Posts Tagged ‘grass’

Spring Checklist

Take advantage of the moderate temperatures to get a head start on what should be an annual spring home maintenance routine. EXTERIOR INSPECTION “It’s good to do a walk-around of your property, especially after a storm,” says Curtis S. Niles, Sr., owner of Armored Home Inspections, Upper Darby, PA, and president of the National Association of Home Inspectors (NAHI). “Winter is tough on roofs and chimneys.” It can also take its toll on windows, walls, foundations, gutters and decks. Roof. You don’t need to climb up there yourself; with binoculars and a keen eye, you can probably spot trouble. Do you see any shingle-shift, suggesting that some fasteners may have failed and need replacing? Any cracked or missing shingles? What about nail-pops? “We call them eyebrows,” Niles explains. “It’s when nails push the tabs of the shingles up, allowing water to get in where those nails are coming through.” All will need to be addressed to keep your roof at peak performance. Chimneys. If you have a masonry chimney, check the joints between bricks or stones. Have any fallen out? Is there vegetation growing out of them? Each signals water infiltration. Also, look for efflorescence—”a white calcium-like deposit that indicates your masonry joints are no longer repelling water but absorbing it,” says Niles. Consider re-sealing masonry with a clear, impermeable or water-resistant barrier material (like Thoroseal products). Brush it on, small areas at a time; let it absorb for 15 minutes, then reapply—it may need a couple of applications. Exterior Walls. Whether you have wood siding, stucco or brick, look for trouble spots, especially under eaves and near gutter downspouts. Water stains normally indicate that your gutters are not adequately containing roof runoff. If you have wood siding, check for openings, damaged areas or knots that have popped out, making way for carpenter ants, woodpeckers and other critters that may nest in or burrow through. Foundations. When inspecting the exterior of your home, be sure to examine the foundation from top to bottom for masonry cracks. “Routine caulking by homeowners won’t do the job,” says Niles. “Hire a foundation specialist who can employ a two-part epoxy injection system that will bond cracks chemically,” he adds. Windows. Leakage around windows will admit warm summer air and let cooled indoor air escape, so be sure to check that any caulking and weather stripping you have in place has remained intact. “A tight seal is the first line of defense against air and water,” says Marty Davis, marketing manager, Simonton Windows, Columbus, OH. If you experienced condensation inside the glass on double- or triple-glazed windows during the winter months, the weather seal has been compromised, and either the glass or the window will need to be replaced. Spring-clean your windows—inside and out—with a store-bought or homemade window cleaner (one cup rubbing alcohol, one cup water and a tablespoon of white wine vinegar will work just fine) and either a squeegee or a soft cloth. Never use abrasive cleaners or a high-pressure spray washer. You don’t want to scratch the glass or crack the caulking around each unit. If screens were on all winter, remove and clean them with mild detergent. Lay them on a dry surface, like a driveway to air-dry before putting them back on. “Never power-wash screens,” urges Davis, “it could damage the mesh.”

General Cleaning. Spring is a good time to clean areas of the house that often go neglected. Dust or vacuum chair rails, window casings, tops of wall-mounted cabinets and ceiling fans. Launder or dry-clean fabric draperies and use a damp cloth to clean wood and vinyl blinds. Vacuum upholstered furniture and mattresses and consider renting a carpet cleaner—anything you can do to remove settled dust, mites, and allergens will make for a cleaner, and healthier, home.

If you detect grease residue in the kitchen, consider washing cabinets, backsplashes and walls with warm water and mild detergent. The same is true in the bathroom, where soap residue and fluctuations in heat and humidity combine to create the perfect breeding ground for mold and mildew. While you’re cleaning tile, look for areas of worn or missing grout, as these may lead to more serious water damage if not repaired.

Air Conditioning. Just as you readied your furnace for fall, now is the time to make sure that air conditioning units are in good working order for the warmer months ahead. Change the filter, check hose connections for leaks, and make sure the drain pans are draining freely. In addition, vacuum any dust that has settled on the unit and connections; over time it can impact the air conditioner’s effectiveness. If you suspected problems with the efficiency or performance of the unit last summer, now is the time to call in a professional to check it out.

Attics. Search for signs that indicate insects and critters have colonized. Also, search aggressively for mold, which often takes the form of “gray or black blotches that look like staining,” according to Tim Gentry, vice president of technical services, DaVinci Roofscapes, Kansas City, KS. Proper insulation and good ventilation will deter mold growth in the attic, so take action now to prevent the problem from developing in the warmer months ahead.

Basements. The basement—prone to dampness and insects—must be part of any thorough seasonal maintenance effort. Dampness suggests higher than normal relative humidity, inadequate ventilation and the need for a dehumidifier. Check the base of poured-concrete walls. “Cracks start from the bottom up, not the top down,” Niles points out. “If there’s water penetration, it’ll show at the bottom of those cracks.” And be sure to use a flashlight to examine exposed framing. “If you see even a quarter-inch or so of tunneling on the wood,” says Niles, “call a pest control company immediately.”

Leaks. Spring is a good time to check for leaky faucets, clogged drains and sweaty pipes. Check under the kitchen and bathroom sink to make sure connections on pipes and hoses are properly sealed, and look for any wetness around the dishwasher that could signal an existing or potential problem. The same is true of your laundry room; check washer machine hoses for cracks, bulges or dampness. The same is true for hot water heaters, which may show sign of corrosion and leaks.

Lawns. Rake the lawn to remove any branches, debris and leaves that you might have missed in the fall; if left, they can suffocate the grass beneath. During the winter, soil compaction, along with chemical changes altering your soil’s PH, may have left your lawn vulnerable to weed growth and other issues. Even if you can’t see weeds, they are more than likely waiting for optimum conditions to propagate. If you want to prevent them from germinating, consider an organic herbicide; fertilizers are better suited to the fall.

Make sure outdoor water systems—pipes, faucets, and in-ground sprinkler systems—are in working order. Once the ground thaws completely, start preparing new garden beds for summer plants. And take stock of your garden tools and lawn-maintenance equipment, including lawn mowers, trimmers and hoses.

Decks and Patios. Look for warped, loose or splintered boards, and do a good sweep to remove any leaves and debris accumulated in the space between boards. “Whether it’s wood, plastic or composite, a deck should be cleaned every year to extend its life,” says Chuck Harris, owner, Custom Lumber Manufacturing Co., Dothan, AL. If the finish on your wood deck is faded or worn, now is the time to clean, stain, and reseal it. If you have composite decking, follow manufacturers’ recommendations on seasonal care. The same is true for wood and composite fences, pergolas, trellises and other structures. If you have a stone patio, a simple hose down provide be all the maintenance required (unless you detect moss or staining, in which case a more serious cleaning may be necessary).

Outdoor Furniture. If you stored your lawn furniture for the winter, bring it outdoors and give it a hose rinse, or wash it with a mild detergent. For metal furniture, check for signs of rust or paint erosion; a simple remedy of spray enamel will prevent further damage from sun, rain and humidity in the months ahead.

Grills. If your gas grill has remained idle over the winter months, check burner jets for clogs and obstructions, and be sure that gas hoses and connections are sound and secure. You’ll also want to check for propane. For charcoal grill owners, make certain your grill is clean of ash and free of grease residue. It’s a good habit to adopt throughout the grilling season, not just in the spring.

Beautiful Yard Basics

EARLY SPRING Repair winter damage. Treat with pre-emergence crabgrass killer, insecticides; fertilize and reseed if necessary.

LATE SPRING Kill broadleaf weeds; fertilize lawn and flowers.

EARLY SUMMER Water generously and often; fertilize and apply post-emergence herbicides and insecticides as needed.

LATE SUMMER Watch for sod webworms and other insects. Fertilize and water heavily.

EARLY FALL Seed and fertilize, prepare for winter by mulching and pruning various shrubs and trees.

Follow these guides and your yard will be the envy of the neighborhood.

Maintaining your Yard

Here are some ideas that will help you to have a more attractive lawn. Take the time to read them thoroughly-you can save time, money and effort. An attractive lawn can also help to increase the value of you home.

SEEDING YOUR LAWN

It’s best to seed your lawn in the fall, if possible. Of course, lawn seed can be sown at other times of the year. But fall is the ideal time for seeding to rejuvenate an existing lawn or to start a new one.
In most parts of the United States, an existing lawn should be reseeded in late August or early September. This gives the new grass seed time to grow during the cool fall days.
Before reseeding thin or bare spots, rake the lawn thoroughly with a broom rake. Use a heavy-duty broom rake with looped spring braces between the handle bar and spacer bar for this type of lawn raking. Broom rakes are available with either flat steel or wire teeth.
A multi-purpose rake – sometimes called a double-duty rake – may be ideal for removing a heavy build-up of thatch on your lawn (see image above). The rake’s sharp teeth on one side will easily remove the thatch. The flanged teeth on the other side make it easy to pulverize the soil in preparation for reseeding.
After the lawn has been thoroughly thatched and raked, the thin and bare spots will be more easily visible. Loosen the soil in any of the bare spots to a depth of about 1″ or more with a speedy cultivator or some other type of handy soil-loosening tool (see image).
After loosening and pulverizing the soil in the bare spots, sprinkle the newly prepared area with the proper amount and type of lawn fertilizer. Then, rake it level.
If the bare spots have been compacted by heavy traffic, loosen the soil to a depth of about 6″. Then, pulverize the soil and add a small amount of peat moss or gypsum to help keep it loose after the reseeding.
When the soil is thoroughly loosened and leveled, reseed with a top-quality seed. Select a grass seed mixture that is specially prepared for the type of location you are reseeding. For example, some seed mixtures work well in shady areas, while other mixtures are made for reseeding sunny areas. Ask a salesman in your local retailer’s lawn and garden department to help you select the correct seed.
Reseed the bare spots by hand (see image). Reseed the area sparingly – only about six seeds per square inch will survive. Sowing the seed too thickly simply wastes seed and money. After the seeds are sown, spray the area with a ligh mist of water.
Your new grass will get off to a much faster start if you cover the reseeded areas with clear sheets of polyethylene plastic. This covering keeps the moisture in the soil and eliminates the need for constant sprinkling. Secure the edges of the plastic sheet with small rocks, dirt or stakes (see image).
Take care to remove the polyethylene cover when the first seedlings appear. The cover helps the seeds until they germinate, but it will kill all seeds quickly unless it is removed when you see seedlings. After removing the cover, keep the soil moist by spraying it with a light mist two or three times a day until the grass is about 1″ high. Continue to water newly seeded areas about once a week until the new grass is about 3″ tall.

STARTING A NEW LAWN

Sometimes it’s necessary to start a totally new lawn or to completely rebuild large areas of an existing lawn. In these cases, prepare the seed bed with a rotary tiller or some other type of digging equipment (see image). Take time to prepare the soil thoroughly to a depth of about 6″. If the soil is compacted, mix in peat moss or gypsum to keep it loose. This will help the roots of the new grass to survive.
Prepare the seed bed by raking it thoroughly and removing all stones, sticks, etc. Break up all dirt clods so the new seed will have a good chance to grow (see first image below).
Reseed the area with a mechanical seed spreader (see second image below). Reseed at the rate recommended on the package of seed you’re using. In most cases, no raking is required after seeding, although certain types of seed need a light raking.
Lightly sprinkle the reseeded area two or three times a day if the reseeding is done in hot weather (see third image below). Repeat this daily watering until the new seedlings are about 1″ tall. After the new grass has reached this height, water it thoroughly about once each week until it’s ready for the first mowing.

PLANTING TREES AND SHRUBS

Good grass is important, but it is only one element in a beautiful lawn. Grass can be enhanced by attractive trees, shrubs, flowers, etc. Although trees and shrubs are hearty plants, they must be planted correctly to survive.
The first step in planting trees and shrubs is to give them plenty of room (see image). Make the hole in which the tree or shrub is to be planted wide enough for the longest root to be laid into it without crowding. A rule of thumb is to make the hole in which the tree or shrub is to be set one-half again as large as the diameter of the roots of the plant.
You can save yourself considerable cleanup time by piling the soil dug from the hole onto canvas or plastic sheets. This also prevents the piled dirt from killing or damaging the grass around the hole.
It’s a good idea to mix some peat moss into the soil when replacing it around the newly set plant or tree.
If the shrub or tree is in a container, dig the hole at least 2″ deeper than the root in the container (see image). Loosen the soil below the root and add a small amount of plant food.
Remove the shrub or tree from the container and lower it into the hole. Refill the hole with thoroughly loosened soil. Then, form a mound with additional soil around the edge of the newly dug hole. This provides a basin to hold water until the plant is thoroughly rooted in the new location.
If the tree or shrub is a bare-root plant, unwrap the roots of the tree after the hole is dug and place it in position. Hold the plant upright with a spading fork while you tamp the loose dirt around the roots (see image). Always set the shrub or tree about 2″ lower in the ground than it was originally set before replanting.
Use plenty of water when resetting balled or bare-root plants. Fill the basin around the tree and let the water soak in thoroughly. After one complete soaking, resoak it again.
Water is essential to a new shrub or tree in the first few days after replanting. Keep the hole wet during this period. Be sure to build up a basin arrangement to keep water on the plant for several days. Water your newly planted shrub or tree every week to 10 days during a dry spell.
After replanting the tree or shrub, trim it to the shape and size desired. Pruned limbs will heal faster if you make slanting cuts just above the bud (see image). Spray pruned areas with special pruning spray immediately after trimming to deter insects and disease organisms.
Protect the new plant against injury and disease by covering the lower part of the tree trunck with a tree wrap. Start the wrap just above the roots and a little below soil level. Continue wrapping to just below the lowest limb (see first image below). Hold them in position with cords.
Keep the soil loosened around the new plant and give it a good start by feeding it lightly with plant food. Soak the food into the soil by watering (see second image below). Feed any new plant with plant food in the spring and fall until it reaches maturity.
You can create interesting clumps of trees by tying different varieties together and setting them out in bunches (see third image below). Hold them in position with cords. The cords will rot away quickly after they are placed in the ground. Follow all other planting instuctions when trees or shrubs are planted in clumps.

PLANTING ROSE BUSHES

Plant your rose bushes in an area that receives a minimum of six hours of sunshine each day. Dig the hole for planting large enough to give the roots plenty of room (see image).
It may be wise to add peat moss or some form of compost to the dirt in the hole before planting the rose. Sand should also be added if the soil is extremely moist.

Examine the roots carefully after the plant is placed in the hole (see image). Trim back dead or broken roots with a hand pruner.
Use top soil to form a cone in the bottom of the hole where the rose bush is to be planted. Spread the rose roots evenly over this cone. Again, make sure the hole is large enough to provide adequate room for all rose roots.
Set the rose bush at the proper depth. Most healthy rose bushes have three strong shoots coming up from the root system (see first image below). Cover the knot just below these three shoots to a depth of 1″.
Pack the soil firmly around the roots of the rose bush (see second image below). Fill the hole with water and allow it to soak in. Then, refill the hole again.
Prune the rose bush after planting (see third image below). Prune hybrid tea roses back to lengths of about 6″ to 8″. Trim floribundas to lengths of approximately 4″ to 6″. Spray all pruned areas with a special pruning paint to prevent damage from insects and disease.
Build a mound around the newly planted rose bush with loose soil of top grade.

TOOL AND MATERIAL CHECKLIST Polyethylene Sheets Rotary Tiller
Pruning Shears Garden Hose
Tree Wrapping Materials Peat Moss or Gypsum
Speedy Cultivator Pruning Spray
Fertilizer Work Gloves
Spading Fork Broom Rake
Hand Cleaner Lawn Rake
Double-Duty Rake Garden Hose Nozzle
Lawn Seed Garden Cart or Wheelbarrow

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Check your state and local codes before starting any project. Follow all safety precautions. Information in this document has been furnished by the North American Retail Hardware Association (NRHA) and associated contributors. Every effort has been made to ensure accuracy and safety. Neither NRHA, any contributor nor the retailer can be held responsible for damages or injuries resulting from the use of the information in this document.

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