Lilacs not blooming? Check to see if they get enough light

Lilacs in bloom can add a colorful impact to your home landscape. But if your lilac bush didn’t bloom this year, horticulturalist Mark Viette of Viette Nurseries in Augusta County, has a solution.

As lilacs mature, their upper branches can prevent sunlight from reaching the lower ones. As a result, the plant can lose its leaves and flowers and become leggy and unattractive.

"It’s important to make sure your shrub is getting all-day sun or at least sun from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day,” Viette said.

Pruning is a good way to get light to your lilac.

“March or early April is the ideal time to prune, but really any time in the late winter, before the flowers bloom and leaves form will work,” Viette said.

You don’t have to dramatically cut the bush, he explained. Just thin out the old growth.

“You want to semi-rejuvenate your lilac. Thin it out every year by removing two out of every 10 branches or about 20% of the branches.”

You also can cut the entire shrub to the ground, he said, and it should grow back nicely in about two-and-a-half years.

Use a small handsaw or shears to prune your lilac. Focus on removing the older branches. Since pruning encourages new growth, eliminating these older, thicker stems will keep your lilac looking young and fresh.

Pruning out older growth has an additional benefit if you like to bring cut lilac blossoms indoors. New growth will give you longer, more slender stems for cutting.

Use a small handsaw or shears to prune your lilac. Focus on removing the older branches. Since pruning encourages new growth, eliminating these older, thicker stems will keep your lilac looking young and fresh. (Click to Tweet)

Gazpacho gets flavor from ripe fruit and veggies

When it’s the middle of summer, and your garden is spilling forth tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers, what do you do with them all?

Those peak-of-season vegetables are begging to be turned into gazpacho. Widely eaten in Spain and Portugal, gazpacho is a soup made with raw, ripe vegetables and served cold. Typically it has a tomato base, but there are “white” and melon-based variations of the traditional recipe.

Because traditional gazpacho uses so many vegetables, it packs a vitamin punch. Tomatoes are rich in lycopene, a phyto-chemical that helps prevent cancer.

Additionally, tomatoes are high in Vitamin E, thiamin, niacin, Vitamin B6, folate and magnesium, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. They also are good sources of dietary fiber, vitamins A, C and K and potassium.

Cucumbers are another main ingredient in gazpachos. They’re low in fat and sodium and are full of vitamins and minerals.

Bell peppers—also used in gazpachos—are nutritional powerhouses. A cup of peppers provides more than 100% of the daily recommendation for vitamin C.

Watermelon Gazpacho

Here's a different—but delicious—take on crisp, fresh gazpacho. Try this recipe using sweet watermelon and spicy jalapenos.

See Recipe

Back up important records now before disaster hits

While you can’t control a natural disaster, you can keep your important home records safe and secure—so disaster doesn’t strike twice.

Knowing how to store your medical records, financial documents, important contact information and valuables in a secure location that is easily accessible can help bring peace of mind.

What specific information should you consider securing? This safeguard checklist from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) spells it out for you.

Once these essential items have been gathered, it's time to store paper and electronic copies of them in a secure location.

There are options when it comes to protecting documents that you don't want to lose.

Consider one of the following to secure your important items:

  • Store your documents at home. For documents, a lockable file cabinet works fine. You also can purchase a more expensive, fire-resistant file box, file cabinet or safe.

  • Rent a safe deposit box. Bank safe deposit boxes are an option to store your important items. It's offsite, so there's no need to worry about home security. However, these boxes are still susceptible to natural disasters, accidents and thefts. The odds that your items remain safe, though, are in your favor.

  • Use online document storage. As long as you have an internet connection, a cloud storage account such as Google Drive, Dropbox or Microsoft OneDrive can keep all your digital documents secure.