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Spring weather has bears on the move

Cutline: Bird feeders are an easy source of food for hungry bears in the spring. Photo courtesy of the Michigan DNR.

Cutline: Bird feeders are an easy source of food for hungry bears in the spring. Photo courtesy of the Michigan DNR.


Bird seed and trash attract hungry bears

Spring is here, which brings warmer temperatures, longer days and wildlife emerging from their winter homes. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources reminds residents that black bears are among those animals that are now awake and have left their dens.
At this time of the year, wildlife officials receive many calls about bear sightings and bears damaging bird feeders, trash cans and grills.

“Bears are hungry,” said DNR bear specialist Kevin Swanson. “They are looking for food after spending months in their dens. While we might not think of bird feeders and trash cans as food sources, a hungry bear certainly may.” Bird seed especially is attractive to bears because of its high fat content and easy accessibility. Once bird feeders are discovered, bears will keep coming back until the seed is gone or the feeders have been removed.

“The majority of complaints we receive about bears in the spring involve a food source. The easiest thing people can do to avoid problems is to take in their bird feeders and store other attractants like trash cans inside until garbage pickup,” Swanson said. “Once the woods green up, bears tend to move on to find more natural sources of food, as long as they haven’t become habituated to the bird seed or garbage cans.”

Bears that are rewarded with food each time they visit a yard will remember these food sources. This can create an unsafe situation for the bear and become a nuisance for landowners if a bear continuously visits their yards during the day and repeatedly destroys private property in search of food.

“We ask landowners to do their part by eliminating the food sources in their yards,” said Swanson. “Given time and no food reward, a bear will move along on its own.”

Anyone who is experiencing problems with bears and has removed food sources for a period of two to three weeks, but has not seen results, should contact the nearest DNR office and speak with a wildlife biologist or technician for further assistance.

Learn more about Michigan’s black bear and how to prevent potential problems by visiting www.michigan.gov/bear.

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Late freeze impacting spring lawn care

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DIG-Late-freeze-impacting-spring-lawn-care(Family Features) Despite the official start of spring, much of the northeast remains covered with snow from the harsh, record breaking winter storms. In addition to being frustrating, late freezing can actually cause extensive damage to your lawn.

The lawn care experts with TruGreen know the proper techniques that must be taken to keep your lawn away from freeze damage. Here are some tips to help yard owners do what they can to help their lawns recover and have a green spring and summer.

Watch for snow mold: Extended periods of snow cover create ideal conditions for snow mold to develop and spread. The damage can be most severe in areas where snow had been piled or accumulated due to drift. Snow mold symptoms begin as small spots 1 to 3 inches in diameter. Grasses are generally matted within the patches. In some cases, small brown or black fungus may be visible on the grass blades. There are different varieties of snow mold; gray snow mold has a slimy appearance and may expand up to 2 feet with a gray-white halo, and pink snow mold patches are typically reddish-brown and then tan. Fortunately, even when damage appears widespread, your lawn can usually recover quickly from gray snow mold with a few practical steps. However, pink snow mold can cause more serious and long-lasting injury to grass roots and may require more homeowner intervention, especially if cool, wet weather continues in the spring.

Get raking: Homeowners need to take action as soon as snows melt and the ground begins to warm to prevent snow mold from causing permanent damage. Use a simple leaf rake to rough up the matted grasses around the snow mold patches. This will improve air circulation and stimulate new grass growth. The recovery should be fairly quick and routine lawn care should be all that’s needed to bring a lawn back to good health. In some cases, applying a fertilizer can accelerate the recovery.

Lower mower on first run: Once the snow is clear and you can mow your grass, try lowering your lawn mower blades for a closer cut for the first mowing of the season. This can help to improve air circulation and stimulate new grass growth.

Plan ahead: It’s never too early to plan ahead for future lawn care. Yard owners can take precautions in the fall to prevent a reoccurrence of snow mold next spring. The fact is, snow mold damage is likely to reoccur if not managed. Practice proper mowing practices throughout the season and keep mowing until the turf stops growing. Going into winter, tall or improperly mown turf grass provides the ideal climate for snow mold development. It is also important to clean up leaves in the fall and manage thatch accumulation with aeration if necessary.

In addition to these tips, remember that you should never apply any lawn care product to your grass, shrubs or trees until you determine if it’s the right treatment for your yard’s specific needs. Once you do, you’ll be ready to enjoy the fun of living life outside with your family and friends all season long.

For more tips for a better lawn, visit www.trugreen.com.

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Create a healthy ecosystem in your yard

PHOTO SOURCE: (c) Ruud Morijn - Fotolia.com Invasive weeds, such as the Purple Loosestrife, can out-compete native species.

PHOTO SOURCE: (c) Ruud Morijn – Fotolia.com
Invasive weeds, such as the Purple Loosestrife, can out-compete native species.

(StatePoint) This season, help promote a healthy ecosystem by learning to identify and control damaging plants and insects in your yard.

Information about common invasive species and backyard invaders is now being offered by Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment (RISE):

Invasive Plants

Invasive weeds can out-compete native species, changing the local ecosystem. Many varieties, first introduced as flora to plant in gardens, can be confused with similar, native varieties. Here are two common damaging ones to watch out for:

• Purple Loosestrife, native to Europe and Asia, is found in most states. One plant can produce more than two million seeds annually.

• Native to China, the Tree-of-Heaven was widely planted as an ornamental plant for many years and is often confused with other trees having similar leaves, such as black walnut, butternut, and most sumac.

Invasive Insects

Invasive insects can also have a severe negative impact on native species by out-competing them for food and resources. Many also cause and carry disease and prey on native species. Two common ones to look out for include:

• Emerald Ash Borer, native to Asia, is prominently found across the Northeast, Midwest, and Southeastern United States. The larvae do the most damage, killing ash trees by feeding on the inner bark.

• Zebra Mussel, native to lakes in southern Russia, is found in hundreds of waterways throughout the United States. The species commonly clog water intakes, damage boats, and can cause cuts and scrapes if they grow on rocks, swim rafts, and ladders.

Backyard Pests

Did you know native plants and insects can cause damage too?

• Ticks can transmit Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Left untreated, Lyme disease infects the joints, heart, and nervous system. After time spent outdoors, check for ticks, especially in and around your ears, inside your belly button, behind your knees, around your waist, on your scalp, and in your hair.

• Mosquitoes can carry West Nile Virus. While most people may show few symptoms, 20 percent of people develop a fever along with headaches, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea or rash, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Follow the “three Ds” to protect yourself: Drain standing water; Stay indoors at Dusk and Dawn; Dress in long-sleeves and pants; and use DEET-based mosquito repellent.

• Poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac can lurk in backyards. Almost 85 percent of people develop a rash when they come into contact with these weeds.

Control poisonous weeds long-term by carefully digging out the plants while wearing waterproof gloves or treating with a pesticide.

Defend your local ecosystem by identifying exotic plants in your garden or yard. Spot invasive weeds and insects in your area? Let your county extension office know, which may have a monitoring and management program in place.

For more lawn and garden tips, visit www.DebugTheMyths.com.

By being aware of invasive species and other pests in your area, you can help support native species and a healthy ecosystem in your own backyard and neighborhood.

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How to plant your garden from scratch

For true green thumb bragging rights, grow your garden from scratch. Just be sure you know the tricks of the trade.

For true green thumb bragging rights, grow your garden from scratch. Just be sure you know the tricks of the trade.

(StatePoint) Planting a garden from scratch can sound like a daunting task, especially for those who are new to the hobby. But with the right knowledge, you can plan a successful, fruitful green space and expect to have a great harvest.

One way to get a head start on your garden is to start your seedlings indoors and then transplant them later into an outdoor garden. This time-tested technique can save you hundreds of dollars annually, as young plants at a nursery can be pricey. Here are some tips and tricks to make the most of this method:

• Don’t start your indoor plants too soon. They can grow in about four weeks or less if you use a high-quality garden starter. Check seed packages to learn when to plant outdoors in your area, and then start them indoors one month earlier to your transplanting date outdoors.

• Consider using a seed-starting system that takes some of the gardening guesswork out of the equation. For example, the Aerogarden Seed Starting system allows you to start up to 66 seedlings indoors with no dirt or mess, nurturing seeds with optimal amounts of water and nutrients for reliable germination and healthy growth.

• Add new nutrients to the seedlings every two weeks and keep the water at full level. Feeding your plants more than the recommended amount will not make them grow faster. In fact, it could hurt the plants.

• Before transplanting, seedlings need to be hardened off. Skipping this step will almost certainly result in some or all of your plants dying. Hardening off seedlings eases their transition to the outdoors, where they will be exposed to the elements. The process involves gradually exposing plants to the outdoors, protecting them from full sunlight, temperature variations and wind.

• Don’t let sprouts get too big before transplanting them outdoors. Ideally they should be about 4-6 inches tall. If possible, wait to plant your seedlings on a cool, cloudy day. If your seedlings get too large before weather will allow transplanting outdoors, transplant them into small pots with high quality potting soil. Keep fully watered in a sunny space until weather permits transplanting outdoors.

• After transplanting seedlings outdoors, be sure to water them daily for the first two weeks, especially if the weather is dry and sunny.

• Save and reuse your seed starter tray for the next season. Once the spring plants have been transplanted outdoors, you will be free to get a head start on your summer crop.

More tips to start your own seedlings can be found at www.Aerogarden.com.

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Is your yard wildlife-friendly?

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(StatePoint) Being a good neighbor means more than being friendly to the humans across the street, it also means being friendly to the animals in your yard. Making your yard a safe place for local wildlife should be a top lawn care priority.

With that in mind, here are some tips for creating a healthy habitat for local critters.

Be a Valuable Rest Stop

Stock your garden with small native species of trees, shrubs and flowers to give wildlife needed nourishment, as well as cover from predators.

A source of water can also be a great resource for visiting fauna. Whether it’s a pond or a bird bath, be sure this zone is well-maintained so you don’t inadvertently create a haven for unwanted species. In the warmer months when mosquitoes are most active, you should change the bird bath water even more often.

Promote Safety

A bird feeder in your backyard, full of water and seeds, will be the perfect invitation for beautiful migrating and local birds to stop by.

Just be sure your property is safe for birds. Unfortunately, birds don’t see clear glass. As a result, millions of birds die every year by striking glass. Don’t let your sliding glass doors or other windows become a death trap for birds.

To protect birds, apply special decals that reflect ultraviolet sunlight. For example, those from WindowAlert have the appearance of frosted glass, but glow like a stoplight for birds, so you don’t have to compromise your own view out your window. The brand also makes a high-tech liquid called WindowAlert UV Liquid, which should be applied between decals.

“Wildlife can beautify your garden and be a sign that your yard is healthy” says Spencer Schock, founder of WindowAlert. “But birds and other wildlife need food, shelter, and safety.”

Get out the binoculars! With a few small actions, you can make your yard or garden a wildlife refuge.

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Simple steps to seed starting success

Gardening expert Melinda Myers

Gardening expert Melinda Myers

By Melinda Myers

Get a jump on the growing season by starting your favorite or hard to find plants indoors from seeds. Starting hard to find plants, like many of the heirloom or newly introduced varieties, from seed may be the only way you will be able to add these to your garden. Plus, you’ll be extending the growing season and bringing the fun of gardening indoors.

All you need is a little space, a few supplies and, of course, seeds to get started. Check the back of your seed packets for planting directions. Most recommend when and how to start seeds indoors, as well as any other special care the seedlings will need.

Purchase, recycle or make your own containers from newspaper. Sanitize used pots by dipping them in a one part bleach and nine parts water solution and then rinsing them with clean water.

Fill the containers with a sterile well-drained potting mix or seed starting mix. Once the containers are filled, plant the seeds according to the seed packet directions.

Increase success and encourage even growth by growing seedlings under artificial lights.

Increase success and encourage even growth by growing seedlings under artificial lights.

For most seeds, plant them twice their diameter deep and gently water. Continue to water often enough to keep the soil slightly moist. Extend the time between watering and increase your seed starting success by covering the container with plastic. Or purchase a seed starting kit, like the self-watering Growease seed starter kits.

Move your containers to a sunny window as soon as the seedlings emerge from the soil. Turn plants often to encourage even growth. Or increase your success by growing seedlings under artificial lights. You can make your own light system or purchase tabletop, shelf units or easy to assemble light systems, like Stack-N-Grow (gardeners.com). Keep the lights four to six inches above the top of the seedlings for best results. As the seedlings grow, be sure to maintain this distance by simply raising the lights or lowering the containers.

Move overcrowded seedlings to larger containers once they have two sets of true leaves. The first leaves that appear are rather indistinct and are called seed leaves. The next set of leaves look more like the mature plant’s leaves and are called true leaves. Once the next set of true leaves forms, it is time to transplant overcrowded seedlings.

Use a fork or spoon to carefully lift out the seedling. Clusters of seedlings can be dug and carefully teased apart before planting in individual pots. Be careful not to pinch and damage the young tender stems.

Place seedlings in their own clean container filled with moist sterile potting mix. Plant the young plants at the same depth they were growing in the original container.

Thin seedlings started in individual containers as needed. If you planted several seeds in each small container remove all but the healthiest one. Prune the weaker seedlings to ground level, so the remaining seedling can develop into a strong transplant for the garden.

Continue to grow your plants in a sunny window or under artificial lights and water thoroughly and often enough to keep the soil slightly moist.

Soon it will be time to move your homegrown transplants into the garden.

Gardening expert, TV/radio host, author & columnist Melinda Myers has more than 30 years of horticulture experience and has written over 20 gardening books, including Can’t Miss Small Space Gardening and the Midwest Gardener’s Handbook. Myers’ web site, www.melindamyers.com, offers gardening videos and tips.

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Top 10 most often forgotten spring cleaning steps

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(BPT) – Spring is a great time to clear out the old, bring in the new and welcome a fresh start. From coast to coast, consumers are eager to usher in new home decor and air out spring attire; however, the areas of one’s home that are the hardest hit during the winter months – floors and carpets – are often overlooked.

If you’re thinking of skipping your carpet cleaning for a vacuum session, think again. According to the homecare experts at BISSELL, vacuums, even the best ones, simply can’t reach the deeply imbedded dirt within your carpet’s fibers. The carpet cleaning process is engineered to reach the dirt and allergens vacuums leave behind. Incidentally, although carpet cleaning does so much more than vacuuming, the actual process itself is about as easy as vacuuming.

“Deep cleaning is a must for washing the winter out during spring cleaning. After cleaning their carpets, people are often amazed by what they’ve pulled out of their carpets and how different their carpets look – it can be a very eye-opening, yet satisfying experience,” says Eric Hansen, chief chemist at BISSELL.

Get out the serious cleaning supplies, stretch your scrubbing muscles and tackle those hard-to-reach places you ignore most of the year so you can be the envy of all your houseguests. Be sure to review the top 10 spring cleaning steps that often fall to the wayside:

1. Safety first: Don’t forget to change batteries in all smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors; and inspect all light fixtures for damaged wires or faulty connections. Remove and wash light fixtures if necessary.

2. Wash the washing machine: Run an empty load, one cycle filled with 4 cups of bleach, the other with 4 cups of distilled white vinegar.

3. Dust refrigerator coils: Want to lower your energy bill and extend the life of your fridge? Always unplug your refrigerator before dusting the refrigerator’s coils.

4. Clean out your cabinets: Wipe down the inside and outside of medicine and linen cabinets. Throw away expired products, including medicine, makeup and hair products. Update your first aid kit.

5. Deep clean carpets and rugs: Vacuum, spot treat and deep clean your carpets and rugs. Liquid solutions such as the BISSELL Professional Deep Cleaning with Febreze Formula contains Scotchgard protection that can be used with any BISSELL deep cleaner. It works by placing a barrier on the surface of carpet fibers to not only deep clean and freshen, but also protect against future stains.

6. Sanitize children’s and pets’ toys: Toys can carry harmful bacteria on their surfaces. After cleaning toys with warm water and a mild detergent, sanitize plastic toys by soaking them in a solution of equal parts vinegar and water. Donate or discard toys where needed.

7. Breathe easy: Clean your air vents and change your furnace filters if necessary.

8. Let in more light: Cleaning blinds can seem like a daunting task but it doesn’t have to be. Mix equal parts of warm water and distilled white vinegar in a bowl. Slip a sock on your hand and dip the sock into the water and vinegar mixture. Wipe down each individual slat and rinse sock after every few slats.

9. Dust from high to low: Dust the ceiling, corners of walls, ceiling fan and light fixtures. Use a lint roller to easily clean dust off your lampshade.

10. Wash your windows: After the direct sunlight has subsided, remove your window’s screens and dust with a soft-bristle brush. Spray on your favorite window cleaning solution and wipe down with a lint-free cloth.

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Call 811 before digging

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Installing a mailbox or fence, building a deck and landscaping are examples of digging projects that should only begin a few days after making a call to 811. Nearly half of American homeowners will not call 811 before digging, according to a recent national survey by Common Ground Alliance (CGA), the association dedicated to protecting underground utilities and the people who dig near them

Here’s how it works:

1. One free phone call to 811 makes it easy for your local one-call center to notify all appropriate utility companies of your intent to dig. Call a few days prior to digging to ensure enough time for the approximate location of utility lines to be marked with flags or paint.

2. When you call 811, a representative from your local one-call center will ask for the location and description of your digging project.

3. Your local one-call center will notify affected utility companies, which will then send professional locators to the proposed dig site to mark the approximate location of your lines.

4. Once all lines have been accurately marked, then roll up those sleeves and carefully dig around the marked areas.

For information about 811 or the one-call utility notification center in your area, visit www.call811.com.

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Spring cleanups start soon

 

By Judy Reed

As the weather warms up and residents begin to spring clean, some municipalities are offering drop off sites to help get rid of the clutter. Check out the list below to see when it’s offered in your area.

Algoma Township: Spring cleanup days are Wednesday, April 22, through Saturday, April 25. Dumpsters will be available at the township hall at 10531 Algoma Ave. Hours will be Wednesday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday, 8 a.m to 3 p.m. No shovel offs or loose trash allowed. No liquids, no hazardous waste (no paint, oil, fuel, gasoline etc.) No brush or yard waste, no cement.

All tires must be cut in half, propane and fuel oil tanks must be cut in half. Fencing must be folded or rolled up. Barrels must have one end open or be full of holes. Will also collect E-Waste at the same location (cell phones, computers, TVs, stereos, speakers, etc.). Call the township for more info 866-1583. Or download their cleanup notice at http://www.algomatwp.org/CLEAN_UP_NOTICE_w_monitors.pdf.

City of Cedar Springs: The annual brush pickup will be Monday, April 27. Please have brush out by 6:00 a.m. and neatly stacked as close to the curb as possible. No brush larger than six inches, tree removals or stumps will be picked up. They will make one pass through town.

There is no longer a spring trash cleanup date. Check with your waste hauler for pickup.

Also note that the city will be flushing City hydrants on Friday, April 24. To avoid staining laundry, allow water to run until clear before washing white or light colored clothing.

Courtland Township: Spring cleanup dates are May 14, 15, from 10-6 both days and May 16, from 9-2 at The Courtland Twp. Hall, 7450 14-Mile Rd,  Rockford. Public must be able to unload; questionable large items are subject to rejection. Call the Township hall at 866-0622.

Nelson Township/Sand Lake: Spring cleanup is scheduled for Saturday, May 16, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 5th and Cherry Streets, near the water tower in Sand Lake. Identification required. Please present a tax bill or voter’s registration card and driver’s license. We accept appliances, sheet metal, auto parts and engines (liquid drained), aluminum and copper wire, fencing (flattened and folded), mattresses, furniture, carpeting, clothing, glass, etc. No garbage please. No hazardous or toxic waste. No yard clippings or brush. No shovel offs of shingles and drywall. For more information on what is permitted, contact the township at 636-5332 or check their winter/spring 2015  newsletter at www.nelsontownship.org.

One trailer/truck load per residence, no shovel-offs. Loose items must be boxed/bagged. Will also collect E-Waste at the same location. Please call the township for more info at 636-5332.

Sand Lake: See Nelson Township (above) for regular spring cleanup.

Solon Township: Spring cleanup dates have been set for two consecutive Saturdays, May 2 and May 9, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., at 15185 Algoma. One 5×8 trailer with 48-inch sides or one pickup box per household. All items should be boxed or bagged, 45 pounds maximum. Tires must be cut in four pieces, car or light truck only, limit four. Appliances such as washers, dryers, etc. will be accepted, but not appliances that used Freon  or other toxic chemicals. Call township for more info at 696-1718.

Spencer Township: Spring cleanup is Saturday, June 20, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dumpsters will be available at the township fire department, at the corner of Meddler and 18 Mile Road. Residents will be required to show proof residency. Tax bill, voter registration, or Spencer Township address on driver’s license. No shovel offs or loose trash accepted. Bag it, barrel it, or don’t bring it! All tires must be cut in half, propane and fuel oil tanks must be cut in half. Fencing must be folded or rolled up. Barrels must have one end open or be full of holes. Will accept freezers, air conditioners, washers dish washers, refrigerators, humidifiers, dryers, batteries at no charge. Mattresses and box springs accepted at $15 each.

No liquids, no hazardous waste (no paint, oil, fuel, gasoline etc.) No brush or yard waste, no cement, no shingles.

Recyclables must be taken to a recycle station at either Kent County Landfill on 10 Mile Rd, Rockford, or Pierson Landfill.

Call township for info at 984-0035.

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Pool Maintenance 101

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Simple tips to keep your pool clean

(Family Features) For many homeowners, there is nothing better than inviting friends over to cool off from the sun’s warm rays in the comfort of their own backyard pool.

But as every pool owner knows, keeping their pool clean and maintained for everyone to enjoy can take a bit of work. Here are some ways to keep your investment in its best shape all season long.

Keep up with shrubs

If your backyard pool sits near trees and bushes, be sure to keep them trimmed throughout the season. This will help avoid additional debris from flying into your pool, which can create extra cleaning work for you. If possible, consider replacing these plants with those that create less of a mess.

Clean the surface often

Get rid of unattractive stains at the waterline with a quality surface cleaner. For best results, use the cleaner with a pool brush and rub from the top of the waterline to a few inches below the mark.

Check levels regularly

Be sure to monitor your pool’s chlorine and pH levels at least twice a week. The best time to do this is in the evening and several hours after the last swimmer has left the pool. If a rain or wind storm has occurred, wait about eight hours before testing.

Reduce maintenance duties

Besides providing increased comfort to swimmers, more homeowners are choosing saltwater chlorinated pools for ease of use and reduced maintenance. If you’re looking to spend less time keeping your pool maintained, consider installing a saltwater chlorination system, which eliminates the need for buying, storing and handling chemical chlorine. Saltwater chlorinated pool owners also enjoy the benefits of less irritated skin and eyes, as well as a significant cost savings verses their chemical chlorine counterparts. To learn more about saltwater chlorinated pools, visit www.swimincomfort.com.

Run filtration system daily

Water in constant movement is less likely to collect debris, such as dust, body oils and bacteria. Be sure to run your filtration system as much as possible throughout the summer to keep water as clean and clear as possible.

Keep equipment tidy

Pool skimmers are used to pick up yard debris, insects and other undesirable items that can fall into the water. While skimming the pool is typically needed before every swim, you should also clean the skimmers on a weekly basis, or as needed.

A clean, maintained pool will help you get most from those carefree days of summer.

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