Easy Ways to Spruce Up Your Front Door

The entry points in our house always seem to collect so much stuff, both inside and outside. Things that aren’t supposed to be brought in like muddy boots and large rocks and sticks are dropped right outside the door. The rest is carried in and then dropped on the floor a few feet in the door.

It’s a constant clutter battle. Unless you give up. Then it’s just a mess. That only flies for so long…because it drives me insane to look at (and trip over). At least, the stuff on the inside does…

Our house has two main points of entry, a front door and a back door. We have no mud room, nor do we enter through a garage. So the things outside the front door are on our front porch. It’s a bit embarrassing.

See?

Our sad, cluttered front door. | Vicki-Arnold.com

There’s more clutter to the left…but no picture of that mess. Use your imagination.

Easy Ways to Spruce Up Your Front Door

Your definition may vary, but I came up with a sample of ways to spruce up your front door that were either cheap, quick, or both.

  1. Declutter – Throw broken things away, put misplaced items where they belong, and purge items that do belong, but you no longer need.
  2. Deep clean – It amazes me how dirty a door can get. Giving it a good scrub, shaking off any rugs, and sweeping the floor can make a HUGE difference. Especially if you have any white in the area.
  3. Paint – Paint is relatively cheap, particularly if you can find a “mis-tint” can at the store. A local to us store has $5 gallons of paint that was not just exactly what a previous customer wanted. Super cheap way to spruce up your front door if you can find the right color and style of paint.
  4. Replace – Has your door mat seen better days? Replace it with something new that you love. Still have old holiday decorations up? Replace them with the next holiday, or with seasonal ones.
  5. Try something new – Add a new container of flowers or make a fun new wreath to hang on your door.

For more ideas on ways to spruce up your front door, check out my Front Door Decorations Pinterest board.

Remember my front door? Well, I gave a few of these a shot. I was impressed with how much a difference decluttering and sweeping up up made:

Our front door, decluttered | Vicki-Arnold.com

But that was too plain for me. So I decided we needed some fresh fun containers to spruce it up a bit more. Never mind that I more often than not kill anything I grow in containers. That’s what I have kids for, right? I smell a new chore…just kidding…sort of.

Planting a Container Flower Garden

Yes, I did just say container flower garden. I talk a lot about gardening around here, but I’m not sure if I’ve ever really clarified that gardening isn’t just gardening in the ground. It can be as simple as growing some plants in a container or two. Really.

Planting a container garden is pretty simple. You pick some good plants, find a container big enough for the plants you chose, and enough dirt to fill said container. Then plant. A couple tips to help:

  • Make sure your container has drainage holes. You need those to keep from drowning your plants.
  • Put some gravel or rocks in the bottom of larger containers to save on potting soil (don’t short your plants though, they do need more dirt than what they come with) and to give the container weight if it is plastic.

Drilling drainage holes in a container for planting. | Vicki-Arnold.com

For my plants, I was so excited to be able to partner with Monrovia, who sponsored this post, to help get the word out about their plants. You can find Monrovia plants at your local nursery, if they don’t have what you need in stock, you can order from the website and have it shipped to the nursery!

I was fortunate to find a few great plants at our local home improvement store. There were a few different options that I just loved:

Monrovia plants at the local store | Vicki-Arnold.com

Unfortunately, I did not have enough containers to bring them home. Le sigh. ;) So I chose a few favorites that I thought would coordinate well with our orange door and the containers I chose. Or at least not clash terribly.

The Monrovia plants I chose were:

  • Reiman Clematis
  • Tiny Orange Sensation Asiatic Lily
  • SuperTrouper Magenta + White Dianthus

I also picked up some store brand filler plants to round out the containers.

My favorite thing about flowers is the wildlife they attract. It may seem like a bad idea, but we actually want to attract bees to our yard. They are pollinators and in grave danger. So any time we can help them out, we do.

Butterflies are also attracted to flowers. These make kids of all ages pretty happy.

Monrovia plants | Vicki-Arnold.com

Monrovia plants | Vicki-Arnold.com

I enlisted the help of my super awesome husband and we got to planting our containers.

Monrovia plants | Vicki-Arnold.com

 

Monrovia plants | Vicki-Arnold.com

Monrovia Reiman Clematis with SuperTrouper Magenta + White Dianthus

Monrovia plants | Vicki-Arnold.com

Monrovia Tiny Orange Sensation Asiatic Lily (I can’t wait for this to bloom!)

Monrovia plants | Vicki-Arnold.com

Monrovia SuperTrouper Magenta + White Dianthus

And just like that, my front door looks SO much better! I love the clean look of no clutter and the pop of color the flowers bring to our front porch.

Our front door all spruced up | Vicki-Arnold.com

I hope this gave you some help if you were looking for ways to spruce up your front door. It can make such a difference!

Be sure to check out Monrovia plants to see if there is something that will fit in your garden plans!

Dianthus bloom - Vicki-Arnold.com

A gorgeous dianthus bloom.

Simple Ways to Spruce Up Your Front Door | Vicki-Arnold.com

Books for Gardeners of All Kinds

Gardening books are some of my favorite reads. We have a garden of some size every year. This year we are wondering if the only thing we will grow will be the strawberries because it looks like they survived the bitterly cold winter we had and our time seems to be growing smaller and smaller as the year goes on.

But that doesn’t stop me from picking up garden related books! I just love to look at them. They are so beautiful and full of information. I pick up something new from each one I read. Today I’m sharing my latest haul of books for gardeners from the library (and a couple from my shelves).

Books for Gardeners of All Kinds | Vicki-Arnold.com

Books for Gardeners of All Kinds

Homegrown Berries: Successfully Grow Your Own Strawberries, Raspberries, Blueberries, Blackberries, and More! by Timber Press Growing Guides – The photography in this book is gorgeous. The “more” of this book includes gooseberries, currants, elderberries, chokeberries, cranberries, jostaberries, huckleberries, juneberries, and lingonberries. That’s a lot of berries and a lot of information.

Grow a Little Fruit Tree: Simple Pruning Techniques for Small-Space, Easy-Harvest Fruit Trees by Ann Ralph – Fruit trees are intimidating to me. These fruit trees are literally little fruit trees. The yield is smaller and the care is easier because the trees aren’t too tall. At least, that’s what she spends roughly 168 pages explaining.

Epic Tomatoes: How to Select and Grow the Best Varieties of All Time by Craig LeHoullier – I am such a fan of how gorgeous gardening books have become. It makes me want them all. So at the risk of sounding redundant, this book is gorgeous. Lots of photos, lots of history, lots of great information.

Edible Spots and Pots: Small-Space Gardens for Growing Vegetables and Herbs in Containers, Raised Beds, and More by Stacey Hirvela – Very thorough, easy to read format. Doesn’t have the color photography of other books, but it isn’t photo free.

The New Horse-Powered Farm: Tools and Systems for the Small-Scale Sustainable Market Grower by Stephen Leslie – Not exactly my cup of gardening tea, but a great informational book. Covers horse breeds, care and training, and working with horses on your farm. It includes a section on working with horses with specific crops, too.

Small-Space Vegetable Gardens: Growing Great Edibles in Containers, Raised Beds, and Small Plots by Andrea Bellamy – Walks you through the assessment and planning stages, even has photo directions for building raised beds. Also covers pest control and plant diseases you may face. Ends with a nice size section on specific edibles.

Farm Fork Food: A Year of Spectacular Recipes Inspired by Black Cat Farm by Eric Skokan – This is a cookbook, not a gardening book. It has a lot of recipes in it, a lot of unique recipes. Basil ice cream with summer berries? You’ll find it in here. Lots of things that I probably wouldn’t try, but you may be more adventurous than I.

Start a Community Food Garden: The Essential Handbook by LaManda Joy – The book is organized in three parts: gathering your community, building your garden’s supports, and managing your community garden. Community gardens need to become a thing, a big thing. There is so much potential for good.

Practical Permaculture for Home Landscapes, Your Community, and the Whole Earth by Jessi Bloom and Dave Boehnlein – I find this book fascinating. Permaculture uses lots of tricks and techniques that would be helpful to gardeners at large. A big book, with a ringing endorsement from Joel Salatin.

Aquaponic Gardening: A Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Vegetables and Fish Together by Sylvia Bernstein – Maybe you want to try a different way of gardening? You could give this a try and grow some fish while you’re at it.

The Ever-Blooming Flower Garden: A Blueprint for Continuous Color by lee Schneller – I get stuck in the thought process of food gardening when I think gardening, but vegetable gardens aren’t the only kind of gardens you can grow. This is a great flower gardening book. Flower gardens are great for drawing in pollinators like butterflies, bees, and birds.

There you have it, a short list of books for gardeners of all kinds. Let me know if you discovered a new to you book to add to your reading list!

Ultimate Guide to Gardening Fun With Kids

If you have been around the blog for a while, you may have noticed that come spring time I love to talk gardening. Today I am bringing you what I am calling the Ultimate Guide to Gardening Fun With Kids. Oh, and a great giveaway at the bottom.

You’ll notice a couple things about this ultimate guide. One, it’s not overly complicated. Two, it’s not overly lengthy.

Why? Because I believe the more you complicate a matter, the less likely it is to actually be accomplished. So let’s just get to it!

Ultimate Guide to Gardening With Kids at Vicki-Arnold.com

Ultimate Guide to Gardening Fun With Kids

Just to reiterate, I like to keep things simple. So I broke this down into general tips, specific tips, crafts and activities if you are not ready for actual gardening yet, and finally, some resources for teens and adults because learning isn’t just for kids.

General Tips to Get Started

  • Don’t overthink it and don’t let it intimidate you if you have never gardened before.
  • Start small. Pick a small patch of ground or try a few containers. It is much better on your psyche to do small well than to flop because you went too big. Trust me.
  • Gather supplies. Get your containers and dirt, or some tools and compost for your ground plot, your plants and/or seeds, and start working your soil.
  • Choose some easy plants to get started.
  • Don’t forget to check your plants daily. You want to check to see if they are getting enough sun, if they need water, if there are pests that need handled, and if there are any weeds that need dealt with.

Here is another post from a fellow Kid Blogger Network blogger that has her 5 Tips for Gardening With Kids. And another KBN blogger has a review of a super cute gardening tote and tool set.

Specific Ideas for Gardening with Kids

Garden Themed Crafts & Activities

If you have a while before you can do your chosen gardening activity, warm your kids up to the idea with some garden themed crafts and activities.

Gardening Resources for Teens & Adults

Ultimate Guide to Gardening With Kids at Vicki-Arnold.com

Kid Blogger Network Giveaway

Win one of THREE $500 cash prizes directly in your paypal account! This giveaway is open internationally. You must be 18+ years old to enter. Void where prohibited. No purchase necessary. Winners will be notified via email and have 48 hours to respond before another winner is chosen. Please see detailed terms and conditions below the giveaway for more info.

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Kid Blogger Network Spring Activities

The Kid Blogger Network is full of blogs dedicated to kids. We have a very wide range of what that means, too. There are blogs with activities for kids, blogs about parenting kids, blogs about teaching kids (homeschool and in a classroom setting), and more. Check out all their spring round up posts for this event below!

Gardening Posts I’ve Written Elsewhere

Spring time means garden time around here and that means gardening posts. Every year we jump into our garden planning hopeful that this year will be better than last. Eternal garden optimists.

As I was doing research for an upcoming post, I realized I had several garden-related posts on various blogs that I never got around to sharing with you, my awesome readers!

Gardening Posts - Herbs, Books, Beginners, & Kids at Simply Vicki

Today, I am remedying this. In no particular order, here are gardening posts I’ve written elsewhere on the internet.

Gardening Posts I’ve Written Elsewhere

G is for Gardening - ABCs of Home Schooling at My Joy-Filled Life - Ways to use gardening in your homeschool.

G is for Gardening – I wrote this post for My Joy-Filled Life’s ABCs of Home Schooling. I shared six ways to use gardening in your homeschool.

Gardens Kids Can Grow - a guest post at ALLterNATIVE Learning

Gardens Kids Can Grow – This post was for ALLterNATIVE Learning’s Earth Day series. I shared ideas for gardening with kids from preschoolers to teenagers.

How to Get Started Gardening With Kids - Intoxicated on Life

How to Get Started Gardening With Kids – I was a contributor over at Intoxicated On Life last year and I quite enjoyed it. I wrote each month on gardening and garden related topics. The next several posts came from that time.

Gardening for Better Health for Beginners on Intoxicated on Life

Gardening for Better Health for Beginners – One of my first gardening posts over at Intoxicated On Life. I covered a handful of reasons gardening is good for your health and some easy tips to get started.

Herb Gardening for Beginners on Intoxicated On Life

Herb Gardening for Beginners – One of my favorite graphics, even though I recently realized it’s technically a flower and not an herb. I won’t tell if you don’t. Also, the article has helps for those wanting to grow herbs.

23 DIY Projects for Gardeners on Intoxicated on Life

23 DIY Projects for Gardeners – A list of projects in these categories: supplies, beds and containers, season extenders, equipment and tools, and decor.

Books About Gardening to Read at Intoxicated On Life

Books About Gardening to Read This Winter – Actually, you can read these any time of the year. This post was just written in winter.

And there you have it, a list of gardening posts I’ve written elsewhere in the blogosphere. I hope you find one that blesses your gardening endeavors this spring!

Gardening Posts

If you are new around here, be sure to check out my other gardening posts. If you are new to gardening, start with my Beginner’s Guide to Gardening posts.

12 Books About Gardening for Kids

12 Books About Gardening For Kids on Vicki-Arnold.com

Gardening is kind of a big deal around here. We work to make it work every year. Our kids are getting older and are more of a help with the maintenance a garden requires. They actually love to water the plants and work along side us…usually.

This week for our alphabet activities, we read books about gardening. I’m going to share the picture books and kids’ nonfiction books here. If you are interested in books for teens and adults, check out my post over at The Library Adventure – 11 Gardening Books for Beginner to Advanced Gardeners.

If you’d like to dive a little deeper into this, check out my friend Tara’s Garden unit study.

Garden Picture Books

  • Vegetable Garden by Douglas Florian (Easy Florian) – Simple text with bright, bold illustrations.
  • One Potato: A Counting Book of Potato Prints by Diana Pomeroy (Easy Pomeroy) – This book has quite the country feel to it. There is a section in the back telling you how to do your own potato prints.
  • Our Community Garden by Barbar Pollak (Easy Pollak) – I like how this book makes the connection between the plants in the garden with actual meals kids eat.
  • The Imaginary Garden by Andrew Larsen (Easy Larsen) – Lovely illustrations in this story about a girl and her grandfather.
  • Secrets of the Garden by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld (Easy Zoehfeld) – There is a lot of info snuck in this fun book about a girl and her family’s garden.
  • The Gardener by Sarah Stewart (Easy Stewart) – Lydia Grace moves to the city to live with her uncle and help in his bakery, but she dreams of gardens and works to make that dream a reality in the dreary city. Told in letters from Lydia Grace to various family members.

Gardening Nonfiction Books for Kids

 

Why Should I Bother With a Garden? – 5 Quick Reasons

Why Should I Bother With a Garden? 5 Quick Reasons to Grow a Garden on Vicki-Arnold.com

Maybe I should have started the Beginner’s Guide to Gardening series with this post. I’ve written some form of this post no less than three times in various places so I sometimes forget that I may have not written it here. Forgive me? Thanks, you’re the best.

We’ve been gardening for years and the romanticism of gardening has worn off. We know the hard work that is involved with a large garden. Our garden space is currently 48’x56′ for a total of 2,688 square feet of garden space. I’ll give you a tour of it sometime this summer when it is teeming with life, but it pretty much looks like this last photo.

We have our trials each year, but we always remain optimistic about the new growing season. Every spring finds us talking about our gardening plans, what we’ll do differently and what we did well last year. We’ve moved beyond romanticism to this is just what we do.

We garden.

Why should you join us? Well, I’m glad you asked that because I’m going to tell you.

1. Fresh from the garden food is the best.

It doesn’t matter if you buy organic everything, picking food directly from your garden is still better. Why? Because you will let your produce ripen before picking it. Commercial growers do not have that luxury because fully ripened fruit does not travel well.

2. It’s good for your health.

Gardening is good for your health. You have to spend time outside daily, which means your body has the chance to produce vitamin D. You have to bend, stretch, and walk to garden, which means you get exercise ranging from light to moderate.

Then there is the food. The food is better for you.

3. You will save money.

I am going to share more in depth on this in another post, but I can tell you this, you will save money. It is my absolute best money saving tip, which you should read. It doesn’t just save on food costs.

4. Growing your own food brings food security.

Did you know that the US average for households experiencing food insecurity is 14.7%? Gardening often brings an abundant harvest, you can preserve this harvest for your family to eat throughout the year.

You can also make a difference in your community by donating extra garden produce (or say 10% of your harvest?) to your local food pantries and homeless shelters.

5. It’s satisfying.

It can be fun at times, but more than that, growing your own food brings a satisfaction that you can’t understand until you experience it. And when you preserve your harvest through canning, freezing, dehydrating, or proper storage, you experience the satisfaction all year long.

Knowing you can take care of yourself is empowering.

Where Should I Plant My First Garden? – A Beginner’s Guide to Gardening

Where Should I Plant My Garden? (A Beginner's Guide to Gardening) from Vicki-Arnold.com

The next installment in our Beginner’s Guide to Gardening series is to answer the question “Where should I plant my first garden?

Now, I obviously do not know where each and every one of your live, that would be overwhelming…and a bit creepy. So I can’t give you exact instructions, but I can tell you what to look for when planning where to put your garden.

What a Garden Needs

Gardens need good soil, fresh water, and lots of sunshine. Let’s look at these a little more closely.

Good Soil

Soil is what will feed your plants. The roots of the plants absorb the nutrients and water in the soil. If your soil has no nutrients, your plants will struggle. Good, nutrient-dense soil is darker in color and is kind of “fluffy,” meaning it isn’t compacted like cement. You can improve your soil by adding in compost, aged manure, and/or trace minerals (like kelp). Avoid chemical fertilizers.

You do not want to plant your garden in an area where you have standing water, that is an indicator that the soil does not drain well there. Soil that is compacted and does not drain well can be amended by working in sand and compost, if there are no better options.

Fresh Water

Plants need water or they shrivel up and die. It’s that simple. The best water for your garden is the stuff that falls from the sky. When that is sparse, you need to get water to your plants. Water is heavy, so keep in mind you don’t want to be hauling buckets of water long distances in the case of a drought.

Sunshine

Plants need sunshine for a sweet little process called photosynthesis. It’s how they create the fuel they need to grow fruits and vegetables. Most garden plants need 6-8 hours of sunshine each day. So put your garden in the sunniest spot of your yard.

Types of Gardens

Not all gardens are grown in the ground. There are many types of containers that you can grow your garden in, too. Here’s a run-down of some options:

  • Traditional in the ground garden. These can be planted anywhere you can dig the soil.
  • Raised bed gardens. If at all possible, I recommend this over a traditional garden. It makes it much easier to cultivate the soil, improve drainage, and keeps you from compacting the soil by walking around the plants.
  • Container gardens. This can be as elaborate or as simple as you want it to be. A windowsill herb garden in your kitchen is a container garden. A strawberry pot on your front porch is a container garden.
  • Vertical gardens. These are really a variation of a container garden. Instead of sitting on the floor, these gardens go up. Some hang planters on walls or even create a wall of plants.
  • Hydroponic gardens. Plants are grown in a special water solution instead of soil.

I Have No Proper Garden Space, Now What?

First, think outside the ground. Is there a windowsill that gets a lot of sunshine? You could grow some herbs and salad greens there. Try getting creative. Pinterest has lots of visual inspiration for different types of gardens, try browsing there and see what you can come up with.

If you truly have no proper space, then you will have to be more creative. Do you have a neighbor or relative nearby that would let you use some of their yard for a garden in exchange for some fresh veggies? Is there a community garden space available to you?

If you want to grow fresh vegetables, find a way to do it. You will love the rewards you will harvest.

Follow Vicki Arnold’s board Gardening & Homesteading on Pinterest.

Clip art from Collective Creation.

What Should I Plant in My First Garden? – A Beginner’s Guide to Gardening

I get a decent amount of questions about gardening. Unfortunately, I do not have time to answer everyone’s emails individually. I got to thinking about this. One of the reasons I blog is because I want to be helpful. So over the next few weeks, I’m going to run a series called A Beginner’s Guide to Gardening where I will answer some of the common questions about gardening I receive in my email box.

Speaking of which, if you happen to have any suggestions or questions you would like me to cover, shoot me an email through the contact page. It doesn’t have to be about gardening either.

What Should I Plant in My First Garden? (A Beginner's Guide to Gardening) from Vicki-Arnold.com

What Should I Plant in My First Garden?

My advice for this is to start with what you eat. Trying new things will come when you have some experience under your belt. You do not want to spend your whole summer growing new things only to discover you don’t like any of them. Totally a bummer. Totally avoidable.

For Italian food fans:

  • tomatoes for sauce
  • basil, thyme, and oregano to season your sauce
  • onions and garlic to kick things up

For Mexican food fans:

  • tomatoes and onions for salsa
  • jalapenos for heating up your salsa
  • tomatillos to make salsa verde

For Chinese food fans:

  • bok choi and napa cabbage grow well in cooler temperatures
  • snow peas grow on pretty vines

Basically, look at the food you eat regularly and then find out if you can grow what’s in it.

Limited Space with Lots of Options?

There are two ways you could look at this. You could grow what you eat the most of or you can grow what will make the most impact to your grocery budget.

Eat a lot of salads? Try these:

  • lettuces have shallow roots and grow well in containers
  • sprouts can be sprouted on your countertop
  • carrots and radishes grow quickly and easily if you have a space you can cultivate 6-8 inches deep

Want to save as much money on your groceries as you can? These are relatively easy to grow, but tend to cost more at the grocery store:

  • bell peppers cost almost $2 each at the store, but you can buy a plant for less than $3 (and they grow more than two peppers)
  • strawberries and blueberries
  • leeks (and they have beautiful flowers)

What About Long Term?

If you are looking to stick with this gardening bit, and that would be a great idea for your health. Then there are some things you can do this year that will bear fruit (literally) in future years.

  • plant some fruit or nut trees, many of these come in dwarf varieties now
  • plant asparagus, it takes 2-3 years to be able to harvest
  • grape vines
  • consider herb gardening, most herbs are perennials so you don’t plant them each year

Further Reading

Linking up to Good Tips Tuesday, Share Your Stuff Tuesday, Titus 2sdays, The Mommy Club, Mom’s Library, and Welcome Party Wednesday.

Clip art created by Collective Creation