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Home Matters: Heart necklace does good, prepare garden for spring

Diana C. Kirby


Plan and prep for spring’s garden

Getting more organized rests somewhere in the middle of my lengthy list of New Year’s resolutions. It includes staying on top of my regular gardening chores and getting ahead of each gardening season before it’s upon me.

With spring around the corner, the first step is taking stock of the garden and setting some goals. This is the time to make not just a mental list but to put pencil to paper and get tough on your landscape. Think about both tasks and major projects that you either need to do or want to accomplish.

Does your walk around the garden with a critical eye make you cringe? Cracks in the patio, rotting wood and muddy trails can all make your outdoor space tired and worn. Do raggedy landscape borders, splitting plastic edging and washed out beds — devoid of soil and mulch — taunt you?

Then it’s time to take care of business. Use the end of winter to repair or take on new hardscape or structural projects. Plan out your project and shop building supply sources for sales or hire some help to take care of the more complicated projects. Start now, and you can check the big projects off your list. Then you’ll be ready in time for the fun stuff when local nurseries are filled to the brim with budding plants.

In addition to tackling sizable projects, there are also many simple chores you can cross off your list now.

Winter to-do list

  • Clean out your pots and containers. It’s important to start fresh when you pot up new plants. Old pottery can contain salt deposits or diseases borne by last season’s plants. Physically remove old dirt or debris with a scrub brush. If you can, submerge the pots in a solution of 1 part bleach to 9 parts water. If the pots are too big for that, pour the water all around them. Then be sure to rinse them well and dry them in the sun.
  • Take stock of your garden tools. Rusty, dirty, dull or broken tools need to be prepared for the hard work you’ll demand of them when the weather warms up. First, scrub your tools with soapy water and dry them well. You can use steel wool or a wire brush to remove rust. Then smooth out old wooden handles with a little elbow grease and some sandpaper. Sharpen your clean equipment with a metal file, smoothing out nicks or jagged edges. Finally, apply a little lubricating oil to the metal blade and wooden handles and rub it in well so it isn’t slippery. And if your pruners have seen better days, consider buying a new pair. Nothing makes garden work easier than a shiny new pair of pruners.
  • Check your irrigation system. Whether you have a sprinkler system or you’ve set up your own drip hose system, give it a good inspection, looking for leaks, clogs and areas not receiving adequate coverage. Making sure everything is in good working order will save time and money later, preventing you from having to dig up dead or dying new plants in the spring.
  • Amend your soil. Does clay or limestone make digging impossible in your garden? Did the scorching summer heat turn the soil in your beds rock-hard? Use this time to amend the soil in your beds. A good soil blend, with some form of compost, granite sand and gypsum, can help to lighten up our poor soil. There are many good independent local sources for soil — both in bulk and bagged — that work well in Central Texas.
  • Clean your birdhouses. In March, make sure your birdhouses are ready for their new inhabitants. If the house is vacant, open the roof or the back door to the house and empty out the nest. Wipe down the box with a bleach solution like that used for cleaning your pots. Then hang it back up with a welcome sign for a new brood of baby birds.

While winter is a slower season in the garden, it doesn’t last long here in Central Texas. The time for putting your feet up and perusing seed catalogs is quickly coming to an end. Make sure you’re ready when the garden calls again.

— Local landscape designer and garden coach Diana Kirby provides landscaping tips at and writes a garden blog at


Austin High grad wears her heart in her necklaces

Austin High School 2004 graduate Melanie Edwards has returned home after going to school and working in New York. She left Austin for a summer program at the Parsons School of Design and then got a bachelor’s degree in knitwear at the Fashion Institute of Technology. In between, she was at the University of Texas for two years. While her degree is in knitwear, the attention to detail she learned applies to her jewelry line Rifle + Radford. Radford was her maiden name, and Rifle is play on the nickname “Pistol” her dad called her. Plus, she wanted women to “enjoy some R & R.”

Her “Wear Your Heart” collection could make an ideal Valentine’s Day gift. The necklaces are semiprecious rough-cut druzy stones set in a heart shape in 18-karat gold vermeil or sterling silver. The heart necklaces sell for $165, and 100 percent of the proceeds go to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research and American Parkinson’s Disease Association.

Edwards has a personal connection to Parkinson’s. Her father was in his early 50s when he was diagnosed with the disease. He was able to work for 20 years after his diagnosis but recently needed more care help. “He has great spark for sure,” she says about her father.

Edwards set a goal of raising $25,000 this year to fund Parkinson’s causes through the Wear Your Heart collection proceeds and by participating in races and walks for Parkinson’s.

She has some pieces at Stella Says Go, but most of her line is sold online at

— Nicole Villalpando


Design Lab adds more local designers

Adrienne Yunger, Artifact, Cattiva, Daniel Esquivel, Gay Isber, Isabella Rose Taylor, Milli Starr, Owl Eyes and Soco Hammocks have all joined Design Lab. The boutique, which was started by Linda Asaf in summer, now has more than 30 Texas designers.

Asaf researched designers for three years to put together the collection of designers. “It’s a highly curated list, ” she says. “Many of them are at the top of their game… others are indie designers who are just getting started.”

Design Lab is at 6550 Comanche Trail.


Easy way to get coats on and off

MagnaMini coats and vests for kids require no zipping, no snapping, no buttoning and no screaming moms trying to get coats on kids. They use magnets to close the coats. Coats and vests come in sizes 2T to 6X and sell for $72.99 for coats and $54.99 for vests. You can find them at


Get a massage without leaving home

A massage therapist that makes house calls? Yes. Soothe is an app and a website where you schedule an appointment and then, in as little as an hour, a vetted massage therapist shows up at your house or business. Appointments are 10 a.m. until 10 p.m. daily. A 60-minute massage is $99, a 90 minute is $139 and a 120 minute is $169. The price includes gratuity and taxes. The app is at or you can use to book.