by Melinda Myers
Spring is here and the garden centers are filled with beautiful plants. Many of us are making our way to one or more of our favorite garden shops. We leave with a car full of beautiful flowers and healthy vegetables with hopes of a bountiful harvest.
But before that first plant goes into the ground, make sure your soil is properly prepared. Though not the most glamorous part of gardening, it is the first and most important step in creating a beautiful and productive garden.
Start by adding some compost, aged manure or a garden soil labeled for flowers and vegetables to this year’s shopping list. You’ll need about two 2-cubic-ft bags of soil additive to cover 25 square feet of garden two inches deep. Calculate your garden size by measuring the length times the width, so you are sure to purchase all you need.
Once the car is unloaded the fun begins. Work the soil when it is moist, but not wet. A simple test can help with this. Grab a handful of soil and gently squeeze. Then gently tap it with your finger. If it breaks into smaller pieces, it is ready to work. If it stays in a wet ball, wait for the soil to dry slightly before digging in. Otherwise you will compact the soil, reduce drainage and create clods and crusty soil that you’ll be fighting all season long.
Start by digging several inches of compost, aged manure, or a product like Schultz garden soil for flowers and vegetables into the top 12 inches of soil. These materials improve drainage in heavy clay soils and increase water-holding ability in sandy soils.
Spread the organic matter over the soil surface of the garden bed. Use a shovel or rototiller to blend the organic matter into the soil. Rake the area smooth and level or make a slight crown in the middle of the bed. Crowning the bed slightly can increases visual impact of flowers and can help keep soil in the bed and out of the surrounding lawn or mulch.
Don’t skip this step even if you applied these materials last year. Yearly applications of organic matter continue to build quality soil and improve your gardening results.
Apply the type and amount of fertilizer recommended by your soil test report. If this information is not available use about three pounds of a low nitrogen slow release fertilizer for every 100 square feet of garden. Check the back of your fertilizer bag for more details.
Once the soil is prepared it is time to plant. Carefully slide your transplants out of their container. Gently loosen any circling roots. Plant flowers and vegetables in the prepared planting bed then water thoroughly.
Mulch the soil surface with a one to two inch layer of pine straw, evergreen needles, shredded leaves or other organic material. These help suppress weeds, conserve moisture and improve the soil as they decompose.
Seem like too much work? Investing time preparing the soil at the start of the season will save you time throughout the season. You’ll spend less time watering, managing pests and replacing struggling or dead plants. This gives you more time to harvest beautiful flowers for bouquets, vegetables for your favorite recipes, or just to sit, relax and enjoy your landscape.
Make this the year to start building a strong foundation for a healthy and productive garden.
Gardening expert, TV/radio host, author & columnist Melinda Myers has more than 30 years of horticulture experience and has written over 20 gardening books, including Can’t Miss Small Space Gardening and the Midwest Gardener’s Handbook. She hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything” DVD series and the nationally syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment segments. Myers is also a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine. Myers’ web site, www.melindamyers.com, offers gardening videos and tips.
Attention potential buyers, renters and developers! Join the Burleigh Street CDC and their partners, resource providers and others at this event for informal networking and to view properties for sale and lease.
Featuring several properties on Burleigh Street including the Enterprise Center (5302-5330 W. Burleigh), the CNS Building (5325 W. Burleigh), a former Easter Seals (3090 N. 53rd Street) and a former pharmacy (5300 W. Burleigh).
The announcement of the event was made during a Thursday morning news conference to unveil a $5.15 million “Neighborhood LIFT” program for city homebuyers. Mayor Tom Barrett, along with representatives from Wells Fargo Bank, NeighborWorks America and Select Milwaukee were on hand to tout the new initiative.
Created by Wells Fargo, the “Neighborhood Lift” program will help revitalize neighborhoods through sustainable homeownership. This program includes the two-day homebuyer event, where prospective homebuyers may qualify for the $15,000 in down payment assistance to purchase a home in Milwaukee.
Wells Fargo is collaborating with the city and nonprofits Select Milwaukee and NeighborWorks America.
NeighborhoodLIFT program funds may be applied to loans with any approved lender and to 203k renovation loans to make improvements as part of a new mortgage purchase loan. Applicants must complete homebuyer education and have a contract to purchase a home to be eligible for a down payment assistance grant.
Article courtesy of Pittsburgh Courier via “The Rundown”
Last month, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette charged an organization known as Freedom by Faith Ministries with defrauding more than 100 consumers in Southeast Michigan. The alleged crime: foreclosure rescue scams.
Unfortunately, the circumstances that led to the Michigan lawsuit represent a continuation of a disturbing trend of profiteers seeking to financially exploit the misfortunes of troubled homeowners.
The U.S. Government Accountability Office in 2013 found more than 40,000 complaints of foreclosure fraud occurred nationwide and together totaled losses to homeowners of more than $90 million.
Each year from 2010 through 2012, more than 18,000 foreclosure fraud complaints were filed beyond the 9,000 complaints received in 2009.
Foreclosure scammers typically demand large, upfront cash payments from troubled homeowners and advise homeowners to stop making mortgage payments. They also dupe their victims into sharing important personal information such as Social Security and bank account numbers. After payment is received, the scammers do little or no work to obtain a loan modification for the homeowners. In the process, homeowners fall deeper into delinquency and also lose valuable time that could have yielded better results.
Free services of a HUD-certified housing counselor are available nationwide to help negotiate with mortgage servicers. Many times these housing counselors facilitate securing options to avoid foreclosure such as home modifications, refinance, forbearance, short sales and more.
A new research report, Foreclosure Rescue, Inc. by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law finds that foreclosure scams are beginning to take new forms while still fraudulently taking money from distressed homeowners. Some scammers falsely claim government affiliation while others include improper involvement of legal and real estate professionals
For example, in West Palm Beach, Fla., foreclosure rescue “consultants” held seminars to teach people how to make money off of distressed homeowners. In Atlanta, attorneys were reported to have been randomly solicited to sign up as “partners” or “affiliates” of foreclosure rescue operations. And in Long Island, N.Y., legitimate housing counselors unknowingly gave fraud actors powers of attorney to presumably talk to banks on behalf of homeowners.
“African-American and Latino homeowners, already victimized by targeted predatory lending, have been victimized by scams at disproportionate rates compared to their percentage of the population,” said Yolanda McGill, manager of the Loan Modification Scam Prevention Network for the Lawyers’ Committee.
The Lead Hazard Reduction Assistance (LHRA) Program of the Social Development Commission and the State Department of Health Services are helping lead workers stay healthy.
The two partnered to hold an Exterior Lead Containment Workshop at a Milwaukee Near-Southside home. More than two-dozen lead abatement workers, renovators and contractors took part in the session at the home on S. 31st Street. The foreclosed home was recently purchased by Layton Boulevard West Neighbors and will be completely renovated before being sold to a local family.
The contractors who perform lead abatement work as part of SDC’s LHRA program viewed the home before being asked to fill out an occupancy protection plan. They then set up containment and safety measures to keep any lead dust or chips from affecting residents, neighbors or the workers while the work is completed. State inspectors critiqued the efforts and offered suggestions on how to make the site even safer. They then provided feedback on clean-up for the area.
The workshop is one of a series that SDC’s Residential Services Programs and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services are conducting for lead contractors as part of regular Quality Assurance gatherings. Previous sessions have included use of proper safety gear and future
hands-on workshops will include interior containment for lead removal.
The Lead Hazard Reduction Assistance Program works with HUD and the City of Milwaukee Health Department to identify and renovate housing units with young children living in them which have a high risk for lead poisoning. To learn more about the program, visit the SDC website located at www.cr-sdc.org/index/Programs–Services/VITA/Asset-Development/Lead-Hazard-Reduction-Assistance-Program.htm.
The Burleigh Street Community Development Corporation (BSCDC) will hold a Commercial Property Showcase on Friday, May 16th from 12:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. Several premier properties on the 5300 block of west Burleigh Street will be open for tours.
Interested buyers, renters, developers and their brokers are invited to view properties for sale and lease. BSCDC is teaming up with real estate and property management representatives from NAI MLG Commercial, Siegel-Gallagher, Sandor Development, and AASAP Management for their second annual property showcase.
Individuals from traditional and non-traditional lending partners will be available at the event to explain incentives, services and funding opportunities available. These partners include: Legacy Redevelopment Corporation, US Bank, Milwaukee Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation (WWBIC), African American Chamber of Commerce (AACC), Bank Mutual, Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA), the Small Business Administration (SBA), Educators Credit Union and Seaway Bank and Trust.
“We’re excited to build on last year’s event. This is a great opportunity for professionals and retailers to see some available office and storefront space in which they can grow their business right here in the city,” said Renée Lindner, BSCDC’s Outreach Manager. “One of our goals is to close deals.”
Last year’s showcase helped at least one buyer find the property that will soon house a new business on Burleigh Street. The commercial property showcase is one of many BSCDC events that support urban commercial corridor revitalization efforts.
Beginning at 12:30 p.m. on May 16, this event is open to the general public. Anyone interested in attending should contact Renée Lindner at the phone number or email address listed above.
About the Burleigh Street Community Development Corporation
Leading revitalization efforts since 1999 is the BSCDC, a coalition of people who live, worship, work and do business in the neighborhood. Our mission is to enhance the business environment in the Burleigh Street Commercial Corridor by conceiving and implementing economic development and community revitalization projects through the leverage of public-private partnerships that link city, county, state and federal governments with private investors, local corporations and foundations. More information can be found at www.burleighstreet.org
April 11, 2014 – Home sales for the 1st Quarter of 2014 were down 10.2% from a year earlier, and sales for March were down 14.6% compared to 2013 in the 4-county Metropolitan Milwaukee real estate market. The slowdown for the first three-months of the year is being blamed on an exceptionally cold winter.
A decrease in sales is not unusual in the winter months, and given the numerous Polar Vortexes that have descended upon the region, buyers have decided to search online before going out.
Total sales were down 333 units compared to 2013 for the quarter (2,921 vs. 3,254). Most of the drop off was in March, when sales were down 208 units compared to a year earlier. January and February were down 28 and 97 units, respectively. That is an sign of just how cold and long the winter was, each month saw progressively worse sales performance compared to last year.
Despite a slow market in the 1st Quarter, area brokers expect the market to be on par with (and possibly beat) the 18,203 unit sales of 2013, as the local economy continues to improve and expand; and newly formed households get into the market.
Listings placed on the market increased by 2.7% for the quarter and 6.6% in March, a positive sign that sellers were preparing for the spring uptick in sales.
The inventory level was 6.7-months for March, a sign of a very healthy spring market. Inventory in the 6-month ballpark is the sweet-spot for listings, because it provides an ample array of choices for buyers without applying too much price pressure up or down. However, after deducting the 1,726 listings with an active offer from current listings of 8,759, the inventory level dropped to 4.8-months.
Keep in mind that these are March numbers, and as the thermometer rises, we will see more listings added to current inventory in anticipation of a busier market in April. The cold weather just pushed off the start of the busy season by about 30-45 days.
Except for the weather, market conditions were good in the 1st Quarter. Interest rates, home prices, and active buyers are situated to fuel a robust spring and summer market.
Sellers should not assume they will get whatever they ask for, and buyers should know the days of deep discounts are gone; a REALTORS® guidance will help both parties purchase or sell a property for a fair price.
The Greater Milwaukee Association of REALTORS® is a 4,000-member strong professional organization dedicated to providing information, services and products to “help REALTORS® help their clients” buy and sell real estate. Data for this report was collected by Metro MLS, Inc. a wholly-owned subsidiary of the GMAR.
Huff Post Urban Progress
In the latest effort to spur investment in blighted areas of one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods, Chicago plans to sell several hundred properties for the price of a candy bar.
As part of the Green and Healthy Chicago Neighborhoods initiative approved by the Chicago Plan Commission Thursday, the specific Large Lots pilot program will allow qualifying residents and nonprofits to buy city-owned vacant lots for $1 in the Englewood neighborhood on the South Side.
“It’s designed to move vacant properties out of the city’s hands and into private ownership,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a statement. “People can use the land to expand the yards around their homes, to create gardens on their block, or for beautification, housing, or for other purposes.”
The Department of Planning & Development program, part of the mayor’s “Five-Year Housing Plan” that was already approved by the City Council last month, could expand beyond Englewood in the future.
The goal, according to the Sun-Times, is to expand it to a 13-mile planning area including some 5,000 vacant lots in nearby neighborhoods like Washington Park, Woodlawn, Fuller Park and Greater Grand Crossing.
To qualify for the “Large Lot Program,” applicants must already own property on the same block as the lot they want to buy; they must also be current on property taxes, have no financial obligations to the city (like water bills or parking tickets) and must tell the city how they plan to use the property, DNAinfo Chicago reports.
The city recently previously sold six empty lots at $1 a piece to a developer expected to turn them into affordable housing.
For years, $1 lot programs have cropped up in other cities around the nation. The rules and requirements vary, but what they all have in common is the next-to-nothing price.
When a similar program launched last August in nearby Gary, Ind., Jeffrey Lubell, director of housing initiatives for the public policy and business research firm ABT Associates, told HuffPost Live picking the most blighted neighborhoods is not always the most successful route unless the scale of the program and intervention and investment from a city is significant.
In Milwaukee, the city has sold vacant dollar properties for buyers to build homes on since the mid-aughts, and continues to sell foreclosed properties to qualifying buyers for $1, similar to a program in New York City that aimed to entice developers to rehab blighted properties in Harlem.
Looking to cut down on maintenance and upkeep costs, the city of Warren, Mich. outside Detroit started selling off “odd-sized” lots in 2012. Buyers had to promise not to build another home on the small lots, but were encouraged instead to expand their lots or split them with a neighbor.
Clara Kirk, who runs two women’s shelters in Englewood, told DNAinfo the cost of developing a property into something more than a garden or expanded yard could be a problem.
“That’s where the expense would occur and I’m not sure if people will have the money to do that. I know I don’t,” Kirk said.
In 2009, a Los Angeles Times investigation found a dollar homes program by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development showed mixed results, with mostly housing contractors and investors profiting once the lots were re-sold by program applicants.
The Mayor’s officer told HuffPost that under Chicago’s Large Lots program, applicants would need to own a property for a minimum of five years before selling.
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow seems to be the theme song for most of South Eastern Wisconsin at the moment, so the U.S. Postal Service is asking our customers to help our letter carriers deliver your mail safely by clearing snow and ice from sidewalks, stairs and mailboxes.
“Snow and ice make delivery dangerous and slow,” said Milwaukee Postmaster Easton C. Wright, “Maintaining a clear path to the mail box — including steps, porches, walkways and street approaches – will help letter carriers maintain consistent delivery service, and help them get those letters and packages delivered on time.”
Customers receiving door delivery should make sure their sidewalks, steps and porches are clear. Customers receiving curbside delivery should remove snow piles left by snow plows to keep access to their mailboxes clear for letter carriers.
Delivery service may be delayed or curtailed whenever streets or walkways present hazardous conditions for letter carriers or when snow is plowed against mailboxes. “The Postal Service curtails delivery only after careful consideration, and only as a last resort,” said Wright. “Any curtailed mail is attempted the next delivery day.”
Blue collection boxes also need to be kept clear for our customers to deposit their mail and for the Postal Service to collect the mail for delivery. Residents and businesses with collection boxes near their property are asked to keep them clear of snow and ice. “We want our letter carriers to be safe,” added Grant. “We can only do this with the help of our customers.”