Thursday, April 30, 2009

Spring Lawn Preparation

Now that the wintry weather is gone and the colorful blooms are back, it’s time to think about spring cleaning. But while you’re washing windows, scrubbing walls and dusting corners inside the house, don’t forget about rolling up those sleeves and giving the outside a once-over, too.

Spending some time in the backyard as soon as spring rolls around can really pay off. “Winter can leave a lawn in pretty tough shape,” says backyard expert Michael Miller, president of backyard tool manufacturer Hound Dog Products. “But there are lots of little things you can do to help spruce up your backyard when the weather starts to turn warmer. By digging in to cleanup in early spring, you’ll be ahead of the game, and your neighbors will be playing catch-up all year long.”

Miller offers seven tips that the professionals use to ensure a successful backyard spring cleanup effort -- and to help your home’s outside sparkle and shine as vibrantly as the inside.

Rake. As soon as the lawn begins to wake up for the season, give it a light once-over with a rake, taking care not to disturb any new grass plants by raking too hard. In addition to clearing leaves, twigs and other debris left over from last fall, the first raking of the year also allows you to assess the extent of any winter damage to your lawn. Look for early signs of pests or disease, and nip them in the bud before they cause big problems.

Aerate. Heavy use throughout the year can cause soil to become compacted. Removing plugs of sod in the spring -- aerating -- loosens the soil and lets water, air and fertilizer get down to the grass plant’s root structure. For smaller yards, or for concentrated trouble spots in any size yard, consider using a manual aerating tool that removes plugs from the turf. If you have a large yard, consider renting a power aerator.

Top dress. After you aerate, spend a few minutes doing what the experts call “top dressing,” spreading a thin layer of peat moss over the lawn with a rake. The top dressing helps to gradually condition the lawn throughout the year, strengthening the grass so it can resist disease, weeds and thatch, and reducing the amount of water and fertilizer it needs.

Weed. Go after weeds early in the season before they have a chance to go to seed. Cultivating a healthy lawn is one of the simplest ways to crowd out weeds. Or, remove dandelions and other broadleaf weeds with an easy-to-use weeder. Ergonomic tools like the Weed Hound have helped make long afternoons spent weeding nothing more than a backbreaking memory. All you do is place the tool over the weed, step lightly on the footrest, and pull the weed up, root and all.

Fix bare spots. Whether it’s due to disease or dog urine, bare patches can make a yard look shabby. A quick and easy way of improving the look of your yard is to repair the discolored patches, especially in early spring, when the cooler temperatures help the grass grow. Just clear away the dead-looking patches, sprinkle grass seed on the newly exposed soil, add fertilizer, and keep the area moist until it sprouts.

Remove thatch build-up. Thatch prevents sunlight, oxygen and moisture from getting to the nutrient-hungry soil below. But it’s easy to remove, especially if you do it regularly -- every year or two. Just go at the yard with a dethatching rake or power dethatcher to clean away the layer of tangled roots and stems. It takes some elbow grease, but it will help clear the way for new growth.

Give your tools a spring tune-up. Spend a few minutes in the garage or storage shed making sure your tools are in good working condition -- before you need to use them for the first time. Consider taking your lawn mower in for an annual tune-up. The dealer can replace the oil and spark plugs, sharpen the blade, and get it ready for the season.A little effort in early spring can lay the groundwork for a thriving, healthy backyard -- and have your neighbors turning green with envy.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Spring Cleanup: Getting Your Garden Back Into Shape

It looks as though...dare I say it? Spring has almost sprung in Prince George! After a couple of MONTHS wondering if we were going to get spring at all...looked for awhile there like we would just go back into looks as though Jack Frost has given up. It is a bit dreary outside as I write this, but...I was fortunate enough to see both robins and tulips just the other day!
So anyway, thought I'd post another article on spring has some interesting tips in it. Enjoy :)

Early Spring is a great time to emerge from hibernation. We all do it; humans, animals and even our gardens. If you take some time to give your garden an early boost, you will likely be rewarded with a spectacular growing season.Early SpringTiming is different in all parts of the country. But you may find that if you get outside and do a little work in your garden before the start of the growing season, your garden beds will look fantastic. You may even enjoy the cool weather and getting your body in shape for the gardening season to come.

Spring Clean Up

If you did a great job bedding down your plants for winter, you may not have too much work to do this Spring. However, you still should put in a little effort to make sure everything is in order.If you were a little too busy last fall to do much cleaning up, you will find that you have some work to do.

Clean Out Those Garden Beds

One of the first things you will want to do for a good Spring clean up is to clean out your garden beds. If you have any annuals left in your beds that are shriveled and dead, rake them up and dispose of them. Better yet, compost them to use in the future as mulch. If you have any perennials which you haven't cut back, be sure to do that now. You don't want to have this year's plants emerging amongst brown and shriveled stalks. Cut back these dead perennials all the way to the ground. However, make sure not to cut back plants which will grow from old wood, such as Hydrangeas.


Mulching and its annual removal is a matter of personal preference. It is also a matter of cost. There are many gardeners who believe that winter mulch must be disposed of in the very early Spring, so as not to spread disease. If any of your plants had leaf spot, or any other garden pest or disease, this will surely be carried over in the mulch. In addition, if leaves from elsewhere have blown in and settled in your garden beds over the winter, you may have spores or cocoons hiding in your garden.

In theory, you should rake up the winter mulch and dispose of it or compost it (the high temperatures of composting will kill off any nasties). However, this can be back breaking, time consuming and expensive.

If, for example, you noticed that your roses performed very poorly last year and had funky looking leaves, you may want to do some extra Spring clean up in the rose beds. That is, if you are lucky enough to have rose beds! Other wise, try to get out all of the dead leaves, weed and plants and leave the mulch behind. You may even find that if you take up all the mulch too early, your plants get a little too chilly. Just make sure that you get rid of the dead and shriveled leaves and plants and you should be just fine.

Garden Bed Maintenance

Early Spring is a great time to look over your beds and perform any necessary maintenance. You will be able to walk freely around in the beds and get to any spigots or fencing that needs repairing before your beautiful plants are up and growing.

Early Spring is also a great time to inspect the foundation of your house if it is going to be shortly blocked by growing plants. Take a few minutes and examine the foundation of your house to make sure nothing looks like it is wet or in disrepair. You may not be able to do this if you have foundation beds and gardens which will soon be growing.

Clean Out Last Years Pots and Containers

Early Spring is also a great time to clean out any pots and containers that may still have last year's plants and soil in them. Mulch or dispose of any dead plants that are still in those containers and get rid of the soil. Chances are that last year's plants have leached all the nutrients out of it, so you can compost the soil as well.

Reap Your Rewards

If you put in a little bit of effort early this Spring, your planting and garden beds will be in great shape for the whole growing season. Your plants will be primed for success and their surroundings will be beautiful.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Tips to Making Painting Easy

Summer is the season of the "do-it-yourselfer." Handy homeowners come into their own as the weather warms and they can embark on all those home improvement and maintenance tasks that languished all winter. Painting tops the list for many homeowners; it not only protects your interiors, painting is a great way to liven things up.

Giving interior walls a fresh coat of paint is well within the abilities of most homeowners. The experts at Wagner Spray Tech, makers of tools to ease every painting task, offer the following helpful hints to get you started on your paint project:


•Good surface preparation is the key to a long-lasting and great-looking paint job. Repair cracks or chips, sand and smooth rough edges, and clean chalky surfaces. Give the walls 24 hours to dry after you have wiped them down.

•Assemble all painting tools and cleanup supplies before you start. You will need paint (one gallon per every 300 to 400 square feet), painter's tape, drop cloths, brushes, rollers, paint tray liners, paint thinner and rags. For fast, easy painting, consider a power sprayer or power roller. Recent innovations make these tools easy to use, easy to control, easy to switch colors and easy to clean.

•Protect floors and furniture with a drop cloth or sheet.

•Cover trim with a low-tack painter's tape to protect trim. Low-tack or less sticky tapes are easier to remove and less likely to harm wood.

•Protect windows with Glass Mask, a liquid product that is easier to apply than traditional tape. The product comes in a plastic tube that fits easily in the palm of the hand. To apply, simply press the attached applicator pad to the window and glide it along the trim that will be painted. Once the liquid is completely dry, you can paint the trim. Any paint that laps onto the Glass Mask can easily be scraped off with the included blade. One tube of Glass Mask will cover about the same lineal footage as three rolls of traditional tape. The product is available at hardware, paint supply and home warehouse stores.

•Remove loose fibers from roller covers with painter's tape or a lint roller before using.


•Spray or roll from top to bottom, left to right to cover neatly and evenly. Lighter, multiple coats will cover better than one heavy layer of paint.

•Sprayers offer the best and most efficient coverage when painting large areas or exteriors. After spraying, back roll to ensure even coverage.

•Use a quality brush or roller.

•Place a garbage bag over your paint tray, brush or roller to prevent the paint from drying. This will keep the paint for 24 hours - and let you take a break without worrying that your paint will dry out.

Clean Up

•For water-based paints, rinse brushes, rollers and tools with water. For oil-based paints, use paint thinner. Some power sprayers and rollers now offer disposable wet parts that don't need to be cleaned and are inexpensive to replace. This also allows easier color changes during the painting process.

•Use bristle protectors that fit over brushes and protect them when not in use. They are available at most hardware stores.

•Use a fine-tooth comb to loosen any debris left in the bristles after clean up.