Posted by JoAnn M. Drabble on 9/21/2017

 
 

Plant and fertilize in autumn to get a lush lawn come summertime.

Step 1: Spread the Fertilizer

Use a Spreader to Distribute Fertilizer or Inseticide

Apply fertilizer with a spreader, available at home stores. A walk-behind or motorized spreader is more accurate than a hand-held version. As you move the machine back and forth over the grass, grip the handle like a trigger and it releases pellets when you "shoot." Follow the instructions on the fertilizer package. Apply only the recommended amount. This is not a case of "If a little is good, even more is better" — too much fertilizer can burn your grass.


Step 2: Aerate the Lawn

Spiked Aerator Shoes

Provide some extra air for grass roots by aerating your lawn — taking out spikes of soil across your lawn to make holes for planting seed. Aerating is low-cost maintenance and even if it's the only thing you do for your yard, you should see improvement. There are motorized aerators for rent, or manual versions that work like pogo sticks, pushing out two plugs of soil at a time. The pogo-stick versions are good exercise, but beware: the motorized versions can require substantial upper body strength to use.


Step 3: Spread Cool-Weather Grass Seed

drop spreader

Purchase grass seed that says "cool season" or "cool weather" on the package, such as most fescues. Scatter it over the lawn with the same spreader you used for the fertilizer, or use a hand-held spreader for less fuss. Try to get the seed evenly distributed so you won't have clumps of grass later.


Step 4: Rake and Water the Lawn

Water Lawn after Fertilizing

Drag a rake over the lawn to break up soil clumps and cover the seeds a bit.

Water the lawn with the garden hose, using a nice gentle spray like rain. After that, keep the soil moist but don't overwater it or let it dry out. You may have to mow your lawn a few more times before the cold weather sets in, and you can also fertilize another time in a few weeks to help the grass grow. During the cooler months, you should see a lot of growth as a result of your labors.





Posted by JoAnn M. Drabble on 9/11/2017

 

October and November are good months to do some gardening and landscaping. Here are just a few things a gardener could -- or should -- be doing

SHNS-JoeLampl10-22-07

Lawns

If you have cool-season turf, like fescue or bluegrass, you are about out of time to renovate or overseed your lawn. However, if this is still on your to-do list, be sure your soil pH is around 6.0 to 6.5. A soil test from your county extension service can give you this information, as well as any additional nutrient requirements that might be needed, along with the appropriate amounts to add to your lawn.

However, these reports can take a couple of weeks to get back. Depending on where you live in the country, by then you may have missed your window for this season. Go ahead and add seed now if needed. You can add the required nutrients after you get your report. Keep new grass seed moist. You may have to water briefly several times each day until germination. Try to keep fallen leaves off the seeds without disturbing your seeds in the process.

Salad Garden Ideas

Vegetables

It's time to clean up the summer garden. Many pests and diseases over-winter in old plant debris. Get it out of your garden and into the compost pile, as long as it is not diseased. Otherwise, have it removed from your property.

Hopefully you're growing some cool-season crops right now such as broccoli, spinach and lettuce. Floating row covers do a great job of providing a few extra degrees of heat and provide frost protection for those tender young seedlings. Most cool-season crops can handle cooler temperatures than you might imagine, and many taste even better after a few light frosts. If you've never had a fall vegetable garden, you're missing a real treat.

Planting a Tree

Landscaping

Fall is absolutely the best time of year to plant any tree and /or shrub. The soil is still warm enough for roots to actively grow and yet the demand on foliage growth is waning. Trees and shrubs planted now have months to develop a healthy root system before the heat of next year.

Be sure to keep your new plants watered. The drying winds of the cooler weather can quickly dehydrate plants. Check the soil moisture often, and water when needed. For new plantings, provide water once a week in the absence of rain.

Look mom, no hands

Organic Gardening

Don't waste those fallen leaves. My single biggest job this time of year is rounding up all of my and my neighbor's leaves. As they say, one man's trash is another's treasure. My neighbors are glad to let me take their leaves off their hands.

I dump the leaves onto my grass, and run my mower over them. This shreds them into small pieces, which then get raked into my beds. They break down rather quickly and are a very good way to add organic amendments to my beds. They also pull double-duty, serving as that important layer of mulch over the winter.

Flower Gardening

Plant those bulbs, or at least store them in a cool, dry place like the refrigerator. In cooler climates, plant in October. In southern climates, the best time for bulb planting is in middle to late November. Tulips, daffodils, crocus, iris and hyacinths are all great choices for spring color. This is also the ideal time to divide perennials and plant perennial seeds for next spring.

That should keep you busy for the next few weeks. The best part is that next spring, our efforts will be rewarded with a garden that comes alive, looking better than ever and due in large part to the work we're doing now.





Posted by JoAnn M. Drabble on 9/7/2017

 

Keep the color going in your fall garden with a combination of summer- and late-blooming annuals and perennials.

Butterfly Magnet

Known for its sweet scent, joepye weed blooms from midsummer until frost. Typical height is five to six feet tall. Pinch in early summer to grow a shorter, bushier plant. Plant in full sun to partial shade, in a location sheltered from wind. USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 to 10


Super-Easy Annual

You may love zinnias for their non-stop blooming all summer, but they're also a great choice for the late summer to early fall garden. Until first frost, this popular annual continues to serve as a nectar source for butterflies. Mildew and leaf spots are often an enemy of zinnias, but not for 'Double Zahara Cherry'. Its double blooms attract bees and butterflies. Like all zinnias, 'Zahara' is heat tolerant and sun-loving. Winter hardy to USDA Hardiness Zones 10 to 11


Heat Tolerant

Depending on the cultivar, fringed blossoms in yellow, red or orange appear mid to late summer and into early fall on the drought-tolerant, sun-loving blanket flower. Plant in full sun in well-drained soil. Must deadhead regularly. Attracts butterflies. USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 to 10 (Pictured: 'Mesa Yellow')


Another Easy Annual

The white, yellow, red or orange blooms of marigolds linger until frost. Available in a range of sizes from a few inches to a few feet, marigolds love full sun. (Pictured: 'Moonsong Deep Orange')


Mexican sunflower

The Mexican sunflower can produce a explosion of late-season color as long as hot weather continues into early fall. Vibrant orange or red daisy-like flowers bloom on thick stems amid leaves covered in bristly fuzz. Stems can reach up to 6 feet tall and need shelter from strong winds. Plant in a hot, dry area in full sun and well-drained, fertile soil. Heat and drought resistant. Excellent for attracting butterflies, bees and hummingbirds.


Handles Light Frost

A fast-growing beauty that produces spikes of soft pink flowers, twinspur is also tough enough to handle a light frost. Plant in a sunny location with fertile, well-drained soil. Cut back spent stems to bear another round of blooms. Garden height reaches 6-12 inches. USDA Hardiness Zones 7 to 10


Autumn Crocus

These relatives of the spring crocus provide a sharp, clear color punch to the early fall garden. Clusters of one to four blossoms appear, minus the leaves, and reach heights of 4-8 inches. Bloom colors range from lavender-pink to light purple. Plant bulbs in full sun with gritty, well-drained soil. USDA Hardiness Zones: 4 to 9


Tolerates Heat, Drought and Poor Soil

A showy centerpiece for that dry part of the garden, strawflower is easy to grow and maintain. Large blooms come in yellow, orange, red, rose, white or pink and may hold up even through the first light frosts. Plant in full sun with well-drained soil. Attracts butterflies. Winter hardy to USDA Hardiness Zones 9 to 11


Osteospermum

Osteospermum is valued for its abundance of daisy-like blooms. 'Serenity Lavender Bliss' has distinctive pinwheel flowers with spoon-shaped petals. Plant in full sun in well-drained soil. Attracts butterflies. Winter hardy to USDA Hardiness Zones 10 to 11


Showy Blooms

The over-sized, dazzling blooms of 'Dreamtime Jumbo' bracteantha tend to be more controlled and mounded than with other strawflowers. The pure-white blooms perform well in both cool and hot climates. Mature growth height is 10 to 12 inches. Plant in full sun and expect them to remain beautiful until frost. Winter hardy to USDA Hardiness Zones 9 to 11


Flowers for Fall

A cool-weather favorite that forms a tidy mound of starburst blooms with airy, needle-like foliage, Swan River daisy blooms till winter in mild climates (spring to summer in colder areas). Depending on cultivar, flowers come in white, pink, violet or blue and contain either a yellow or black center (here, 'Enduring Blue'). Plant in full sun with rich, well-drained soil. Deadhead for continued flowering. Winter hardy to USDA Hardiness Zones 8B


Nemesia

This ideal cool-weather flower adds fragrance, color and an abundance of butterflies and hummingbirds to the garden. The foot-tall 'Aromatica Sky Blue' is one of the best in the series: a multitude of airy blooms cover these well-branched plants. Plant in full sun in well-drained soil rich in organic matter. Hardy to USDA Hardiness Zone 10


Cool-Weather Flowers

Blue lobelia is typically a shade-tolerant upright bloomer, with dozens of blooms trail up to 3 feet on certain varieties. 'Waterfall Azure Mist' is a more mounded cultivar reaching 8 to 12 inches. Attracts butterflies and hummingbirds. USDA Hardiness Zones: 2 to 9


Deadheading Required

Whether it's the plume-like, feathery type or the velvety cockscomb variety, celosia is an eye-catching addition to any garden, available in an abundance of vibrant colors. Deadheading is required to continue bloom into the fall. Plant in full sun with rich, well-drained soil. Celosia self seeds. Winter hardy to USDA Hardiness Zones 9 to 10






Posted by JoAnn M. Drabble on 8/24/2017

 


 

With summer retreating and seasons changing, September’s home improvement chores focus on getting your home ready for the cooler weather ahead. From servicing your HVAC system to keeping your fireplace in top shape, these home maintenance tasks will get you in the mood to relax with some hot apple cider and your favorite sweater.

So take advantage of these last warm, sunny days to tackle these important tasks in and around your home. Read on to find more, and for a printable list of September home maintenance tasks for your home.

To-Do #1:
Service Heating and Cooling System

As the days get cooler, you may find yourself making that first switch of the thermostat from AC to heat. To make sure your heating system will keep you warm this winter, call in a licensed HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) professional to inspect and service the HVAC system in your home. In addition to changing your air filter, a HVAC professional can:

    • Test the safety controls that help prevent fires.
  • Clean the blower and motor and make sure they’re in good repair.
  • Test the furnace burner, switches, and thermostat.
  • Check the unit and ductwork for leaks.

You can also inspect the ductwork and seal ductwork cracks and leaks yourself. This is especially important if your ducts are in the attic, where they can accidentally get stepped on. Minor leaks can be sealed with special metallic duct sealing tape and duct mastic.

If your home doesn’t already have a programmable thermostat, now is a good time to have one installed or install it yourself.

A programmable thermostat allow can be set to automatically adjust your home’s temperature when you’re away or sleeping, which can save on both heating and cooling costs.

To-Do #2:
Inspect and Repair Roof

With hurricane season in full swing, it’s important to inspect your roof regularly for damaged shingles and leaks. If you can access your attic, check the underneath of your roof during or just after a rainstorm to see if any water is entering your home. Pay particular attention around the chimney, where leaks are the most common.

Next, inspect your roof from the outside, either using a ladder to climb up on the roof or with binoculars from the ground. If you’re on the roof, sweep away any leaves and debris to prevent water or snow buildup and to get a better look at the condition of your roof.

Examine your shingles closely to see if any are missing, bent, loose, or broken. You can do basic DIY roof repairs yourself, or hire a roofing contractor to do them for you.

Inspect your chimney for loose or damaged flashing and missing mortar. Seal small cracks where the flashing meets the chimney with masonry caulk, and repair and reattach loose flashing with roofing cement.

To-Do #3:
Inspect and Clean Fireplace and Chimney

Cold weather’s coming, which means warming up next to a cozy fireplace is on the way! Before lighting a fire in your fireplace, it’s a good idea to have a chimney sweep inspect the fireplace and chimney and clean it if needed.

Make sure the chimney sweep is certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America. Even better, look for someone who’s a F.I.R.E. (Fireplace Investigation, Repair, and Education) Certified Inspector. That way you can feel confident the person is qualified to assess and repair both chimney and fireplace problems and also to spot potential fire dangers in and around the unit.

Fireplace inspections should be done every year, as well as when purchasing a home, especially if you don’t know the condition of the fireplace.

After performing the inspection, the chimney sweep will make recommendations for repair or cleaning. Generally, chimneys should be cleaned when the creosote buildup reaches 1/4? or more.

To-Do #4:
Trim Tree Limbs Near Roof and Chimney

In addition to inspecting and cleaning your fireplace and chimney, trim tree limbs growing close to it to prevent fires and chimney damage. Make sure you have at least ten feet of clearance around all sides of the chimney flue.

While you’re up on the roof, make sure your chimney is screened and protected from falling leaves, as well as birds and animals like squirrels and raccoons, which like to make nests inside.

Trim any branches growing near your roof, especially dead branches that overhang it. Not only are dead branches more flammable than live ones, but they’re also more likely to fall in a wind or snow storm and cause considerable damage to your roof, chimney, and gutters.





Posted by JoAnn M. Drabble on 8/16/2017

No matter your budget, there's always an upgrade or two that'll up the resale ante.

Whether your home improvements are for you or potential buyers, consider their impact on your home’s potential resale price before picking up your toolbox (or the phone to call a contractor).

A brand-new kitchen or bathroom will undoubtedly wow potential buyers, but there’s no guarantee you’ll recoup the money you put into those pricey remodels.

To help you navigate the choices that lead to the best return on investment, we asked two industry experts (and one enthusiastic DIYer) to weigh in.

Kitchen renovations

“Renovating the kitchen is always the biggest way to add value to your home,” says Grace Fancher, real estate agent at Kansas City firm Sarah Snodgrass. “People love to cook, and everyone tends to gather in the kitchen. If you add seating, such as an island with barstools, buyers go crazy for that.”

A full remodel is a major investment, but smaller projects make a big difference if you can’t — or don’t want to — go all out. “Nicer appliances really stick out to potential buyers — even if you’re planning to take them with you,” Fancher says.

She also suggests replacing tired finishes with fresh, neutral materials. “You don’t want to be too trendy, but you want it to look up-to-date,” she says. “Everyone loves clean, white subway tiles now, but they’re really a timeless look.”

Replacing dated countertops (quartz is your best bet, according to Fancher) and flooring is also worth the time and money.

Bathroom updates

The smallest rooms in the house can have a big impact on its value, so Fancher suggests adding a second bathroom or upgrading existing ones so your home features at least two full baths.

Joe Monda, co-owner of Seattle-based general contracting firm Promondo, agrees. “People are spending more on upgrading their houses before listing them,” he says. “They really want to maximize the potential house value.”

But if you’re remodeling a bathroom just to put your house on the market, keep it simple. “Most people don’t want to pay for upgrades, so you want it to be a neutral space that doesn’t look straight out of the big DIY warehouse stores — even if it is,” says Fancher.

She adds that an easy solution is spending a little more on details, like high-quality towel bars and upgraded hardware for those big-box store vanities.

Not in a position to remodel? “Re-grouting tile, or even just using one of those grout paint pens, gives any bathroom a fresher look,” says Sharyn Young, a self-proclaimed DIY addict from Minneapolis.

Lighting upgrades

“The brighter a room feels, the bigger it looks,” says Fancher. “And when you’re selling, you want every space to look as big as possible.”

She recommends replacing flush-mount ceiling lights with recessed and/or pendant lighting — a relatively cheap upgrade that looks modern and makes a huge impact.

“LED lighting has changed everything,” says Young. “There are so many readily available, inexpensive options now that are easy to install. I added Ikea under-cabinet lighting in the kitchen of my last house, and I was amazed at how that one simple upgrade made the space feel larger and cleaner.”

Photo from Zillow listing.

Fresh paint

Like lighting, a new coat of paint can also make a space feel cleaner and brighter. Stick to neutral shades, such as light gray and beige, and if you don’t have time or budget to do the whole house, start with the living areas you see when you first walk in.

An even quicker fix is refreshing just the trim. “Beat-up, dirty trim can give buyers a subtle impression that the whole house is dingy,” Fancher says. “Repainting gives a sharper look and shows the buyer that you’ve taken care of the house.”

Landscape improvements

“A lot of people overlook how important landscaping is, especially when you’re selling in the spring or summer,” says Fancher, adding that you can increase curb appeal by just putting down new, dark-colored mulch, if you don’t want to spend a lot of money on planting.

Monda suggests paying special attention to the entry. Repair or replace any damaged stepping stones, concrete paths, and porch plants, then give the front door a fresh coat of paint and add some potted plants. “You want people to be excited to walk in the door,” he says.







JoAnn M. Drabble