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Four Ways to Have an Eco-Friendly Lawn

Girl on lawn
A healthy-looking lawn does wonders for your property. Not only does it make your house stand out on your block, but it can also provide flood control, dissipate suburban heat, reduce fire hazards and if you’re trying to sell, definitely gives your home some curb appeal. Lawn care is big business, too. In 2015 alone, U.S. households spent almost $16 billion on lawn care and gardening services, which includes supplies, equipment, and lawn and landscaping services. Clearly, we spend lots of money to have great-looking lawns and landscaping, but could all the pesticides, fertilizer, and growth and greening additives we use be harming the environment, too?

It’s easy to go overboard with all the products when trying to keep a nice-looking lawn. However, you can still have green, thick grass, along with healthy trees, shrubs, and a garden, and fewer or no weeds if you follow these steps to creating an eco-friendly lawn.
1. Keep Your Lawn Green Without Chemicals
Paul Tukey writing for Popular Mechanics suggests some ways to mow your lawn that will keep it green, including keeping the mower’s blades sharp, using a push or electric mower to cut back on pollution, and leaving clippings on the lawn to create a natural fertilizer. He also suggests using compost as a natural, root-level fertilizer for lawns, gardens, shrubbery, and trees.
2. Water Wisely
While an oscillating or spinning sprinkler is a symbol of summer lawn care, both of those can waste a lot of water if you don’t monitor their use. Another option for watering is using low-pressure drip irrigation, where nozzles are placed at the base of plants, trees, or shrubs and water is applied slowly. This method can lower your water use. While a drip irrigation system might initially be expensive, it does reduce water usage and energy costs and improves seed germination. Regardless of whether you use drip irrigation, a sprinkler, or hand-watering, the key to using any type of system to water your lawn or your garden is to soak the ground to the depth of the roots.
3. Use Our Friends, The Bugs
Why spray your garden and foliage with aphid and other control products when nature provides its very own: bugs! lists several species that can keep your greenery free of damaging pests, such as aphids, caterpillars, and Japanese beetles. These natural pest killers include ladybugs, ground beetles, soldier beetles, and tachinid flies. Many of these same bugs also help keep lawns free of pests, too.
4. Consider Using Plants As Ground Cover Instead of Grass
Unless your home is on several acres of land and there’s nothing but a wide stretch of lawn between the street and your front porch, consider using plant life as ground cover instead of grass. You can use flower and shrub beds, clover (just don’t step on the bees), or even several varieties of moss. Many of these and others, especially the mosses, grow easily in the shade, are easier to water (which is where the drip irrigation system can work better), and you won’t have to drag out the lawnmower every weekend. However, the ground cover does invite a number of unwanted pests and will have to be weeded frequently before fully grown. But once your insect friends make their home in it and you keep weeds from becoming a problem naturally with compost and organic mulch, ground cover will make your whole front yard look like a garden.

It doesn’t take a lot of chemicals to have a nice-looking lawn, just sensible use of mowing and organic fertilizer, the wise use of water, putting nature’s pest controllers to work, and using alternatives to grass. So, get out your gardening tools, pull on your gloves, and go play in the dirt to create an eco-friendly lawn you’ll be proud to call yours.

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Spring Maintenance For The Home: How To Clean Up After Winter

Spring Wheel barrow in garden
Photo via Pixabay by Andreas160578
Spring maintenance around the house is a necessity once winter moves on for good, but many homeowners are at a loss when it comes to figuring out the best way to go about it without spending a ton of money. You may also be wavering back and forth between which projects are DIY and which ones will require a professional’s touch, and it’s important to make that decision from the start in order to prevent safety issues and damage.

Fortunately, there are several easy things you can do to spruce up your home--both inside and outside--when the weather turns nice. From the landscaping to the gutters, there are some simple fixes that won’t break the bank. Take a look around your property to get a feel for what needs to be done; for instance, if winter brought heavy storms, it’s a good idea to check out your roof and siding. Tree and dead limb removal may also be necessary around the yard, and while you can do some of this yourself, bigger jobs will require a professional tree service.

Here are just a few things you can do around your house when spring is in full bloom:
Find The Right Help
One of the first things you’ll want to think about when you’re ready to spruce up your home is whether or not you can do the job yourself. Many spring maintenance projects are DIY weekend tasks, but some will require special tools and knowledge, and calling in a pro means setting a budget. When you have an idea of what needs to be done, look online for the best services near you, and get a price quote so you’ll know what to expect.
Start With The Right Tools
The right tools can make a huge difference when you’re working on a project yourself, and you may need different items to accomplish different tasks. A good screwdriver set, a hammer and a mallet, and a cordless drill will go a long way toward helping you take care of your spring maintenance chores. If you aren’t a tool person and don’t know where to begin, look online for tool reviews and check out the best ones for the tasks on your list.
Prep Your Lawn
Sometimes, spring maintenance isn’t only about fixing things that became overgrown or broken in winter; when it comes to your lawn, there are several things you can do now to prep it for warmer weather so you’ll have beautiful pops of color and lush green grass. Weeding, mowing, removing dead branches and leaves, sprucing up flower beds with fresh mulch, and planting new bulbs and seeds is a great way to get your lawn into shape. To make the job easier, have the entire family get in on the act over a weekend, and give everyone a job to complete.
Check the Roof Winter
can be extremely harsh and unforgiving where your roof is concerned, so when the weather starts to turn warm and sunny, check out the uppermost space of your home for broken, cracked, or missing shingles or tiles, and make sure the gutters are in good working order and don’t have any debris or leaves in them. Roof repairs can be costly, so it’s best to leave the big jobs to a pro; otherwise, you may end up causing more damage and busting your budget.

Spring maintenance around the house can take some time, so make a plan before you get started that will lay out a timeline for all the jobs you need to get done. Create a budget so you aren’t overwhelmed at the last minute, and remember to get help from a professional for any job that requires electricity or plumbing.

10 Questions to Ask Yourself When Picking Garden Flowers

Sunflower for picking flowers
Planting flowers in your garden lets you spend time in your yard, while also making it the perfect place to relax. Flowers bring color and beauty while adding texture and height variation throughout the garden. One key to arranging your flower garden is to pick the flower varieties that best suit your gardening needs.
1) What Areas in Your Yard Get the Best Sunshine?
Understanding the sunshine levels or your various garden plots will help you pick the right plants to thrive in your yard. Evaluate your light spots based on whether it receives full light, partial light, or shade. Full light is commonly described as the light that directly hits a spot. Partial light refers to a spot that is bright but doesn't receive direct light, and a shady spot will receive almost no direct or bright light.
2) Is Your Climate Particularly Dry or Humid?
While there are many flower varieties that can be gardened in almost any climate, it can sometimes be difficult to cultivate tropical or temperate flowers in dry climates without a lot of watering and irrigation. Aim for flowers that are drought tolerant, and you may want to expand your idea of flowering plants to include succulents and cacti. Those in more humid climates can use more tropical flowers in their gardens.
3) How Much Time Do You Have to Care for Your Flowers?
Some flowers are considered more high maintenance than others. Many of the most iconic flowers require the highest maintenance, including lilies, roses, dahlias, and tulips. If you don't have the time to nurture these beauties, you might opt for lower maintenance flower varieties such as cone flowers, daylilies, and cosmos.
4) Do You Have Children or Pets Around the Yard?
As a matter of safety, if you often have children or pets around the yard, it's recommended to look into your favorite plant varieties in case they're potentially toxic to eat. If you're worried about toxic flowers in your yard, you'll want to avoid planting hydrangea, azalea, wisteria, as well as a whole list of others. To keep your yard safe, opt for edible garden flowers such as marigolds, alliums, nasturtiums, pansies, honeysuckles, and daylilies.
5) What Plants Are Native to Your Area?
There are many benefits to planting local varieties, as they can create environments for local ecosystems and wildlife. These are also plants that are already adapted to the environmental conditions of your yard and climate, making them quick growing and hardy. This means that they are lower maintenance than other varieties.
6) Do You Have Size Requirements for Your Flowers’ Growth?
Different flowers grow in different shapes and sizes. Some make ground cover, staying low to the earth, while others grow in vines, bushes, or stalks. The size of the flowers that you need will depend on the space where you want to plant the flowers. Be sure to choose a variety that will grow healthily in your chosen garden plots.
7) Should You Plant Annuals or Perennials?
Most gardeners will recommend that perennial flowers form the basis of your gardening. These are flowers that will grow back in the same place year after year. Perennials are preferred because they do not require you to plant your full flower garden every year. Then you can fill in the blank spaces with the annual flowers that you want and even switch it up each year.
8) Do You Have a Color or Theme Preference?
Colors and flower themes can give you garden a different feel for when it comes time to relax and enjoy the outdoors. Cool colors, such as blues, purples, and greens, will give your garden a calming atmosphere. Warmer colors, such as reds and yellows, will add energy to your yard. Similarly, it can add a lot of fun to your garden to use thematic flower choices.
9) Should You Buy Blooms or Buds?
When you go to purchase your transplant flowers, you will see some flowers have more buds on them than flowers. It's often better to purchase the plants with more buds. This is because plants with buds will continue to bloom longer in the season.
10) Should You Plan a Blooming Plant for Every Season?
Many gardeners want their yard to bloom all year round. It's very rare to have a flower variety that doesn't go dormant at some point. However, in your planning stage, you can pick a variety of perennials that will bloom throughout the year, from early spring to late fall, to give your yard flowering plants all year round.

Ultimately, picking flowers is a combination of knowing your personal preference, local climate, sun conditions, and the amount of time available to you for gardening.

Your end-of-summer checklist to get your home ready for winter

As a homeowner, you never run out of things to do. Just keeping up with your home maintenance to-do list can seem like a chore itself, and if you fall behind, it could cost you in the long run. To help you stay more on top of those important chores, here’s a handy guide to help you get organized as the seasons change.

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Prevent frozen pipes. When water freezes, it expands and puts pressure on pipe walls. In turn, the pressure could cause pipes to burst, resulting in costly damage to your home. The Red Cross offers these suggestions to keep your pipes from freezing:
Outdoors: Disconnect and drain hoses before storing them. Close valves that supply water to spigots, then open the spigots to drain them. Leave the spigots open so they can expand if there is residual water inside.

Indoors: Add insulation to crawl spaces, attics and basements to keep these areas warmer. You can also add insulation to the pipes themselves. Pipes on exterior walls that don’t have as much warm air circulating are perfect candidates for extra insulation. Consider adding pipe insulation to pipes in the garage and inside cabinets in your kitchen and bathrooms.
Clean gutters. Many professionals advise that fall is an ideal time to clean debris from gutters. Obstructed gutters can cause many costly problems:
  • The dams in gutters cause water and ice to pool, and the gutters can become too heavy and break away from the house.
  • Water that doesn’t flow out of the gutter through downspouts may overflow from the sides, causing flooding issues.
  • Water that pools under clogged gutters can seep into your home’s foundation, which can then freeze and crack the foundation.
Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Properly tending to your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors could save your life. Here are some guidelines from the professionals at FixdRepair:
Smoke detectors:
  • Put new batteries in your smoke detector at least once per year. Then, test the alarm by pressing the button for five seconds or until the alarm beeps three times.
  • Retest each device monthly.
  • Replace your smoke detector every 10 years.
  • Never use water or cleansers on your smoke detectors.
  • Vacuum the device every six months.
Carbon monoxide detectors:
  • Put new batteries in your carbon monoxide detectors at least once per year. Have the new batteries ready when you remove the old ones. Then, test the alarm by pressing the button until it beeps.
  • Retest devices weekly.
Radon testing. It’s ideal to test your home for radon before the winter months when you will be spending more time inside. You can purchase a radon testing kit from most hardware stores. Experts recommend hiring a qualified contractor if your home tests at a radon level of four or above.
Clean dryer vents. Accumulated lint in your dryer vent lowers the efficiency of the machine and is a fire hazard. You can clean it by following these steps:
  • Disconnect the machine from it’s power source.
  • Pull the unit away from the wall to reach the hose.
  • Loosen the hose clamp.
  • Vacuum the dryer hose; a shop vac is recommended for this type of job rather than a model built for floors not only because it has more suction power, but also because it can vacuum up water if your dryer hasn’t been working properly. You can also use a brush made for dryer hoses if there isn’t a lot of accumulated lint.
  • Replace the hose and clamp.
  • Set the machine back into place and reinstate power
Change furnace filters. Changing filters is a simple way to save money on energy bills and extend the life of your furnace. Experts at Global News state that “in order to keep it working to its optimal performance — and help prevent a possible malfunction — you need to either change or clean your furnace filter on a regular basis
Grab your toolbox and go! Keeping up with home maintenance can be a chore, but by following these guidelines, you’ll save money and stay organized. Check your pipes and take steps to ensure they won’t freeze. Clean gutters to avoid costly damage. Check your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to keep your family safe, and make sure radon isn’t a problem. Clean your dryer vent and change furnace filters to keep machines running efficiently and save money. By following these simple steps, you’ll be ready for winter in no time.

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