Top Drawer Joyce Clark Hicks finds the best for your home and garden

Top Drawer

CorrespondentMarch 7, 2014 

To make the most of a small kitchen, Better Homes and Gardens suggests using industrial metal shelving.

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Best for organizing

Virginia Tharrington of Raleigh wrote in to share her favorite organizing tip. “I put a heavy (grocery) paper bag with handles on the floor of our clothes closet, pushed to the back but within easy reach, and every time I come across anything that will be given away, I pop it right into the handy bag. (Usually clothing but could be an extra Christmas decoration, toy that is no longer used, one book – anything.) When full, it is all ready to pick up by the handles to take to your favorite outlet!”

Seeking your best tips

For every cleaning, gardening, cooking and organizing dilemma, there are multiple solutions. There’s no way to cover them all. But with our readers’ input, we’re chipping away. Send your tips to topdrawer@newsobserver.com. You’ll be entered in a quarterly drawing for a gift card. Be sure to include your name, street address and city. Put “best tips” in the subject line.

Best for small gardens

A notable chill may still be in the air, but Burpee gardening company says now is the perfect time to plan a garden – especially for small spaces. We’ve excerpted some suggestions from their Tips for Beautifying Small Spaces here:

1 Use a succession of plants to suit the changing seasons so that you never run out of color or volume.

2 To add visual interest, use a variety of containers, raised beds and vintage or recycled items, such as old watering cans, wheelbarrows, drawers and gallon cans.

3 Add vertical interest by using cages, bamboo or a trellis to run up a wall.

4 Use cascading plants such as Wave petunias, Wave pansies, dichondra, English ivy and vine nasturtiums to convert walls into foliage-covered canvases.

5 Select climbing vines such as wisteria, clematis, morning glory, cardinal climber and Thunbergia for vertical interest.

6 Mix color and texture. Combine plants that flower prolifically – such as New Guinea impatiens and begonia – with leafy tropical plants such as ferns and elephant ears. Thyme and grasses such as ornamental millet can also add texture and multiple shades of green.

7 For colorful plants, consider neutral containers; use colorful containers for neutral-colored plants to accentuate texture and foliage.

8 Use space between pavers or cracks in concrete to plant flower seeds.

You can learn more about gardening in small spaces at http://tinyurl.com/k2rwxtu.

Best way to clean granite naturally

The Debbie Doo’s blog is back with a tip for cleaning granite naturally.

You will need:

1/4 cup of vodka (you can use a cheap one, it does not matter)

3 drops of Dawn

Debbie says she used an old window-cleaner bottle, which she filled halfway with water, so that would be 16 ounces of water along with the above solution. This is a gentler alternative to commercial cleansers. “Remember, stone is porous, so harsh chemicals like bleach or ammonia can also seep into the surface,” she writes.

You can see this and other household tips at http://nando.com/e-.

Best deodorizer

Regular cooks know that it sometimes can be difficult to get rid of lingering odors in the kitchen. The About a Mom blog says you can make the job a little easier by putting your slow cooker to use.

You will need:

4-5 cups water

1 heaping teaspoon baking soda per cup of water

Optionally, add one of the following ingredients for an air freshener: a few drops of essential oil; sliced lemon; cinnamon stick; ground cinnamon and/or cloves; a few teaspoons of vanilla extract.

Once you have added your ingredients, put the slow cooker on a low setting with the lid off. Leave it on all day to achieve maximum benefit. Check out the blog at aboutamom.com.

Designer’s best

To make the most of a small kitchen, Better Homes and Gardens suggests using industrial metal shelving. “The cool finish of the unit recalls metal touches that are standard in pro kitchens. Use baskets to corral kitchen staples, and incorporate a few decorative touches to keep it fun.”

Seeking your best simple recipes

We’re always looking for delicious shortcuts in the kitchen. If you have a simple, five-ingredient or less recipe that garners rave reviews from friends and family alike, we’d love to share it. Please include precise measurements to be considered for print. Send your recipes to topdrawer@newsobserver.com, and you’ll be entered in a quarterly drawing for a Target gift card. Be sure to include your name, street address and city. Put “best recipe” in the subject line.

Best of the tube

On HGTV

Abundance of appliances: Dan and Brittany are ready to move from their cramped apartment into a house perfect for entertaining and for the numerous appliances they’ve collected. The need for a larger home with better style is great, but their budget is limited. Are Drew and Jonathan up to the task? Find out when you tune in to “Property Brothers” at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

Send news and photos to The News & Observer, P.O. Box 191, Raleigh, N.C. 27602; email topdrawer@newsobserver.com.

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