Curb Appeal

Leave the Leaves

There’s good news if you hate raking and bagging leaves in the fall. Your yard may actually benefit from those fallen leaves!

Turns out, MULCHED leaves can be beneficial. Some leaves provide nutrients to soil but most just help to protect the lawn and block weeds. We read this is especially true if you have oak or maple tree leaves. Even if they have no impact to your soil’s nutrients, mulched leaves are found to be the environmentally-friendly solution to facing fall, because it keeps the bagged ones out of landfills, and cuts down on the need to use a leaf blower.

How do I use the leaves to benefit the lawn?

You simply use a lawn mower with a mulch feature and mow over the leaves, just like mowing the grass. It can take a few passes depending on how many leaves you have. If you have especially deep leaves you may need to distribute them after mulching with a rake, or by using the bag feature on the mower for the ability to empty and distribute them evenly into other areas of the yard.

How much is too much mulch?

Distribute mulched leaves evenly, as to not suffocate your lawn. You should still see grass blades sticking through, not just a thick carpet of dried leaf pieces.

Can I use the leaves anywhere else?

Yes! The garden and flower beds are great places to distribute extra leaf mulch. It helps insulate and block weeds there too.

Do I have to mulch them? Can I just leave them be?

Mulching or bagging are the recommended options. Piles of leaves can suffocate the lawn. They also tend to get soggy and moldy too. When Spring rolls around you’re likely to uncover a very sad lawn situation.

So there you have it. Mulch the leaves and spend the time you save drinking pumpkin spice lattes in your autumn wonderland!

Have you mulched your leaves before? Share your tips with us in the comment section of our post for this topic on our Facebook and Instagram.

Curb Appeal

Mums the Word!

Well technically “chrysanthemums” is the word – and they are the perfect little flower for fall landscaping.

Mums the Word!

Mums are one of the easiest ways to give your autumn curb a happy little kick of color. These flowers are easy to care for, a reasonable cost, and available in the garden department of almost every home improvement store. What are you waiting for? Grab a few planters today and give your yard all of the fall vibes it deserves!

More About Mums:

  • Mum flowers typically last about one month, in our warm Florida climate they can last longer if you cut off flowers as they fade. Cut the flowers just below their base, leaving the stem long.
  • Mums are thirsty flowers, so water them a few times a week to keep them happy and blooming as long as possible. A wilted mum is a sad mum indeed. Water at the base of the plant, rather than on the leaves or flowers.
  • These flowers love being in the sun, which can also dry them out, so give them their time in the sun, but don’t forget to water.
  • Keep away from pets. Mums are best to use in areas that your pets do not have access to, as I read mums can make pets sick if eaten.
  • If you plant your chrysanthemums in the ground, cut the stems back to about 4″ after the plant has gone brown and dormant to encourage new growth next season.

Mums come in a variety of colors – reds, yellows, even purples.

A really cute way to decorate with mums is by creating, what we call, an autumn “porchscape.”

You will need:

1 hay bale

3 to 5 pumpkins in varying sizes (Psst, you could even throw in a seasonal gourd if you’re feeling extra… fall-y?)

1 bandana or fabric square in a complementing fall color or pattern

1 to 3 potted chrysanthemums

1 small chalkboard easel or fall sign

Let’s make it:

The first thing you will have to decide is where you want your porchscape – on a table, or on the ground? For a table you could use smaller hay bales available at craft stores with mini pumpkins, while ground-based creations would require bigger hay bales and larger pumpkins. Whatever the size, the design approach is the same:

  • When in doubt, odd numbers usually work best for groupings or quantities
  • Designs like this tend to look better slightly off center, and at angles rather than perfectly centered or flush against walls
  • You want some elements that are taller (the mums), some medium (the hay bale) and some smaller (the pumpkins)
  • Your show piece pumpkin selections should be half as tall as the hay bale or mums and shorter so you can make little tiered groups

How we would do it:

  1. Start with your hay bale, at an angle, out from the wall. Make sure that your design is in a good, safe, and dry place. Never put decorations near heat sources like lights, outlets, or in the path of high traffic or sprinklers. 
  2. Drape your bandana or fabric square over the bale off center, to the right. Drop a corner over the front edge as a color/shape accent. You’ve just created a little stage to set items on!
  3. Next place one mum on the floor on the right side of the hay seated back, one mum on floor in front of the hay left of center, and one mum on the top of hay on the left corner. This should create a visual triangle with the mums.
  4. Then you fill in your design around that triangle – large pumpkin on ground in front of the mums on the right side of hay, place another large pumpkin next to planter on top of hay, group with one to two smaller pumpkins.
  5. Finish with a friendly message or fall sign on your small chalkboard easel placed on the fabric on the top of hay bale. You can cozy up a mini pumpkin around your sign for even more autumn-ness if you like.

Kinda like this:

Think of this as an outline for your porchscape. You may need to move things around to work out the right feel for your space with the exact flowers and elements you’ve selected. Get creative – you may prefer to create this concept backwards, or to group two mums together, or use more pumpkins… that’s all the fun of design, go for it! Pro tip: view your porchscape up close and from a distance as you rearrange items. Move one thing and stand back to see how it looks as a whole design. You may find you need to angle or move things further than you think, and you can see that best by standing back a little to take in the whole composition.

The most important part is to have fun creating and don’t forget to share your porchscape masterpiece with us on Facebook or Instagram!

Don’t have a porch to “scape”? We can help with that! Getting pre-approved for a home loan is all done virtually! Click on “Apply Now” to learn more or call us!

Home Hack

FALL is for Charcuterie Boards!

In our houses, charcuterie boards are a year-round occurrence, but there is something about the fall and Thanksgiving that make these displays even more fun to create. If you’ve never heard of “charcuterie boards,” it’s just a fancy term for meat and cheese displayed on a board or tray. Even your Thanksgiving relish tray could be turned into charcuterie with the right presentation and a few key ingredients.

Let’s make one!

First, you’ll need a charcuterie board. We recommend any food-safe flat surface – ideally with a small lip or edge. It could be anything from a nice cutting board to a wooden plate or small serving tray. You want whatever you use to be food grade and visually appealing. We found several options on Amazon. We used the search terms “charcuterie board,” “cutting board,” and “wood plates” and these are some of the options that popped up:

If you already have a nice chopping board, serving dish, or baking sheet at home that works too! Just make sure its nice and clean.

The ingredients:

Your charcuterie boards can vary in size from personal to party. We think a good place to start is with at least five items. (For example, two types of meat, two types of cheese, and crackers) The boards can be themed: savory and sweet, vegetarian, desserts… the sky is the limit. Here are some combination ideas to get you started.

The Mansion: Summer Sausage, Pepperoni, Deli Ham, Prosciutto, Deli Turkey, Olives, Mini Pickles, Cheddar Cheese, Pepper Jack Cheese, Swiss Cheese, Cheese Ball, Celery, Carrots, Club Crackers, Pretzel Sticks, Butter Crackers, Honey Roasted Nuts, Cinnamon Pecans

The Lake House: Smoked Salmon, Deli Ham, Apple Slices, Red Grapes, Cheddar Cheese, Pepper Jack Cheese, Port Wine Cheese Spread, Cream Cheese, Sun Dried Tomatoes, Club Crackers, Hard Bread Sticks, Wheat Thins, Toasted Bagel Rounds and/or Fresh Bagel Slices, Chopped Onions, Capers, Chocolate Kisses or Mini Chocolate Bars

The Candy Cottage: Apple Slices, Cotton Candy Grapes, Strawberries, Chocolate Covered Raisins, Honey Wheat Pretzel Rods, Vanilla Wafers, Graham Crackers, Cinnamon Pita Chips, Hazelnut Spread, Chocolate Hummus, Marshmallow Fluff, Large Chocolate Non-Pareils, and White Chocolate Kisses or Bark

The Garden: Bell Peppers, Carrot Chips, Celery Sticks, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Cherry Tomatoes, Mushrooms, Hummus, Fresh Ranch Dressing, Grapes, Apple Slices, Cinnamon Apple Chips, Cucumber Finger Sandwiches, Honey Wheat Pretzel Rods, Pita Chips, Caramel Dip, and Hazelnut Spread

The prep:

Some techniques to work with

  • Make most items bite-sized
  • Deli Meats and cured meat slices: roll slices into a little log, if logs are large you can cut them in half.
  • Cured meats: slice into even bite-sized rounds
  • Cheeses: cut into even cubes or cracker-sized slices, or use as focal accents with larger wedges and cheese balls
  • Veggies: cut evenly – 3″ sticks, 1″ rounds, bite size flowerets, leave bite sized items like cherry tomatoes whole
  • Fruits: cut into even wedges or slices, leave grapes and strawberries whole, fruit is usually a great fill-in item
  • Use small glass prep bowls for spreads, dips, or other wet items
  • If you want a garnish use fresh herbs or lettuce cups. Rosemary, basil, and chives are nice fresh options.
  • Suggest pairings by putting items that go together in the same area. For example in The Lake House, the salmon, cream cheese, bagel chips, and onions are all things that pair, so you may want to keep them around each other when you display them.
  • Don’t forget the tongs, scoopers, small spoons for dips, cheese knives, etc.

The presentation:

The layout is all about your groupings. You want to work around the board, ideally beginning with three groupings. Start with the high traffic items, usually that means the meats/proteins. Place them in larger groupings, at three different spots on the tray to form a triangle.

Place your prep bowls (for any dips and sauces) next

Place your cheeses in groups around the meats, again in three groupings if possible.

Now fill in your board with groups of items that use specific prep bowls – fruits near sweet dips, veggies near dressings, etc.

Place your drier items (chips/crackers/breads) in groups near the cheeses, or on separate plates that surround your board.

Finally, place remaining items to fill in any gaps. Grapes and apple slices are great filler items.

Kinda like this:

Voila, just like that, you’re a charcuterie pro! Don’t forget to share your charcuterie masterpieces with us on Facebook and Instagram!