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Winter Wonder: What Can You do With Your Yard?

By Guest Blogger Carrie Spencer
When winter weather runs amok, it may seem more like time to hibernate than worry about your yard. As tempting as it is, hibernation isn’t in the cards for us humans. So instead, use this time when there’s less foot traffic and slower growth to tackle some of the not-so-routine jobs in your personal green space.
Things like trimming trees and cutting back plants, tackling pesky weeds, and mulching can help your yard over winter, and get it ready for a vibrant spring. Here, ProParts Direct shares some tips on how to prep your yard.
In The Zone
Start by learning about your USDA Hardiness Zone and any microclimates in your area. If you’ve ever wondered why that bush you planted didn’t flourish, even though you planted it exactly as directed, it could be related to your zone. If you’re certain that you’re in a specific zone, you may want to check again. Hardiness zones are subject to change, based on the most recent 30 years of data. If you’ve done your homework, and picked the right plant for your zone but it still didn’t thrive, it could be a microclimate specific to your property or neighborhood.
Understanding all these factors will help you with your yard work all year-round, not just in the winter months
Time to Trim
It’s actually best to prune or trim many trees, ornamental grasses, and woody shrubs back during the winter months while they are dormant. When done correctly, this can lead to extensive new growth and flowering the following season. Removing dead or decaying branches can also eliminate safety hazards from your yard that may fall and injure children or pets.
This is also the time of year when many lawns go dormant, making it easy to spot stubborn weeds that seem to outlive all other plants. You can attempt to physically remove the weeds if you only have a few, but if your lawn is covered, it’s best to tackle this chore in the spring. If you are in an area that has extended periods with freezing temps or gets heavy snowfall, it’s best to keep everyone and everything off the lawn altogether to avoid permanent damage.
Time to Mulch
Mulching in winter will help protect your plants from unseasonably warm or cold weather. It will also help you avoid fungus that can grow during the damp fall months, and deter rodents that might be attracted to it during the fall as well. Mulching with leaves from your yard or the neighborhood can help you save a buck, all while nourishing your plants in a manner similar to compost.
Speaking of compost, winter is a great time to start. Composting is both beneficial for the environment and economical. Just keep in mind that your compost area should be isolated from where your kids and pets play to avoid any potential contact with dangerous mold spores or allergens. If you live in an extremely cold climate, it may take a little longer for your pile to decompose, but it will prove to be worth the wait.
Prepare to Sell
While you should tend to your yard every season, you may be especially concerned now if your intention is to sell your home in the spring. If this is the case, take care of what you can during the winter months, and be prepared for cleanup and replanting in the spring. You want to give your home a competitive edge by sprucing up the exterior prior to starting your marketing efforts.
When the time comes to list, make the most of those marketing efforts with a great presentation of your home. In addition to boosting your curb appeal, make updates to the interior and then carefully stage your home. Take quality photos to capture your home in the best light, and then make a point to post your listing on your favorite social media platforms. For a professional look, consider designing a logo specific to your home sale. Adobe Spark’s free logo maker is perfect for novice designers, and you can quickly create a fun design that speaks to your home and your aesthetic.
Winter brings a much more subtle color palette to the yard than other months, but it doesn’t mean you should ignore it. Pruning trees and woody plants in winter, while protecting others with mulch, will lead to enhanced beauty during the other seasons. Understanding the climate in your area is essential for lawn and garden success year-round, and will help you maintain it appropriately this winter and beyond.
Photo Credit: Unsplash

A Homeowner’s Guide to Winterizing: Inside & Out

By Guest Blogger Carrie Spencer
Winterizing a home is one of those tasks that few people enjoy. It’s not so much the work but the departure of the warmer months that makes folks dread it. However, making sure all the right steps are taken, both inside and out, can save money and reduce the time it takes to transition items back into use during the warmer months. Here are a few considerations to prepare your residence for colder weather, whether you are a homeowner, renter, or caretaker.
It’s important to shield the home against winter weather. Keep in mind that while completing these tasks can become increasingly difficult as it gets colder, embracing the colder winter season and spending time outdoors can give your mood a boost.
Tidy the yard. In addition to mulching leaves, getting in that final mow, fertilizing, and cutting back plants. It’s also important to cut down any dead tree limbs since they have the potential to come down on a fence, deck, or other structure, or possibly even the house in the event of a severe winter storm.
Store outdoor items. This includes lawn and patio furniture, grills, garden hoses, tools, and any toys, balls, or other fitness equipment that might be left in the yard. Disconnecting garden hoses from the spigot is really important to avoid the possibility of having the spigot freeze and rupture. Depending on your climate, covering your grill and furniture may suffice, but storing it along with any tools and outside toys in a garage or shed will increase its longevity.
Prep water features. If you have a koi pond, fountain, swimming pool, or hot tub, you likely already know the hazards of not properly winterizing these items. Koi can live through the winter months in a pond as long as there is air circulating, but fountains should be drained and stored to avoid potential damage. To save water, consider purchasing a cover for your pool or hot tub rather than draining it. Always use proper pool supplies to treat the water before you cover it for winter and return it to use in summer.
Maintain outdoor structures. If your yard is fenced, or you have a porch or deck, inspect and perform structural maintenance on these items. Save painting and aesthetic issues for the warmer months, but freezing and thawing cycles throughout the winter can exacerbate structural issues.
Add home security features. Before it gets too cold, now is a good time to focus on home security. Incorporating features such as smart cameras, smart locks, and smart lights can protect your home so you can sleep easier at night.
While many of these items can be done after the cold arrives, taking care of them early reduces the potential costs. The following indoor maintenance suggestions are for the ones that pose the greatest risk to the home itself and should not be neglected.
Inspect and replace seals. Drafty doors and windows are winter budget busters. To ensure warm air isn’t escaping, it is important to inspect the seals around your doors and windows. Don’t forget to take a look at your outlets as well. Those on exterior walls in particular can let in a lot of cold air. Use foam sheets to seal up any that may be a problem. It is also a good idea to consider putting plastic on windows and to close off rooms that are not being used.
Maintain heat sources. Furnaces, fireplaces, and wood stoves should all be maintained annually by a licensed professional. Failing to properly maintain these items not only increases the risk of being without heat during the coldest part of the year, but it increases the risk of fire. If temperatures fall below freezing in your area, you are also at increased risk of frozen or ruptured pipes inside your home.
Test detectors and extinguishers. Every home should have smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, and at least two fire extinguishers. Replace batteries and test your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. Smoke detectors need to be replaced regularly as well, and each home should have one in the kitchen and near the furnace, fireplace, or woodstove.
These are all relatively simple tasks that most homeowners can tackle themselves. Consider hiring a professional to maintain heat sources and for removing large limbs from trees if needed. Making a proper effort to winterize your home will ensure no major maintenance is required mid-winter or in the spring.
Visit ProParts Direct to find quality parts for lawnmowers, chainsaws, engines, snowblowers, and landscaping equipment!
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5 Must-Do Steps for Growing Your Very First Garden

Do you need parts for your small-engine equipment? ProParts Direct is your one-stop parts store for lawn mowers, chainsaws, engines, snow blowers and all landscaping equipment. Reach out to us today! 800-305-9255
By Guest Blogger Carrie Spencer
Looking to give your green thumb a workout as the weather warms up? If you are new to gardening, you should know that preparation is key to success. It can feel a bit overwhelming, so if you’re not sure where to start, these essential steps from ProParts Direct can help you get started.
Ask Experts for Gardening Advice & Tips
Before you plant your first seeds, you may want to think about your reasons for gardening in the first place. If you just want a beautiful garden and don’t want to worry about all of the work, hiring a gardener may be your best bet to ensure you get started out on the right foot.
A professional gardener will be able to help you plan a garden that works for your yard and your area, and he/she can provide the level of care needed to maintain it. Even if you do not want to hire a full-time gardener, consulting with one can be a good way to get your first garden off to a healthy start.
Research Local Climates and Growing Zones
If you have never attempted to grow a garden before, you may want to start with simple plants that are easy to take care of in order to avoid added stress or expenses.
The first step in selecting plants is checking USDA recommendations to see which growing zone you are located in and when to begin planting. This is crucial, because planting too early or late can lead to dying plants or plants that do not produce flowers, veggies or fruits.
In addition to knowing your growing zone, you should also research what sort of plants will work best in your location. For example, Preston Trail Farms notes that most crop plants require good drainage. On the flip side, some plants love to keep their feet wet, so a little research will definitely go a long way toward your success.
Build a Fence for Your Backyard
If you haven’t already done so, now’s the perfect time to add a fence to your backyard. Not only will a fence help add value to your home, but it will also protect your garden from any four-legged critters who may wander into your backyard and help themselves to your plants. Fortunately, you can use websites like Angi to connect with top-rated fence builders near you who can help you build that fence quickly and efficiently — all you have to do is read reviews and select one you feel can get the job done correctly.
Buy Started Plants Instead of Starting With Seeds
Another helpful tip that can help novice gardeners succeed with their first planting is to go with more developed plants rather than attempting to grow plants from seeds. Growing seedlings can seem like a simple enough task, but you will need to start plants much earlier, and very young plants can end up wilting in the sun or even blowing away in strong winds. Connecting with a garden center or nursery for started plants can ease a lot of first-time gardening woes. Also, many stores offer return and/or exchange policies if your plants end up dying too quickly, so be sure to ask about these sort of plant guarantees before you check out.
Spend Some Serious Time Properly Preparing Soil
Some plants will thrive in just about any sort of spot you plant them while others require the right amount of sun, soil and water to even survive. If you plan on growing veggies or flowers in your new garden, know that most of these plants need quality soil in order to flourish. Before you begin planting your vegetables and flowers, you may need to dedicate some time to soil prep.
For a vegetable garden, Family Handyman points out that preparing your soil for maximum health and output can include tilling and double-digging in order to ensure proper drainage and aeration. Having the right mixture of soil can also improve your vegetable garden but some experts and experienced gardeners also rely on worms to improve their soil quality.
Growing a garden can be a perfect way to pass time, boost curb appeal, and even grow healthy food. So make sure your first garden gets off to a healthy start by applying some TLC and connecting with help as needed. Then all that will be left to do is to plant your garden, care for it and watch it grow.
Photo Credit: Pexels.

Keeping a Pristine Lawn All Year Round

By Guest Blogger Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp
The secret to a pristine lawn year-round is a year-round maintenance program. Whether you hire a lawn care company or do it yourself, that green lawn can be a lot of work and likely requires something more than a lawnmower. That’s a hard sell if you only think about your lawn in spring and summer.
It all starts with the type of grass you have and where you live. Northern U.S. properties usually grow cool-season grasses, such as Kentucky Blue or a fescue. In the South, lawns usually consist of a warm-season type, such as Zoysia or Bermuda. For the best selection for your area, check with your local extension office.
Pro tip: a fescue will stay green throughout the year. Tall fescue is also one of the most heat and drought-tolerant varieties which is also able to resist winter freezes.


A must-have is an irrigation system. The lawn needs water to stay green and grow. Supplemental watering depends on the type of lawn you have. No irrigation and long spells of dry, hot weather will cause grass to go dormant in summer. Stressed lawns also show footprints when walked on.
If you don’t have a programmable irrigation system, be prepared to use sprinklers to water the lawn. Opt for a sprinkler that delivers water close to the ground rather than overhead. Concerns about this precious resource – water usage, availability, and drought – have spread beyond the West to the Upper Midwest.
How much water? About 1 inch a week. When using a sprinkler, place tuna cans or something similar in the area being watered. When the cans have an inch of water, turn the sprinkler off. Or, apply one-half inch of water twice a week using the cans as a guide.


The best time to fertilize your lawn is in September. The second best time is November. Indeed, two fall applications of winter formula lawn fertilizer go a long way at keeping the grass green in winter. It also helps the lawn green up earlier in spring. Whether you or your lawn care company fertilizes in spring is up to you. Spring temps encourage the grass to grow, so fertilizing in spring frequently increases mowing duties.
Lawn fertilizer is typically a granular product. There are several types of applicators, which also can be used with other lawn care products. There are synthetic and eco-friendly, natural or organic lawn fertilizers on the market. With any lawn and garden product, always read and follow the directions.


Pesticide is an umbrella word for bug killers (insecticides), weed killers (herbicides), mites (miticide), and fungus (fungicides). Several brands of lawn fertilizers add weed killers to the mix, such as for crabgrass or dandelions.
Most of these lawn products are used if there’s a problem with insects, fungus or weeds, rather than as a preventative. It’s always best to know what the problem is before you treat it. That will save you money.


The best way to have a pristine lawn is to mow it correctly. That means the mower blade should be sharp, so the grass is cut evenly and not torn. You’ve probably heard the grass mantra to “mow high.” Mow lawns to 3 or 4 inches tall. Grass at that height shades out any weeds looking to take root. It also helps shade the soil to reduce the loss of moisture.
When mowing, avoid removing more than one-third of the grass blade. If the lawn is 6-inches high, mow at 4 inches. If 4 inches, mow at 3. Mowing duties are usually the most demanding in spring and early summer. Fewer mows are needed in late summer when grass growth slows.
A mulching mower allows the clipped grass to remain on the lawn, gradually breaking down and adding trace nutrients to the soil. Mowing leaves and leaving the bits on the lawn in fall also adds trace nutrients.


Leaving leaves on your lawn can allow them to become soggy, which leads to snow mold and insect infestations. Raking them allows the grass to breathe and absorb moisture. A thick layer of leaves will also deprive your lawn of the sunlight it needs to thrive.

Tips for DIYers
  • You will need a mower, a spreader for granular products, and an applicator for liquid products, such as insecticides. You may also need tools like a rake or shovel.
  • Check with your county extension service for a lawn care guide. It will lay out the lawn care schedule for you to follow. It also will explain when and if to use pesticides.
  • Make sure your lawn equipment is ready for the job. Keep the blades sharp and spreader distributing the correct amount of lawn product. Replace parts, such as blades or spark plugs, as needed.
  • Remember always to read and follow the label directions of any lawn and garden product.
Tips for Hiring a Lawn Service
  • Have a clear understanding and schedule of what the service will do and when. Ask what products they use and what precautions they take, especially around children or pets.
  • What is the service’s policy if a treatment damages or kills your garden plant? This can happen when the spray from weed killers drifts on the perennials, shrubs, or trees.
  • Tell the service that you prefer them to mow high, even if it means increased mows, especially in spring.
  • Ask the service to reduce mowing in the fall if it isn’t needed.
Keep in mind: Your lawn doesn’t have to be green year-round to be pristine. A healthy lawn may go dormant during the colder months. But with the proper care (and by keeping heavy foot traffic off the lawn in winter), it can bounce back stronger than ever once spring returns.

Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp award-winning garden writer, editor, and speaker. (She speaks at libraries, garden clubs, public gardens, home and garden shows, and horticulture industry events.) She frequently says her eyes are too big for her yard. She blogs at

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