How to Grow and Maintain A Beautiful Lawn

Common Problems and Simple Solutions for a Gorgeous Green Lawn

Nothing looks as welcoming and lush in the summer as a green lawn glowing around your home. For many homeowners, achieving this verdant dream can feel like a ceaseless and thankless task. A few basic guidelines along with some tips and pointers to identify and resolve real problems can turn the burden into an achievement.

The number one problem lawn-care experts list when called upon to diagnose an ailing lawn is poor watering. According to the Home Renovation Guide, insufficient water or too much water are equally bad for your lawn. If your lawn appears bluish or grayish and walking across it leaves noticeable footprints, it’s a good bet your lawn is thirsty. Generally, lawns require about an inch of water per week (when you turn on your sprinkler, place a can or jar where it can catch the water – when an inch of water has accumulated, your lawn is sufficiently watered).

If your lawn looks yellow, it could signal that you are over-watering and your lawn is nutrient-deprived. Location, soil composition and poor drainage can all contribute to over-watering. Moisture-absorbing compost is one way to address an over-watered lawn.

According to the EPA, lawn care and landscaping account for more than 30 percent of water use in the U.S. Clean Air Gardeningoffers several tips for efficient watering, such as watering early in the morning when the lawn will have a chance to absorb the water rather than the heat of day evaporating it. Aerating your grass with special tools is another way to ensure efficient water use.

Beyond watering, however, other problems such as weeds, can afflict your lawn. According to an article on Rodale.com, many problems have simple solutions. Dandelions, a sign that your lawn’s roots are suffering, can be killed with spray of straight white vinegar. And a soil test will reveal what’s out of balance so you can adjust your lawn’s nutrients. Gluten spread on your lawn early in the spring will help prevent not only dandelions, but also crabgrass.

For more lawn care tips, visit American-Lawns.comand CharlotteLawnCare.net.

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How Safe Is Your Garden?

Tips To Ensure Your Garden is Pet and Child Safe

As is often the case, the prettiest things are also the deadliest. If you have pets or children, it’s well worth the time to ensure that your garden or yard isn’t blossoming with any of these harmful plants:

Foxglove (also known as digitalis or Dead Man’s Bells) — as that last name implies, this flower can prove lethal if ingested. Hollyhocks are a similar, and non-toxic, alternative to foxglove.

Oleander— a frequent player in murder mysteries, this pretty flower can cause severe intestinal problems or death if ingested or breathed (so don’t throw it in the fire pit), and blistering on your skin if you touch the sap. Camellias are a fragrant evergreen shrub that you can plant instead of oleander.

Chrysanthemums— this flower may be common, but growing outside your home it can be harmful if ingested, and even fatal if enough is eaten. The Cornflower (or Bachelor’s Button) is a pretty choice to replace your Chrysanthemums safely.

For more information on identifying and replacing dangerous greenery in your garden, try these resources:

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Vinyl and Wood and Aluminum, Oh My!

Things to Consider When Choosing Window Replacements

Replacing the windows in your home can give you a one-two punch, providing both an update and upgrade to your home’s appearance, as well as possibly lowering your energy costs.

Old windows — peeling, warped, loosely hung, thin, single hung, or cracked — make a distinct, and not necessarily positive, first impression on visitors (and potential buyers). Fresh, updated windows, neatly installed and sparkling clean, are a great way to add to the curb appeal and overall appearance of your home. Not only that, but according to Remodeling Magazine’s Cost vs Value Report 2010-11, you can anticipate recouping about 70% of your investment if you’re planning on selling in the not too distant future.

That’s before you consider that the U.S. Department of Energy estimatesthat replacing your old windows can save you from $27 to $465 a year on energy costs. Once you decide to replace your windows, the choices can seem overwhelming — wood, vinyl, composite, aluminum, or clad? Very briefly, here are some highlights of each type of window:

  • Aluminum— the least expensive option, it is also the least energy efficient, as metal (aluminum) conducts heat and cold. Double-paned aluminum windows are still significantly more efficient than any type of single paned window.
  • Vinyl — generally only slightly more expensive than aluminum windows, vinyl windows offer greater variety in color availability and also conduct less heat than aluminum.
  • Wood — although far higher maintenance than aluminum or vinyl, wood windows are simultaneously a superior natural insulator against heat or cold and more susceptible to the weather and may swell or shrink or decay in response to the elements or pests.
  • Clad— combining the best of all worlds, clad windows are wood windows overlaid with vinyl or aluminum.
  • Composite — a relative new-comer, composite windows are comparable to wood windows in terms of temperature insulation while having many of the weather-impervious qualities of vinyl or aluminum.

For more information on your window choices and how to choose what’s right for you, visit

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Tool Time for Dad

Father’s Day Means One Thing For the Man Around the House

Is your dad a mellow putterer? An inveterate DIY’er? A passionate woodworker, an incorrigible tinkerer, or a happy handyman? However he approaches his “honey do” list, now is the time to get him the latest gadget or handiest new tool. After all, May might mean flowers for Mom, but June means tools for Dad.

Check out Amazon’s Father’s Day Gift (and Sale) Storefor ideas and savings on power tools from brand names like Bosch, Milwaukee, Dewalt and more.

ToolGuyd, the site “all about tools,” has assembled a list of specials and offers from popular stores and sites, including WoodCraft, Channellock, and Kobalt.

Popular Mechanics lists the 6 Must-Have Products for Homeowners, starting with the Craftsman Booster Rocket that claims to charge any battery in the Nextec line to 25% capacity in just three minutes to Rockwell’s 10-inch job-site table saw, designed to be helpful on projects big and small.

AskMen.com offers its Top 10 Manly Power Tools, from a Glass/Tile Cutter (“the diamond ring a man could really get onboard with buying”), to an Impact Drill (…cut, slice, bore into, or otherwise make julienne fries out of any stone or masonry. Any drill can bore a hole through wood, but it takes the added power of an impact drill to go through solid brick”), to its number one manly power tool, the Pneumatic Concrete Chainsaw (“a chainsaw that cuts through concrete. What more do you need to know?”).

Make your dad’s day this Father’s Day and get him something he really wants.

 

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The Good, The Bad & The Ugly in Your Garden – Common Garden Insects and How to Deal With Them

Combating nature in your garden can be a war, and identifying the enemy is only the first step. Knowing how to defeat the enemy is the key.

Insects in your garden are often pests that will eat, infect or destroy your plants. Some insects, however, are allies in your fight to keep your plants healthy. When you’re waging war, it’s good to know the difference.

Lifestyle expert Leah Ingram, on the site Life Goes Strong, identifies several common garden enemies:

 

  • Aphid — really lice for plants — can be fought with a soapy water solution
  • Japanese Beetle — a pest prodigy, this insect starts waging war on your plants from the moment it’s a larva in the ground; ironically the Chrysanthemum flower produces a natural insecticide that is particularly effective against this pest
  • Snails & Slugs — completely indiscriminate, these will voraciously eat everything in your  garden from leaves to fruit, flowers to vegetables; salting the ground around your plants is good way to put a stop to these pests

There cannot be dark without light, and there are a multitude of insects that you should welcome into your garden with open arms. These insects provide natural pest control without any toxins or chemicals (or even soap).

  • Ladybug — this pretty red bug is a natural enemy of aphids
  • Praying Mantis — this formidable insect preys on almost every other insect, bug, pest and mite that might venture into your garden; a fine ally indeed

For more insects that are beneficial to your garden, visit Garden Insects.

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Memorial Day Means Grilling – How to Make the Most of Your Outdoor Space

Memorial Day Weekend marks the unofficial start of summer — and few things are as simple and satisfying as a well-executed outdoor barbecue with friends and family. The Wall Street Journal cites research that shows 73% of Americans own a grill. Whether you are among the 27% considering getting your first grill, or in that 73% and thinking about making a few updates to what you’ve got or tackling a full-on upgrade, now is the time to do the work, so you can enjoy the benefits all summer long.

These tips from eHow.com will help you create an outdoor grilling area that’s both functional and appealing:

·        Location — Unless you have (or are building) a full outdoor kitchen, you’ll want your grill to be close enough to the kitchen for convenience, and far enough away that you don’t smoke your appliances along with your ribs.

·        Location— In addition to kitchen proximity, consider your guests. Placing the barbecue in a corner can cause traffic jams and make it difficult for the cook to serve and for the diners to select their food.

·        Location — Don’t forget about set-up and clean-up. At some point, you’ll have to bring fuel (such as charcoal or gas) as well as food and supplies to your grill area.  When the festivities are over, you’ll be glad if you’ve placed your grill where water is easily accessible and where you won’t mind rinsing down food, grease, and charcoal.

It’s also a good time to keep an eye out for Memorial Day Sales at your local home improvement stores — look for savings not only on grills but on outdoor furniture and other supplies that will help you turn your backyard into a summer paradise.

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When Your House Comes Out of Hibernation

 

Spring Maintenance Suggestions for your Home

Man inspecting gutter.jpgWith spring well underway, it is the perfect time to take care of preventive and reparative maintenance on your home. Inside and outside, checking out these parts of your home now could save you major repair or replacement outlays later.

Gutters — clean out any leaves, branches or mud build-up that could be clogging them.

  • Foundation— the winter can cause (or hide) cracks, erosion and other issues. The sooner you spot these potential problems, the simpler they are to fix.
  • hands tightening sink pipe.jpgHVAC system— check your filters (if you’re a regular A/C user in the summer months, put a monthly reminder on your calendar to change the filters), check the vents and hoses and if you suspect any issues, call a technician.
  • Windows and doors— inspect the sealing and paint, looking for leaks, cracks, or chips. Ensuring your windows and doors are well-sealed and dry will prevent unwanted mold growth, not to mention contribute toward energy efficiency.
  • Plumbing— hear any drips? Check every faucet, appliance and toilet for leaks or running water.
  • Roof— especially for those living in harsh winter conditions, checking the roof when spring begins is a must. Look for loose shingles, peeling, cracked or curling areas.

For more ideas, tips and spring maintenance ideas, check out these sources:

And for a thorough list of tips on preparing your home inside and out for spring — from dusting your lightbulbs to moving your gardening supplies to the front of your garage and your winter equipment to the rear — see Martha Stewart’s Complete Spring Home Maintenance Checklist.

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