Article By: Laura Gaskill
July is a great time to tackle outdoor chores, like pepping up that curb appeal before the Fourth, and to lighten up your home, from clutter to energy bills. With Independence Day right around the corner here in the States, it's also a great time to show some patriotic spirit and give back to your community by supporting local businesses or donating items to charity. Here are 12 to-dos to consider putting on your list this month.
1. Keep tabs on irrigation systems and water usage. Make sure your prized blooms don't wilt in the heat by checking your irrigation system regularly. If your area has limits on water usage, be sure to set your timer accordingly.
2. Extend the life of your driveway and paths. Attend to small cracks and chips before they have a chance to grow.
3. If you live in the U.S., honor Independence Day with Americana, folk art and locally sourced goods. As you are out shopping this month, make a point of seeking out goods made in the USA. From vintage folk art at a summer fair to locally grown tomatoes, there are lots of things you can buy to support local businesses and craftspeople.
4. Start a garden journal. If you don't already keep one, consider beginning a dedicated garden journal. Filled with your notes on what you planted and how each plant fared, this little notebook will be worth its weight in gold when planting time comes again.
5. Donate extra produce to a local food pantry. Wondering what to do with that bumper crop of zucchini or tomatoes, once your neighbors and friends have had their fill? Ample Harvest, a nonprofit organization, helps link gardeners with local food pantries to feed those who are struggling. Check the group's website to find a local food pantry that will accept your garden surplus.
6. Increase shade in the garden.
Cool off and spend more time outside comfortably with the addition of an umbrella, outdoor drapes or a shade canopy. If you have young children, consider setting up an extra umbrella or tent over their sandbox or favorite play area to avoid sunburns.
7. Cut summer energy costs. Keep window shades and curtains tightly drawn during the day to maintain a cooler temperature indoors — exposed windows will heat up your home like a greenhouse. Be sure all window air conditioning units are tightly fitted, with no cold air escaping. For those with central air, setting your thermostat to a higher temperature while you are out during the day will help keep costs down.
8. Go on a clutter-busting spree. Summer is a great time to pare down belongings. Try setting a timer for 15 minutes and see how many things you can get rid of ... and if that felt too easy, do it again!
9. Paint something white. Evoke the whitewashed ease of a summer cottage or beach house with a coat of crisp white paint. Paint flea market furniture, old hand-me-downs or (for the brave) the walls and floor.
10. Clean fans and filters. Keep your kitchen and bathroom exhaust fans and air conditioning units running efficiently by cleaning and replacing filters regularly.
11. Wash windows inside and out. Let that summer sunshine in by giving windows a quick rinse with glass cleaner or a vinegar solution, then squeegee them dry. If you want to avoid using a ladder outside, reach exterior windows with a window-washing hose attachment or telescoping window washer.
12. Boost your home's Fourth of July curb appeal.
Whether or not your house is on the parade route, it feels good to freshen up porch plantings, trim hedges and
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