Weekly Home Help with items on selecting tomato varieties for your garden, using the color green in home decor, 3 green tips for reducing water consumption and more.

With store-bought tomatoes nearly devoid of flavor, growing your own is the best way to truly savor the taste. But with thousands of varieties available, how do you narrow your choices? Here are some factors to help you decide.

Ripening time. If you're buying seeds to start your own plants, read catalog descriptions carefully to discover "days to maturity." This indicates approximately how soon you can expect ripe fruit once you've transplanted seedlings to the garden. Plants sold at garden centers are often labeled "early," "midseason" or "late" to indicate when the variety should start ripening.

Determinate vs. Indeterminate. Determinate plants stop growing once the flower buds emerge. Because of their more restrained size, many determinate varieties need no staking or caging, but providing support can improve the quality of the fruit. All the fruit ripens within a relatively short period of time –– usually about a week to 10 days.

This can be a boon if you're canning, but for the gardener who prefers to have a few ripe tomatoes over a longer period of time, indeterminate varieties are a better choice. The vines continue to grow and set fruit throughout the season and won't quit until the weather turns too hot or too cold to sustain.

How you will use the fruit? Keep this question in mind when selecting a tomato variety. There are types suited for just about every purpose: eating them fresh, making tomato paste, canning, drying and even grooming for a county fair contest.

Seeds or transplants. The easiest way to get your tomato patch started is to purchase young plants, also called transplants or starts. You can pick up plants at garden centers or order them via catalogs or the Internet.

However, starting your own seed gives you more variety options so you can choose the right kind for your conditions. Plus, nurturing plants from seed to harvest is a rewarding experience.

For more tips and garden information visit www.garden.org.

-- Family Features

Decorating Tip: Green is a hot color

An emerging hot color that is popping up in more designs is green. There are many varying shades of green and, depending on the shade, you can use it for an accent wall or strategically place green accessories around the house. Green houseplants are another way to incorporate this natural, earthy color choice.

-- HGTV.com

Home-Selling Tip: Improvements that decrease the value

Home improvements that can actually decrease the value of your home include taste-specific upgrades or extreme design choices. You will want to appeal to the broadest range of people possible, so a professional, restaurant-level stove and two refrigerators may not attract those who don’t cook that much or eat simple meals.

-- EnergizedSeller.com

Gardening tip: Year-old soil bags

If you have dried-out potting soil leftover from last year, it should be OK to use this year. Toss dry peat mix with hot or warm water in a large container until it is slightly moistened. But if the soil has been sitting in a wet or moist state, it may have developed mold, algae or a sour smell, which may not be OK to use.

-- KitchenGardeners.org

Did You Know …

This spring, the White House will install two photovoltaic solar panels and a solar hot water heater to provide electricity and hot water.

-- ConsumerEnergyReport.com

Home Improvements: Prepare now for an earthquake

If you haven’t done so already, now is the time to prepare yourself and your home in the event of an earthquake, which can happen anywhere at anytime. Know the best places to hide, such as the bathroom doorframe, the bathtub or under a heavy desk. Know where the gas and water valves are located and how to turn them off. Brace heavy objects like cabinets and mirrors with wall studs and keep jars and vases on as close to the floor as possible.

-- DoItYourself.com

Going green: 3 ways to reduce your water consumption

Americans consume 43 billion gallons of water per day, which is more than any other country in the world. Here are three simple steps to take to reduce your daily consumption: 1) Turn the water off while brushing your teeth. 2) Only run the dishwater or the washing machine with a full load of dishes or clothes. 3) Invest in a low-flow showerhead and WaterSense-labeled toilet.

-- Earth911.com

Backyard Buddies: Fence off unwanted wildlife

Keeping unwanted wildlife out of the garden can be a challenge. In a small garden, you can exclude rabbits with a fence of wire mesh holes 1 inch or smaller. The smaller size openings also protect against mice. Purchase a 4-foot-wide mesh roll. Bend the bottom 6 inches outward. Trench the soil, and bury the wire mesh 6 inches deep to prevent rabbits from burrowing under the fence. This allows for 3 feet of fence above ground.

-- University of Illinois Extension

GateHouse News Service