-water grass. If you live in the North, fertilize bluegrass, ryegrass, or a fescue blend like Eco-Lawn in early September and in late October. If you live in the South, don’t feed dormant warm-season grasses such as Bahiagrass and St. Augustinegrass. Till your soil eight inches deep, top it with a three to four-inch layer of compost (you may use organic), till again, water thoroughly, let the soil settle for a few days, and then sow your grass seed.

As for trees, you may plant buckeye, crabapple, hawthorn, elm, maple, pines, sycamore, spruces, and ash in the fall. The types of shrubs you can plant in the fall are oakleaf hydrangea, rhododendron, smoke bush, spirea, and Camellia sasanqua. If you plant a slope or hillside, create a berm (mounded hills of dirt) on the declining side of tree or shrub because it will catch rainwater and any runoff as it moves downhill.

Fall is an ideal time to plant trees and shrubs because the weather is cool and the soil is still warm for roots to develop. But before you start digging and planting, contact your local utility companies so that you don’t dig up an underground line. Dig a hole two to three feet wider than the plant or shrub root ball, so the roots have plenty of room to grow. Water them until the ground freezes in your area to ensure they have a good start before going dormant during the winter. Also, add a two to three-inch layer of mulch around the base of shrubs to ward off any weeds and ensure that the soil retains moisture.

Fall Planting: What Will Be in Your Garden?

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Now that you know what to plant in the fall, the only decision you have to make is what actually to plant. You may want to determine your “hardiness zone” because it can help you decide what to plant in the fall. To discover your zone, use the USDA Hardiness Zone Map. Enter your zip code, and the results will show your hardiness zone along with what you may plant and when. However, the hardiness zone map should be used as a guideline because the weather is fickle. There may be years when the planting season is extended so that you may plant more veggies, trees, shrubs, and flowers than you thought possible. Use your best judgment. Happy planting!

Fall Gardening Tips: What You Need to Know

You’ve tilled and toiled your garden, mowed your lawns, cut flowers, and trimmed trees and shrubs, so the last thing you probably want to think about is tending to your garden in the fall. Alas, you know that you must because if you don’t, the weather will turn cold and the only thing you’ll want to do is binge watch your favorite TV shows. At Improvements, we’re sharing our easy fall gardening tips with you. And just think: once you’ve finished with your gardening duties, you can sit back, relax, and enjoy a hot cup of apple cider. Sound good? You bet it does! So without further ado, let’s fall into fall gardening tips.

Everything You Need to Know about Fall Gardening Tips

Spring gardening usually gets all of the glory and admiration, but fall gardening deserves just as much TLC. Why? Because wilting, overgrown gardens are not a pretty sight. Nor are burned out lawns, overgrown shrubs, hanging tree branches, and more. After all, the outside of your home should look as good as the inside. Furthermore, if you pay an HOA, you may also pay a hefty fine for having an unkempt yard and garden.

Even though spring and summer gardening may have burned you out, you can’t ignore fall clean up. If you have kids at home, you could recruit them to help you. Furthermore, getting your garden and yard ready for next can minimize problems for next year.

Complete Fall Tasks

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Plant spring bulbs such as daffodils, lilies, hyacinths, and tulips for next year. Some garden centers and home improvement stores may put these on sale to avoid keeping them through winter. Of course, you could ask your neighbor if you may cut some of there peonies, roots and all, and plant them in your yard. Get your bulbs in the ground before your area’s first frost.

Bring potted plants indoors. Why? Because ants and other small critters love warm, moist soil. Prevent them from coming into your garden shed by flushing the soil with water a few times. Remove dead or faded leaves, spray the underside with water to remove unwanted pests, and apply new mulch to plants soil surface to prevent gnats from gathering in your outdoor shed.

Speaking of outdoors sheds…If yours has tools and supplies all over the place, you may want to get organized. Use different garage organization items such as stacking recycling bins, heavy-duty storage racks, extension cord winder, and more. Insecticides and fungicides lose their strength after being opened. Safely discard the ones you won’t use next year. Don’t know how to get rid of these items? Contact your local government because they may hold a Safety Fair so that you may bring your leftover insecticides to be disposed of properly.

Remove finished vegetables and clean up debris and weeds from your garden. You can also rake leaves onto your lawn and mow them with your lawnmower so that you may cover your garden with the chopped up leaves. The mixture will enhance fertility in the spring and deter unwanted weeds. You may even want to plant shrubs and plants or pull out the ones that you no longer like.

Depending on where you live, you may want to bring your outdoor fountain indoors to prevent cracking and freezing. If it’s too great of an undertaking, drain your garden fountain completely, dry it with a non-abrasive cloth and place a water fountain cover over it as a protective shield from the weather. For even more water fountain maintenance ideas, read our blog post, Tips for Year-Round Outdoor Fountain Maintenance.

Finally, feed your garden with store-bought or organic garden fertilizer because it will save you time and money next year. Even though temperatures drop, the ground remains warm so that plants can experience root growth. Remember, healthy roots lead to hearty plants and flowers in the spring.

Attend to Lawns

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Head off next spring’s weeds by taking care of and thickening up your lawns before they go dormant in the fall. You can do this by applying a high-potassium winter-grade fertilizer. If you live in a warm area of the country, apply a preventive herbicide that will kill weed seeds that thrive in cooler weather. Next, if you seed your lawn with ryegrass and other cool-season grasses, do it early enough in the fall for the seeds to sprout, grow roots and get established before it gets cold.

As was mentioned before, it’s better to mow leaves rather than rake them because it’s a good way to feed the worms. They’ll nourish your lawn by taking leaf matter deep into your lawn and tree roots. If your leaves become too much to mow, rake blow, or bag them for your compost or leaf pile. For additional fall lawn tips, read our blog post, Fall Lawn Care Tips.

Care For Composts and Rain Barrels

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If you compost, be wary of accepting your neighbor’s grass clippings because they may use weed killers and fungicides, which may wreak havoc on your home compost pile or compost bin. To keep tree roots from growing up into your compost piles, lay plastic sheeting or an old shower curtain underneath them. You may throw old compost on top of new material because it has beneficial bacteria that will jump-start the composting process.

To prevent rain barrels from stinking and becoming stagnant, use old water and thoroughly clean the barrels before fall rain replenishes them. And while you’re at it, check your gutters to make sure they’re not clogged with leaves, twigs, and other debris. Otherwise, they won’t flow smoothly when it starts to rain. Check out our blog post, The Best Gutter Cleaning Tips, so you can keep your gutters in great shape during the fall and winter.

Take Care of Veggies and Herbs

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Fall gardening tips wouldn’t be complete without talking about veggies and herbs! Clean up your vegetable garden by pulling leftover plants and composting them. Also, pull, hoe, or dig weeds into your soil. If you grew rhubarb, cut it down along with asparagus ferns, which can be composted. To prevent weeds during the winter, add a new layer of leaf mulch.

Work your soil by adding compost, chopped tree leaves, or mulch, so you can plant as soon as possible in the late winter (depending on where you live) and spring. You may consider sowing seeds of ryegrass, vetch, or clover over your freshly tilled soil. Not only will it grow all winter, but it will grow leaves and roots. When you work your soil in the spring, the “green” manure will boost your summer garden.

Due to the temperatures in your area, you may discover that it’s too late to plant broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, beets, carrots, and other plants that need a hefty maturation period. However, you may get one more planting of lettuce, turnip, collards, and mustard greens. And, don’t forget to push your garlic a few inches into your soil in double rows. For fun and added color, toss in a couple of daffodil bulbs.

Don’t forget to collect a few seeds from your tomatoes, peppers, beans, and other ‘open-pollinated’ plants. You can plant them next year and share the fruits, or in this case, veggies of your labor, with your family and friends. You may even consider selling your crop at a local farmer’s market. Check with your city for guidelines.

Clean Tools and Equipment

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Of all the gardening tips, this one could make you groan. However, you’ll want to clean your garden tools to keep them looking great and in working order before you put them away for the winter. Wash, rinse, and scrub off dirt, coat metal parts to prevent rusting, and rub down wooden handles with linseed oil to prevent them from cracking and drying out. Examine your garden tools to see if any need replacing.

To keep power equipment engines from gumming up or having other problems, drain the gas. Also, loosen the spark plug, add oil to the firing end, and replace. Check air filters to make sure they’re clean, change if necessary.

Lastly, consider testing your soil to find out if it’s acidic or alkaline, or if it needs nutrients. Then again, you may be overdoing it and will need to cut back. If you want to get your soil tested, your city can help you with this. For a DIY soil testing solution, head over to our blog, What You Need to Know about Garden Fertilizer, to get a step-by-step solution.

Fall in Love with Fall Gardening Tips

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One of the best fall gardening tips (and wish) we have is for you to turn over a new leaf and get your garden ready before autumn turns into winter. Why? Because if you clean up your garden, lawns, etc. in the fall you’ll reap the benefits in the spring.

Of course, if you don’t have the time or energy, you could hire a landscaper. Their schedules are less chaotic, plus designers will have more time to spend with you and may even start work on smaller projects. Keep in mind that you need to call early so you don’t miss the fall planting season. A landscaper needs time to visit your home, create plans, give you an estimate, and more.

For more fall gardening tips, check out our blog post, What to Plant in the Fall. Share your ideas and tips in the comments below!

Fall Home Maintenance Checklist: 8 Things to Do to Prepare Your Home

One of the joys of home ownership is that there is always something to do, to fix or to take care of. Home maintenance is just that. And fall is a great time of year to fix any problem areas and to take inventory of your home’s overall health. To make sure your home is prepared for the cold season, check off items from this fall home maintenance checklist.

Fall Home Maintenance Tips

By making home maintenance a priority in the fall, you can identify any potential problems before they arise or that will be exacerbated by the impending cold or harsh weather. It is a good idea to make this fall maintenance checklist a part of your yearly routine and the more you upkeep your home, the less likely you will experience larger problems or big financial expenditures due to routine maintenance issues.

1. Store Summer and Prepare Winter Tools

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Clean and put away all of your summer tools. Clean your edger, weed whacker, gardening tools and the like before storing for the season. You want to get all dirt and debris off and put the tools inside, whether in a garage or shed. Be sure they are kept in a safe place that will be clear of snow and water to avoid rusting.

Clean the blades of your lawnmower and drain the gas or use a fuel stabilizer before storing for the winter. Without a fuel stabilizer, gas will deteriorate over time and can cause damage to the engine. If you use a fuel stabilizer instead of draining the gas, make sure to run the mower for 5 minutes with the stabilized gas to ensure it reaches the carburetor. This same tip applies to any gas-operated equipment, such as leaf blowers or chainsaws.

Also, take all hoses and removable water spigots off the exterior of your home, drain any remaining water and put away for safekeeping. Shut off the outside water valves as well.

At this time, you’ll want to get out all of your winter tools and prepare them for the upcoming season. Gas up the snow blower and ensure it is in working order. Move the snow shovels to the front of the garage or shed and sand any rust spots. Check your salt supply and stock up if need be.

2. Inspect Home’s Exterior

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Check your roof for loose or missing shingles. Replace or nail down before the first snowfall. Also look for any holes or cracks around the chimney and gutters. Once the weather starts to get cooler, critters will use these openings as an invitation to your attic/walls. You’ll want to shut them out before the need to evict arises.

While you’re up there, clean out the chimney. Actually, you may need to hire a professional chimney sweep, especially if you have a wood-burning fireplace. Check the flue and inspect for damage and cracks.

Remove debris from the gutters and downspouts. Use a plumber’s snake to flush out all of the built-up debris in the downspout. You may also consider adding a downspout extender for fall and winter months.

Check the foundation for cracks. Fix any problems prior to winter because the cold can increase cracking. Make sure to slope the soil away from the home to prevent water buildup.

3. Make Sure Safety Devices Are Working

Check all smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Ensure that they work. Replace the batteries now in all devices. This way you don’t have to remember which device got a new battery at what time. Do them all at the same time for easiest home maintenance. It may be a good idea to do this every six months so you can add it to your spring home maintenance checklist as well.

4. Wash Windows and Check Sealants

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Wash the exterior and interior of your windows and put in your storm windows for the winter. Remove screens and screen doors. Check and repair any caulking around doors and windows to combat drafts and mold buildup. The better the sealant, the better your heating bill!

5. HVAC Service

Have a professional HVAC service in to inspect your furnace. Some offer fall home maintenance service plans. If you can find any possible problems now, it is better to do so in the offseason rather than in the high-price and high-demand winter months. Plus, you don’t want to spend any cold winter nights with a broken furnace for a problem that could have been avoided with regular maintenance.

Remove any window AC units, store safely and cover the exterior unit with an insulating wrap.

6. Insulate Exposed Water Pipes

Make sure all water is flushed from any outdoor pipes. Then insulate the exposed pipes. To insulate pipes, use foil or fiberglass insulation wrap or tubular pipe sleeves. If you choose fiberglass, make sure you wear protective clothing. Always clean the pipes before applying the insulating wrap. Cover the entire surface of the pipe.

Some pipes along the exterior of the home are at risk of freezing too. Check on these as winter sets in even if it is inconvenient to do so. It will be better than dealing with a burst pipe.

7. Change Air Filters and Clean Ducts

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Replace the filters in your furnace and clean all of your air ducts. Vacuum, dust and wipe all heating grates, radiators, and baseboard heaters. Also, clean out the dryer vent. With the dryer fall air, static electricity increases and dryer lint buildup becomes a serious fire hazard. Always unplug your dryer and shut off the gas before cleaning the vent. Use a vacuum cleaner attachment or lint brush to clean out the vent and hose. If needed, replace the hose at this time.

8. Prepare Your Lawn

Rake leaves, mow the lawn, fertilize and prepare your lawn for the winter months. The more you prepare your lawn is for the cold weather, the better it will battle back come springtime. For more information, check out our fall lawn care blog.

Are You Ready to Do These Fall Home Maintenance Preparations?

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Once you follow these fall home maintenance tips, you have your home prepared for the cold. Now, have you prepared for the cold yourself? Is it already time to put away the summer clothes and get out the sweaters?

Outdoor Wedding Ideas for Fall

If you’re getting married in the fall, you may want to have an outdoor wedding. After all, the blue skies, natural décor, and cool breezes make for a romantic setting. However, the reality may not match your plans because anything can happen. At Improvements, we’re sharing our outdoor wedding ideas for fall so you can plan and pull off your autumn wedding—from the pros and cons of a destination wedding to serving seasonal foods. Make sure your big day goes off without a hitch!

Top Outdoor Wedding Ideas for Fall

Congratulations on your outdoor fall wedding! You may want to incorporate everything the fall season has to offer. However, creating and sticking to a budget can save you money. You may even factor in a “cushion” in case anything goes wrong. After all, having extra funds to cover an unforeseen cost can save you time and stress.

Below are some outdoor wedding ideas for fall, from choosing a location to keeping your guests comfortable. And most importantly, keeping your stress level under control. Let us help you plan and pull off your outdoor fall wedding!

Outdoor Wedding Ideas for Fall: Choose a Location

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You may want to have a beach wedding. Or perhaps you’d like to get married at your favorite winery. Whatever your choice, consider if a location will work for everyone. Why? Because even though your wedding day is about you and your groom, you’ll want to make sure a location works for family and friends, too.

Consider the Pros and Cons of a Destination Wedding

Feeling the warmth of the sun and hearing the sounds of waves hitting a beach may put you in a feel-good mood. After all, who wouldn’t want a beach wedding in the fall? However, it may cost you more than you think. For example, you may receive an invoice for chairs, tables, and more. And if you choose a wedding date that’s during hurricane season, your wedding may get canceled. Even if you get married lakeside, you may have to put up with bugs and high winds. Also, a steady lake or ocean breeze means taking extra precautions to secure your wedding décor. And then there’s your hair. It may become disheveled. Yikes!

Get Married at a Local Winery 

Getting married at a winery sounds like an ideal location. After all, you have wine, beautiful scenery (rolling hills and vineyards), and inviting private space, from a lovely courtyard to a sun-kissed patio. However, vineyards may be hot and dry in the summer and guests will need plenty of refreshments. If you have your heart set on getting married in Napa Valley, know that some wineries don’t allow weddings. Also, if a winery is near a residential area, the noise ordinance may require your celebration to end at 9:00 p.m. or 10:00 p.m. And, you may only be able to serve wine instead of alcoholic beverages, including your signature drink.

Consider an Apple Orchard 

The groves of an apple orchard make an excellent backdrop for wedding photos, and you and your guests can stroll through them. However, consider that venues vary. For instance, one apple orchard may have many “bells and whistles,” from a barn to acres of land, pavilion, and more. Then again, another may only have a barn and pavilion. Some apple orchards sit beside mountains and lakes, while others may share properties with beer gardens and wineries. Is your celebration a destination wedding? If so, is the cost manageable for you and your guests? The possibilities are endless but consider each one carefully.

Say Your Wedding Vows in the Backyard

An all-inclusive wedding reception may account for 50 percent of your budget. But having a large or small backyard wedding may be more cost-effective; the sentimental value is priceless. However, you may have to pay for rentals, including portable restrooms, dance floor, tent, and more. Consider if catering is an option. If not, you may have to hire a company. Also, bugs may swarm around you and your guests during the day and night. And, parking may be a nightmare. Consider the cost of permits and liability insurance.

Outdoor Wedding Ideas for Fall: What Else Should You Consider?

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In addition to choosing your wedding location, there are other factors to consider. Below are other outdoor wedding ideas for fall.

Stay Mindful of Extra Costs

A beach, campground, or park may be open to the public, but that doesn’t mean they’re free wedding venues. You’ll want to find out if there’s a site fee or suggested donation. If the location is remote, is there an extra delivery fee? Will you have to pay for sanitation services? What about valet parking? Do you need security? These costs add up!

Consider How Much Electricity You’ll Need (lights, etc.)

You need electricity for lighting, sound and temperature control. If your wedding venue doesn’t have electricity, you’ll need generators for kitchen appliances, amps, microphones, speakers, portable heaters (it gets cold at night) and anything else that requires power. It may pay to hire an electrician to review your wedding location and give you an estimate on the amount of power that’s needed.

Have a Plan B and C

Are you a fan of The Office? If so, you’ll recall that Jim and Pam had a Plan B and Plan C. Hey! With the gang from Dunder Mifflin-Scranton, what could go wrong will probably happen times 10! So, it pays to have multiple backups in place. For instance, if Mother Nature unleashes a thunderstorm, make sure your venue has a building so that you can get married inside. Does your wedding venue suddenly need repairs? Make sure you have a backup. After all, life happens. And you need to be prepared, no matter what!

Keep Guests Warm and Dry and Cool (umbrellas and outdoor heaters)

Getting married outdoors means having to contend with the weather. If its warm, provide guests with portable fans. Pass out umbrellas, so guests stay protected from the rain. Have plenty of blankets and outdoor heaters to keep guests warm at night. Nothing spoils a wedding like grumpy guests. Keep everyone comfortable the best that you can.

Provide Ample Seating

No woman wants to ruin her high-heeled shoes by standing on the lawn, stretching her neck to see you and your groom say your vows. Make sure you have ample seating, from chairs to benches. Even if your ceremony is 5-10 minutes, don’t make your pregnant cousin or Grandma stand. Have chairs available for people who need them. Oh, and here’s another tip: consider distributing plastic heel protectors so that your bridal party and female guests so they don’t sink into the soil.

Keep the Bugs and Wind Away

Did you know that baby’s breath, peonies, and scabiosa attract bugs? To keep the pests away, incorporate sprigs of rosemary, lavender, mint, and thyme. Keep mosquitoes away with citronella torches or candles. Don’t use lightweight centerpieces or vases because they may blow away. Instead, opt for potted plants or gourds that will weigh down an arrangement. If you have lit candles, cover them.

Serve a Seasonal Menu and Keep Dessert Simple

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Consider serving dishes that are specific to fall. Appetizers may include mini grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup, artichoke toast, sweet potato cakes with maple syrup, and more. Dinner may consist of 1-3 meal options, buffet or different food stations. For instance, one station may have Thanksgiving turkey with all of the fixings. Another may have Virginia ham, buttermilk biscuits, sausage gravy, and other sides. For vegetarians, serve lasagna, different kind of pasta, and other delicious foods. Vegetables may include broccoli, peas, beans, Brussels sprouts, pumpkin, and more. Desserts may include pumpkin pie, s’mores, cheesecake, apple pie, gingerbread cookies, apple crisp, fudgy peanut butter cake, caramel apple strudel, and more. Your wedding cake may even have a seasonal flavor!

Forget the Rice and Throw Leaves

Throwing rice at a bride and groom as they make their way down the aisle after they’re married is boring. Give guests a bag filled with leaves and have them toss them at you and your hubby. Not only can you save money, but it makes a great photo opportunity.

Light a Bonfire

Nothing says fall like a bonfire. Have one at your wedding, will be a hit with your guests. They can take their s’mores (see the Seasonal Menu and Desserts point) and let them toast their marshmallows and create an ooey-gooey dessert that will warm their hearts just like your wedding.

Are You Ready to Plan Your Fall Wedding?

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We hope you enjoyed our outdoor wedding ideas for fall! No matter what you decide, make sure you focus on getting married and celebrating your big day. Remember, you can only control your attitude and emotions. If something goes wrong, don’t let it spoil your day. Have fun!

Got any outdoor wedding ideas for fall? Share them in the comments.

Sun Protection Beyond Sunscreen | Improvements Blog

Sunscreen is probably the best method for protecting oneself against sun damage. According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association website, they recommend using a water-resistant, broad-spectrum sunblock with SPF 30 or higher. But the website points out that sunscreen alone will not fully protect you (read more Sunscreen FAQs from the AADA here). So you should know of other ways to escape the heat of the sun and its UVA/UVB rays. Here are a few tips on how to shade yourself from the sun.

Sun Protection is Vital

Whether you’re fair-skinned or have a darker complexion, you need to protect your skin from being exposed to the sun for too long. And not just on hot, sunny days either. Of course, the sun also has health benefits too. It can boost people’s moods and helps us produce Vitamin D, which supports bone health and optimal immune function. Find the balance between the right amount of sun exposure and too much. The best way to do that is to ensure you utilize some type of sun protection.

Get Shady to Block the Sun

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Seek shade whenever possible to help escape the heat and rays of the sun. Try to minimize your time in the sun during peak hours, from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m., and keep exposure to 30 minutes or less. Take an umbrella with you if you’re on the go. A study published in JAMA Dermatology states that a handheld umbrella can block a majority of the UV light on a sunny day. Utilize a patio umbrella or outdoor curtains for your outdoor living area for extra sun protection. Putting up an outdoor shade, awning or temporary tent is great for backyard parties. Utilize tents and pavilion setups on camping trips or if you are going to an outdoor festival or tournament (if such things are permitted at the venue. If not, wear a wide-brimmed hat and bring your sunscreen).

When possible, opt for a seat in the shade during all outdoor activities. When at the beach or a pool, bring a sun shade with you or beach umbrella so you can have sun protection. Sit under a tree at the park to read your book or find a pavilion at the zoo in which to enjoy your lunch. It is important to take a break from the sun when you are doing all-day outdoor activities like a water park, zoo or amusement park. Find an awning under which you can enjoy an ice cream cone!

Clothing Can Shield You From the Sun

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Long-sleeved shirts, lightweight pants, wide-brimmed hats and UV-protective sunglasses are your best friends when it comes to combatting the harmful rays of the sun. They offer complementary sun protection in addition to sunscreen. Lighter weight fabrics like linen are ideal in the hot summer months for comfort, but tightly woven fabrics are better for sun protection as the rays cannot penetrate the material as well as they can the looser fabrics. Darker colors absorb more UV rays than lighter-colored clothing.

Hats offer protection against the sun as well and the wider the brim the better as it provides more coverage. Straw hats or lightly woven hats don’t offer as much protection as thicker material hats. Couple the hat with UV-protective sunglasses and you are set to enjoy some time in the sun. Just remember to take cover under a shade when needed.

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Get out the outdoor umbrella, slather on some sunscreen, put on your hat and sunglasses and enjoy your day! As long as you are cognizant of your time in the sun and remember to take cover, you are well on your way to sun protection. Just make sure to remember that you do have the ability to be exposed to sun damage even on cloudy days. Please note that this article is for information purposes only; if you have questions about sunscreen and staying safe in the sun, consult your doctor or dermatologist.

Earth Day Activities: Improvements Cares

On April 21, 2018, 12 members of the Improvements family gathered together to unite with over 160 volunteers at the Cuyahoga (K AY – ah – H OH – g ah) Valley National Park (CVNP) to ring in the 48th Celebration of Earth Day. Improvements employees and their families spent their Saturday morning helping to plant 550 trees of varying native Ohio species, including American basswood, black cherry, shagbark hickory, and tulip poplar trees. Now, that’s a lot of hole digging!

Celebrating Earth Day

Volunteers traveled near and far arriving at the event around 10:00 am. They gathered their gear (gloves, goggles, bug spray, and water) and hiked up, what some say, a large, muddy hill to the location where the planting was to occur. The area designated for planting trees used to be farmland. Any trees that used to be there were cut down and removed, leaving a vacant open space on top of a large hill.

Park rangers and biology professors from Kent State University briefed volunteers on the importance of the day’s event and safety precautions. The purpose of planting the different varieties of trees was to provide research material for graduate students from the Biological Sciences Department at KSU. Students will monitor the different trees (mentioned earlier) for the following:

  • Carbon and oxygen level impacts to the surrounding soil and water.
  • Root growth due to water availability or water runoff.
  • If they contracted any disease.

They want to see if certain trees can grow better in the area than other trees and why that is.

The different types of trees were planted in designated quadrants throughout the planting site to allow the grad students to monitor the trees and how they were performing accurately and efficiently.

After the brief education update, volunteers separated into two large groups. One to plant shagbark hickory trees and the other to plant American basswood; the Improvements team was part of the American basswood group. Once the two groups split, one of the park rangers demonstrated the proper way to plant a sapling. You may think, “how hard is it to plant trees?” but saplings are fragile, and you must handle them with care.

How to Plant a Tree

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First, you need to dig a large enough hole which could range in depth from 6”-12″. However, it depends on how much soil is left around the sapling when you remove it from its container. It also needs to be wide enough because you can’t have narrow holes.

Second, make sure the tree stands up straight. If the tree tilts, it will grow tilted. No tilted trees allowed!

Third, once the tree is inside the hole you dug, you fill it with enough soil to cover the roots so that the soil in the hole is now level to the surrounding area. It’s critical because you don’t want to create a moat around the tree or a small hill which could either drown or prevent the tree from water access. No moats or hills allowed!

Fourth and finally, press down on the dirt around the tree, so it’s nice and compact. Doing this ensures that the tree is stable and won’t fall from a strong gust of wind. No loose soil allowed!

See, planting trees isn’t as easy as it may seem.

The group then split off into teams of twos and threes: one person to carry the basswood sapling and the other to carry the shovel. The teams had to carry their newly gathered supplies and climb another hill so the digging and planting could begin. The ground was semi-soft because it had rained the previous days which made digging not too difficult. Unless that is, you hit a patch of clay, which was likely as the ground was a mixture of clay and topsoil.

As you planted you had to remember what you learned from the ranger:

  • Dig the hole.
  • Remove clay if necessary.
  • Place the tree inside and make sure it’s straight.
  • Cover roots, not too little or too much but just right.
  • Pat around the tree, so it’s nice and secure.

Once you planted your tree, you sent one member down the hill to get another sapling while someone dug the next hole. This process continued for all the teams until every single designated tree was planted.

An Environmentally Friendly and Evergreen Volunteer Opportunity

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The Basswood Team proved to be quite efficient as we planted all designated 125 American basswood trees in under 3 hours! That’s a lot of holes and trees.

Another hike back to the parking lot and the successful event wrapped up. The 163 volunteers planted 500 trees and completed over 700 hours of community service. Now that’s an Earth Day Celebration!

The Earth Day event for the Improvements team served to be one of the best community service activities held by the company. It was a fantastic opportunity to get outside, spend time with coworkers and family and be part of something bigger than yourself.

Volunteering at CVNP was not only beneficial for the National Parks and Kent State University, but team members had the opportunity to serve their community as well. Most companies don’t have a National Park in their backyard, but Improvements is lucky enough to have CVNP. It’s approximately 10 miles (or 21 minutes driving time) from our front door!

Earth Day Activities You Can Participate In

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April 22, 2018, marked the 48th celebration of Earth Day. You may celebrate in various ways no matter your age. Some Earth Day activities include:

  • Learn how to recycle or compost.
  • Start your summer garden.
  • Ride your bike instead of driving.
  • Pick up litter in a park or around your neighborhood.
  • Build a birdhouse, a bee house or even a bat house.

You can even be like the Improvements family and plant some trees. After all, Improvements Cares!

Father’s Day Recipes: Homemade Dry BBQ Rub

Is your dad a fan of BBQ? If so, why not mix together a special gift like a dry BBQ rub? After all, yours will be made with the finest ingredients, and most importantly – love. And, it’s a gift that he could share with the entire family when he makes his famous, mouth-watering BBQ ribs or chicken. At Improvements, we’re giving you a dry BBQ rub that’s packed with flavor and may even bring a tear to your dad’s eye. Let’s start mixing!

How To Make a Dry BBQ Rub

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Whether your dad (or father figure) is near or far, give him a gift that will enhance his BBQ experience. Follow the steps below and make your dad a dry BBQ rub that he can use whenever he BBQs.

Father’s Day BBQ Dry Rub Ingredients

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  • 3 tablespoons paprika
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 3 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar – packed

Father’s Day BBQ Dry Rub Directions

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  1. Put all of your ingredients in a bowl and mix well with a whisk.
  2. Sprinkle the desired amount on your meat, fish or poultry before grilling.
  3. Transfer any remaining rub to an airtight container and store until your next use.

What Will be the Secret Ingredient in Your BBQ Rub?

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Help your dad kick up his BBQ a notch with a spicy and sweet dry rub! After all, he’ll appreciate how you took the time to make him something that’s especially for him. Of course, if your family has a cookout, everyone will benefit from the BBQ dry rub. Just imagine your dad barbecuing seasoned ribs, chicken, corn on the cob, and vegetables. Can you smell the aroma? Are your tastebuds tantalized? Yes, and yes!

Happy Father’s Day!

P.S. Do you have a BBQ dry rub recipe? Share it in the comments below.

The hotter our body temperature, the more our bodies speed up a key defense system that fights against tumors, wounds or infections — ScienceDaily

The hotter our body temperature, the more our bodies speed up a key defence system that fights against tumours, wounds or infections, new research by a multidisciplinary team of mathematicians and biologists from the Universities of Warwick and Manchester has found.

The researchers have demonstrated that small rises in temperature (such as during a fever) speed up the speed of a cellular ‘clock’ that controls the response to infections — and this new understanding could lead to more effective and fast-working drugs which target a key protein involved in this process.

Biologists found that inflammatory signals activate ‘Nuclear Factor kappa B’ (NF-κB) proteins to start a ‘clock’ ticking, in which NF-κB proteins move backwards and forwards into and out of the cell nucleus, where they switch genes on and off.

This allows cells to respond to a tumour, wound or infection. When NF-κB is uncontrolled, it is associated with inflammatory diseases, such as Crohn’s disease, psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis.

At a body temperature of 34 degrees, the NF-κB clock slows down. At higher temperatures than the normal 37 degree body temperature (such as in fever, 40 degrees), the NF-κB clock speeds up.

Mathematicians at the University of Warwick’s Systems Biology Centre calculated how temperature increases make the cycle speed up.

They predicted that a protein called A20 — which is essential to avoid inflammatory disease — might be critically involved in this process. The experimentalists then removed A20 from cells and found that the NF-kB clock lost its sensitivity to increases in temperature.

Lead mathematician Professor David Rand, Professor of Mathematics and a member of the University of Warwick’s Zeeman Institute for Systems Biology and Infectious Disease Epidemiology (SBIDER), explained that in normal life the 24 hour body clock controls small (1.5 degree) changes in body temperature.

He commented: “the lower body temperature during sleep might provide a fascinating explanation into how shift work, jet lag or sleep disorders cause increased inflammatory disease”

Mathematician Dan Woodcock from the University of Warwick said: “this is a good example of how mathematical modelling of cells can lead to useful new biological understanding.”

While the activities of many NF-kB controlled genes were not affected by temperature, a key group of genes showed altered profiles at the different temperatures. These temperature sensitive genes included key inflammatory regulators and controllers of cell communication that can alter cell responses.

This study shows that temperature changes inflammation in cells and tissues in a biologically organised way and suggests that new drugs might more precisely change the inflammatory response by targeting the A20 protein.

Professor Mike White, lead biologist from the University of Manchester, said the study provides a possible explanation of how both environmental and body temperature affects our health:

“We have known for some time that influenza and cold epidemics tend to be worse in the winter when temperatures are cooler. Also, mice living at higher temperatures suffer less from inflammation and cancer. These changes may now be explained by altered immune responses at different temperatures.”

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Inpatient opioid use and insufficient weaning pre-discharge may increase outpatient opioid prescriptions — ScienceDaily

According to the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine scientists who conducted the study, theirs is the first large-scale evaluation of the impact of in-hospital opioid prescribing on post-discharge opioid use.

“Most previous studies of opioid use in health care have focused on the outpatient setting,” said lead study author Jason Kennedy, MS, research project manager in Pitt’s Department of Critical Care Medicine. “But opioids are often introduced during hospitalization. That’s something clinicians can control, so we looked at inpatient prescription of these drugs to identify targets that may reduce opioid use once patients are out of the hospital.”

The researchers analyzed the medical records of 357,413 non-obstetrical adults hospitalized between 2010 and 2014 at 12 University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) hospitals in southwestern Pennsylvania. The region is one of the areas of the country where opioid addiction is a major public health problem. The researchers focused on the 192,240 patients who had not received an opioid in the year prior to their hospitalization — otherwise known as “opioid naïve” patients.

Nearly half (48 percent) of these patients received an opioid while hospitalized. After discharge, those patients receiving hospital opioids were more than twice as likely to report outpatient opioid use within 90-days (8.4 percent vs. 4.1 percent).

The study also found that:

  • Those who took an opioid for more than three-quarters of their hospital stay were 32 percent more likely than those who took an opioid for less than one-fourth of their stay to be prescribed an opioid within 90 days of leaving the hospital.
  • Those who used an opioid within 12 hours of discharge were twice as likely as those who stopped taking an opioid more than 24 hours before discharge to be prescribed an opioid within 90 days of leaving the hospital.
  • 33 percent received an opioid during the 24 hours prior to discharge from the hospital.
  • 20 percent of those receiving opioids in the ICU received intravenous opioids on transfer to the medical ward.

The findings suggest some inpatient interventions that might reduce opioid use in outpatient settings, Mr. Kennedy said.

“Reducing use of opiates near the end of a hospital stay, especially in the 24 hours before discharge, may reduce outpatient prescription of opioids,” he said. “And weaning ICU patients off of intravenous opioids, the most potent way of administering these pain killers, before transitioning them to the medical ward may also help reduce outpatient usage.”

Further study, ideally with randomized, controlled trials, would be necessary to provide definitive guidance to doctors and other health care providers, he added.

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Scientists find link between increases in local temperature and antibiotic resistance — ScienceDaily

Bacteria have long been thought to develop antibiotic resistance largely due to repeated exposure through over-prescribing. But could much bigger environmental pressures be at play?

Seeking to better understand the distribution of antibiotic resistance across the U.S., a multidisciplinary team of epidemiologists from Boston Children’s Hospital and the University of Toronto have found that higher local temperatures and population densities correlate with a higher degree of antibiotic resistance in common bacterial strains. The findings were published today in Nature Climate Change.

“The effects of climate are increasingly being recognized in a variety of infectious diseases, but so far as we know this is the first time it has been implicated in the distribution of antibiotic resistance over geographies,” says the study’s lead author, Derek MacFadden, MD, an infectious disease specialist and research fellow at Boston Children’s Hospital. “We also found a signal that the associations between antibiotic resistance and temperature could be increasing over time.”

“Estimates outside of our study have already told us that there will already be a drastic and deadly rise in antibiotic resistance in coming years,” says the paper’s co-senior author John Brownstein, PhD, who is Chief Innovation Officer and director of the Computational Epidemiology Group at Boston Children’s and professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School (HMS). “But with our findings that climate change could be compounding and accelerating an increase in antibiotic resistance, the future prospects could be significantly worse than previously thought.”

During their study, the team assembled a large database of U.S. antibiotic resistance information related to E. coli, K. pneumoniae, and S. aureus, pulling from various streams of hospital, laboratory and disease surveillance data documented between 2013 and 2015. Altogether, their database comprised more than 1.6 million bacterial pathogens from 602 unique records across 223 facilities and 41 states.

Not surprisingly, when looking at antibiotic prescription rates across geographic areas, the team found that increased prescribing was associated with increased antibiotic resistance across all the pathogens that they investigated.

Then, comparing the database to latitude coordinates as well as mean and medium local temperatures, the team found that higher local average minimum temperatures correlated the strongest with antibiotic resistance. Local average minimum temperature increases of 10 degrees Celsius were found to be associated with 4.2, 2.2 and 3.6 percent increases in antibiotic resistant strains of E. coli, K. pneumoniae, and S. aureus, respectively.

More unsettling still, when looking at population density, the team found that an increase of 10,000 people per square mile was associated with three and six percent respective increases in antibiotic resistance in E. coli and K. pneumoniae, which are both Gram-negative species. In contrast, the antibiotic resistance of Gram-positive S. aureus did not appear to be significantly affected by population density.

“Population growth and increases in temperature and antibiotic resistance are three phenomena that we know are currently happening on our planet,” says the study’s co-senior author Mauricio Santillana, PhD, who is a faculty member in the Computational Health Informatics Program at Boston Children’s and an assistant professor at HMS. “But until now, hypotheses about how these phenomena relate to each other have been sparse. We need to continue bringing multidisciplinary teams together to study antibiotic resistance in comparison to the backdrop of population and environmental changes.”

MacFadden says the transmission factor is of particular interest for further scientific research.

“As transmission of antibiotic resistant organisms increases from one host to another, so does the opportunity for ongoing evolutionary selection of resistance due to antibiotic use,” MacFadden says. “We hypothesize that temperature and population density could act to facilitate transmission and thus increases in antibiotic resistance.”

“The bottom line is that our findings highlight a dire need to invest more research efforts into improving our understanding of the interconnectedness of infectious disease, medicine and our changing environment,” Brownstein concludes.

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Materials provided by Boston Children’s Hospital. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.