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Sand, surf and shore houses!

By Mary Beth Breckenridge Published: July 28, 2014

My tan has faded, but my memories of a week on the Jersey Shore have not.

My longtime readers know that I've been vacationing on Long Beach Island, N.J., with my extended family for more than 40 years. I spent a week there earlier this month and am just now getting used to reality after seven days of sunning, overeating and gossiping with my cousins. 

Every morning my husband and I took a bike ride (me on the fab pink coaster bike I rented), and this year I shot photos along the way of things that caught my eye, most of them related to home design and gardening.

So put on your flipflops, grab a glass of lemonade and enjoy.

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What are those spots on my siding?

By Mary Beth Breckenridge Published: July 25, 2014

Maybe you've noticed little black spots appearing on your home's siding, your car or other surfaces around your house. That's the unfortunate result of shotgun fungus (also called artillery fungus), which often grows on decaying wood mulch and shoots tarry spores that are almost impossible to remove.

It's the time of year when those spots start making their unwelcome appearance, the Ohio State University Extension reports in the latest issue of its Buckeye Yard and Garden Line e-newsletter.

No fungicides are known to be effective in controlling the fungus, but the extension says you can reduce the problem with these practices:

Plant pathologist Donald Davis at Penn State University has a website devoted to artillery fungus with lots of good information, including methods for removing the spots. In addition, Ohio State has a fact sheet that addresses shotgun fungus and other problematic molds and fungi associated with mulch and compost.

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Invasion of the feral pigs

By Mary Beth Breckenridge Published: July 24, 2014

You've probably heard about the problems caused by garlic mustard, zebra mussels and emerald ash borer.

Now Ohio can add another troubling invasive species to its list:


Yep. Feral swine have made their way to the Buckeye State.

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One trend-setting blogger could win $30,000

By Mary Beth Breckenridge Published: July 10, 2014

Home and garden bloggers, here's your shot at the big time.

Marketplace Events, a company that produces home shows including the Great Big Home + Garden Show and the Cleveland Home + Remodeling Expo, is conducting a national search for a Home + Garden Trendsetter of the Year. The winner will receive a three-month contract to make appearances at home shows — a prize worth $30,000. 

DIY, design and home improvement bloggers are encouraged to enter. The deadline is July 21.

Shelly Gepfert, Marketplace Events’ marketing director, said the company is looking for a blogger who can present onstage in a fun, informative and professional manner, and who has creative and trendy content to share.

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Artisans turn armaments into garden markers

By Mary Beth Breckenridge Published: July 3, 2014

These herb garden markers remind me of the biblical concept of beating swords into plowshares. They were made by turning articles of war into spoon shapes.

The plant markers, from Article 22, were made by Laotian artisans who melted bombs, plane parts and other aluminum scrap from the Vietnam War and cast the metal in molds.

The company donates 10 percent of the sale proceeds to the village where they originated.

The markers come in a set of five engraved with “parsley,” “sage,” “rosemary,” “thyme” and “basil” and sell for $65 a set.

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Attack of the bindweed

By Mary Beth Breckenridge Published: July 2, 2014

Holy bindweed, Batman!

I spotted this invasion in progress at the McKinley Monument in Canton and instantly pitied the poor person who's going to have to deal with it.

Bindwind is a noxious weed that twines over shrubs and other plants, making it difficult to remove. It also produces an extensive root system, so it has an amazing ability to keep coming back. It's like the Rasputin of the weed world.

I've struggled with bindweed in my yard for years. I pull it whenever I see it, and it's fairly well under control now. Other gardeners put the ends of the stems into containers filled with watered-down Roundup and leave them there long enough for the plants to absorb the herbicide and take it all the way back to its roots. You can read about one gardener's experience with that method in this post on GardenWeb.

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Check out the best buys in laundry detergents

By Mary Beth Breckenridge Published: July 1, 2014

There’s no need to spend a bundle to get clean clothes.

Consumer Reports is out with the results of its latest tests on laundry detergents. The bottom line: A couple of bargain brands performed quite well at about half the price of the top-rated products.

The two top scorers were Tide Ultra Stain Release and Tide HE Plus Bleach Alternative, which tied with a score of 81. Just below them were Member’s Mark Ultimate, which scored 73, and Kirkland Signature Ultra Clean, which scored 72.

There was a big gap in prices, however. The two Tide products cost 25 and 23 cents a load, respectively. Member’s Mark Ultimate costs 12 cents a load, and Kirkland Signature Ultra Clean, 9 cents.

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