(BPT) - As temperatures drop, you're reminded that Old Man Winter will soon rear his ugly head. Before the first flurries fly, it's important to take some winterization steps to ensure your home is ready for whatever the season brings.
This five-point checklist will help safeguard your home against winter's woes for another year. For additional winterization ideas and detailed project plans, visit Real Cedar.com.
Inspect each window from the outside to see if any gaps or cracks are present. These small openings let in cold air and are also inviting to small critters looking for protection from the cold.
If you find some gaps, it’s important to seal them quickly. Apply caulk to the openings to prevent cold air from seeping in, helping to cut down on heating bills. Plus, you won’t have to worry about bugs making your home their hibernation haven. Note: never caulk above or below the window and door openings, as this may block moisture drainage.
Prep the deck
The amount of work you have to put into winterizing your deck depends on your decking material. For example, a durable, long-lasting material such as Western Red Cedar requires the least amount of maintenance. That said, all decks require some upkeep.
To preserve your deck’s luster, start by cleaning it with a warm, soapy solution and a soft-bristle brush. Do not power wash as this can damage the wood. It’s important that you remove all dirt and debris from the surface as well as in between the boards to improve ventilation.
Next, inspect the deck for mold. If present, wash the deck with a mild oxygen bleach solution and leave on the surface for 30 minutes before rinsing thoroughly. Finally, remove anything that might leave marks on the deck’s surface such as furniture, planters and mats.
Protect planter boxes
The majority of planter boxes are made with Western Red Cedar. That’s because the wood is naturally resistant to rot, decay and insects; and therefore, doesn’t require treatment from potentially dangerous chemicals that can leach into soil and plants. But like all garden beds, real cedar planters need protection during the winter months.
Start by removing all soil and cleaning the boxes as you did the deck. Then, if possible, store emptied planters in a garage, shed or under the porch. If you don't have the space to store them this way, then cover them with a water-repellent tarp to protect from moisture buildup, but don’t seal the tarp. As with decks, it’s very important that you allow for proper ventilation.
Look for weak trees or those with dead branches, particularly those near your home. As snow accumulates, the weight may bring down a tree or branches, potentially damaging your house.
Eliminate this risk by removing any dead trees or dangerous branches now before the first snow. Be safe by using the proper equipment for tree trimming and removal, or, consider hiring a pro to do so. Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and handling this issue now could prevent costly damage to your home down the road.
Clean the roof
Your roof is a large portion of your home, and it also holds a lot of snow over the winter. To prevent ice dams and other roof problems when freezing temperatures arrive, it's important to clean gutters and check your roof for problems now.
Start by taking all debris out of gutters to ensure free flow for water. Next, walk around your roof and inspect it for any damage. Repair loose shingles and make sure the chimney and vents look intact and secure. Your roof takes on a lot of weight from ice and snow during the winter months and you want it to be as strong as possible.
A few simple steps now can mean a cozy, safe winter for you and your entire family. Add these five steps to your winterization to-do list for this weekend and give yourself valuable peace of mind.
(BPT) - Researchers are predicting 2017 will be one of the worst years for ticks that we have seen in quite some time — and by all indications, those researchers are correct. People who have found themselves pulling ticks off their pets, children and their own bodies can readily attest to this. The question is, what to do?
While the tick population may be booming and becoming an increasing problem, there are effective measures you can take to prevent them from getting on you and your loved ones.
1. Cover up. One of the easiest ways to keep ticks off of you when you're hiking in tall grass or a wooded area is to make sure you and your family wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants and closed-toe shoes. You may think dressing this way during warmer months is anything but comfortable, but if you dress in lightweight, breathable clothing, you’ll be surprised at how cool you can stay.
2. Keep up with your yard. Ticks love a messy yard. They seek out tall grass, patches of weeds and unkempt gardens. Take the time to keep your lawn cut, remove any loose debris and keep the weeds out of your garden. Areas you want to be particularly concerned about are around patios, play areas and anywhere people congregate or pets explore.
3. Protect your yard. Ticks and other pests may seem like an insurmountable problem, almost impossible to avoid or get rid of. But rest easy knowing there is a solution to help protect against these blood-feeding pests. Whether you’re concerned about protecting your family’s health from tick-borne illnesses or need help controlling an infestation, contact a licensed pest control professional to come in and assess the situation. The National Pest Management Association (NPMA) can help you find a qualified, local expert to identify and treat your tick problem.
4. Wear insect repellent. Just like you make it a habit to always apply sunscreen when going out on a bright, beautiful day, get in the habit of applying insect repellent any time you are out in an area that might harbor ticks. To be effective, make sure the insect repellent contains at least 20 percent DEET.
5. Perform regular inspections. At the end of the day, take the time to comb through your pet's fur and check them for ticks, even if they are wearing a tick collar. Also, don't forget to do a check on yourself and your children. Since it usually takes between 24 and 48 hours for a tick to attach to a host and transmit diseases like Lyme disease, it’s important to remove them quickly.
To learn more about ticks or other common pests, visit www.pestworld.org. There you’ll find a wealth of information and resources that will help you and your family have a safe and tick-free year.
(BPT) - The temperature may not have dropped just yet, but make no mistake, fall is coming. Soon enough, baseball will give way to football, green leaves will turn yellow and red and your lawn care routine will take on a whole new set of tasks. Fall lawn care isn’t the long marathon of the summer yard season, but it packs plenty of work into a few short months before the winter. You can make this lawn care blitz a little bit easier by applying the following tips.
* Stimulate your lawn. While your grass may no longer need its weekly mowing in the fall, you can’t ignore it until spring. Look for brown, tan or white patches on your lawn, as this can be a sign of mold growth. Apply a lawn fungicide to halt this growth and an organic fertilizer to stop its spread and support future root growth.
* Blow those leaves away. Raking leaves can be a Herculean task, so simplify the process by investing in a lithium-ion blower. The Greenworks 60-volt Backpack Blower is a heavy-duty solution perfect for homeowners with a quarter to three-quarters of an acre to cover. And for yard-lovers that prefer a handheld blower, Greenworks has you covered there too! Both solutions are lightweight and reduce noise while eliminating emissions, and because they're battery powered, you don’t have to bother with mixing gas and oil.
* Seed and sod. If you do notice patches of dead grass in your yard — a common occurrence if fallen leaves have not been blown away — don’t wait until spring to address the issue. Over-seeding the area can rectify the problem if the spaces are small. If your lawn has significant portions that have died, it may be time to look into sodding options instead for more comprehensive coverage.
* A fresh spray clean. A season’s worth of wind and rain can leave the sides of your home looking pretty dingy. Fall cleanup is the perfect time to give your home a reset by spraying down your siding, decks, and patios. Greenworks 2200 PSI Electric Pressure Washer is an environmentally friendly gas-alternative solution with five nozzles that allow you to adjust the tool’s water pressure based on the task at hand. The pressure washer is also designed with Smart Response Technology to adjust motor RPMs as nozzles are changed, ensuring the perfect water flow for every job — and the on board LED display guides you to the best job for each nozzle, letting you clean your home in a smart, efficient way.
* A hole in the ground supports future growth. Fall is arguably the best time of year to aerate your yard, allowing water, oxygen and fertilizer to more easily reach the root structure of your grass. Self-propelled aerators are relatively inexpensive, and you can also rent one if you plan to make this a once-a-year chore. Whatever you decide, tackling this chore now will allow your lawn to grow back thicker and fuller next year when it will be time to start thinking about spring lawn care once again.
(BPT) - The end of summer doesn’t have to mean the end of your gardening enjoyment, even if you don’t have the time or climate for a full plot of food plants. Herbs are perfect fall crops; they are prolific growers, can satisfy your desire for fresh, garden-grown greens and are one of the easiest ways to elevate your recipes from so-so to so good! Plus, they’re ready to harvest and growing your own will make a dent in your grocery bill.
The fall gardening experts at Bonnie Plants offer some gardening guidance for planting herbs this fall:
Multiple factors will influence your choice of herbs, including fall temperatures, where you live, and your taste in seasonings.
If you decide to plant outdoors, it’s important to know when to expect the first hard frost. You can find the estimated first frost date in your area by checking out Bonnie’s online frost map.
You’ll want to choose herbs that like cooler weather, such as parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, mint, chives, lavender and oregano. They’re all prolific producers and some, like mint and rosemary, are especially easy to grow. Availability of Bonnie’s fall varieties is limited to specific regions, so check your local garden retailers.
Pick a place
You may envision pots full of leafy, green herbs sitting on a sunny windowsill, while colorful autumn leaves, or even snow, fall outside. However, windowsills aren’t always a best bet for indoor herbs, especially if your windows are drafty or the herbs brush the cold glass.
Herbs need at least four to six hours of natural light per day to grow indoors, so choose a sunny spot near a window where they’ll be protected from drafts and cold. South- and southwest-facing windows will give you the most natural light throughout the day. Windows facing north won’t provide enough sunlight.
Picking the right pots
If you really love rosemary, you may be tempted to try to plant the largest pot appropriate for your kitchen, but stick with manageable-sized pots that will fit better indoors, allow you to keep your herbs more organized, and still produce plenty of yield. Be sure to choose pots that have good drainage and always use a premium potting mix.
Caring for container herbs
Any type of plant growing in a pot needs water, and herbs are no exception. You’ll need to keep a close eye on your herb plants’ watering needs. Remember, dry topsoil is not an indication plants need water. A quick and easy test is to stick your finger, or a pencil, into the soil right where the stem enters the soil. If the soil is moist at 1.5 to 2 inches deep, do not water. If dry, it’s time to water! Always water in the morning, at soil level and avoid watering the leaves, as bacteria can breed in cool, wet, damp and dark conditions, like night time.
Fertilize your food plants. Water is an obvious must, but irrigation can wash nutrients out of the soil. Plus, some potting mixes only have a short-term supply of fertilizer while others are slow-release. Read the label on your premium potting soil mix and follow the brand’s recommendations for fertilizing frequency. Timed-release granular fertilizer or a plant food you mix with water will help keep herbs nourished. Remember food plants are hungry!
Best bets on basil
Although basil is the most popular herb, it can sometimes struggle growing indoors. Start off growing it outdoors on a sunny deck. Be sure to continually pinch-off the prolific leaf growth, which encourages more growth and harvest, until the weather turns cool, then bring the pot indoors. Harvested leaves can be continually dried, although freezing does a better job of preserving the herb’s flavor.
Tip: Try using old ice-cube trays, inserting basil leaves in cells, filling with water and freezing. When weather gets cold, you can easily pop your “basil ice-cubes” in recipes throughout the cold weather season. Basil is also tasty in some drinks, like lemonade and tea.
While clipping sprigs when cooking is a great way to harness the freshness of any herb, you can also store them and they’ll maintain their flavor. Preserving by drying and freezing aren’t your only options; try adding herbs as seasoning to cooking oils.
Whether you’re an expert gardener or a first-time fall grower, autumn is the perfect time to fall in love with the freshness, flavor and ease of herb gardening. You’ve still got time to get growing!
(BPT) - It was supposed to be a community swimming pool, but many people stayed away because they couldn't tolerate the biting, nose-curdling odor of chlorine. Others experienced breathing and skin problems.
So the Evergreen Commons senior center in Holland, Michigan, converted its 65,000-gallon chlorine pool into a saltwater pool. People who had stayed away are now coming back, getting exercise and therapy, while socializing with others.
The senior center is hardly alone. Across the country, traditional chlorine pools are being converted into saltwater pools, sometimes called saline pools.
Swimmers noticed the difference right away after the switch, making their pool experience much more enjoyable. The new system also meant softer water without harsh chemicals that sometimes required a shower to wash off.
Homeowners and pool managers have many motivations for converting pools from chlorine to salt, including:
* Simplified, more convenient maintenance. Saltwater pool owners don't have to buy, transport, store and handle hazardous chlorine chemicals. This saves time and money.
* Water that's gentle on skin, eyes, nose and hair. Saltwater pools have approximately one-tenth the salinity of ocean water and about one-third the salinity of human tears, with no unpleasant chlorine smell.
* A more environmentally friendly approach. Routine pool maintenance doesn't involve the handling and storage of manufactured chlorine and lessens the need for other potentially hazardous chemicals.
How do they work?
Saltwater pools use a generator to convert the salt into mild chlorine that keeps the pool free of harmful bacteria. This chlorine is added to the water at a constant rate, displacing the bad smell and burning irritation we normally associate with chlorine and maintaining the right amount. Once the chlorine sanitizes the pool it converts back to salt. The process continues, over and over again, conserving the salt and keeping sanitizer levels balanced.
The technology for a saltwater pool was first developed in Australia in the 1960s and today more than 80 percent of all pools Down Under use this system. In the United States, saltwater pools first began to see use in the 1980s and have grown exponentially in popularity. According to data published in Pool & Spa News, today there are more than 1.4 million saltwater pools in operation nationwide and an estimated 75 percent of all new in-ground pools are saltwater, compared with only 15 percent in 2002.
The other good news for homeowners and pool managers is that pool salt is far cheaper than traditional chlorine. This is a big reason why so many hotels and water parks in the United States have already made the switch. The initial construction and installation of an electrolytic converter is very small and easily made up in maintenance savings. Even converting an existing chlorine pool to saltwater pool can pay off quickly.
While planning a new outdoor living space can be overwhelming, chances are there’s a home improvement retailer nearby that offers an abundance of resources to help you tackle virtually any project. If a DIY deck project is on your to-do list, these tips can help you navigate the aisles like a pro.
Tips for Tackling a DIY Deck Project
(Family Features) While planning a new outdoor living space can be overwhelming, chances are there’s a home improvement retailer nearby that offers an abundance of resources to help you tackle virtually any project. If a DIY deck project is on your to-do list, these tips can help you navigate the aisles like a pro.
Do your homework. Get started by perusing retailer websites to learn about their product offerings and services. Then visit manufacturer websites for more information and to compare aesthetics and performance. Research your options and decide what materials and styles make the most sense for your lifestyle and preferences. For instance, if you are looking to spend more time enjoying your deck than maintaining it, you may consider a high-performance composite material, like Trex. Unlike wood, composite decking won’t rot, warp, crack or splinter, and resists fading, scratching and mold.
Take advantage of retailer resources. After you’ve decided on a preferred material, your local big-box retailer can help you obtain additional information, design ideas and product samples. To help get you on your way, lowes.trex.com can help you explore the decking and railing collections available through Lowe’s. In addition to perusing an array of decking options, you also can preview designer-curated railing pairings. Once you find a combination that suits your outdoor space, you can download the materials list to better guide your in-store experience.
Explore the store. Once you have determined the direction of your project and narrowed down your product preferences, orient yourself with the store landscape so you can navigate the merchandise in an order that correlates with your project. It may be easiest to start with decking materials in the lumber aisle and then move to railings, which can typically be found in an adjacent aisle or on an end-cap display. Pay close attention to signage and look carefully for logos to make sure you’re finding the brand you want.
Ask an associate. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. The staff at your local retailer can provide tips to help you successfully navigate your project and the store. For instance, if the materials you are looking for aren’t on the shelves, many options are available via special order. Typically, an associate can arrange for the product you want to arrive in-store in about 10 days. Most stores also offer assistance with installation.
When planning and building, the one-stop convenience of a big-box retailer makes it possible to construct a customized deck with confidence and without stress. Visit lowes.trex.com for more tips, tools and information on decking materials.SOURCE:
(BPT) - Summer is here and your lawn is a source of pride. However, it can also be a source of hard work, sweat and even frustration. So ask yourself this question: Would you be interested in maintaining your yard's beauty with fewer headaches?
If the answer is yes, then you’re in luck, because this article is all about helping you find ways to maintain a beautiful lawn without all the unnecessary effort. Apply these five tips today and you’ll have more time to enjoy your well-cared-for yard.
* Be smart about seeding. The dog days of summer are not the ideal time to reseed your lawn, so don’t waste the effort. Seed growth is more successful during cooler months, so if you didn’t seed in the early spring, wait until later in the season before doing so. You’ll get the same results without wasting the effort on an inefficient seeding.
* The perfect cut. Your lawn is the centerpiece of your yard, and nothing improves its overall appearance like the perfect cut, especially when that cut comes easy. Greenworks 60-Volt Mower is a lithium-ion battery-powered mower that eliminates the need to mix and pour gas, letting you put that time back into making your lawn look great. Finding the perfect cutting height is easy with its seven different blade positions, while Patented Smart Cut Technology maximizes run-time by keeping the blade speed at an optimal level based on the thickness of the turf.
* Water smart. Just as with seeding, successfully watering your lawn is all about timing. And, like seeding, dragging a sprinkler around your yard during the peak hours of the day will result in the water you expend being burned off before it does any good. To make the most of your watering sessions, water your lawn at dawn or dusk when temperatures are cooler. This increases the possibility that the water will stick around long enough for the grass to absorb it.
* Trimming made easy. A well-cut lawn is perfectly complemented by manicured bushes and shrubs, and tackling these tasks with the Greenworks 60-Volt Cordless String Trimmer and Hedge Trimmer is easy. Each tool utilizes push button start technology, eliminating the need for pull cords, while the battery-powered brushless motor offers an environmentally friendly, gas-alternative, and neither lacks for power or options. Tackle large projects with the string trimmer’s 16-inch cut path or use the hedge trimmer’s lightweight, rotating handle to reach every angle and you’ll get the perfect trim in no time.
* Add mulch to control weeds. The most beautiful planting beds lose their luster if their base is crowded with weeds. To eliminate this problem — and to save on the wear and tear of pulling the weeds yourself — add a 4-inch layer of mulch to the top of your beds. This mulch blocks out the sun, making it hard for weeds to grow. It also reduces your need to water these beds by slowing water’s evaporation rate.
Summer is here, and while your lawn care is ongoing, there's still plenty of time to make those chores more efficient to benefit yourself and your lawn. To learn more about the lawn care tools available from Greenworks, visit www.greenworkstools.com.
(BPT) - It’s amazing to contemplate that all the famous paintings in history — from da Vinci’s Mona Lisa to van Gogh’s Starry Night — are essentially formed from three primary colors. Artists skillfully combine red, yellow and blue to formulate an infinite range of colors to bring their paintings to life.
Likewise, when creating your own outdoor living space, you can combine three basic elements — decking, railing and lighting — in nearly endless ways to "paint" a personal masterpiece of fun and relaxation.
1. Get decked out with modern decking
For decades, backyard decks mainly have been rectangles. This is largely because of the rectangular shape of traditional wood deck boards. With the advent of modern materials, it is now easier to fashion decks of virtually any shape — from curved sections following the contours of a sloping yard to round decks. Or, let your imagination run wild and create a specialty shaped deck of something you love, like a giant guitar or stacked leaves.
“Today’s decking options offer exceptional design flexibility,” says Brent Gwatney, senior vice president of MoistureShield Decking. “Composites in particular are more easily bent into creative shapes than wood decking, and can be ripped and routed to form virtually any design you can think of.” DIYers and deck builders can even install moisture-resistant boards such as MoistureShield Vantage or Infuse decking on the ground, in the ground or under water for more design possibilities, notes Gwatney.
2. Rail against the ordinary
Many decks are required by law to have safety railings. But, with some creativity, the railing can enhance your deck’s look even as it prevents falls. With the variety of products now available, the railing can be a visual complement to your home and deck. For example, if you have a cabin, you could install hewn timber posts and railings for a rustic appeal. For a waterfront home, a nautical-themed railing system of posts and ropes could do the trick. Or, if you have a modern home and prefer simple visual lines, cable-and-wire railings or glass panels could be your style.
For a distinctive look for your deck, consider mixing colors and materials, like combining white aluminum railing and balusters with rich brown composite posts to create a dramatic look. Or, to add a sophisticated mix of texture and color, you can install on the top of a black or white railing a composite board that complements the decking color.
3. Light up the night
A third element to add to your outdoor living design palette is deck lighting. With the right lighting, you can extend your hours outside and keep your deck as charming in the nighttime as it is during the day.
From subtle post lights that cast a magical evening glow to understated recessed lights and rail strip lights that help guide guests’ steps, today’s deck lighting choices are both functional and affordable. And, with the emergence of energy-efficient LEDs, you can use them liberally with little effect on your monthly electricity bill. Some decking manufacturers like MoistureShield offer deck lights specifically designed to integrate with their decking and railing.
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