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Archive | Home and Garden

10 reasons to love your lawn

DIG-10-reasons-to-love-your-lawn(BPT) – As summer approaches and your thoughts turn to home improvement and the outdoors, you’re probably considering a variety of ways to make your home more comfortable, more attractive and more environmentally sustainable – while hopefully increasing its value as well. One feature that can achieve all these goals is a healthy lawn.

Perhaps surprisingly, installing and maintaining a natural turf lawn is one of the best home improvement investments a homeowner can make. If you’re weighing your options and wondering whether a lawn is worth the effort, consider the following 10 benefits.

1.  Outdoor recreation: An inviting, low-maintenance outdoor space can provide a significant boost to your quality of life. From picnics and games to lounging in the shade with a drink and a good book, a lawn offers the perfect setting for outdoor entertainment and relaxation.

2. Increased home value: Grass makes a home more appealing. A well-maintained lawn is recognized as such a desirable feature to potential homebuyers that it can boost a home’s value by as much as 15 percent, according to a Gallup survey.

3. Excellent return on investment: When it comes time to sell your home, good landscaping can give you a much higher return on your investment than many other home improvement projects. According to a Gallup survey, you can generally expect to recover 40 to 70 percent of the cost of building a deck or patio, while landscaping can offer a 100 to 200 percent return.

4. Stress relief: Grass areas are naturally calming and stress relieving, and the visual appeal contributes to improved mental health and better quality of life. The healing power of nature can work its magic even in your own backyard.

5. Urban benefits: In cities, grass absorbs noise and provides a beneficial link with nature. Studies have shown that well-maintained lawns also promote greater community pride and deter littering and vandalism.

6. Cooling: On hot days, grass is much cooler than cement, asphalt and dirt, which trap heat. And grass doesn’t just stay cool to the touch – it cools the atmosphere as well. Each blade acts as an evaporative cooler, and by transpiring water to cool itself, grass also cools the environment, reducing the energy requirements for air-conditioning in buildings surrounded by lawns. According to the academic professionals with Grass Seed USA, the front lawns of eight average-size homes have the same cooling effect as the air-conditioning systems of about 20 homes.

7. Conversion of carbon dioxide to oxygen: Trees may be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, but all plants absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen. According to the academic professionals with Grass Seed USA, a lawn of just 50 square feet releases enough oxygen to meet the needs of a family of four.*

8. Natural weed control: If you want a relatively low-maintenance landscaping option for an area of bare ground, try grass. A healthy lawn discourages the growth of weeds, and grass will easily outcompete other plants when you create the conditions that favor it.

9. Erosion prevention: Grass is one of the most efficient and inexpensive ways to prevent erosion caused by wind and water. A thick lawn absorbs rainfall, virtually eliminating any runoff, and the extensive root systems of the individual grass plants bind the soil more effectively than many other ground covers.

10. Self-repair: A lawn is naturally self-repairing. If you choose the right grass for your climate conditions and lawn use patterns, it will be highly resilient and regenerate quickly in response to stresses such as drought, frost or foot traffic.

“There are many reasons to love your lawn,” says Bryan Ostlund, executive director of Grass Seed USA, a coalition of American grass seed farmers and turf specialists. “Whether you want a safe place for the kids to play or a welcoming outdoor space for a barbecue, grass fits the bill. It’s a remarkably easy and budget-friendly way to add aesthetic, recreational and economic value to your home.”

 

 

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Eco-friendly Weed Control in Lawns

Photo credit: “Melinda Myers, LLC.”  
 Prostrate Knotweed is frequently found growing next to walks and drives or other high traffic areas.

Photo credit: “Melinda Myers, LLC.”  

Prostrate Knotweed is frequently found growing next to walks and drives or other high traffic areas.

by Melinda Myers

Don’t let lawn weeds get the best of you. These opportunistic plants find a weak spot in the lawn, infiltrate and begin the take over your grass. Take back the lawn with proper care.  Your lawn will not only be greener and healthier, but good for the environment.

The grass and thatch layer act as a natural filter, helping to keep pollutants out of our groundwater and dust out of our atmosphere. They also reduce erosion, decrease noise and help keep our homes and landscapes cooler in summer. And a healthy lawn is the best defense against weeds.

Start by identifying the unwanted lawn invaders. Use them as a guide to improve your lawn’s health and beauty. Weeds appear and spread when the growing conditions are better for them than the grass. Correct the problem to reduce the weeds and improve the health of your lawn. Killing the weeds without fixing the underlying cause is only a temporary solution. Unless the cause is eliminated the weed problem will return.

Here are a few of the more common weeds, the cause and possible solutions for managing them out of the lawn.

High populations and a variety of weeds mean you need to adjust your overall lawn care practices. Mow high and often, removing no more than 1/3 the total height of the grass at one time. Leave the clippings on the lawn in order to return water, nutrients and organic matter to the soil. This along with proper fertilization using an organic nitrogen slow release fertilizer with non leaching phosphorous, like Milorganite, can greatly reduce weeds.

Knotweed and plantains often found growing next to walks and drives or other high traffic areas can also be found in lawns growing on heavy poorly prepared soils. These weeds thrive in compacted soil where lawn grasses fail. Reduce soil compaction and improve your lawn’s health with core aeration.  Aerate lawns when actively growing in spring or fall. Or replace grass in high traffic areas with permeable pavers or stepping stones to eliminate the cause.

Nut sedge is a common weed in wet or poorly drained soils. Improve the drainage to  manage this weed. It may mean core aerating the lawn and topdressing with compost, regrading or the installation of a rain garden to capture, filter and drain excess water back into the ground.

Clover and black medic mean it’s time to get the soil tested and adjust fertilization.  Both thrive when the lawn is starving. Clover was once included in lawn mixes because of its ability to capture nitrogen from the atmosphere and add it to the soil.  If these weeds are present, boost the lawn’s diet starting this spring with a low nitrogen slow release fertilizer. It feeds slowly throughout the season, promoting slow steady growth that is more drought tolerant, disease resistant and better able to outcompete the weeds.

Creeping Charlie, also known as ground ivy, violets, and plantains usually get their foothold in the shade and then infiltrate the rest of the lawn. Take back those shady spots by growing a more shade tolerant grass like the cool season grass fescue or warm season St. Augustine grass. Mow high and fertilize less, only 1 to 2 pounds of nitrogen per growing season, than the sunny areas of your lawn. Or replace the lawn with shade tolerant groundcovers. Adjust your overall care to reclaim and maintain the rest of the lawn.

Crabgrass and Goosegrass are common weeds that follow a hot dry summer. Mow high to shade the soil and prevent many of these annual grass weeds from sprouting. Corn gluten meal is an organic pre-emergent weed killer that can help reduce these and other weeds from sprouting. Apply in spring and fall applications to reduce weeds by as much as 80% in three years.

And, when mowing this year, consider an electric or push mower to manage your lawn in an even more eco-friendly manner.

Gardening expert, TV/radio host, author & columnist Melinda Myers has more than 30 years of horticulture experience and has written over 20 gardening books. Myers’ web site, www.melindamyers.com, offers gardening videos and tips.

 

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Own your outdoors: Best practices for spring lawn maintenance

DIG-lawnmowing

(BPT) – The warming weather is Mother Nature’s gentle reminder that it’s time for plants to wake up from their winter slumber and for homeowners to begin yard maintenance again. Being proactive and preparing in the spring for the long growing season ahead will help ensure your lawn gets the best care possible and that you won’t work harder than necessary.

To maintain a healthy lawn, there are a few important steps to take at the start of spring. Consider these tips from the lawn equipment experts at Husqvarna – the world’s largest producer of outdoor power equipment – to help you achieve the best-looking lawn possible.

DIG-AWD-lawnmowerRead up: Every mower is different, so it’s important to check the owner’s manual for a list of recommended annual maintenance tasks and then complete them before the first mow.

Tune up: Handy homeowners may decide to tune up their mowers themselves, but many people choose to visit an authorized dealer for a tune-up. If you go the DIY route, remember to follow all safety messages and instructions in the owner’s manual. In addition, use factory-recommended parts and oil, and always inspect filters and spark plugs. This is a great time to sharpen the blade as well.

Gas up: If you have gas from last year, it’s probably a good idea to dispose of it properly and get a fresh supply. You’ll need only enough to last 30 days and should keep it in an airtight container. Make sure to use 89-octane gas with an ethanol content no higher than 10 (E10). Gas with a higher level of ethanol can damage power-tool engines.

Get a grip: Advances in lawn mower technology have made it easier than ever to efficiently cut and maintain your lawn, even if you have a challenging yard. All-Wheel Drive (AWD) mowers are gaining popularity, and Husqvarna now offers three new AWD mowers. For example, the HU675AWD is powered by a 675 Kohler engine, features a heavy-duty steel 2-in-1 cutting deck, a straight over-mold bail system, a full auto-choke and a mulch and rear bagging system, all starting at $299 at Lowe’s Home Improvement or online. Find a dealer nearest you at www.husqvarna.com/us/dealers/dealer-locator.

Cut one third: When it’s time for the first mow (and any mow throughout the year), it’s important to cut no more than one third of the grass blade. This keeps the root system strong and will help minimize weed growth.

Plant seed: Have a few bare spots? Spring can be a great time to plant grass seed before the hot summer months arrive. Mild weather and higher levels of moisture throughout the country generally make spring a good time for grass seed to germinate and thrive. Consider using a starter fertilizer when you plant the seeds to provide an extra boost of nutrients.

Safety first: Spring is a good time to revisit the importance of lawn mower safety. For riding lawn mowers, never give children rides or allow them to play on the mower, even when it is not running. Children must be at least 16 years of age to operating a riding mower, always monitor your speed and use extreme caution when going in reverse. Look behind and around the mower before proceeding. For walk-behinds, always push the mower away from your body, never mow wet grass and do not mow in the dark.

Use interactive controls: Many riding lawn mowers will stop the engine and cutting deck when the driver leaves the seat or put the transmission in reverse giving owners peace of mind. Additionally, Husqvarna’s SmartSwitch ignition – a new operator interface – lets users enter a keyless code for safe and simple engine activation. Furthermore, lighted icons indicate the status of the parking brake, battery, headlights and ROS (Reverse Operating System).  To learn more, join the conversation on Facebook (www.facebook.com/HusqvarnaUSA) and Twitter (www.twitter.com/HusqvarnaUSA).

 

 

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Tips for a Bountiful Backyard Garden

SPR-Tips-for-backyard-garden1

(Family Features) The benefits of having your own backyard vegetable garden are plentiful, and can include significant lifestyle impacts, such as healthier eating habits, money saving perks and more.

A Relaxing, Healthful Hobby

Looking for a hobby that allows you to contribute to the health of your family? Take up gardening. Beyond producing nutritious foods, it can help you teach your family about local agriculture, all while basking in the tranquility of the great outdoors. Though starting your own home garden can be intimidating, there are a few simple steps to get you started. Once developed, it can yield fruits and vegetables from early spring and into the fall.

1) Do Some Research

Find out what vegetables grow best in your area and when is the right time to plant and harvest. Many local university extension programs have this information readily available online. For each plant, consider the amount of water needed, how much sunlight is required and if it should be started from seed or a transplanted seedling.

SPR-Tips-for-backyard-garden22) Choose a Good Spot

Keep in mind vegetables need at least six hours of sun each day, so plant away from the shade of buildings, trees and shrubs. Planting close to your house may make you more likely to bring your harvest right into your kitchen, and will help you remember to weed and water. Including rain and irrigation, your garden needs at least one inch of water per week. Make sure you can easily access a water supply nearby. Some products, such as an Ames NeverLeak hose reel, provide convenient hose storage and can easily reach all parts of your yard. Be sure to choose a level area of your yard so when watering it will not pool in lower areas.

3) Clear the Area

Use your garden hose or a string to mark the area for proper placement of your garden. Use a sod lifter or garden spade, keeping the area level and removing as little topsoil as possible. Next, use a round point shovel, such as the True Temper True American Round-Point Shovel, to dig into the soil about 12 inches, breaking it up and removing clumps. To encourage proper drainage and escape light freezes in early spring and fall, construct a raised bed by creating a border with wood slats and filling in with soil.

4) Prepare the Soil

Use a rake to create a smooth finish and remove debris or stones on the surface. You may want to add manure, compost or soil additives to provide additional nutrients in the soil.

5) Plant Your Seeds

Determine if you will be starting your plants from seeds or transplanting small seedlings. Be sure to research how much room each plant will need and plot the layout of your garden. Dig V-shaped furrows using a warren hoe or the edge of a garden hoe. Carefully distribute the seeds in the furrows evenly and in accordance with the instructions on the seed packet. Cover the seeds and pat down gently, then water thoroughly.

Use this information for a fruitful harvest this gardening season. For more tips, visit www.AmesTrueTemper.com or www.Facebook.com/TrueTemperTools.

 

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Tips to spring clean your deck and patio

SPR-Tips-to-spring-clean-deck-and-patio(StatePoint) It’s the time of year when sprucing up your deck and patio becomes a top weekend priority. Whether you use the space for entertaining or for solitude, you’ll want it clean, comfortable and safe this spring.

Take time to dust off your outdoor furniture and wipe down cushions that have been in storage all winter. Inspect flower pots, bird feeders and other outdoor décor to ensure they withstood the cooler months. Replace anything that is damaged.

Before setting furniture and décor back, give the surface below a good clean. Whether you’re dealing with cement, brick or wood, the quickest and most thorough way to deep clean and restore surfaces to a like-new condition is with a pressure washer. Knowing how to use one properly is important for a quality job and for your safety.

Usage Tips

• Different surfaces require different cleaning techniques. Ensure you’re following the instructions for the surface you’re cleaning.

• Always read and follow the operator’s manual and all operating instructions.

• High-pressure spray can cut through skin, so never spray people or animals. Wear closed-toed shoes and goggles while pressure washing.

• Assume a solid stance and firmly grasp the spray gun with both hands to avoid injury if the gun kicks back before squeezing the spray gun trigger.

• Never spray near power lines, service feeds, electrical meters, wiring and windows.

• Check the engine oil level each time you use a pressure washer. When changing or adding oil, don’t overfill the engine crankcase. Doing so can cause smoking, hard starting, spark plug fouling and oil saturation of the air filter.

Buying Tips

Buying a pressure washer for the first time or replacing an old one?  Here are some guidelines:

• Pressure washers are categorized in groups based upon frequency of use and the types of products and surfaces they are best suited for cleaning.

Selecting the right pressure washer for your needs depends on what you’re going to clean, how often you plan to do so, and how much time you want to spend. Ask yourself these questions before making a purchase.

• Look for a versatile pressure washer that can be used for a variety of tasks. For example, the new Briggs & Stratton POWERflow+ pressure washer has both a high pressure and a high flow mode for different spring cleaning chores. Deep clean your patio and driveway in high pressure mode or clean more delicate surfaces and rinse away debris in high flow mode.

• Consider going green with a model having reduced environmental impact. If you have an older pressure washer, a newer model could offer lower emissions and better fuel efficiency.

• Learn more about pressure washers before making an investment. For a buying guide and instructional videos, visit www.BriggsAndStratton.com.

With a deep clean, you can restore and refresh your home’s outdoor spaces and make them a friendly place to relax and have fun.

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Seasonal home maintenance tips that save time and money

SPR-Seasonal-maintenance-web(StatePoint) If you’re not careful, basic and seasonal home maintenance can cost you a pretty penny and a lot of time. Take steps to simplify these tasks.

Clean and Organize

Even if you use a professional cleaning service, you’ll still need some in-between maintenance:

• Divide clutter into three groups: junk, charity and undecided. Toss the first, give away the second and store the third until you decide whether it’s worth keeping.

• To reduce dirt, use only one entry door into your home and use doormats inside and outside.

• Clean the house and each room from the top down. Dust first, vacuum last. Scrub, wipe and polish in straight lines instead of circles. Squeegee windows and mirrors with an initial horizontal stroke across the top, then vertical strokes, wiping the blade after each stroke.

• Store basic cleaning supplies in an apron or bucket and carry them with you from task to task.

• Change furnace filter and replace vacuum bags monthly.

Don’t miss vents when you dust.

For more cleaning tips or to book a professional cleaning service to give your home top-to-bottom treatment, visit www.MerryMaids.com.

Cooling Costs

Want to reduce cooling costs? Follow these tips:

• Have air conditioning systems professionally inspected and cleaned before the season.

• Keep the area around the exterior condensing unit clear of obstructions to ensure adequate airflow.

• Clean or replace the air conditioner filter monthly to save up to 10 percent on your bill.

• Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for unit maintenance.

• If your air conditioning system breaks down, a home warranty can help protect you from unexpected repair costs. It covers the repair or replacement of many of the most common home system component breakdowns regardless of age, and can be purchased any time, not just when a home is bought or sold. Last summer, American Home Shield responded to nearly 700,000 requests for air conditioning repairs during record-breaking heat waves. To learn more about home warranties, visit www.YouTube.com/TheAHSTeam.

Fight Pests

Termites cause more than $5 billion in annual damage across the country.  Unfortunately, termite destruction can go unnoticed for years and is rarely covered by homeowners insurance.

“If you detect a termite swarm, it could mean your house has already suffered damage,” says Paul Curtis, Terminix entomologist.

While eliminating termites requires the help of a trained professional, there are ways to make your home less inviting to these wood-destroying pests:

• Fix roof and plumbing leaks.

• Clean gutters to avoid water accumulation near the foundation.

• Don’t pile mulch, firewood or soil against your house, which can hide termite activity and allow easy access into the home.

• Prompt treatment and annual inspections can save thousands of dollars in damage repair.

For more information on this year’s termite swarm season or to schedule an inspection, visit www.Terminix.com.

For more information on companies that can save you time and money on home maintenance, visit www.ServiceMaster.com.

By working smarter, not harder, you can save money and free your weekends to better enjoy your home.

 

 

 

 

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Spring cleanups start soon

By Judy Reed

 

SPR-Spring-clean-upsAs 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 23, through Saturday, April 26. 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.

City of Cedar Springs: The city will collect E-waste on Saturday, April 26, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., during the Earth Day cleanup. A dumpster will be located behind City Hall and manned by Rotarians. Bring all your electronic waste for disposal such as computers, monitors, keyboards, cell phones, radios, stereos, laptops, VCRs, TVs, modems, power cords, etc. Almost any electronic item, working or non-working, with a cord or battery, will be accepted. Computer hard drives will be wiped and destroyed.

The annual brush pickup will be Monday, April 28. 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 April 25. To avoid staining laundry, allow water to run until clear before washing white or light colored clothing.

Courtland Township: No spring cleanup, they have a fall cleanup in September.

Nelson Township/Sand Lake: Spring cleanup is scheduled for Saturday, June 14, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 5th and Cherry Streets, near the water tower in Sand Lake. 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. Will also collect E-Waste and metal at the same location. Please call the township for more info at 636-5332.

Sand Lake: Sand Lake will have a brush only pickup April 17-25. Pile brush along side of the road. See Nelson Township (above) for regular spring cleanup.

Solon Township: Spring cleanup dates have been set for two consecutive Saturdays, May 3 and May 10, from 9 a.m. to 4 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: Call township for info at 984-0035.

 

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Call Miss Dig before digging—it’s the law

At least three business days prior to conducting excavation on your property, contact MISS DIG at 1-800-482-7171 or 8-1-1 or by using E-Locate at missdig.net.

MISS DIG will notify the public utilities in your area so that they can locate and mark the approximate location of underground lines they own and operate within your proposed work area. For the purpose of clarification, it is not MISS DIG who marks the lines.

You will be required to answer some questions when you contact the
MISS DIG System, including:

Your name and phone number.

The contractor or person doing the work.

The geographical location (county, city, village, or township) of the work area.

The address where the work will be done.

Nearest cross streets to the work site

The type of work being done; for example, installing a fence or building a deck.

Information about the project area that identifies the boundaries for the utility representatives; for example, locate underground utility lines 100 feet from the north side of the house; locate underground utility lines in the entire yard; or locate underground utility lines in the front yard.

When do you plan to dig.

Utility personnel or their contracted locators will arrive on site and mark the approximate location of the underground lines. It is likely that more than one locator will mark lines prior to the dig-start date specified on your MISS DIG ticket.

As reminder: Utility companies will not mark private utility lines that run from the property to appliances such as; gas and electric lines to yard lights, grill, pool and spa heaters, detached garages, workshops or other similar areas. In addition, customers with irrigation/sprinkler systems or low lighting should also mark their own lines

If you have questions or concerns, please contact MISS DIG at 1-800-482-7171 or by dialing 8-1-1 and refer to the ticket number you received during your initial contact.

 

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Bringing life back into your yard and garden

SPR-Bring-life-back-webReturn of the green: Get your grass and garden growing again

(BPT) – Spring season is a time of regeneration and renewal as you prepare to bring life back to your lawn and garden. Taking the proper steps after seasonal changes or severe weather conditions can prove to be the difference between creating a breathtaking landscape or an outdoor space with unsightly mishaps. By following a few simple steps, you can take pride in your backyard year after year.

Inspect and replace your tools of the trade

The first step to creating an outdoor masterpiece begins with the proper equipment. You can’t very well dig, rake or mow with broken or dull materials, so now is the time to inspect each of your tools. Check your lawnmower and other garden essentials for signs of damage or rust. Making sure that your garden tools are in good condition at the start of the season will help establish the right foundation for a successful planting and growing season. “The right tools can make all the difference in creating a lawn that leaves a lasting impression,” says Alan Luxmore, host of A&E’s hit television show Fix This Yard. “Arm yourself with tools that are not only durable, but easy to use. Complete watering systems such as LeakFree by Nelson, offer a turn-key watering experience from start to finish, allowing gardeners more time to revel in their landscaping successes.”

Bring new life into the garden

Once your soil is permeable, it should be prepped for the upcoming planting season by removing dead leaves and plants that may have been left over from the previous season. Use a rotary tiller to break up and aerate hard soil. Once the old material has been removed from the work area and your soil is ready, begin planting your new plants, flowers, vegetables and grass. You can also help your trees, bushes and even certain plants have a more robust look by trimming them back to encourage new bud growth.

Establish a regular watering regimen

One of the most important steps to maintaining a healthy lawn and garden is providing it with the proper nutrients. Using a hose for daily irrigation seems simple but without the proper watering set up, your efforts could be futile. A proper watering guide and the following tips from the watering experts at Nelson can increase efficiency and bring you one step closer to creating a yard with envious curb appeal.

* Give your greens a thorough soaking once in a while to produce extended and robust roots.

* The best time to water is in the morning, when the air is cool and moist. The warmth of the sun and the rising temperature gently dries the grass and the leaves on the plants. And since morning air is damp, you don’t waste water through evaporation.

* Follow a regular watering schedule to discourage bugs by providing them with an inhospitable environment. Insects, with the possible exception of the water bug, aren’t terribly fond of water.

* To be certain your lawn is hydrated adequately when it has failed to rain, the standard rule of thumb is to sprinkle one inch of water per week.

* Use a complete guaranteed leak-free system such as LeakFree by Nelson in order to conserve water in drought conditions, save money and stay dry.

For additional watering and gardening tips, and to learn more about LeakFree technology, visit www.facebook.com/NelsonWateringAndGardening.

 

 

 

 

 

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Leaf Experiences

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

The best learning is a family experience with fun. I was raking leaves and thought about my girls helping or thinking they were helping. Then I thought about when I helped my dad rake leaves or thought I was helping. What I remember best from both experiences is that I jumped into the pile of leaves and buried myself and my girls jumped into the leaf pile and buried themselves.

A difference in our experiences was what happened to leaves—Earth Stewardship. In the 1950’s people up and down the block raked leaves into the road and burned them. My girls learned leaves make good compost and should not be burned. As mulch they decay and release nutrients into the soil or garden rather than into the air. We used leaves to spread on trails at Ody Brook to prevent dirt from getting in the soles of shoes.

A great experience helps kids observe the intricate natural world. They see details and gain basic knowledge, comprehend what they experience, apply experiences to life at home and in the community, analyze what is best, synthesize what they experienced to use for new unrelated purposes, and then evaluate the value.

The experience allows discovery. I did a leaf activity with students when I was classroom teacher and at the Howard Christensen Nature Center. In fall we found a sugar maple and each student collected ten leaves and then we found a silver maple and collected ten more leaves.

In the process the students learned to distinguish leaf similarities and differences for the two species. Learning more about adaptations for the species took us deeper into reasoning and mental development. Students compared the amount of substance in the two kinds of leaves to discover that silver maple leaves were lighter with less substance. They curled and shrivel more than the heavier sturdy sugar maple leaves. We weighed the leaves and found sugar maple leaves were heavier.

I shared that sugar maple leaves do not remove most of the nutrients from the leaves but allow nutrients to fall to ground in the leaf, where they rot under the tree to release nutrients for the tree’s use in spring. Silver maples ship a greater proportion of nutrients to the roots with the sap, and store it until spring for new growth. Both species have unique nature niche strategies for recycling nutrients. Silver maples are floodplain trees and their leaves wash away with spring flooding so nutrients would be lost if dropped with leaves. Sugar Maples are upland plants and their leaves stay near the tree and release nutrients to their own roots.

My dad, like most other dads, did not realize that releasing nutrients into the air by burning leaves contributes to air pollution and increased atmospheric carbon. I like fires and “some-mores” so we burn branches cleared during trail maintenance and make our “some-more” treats. We allow many to decay in the woods to replenish soil health. Most nutrients are in the small branches that decay rapidly so we leave those in the woods and burn some larger branches. We use large branches for brush pile construction for bird and mammal shelters.

Create family experiences and build relationships. Our kids are grown but I still desire help with projects at Ody Brook. I can use the help but more importantly I think it continues to build our relationship. Of course, their lives are full and busy but sometimes we still build relationships working together outdoors.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at the odybrook@chartermi.net Ody Brook, 13010 Northland Dr, Cedar Springs, MI 49319-8433.

 

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