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Archive | Diggin’ Spring

Save time and energy with tips for smart home improvement

(ARA) – The weather is warm and the sun is shining, making it the perfect time to start your home improvement projects. Whether it’s a little tidying up, or a full-on home repair, some tips will help you complete your projects without a lot of headaches.

Winning the battle against rust

As the sun begins to shine brighter, imperfections around the house begin to appear. Metal products that haven’t been properly winterized or have simply been out in the elements too long can begin to show signs of wear and tear, and worst of all, rust. Combating rust can be a real challenge, and too often, people would rather toss out the rusty bench, garden tools or even the lawn mower and simply buy something new.
Protecting your items from rust is easy with a little help from the new Rust Protector spray paint from Krylon. It dries in just eight minutes, so you don’t have to worry about grass, leaves or other particles getting stuck in the fresh coat of paint. Plus, it provides the ultimate protection against rust, keeping your outdoor items looking like new, regardless of the elements they face.

Continue cleaning up outside

Give the outside of your house a little TLC. Start with the roof and gutters, since they’ve collected a lot of buildup and have experienced their share of wear and tear throughout the colder months. No one wants to spend hours dealing with inside water damage or worse—mold. Stop the drama before it starts by inspecting the roof and gutters and looking for damage such as holes, loose shingles or leaks.

And while you’re outside, give your siding a glance, too. While you were warm and toasty inside this past winter, the exterior of your house was getting a beating. Cold weather, snow, ice and even wind can cause problems to the siding, so be sure to address any issues quickly.

Check for a cool breeze

It’s probably been a few months since the air conditioner was turned on, making now the perfect time to check that it’s still running smoothly. Your air conditioner is important because it not only keeps your home cool during the hot summer; it also dehumidifies your house and keeps mold from developing inside the walls.

First, check the AC filters and replace them if they appear dirty, since a dirty filter can cause strain and damage to your air conditioner by making it work harder than necessary. Turn your air conditioner on for a test run; once it has been running for a while, check the refrigerant levels by feeling the pipe connected to your AC unit. It should feel cool to the touch; if it doesn’t, you may be low on refrigerant and will want to refill before the long, hot days of summer.

Make the inside sparkle

Outside projects shouldn’t get all your attention. As you move inside, start off with small cleaning projects so you don’t get overwhelmed. Scrubbing your bathroom, vacuuming your carpets and dusting every inch of the house can take some time, which most of us don’t have. Simple tasks such as cleaning one room a day, clearing off cluttered countertops as you walk into the kitchen, creating an organization system and donating unused products to charity can get your house clean in no time.

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Tabletop gardens are edible centerpieces

(ARA) – Do you want to have fresh vegetables but don’t have room for a full garden? Tabletop gardens are a fun and decorative way to expand into new planting opportunities.

Growing your own produce elevates the popular buying-local trend to a new sphere. Starting your very own edible garden can be a fun and economical way to serve the freshest herbs, greens and vegetables. For those seeking more gardening space beyond the backyard, “table-top” gardening is the new container gardening solution.

Container gardening for produce offers gardeners ways to grow all sorts of plants indoors and out. For example, decorate a table or bench inside your home with beautiful pots, filled with scented herbs or even crisp lettuce greens. Put your creativity to good use and find containers you can easily recycle—old serving bowls, pots, or even watering cans and juice containers. Drill a hole or two in the bottom of containers for drainage, or simply place the plants in a smaller plastic container inside that you can take out when watering. That old cooking crock or ceramic bowl has a new and purposeful life.

If you have a deck or patio, you can expand to larger containers, and thus, larger plants like tomatoes and peppers. If space is limited, see if your local garden center carries any dwarf vegetable varieties. Also, keep in mind that vining plants like cucumbers or squash can be grown up out of containers by simply placing the pot near a fence or trellis for vertical support.

Remember the delight herbs bring to your menus. Herbs are easy to grow both indoors and out, and adapt extremely well to containers. If you are an herb garden beginner, try the Miracle-Gro Culinary Herb Garden, which contains everything needed—potting mix, a pot and seed disks—to grow herbs on a window sill or on your kitchen table.

To help beautify your garden, consider mixing in edible blooming flowers. Pansies and violets are two beautiful and delicious blooms that can be tucked right into container gardens. In order to eat these flowers, they must be grown from seed. Both varieties grow well in the cooler spring and later fall months. These blooms not only add a mild sweet flavor to salads, candies and teas, but also add decoration as well. Other edible flower options are nasturtiums and carnations.

Starting a table-top or container garden is a great way for any homeowner to get into the gardening spirit. Soon you will be inviting friends and family over to enjoy delicious meals with vegetables and herbs grown in your kitchen or back patio.

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CURB APPEAL from the ground up

Jason Cameron, licensed contractor and TV host, says that color plays an important role in boosting your home’s curb appeal.

Family Features

 

When it’s time to sell your home, you want to do everything you can to make it enticing to potential buyers. One of the most important things you can do is boost your home’s curb appeal.

In fact, the National Association of Realtors says that curb appeal sells 49 percent of all homes. To help you build curb appeal from the ground up, TruGreen and Jason Cameron, licensed contractor and TV host, have teamed up to give you some simple, doable tips to improve your lawn and landscape.

 

Water Right

 

Improper watering can be a big drain on curb appeal. Check the working condition of sprinkler heads and water lines to make sure they’re working properly. To ensure your manual or automated watering system covers the landscape efficiently, set a one-inch deep empty food can in the middle of your lawn so you can measure the depth of water collected each watering cycle. In addition:

• Don’t over water. Watering too much can result in shallow plant roots, weed growth, storm water runoff, and the possibility of disease and fungus development. Give your lawn a slow, steady watering about once a week. Adjust your watering schedule depending on rainfall, as well as your grass and soil type. Trees and shrubs need longer, less frequent watering than plants with shallower roots.

• The best time to water is early morning, between 4 and 7 a.m. This helps reduce evaporation, since the sun is low, winds are usually calmer and temperatures cooler. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says that you can lose as much as 30 percent of water to evaporation by watering midday. Always be mindful of local water restrictions.

• Take advantage of rain. Let nature water your landscape as much as possible. Rain barrels are a great way to harvest rain for watering your plants later on – and it saves you money on your water bill, too.

 

Complement With Color

 

Create an instant pop of color to help your home’s curb appeal bloom this spring. Consider your home’s exterior when selecting flowering plant combinations for plant beds, window boxes or front porch planters. With a white house, any color combination will work well. With a yellow house, red or pink blooms tend to complement best.

Here are some other colorful tips to keep in mind:

• For a calming effect, use cooler colors like blue, green and purple. They blend into the landscape for a peaceful look.

• Bold colors add excitement to the landscape. Warm yellows, oranges and reds make the garden lively. Yellow reflects more light than other colors, so yellow flowers will get noticed first.

• To brighten up a dark or shady corner, use pale colors, like pastel pinks and yellows.

• Not all color needs to come from flowers. Foliage can be a great landscape enhancer, so look for colorful grasses and plants like silvery lamb’s ear, variegated hostas, and Japanese painted ferns.

 

Grass vs. Weeds

 

Weeds are plants growing where you do not want them to grow. They can be unsightly in both your lawn and landscape beds.

Grassy weeds can be subdivided into annual and perennial grasses. Annual grassy weeds, such as crabgrass and annual bluegrass, are generally easier to control than perennial grassy weeds like dallisgrass and bentgrass. Left uncontrolled from seed, crabgrass alone can choke out desired turfgrasses and develop ugly seed heads in the summer and fall that lay the groundwork for next season’s crop.

No matter what your weed problems are, a lawn care approach that works in one region of the country doesn’t necessarily work the same in another area.

According to Ben Hamza, Ph.D., TruGreen expert and director of technical operations, TruGreen will design a custom plan to provide your yard exactly what it needs to give your lawn the right start.

“We offer customized lawn care designed specifically to meet your lawn’s needs throughout the year based on climate, grass type, soil condition and usage. And we back it up with our Healthy Lawn Guarantee,” Hamza said.

 

To get more tips, and to watch Jason Cameron in seasonal webisodes on curb appeal on behalf of TruGreen, visit www.TruGreen.com.

 

3 Ways to Boost Curb Appeal for Under $100

 

Want to add curb appeal, but don’t have much money to spend? Here are some simple things you can do for under $100.

• Clean up the yard. Put away unused items, like lawn furniture. Clear leaves and branches out from under shrubs, other plants, and the house foundation. Make sure the lawn is free from debris and that grass clippings are not left on the driveway or sidewalk. Borrow or rent a power washer to clean off the driveway, steps, sidewalk and porch.

• Trim, prune and divide. Overgrown plants can block light from getting inside the house, and they make the house and yard look unkempt. Trim shrubs, making sure to remove dead branches. Get rid of dead or diseased plants in the landscape. If you have perennial plants that have gotten too big, divide them and plant them in other places around the landscape.

• Add new mulch. Mulch not only helps your plants, but it gives garden beds a neat and tidy finish. Wood mulch comes in different colors, but to showcase your plants the most, consider a dark brown mulch – it resembles fresh, healthy soil, so your eyes are drawn toward the plant and not the mulch itself.

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Five spring steps for a beautiful summer yard

(Family Features) Think ahead with a good yard-care routine this year so you’ll have a backyard oasis through the year for entertaining or simply relaxing and enjoying the hazy, lazy days of summer with family and friends. There’s simply nothing that compares to running barefoot through the lush green grass, here are some tips to get started:

Fertilizers with slow release nitrogen produce long lasting green lawns.

1) Begin with a good spring clean up, which includes raking leaves and removing debris, tree guards and burlap. Just be careful not to remove mulch from perennials or shrubs too early, or to rake your flower garden too vigorously. Doing so could damage the soil, tendering new bulbs and emerging plants.

2) Clean, repair, sharpen, lubricate and tune all of your garden tools, mowers and trimmers, so they are ready to go when you are.

3) Testing your soil is the starting point of any lawn fertilization program. Consider testing your soil each time you plant new seed. State Extension services and private labs offer kits that let you mail in soil samples for analysis. The reports will give you an accurate reading of what your lawn needs and how much of it should be applied. While tests don’t have to be done every year, they are a good idea every three or four years.

4) Control crabgrass, dandelions and clover, three of the most common weeds you’re likely to see trying to take hold in your lawn. Crabgrass is best tackled before it emerges from the ground and begins to grow leaves. Conversely, members of the broadleaf weed family—like dandelions, clover, plantain, chickweed, and spurge—require a treatment that comes into direct contact with the plant’s leaves, so they must be dealt with, once they’ve made their appearance known. Be sure to choose a product that is best suited for your region.

Look for lawn fertilizers with a slow-release nitrogen ingredient for strong roots and long lasting results. Once you get it on the lawn, you’ll be done for the season because the slow-release nitrogen provides your lawn with controlled, steady nutrition, resulting in thicker, healthier grass. That means no excess growth, and less mowing.

5) Set your mowing height at 2 1/2 to 3 inches and mow at the same height all growing season. Try not to remove more than 3/4 inch of grass at any single mowing. Whenever possible, mow during the cooler morning or evening hours to avoid damage to the turf.

For additional lawn care tips and more information about the complete GreenView with GreenSmart product line, visit www.greenviewfertilizer.com or call 1-800-233-1067.

 

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Cool new concepts for gardening

(ARA) – One of the driving forces in gardening is many American’s pursuit of healthier eating and greener living. This means that the new face of gardening has begun to change considerably in recent years. Today’s gardeners are younger and more urban than traditional gardeners, therefore, making unique impressions on the green world.

So, what’s cool about gardening?

From growing vegetables in the front yard to creating an edible wall of green on the balcony, gardening is not limited to just a half-acre plot in the country anymore. Now, gardeners use any space available for a garden, no matter how urban or small. The key is adding individuality or personality to the garden in the form of handmade sculptures, water features, bird feeders or even the variety of unique heirloom plants that are used. Sustainability is also very important. Plants that serve a dual purpose—like low-growing thyme used as a ground cover in a small area or a cucumber plant that has been trained to grow up a trellis as a green screen—are excellent examples of how many gardeners have transformed traditional ideas of gardening. Looking at gardening and plants in new ways can lead to some great discoveries, and may even increase the productivity of a green space.

How can you join in the gardening movement? Here are some helpful tips to get started.

Maximize space

Even if you only have a window, and no outdoor space, you can have a garden. An herb garden, can be grown on a window ledge in the kitchen. No ledge? No problem. Just hang a hook from the ceiling and grow your plants in a hanging basket. For those with little outdoor space, try container gardening on the patio or use an outside fence or railing to grow a vertical garden. Simply hang pots on hooks or create your own “living wall” using chicken wire, coconut fiber lining and a quality potting mix. Then, plant trailing produce or flowers and watch your wall grow. If you have a sunny space in the yard, create a small garden using the new Miracle-Gro Ultimate Raised Garden Bed. This easy-to-use kit snaps together and can easily be customized to fit in nearly any space. Simply add nutrient-enriched soil, like Miracle-Gro Expand N Gro or Potting Mix, and plant the garden on a patio, deck, rooftop or balcony.

Redefine terms

Produce plants are for vegetable gardens and landscaping plants are for the front yard, right? Not necessarily. The great thing about gardening is that the only necessary rules are the ones Mother Nature created: plants need sunlight, water, food and soil with good drainage. Other than that, do not be afraid to mix it up. Plant vegetables in the front yard, use strawberries in a hanging basket or plant an herb for groundcover along a path. Tomatoes will grow beautifully next to marigolds and sage will add a nice contrast when grown in a container alongside yellow daisies. Grow what you like that will thrive in your climate, even if it is not what your neighbors are growing.

Stay true to yourself

If your favorite color is blue, then plant blue flowers. If you love salsa, then plant a “salsa garden” by using tomatoes, cilantro, onions and jalapenos. Add your own touch and make it personal. The materials used can represent your style and add interest in the garden as effectively as what is planted. With adequate drainage, even an old toolbox can come to life with some potting soil and impatiens. Collect stones and small objects with kids to make garden sculptures or bird feeders that the whole family can enjoy. Green plastic bottle caps can be turned into ornamental “trees” and grandma’s cracked tea cup could become a bird feeder with a little imagination. If you have extra produce, make sure to share it. Friends, neighbors, family and even many local food pantries will take donations of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Experiment

Although gardening can be seen as a science, it should also be looked as an art. Gardeners should feel free to experiment and express themselves through their gardens. Let your green space reflect your home, your interests and your individuality. Make it a tradition to try at least one new thing every year and you may be surprised how much you learn along the way.

 

 

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Gardening workshop

The spring gardening season has begun, and Kent Conservation District is asking landowners to please consider using native Michigan plants when planning landscape projects. KCD and Founders Bank are hosting an educational Native Plant Gardening Workshop at our office on May 9, 2012 from 6-8p.m. Our presenter will be Vern Stephens, who is our grower for the native plant sale. He will provide a beautiful presentation with practical advice and garden plans. Information about themed gardens, such as pollinator gardens, and gardens specific to sunny or shady sites will also be available. Suggested donation is 5$, please RSVP to reserve your seat. You may still place orders at the workshop for the sale on May 12. Details on our website at: www.kentconservation.org.

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Spring Lawn and Landscape Tips

From yard work and pest control to cleaning and taking care of home systems, there’s a lot that goes into maintaining a house. Everything Home offers practical tips and expert know-how to help anyone take good care of their home.

 

(Family Features) A beautiful landscape doesn’t happen on its own. You can help your lawn, trees and shrubs get off to a healthy growing season.

“Trees and shrubs add tremendous appeal to our urban home environments, but to thrive, particularly out of their natural world, they require regular care with added nutrients and protection against invasive pests,” said Ben Hamza, Ph.D., director of technical operations at TruGreen.

Here are some lawn and landscape tips to help you take care of your yard this spring.

Clean Up: New spring growth can be hampered if it’s covered with debris. Clean out dead leaves, branches, trash or anything else that could impair your lawn’s growth.

Prune Properly: Corrective pruning of your trees and shrubs can make them not only look better, but help them grow better, too.

• Don’t top-shear overgrown shrubs or trees – thin them out to preserve their shape.

• Spring-blooming plants like azaleas, rhododendrons, forsythia and lilacs should only be pruned after they flower.

Put the Right Plants in the Right Place: When you’re ready to plant new plants, make sure you put them where they’ll thrive.

• Be sure you know the light requirements for a new plant.

• Fences or other structures can restrict air flow, which can interfere with growth.

• Make sure you have the right type of grass for your lawn. Wherever grass has a hard time growing, plant shady ground covers instead.

• If you’re considering sod, make sure the temperature is warm enough for grass growth. Firmly pack sod into the soil and water as needed to encourage deep root growth.

Nourish the Roots: Spring lawn, tree and shrub roots seek nourishment after the dormancy of winter.

• Make sure your early spring fertilizer has less nitrogen and more phosphorus to promote strong roots. Consider a professional company, such as TruGreen, which will design a custom plan to give your yard exactly what it needs.

• Be sure to keep fertilizer on target to prevent run-off, and sweep fertilizer granules that may reach pavement back onto your lawn.

Get Ready to Water: Give your lawn a slow, steady watering about once a week, but adjust depending upon rainfall, grass and soil type in your area.

• Follow the owner’s operating manual to take an automated sprinkler system out of hibernation. Ensure sprinkler heads and related water lines are working properly.

• Make sure the irrigation system covers your landscape efficiently. For example, you can place a one-inch deep, empty food can in the middle of the lawn area to measure the depth of water collected after each watering cycle to ensure uniformity.

Mulch the Right Way: Mulch can keep soil in place, reduce weeds and retain moisture. But you need to make sure you’re doing it right.

• When the soil has warmed up, apply three inches of organic mulch to base of shrubs and trees to help conserve soil moisture and to reduce weed pressure. But be mindful not to cover the flare of the tree base in mulch “volcanoes,” which can lead to rot.

• When your lawn is actively growing, return grass clippings back to the soil for added lawn nutrients and consider using composted materials to nourish plants.

For more tips, visit www.TruGreen.com.

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Bird feeder battles: winning the war against squirrels

(ARA) – For bird lovers, the sight of a bushy tail hanging off the side of a feeder means just one thing: war.

Sure, squirrels have to eat, too, and no one wants to harm the persistent critters. But that doesn’t mean you have to put up with squirrels scarfing down the seed you put out for the birds, damaging your feeders and bumping up your blood pressure. It’s possible to discourage squirrels – and even outsmart them – with the right seed mix and some nature-friendly squirrel-control tactics.

Plant the seed. Birds, like people, are selective—even picky—when it comes to food. Seed is the best option to attract the most birds to your feeder. Unfortunately, squirrels also love seed. And while birds will sort through mixed seed to find what they like and ditch the undesirable filler, like red milo, on the ground below the feeder, squirrels are not so picky. They’ll eat the cast-offs on the ground and then move on to the good stuff in the feeder, and devour that, too.

To entice birds, avoid brands that wash or coat seeds with chemicals and mineral oil. Look for brands manufactured by companies that focus on bird feed, like Cole’s, rather than treat it as a sideline business. Some feed mixes are full of cheap filler seeds, crop leftovers and the lowest quality oil sunflower. Cole’s uses only high quality seeds, and each blend is designed to attract specific groups of birds.

Taste aversion. Serving seed that birds find delicious, but squirrels consider down right distasteful, is an effective way to keep squirrels out of bird feeders. Check out a squirrel-proof birdseed blend that uses hot spicy flavor to repel squirrels. Cole’s offers “hot” products that are designed to appeal to birds while dissuading squirrels. Its Hot Meats blend infuses top-quality sunflower meats with a Habanero chili pepper and Safflower oil that birds find delectable, but squirrels simply detest. Or, you can opt to add Flaming Squirrel Seed Sauce to any Cole’s blend. It’s a safe, effective and human way to feed birds and thwart squirrels. You can learn more at www.coleswildbird.com.

Squirrel-proof your bird feeders

Another option is to try to make your feed less accessible to squirrels, although that can be hard to do since squirrels are smart problem-solvers. You may find the best results from a combination of methods, including:

* Locate feeders far from trees, wires, porches or other launching points to make it more difficult for squirrels to reach the feeder. Remember, squirrels can jump distances of 10 feet or longer. Mounting feeders on a smooth metal pole at least 6 feet high with no surrounding branches or bushes within 12 feet may also work.

* Place a wire cage around the feeder with openings just large enough to admit birds but too small for squirrels to fit through. This can also help keep larger birds, such as starlings or pigeons, from accessing the feeder.

* Try specially designed feeders that have doors which close when triggered by a squirrel’s weight on the feeder. The doors keep squirrels from reaching the seed. And if you’ve had plastic feeders gnawed to destruction by squirrels, try switching to metal which they’ll be less likely to chew through.

 

 

 

If you can’t beat ‘em …

 

Sometimes you just can’t win the war and the squirrels refuse to leave. Or maybe you have a soft spot for those fluffy-tailed felons. When you can’t convince squirrels to vacate your yard, another option is to serve them something they’ll find even more appealing than bird seed. If you can lure them away from your feed, squirrels can be an amusing addition to your backyard landscape.

Squirrels love whole, dried corn-on-the-cob and loose dried corn. Cole’s offers Critter Munchies, a blend of whole yellow corn, striped sunflower, peanuts in the shell, black oil sunflower and raw peanuts. Serve on an open platform-style feeder. Or place an ear of dried corn on a stick. A stake or pinecone can be coated with peanut butter.

Set up your squirrel feeding station away from bird feeders and make it as easy as possible for the squirrels to access their feeder filled with temptations like nuts, corn and berries.

If you can make peace with the squirrels, these intelligent characters and their antics can be a welcome sight in your backyard.

 

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Spring wildlfowers

Mary Scramlin, of Courtland Township, sent us photos she took of the lovely trillium and bluebells in Aman Park, west of Grand Rapids, in Ottawa County.

“I love nature. It speaks to me in ways nothing else can,” said Mary, “and taking photos helps me really pay attention to details I normally wouldn’t see. When I took the bluebell photos I also saw a family of owls—that was really special. But I didn’t have a long lens along to get good photos and the mother was very insistent I leave the area, so I did!”

Thanks, Mary, for the beautiful photos!

Do any of you have photos of the flowers in our area? Send the photos along with a brief explanations to news@cedarspringspost.com.

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Get your garden growing

Four tips for starting a garden

(Family Features) The popularity of gardening is growing. In fact, according to the National Gardening Association,* more than 70 percent of all U.S. households participate in one or more type of do-it-yourself outdoor lawn and garden activity, with flower and vegetable gardening topping the most popular activities.
If you haven’t joined the millions of Americans who enjoy gardening yet, this year is your chance. Whether you want to start a garden as a new hobby to beautify your yard or to enjoy the fresher tastes of home grown vegetables, getting started can be easy.
Here are some expert tips from Black & Decker to help you start your own garden this spring:
•    Know the Lay of the Land – Assess the gardening conditions in your yard before you dig your first hole or plant your first seed. Conditions such as sun, shade, soil type, climate and moisture levels are all key factors to consider when creating your gardening plan.
•    Prepare Your Soil – Healthy soil translates to better plant growth, so be sure your soil has the nutrients it needs to flourish. Talk to a representative at your local home and garden center for tips on choosing the right type of fertilizer based on the soil and the plants you’re growing.
•    Choose and Care for Plants Expertly – Once you’ve prepared your gardening space, you can begin to explore plant options available. To prevent the discouraging cycle of trial and error gardening with new plants, try Black & Decker’s new PlantSmart digital plant care sensor, a revolutionary gardening tool that provides expert advice for growing and maintaining all types of plants and flowers, both indoors and out. Its reusable, water-resistant sensor uses patented technology to measure key environmental information from sunlight and temperature to moisture, soil conditions and more. Your readings are then uploaded to your personal PlantSmart online account and combined with real-time climate and horticultural information from your local area, for a foolproof gardening experience. This tool will help ensure you are choosing and growing the right plants in your new garden.
•    Take the First Dig – When you’re ready, dig a hole that is slightly bigger and deeper than your plant’s roots, and gently place the plant in the prepared hole. Pat the surrounding soil down firmly, but don’t pack it, and be sure to leave enough space between plants. If using seeds, refer to the package’s directions to gauge the soil depth needed for proper growth; drop the seeds in and place soil firmly on top.
Armed with expert advice from Black & Decker and its new PlantSmart tool, your garden is sure to be a success this year.
For additional tips, and to learn more about PlantSmart and other innovative outdoor products from Black & Decker, visit www.blackanddecker.com or www.rechargeyouryard.com.
*National Gardening Association’s 2010 National Gardening Survey; page five

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