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Tag Archive | "water"

Make your water work harder this year

_Car-Road-trip-tire-tips2(NAPS)—Many homeowners looking to maximize the efficiency of their outdoor water use turn to drip irrigation systems as a solution for keeping weeds, diseases, garden pests, scorching heat and high water bills at bay. Drip irrigation systems are easily set up by even a novice gardener and will deliver an immediate water savings as they place the exact amount of water slowly and evenly at the plant’s roots—where it’s needed most.

Here are some drip basics to help you save water:

1. Start by estimating the water needs of your plants. Knowledgeable and helpful staff at a garden center can assist you in determining just how much water your plants need to be healthy. Different plants will have different requirements depending on their variety and the conditions of your yard, such as sun exposure and soil type.

2. Drip systems can either be incorporated into an existing automatic sprinkler system or through a manual connection to an outdoor hose faucet. A manual hose-end connection can also be easily automated by using a battery-operated timer such as the Rain Bird Electronic Garden Hose Watering Timer.

3. For optimum performance, keep your water pressure under control with a pressure regulator. These simple devices keep your water pressure in the ideal range of within 20 to 50 psi. Drip systems are most efficient when operating at the correct pressure.

4. Include a filter in your system to prevent clogging. Drip uses smaller diameter openings than traditional sprinklers, so tiny bits of dirt and debris may clog your system if you don’t use a filter. The good news is that filters are relatively inexpensive and easy to install.

A well-designed drip irrigation system will lose practically no water to runoff, deep percolation or evaporation. Steady, consistent watering can also lower plant stress, which leads to healthier and happier plants while lowering your water bill.

Rain Bird, a global leader in irrigation technology, offers an online step-by-step guide to drip irrigation in addition to interactive demos and a drip calculation program to help homeowners and contractors design and schedule drip irrigation systems correctly. You can check it out at www.rain bird.com.



Posted in Diggin' SpringComments Off

Ranger Steve’s Nature Niche

National Bird Feeding Month (Part 3)


OUT-Birdfeeding-month-eastern-bluebirdsWater is available in Little Cedar Creek within one hundred feet of feeders at Ody Brook. I do not provide additional water near the feeding area. Heat probes are sold to keep birdbath water from freezing and available for wildlife. It is a nice benefit for people to have liquid water viewable from the house as an added opportunity for bird watching.

Principle food choices were described in the last Nature Niche article but a broader variety is available and offers valuable options to benefit birds and you. I suggest people focus on benefits for birds but some friends contend bird feeding is to bring birds into view for our pleasure. Whatever your motivation, it can be beneficial for birds and humans.

Finches in particular like thistle seeds so placement of a feeder in close view is desirable. You may not have a good tree or sturdy eve for hanging a feeder, but steel shepherd’s hooks can be placed in the ground and come with varying numbers of hooks. In winter we hang feeders and in summer hang flowerpots on them for year round enjoyment.

Peanut butter is favorable for birds like cardinals and woodpeckers but squirrels find it great. Place peanut butter in a two-foot long two-inch wide log with recessed notches that have been drilled about a half-inch deep. It is good to have a rough surface for birds to grip or even better to place dowels below the feed cavities for easy perching.

People asked when should hummingbird feeders be taken down. The best response is before they freeze. Hummingbirds migrate and people suggest that some will stay too long and die if feeders are kept available. Experts suggest this is not true. Keeping hummingbird feeders available to December may help late or misdirected migrators. Unexpected hummers show up during migration season. We observed a western Rufous Hummingbird at a feeder on the last day of December during a Christmas Bird Count. It was visiting the feeder for a couple weeks prior to our viewing.

Locally, Penny Folsom raises mealworms and places them on a platform feeder for Eastern Bluebirds. The bluebirds appreciate the special gift of protein. There are those that think animals cannot be appreciative or experience emotion. After observing feathered neighbors many of us have learned that they have greater depth than some may be willing to accept. Pet owners know the animals they live with experience joy and sadness. Birds also have greater capacity for feelings and learning than some people are willing to accept.

Cracked corn is a favored ground feed. Choose finely cracked corn and add white proso millet. This will attract more ground feeding birds but may draw European Starlings and House Sparrows as well. I try to discourage non-native species by not using ground feed and am quite successful with our yard landscape and choice of feed. Enough sunflower and suet fall to the ground to satisfy ground-feeding birds. Milo seed is used as inexpensive filler in some mixed seed bags but it is largely thrown to the side and wasted. Bread is a poor food with bulk but little nutrition and should be avoided.

Some people report towhees at their feed this winter but none have come to mine. One reason might be that I do not provide ground feed. The best advice is to experiment with various feed types and then use what attracts the species you want to encourage in your landscape. A coming Nature Niche will address landscaping for wildlife.

Of course, budget is always a critical factor. Make sure your kids are fed but be benevolent and help wild neighbors when possible.

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, 616-696-1753.

Posted in Featured, OutdoorsComments Off

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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