Weekly home help with items on growing an indoor citrus tree, how to sell a vacant house, how board games can save you money and more.

Walk into a greenhouse in winter and your nose will likely pick up a sweet scent that will lead you to a citrus tree –– a plant with miniature orange or yellow fruit and delicate white flowers.


With edible fruit and fragrant flowers for months on end, an indoor potted citrus tree is a delight in winter. Here are some tips for keeping one healthy and productive.


If you hope to harvest fruit, choose a naturally acidic citrus, not a sweet orange or grapefruit. Examples of acidic varieties include Improved Meyer and Ponderosa lemons, calamondins and kumquats. These are most likely to produce fruit indoors in winter. Other citrus varieties are less likely to produce fruit.


Our homes in winter are darker, warmer and drier. So anything you can do to provide additional light and extra humidity is beneficial. Keep your citrus near a sunny window and a humidifier if possible. Cool, bright rooms, such as a partially heated sunroom, are best.


Choose a pot about the size of a 15-gallon nursery container. The ubiquitous half whiskey barrel is a good size, and plastic and faux clay pots in the 30- to 36-inch-diameter range work well, too. Whatever you choose, make sure it has good drainage, and drill extra holes if you're in doubt. To prevent soil from washing out, cover drain holes with small sections of window screen, not stones. Use a premixed sterile potting soil designed for container plants. 


Keep the soil moist by soaking the rootball thoroughly until water drains out the bottom into the saucer beneath. Water again when the top 2 to 3 inches of soil are dry.


Sometimes the rootball dries and shrinks slightly, pulling away from the edges of the container. Then water moves down the gap without rewetting the roots. To help rewet the dried rootball, place three or four drops of a mild dish soap on it. The soap will help the water soak in so the rootball can expand to fill the container again.


Citrus trees need regular fertilization to promote growth. You can use a controlled-release fertilizer or a soluble liquid fertilizer. Liquid fertilizers generally provide more control but also require more frequent applications, every other week or so. In either case, follow the directions on the label.


More than most plants, citrus are prone to deficiencies of the micronutrients iron, manganese and zinc. Inadequate amounts will cause leaves to yellow while veins remain green. Look for micronutrients in the chelated form, which makes them more accessible to citrus roots. The best time is in early spring just as new leaves are beginning to emerge.


For more tips and garden information, visit www.garden.org.


-- Family Features


Decorating Tip: Behind the headboard


To add some attitude to your bedroom, consider textures or materials behind the headboard. Try hanging a stylish curtain along the wall behind the bed. Or place an artful room divider behind the headboard. A creative or subtle design can take the place of art and add individualized flare.


-- HGTV.com


Home-Selling Tip: Vacant house needs distracters


A vacant house with no furniture is tough to sell because every flaw is noticed. If you can’t rent furniture, the first thing to do is paint everything, fixing holes, scrapes and blemishes in the dry wall along the way. Place common items in bathrooms, like towels, rugs and a soap dispenser. If old carpets can no longer be spotless, replace them with wood floors. All these things will help distract the buyer.


-- EngerizedSeller.com


How To: Buy a light bulb




Look for rebates from retailers and utility companies at www.energystar.gov and www.dsireusa.org/incentives.

Save your receipts in case you need to return the bulbs.

Consider the lumens, which indicate how much light the bulb emits. ENERGY STAR suggests that 60-watt incandescent, CFL or LED bulbs have about 800 lumens.

Consider the kelvins, which is the color of the light. To match a soft-white incandescent bulb, find a CFL or LED with 2700 kelvins.

-- ConsumerReports.org


Did You Know …


Pending home sales increased 2 percent in December, which is 4.2 percent lower than in December 2009.


-- Realtor.org


Garden Guide: Plan during winter


One of the more common gardening mistakes is that gardens are filled with plants that are haphazardly chosen when the garden centers open.


“While this sort of approach is appealing, why not take advantage of the cold weather and plan an excellent garden?” said Marlin Bates, a University of Missouri Extension horticulturist.


He suggests making room in the plan for a couple of new or oddball varieties to satisfy the impulse that will be replaced by a well-thought-out plan. An extra step that can be helpful is to transfer your gardening plan to a calendar. This will lead to a more methodical approach to preparing and installing the garden.


“I always encourage gardeners to try new and exciting things in their gardens,” he said. “That’s a large part of what makes gardening so fun.”


Money-Saving tip: Love those board games


You may have not given a lot of thought to board games since you were a kid, but now is a great time to pull those old boards out of the closet.


Games like Monopoly, Life and Pay Day are great tools for teaching kids money management and how money works. There are some games that use fake credit cards, as well.


Board games are also an inexpensive way to entertain guests, spend quality time with your family or just pass the time. Skip the movie theater for game night and save a bundle.


-- SavingAdvice.com


 


GateHouse News Service