Home Vegetable Garden – Basics of Square Foot Gardening

Square Foot Gardening is a method of gardening invented by best-selling author Mel Bartholomew in 1976 and updated in his book All New Square Foot Gardening published in 2006. The key principle of Square Foot Gardening is the elimination of single row gardens in favor of gardening in wider, raised garden beds, the surface of which have been marked off with one foot “planting squares”. Planting instructions are based on references to the planting squares.

Square Foot Gardening offers many benefits for vegetable gardens:

  • Larger gardens can be grown in smaller spaces
  • Gardens require much less weeding as the entire surface of the garden bed is used for planting, leaving little room for weeds to take root
  • Since the surface of the garden bed is not walked upon, the soil remains healthier due to lack of compaction
  • Gardens require less fertilizer and water and are better suited for organic gardening techniques

The raised garden beds sit above the ground, generally six to twelve inches high depending on the style of garden bed you select. One of the key advantages of raised garden beds is that you do not need to worry about the quality of the soil beneath the surface of the bed. Instead, you simply turn over any existing sod so that the grass faces downward into the ground. Then you place the raised garden bed on the overturned sod and fill the bed with high quality planting soil.

Before the surge in popularity in Square Foot Gardening, gardeners had little choice but to make their own raised garden beds. Nowadays, there are very cost-effective options for purchasing raised garden bed systems, including trellises and small animal barriers.

Square Foot Gardening does require conversion of the standard planting instructions provided on the back of seed packs into instructions suitable for Square Foot Gardening. Find the “thin to” to spacing on the back of the seed pack, and convert using the following formula:

  • 1 plant per 9 squares: “thin to” specification of 24 inches or greater
  • 1 plant per 2 squares: “thin to” specification of at least 12 inches, but less than 24 inches
  • 1 plant per square: “thin to” specification of at least 6 inches, but less than 12 inches
  • 4 plants per square: “thin to” specification of at least 4 inches, but less than 6 inches
  • 9 plants per square: “thin to” specification of at least 3 inches, but less than 4 inches
  • 16 plants per square: “thin to” specification of less than 3 inches

Be careful not to overcrowd your vegetables. Vegetables are susceptible to a wide range of diseases caused by insufficient airflow from overcrowding. In addition, bees and other pollinators have a more difficult time in an overcrowded garden, resulting in loss of harvest due to lack of pollination.

5 Tips To A Better Family Budget

A budget is a plan that allows you to manage your money in order to achieve your financial goals. It also allows you to track, monitored and makes decision as to how you used your money.

Starting a budget, you will need to define fixed monthly expenses like car payments, mortgages, insurance, rentals, etc. Then you need to have an idea of ‚Äč‚Äčliving expenses and the best way to do this is to record down these expenses for a month or so.

So with these information, you can then start to set up the family budget. Below are five tips to help you make your budget better.

1) Do allow for in your budget a certain amount for the unexpected cost. These are things like home repairs, car repairs or anything that may come up. Usually, most people left out the unexpected cost in their budgets but it is important to make allowance for it.

2) Having a good attitude is important. Know that once you plan your budget and understand that you need to make compromises. This involves a lot of sacrifice so as to reduce your expenses and have more money for savings. If you stick to it, soon you will begin to see the benefits and rewards.

3) Have a record book with your earnings recorded on one side and your expenses on the other side. Good record keeping is an important criterion to any good budget.

4) Learn how differentiates what are luxuries and necessities. Learning this is very important. Start by making a list of what you think are luxuries such as expensive restaurants, branded shoes, the sleek looking flat televisions, etc. Then refer back to this list whenever you are tempted to buy and spend items in the list. So it served as a reminder for you as to what items items considered luxuries.

5) Practice frugality but not to the point of being extreme. You can have fun with little or no spending at all. For example, instead of shopping, play with your kids at the park or meet a friend for a walk on the beach. The important point is that there are many things you can do that do not cost you any thing. In fact you may even enjoy more.

Budgeting should be a part and parcel of your daily life but it should not be too rigid that it dampened the effort and make you moody all day long. Instead it should be flexible but not too flexible. This means that you can review and improve on it without sacrificing the real objectives of achieving your family financial goals.

Selecting Rules for Investing and Trading

There are three important differences between investing and trading. Overlooking them can lead to confusion. A beginning trader, for example, may use the terms interchangeably and misapply their rules with mixed and unrepeatable results. Investing and trading becomes more effective when their differences are clearly recognized. An investor's goal is to take long term ownership of an instrument with a high level of confidence that it will continuously increase in value. A trader buys and sells to capitalize on short term relative changes in value with a somewhat lower level of confidence. Goals, time frame and levels of confidence can be used to outline two completely different sets of rules. This will not be an exhaustive discussion of those rules but is intended to highlight some important practical implications of their differences. Long term investing is discussed first followed by short term trading.

My mentor, Dr. Stephen Cooper, defines long term investing as buying and holding an instrument for 5 years or more. The reason for this seemingly narrow definition is that when one invests long term, the idea is to "buy and hold" or "buy and forget." In order to do this, it is necessary to take the emotions of greed and fear out of the equation. Mutual funds are favored because of they are professionally managed and they naturally diversify your investment over dozens or even hundreds of stocks. This does not mean just any mutual fund and it does not mean that one has to stay with the same mutual fund for the entire time. But it does implicate that one stays within the investment class.

First, the fund in question should have at least a 5 or 10 year track record of proven annual gains. You should feel confident that the investment is reasonably safe. You are not continuously watching the markets to take advantage of or to avoid short term ups and downs. You have a plan.

Second, performance of the instrument in question should be measured in terms of a well defined benchmark. One such benchmark is the S & P 500 Index that is an average of the performance of 500 of the largest and best performing stocks in the US markets. Looking back as far as the 1930's, over any 5 year period the S & P 500 Index has gained in price about 96% of the time. This is quite remarkable. If one widens the window to 10 years, he finds that over any 10 year period the Index has earned in price 100% of the time. The S & P500 Index has earned an average of 10.9% a year for the past 10 years. So the S & P500 Index is the benchmark.

If one just invests in the S & P500 index, he can expect to earn, on average, about 10.9% a year. There are many ways to enter this kind of investment. One way is to buy the trading symbol SPY, which is an Exchange Traded Fund that tracks the S & P500 and trades just like a stock. Or, one can buy a mutual fund that tracks the S & P500, such as the Vanguard S & P 500 Index Fund with a trading symbol VFINX. There are others, as well. Yahoo.com has a mutual fund screener that lists scores of mutual funds having annualized returns in excess of 20% over the past 5 years. However, one should try to find a screener that gives performance for the past 10 years or more, if possible. To put this into perspective, 90% of the 10,000 or so mutual funds that exist do not perform as well as the S & P500 each year.

The fact that 10.9% is average market performance for the past 10 years is all the more remarkable when one considers that the average bank deposit yield is less than 2%, 10 year Treasury yields are about 4.2% and 30 year Treasury yields are only 4.8 %. Corporate bond yields approximate those of the S & P500. There is a reason for this disparity, though. Treasuries are considered the safest of all paper investments, being backed by the United States Government. FDIC regulated savings accounts are probably the next safest while stocks and corporate bonds are considered a bit more risky. Savings accounts are possibly the most liquid, followed by stocks and bonds.

To help you calibrate the safety and liquidity question, the long bond holders are comparing bond yields they now receive with next year's anticipated stock yields. Consider that next year's anticipated S & P500 yield is around 4.7% based on the reciprocal of its average price to earnings ratio (P / E) of 21.2. Yet the 10 year annualized return of the index has been 10.9%. Bond holders are prepared to accept half the historical yield of stocks for added safety and stability. In any given year, stocks may go either up or down. Bond yields are not expected to fluctuate broadly from one year to the next, although they have been know to do so. It is as if bond holders want to be free to invest short term, as well as, long term. Many bond holders are thereby traders and not investors and accept a lower yield for this flexibility. But if one has decided once and for all that an investment is for the long term, high yield stock mutual funds or the S & P500 Index, itself, seem the best way to go. Using the simple compound interest formula, $ 10,000 invested in the S & P500 index at 10.9% a year becomes $ 132,827.70 after25 years. At 21%, the amount after 25 years is more than $ 1 million. If in addition to averaging 21%, one adds just $ 100 a month, the total amount after 25 years exceeded $ 1.8 million. Dr. C. honestly believes that 90% of one's capital should be allocated over a certain such investments.

Now that you've allocated 90% of your funds to long term investing, that leaves you about 10% for trading. Short to intermediate term trading is an area that most of us are more familiar with, probably due to its popularity. Yet it is more specifically complex and only about 12% of traders are successful. The time frame for trading is less than 5 years and is more typically from a couple of minutes to a couple of years. The typical probability of being right on the direction of a trade approaches an average high of about 70% when an appropriate trading system is used to less than about 30% without a trading system.

Even at the low end of the spectrum, you can avoid getting wiped out by managing the size of your trades to less than about 4% of your trading portfolio and limiting each loss to no more than 25% of any given trade while giving your winners run until they decrease by no more than 25% from their peak. These percentages can be increased after there is evidence that the probability of choosing the correct direction of a trade has improved.

Intermediate term trading is based more on fundamental analysis which attempts to assign a value to a company's stock based on its history of earnings, assets, cash flow, sales and any number of objective measures in relation to its current stock price. It may also include projections of future earnings based on news of business agreements and changing market conditions. Some refer to this as value investing. In any case, the objective is to buy a company's stock at bargain prices and wait for the market to realize its value and bid up the price before selling. When the stock is fairly priced, the instrument is sold without one sees continuing growth in the value of the stock, in which case he moves it into the investment category.

Since trading depends on the changing perceived value of a stock, your trading time frame should be chosen based on how well you are able to detach yourself from the emotions of greed and fear. The better one can remove emotions from trading, the shorter time frame he can successfully trade. On the other hand, when you feel surges of emotion before, during or immediately after a trade, it's time to step back and considering choosing your trades more carefully and trading less frequently. One's ability to remove emotions from trading takes a great deal of practice.

This is not just a moral statement. An infinite universe of what's called technical analysis is based on the aggregate ethical behavior of traders and forms the basis of short term trading. Technical analysis is a study of price and volume patterns of a stock over time. Pure technicians, as they are called, claim that all pertinent news and valuations are imbedded into a stock's technical behavior. A long list of technical indicators has evolved to describe the emotional behavior of the stock market. Most technical indicators are based on moving rates over a predefined time period. Indicator time periods should be adjusted to fit the trading time frame. The subject is far too large to do it justice in less than several volumes of print. The lower level of confidence involved in trading is the reason for the large number of indicators used.

While long term investors may use only a single long term moving average with confidence to track steadily increasing value, traders use multiple indicators to deal with shorter time frames of oscillating value and higher risk. To improve your results and make them more repeatable, consider your expectations of changing value, your time frame and your level of confidence in predicting the outcome. Then you will know which set of rules to apply.

5 Benefits of Financial Technology

Financial technology (also referred to as FinTech) is the use of innovative technology to deliver a wide range of financial products and services. It is intended to facilitate the multi-channel, convenient and fast payment experience for the consumer. This type of technology is effective in many different business segments, such as mobile payments, investment management, money transfer, fund-raising and lending.

The rapid growth of financial technology has been very beneficial for consumers worldwide, such as the ability to serve customers that were not previously attended to, a reduction in costs, and an increase in competition.

Let’s take a look at a few of the benefits related to financial technology:

Better payment systems – this type of technology can make a business more accurate and efficient at issuing invoices and collecting payment. Also, the more professional service will help to improve customer relations which can increase the likelihood of them returning as a repeat buyer.

Rate of approval – many small business ventures are starting to use the alternative lenders like those involved in financial technology because it has the potential to increase accessibility and speed up the rate of approval for finance. In many situations the application process and time to receive the capital can be completed within a period of 24 hours.

Greater convenience – the companies involved in financial technology make full use of mobile connectivity. This can significantly increase the number of people who can access this type of service and also increase the efficiency and convenience of transactions. With consumers given the option to use smartphones and tablets to manage their finances, it is possible for a business to streamline its service and provide a better all-round customer experience.

Efficient advice – many of the latest systems rely on robo-advice to give people guidance on their finances. This can be a very quick and low-cost option to get useful information on investments, as well as to limit a person’s exposure to risk. However, this type of service won’t be able to give the most in-depth advice that would come from a professional adviser.

Advanced security – Using the latest security methods is necessary to ensure more people are confident in using this type of financial service. The need to harness the latest mobile technologies has resulted in a major investment in security to ensure customer data is kept safe. A few of the latest security options used by those in this sector include biometric data, tokenization and encryption.