Archive for the ‘Stretch A Dollar’ Category

Spring Lawn Care

        

First the bad news: if you neglect spring lawn care (and related concerns pertaining to your mower), you could end up paying for it the rest of the year. Now the good news: spring lawn care doesn’t entail nearly the amount of work that you’ll have to invest in mowing alone throughout the summer months.

In fact, most of you will need to implement only about half of the following ten tips for spring lawn care, depending upon your own unique circumstances. Furthermore, I point out in a few instances below that the task in question is better performed as part of your fall lawn care, if you can wait that long.

Spring Lawn Care Tip #1: Raking

 

Raking will be your first task of spring lawn care. Okay, I can hear the groans coming from all lands near and far, wherever grassy carpets are cultivated: “But we already raked leaves in the fall!” Sorry, but raking is for more than just removing leaves: it’s for controlling thatch, too. A thatch build-up of more than 1/2 inch is considered excessive.

Thatch is the reason why I recommend that, when you rake leaves in the fall, you make the effort to rake deeply. Don’t just skim the surface, so as to remove the leaves. A deep raking will remove thatch, too, allowing you to kill two birds with one stone. Even if you followed this advice in fall, I still recommend a spring raking: it will remove grass blades that died over the winter — dead blades that are just waiting to become thatch!

But there’s often another good reason for a spring raking. As you survey your lawn in spring, see if there are any matted patches, in which the grass blades are all stuck together. This can be caused by a disease known as “snow mold.” New grass may have difficulty penetrating these matted patches. But a light raking will be sufficient to solve this problem.

Just when you should perform any of these spring lawn care tasks will depend upon the climate of your own region. But Mother Nature provides palpable cues in some cases. For instance, when you’re pretty sure the snow season (if you have one) is over in your region, begin raking. Applying preemergent herbicides (see Tip #6) should be done sometime between the time the local forsythia bushes stop blooming and the time the local lilac bushes begin blooming.

Spring Lawn Care Tip #2: Check for Compaction

 

If your lawn is subjected to high levels of traffic year after year, it may eventually start to show signs of decline. In such cases, your lawn is probably suffering from compaction. For instance, the presence of moss plants signals compaction (among other things).

Lawn aeration is the remedy for compaction. The good news is that lawn aerators can be rented at your local rental center. The bad news is that the experts recommend postponing lawn aeration until fall. But if, during your “spring lawn checkup,” you become aware of compaction, at least you can plan on setting aside some time in the fall to take care of it.

Spring Lawn Care Tip #3: Liming

 

Besides compaction, the presence of moss plants also signals acidity. But grass likes a neutral soil pH. You can solve this problem by liming your soil. But don’t expect a quick fix: the effects of liming are slow to take place.

But first send a soil sample to your local county extension to determine the extent of your soil’s acidity. The county extension will also be able to advise you on how much lime per square foot you’ll need. Apply the lime using a lawn spreader.

But if your lawn has been doing fine and shows no signs of suffering from acidity, don’t apply lime. Liming is only a corrective measure, not a preventive measure. A soil that is too alkaline will also cause your lawn problems, so too much lime is as bad as not enough.

Spring Lawn Care Tip #4: Overseeding

 

Is your lawn riddled with bare patches due to dog spots, heavy traffic or neglect? If so, you may need to apply grass seed to fill in those bare patches. This solution is known as “overseeding lawns.” Apply a slow-release nitrogen fertilizer when you overseed. Five weeks after the grass germinates, apply a quick-release nitrogen fertilizer.

However, spring isn’t the very best time for overseeding lawns. Fall is the preferred time, when the new grass won’t have to compete with crabgrass (see Page 2), which is killed off by autumn frosts. So postpone overseeding until fall, unless your situation is dire.

Spring Lawn Care Tip #5: Fertilizing

 

Lawns can be fertilized organically by using compost and mulching mowers. But for those who prefer chemical fertilizers, Scotts provides a lawn fertilizing schedule. Many experts, however, recommend a lighter feeding in spring and a heavier one in late fall for cool-season grasses. Too much fertilizer in spring can lead to disease and weed problems. And if you have, indeed, already fertilized in late fall, your lawn is still “digesting” that fertilizer in spring.

In addition to the above tasks of spring lawn care, don’t forget weed control and making sure your mower is ready for the mowing season.

For those who prefer weed-free lawns, spring grass care is as much about weed prevention as it is about fostering healthy lawn growth. Novices to spring grass care are often surprised to learn that not all lawn weeds are battled in the same manner. Depending upon whether a weed is an annual or a perennial, you will use a preemergent herbicide or a postemergent herbicide against it.

Spring Grass Care Tip #6: Applying Preemergent Herbicides

 

If you know that you have a problem with the annual weed, crabgrass, then fertilization in spring should go hand in hand with the application of preemergent herbicides. As their name suggests, preemergent herbicides address weed control not “after the fact,” but before their seedlings can even emerge. Preemergent herbicides accomplish this by forming something of a “shield” that inhibits seed germination. Don’t undertake the core aeration task discussed on Page 1 after applying preemergent herbicides: to do so would be to “puncture” this shield, thereby decreasing its effectiveness.

Crabgrass begins its assault on lawns in spring, when its seeds germinate. In fact, my suggestion on Page 1 that overseeding be carried out in autumn, rather than spring, is based in part on the threat posed by a spring crabgrass invasion. “So why not just begin by killing the crabgrass first with a preemergent herbicide?” perhaps you ask. Well, the trouble is that most preemergent herbicides work against not only weed seeds, but grass seeds, as well!

You can appreciate the dilemma here. Overseeding is incompatible with the application of most preemergent herbicides. Yet, faced with competition from crabgrass in spring, you may find it difficult to establish your new grass. So while it’s still possible to overseed in spring, it’s simply easier to do so in fall. There will be no competition from crabgrass then, because the fall frosts kill off crabgrass.

If you must overseed in the spring, look for a product called, “Tupersan.” Unlike other preemergent herbicides, Tupersan will not damage germinating lawn grass seed. But if you’re committed to staying away from chemicals altogether in your spring grass care, postpone overseeding till fall.

Spring Grass Care Tip #7: Applying Postemergent Herbicides — Or Pulling Weeds

 

Keep an eye out for the emergence of the perennial weed, dandelion during the spring season, unless you find the presence of their cheerful yellow flowers in your lawn desirable. At the very least, you’ll want to snap off their flower stems before they produce seed. If you’re more ambitious, you can dig them out by the roots. Spraying dandelion weeds with postemergent herbicides is more effective in fall than in spring. If you do choose to spray, select an herbicide for broadleaf weeds.

If you prefer weed control without chemicals and have consistently practiced organic landscaping, you can harvest these “weeds” as dandelion greens and eat them!

No other power equipment is as intimately associated with and essential to landscaping as is the lawn mower. You need to have a lawn mower that will consistently get the job done without any hassles throughout the lawn mowing season. And you should also know how to use the lawn mower to your best advantage. Consequently, the final three of my ten tips focus on caring for, selecting and using lawn mowers.

Tip #8: Tuning Up Existing Lawn Mowers

Mowing the lawn all summer can be tiring enough, right? Why make it more difficult on yourself by putting up with a lawn mower that doesn’t start up immediately? When a lawn mower is stubborn about starting up, that can be a sign that it needs a tuneup. Although it’s often possible to get by without one, it is recommended that you have a lawn mower tuneup each year. Don’t put it off till summer or pay someone else to do it. Learn how to tune up a lawn mower yourself using the following resource and have your machine ready to go for summer:

How to Tune Up Lawn Mowers

Tip #9: Buying a New Lawn Mower

Or perhaps you’re fed up with your old lawn mower? Time for a change? This Q&A resource for consumers will help you decide on which type of lawn mower is best for you:

The Best Lawn Mowers

Tip #10: Reviewing Lawn Mowing Strategies

“What’s there to know about lawn mowing?” perhaps you ask. “You just push the lawn mower and it cuts the grass, right?” At the most basic level, Yes. And if lawn mowing is merely a mindless chore that you perform to satisfy other people (and you really don’t care much about the health of your lawn), then you needn’t know any more about it.

However, if you do care about the health of your lawn, there’s a bit more to lawn mowing than just keeping your grass short enough to prevent the neighborhood from thinking your house has been abandonned! Spring is a good time to learn (or review) lawn mowing strategies — before it becomes so hot outside that it’s hard to think!

 

 

Question: Is there a right and a wrong method of lawn mowing?
Answer: Yes. Alternate the direction in which you mow each lawn mowing session. You will thereby prevent your grass from “getting into a rut” (literally). If your lawn mower wheels pass over the same area in the same direction each time you mow, they’ll form ruts over time. Switching lawn mowing patterns also wisely avoids having the lawn mower blade beating at the grass in the same direction at every mowing.

Pruning Fruit Trees

By pruning your fruit trees, you stimulate shoot growth, control the size and shape of the tree, and improve the quality of the fruit.

If you have not pruned before, don’t worry! It is not difficult, and you’ll get a real feel for how to prune fruit trees the more you work at it. And it’s worth every minute!

 

You’ll want to follow a few specific fruit tree pruning instructions for different types of fruit trees. For instance, apple trees need a different pruning system than peach trees. Here are the basics:

 

 

  • The Central-Leader System:

    This is used for pruning apple trees, pear trees, and sweet cherry trees. A “central leader” is the main stem or trunk of the tree from which other lateral branches develop.

    Fruit tree pruning instructions for this method are based around thinning the lateral branches.

  • The Open-Center System:

    Used for peach tree pruning, as well as pruning plum trees, nectarine trees, apricot trees and sour cherry trees where there is no dominant, vertical trunk (central leader).

    Open center fruit tree pruning instructions are based around three or four main limbs set at wide angles with about five lesser branches on each.

  • The Modified-Leader System:

    Mostly used for nut bearing trees, this can also be applied when pruning apple trees and pear trees. Modified-leader fruit tree pruning instructions are based upon giving the central leader and three or four lateral branches equal importance.

 

With this in mind, here are basic fruit tree pruning instructions that will get you off to a good start to getting the balance you want of shoot growth and fruit production:

     

 

 

General Fruit Tree Pruning Instructions

 

  1. Always use sharp shears or saws so your cuts are clean. Use pruning shears on young trees and limbs less than 1/2 inch diameter, and lopping shears for your bigger cuts. For mature fruit trees, use a pruning saw.

  2. Begin by removing dead wood and broken branches. Then cut out any wood that crosses or rubs against any other branches. This opens up the middle so the sun can get to all the fruit.

  3. Make your cut close to a bud, to a joint in the branch, or to the trunk; never leave a stub. The pruning cut should be just above a bud. Make the cut at a backwards angle of about 30 degrees.

  4. Prune stems just above a pair of opposing strong shoots or buds. If shoots or buds are staggered, choose a strong one and prune just above it.

  5. Keep more horizontal branches, and prune more vertical branches.

  6. Remove suckers (shoots) from around the base of the tree.

  7. Get rid of all debris which can harbor pests and disease.

 

 

Easy money saving ideas

Shorten your dryer-vent hose. First, disconnect it and vacuum it out. Then trim the hose length so that it’s just long enough for you to pull the dryer a few feet out from the wall. A short and unobstructed line makes your dryer run more efficiently.
Cost: Free.
Savings: $25 a year on electric, gas, or propane.
Bonus: Your clothes will dry about 20 percent faster.

   

 

Close closet doors to lower the square footage you’re heating (and cooling). Shuttering closets along exterior walls also helps to insulate the house.
Cost: Zilch—although it may take a few minutes for your clothes to reach room temperature before you put them on.
Savings: About $50 per year off your energy bills.
Bonus: You and your guests won’t see closet clutter.

 

  

Turn down the thermostat on your water heater. It’s probably set at 140 degrees F to shorten the wait time for a steamy shower. But 120 or even 110 degrees is plenty hot.
Cost: A few minutes with a screwdriver in the utility room.
Savings: $30 or more per year on gas, oil, electricity, or propane.
Bonus: Your kids are less likely to scald themselves if the max water temperature is 120.

 

 

Get your chimney swept in the summer for an off-season price.
Cost: Just a little forethought.
Savings: $50 per flue.
Bonus: Get the job done at your convenience because sweeps’ schedules are wide open.

 

Skip extended warranties. They’re a hedge against the cost of repairing everything from LCD TVs to furnaces. But odds are that you’ll never make a claim.
Cost: If something breaks, haggling with the manufacturer to get it fixed for free or paying for repairs out of your own pocket.
Savings: $50 to $200 per warranty that you don’t buy.
Bonus: Not getting snagged by the fine print. Warranties may exclude your particular problem or contain a depreciation clause, meaning the product’s value goes down as it ages—and hence, the payout shrinks.

 

     

 

Buy firewood in the spring when it’s cheap. Logs will dry out and be ready to burn by the time snowflakes fall.
Cost: Time stacking wood in a dry spot outdoors so that it can season in the open air.
Savings: Up to $100 per cord.
Bonus: In the off-season, you won’t run into any shortages of your favorite hardwood.

 

  

 

Plug in a SmartStrip. Three-quarters of the energy that electronics burn is consumed when the equipment is turned off. Rather than unplug items after every use, hook them up to a SmartStrip surge protector, which automatically kills power to electronics when you turn them off and returns it when you switch them back on.
Cost: $31 for a seven-outlet strip.
Savings: As much as $240 per year in energy costs.
Bonus: Two always-hot outlets ensure that slow-to-reboot devices like your digital cable box can be left on all the time.

 

  

 

 

Building a root cellar to keep your produce.

Instructions …things you’ll need: Shovel Excavator, tractor or backhoe 8-by-8-by-16-inch concrete cinder blocks–number determined by the size of the cellar (for a 12-by-12-foot cellar, you would need roughly 400 blocks) Fiberglass impregnated concrete bonding agent or concrete mortar 4-by-8-foot roof beams 2-by-8-foot for blocking between the beams Black plastic (6 mil or heavier) 9 sheets 3/4-inch plywood or OSB 6 feet of 2-inch PVC pipe 1 2-inch PVC 90-degree elbow … all items can be found at Evergreen Supply in Clark Fork.

1 Choose where you want the root cellar located and decide how large a room you want. Dig a hole that will be two to three times larger on all sides so you have room to work. A tractor, backhoe or excavator make quick work of this project.

2 Mark and square your corners. Lay out string lines and place your first row of concrete blocks. Stack the blocks to build the walls to about 7 feet, which takes 11 rows of standard cinder blocks, offsetting each row so the vertical seams don’t line up. Coat the exterior walls with a fiberglass-impregnated concrete bonding agent. This provides a watertight seal and locks the blocks together more securely than filling them with more concrete. Allow the bonding agent to cure. An alternative to this is to mortar the blocks together and then coat them with a concrete sealer. However, this is much slower, and has no greater strength.

3 Place 4-by-8 beams across the roof every two feet. Secure the beams to the concrete blocks using ties and concrete fasteners. Install 2-by-8 blocking between the beams at the edge of the structure, securing them by driving nails at an angle into the beams. Sheet the beams with two layers of 3/4-inch plywood. Seal the roof with a heavy-duty, foundation-type sealing compound. Then place heavy black plastic (6 mil or more) over the roof to provide an extra layer of moisture protection.

 4 Carefully back fill all sides of the structure, doing a little on each side, then working your way around. Keep the pressure even on all sides, or the force of the soil can actually push the structure to an angle. Cover the roof preferably to a depth of two feet of soil. Plant grass to hold the soil in place.

5 Frame in the doorway and install a well-insulated door. Ideally, you would build a short tunnel at the doorway and install two doors, creating an airlock for even better temperature control; however, this is not a requirement.

6 Install a simple vent to allow air flow in the cellar to prevent mold and mildew from forming and keep the air relatively fresh. Using two-inch PVC pipe, run the pipe out the top of the cellar with the air deposited at the bottom of the cellar.

 7 Install shelves and bins for food storage.

It’s also a good idea to either run a power line and install a light or place a battery-operated lantern inside the door for visibility.

nepa_root_cellar                       shy_bear_farm_root_cellar

Bag Sale February 26th 2011

Save big at the Bag Sale this Saturday … all you can fit in a bag will be 20% off regular price. (excludes power tools and some other items)

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