spring home improvement - south edition

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  • 2 | 2015 Spring Home Improvement, South Edition

    BY AMANDA MCKNIGHTamcknight@swpub.com

    With the weather finally warming up and buds form-ing on the trees,

    many people are thinking about whether or not to plant a garden this year.

    While determining what to plant, parents might also con-sider involving their children in the gardening process.

    Laura Wood, owner of Gar-den by the Woods in Chanhas-sen, said many kids enjoy watching something theyve cared for grow and bloom into a fruit, vegetable or flower. (And a few lucky gardeners might end up with children who are actually interested

    in eating their vegetables for the first time ever.)

    The best things to plant are things that kids can pull off as snacks, like the little dwarf carrots, Wood said. And popcorn is something I would definitely grow.

    Thats right its possible to grow the corn used for pop-corn in your very own garden. What kid (or adult, for that matter) wouldnt love that?

    Wood also suggests that pickle lovers grow cucumbers to turn into their very own style of pickle.

    Cucumbers to pickles can be a fun process to watch come alive for kids, said Wood. Its a pretty simple process called refrigerator pickles.

    Steve Kokesh, owner of Kokesh Landscaping in Way-zata, also recommends plant-ing vegetables and fruits that kids can easily interact with and eat.

    Its good to stay basic with your vegetables because if

    kids can watch something grow, run outside, pick

    it, and you cook it that night it makes more sense to them, said Kokesh.

    A n y t h i n g f r o m dwarf carrots, like Wood mentioned, to

    beans or strawberries or tomatoes would make for

    a great gardening project for younger green thumbs.Even beans can be deco-

    rative in the yard, added Kokesh. The greens will grow up on a trellis. Whats really fun for kids is if you can put your garden on the side of

    the house or somewhere you could let a few pumpkins grow or some sunflowers. Sunflow-ers get big, and you can watch them grow. The kids will be in amazement, and you can get the seeds out at the end and bake them in the oven.

    Even something as simple as watching a watermelon grow from nearly nothing to its final shape can be fun for kids. Not only does it teach them the growing process, said Kokesh, but it also teach-es them responsibility in car-ing for a living thing.

    Kokesh said he always cau-tions those who are new to gardening: start small. Its easy to become overwhelmed and lose interest in the project altogether if it starts too large.

    You can keep it very small so its not an elaborate and time consuming thing, he said. Think 8 feet by 12 feet. Families are so busy these days, so keep it manageable for the time you have.

    Some new gardeners might want to consider a straw bale garden. Vegetables and fruit can be planted in soil-filled holes in the bale, using the bale itself to take root and get its nourishment. This way, the bale can be thrown out after the harvesting season, and all remnants of a garden will be gone.

    You just tip a straw bale on its side and take whatever plant you have, make a small hole in the bail with just a little soil on it, and then the straw bale holds the moisture

    Gardening ideas for kids and families


    Laura Wood, owner of Garden by the Woods in Chanhassen, explains that Mason bees pack mud into the holes rather than honey of their houses.

    Laura Wood tinkers with makeshift planters made from old toys and boots at her store, Garden by the Woods, in Chanhassen.



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    Old toys can make for fun planters for children.

  • 2015 Spring Home Improvement, South Edition | 3

    the plants need and nour-ishes it. Then in the fall you just throw the straw bale on the curb and its hauled away, said Kokesh. Its a way to introduce you and your family to it in a low cost and low maintenance way.

    CREATING AN ECOSYSTEMBesides involving kids in

    the planting, growing and harvesting process, though, there are a number of other ways to get even toddlers playing in the garden.

    A favorite landscaping trick of Woods is to use an old toy as a planter. This might make gardening seem like more fun to your child. If your kids are younger and not ready to actually plant yet, an old toy dumptruck will do the trick for them to dig in and get dirty with some soil.

    The fun doesnt have to revolve around the act of gardening itself, though. Kids can help contribute to the yards ecosystem by hanging Mason bee houses or making a holder for bird nesting material.

    Mason bees dont pro-duce honey, Wood ex-

    plained. They pack mud into the little holes in its nest. If you have orchards or need a pollinator, these will passively live in your yard and help your vegetables be healthier.

    To make a holder for bird nesting material, anything organic or natural is con-sidered safe to use. If its aesthetically pleasing, thats just a bonus for the yard!

    The best materials are natural cotton or strips of fabric, six- to eight- inch strips of natural fibers and paper products, explained Wood. I would avoid plas-tics. You can use straw, or feathers are great, too.

    Stuff the materials into a straw orb or hanging gourd, and birds will flock to it for comfortable bedding.

    When it comes down to it, Kokesh and Wood agree that its important to do whats best for your own family. Busy families who dont want to commit to an annual garden may opt for a straw bale garden, while others might want to work the garden into the yards landscape theme as a whole.

    This can give the kids a bit of responsibility and also bring the family together, said Kokesh. Its something they all can relate to.

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    BY AMANDA SCHWARZEamandas@weeklynews.com

    Refinancing a home can be a way to save money in the long-term, but it doesnt

    always work out that way.Refinancing means a

    mortgage is renegotiated, and the existing loan is paid off with a new loan. The goal is get more desirable terms, such as a lower interest rate or a change in the length of the loan.

    According to the Min-nesota Department of Com-merce, a decision to refi-nance a mortgage depends on the borrowers current situation. What works for one person will not neces-sarily end up working well for everyone, they warn. Mortgage banker Alex Sten-back of Alerus Financial in Minnetonka agrees.

    Theres not a simple good or bad test for refi-nancing, Stenback said. There are many variables and many reasons people refinance.

    Traditionally, one refi-nances to pay less interest over the term of the loan. That can be accomplished through both a reduction in rate, and a reduction in term, say moving from a 15- to a 30-year loan, he explained. Sometimes a refinance makes sense to re-move mortgage insurance, or to consolidate multiple loans. Sometimes a refi-nance is situational think divorce, job loss, change in household finances. Peo-ple sometimes tap equity through a refinance to im-

    prove the home, or make a down payment on a second home.

    Regardless of the reason-ing behind refinancing, the Minnesota Department of Commerce advises people to think about how long they plan on being in their home before deciding to re-finance. If a person is going to remain in the home long enough to recoup all costs involved in the refinancing, such as the appraisal and closing costs, then it could be a good idea to refinance. It may not be a good idea to refinance for people who plan to sell their home soon.

    Once a borrower decides to pursue a refinance, he or she needs to start doing research, according to the Minnesota Department of Commerce. They suggest contacting various lenders to inquire about interest rates, terms of avai