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Tips of the week..

Decorating Tips!

Next Holiday

About The Home and Garden Decorated tip.
Our Decorated tip has been devised to provide you with fundamental knowledge of the techniques and the tactics we utilize to grow our plants and fixing or decorating our garden and home. Additionally, we hope you will get some knowladge for your home and garden from this section.

We’d love to hear from you regarding any additions or improvements you may have for us.

Thank You and please enjoy!

Thank you for all the knowledge source from silverangel.com, howstuffworks.com and etc.



- How to Get Rid of Mice

- How to Prepare Soil for Planting

- How to remove Candle Wax Stains

- How to Stencil Kid's Room

- Organize Shelves

- Office Organizer




Getting Rid of Mice

To get rid of mice, make inviting traps and seal entry points. Do immediately when you see a mice infestation signs. One female mouse can give birth every three weeks about an average of six babies. All the babies will mature about two months. So, it is possible that one female can create up to 2,500 child in six month.

Follow these tips for eliminating them when you saw the first sign that you have mice,

  • Seal all crevices and cracks. Use steel wool, which the mice can not chew it. Cover up all gaps between inside and outside of your house, and in between the unfinished areas, such as basements and crawl spaces, and the finished living quarters.
  • Setup traps around the room’s perimeter. Place the trap 90° degree to the wall, with facing the baited side touching the wall. For security, mice move along walls and it’s whisker touching the walls. If set up enough traps in to the right position, you won’t even have to bait them.
  • Wear rubber gloves when setting traps. If not, mice may smell your human scent.
  • Use peanut butter as a bait traps. It’s hard to snatch and fragrant without triggering the trap. Spread the peanut butter all around of the bait pedal.
  • Bait traps with a cotton ball. Cotton makes a great nest liner, so this will appeal to a mouse’s nesting instincts. It’s also great for long-term traps—those you might set in the garage or basement to catch new intruders—because cotton doesn’t get stale and moldy.

White mice in a bucket

Koki Iino/Getty Images

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How to Prepare Soil for Planting 

It's easy to take soil for granted. Many of us find a flower we want to plant, dig a hole, plop the flower in the hole, and assume it will grow. While this might work if you have excellent soil, most of us need to alter our dirt to create the most optimum growing environment.

So how do you amend soil? The first, most important step is to do a soil test to find out just what your soil is lacking -- and not lacking. Fortunately, this article will walk you through a soil test and all the steps that follow to get your soil where it needs to be. In this article, you'll find the following helpful sections:

  • About Soil

    Learn all the basics about that black, earthy stuff we call soil. You'll learn how to go about getting a soil test and what to do with the results. Whether your soil is nutrient-poor sand, heavy clay, or something in between, this section will offer suggestions on how to alter the nutrients and pH of your soil to make it as fertile as possible. Other important tests discussed in this section are texture and drainage checks that determine how well your soil absorbs and drains water.
  • Preparing Soil

    Let us suggest the best ways to amend your soil, including how to use inorganic and organic
    fertilizers as well as other soil-improvement methods, such as composting. You'll learn about the three main nutrients found in most chemical fertilizers -- nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium, or N, P, K -- and how to read NPK formulas on fertilizer packaging in order to get the right combination for your soil.

    If you'd rather go the organic route, you'll also find tips on how to make your own compost and about alternative ways to improve your soil conditions without using chemicals.
  • Soil Techniques

    Address the best ways to prepare your garden bed for planting, such as rototilling and hand digging. Also discussed in this helpful section are the whys and hows of installing a mowing strip around the garden bed to keep grass from growing where your flowers are.

    You'll also want to turn to this section for tips on special soil techniques, such as double-digging for high-performance beds like rose garden and creating raised beds for very poor soil conditions.
  • Mulching

    Just about every garden can benefit from mulching. Not only does it help retain moisture and keep weeds at bay, it often gives a finished look to a yard or garden. This section will help ensure that you lay mulch properly (not too thick!) and that you get the look you'd like to achieve using the various types of mulch available.

So, while you may be one of the lucky one with a healthy, nutrient-rich soil, chances are you could still benefit from the many helpful tips and techniques found in this article. Don't take a chance -- get a soil test and start getting the most out of your garden soil.

About Soil

Good soil is the first step to a great garden. The loose, dark earth of the fabulous gardens seen on television and in magazines doesn't usually just happen, however. It is created by gardeners improving their native soils.

Soil types vary from the extremes of constantly dry, nutrient-poor sand to 90 percent rocks held together with 10 percent soil to rich, heavy clay (which forms a slick, sticky, shoe-grabbing mass when wet, then dries to brick hardness). Fortunately, most soil conditions fall somewhere in between these extremes. Still, very few homeowners find they have that ideal "rich garden loam" to work with.

Soils can be amended with sand to make them looser and drier or with clay to make them moister and firmer. They can be given plentiful doses of organic material -- old leaves, ground-up twigs, rotted livestock manure, and old lawn clippings -- to improve texture and structure. Organic matter nourishes any kind of soil, which, in turn, encourages better plant growth.

Learn how to make the most out of the soil in your area by reading the tips that follow. The first step is to identify your garden conditions by having your soil tested.

Soil Testing

Have your soil tested or do your own tests to determine if you have a light and sandy soil, a moderate and productive soil, or a heavy clay soil. Get a soil test before you start adding fertilizers and amendments to your garden soil. This follows the old advice, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Sometimes unnecessary tampering with nutrients or soil acidity can actually create more problems than benefits.

Soil tests tell you the nutrient levels in your soil, a plant version of the nutrient guides on packaged foods. They also note pH and organic content, two factors important to overall smooth sailing from the ground up.

To obtain a good soil sample, dig down 4 to 6 inches in several different locations.
© 2006 Publications International, Ltd.

To obtain a good soil sample, dig down 4 to 6 inches in several different locations.

To have your soil tested, call your local Cooperative Extension Service, often listed under state or county government in the phone book. Ask them how to get a soil-testing kit, which contains a soil-collecting bag and instructions. Follow the directions precisely for accurate results. The results may come as a chart full of numbers, which can be a little intimidating at first. But if you look carefully for the following, you can begin to interpret these numbers:

  • If the percentage of organic matter is under 5 percent, the garden needs some extra compost.
  • Nutrients will be listed separately, possibly in parts per million. Sometimes they are also rated as available in high, medium, or low levels. If an element or two comes in on the low side, you'll want to add a fertilizer that replaces what's lacking.
  • Soil pH refers to the acidity of the soil. Ratings below 7 are acidic soils. From 6 to 7 are slightly acidic, the most fertile pH range. Above 7 is alkaline or basic soil, which can become problematic above pH 8. Excessively acidic and alkaline soils can be treated to make them more moderate and productive.

Hand carry or mail the soil sample to the testing lab for analysis.
© 2006 Publications International, Ltd.

Hand carry or mail the soil sample 
to the testing lab for analysis.

Add only the nutrients your soil test says are necessary. More is not always better when it comes to plant nutrients. Don't feel compelled to add a little bit more of a fertilizer that promises great results. Too much of any one nutrient can actually produce toxic results, akin to disease or worse. Buy and apply only what's required, and save the rest of your money for a better use, like more plants. <back to top of this topic>

Determining pH Levels

It is always best to choose plants that thrive in the pH of your existing soil. If you must alter the pH, follow the guidelines below.

  • Use ground limestone to raise the pH of acidic soils. Limestone is nature's soil sweetener, capable of neutralizing overly acidic soils. It's best to add limestone in the fall to allow time for it to begin to dissolve and do its job. The amount of limestone you use will vary depending on the specific soil conditions. Simple home test kits, or a professional test, can be used to determine the soil's pH. If you dump limestone on soil randomly, you run the risk of overdosing the soil. Follow the guidelines on the limestone package or on a soil test.
  • To lower the alkalinity and increase the fertility of limey and other soils with very high pH, add cottonseed meal, sulfur, pine bark, compost, or pine needles. These soil amendments gradually acidify the soil while improving its texture. Garden sulfur is a reliable cure when added as recommended in a soil test. It acidifies the soil slowly as microbes convert the sulfur to sulfuric acid and other compounds.
  • Maintaining the new and improved pH is an ongoing project. Recheck the soil's pH every year and continue to add amendments as needed.

Texture Checkup

Check the texture of your soil in a jar filled with water. This test is simple to do at home and provides important information about your soil.

Knowing the texture of your soil can help you determine which plants will grow well in your garden.
© 2006 Publications International, Ltd.

Knowing the texture of your soil can help you determine 
which plants will grow well in your garden and how much care they will need.

Gather some soil from the garden, choosing a sample from near the surface and down to a depth of 8 inches. If you have dry clay, pulverize it into fine granules, and mix well. Put a 1-inch layer (a little over a cup) in a quart glass jar with 1/4 teaspoon powdered dishwasher detergent. (Dishwasher detergent won't foam up.) Add enough water to fill the jar 2/3 full. Shake the jar for a minute, turning it upside down as needed to get all the soil off the bottom, then put the jar on a counter where it can sit undisturbed.

One minute later, mark the level of settled particles on the jar with a crayon or wax pencil. This is sand. Five minutes later, mark the amount of silt that has settled out. Over the next hour or so, the clay will slowly settle out and allow you to take the final measurement. These measurements show the relative percentages of sand, silt, and clay -- the texture of your soil.

  • Soil that has a high percentage of sand (70 percent or more) tends to be well aerated, ready to plant earlier in spring. But it also tends to need more frequent watering and fertilization than heavier soils.
  • Soil that has 35 percent or more clay retains moisture well, so it takes longer to dry in spring and may need less watering in summer. It can be richer and is more likely to produce lush growth with just the addition of compost and, occasionally, a little fertilizer. The compost is important. It helps break up clay so the soil won't be too dense and poorly aerated.
  • Soil that has nearly equal percentages of sand, silt, and clay can have intermediate characteristics and is generally well suited for good gardening.

Listen to Your Weeds

Look for the tales weeds have to tell as they grow in your garden. Weeds are opportunists, taking advantage of any vacant soil to make their home. (Just think of how well this strategy has benefited the dandelion, a native of Eurasia that has swept through America.)

Although they seem to grow everywhere, dandelions prefer fertile, often heavy soil. Likewise, other weeds favor certain kinds of soil. For instance, acidic soil can encourage the growth of crabgrass, plantains, sheep sorrel, and horsetails. Alkaline soil (also called sweet or basic soil) is favored by chamomile and goosefoot. Fertile, near-neutral soils can provide a nurturing environment for redroot pigweed, chickweed, dandelions, and wild mustard.

Even if you can't tell one weed from another, you can find out important information by looking at them closely. If a vacant garden area has few weeds taking advantage of the opening, the soil is likely to need plenty of work. If weeds are growing, but only sparsely, and have short, stunted stems and discolored leaves, the area may have a nutrient deficiency, and a soil test is in order. If, in newly tilled soil, weeds sprout up quickly in certain areas and more slowly in others, the weedy areas are likely to be moister and better for seed germination.

<back to top of this topic>

Testing Drainage

Test your soil's drainage by digging a hole, filling it with water, and watching how quickly the water disappears. All the soil tests in the world won't do a better job than this simple project. It tells you how quickly moisture moves through the soil and whether the soil is likely to be excessively dry or very soggy -- neither of which is ideal.

When it hasn't rained for a week or more and the soil is dry, dig several holes that are 1 foot deep and 2 feet wide. Fill them to the top with water and keep track of how long it takes for the holes to empty. Compare your findings to the following scale:

  • 1 to 12 minutes: The soil is sharply drained and likely to be dry.
  • 12 to 30 minutes: The soil has ideal drainage.
  • 30 minutes to 4 hours: Drainage is slow but adequate for plants that thrive in moist soil.
  • More than 4 hours: Drainage is poor and needs help.

These soil tests may seem like a lot of work without much reward, but if your soil is working at its full capacity, your plants will bloom at their best as well.

Now that you've learned everything you've ever wanted to know -- and more -- about your soil, take a look at the next page for how to prepare your soil for planting.


Preparing Soil

Sources of
Organic Matter

All of these work well to add much-needed nutrients to your soil:

  • Agricultural remains, such as peanut hulls, rice hulls, or ground corncobs
  • Bark chunks
  • Compost
  • Grass clippings
  • Kitchen vegetable scraps
  • Mushroom compost
  • Livestock manure
  • Peat moss
  • Salt hay
  • Seedless weeds
  • Shredded bark
  • Shredded leaves
  • Straw


Once you know the nature of your soil, it's easy to amend it to meet the needs of the plants you want to grow. But just as the characteristics of garden soil vary, so, too, do the ways to amend and improve soil to achieve the best possible growing conditions. Fortunately, the following tips and techniques will assist you.


If the results of your soil test indicate a lack of certain nutrients, you should follow the recommendations made by the testing company for supplementing the soil. If the imbalance is slight, organic fertilizers can be used.

Because they generally contain a low percentage of nutrients that are slowly released into the soil, organic fertilizers are inadequate when fast results are needed or if the imbalance of nutrients is great. In these situations, inorganic fertilizers are the better choice.

A combination of both kinds may be a good compromise: Use the quick-to-feed commercial plant foods first, then
follow up in subsequent years with the slow-feeding organic fertilizers.

The fruit of your labors -- a tiny seedling grows.
© 2006 Publications International, Ltd.
The fruit of your labors --
a tiny seedling grows.

Chemical fertilizer is commonly formulated in some combination of the three major nutrients: nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium -- N, P, K. The numbers featured on each bag represent the percentage of each of these nutrients in the mix. For example, 5-10-5 contains 5 percent nitrogen (N), 10 percent phosphorous (P), and 5 percent potassium (K).

The NPK formula is also listed on each container of organic fertilizer. The percentages of each nutrient are lower in organic fertilizers than in inorganic fertilizers. Therefore, larger amounts of organic plant food are required to achieve the same results.

It's also possible to purchase fertilizers separately rather than in a three-nutrient mix. These are useful when there's a deficiency in a single nutrient. Consult with your Cooperative Extension office or garden center staff if you feel uncertain about solving nutrient deficiency problems. <back to top of this topic>

Other Ways to Improve Soil

While fertilizers are pretty fool-proof -- and definitely convenient -- there are other ways to make your soil the best it can be. Read the following tips to find out more.

  • Get local compost from your city or town hall service department. Made from leaves and grass clippings collected as a public service, the compost may be free or at least reasonably priced for local residents.

    To find other large-scale composters, check with the nearest Cooperative Extension Service; they are up-to-date on these matters. Or try landscapers and nurseries, who may compost fall leaves or stable leftovers for their customers, and bulk soil dealers, who may sell straight compost or premium topsoil blended with compost. Don't give up. Yard scraps are discouraged or banned in many American landfills, so someone near you may be composting them.
  • Plan ahead for bulky organic soil amendments -- compost, manure, and leaves -- that may be added by the wheelbarrow-load to improve the soil. This will raise the soil level, at least temporarily. As the organic
    matter decays, the soil level will lower.
  • If soils rich in organic matter drop to expose the top of
    a newly planted shrub or tree roots, add more soil or organic matter to keep the roots under cover.
  • If your garden is beside a house or fence, keep the soil level low enough so it won't come in contact with wooden siding or fencing that isn't rot-resistant.
  • When planting around existing trees, shrubs, and perennial flowers, avoid covering the crown -- where stems emerge from the ground -- with organic material. This helps prevent disease problems.
  • Till or spade a thick layer of compost into lightly moist (never wet) soil to bring it to life before planting a new garden. If you are starting with hard, compacted soil, it's necessary to spade the soil first to break it up. Go over the area, removing weed roots and other unwanted vegetation as you go. Then go over the soil with a rototiller. After the first pass, go over it again crosswise until you break the soil into reasonably small pieces.

    Your well-tilled soil, like screened topsoil, may look great at first, but silt or clay soils are likely to get stiff, crusty, and hard after a few heavy downpours. The best way to keep soil loose and light is to add organic matter.

    Add a 4- to 6-inch-deep layer (more if soil is very poor) of compost to the soil and work it down until it's 10 to 12 inches deep. The soil will become darker, moister, and spongier -- a dramatic conversion right before your eyes. As long as the organic matter remains in the soil, the soil is likely to stay loose. But since it slowly decays, you will have to continue to add organic matter -- compost, mulch, or shredded leaves -- to maintain the desired texture.
  • Try spading or no-till systems to preserve the texture and organic content of thriving garden soils. Once the soil is loose, light, and rich, minimal disturbance helps preserve the levels of organic matter. Avoid repeated tilling, which breaks healthy soil clumps and speeds up decay.Instead of tilling, loosen rich soil before planting by turning the surface shallowly with a shovel and breaking it apart with a smack from the shovel backside. Very loose soil can be made ready for direct seeding by combing it with a hoe or cultivator.
To check your soil texture quickly, simply squeeze some lightly moist soil in your hand.
© 2006 Publications International, Ltd.
To check your soil texture quickly, squeeze some lightly moist soil in your hand.

Sources of Specific Nutrients

Many of these fertilizers are available processed and packaged.

  • Boron: manure, borax, chelated boron
  • Calcium: bonemeal, limestone, eggshells, wood ashes, oyster shells, chelated calcium
  • Copper: chelated copper
  • Iron: chelated iron, iron sulfate
  • Magnesium: Epsom salts, dolomitic limestone, chelated magnesium
  • Nitrogen: livestock manure (composted), bat guano, chicken manure, fish emulsion, blood meal, kelp meal, cottonseed meal
  • Phosphorus: bonemeal, rock phosphate, super phosphate
  • Potassium: granite meal, sulfate of potash, greensand, wood ashes, seabird guano, shrimp shell meal
  • Sulfur: sulfur, solubor, iron sulfate, zinc sulfate
  • Zinc: zinc sulfate, chelated zinc


Most important, be sure to test your soil by feel before and after it is amended to judge the extent of the change. Take a small handful of lightly moist soil from several inches below the soil surface. Squeeze it into a ball in your hand and watch the results when you extend your fingers.

Sandy soils, which can have a scratchy feel, will fall apart. To enrich a sandy soil, apply and incorporate a several-inch layer of compost and even an inch or two of clay, then try again. When the soil is improved, the ball will cling together better.

Clay soils, which have a slick feel, will form a tight ball that's not easily broken up. To lighten clay soil, add extra compost and coarse sand. When the soil is light enough, the ball will break up with a tap of a finger.

Even if your soil is in tip-top shape, there are still a few things you need to do before planting your garden -- especially if you're creating a garden with high-maintenance plants. See the next section for some helpful soil techniques, such as how to double-dig a garden bed.

<back to top of this topic>


Soil Techniques

If you're planning to fill your garden bed with roses, you may need some special soil techniques in your arsenal in order to create the garden oasis you've always dreamed of. Luckily, the tips that follow will make you an expert on soil prep in no time.

Preparing a Garden Bed

To properly prepare a planting bed, mark the flower bed boundaries with pegs and string for straight edges and with a garden hose for curved lines. Cut through the sod along laid-out lines with a spade. Remove the sod from the entire bed. If the area is rocky, remove as many stones as possible as you dig.

If the soil is sandy or loamy, you may be able to rototill the soil rather than hand turning it. Clay and rocky soils require hand digging first. For a small planting area, dig and break up the soil by hand or with a spade.

After the soil is turned, rototilling will be possible. (Rototillers can be rented by the day, and it's often possible to hire someone to come and till by the hour, if you don't have a tiller of your own.)

Use pegs and string to make the boundaries of your flower bed.
© 2006 Publications International, Ltd.

Use pegs and string to make the boundaries of your flower bed.

Next, spread the necessary fertilizer, soil conditioners, and pH-adjusting chemicals over the area. Tilling is easy once the soil is turned. You should be able to till more deeply the second time; ideally, you want to loosen and improve the soil to a depth of more than 6 inches.

Turn and loosen soil by hand with a spade where the area is too small to require a rototiller. After this initial treatment, fertilizers, soil conditioners, and pH-adjusting chemicals will be added at different times of the year for best results.

Now is the perfect time to install some kind of mowing strip around the garden bed. Patio squares or slate pieces laid end-to-end at ground level will keep grass and flowers from inter mixing. Other options include landscape logs, poured concrete strips, or bricks laid side-by-side on a sand or concrete base. The mowing strip must be deep and wide enough so grass roots cannot tunnel underneath or travel across the top to reach the flower bed, and the top of the strip must not extend above the level of the adjacent lawn.

If possible, allow the soil to stand unplanted for a week or more. Stir the surface 1 or 2 inches every three to four days with a scuffle hoe or cultivator to eradicate fast-germinating weeds. This will make your weeding chores lighter during the rest of the season.


Double-digging garden beds to make high-performance gardens for deep-rooted plants such as roses and perennials is a tradition in many beautiful British gardens. The average rototiller works the soil only 8 or 10 inches deep and won't break up compacted soil below. Double-digging will.

Double-dig a garden bed intended for deep-rooted plants such as roses.
© 2006 Publications International, Ltd.

Double-dig a garden bed intended 
for deep-rooted plants like roses.

Double-digging requires a bit of a stiff upper lip because it
takes a lot of manual labor. Do a little at a time so you don't overdo it, or hire a professional landscaper if you have health restrictions.

Start with vacant soil that is stripped of grass and other vegetation. Beginning at one end of the garden, remove a strip of soil a spade's length deep and a spade's width wide. Put it
in a wheelbarrow. Use your shovel to turn the soil below it (likely to be one of the heaviest parts of the job) and break it

Time-Saving Tip

Pile dug-out earth on a tarp instead of on the grass when digging a hole for planting or excavating a garden pool. You can easily drag away any excess soil, and you won't have to rake up little clods trapped in the turf. Don't waste that soil. You can use it to build a waterfall beside the pool or to fill a raised bed for herbs or vegetables.


Another (sometimes easier) option is to jab a garden fork (like
a big pitchfork) into the hard lower soil and rock it around until the soil breaks up. If organic matter is needed, you should add it to the lower level at this point.

Do the same thing to the second strip of soil next to the first row. But turn the surface topsoil into the first trench, adding organic matter as desired. Then loosen and amend the exposed subsurface soil. Continue filling each trench from the adjacent row and loosening the soil below. Fill the final strip with the soil from the wheelbarrow.

<back to top of this topic>

Raised Beds

Raised beds are a good choice where soil is either of particularly poor quality or nonexistent. Constructed of pressure-treated wood, reinforced concrete, or mortared brick, stone, or blocks, these beds can be of any length, but should have a soil depth of at least 6 inches to allow good root penetration.

By filling some beds with a rich loam mixture and others with a sandier, well-drained mix, it's possible to provide the ideal soil requirements for a wide range of plants. This may seem a
costly solution in the short term, but the beds will last for years and prove well worth your initial investment.

In vegetable gardens, simply mound up planting rows 6 to 8 inches high and 2 to 3 feet wide. (You can walk in the paths beside the planting rows without compressing the raised soil.) Set permanent and decorative gardens in handsome raised-bed frames built of timbers, logs, rocks, or bricks, which can vary from 4 inches to 4 feet high. Don't hesitate to ask for professional help with big building projects, which need strong structures if you want them to last.

If using pressure-treated wood, do not grow herbs or vegetables in your raised beds, as toxins may be present.

A raised bed garden is a good alternative where the soil isn't usable.
© 2006 Publications International, Ltd.

A raised bed garden is a good alternative where the soil isn't usable.

No matter what type of garden bed you're planting, adding mulch is not only a nice decorative element but is also great for keeping weeds out and moisture in. See the next page for tips.


Adding mulch to your garden will improve the overall health of the soil and beautify the appearance of your landscaping. Mulching is relatively easy, but there are some tips to create the look your going for as well as provide the coverage you need to help your plants grow.

  • Cover garden beds with a layer of mulch to keep weeds down and reduce the need for water. Annual weed seeds are less likely to sprout when the soil is covered with enough mulch to keep the soil surface in the dark.
  • When it comes to water, even a thin layer of mulch -- nature's moisturizer -- will reduce evaporation from the soil surface. Thicker mulches can reduce water use by as much as 50 percent.
  • For a soothing, natural-looking garden, use dark-colored organic mulches made of bark or compost. For a brilliant-looking garden, consider a mulch of bright gravel. In utilitarian gardens such as vegetable gardens, straw makes an excellent mulch. Avoid colored mulch or beauty bark.
  • For maximum effectiveness with only a thin mulch layer, look for fine-textured mulches such as twice-shredded bark, compost, or cocoa hulls. For an airy mulch, try thicker layers of coarse-textured mulches such as straw or bark chunks. Don't apply fine-textured mulches, like grass clippings, in thick layers that can mat down and smother the soil.

Twice-shredded bark provides a fine texture to the garden bed.
© 2006 Publications International, Ltd.

Twice-shredded bark provides a fine texture to the garden bed.

  • Kill off sod or dense weeds by layering newspaper, alone or with a thick layer of compost or mulch, directly on the garden site. This treatment cuts off the sunlight to unwanted vegetation, which will eventually decay and add organic matter to the garden. The newspaper decomposes, too. (What a bargain!)
  • Woody mulch, such as shredded bark, uses nitrogen as it decays. Apply extra nitrogen to prevent the decay process from consuming soil nitrogen that plants need for growth.
  • Mulch new plants with straw or chopped leaves after planting in the fall to prevent root damage during winter. A little mulch used immediately after planting can help to keep the soil moist and encourage continued root growth.
  • Add a thick layer of mulch and let it rot to improve the soil of existing gardens. Minerals, released as the mulch is degraded into nutrient soup, soak down into the soil and fertilize existing plants. Humic acid, another product of decay, clumps together small particles of clay to make a lighter soil.
  • The main reason to mulch lies ahead, in winter. Alternately freezing and thawing, expanding and contracting soil can break new roots or even push new plantings out of the ground, a process called frost heaving. By mulching generously with an airy material like straw when the soil first freezes, you can help keep the soil frozen until winter ends, at which point the mulch can be removed.

    In winter, mulch evergreen perennials and ground covers with evergreen boughs to protect them from winter burn (the cold-weather opposite of sunburn). When the soil is frozen, the wind is strong, and the sun is bright, moisture is pulled out of the vulnerable leaves and cannot be replaced by the frozen roots. A protective layer of evergreen boughs, possibly obtained by recycling the branches of a Christmas tree, forms a protective shield over vulnerable greenery. Straw will also do the job, especially in colder areas where there is less chance of rot in winter.
  • Celebrate if you live in a snowy area. Snow is the best mulch of all, and it may allow you to grow plants that won't survive winter in snowless areas farther south.

Don't let difficult soil get you down. With a little hard work -- and the proper soil amendments -- you, too, can have a garden bursting with your favorite flowers.


back to topics


How to Remove Candle Wax Stains

Candlelight sets a romantic mood. A sip of your wood dining table, or your swine. Soft music. Then, whoops! Candle wax suddenly drips on your valuable silver, leeve as you reach for your date's hand. You need to quickly get rid of the wax stain so you can get the mood back on track.

The first step in removing candle wax stains is to identify the stained material. Then, follow up with the appropriate steps as soon as possible. Here's how to remove stains from:


  • Non-washable fibers such as Acetate, Burlap, Fiberglass, Rayon, Rope, Silk, Triacetate or non-washable Wool
  • Washable fibers such as Acrylic Fabric, Cotton, Linen, Modacrylic, Nylon, Olefin, Polyester, Spandex or washable Wool
  • Most surfaces, such as Acrylic Plastic, Alabaster, Aluminum, Asphalt, Bamboo, Bluestone, Brass, Bronze, Cane, Ceramic Glass/Tile, Concrete, Copper, Cork, Enamel, Flagstone, Glass, Gold, Granite, Grout, lron, Ivory, Jade, Limestone, Linoleum, Marble, Paint/Flat, Paint/Gloss, Pewter, Plexiglas, Polyurethane, Porcelain, Sandstone, Slate, Stainless, Steel, Terrazzo, Tin, Vinyl Clothing or Vinyl Tile
  • Carpet
  • Felt
  • Leather or suede
  • Silver
  • Wood

Removing Wax from Non-washable Fibers 

Follow these steps to remove candle wax stains from Acetate, Burlap, Fiberglass, Rayon, Rope, Silk, Triacetate, Wool/non-washable:

  • Freeze (apply ice against the stain to make it easier to remove) to harden the wax.
  • Carefully scrape the excess, then place an absorbent pad under the stain and flush with a stain remover such as Afta Cleaning Fluid.
  • Allow to dry.
  • Repeat if necessary.

Removing Wax from Washable Fibers

Follow these steps to remove candle was stains from Acrylic Fabric, Cotton, Linen, Modacrylic, Nylon, Olefin, Polyester, Spandex or Wool/washable:

  • Scrape to remove excess.
  • Place the stained area between two pieces of white blotting paper and press with a warm iron.
  • Change the paper as it absorbs the stain. This stain can easily spread, so use care while pressing.
  • On colorfast fabrics, white cotton, or linen, try pouring boiling water through the stain.
  • After using either method, allow to dry.
  • If any trace remains, flush with a stain-removing agent, such as Afta Cleaning Fluid.
  • If any dye remains, sponge it with 1 part rubbing alcohol (do not use on acrylic or modacrylic fabric) mixed with 2 parts water.
  • Rinse well with clear water and dry.


Removing Wax from Surfaces

Follow these steps to remove candle wax stains from Acrylic Plastic, Alabaster, Aluminum, Bamboo, Bluestone, Brass, Bronze, Cane, Ceramic Glass/Tile, Concrete, Copper, Enamel, Flagstone, Glass, Gold, Granite, Grout, lron, Ivory, Jade, Limestone, Marble, Paint/Flat, Paint/Gloss, Pewter, Plexiglas, Polyurethane, Porcelain, Sandstone, Slate, Stainless, Steel, Terrazzo, Tin, or Vinyl Clothing:

  • Freeze to harden the wax, then gently scrape the residue from the surface. Take care not to scratch the surface.
  • Wipe with a sponge dipped in a solution of washing soda or detergent and water.
  • Rinse well and wipe dry.

Follow these steps to remove wax stains from Asphalt, Cork, Linoleum, or Vinyl Tile:

  • Freeze to harden the wax.
  • Gently scrape it off with a metal spatula, taking care not to gouge the stained surface.
  • Dip a corner of a clean cloth into rubbing alcohol and wipe stain.
  • Wash and wipe dry.
  • Polish or wax as usual.

Removing Wax from Carpet 

Follow these steps to remove candle wax from your synthetic or wool carpet:

  • Freeze to harden the wax.
  • Gently scrape to remove excess from the surface.
  • To prevent damage to the backing, add a small amount of Afta Cleaning Fluid or K2r Spot Lifter.
  • Blot with an absorbent pad.
  • Continue until no more stain is removed.
  • If a dye remains, dilute one part rubbing alcohol with two parts water and apply it to the stain in small amounts, blotting well after each application.
  • Allow to dry.


Removing Wax from Felt 

Follow these steps to remove candle wax stains from felt:

  • Freeze to harden the wax.
  • Very carefully scrape the residue, taking care not to shred the felt fibers.
  • If any residue remains, try brushing gently with a stiff-bristled brush.
  • In extreme cases, use a razor blade to gently scrape the excess. Use this as a last resort as it will damage some of the fibers.

Removing Wax from Leather or Suede 

Follow these steps to remove candle wax stains from Leather or Suede:

  • Freeze with ice cubes in a plastic bag to harden the wax.
  • Gently scrape the wax.
  • If any stain remains, mix a thick paste of fuller's earth with water and apply it to the stain. Allow the paste to dry, then carefully brush it off with a soft-bristled brush or toothbrush.
  • Repeat if necessary.
  • When the stain has been removed, apply a leather conditioner (on leather only).

Removing Wax from Silver 

Follow these steps to remove candle wax stains from silver:

  • Freeze to harden the wax.
  • Carefully scrape with a plastic spatula until no more wax can be removed.
  • Wash the silver in hot soapy water.
  • Rinse in hot water and wipe dry immediately to prevent tarnish.

Removing Wax from Wood 

Follow these steps to remove wax stains from wood:

  • Freeze to harden the wax.
  • Gently scrape it up to avoid gouging the wood.
  • When all wax has been removed, buff the wood with a chamois cloth.



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How to Stencil Kids' Rooms

Stenciling is a quick and rewarding way to personalize your kids' rooms, whether they're budding scientists, gardeners, astronauts, or anything else.

Outer Space Wallpaper features rocket ships and planets.
Outer Space Wallpaper
is the perfect stencil
for little astronauts.

In the following pages, we offer nine ways to customize the walls in your rooms, and you can find hundreds of possible variations to make the exact look and feel that you want.

Learn how to stencil kids' rooms with the step-by-step instructions included on each article, along with stencils that you can download, tips and tricks, and helpful photos.

Get ready to unleash your creativity with the following stencil projects:

Teddy Bears Border is a visual lullaby for any baby's room. Learn how to stencil using teddy bears in this section.

Zinnia Garden Border makes a summery addition to cheer up any room. Add flowers to your wall with this creative stencil border.

Zoom Around the Room Border is the choice for race car drivers. We'll show you how to shift into drive with this fast and cool stencil border.

Baby Bear Border surrounds the room with soft and cuddly bears. Learn how to stencil the baby's room with this adorable stencil design.

Garden Wall Border is a whimsical and lively design, a vibrant pastoral. Stencil these designs onto your wall.

Rubber Duckie Shower Curtain is an excellent project for those new to stenciling. We'll teach you how to stencil these sweet rubber ducks.

Funky Flowers Cork Border makes an eye-catching and practical enhancement to any wall. Grow a garden on your wall.

Sweet Dreams Wall Border features soft clouds and leaping sheep. Learn how to create this sweet wall border.

Outer Space Wallpaper is a perfect fit for those who dream of rockets and trips to the stars. Stencil a trip to the moon with this design.

Begin with the stencil project that interests you most, or start with the first design. Learn how to stencil a Teddy Bears Border in the next section.


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Teddy Bears Border

Buttons and bears dance on the moon, sending happy dreams and sweet slumber to your little one.

Stencil the Teddy Bears Border.

Skill Level: Intermediate
Time: 8 hours
Stencil Design: Download the Teddy Bears Border as a PDF

What You'll Need

  • 4-inch sponge roller
  • Delta Ceramcoat acrylic paint: Mello Yellow, White
  • Delta Stencil Paint Crème: Cape Cod Blue, Goldenrod Yellow, Yellow Ochre, Amber, Bark Brown, Garnet Red, True Blue, Garden Green, Basic Black
  • 3/4-inch stencil brush
  • 1/2-inch stencil brushes, 3
  • 1/4-inch stencil brushes, 5
  • Index cards


Step One: Measure and mark a horizontal pencil line on the wall for the top edge of the border. Measure down 7-1/4 inches from this line, and mark another pencil line to hold the border. Use low-adhesive tape to mask the outside edges of the border. Use a sponge roller to apply an even coat of Mello Yellow to the border. Leave tape in place.

Use a sponge roller to apply a basecoat.

Step Two: Position the diamond stencil on the wall with the top and bottom corners touching each edge of the border and aligned vertically. Tape in place.

Trick of the Trade

Put tape all the way around the stencil to keep it secure while stenciling and to prevent paint from going where it doesn't belong.

Step Three: Using the sponge roller loaded with White, basecoat the diamond. Continue painting diamonds around the room, repositioning the stencil so the points of each diamond touch.

Step Four: Reposition the stencil on each diamond, and stencil with Cape Cod Blue, using the 3/4-inch brush and concentrating mainly on the edges.

Step Five: Adhere the moon stencil in the center of the first diamond. Stencil the moon White. Repeat in each diamond.

Step Six: Reposition the moon stencil in the first diamond. Stencil the moon Goldenrod Yellow with a 1/2-inch brush. Shade the outside edges with Yellow Ochre. Repeat in each diamond.

Step Seven: There are three different bear stencils. Position one on each moon, alternating them in whatever order you like. Stencil the bears Amber (except for the ears, feet, and muzzle) using a 1/2-inch brush, and shade with Bark Brown and a 1/4-inch brush.

Stencil the ears, feet, and muzzle Bark Brown. Stencil the hanging bears' bows Garnet Red, the sitting bears' bows True Blue, and the sleeping bears' bows Garden Green.

Stencil the bears onto the moons.

NOTE: Cover the moon with its dropout to protect it while stenciling the hanging bear's arm. Remove the moon dropout to expose the bear's paw, and mask the rest of the arm with an index card while stenciling the hand. (You may want to cut the index card to fit first.)

Step Eight: Position the open-eye face overlay on the sitting and hanging bear, and the closed-eye overlay on the sleeping bear, and carefully stencil the eyes, nose, and mouth Basic Black.

Step Nine: Place the button stencil at the point where two diamonds meet. Stencil the button White. Reposition and stencil buttons between each diamond. By the time you've stenciled all the buttons, the ones you started with will be dry.

Starting at the beginning, reposition the stencil, and stencil the buttons Garnet Red, then shade lightly with Basic Black. Once the red buttons are dry, place the overlay detail on top, and stencil with Basic Black.

Teddy Bears Border Variations

Decorating a baby's room calls for all sorts of tiny touches. Just add these adorable bears to a chest of drawers, curtains, or cubbies. A simple moon with a cluster of buttons and a colorful ribbon may be all you need to embellish a toy chest or rocking chair. Whether you have a tiny nook or a wide-open wall to decorate, this design provides just the right touch of color and sweetness.

Stencil variations can be used in many ways.

The next project adds brightness to any room. Learn how to stencil the Zinnia Garden Border in the following section.


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Zinnia Garden Border

Sweet smiles bloom every day in this blissfully sunny summer garden designed for a princess.

Stencil the Zinnia Garden Border.

Skill Level: Intermediate
Time: 8 hours per wall
Stencil Design: Download the Zinnia Garden Border as a PDF.

What You'll Need

  • Light Ivory latex wall paint
  • 4-inch sponge roller
  • Delta Ceramcoat acrylic paint: Mello Yellow
  • Delta Stencil Paint Crème: Cottage Blue, Navy Blue, Garden Green, Basic Black, Goldenrod Yellow, Amber, Coral, Garnet Red, Amethyst Purple, Paprika
  • 1/2-inch stencil brushes, 6
  • 1/4-inch stencil brushes, 4

Trick of the Trade

To get the perfect colors for the wall, select your favorite craft paints and take them into a paint store, where you can have latex paint mixed for a perfect match.


Step One: Basecoat the wall with satin- or eggshell-finish Light Ivory latex wall paint.

Step Two: To create 4-inch stripes around the room, use a plumb line or a level to extend lines from the ceiling to the floor at 4-inch intervals around the room. (Make sure the lines are four inches apart at both the ceiling and the floor.) Mask off both sides of every other stripe with tape.


Paint alternate vertical stripes to create the border.


Trick of the Trade

To avoid painting a wrong stripe, put a small piece of tape in the stripes you will not paint.

Step Three: Use the sponge roller to roll Mello Yellow onto every other stripe. Be careful to stay within the taped area. Let dry.

Step Four: Make as many flowers as you like around the base of the wall, stenciling them at different heights and with different colors. Before you begin, plan your design and make a pencil mark to indicate the placement of each flower, varying flower placement so as not to create a pattern.

Step Five: Each flower has three overlays: Work with the overlay with the largest open areas first. Position this stencil on the wall, and tape it to secure. Mark the registration points. Stencil each zinnia in the same manner, referring to the chart on the next page for color. Apply the basecoat first, then shade with a darker value.

Petals: Stencil the basecoat darker toward the center and lighter at the tips with a 1/2-inch brush. Swirl on the darker shading with a 1/4-inch brush.
Center: Stencil color with a 1/2-inch brush, and shade along the left curve with a 1/4-inch brush.

Leaves: Stencil Garden Green with a 1/2-inch brush, making the color darker where each leaf emerges from the stem and along the bottom. Add a tiny bit of Basic Black shading with a 1/4-inch brush. Apply light tints of Paprika (1/2-inch brush) and Garnet Red (1/4-inch brush).

Step Six: Position the second overlay by matching the registration points. Tape it down securely, then stencil the petals as you did in step five. Stencil the stem Garden Green, adding a little Garnet Red at the point where the flower touches the stem.

If you've positioned the flower particularly high on the wall, the stem will not reach the baseboard. If this is the case, just slide the stencil down to fill the gap.

Step Seven: Position and tape the third overlay in place, and stencil the petals in the same manner as before. Stencil the vein lines Garden Green, and darken slightly with Garnet Red.

Step Eight: Before stenciling the bumblebees, decide where they will go and make a light pencil mark at each position. Vary their placement throughout the zinnias.

Step Nine: Adhere the first overlay (the one without wings) to the wall, and mark the registration points. Stencil with Basic Black.

Step Ten: Position and tape down the bumblebee overlay. Stencil the stripes Goldenrod Yellow (1/2-inch brush) and the wings, legs, and antennae Basic Black (1/2-inch brush). Apply paint sparingly to the wings so they look soft and a bit transparent. Shade the edges of the stripes with a small amount of Basic Black on a 1/4-inch brush. Repeat steps nine and ten for all bumblebees.

The flowers and bees make a lively decoration.

Zinnia Color Palette

Blue Zinnia
Basecoat: Cottage Blue
Shading: Navy Blue
Center: Goldenrod Yellow
Center shading: Amber
Pink Zinnia
Basecoat: Coral
Shading: Garnet Red
Center: Goldenrod Yellow
Center shading: Amber
Yellow Zinnia
Basecoat: Goldenrod Yellow
Shading: Amber
Center: Garden Green
Center shading: Garnet Red
Purple Zinnia
Basecoat: Amethyst Purple
Shading: Basic Black
Center: Goldenrod Yellow
Center shading: Amber
Green Zinnia
Basecoat: Garden Green
Shading: Basic Black
Center: Coral
Center shading: Garnet Red
Orange Zinnia
Basecoat: Paprika
Shading: Amber
Center: Goldenrod Yellow
Center shading: Amber

Zinnia Garden Border Variations

Get out your paint set, because zinnias come in any color. And since they're the hardy variety, they bloom almost anywhere! Picture them on toy boxes, dresser drawers, or jewelry boxes.

Stencil just the petals on pine floors, or make a border of leaves along the edge of the ceiling. Try the bees and little button flowers in smaller places. Create borders and stripes to turn the room into a field of dreams.

Overlapping stems make a unique floral plaid print.

Start your engines and race to the next project, the Zoom Around the Room Border. It's in the next section.


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Zoom Around the Room Border

Girls and boys alike will give these sporty little cars the green light!

Stencil the Zoom Around the Room Border.

Skill level: Intermediate
Time needed: 10-16 hours, depending on room size
Stencil Design: Download the Zoom Around the Room Border as a PDF.


Step One: To mark your border, measure and mark a horizontal pencil line on the wall for the top edge, locating it at whatever height you prefer. Measure down seven inches from this line, and mark another pencil line to hold the border. (Check both lines with a level.) Mask the outside edges of the border with painter's tape, then use a sponge roller to apply an even coat of white latex wall paint to the border. Let this basecoat dry, then begin stenciling.

Step Two: Stencil the road before you stencil the cars. Use only a very light coat of Silver -- if you apply too much paint, it will be visible under the cars. (You'll also use Silver paint when stenciling the car windows and the streetlight bases.)

Step Three: Stencil all of the cars with bright colors, and shade them with Basic Black. The yellow car is an exception -- you may want to shade it with Amber for a more subtle look.

Stencil the colorful cars in any direction.

Step Four: Position the traffic signal light anywhere, and as many times, as you wish. You may repeat it between every two cars to create a pattern or position it randomly wherever you like.

Step Five: Don't forget to add a striped yellow center line to keep the cars on the right side of the road.

Color Chat

Bright and bold is the name of the game in this cheery room. The wall border cars were stenciled with Delta Stencil Paint Crème in the following colors: Sunflower Yellow, Bright Green, Christmas Red, and True Blue. Shading was done with Basic Black and Amber Stencil Paint Crème.

The road sparkles with Silver Stencil Paint Crème. To stencil the storage bins, we switched to acrylic paint, using Delta Ceramcoat Yellow, Navy Blue, Jubilee Green, Opaque Red, Spice Brown, and Black.

Repeat any or all of these colors on the train table, or introduce a complementary color scheme, as we did. This table showcases Plaid FolkArt acrylic paint in Licorice, Lipstick Red, White, Butter Pecan, Asphaltum, Evergreen, and Blue Ribbon, as well as Delta Ceramcoat acrylic paint in Cornsilk Yellow.

Blocks of color add variation to the border.



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Baby Bear Border

These teddy bears couldn't be cuddlier. Stencil their friendly faces around the room for baby to enjoy.

Stencil a Baby Bear Border.

Skill level: Intermediate
Time needed: 10-16 hours, depending on room size
Stencil design: Download the Baby Bear Border as a PDF.


Step One: To position your border, measure and mark a horizontal pencil line on the wall for the top edge, locating it at whatever height you prefer. Measure down nine inches from this line, and mark another pencil line to hold the border. (Check both lines with a level.)

Mask the outside edges of the border with painter's tape, then use a sponge roller to apply an even coat of Seashell White paint to the border. Let dry completely.

Step Two: To stencil the stripes, position overlay one on the bottom edge of the border and tape in place. Place overlay two over it, and stencil the stripes green. Continue along the border, each time aligning the first stripe of overlay two next to the last stripe stenciled.

When you've finished the bottom edge, repeat along the top of the border. Add some shading along the wavy edge with more of the same green mix.

Step Three: Stenciling the bears' clothing a rainbow of colors adds extra oomph to the border. Vary the colors however you wish, without stenciling the same color side by side.

Colorful clothing makes the bears come to life.
Colorful clothing makes the bears come to life.

Step Four: As a final touch, scatter a few moons and stars around in the white space.


Sprinkling stars makes a lovely border.



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Garden Wall Border

Stencil a bright and whimsical garden on your walls, complete with beautiful birds and buzzing bees. Creating a field of dreams is easier than you think!






The Garden Wall Border features dozens of flowers and birds.
Stencil the Garden Wall Border.

Skill level: Intermediate
Time: 6-8 hours
Stencil design: Download the Garden Wall Border as a PDF.

What You'll Need

  • Yardstick
  • Pencil
  • Level
  • 1-inch-wide painter's tape
  • 4-inch sponge roller
  • Flat or semigloss white latex paint
  • DecoArt Americana acrylic paint: Hauser Light Green, True Red, True Blue, Burnt UmberDelta Ceramcoat acrylic paint: Medium Foliage Green, Blue Jay
  • Plaid Apple Barrel Colors acrylic paint: King's Gold
  • Plaid FolkArt acrylic paint: Barnwood
  • 1/4-inch stencil brushes, 7
  • 1/8-inch stencil brush


Step One: Measure and mark a horizontal pencil line on the wall for the top edge of the border, locating it at whatever height you prefer. Measure down 8-1/2 inches from this line, and mark another pencil line to hold the border. (Check both lines with a level.)

Mask the outside edges of the border with painter's tape, then use a sponge roller to apply an even coat of white latex wall paint to the border. Leave tape in place.

Step Two: Center the large stencil vertically in the border at the left edge of the wall. Tape in place; mark registration points. Beginning at the left-hand side of the stencil, stencil the leaves and stems Hauser Light Green with a 1/4-inch brush.

Shade the tips and ends of the leaves and the tops and bottoms of the stems Medium Foliage Green with a 1/8-inch brush. Using the same brush and paint, stencil the dotted line at the bottom.






Stencil the stems of the flowers in green paint.
Stencil the stems of the flowers in green paint.

Step Three: Stencil the tulips True Red with a 1/4-inch brush, applying only a very light coat.

Step Four: Stencil the daisy, bird's legs, and bee's body King's Gold with a 1/4-inch brush.

Step Five: Stencil the remaining flower and the bee's wings Blue Jay with a 1/4-inch brush. (Apply paint sparingly so both the petals and wings look soft and a bit transparent.) Lightly shade around the edges of the bird's body with Barnwood on a 1/4-inch brush to give the bird a more dimensional look.

Step Six: With the first stencil still in place, position the stripe stencil over the first red tulip with the stripes pointing in the same direction as the tulip. Stencil stripes True Red with a 1/4-inch brush. Repeat on the second tulip. While you have True Red on the brush, add a touch of red shading on the base and tips of the daisy petals.






Add red to the tulips for a more deep, natural look.

Step Seven: Position the stripe stencil on the bird. Using a 1/4-inch brush, stencil stripes True Blue. Remove stripe stencil; leave the first stencil in place.

Step Eight: Center the checkerboard stencil over the blue flower. Stencil checkerboard True Blue. Remove checkerboard stencil; leave the first stencil in place.

Step Nine: Center the small circle stencil on the blue flower. Stencil King's Gold with a 1/4-inch brush; repeat for complete coverage.

Step Ten: Align the bee overlay, and stencil the bee's stripe, head, and antennae Burnt Umber with a 1/4-inch brush. Remove overlay.

Step Eleven: Align the bird's eye stencil. Stencil Burnt Umber with a 1/4-inch brush. Remove overlay.

Step Twelve: Remove the first stencil, and reposition it to the right of the first repeat with about one inch between the flowers just stenciled and the next one to be painted.

Step Thirteen: Repeat steps two through twelve across the border. Remove tape masking border.







Trick of the Trade

This stencil measures approximately 12 inches for each repeat, including about 3/4 inch on either side for spacing. Before you begin, figure out how many repeats will fit on your wall. Measure the wall, subtracting any space for doors and windows. If you have 120 inches, there will be ten repeats.

If you come up with a number that isn't divisible by 12, however, don't worry. Add or take away extra space between the repeats to make up the difference. There's enough space between the elements on this stencil to break up the design and go around corners or windows. Just stop, and continue on the other side.

Bright Ideas

Birds of a feather don't always flock together! There's no limit to the number of different designs you can make with this stencil.

  • For a more realistic, natural look, leave the striped and checked patterns off the birds and flowers and switch to a more subdued color palette.
  • Use the fabulous checkered and striped patterns as a background stencil for just about anything, or use them alone to add texture to a dresser drawer, a light-switch plate, or the edge of a cabinet.
  • This stencil has many fabulous elements. Any one of them singled out would make a fabulous focal point on its own. Try 1 or more of the flowers on a flowerpot; stencil a bird on the wall overlooking a window; add a cluster of cute little bumblebees encircling a ceiling fan; or trim the baseboard with a row of flowers.






Stencil different patterns
to add a personal touch.

Get your feet wet in the next section, and learn how to stencil the Rubber Duckie Shower Curtain.



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Funky Flowers Cork Border

These flowers have perennial appeal! This cork-square border is a pretty addition to a room as well as a practical place to store notes and memos.






The Funky Flowers Cork Border features bright and colorful patterns stenciled on a useful cork surface.
Get organized with this
Funky Flowers Cork Border stencil.

Skill Level: Beginner
Time: 15 minutes per tile
Stencil Design: Download the Funky Flowers Cork Border as a PDF.

What You'll Need

  • 6-inch-square corkboard tiles (quantity determined by size of room)
  • 4-inch foam roller
  • Delta Ceramcoat acrylic paint: Crocus Yellow, Royal Fuchsia, Deep Lilac, Light Foliage Green, Apple Green, Purple, Pretty Pink, GP Purple, Dark Goldenrod
  • 5/8-inch stencil brushes, 3
  • 3/8-inch stencil brushes, 4
  • 1/4-inch stencil brushes, 2







Trick of the Trade
Corkboard is quite porous and will absorb a lot of paint, so apply as many coats of paint as needed to obtain the coverage you desire.


Step One: Divide the corkboard tiles into three equal stacks. Using the foam roller, paint one stack Crocus Yellow, one stack Royal Fuchsia, and one stack Deep Lilac. Let dry.

Step Two: Start with the Crocus Yellow tiles. Center stencil A (base of flower) in the square; mark registration points. Using a 5/8-inch brush, stencil this shape Royal Fuchsia. Remove the stencil.






The flowers are first stenciled in fuchsia.
Stencil the flower in Royal Fuchsia.

Step Three: Align stencil B. Stencil the leaves Light Foliage Green with a 3/8-inch brush. Let dry. Highlight the top of the leaves with Apple Green on a 1/4-inch brush, and very lightly shade the base with Purple on a 1/4-inch brush. Stencil the swirl Pretty Pink with a 3/8-inch brush.






Stencil a swirl on each flower to make it more lively.
Stencil a swirl on top of each flower
and add shading to the leaves.

Step Four: Repeat steps two and three on the Royal Fuchsia tiles, substituting the following colors: The base of the flower is Purple; the swirl is GP Purple. The leaves remain the same.

Step Five: Repeat steps two and three on the Deep Lilac tiles, substituting the following colors: The base of the flower is Crocus Yellow; the swirl is Dark Goldenrod. The leaves remain the same.



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Rubber Duckie Shower Curtain

Create a big-time splash with this adorable shower curtain. Don't let its fabulous look deceive you -- it's a great beginner's project.

Stencil the Rubber Duckie Shower Curtain
for a bright and cheery look.

Skill Level: Beginner
Time: 2 hours
Stencil Design: Download the Rubber Duckie Shower Curtain as a PDF.

What You'll Need

  • Fabric shower curtain
  • Tape measure
  • Painter's tape
  • Fabric medium
  • DecoArt Americana acrylic paint: Cadmium Yellow, Neutral Grey, Cadmium Orange
  • Plaid FolkArt acrylic paint: Periwinkle
  • Stencil spray adhesive
  • 1-inch stencil brush
  • 3/8-inch stencil brushes, 3
  • Soft, clean cloth
  • Iron and ironing board


Step One: Prewash and dry the curtain according to manufacturer's instructions.

Step Two: The ducks alternate in rows with the water splashes. There are approximately 14 inches between ducks both horizontally and vertically. Place a small piece of tape at these locations.

Mark spaces for the ducks with tape.

Step Three: Follow manufacturer's instructions to add fabric medium to the paint.

Step Four: Center the duck stencil on a piece of tape from step two; remove tape. Stencil Cadmium Yellow with a 1-inch brush. Repeat at every tape mark, flipping the stencil over a few times for visual interest.

Step Five: Align the duck overlay; stencil the eyes and feathers Neutral Grey, the beak Cadmium Orange, and the water Periwinkle, all with 3/8-inch brushes. Repeat on all ducks.

Step Six: Center the water splash stencil between every two ducks, both horizontally and vertically, and stencil Periwinkle. Repeat across curtain.

Stencil the water splash between each pair of ducks.

Step Seven: Let dry. Place a clean cloth over the design, and run an iron over the cloth to heat-set the paint.



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Sweet Dreams Wall Border

Fluffy white clouds and colorful sheep stenciled on the walls of your nursery will lull your baby into sweet slumber.

Stencil the Sweet Dreams Wall Border.

Skill Level: Advanced beginner
Time: 6-8 hours
Stencil Design: Download the Sweet Dreams Wall Border as a PDF.

What You'll Need

  • Tape measure
  • Pencil
  • Level
  • Painter's tape
  • 4-inch sponge roller
  • Delta Ceramcoat acrylic paint: Light Ivory, Pale Yellow, Village Green, Coastline Blue
  • Plaid FolkArt acrylic paint: Periwinkle, Baby Pink, Titanium White
  • 5/8-inch stencil brushes, 2
  • 3/4-inch stencil brushes, 6


Step One: Measure and mark a horizontal pencil line on the wall for the top edge of the border, locating it at whatever height you prefer. Measure down 9-1/2 inches from this line, and mark another pencil line to hold the border. Mask the outside edges of the border with painter's tape. Use a sponge roller to apply an even coat of Light Ivory to the border. Remove tape.

Step Two: Starting at the far left side of the border, align the scallop stencil on the top edge; tape in place. Roll Light Ivory onto the scallops. Reposition the stencil, using the last scallop as a guide, and repeat across the border.

Step Three: Rotate the scallop stencil so top becomes bottom, and repeat step three across the bottom of the border.

Step Four: Position the "Sweet" stencil at the left edge of the border, about 1/2 inch from the top. Stencil Periwinkle with a 5/8-inch brush. Position the "Dreams" stencil 1-1/2 to 2 inches to the right of that; stencil Periwinkle with a 5/8-inch brush. Reposition the "Sweet" stencil at Sweet Dreams least three inches from the end of the first repeat. Repeat across the top edge of the border.

Stencil the words with periwinkle paint.


Trick of the Trade

Don't worry if the space varies a bit between repeats across the wall; subtle differences lend homemade charm.

Step Five: Center the moon stencil between every repeat of "Sweet Dreams," and stencil Pale Yellow with a 5/8-inch brush.

Step Six: Beneath each "Sweet Dreams" repeat you'll stencil four sheep, placed at various heights and angled in different directions so they look as though they're leaping through the sky. (When positioning the sheep, leave areas of white space in which you'll stencil clouds in steps eight and nine.)

To stencil each sheep, position stencil S1; mark registration points. Using a different 3/4-inch brush for each color, stencil the sheep in the following order: Village Green, Baby Pink, Coastline Blue, Pale Yellow. Repeat across border.

Step Seven: Align stencil S2. Stencil the legs and face markings Periwinkle and the wooly detail Titanium White using two different 3/4-inch brushes. Repeat on all sheep.

Step Eight: Position stencil C1 in the empty spaces around the sheep; mark registration points. Stencil Coastline Blue with a 3/4-inch brush, applying paint extremely sparingly for a light, fluffy look. Repeat across border, stenciling two or three clouds for every 4 sheep.

Use a light touch to stencil the clouds
near each trio of sheep.

Step Nine: Align stencil C2. Stencil Periwinkle with a 3/4-inch brush. Repeat on all clouds.

Trick of the Trade

To get the perfect colors for the wall above and beneath the border, take your favorite craft paints with you to a hardware store or home center, where you can have latex paint mixed for a perfect match.

Bright Ideas
It's easy to make these stencils look great. Extend the charm with any of these variations...

  • For a homey touch, personalize the border by adding the baby's name.
  • Leave out the border behind the sheep, and stencil clouds and sheep directly onto a sky-blue background.
  • Stencil the clouds on the ceiling to give your baby something fun to look at before he or she drifts off to sleep.

Blast off to the next section, and learn to stencil Outer Space Wallpaper.



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Outer Space Wallpaper

Faux wallpaper is a stellar way to liven up a room. And while this pattern may look complex, it's not rocket science!

The Outer Space Wallpaper is out of this world.

Skill Level: Intermediate +
Time: 6-8 hours
Stencil Design: Download the Outer Space Wallpaper as a PDF.

What You'll Need

  • White latex paint
  • Paint roller
  • Pencil
  • Level
  • Tape measure
  • 1-inch-wide painter's tape
  • Sea sponge
  • Plaid FolkArt acrylic paint: Light Periwinkle, Light Gray, Tangerine, Autumn Leaves, School Bus Yellow, Hauser Light Green
  • DecoArt Dazzling Metallics acrylic paint: Shimmering Silver
  • 5/8-inch stencil brush
  • 1/2-inch stencil brushes, 3
  • 3/8-inch stencil brushes, 3


Step One: Basecoat the wall with your favorite white latex paint. Let dry.

Step Two: To create the 6-inch blue squares, use pencil, level, tape measure, and 1-inch-wide painter's tape. Run a line of tape along the top edge of the baseboard. Measure up six inches, and make several pencil marks at this height along the wall. Run a horizontal line of tape here, checking with level. Repeat up the wall, measuring six inches up from the top of each line of tape.

Step Three: Measure and mark the horizontal center of the wall. Run a line of tape vertically at this point, centered on this mark. Place vertical lines of tape on both sides of the center line, measuring every 6 inches from the edge of the previous piece of tape to create 6-inch squares.

Mark off 6-inch squares with tape.


Trick of the Trade

Press the edges of the tape firmly to prevent paint from bleeding under.

Step Four: Use a sea sponge to sponge-paint the squares in a checker-board pattern, sponging every other square Light Periwinkle. Let dry; remove all tape.

Step Five: Center stencil R1 in the top left white square with the nose pointing into the upper right corner. Mark registration points. Stencil the rocket body Shimmering Silver with a 5/8-inch brush, and stencil the exhaust Light Gray with a 1/2-inch brush.

Stencil the rockets in silver paint.

Repeat in every white square, angling the rocket toward the upper right corner in the first and third rows and toward the upper left corner in the second and fourth rows.

Step Six: Align stencil R2, and stencil all openings Light Periwinkle with a 1/2-inch brush. Repeat on all rockets.

Step Seven: Align stencil R3. Stencil the flames Tangerine with a 3/8-inch brush, and shade the edges with Autumn Leaves on a 1/2-inch brush. Stencil the fins and porthole Autumn Leaves. Repeat on all rockets.

Step Eight: Stencil the planets, moons, and stars at the outside corners of each blue square so the moons and ringed planets alternate rows with the earth and stars. (See photo for more detail.) Stencil the moons and stars School Bus Yellow with a 3/8-inch brush.

For the ringed planet, stencil the circle Tangerine and the ring Autumn Leaves. Stencil Earth Hauser Light Green with a 3/8-inch brush and the ocean overlay Light Periwinkle.

Surround each square with planets and stars.
Surround each square with stars and planets.


Trick of the Trade

Stencil all of the moons and stars before moving on to the planets so you don't have to clean your brushes after every stencil.

Bright Ideas

3...2...1...Blastoff! The number of variations for this stencil will send you over the moon! Piece together the rockets, moons, and planets in all kinds of configurations to fit your space.

  • What could be cooler than stenciling part of this design with glow-in-the-dark paint?
  • Leave out the sponge-painted squares, and group the stars, planets, and rockets together in a starry circle on the ceiling.
  • Try stenciling the smaller designs on drawer pulls or light-switch plates to add universal appeal everywhere you look.



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Organize Shelves

"So many books, so little time." There are hundreds of thousands of books in and out of print. You've no doubt read a few you wish you hadn't. For the bibliophile, nothing is more delicious than shelves stocked full of books. But the joy quickly turns to frustration if you can't find the one you want. Row upon row of book spines wedged together in unrelenting formation is also wearying to the eye, not to mention detrimental to the books and horrifying to interior decorators.

One of the first decisions you'll have to make about organizing shelves is what you want to display. For the most attractive arrangement, don't use these shelves as storage areas to hold everything you own. Instead, choose books and items that you love and that have meaning for you.


Bookshelves aren't just for books, anymore. Get creative!

As you arrange your treasured books on your shelves, consider their appearance. Leave the shabby paperbacks in a back room. If you're displaying a collection of books, display them together. For like-bound sets, alternate between standing and stacking the books on the shelf. Experiment with different arrangements until the color and design of the spines work together to make patterns that please you. If art is the focus of the books on your display, as in a collection of vintage picture books, arrange the books to draw attention to the artwork. Place a couple of books cover forward, perhaps on easels, in front of the other books. Display one open to a particularly captivating painting. To keep the arrangement fresh, change the display volumes when you dust.

You can achieve a balance between storage, function and artistic display on the shelves throughout your home and office. We've gleaned some tips and tricks from design professionals to guide you.

Organizing Shelves with Style and Function

Now that you've chosen the books you want to display, let's dress up the shelves with a little decoration. The rule of thirds, a tool that photographers and artists use to compose pictures, can help you create a dramatic point of focus on each shelf. To use the rule of thirds, visualize the shelf divided into three equal sections both horizontally and vertically. You'll establish the focal point for each shelf by including an object between the books at one of the intersections of these dividing lines. If you need to lift a small object up, stack books horizontally under it until it reaches the appropriate level, but remember to leave some empty space on either side. This draws the eye naturally to the focal point and lets it rest there. The items you choose for focal points might include clocks, vases, framed photographs and collectibles.

Children’s Shelves

Children's rooms are populated with lots of small and irregular items that don't conform to life on a shelf. In areas like this, let baskets do the work. They're marvels for keeping together large numbers of small items, like toy soldiers and Legos. They make clean-up quick and easy; just toss the toys in the basket and slide it back on the shelf. You can use color, style or shape to make the baskets an integral part of the design in your child's room. You can even attach labels to the front of baskets to keep things organized and to help your child learn to read.

As in other parts of the house, keep ease of access in mind. Put the things your child uses most often within reach and the things that aren't needed on a regular basis higher up on the shelves.

To highlight a particularly special item, let it stand alone. If you want to include greenery, use artificial plants. The moisture and sunlight necessary to nourish living plants are damaging to books.

Some designers suggest repeating a color on each shelf to tie the entire display together. If red is the color you choose, you can place a red vase on one shelf, a red bowl on another, and a photograph framed in red on a third shelf. Or you could use themes to connect the items displayed on each shelf. For example, if you're arranging photo albums on a shelf, include something relating to the subject of the albums. If the albums are collections of vacation photos, use a souvenir from a memorable trip to create a focal point. Identify the wedding albums with a pair of toasting flutes. Let trophies, craft projects, sports equipment or framed certificates act as bookends for albums of children or grandchildren.

Speaking of children and grandchildren, you should set aside the highest shelves to display fragile items. Slip attractive or unique but sturdy baskets into the bottom shelves for clutter control. Use the baskets to store toys, remote controls and television viewing guides, unfinished crossword and Sudoku puzzles, and in-progress needlework. Baskets are also a great functional accessory in bathrooms to corral personal care items.



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Office Organization

How the Big Guys Do It

Most libraries use either Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) or Library of Congress Classification (LCC) to organize the books in their collections. The Dewey system, created by American librarian Melvil Dewey in 1873, starts with 10 broad areas of knowledge. Ranging from 000 for generalities to 900, which includes geography, history and biography, each class is divided into 10 subclasses, which are further divided for an almost infinite categorization system. Developed in the same era by Charles A. Cutter, the Library of Congress system starts with 21 classes of knowledge, each designated by a letter. Subclasses and specific topics are designated with a combination of letters and numbers. The LLC is popular in academic libraries. Bookstores tend to group books informally by areas of interest or subject matter.

Take a cue from Dewey to get the most efficient organization method for working areas like offices and libraries. This doesn't mean you need to memorize all the categories of the Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) system. It just means that you group books in a logical, orderly fashion. If you share office or library space with someone else, it might be a good idea to divide the shelf space into "his" and "hers" to house and organize the books of different readers.

To get started, separate the books into fiction, nonfiction and reference. If your library is vast, you may want to invest the time and effort to arrange your collection according to DDC. But since the current version of the system requires four volumes to explain, you'll probably want to use a method that just makes sense to you and the way you use your books [source: OCLC]. One idea is to arrange your shelves so that the books you use the most are the easiest to access, while the ones you rarely need live on the highest, lowest and furthest-away-from-your-desk shelves.

 Be sure to leave a handy space for frequently consulted reference books like your dictionary and thesaurus.

Once you decide which method you'll use to organize the books in your office, borrow some tips from the living room to help you create an attractive arrangement and pinpoint where each subject begins or ends. Instead of putting as many books on the shelf as it will hold, make stops between subjects (or subheadings if your collection of one subject is extensive) and place a related item in the space. Use a polished geode as a bookend for books on minerals; display an antique camera or a trio of different sized lenses at the beginning of the photography section. If your shelves must do double-duty and store supplies, employ a collection of uniform or decorative containers to hold paperclips, pens, envelopes, et cetera (designer Allison Spear favors the distinctive blue boxes from a posh jewelry retailer) and cluster them together as another focal point [source: Editors of House Beautiful].



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