Monthly Archives: October 2014

Fall Checklist Part 3: How to Layer Mulch for the Winter

Part 3. Mulching Your Fall Garden

For part three of our Fall Checklist for Winter 2014, we’re talking mulch: whatever material you cover your flower beds with, we cover mulch basics to help you select which one will work best in your landscape.

What does mulch do?

Mulching keeps weeds at bay, preserves moisture in the soils and adds a finishing touch to any garden bed or landscape.

What types of mulch are available?

  1. Rock mulch. The most permanent. Rocks won’t fade, wash out, blow away or decompose. It’s an ideal mulch for low maintenance landscapes.
  2. Wood bark mulch. The most common. Bark is inexpensive, looks very natural and is easy to apply, especially if you are planting annuals or bulbs on a regular basis. However, they do decompose over time, and need to be replaced with a new layer
  3. Pine straw mulch. Great for hydrangea, azalea and rhododendron beds. Pine straw slowly acidifies soil once it’s laid in place.
  4. Cocoa hull mulch. One of the more exotic, cocoa hulls are a byproduct of the chocolate industry, smell great and are good for the soil. One warning, dogs often eat cocoa hulls, which can make them sick.
  5. HydroStraw hydro seeding mulch. A new alternative to wood, paper and cellulose mulches. HydroStraw is made in the USA and specially formulated with renewable natural fibers, tackifier and other additives that provide more coverage, more quickly. In addition, you’ll use less water.

How do you apply mulch?

Start by spreading mulch by hand in between plants, using a rake in more open areas, then layer mulch at least two to three inches deep. For every 100 square feet of area, that equates to about 10 to 12 bags of wood mulch.

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with wintering your gardens. From wheelbarrows to shovels and everything in-between, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-tos, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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Fall Checklist Part 2: Caring for Trees and Shrubs

Part 2. Fall Gardening To-Dos

Part two of our Fall Checklist for Winter 2014 focuses on maintenance tips for your trees and shrubs, suggestions for newly planted varieties and what to plant right now, before the snow flies.

Step 1. Water newly planted conifers and other evergreens regularly, especially if there’s little precipitation and even after it starts to snow. Young trees and shrubs need moisture to help establish their root systems.

Step 2. Clean up rotten, fallen crops and leaves from fruit trees, then prune them in late winter. You can spray them with dormant oil, which is effective in controlling and killing off certain insects and mites that could damage trees.

Step 3. Cut back rose canes to within a foot of the ground and cover them with soil.

Step 4. Rake and compost leaves, which could be an ongoing process until all the leaves fall from your trees!

Step 5. Now is the time to plant new plants such as oak, holly, beautyberry and bare-root roses.

Step 6. Mulch, mulch, mulch!

Special Step for 2014. Consider wrapping tender, thin-barked young trees, which are susceptible to winter sunscald and frost crack. Young maples, apple, crabapple, lindens and cherry trees are especially susceptible. Any tree can be wrapped with tree guards to protect from rodent damage and tender foundation shrubs can be wrapped in burlap or heavy Kraft paper found at your local garden center.

Start at the bottom of a plant near the ground, wrapping upward in a spiral, overlapping each layer so that water falls off the wrap. Wrap a tree trunk up to the lowest branches and secure with masking tape. Also, wrap the canes of tender roses in burlap, lay the wrapped canes on the ground and cover them with soil or mulch.

Before growth begins in late winter or early spring, remove the wrap to prevent moisture build-up, which can lead to disease.

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with wintering your gardens. From wheelbarrows to shovels and everything in-between, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-tos, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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Part 2. Essential Fall Tools for Your Lawn & Garden

In continuing our discussion of essential tools for the month of October – those pieces of yard equipment that help accomplish everything on your outdoor to-do list – we’re introducing five more. Whereas the previous five revolved around trees and their maintenance, the following five items have to do with your lawn and garden specifically. Continue reading for the second set of essential yard tools and why they’re important for your fall maintenance schedule.

5 Essential Tools for Your Lawn & Garden

1. Aerator

Aerating removes a patch of grass and soil from the lawn, called a plug. This method can achieve fantastic results with regard to soil compaction. In addition, aerating has several major benefits:

  • Aerating perforates the soil with small holes, helping to alleviate soil compaction
  • Aerating helps air and water to penetrate lawn thatch or built-up organic debris so it doesn’t starve the roots
  • Aerating breaks up soil layering, allowing water to reach the roots
  • Aerating allows vital nutrients to reach the soil beneath the grass
  • Aerating helps the roots grow deeply, producing a stronger, more vigorous lawn

2. Lawn Vac

This gas-powered device is used to help clean up leaves, as a practical alternative to painstakingly raking your leaves. Thus, it’s a huge time saver. Lawn vacuuming also helps with lawn maintenance. A high capacity leaf vacuum can do almost all the work in one pass, with additional benefits including:

  1. Ease of use: the tough, manual yard work is a lot easier on the body.
  2. Removes leaves from corners and tight spaces: eliminating the inconvenience of manually raking, gathering more leaves in less time.
  3. Creates ready-to-use mulch: leaf vacuums also have the ability to shred and bag fallen leaves, ultimately saving money.
  4. Gathers other debris in addition to leaves: rid your yard of litter, too.
  5. Relatively quiet: the noise won’t wake the neighbors.

3. Tiller

High performance tillers are perfect for breaking new ground and cultivating soft soil.  That said, tillers are particularly ideal for raising garden beds, tilling in tight spaces, tilling close to existing plants, not to mention they’re easily transported and stored. However, keep in mind that your tiller will perform best if you adjust it to match the soil conditions. To optimize your tilling, we recommend following Honda Power Equipment’s acronym ESTER:

  • Evaluate your soil conditions.  Is the ground hard, or are you working in loose soil?
  • Set the tiller according to the conditions.  Depending on your model of tiller, you can adjust the depth bar, the tine configuration, throttle, or gear selection.
  • Till the area briefly.
  • Evaluate the tiller’s performance.
  • Reset the depth bar or other controls as necessary, and continue tilling.

4. Slice Seeder

Slice seeders cut vertically through existing grass and thatch, into the soil, dropping seed in the rows cut behind. Slice seeding makes direct contact with the soil for the seed to germinate quickly. The technique literally slices into the soil, creating rows for the seed to fall into, all in one motion.

Especially if your lawn turf was planted years ago, re-planting with today’s improved grass varieties can help your mature lawn resist disease and insect damage, making it stronger and more adaptable to the changing conditions of your yard due to landscaping, sun and shade.

One of the best ways to make dramatic improvements to your lawn in short order is by slice or slit seeding. Conventional and over-seeding are great for helping to thicken an existing lawn. Use slice seeding to make direct contact with the soil for the seed to germinate quickly. The technique literally slices into the soil, creating rows for the seed to fall into, all in one motion.

5. Over-Seeder

An over-seeder’s design allows seed to be delivered directly to its curved-shaped discs. This helps place the seed directly into soil slits, allowing ultimate seed to soil contact and consequently, better germination. You can seed at a variety of rates for different grass varieties and applications. You control the seed flow rate right from the operator’s station. The flow stops automatically when you raise the reel, allowing for maximum control and precise operation.

Categories: Choosing Equipment, Featured Products, Gardening and Lawn Care | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Fall Checklist Part 1: Garden Clean-up & Winterization

Fall Garden Checklist - Part 1

Welcome to our Fall Checklist for Winter 2014! While fall weather is still crisp but cool – and the ground is not yet frozen – we’re going to help you tackle cleaning up your garden.

Step 1. In addition to removing spent blooms and shriveled leaves, cut back, break up and remove any foliage that looks diseased. How do you spot foliage that’s been attacked by disease? Look for bugs, leaves that are eaten away as opposed to succumbing to fall color or lint-like growth and coatings on stems and foliage. Cutting out any disease, or the entire plant, will prevent the offending condition from staying viable, known as “overwintering,” and making it less likely to attack in the spring.

Step 2. During a dry fall, water trees, shrubs and especially evergreens deeply, so they stay hydrated during the dormant winter season.

Step 3. Amend the soil in your garden beds by spreading them with a couple of inches of organic compost, which breaks down over the winter to reveal healthy, nutrient-rich planting material when the snow melts. This is especially effective for sand or clay soils.

Step 4. Apply a layer of mulch to perennial plants, after the soil freezes and daytime temperatures dip below 32 degrees. The winter mulch protects them from chilly air, fast freezes, wind and weather.

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with wintering your gardens. From wheelbarrows to shovels and everything in-between, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-tos, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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Part 1. Essential Yard Tools for Your Fall Maintenance Checklist

Fall is not surprisingly one of the biggest times of year to clean up your yard, which includes maintenance of trees and branches. With winter just around the corner, for those lucky enough to have a wood-burning fireplace, that means dead limbs make the perfect source of fuel, not to mention being ideal for fall mulching. That said, it seems to us that five fall maintenance tools tend to be most popular, and thus incredibly helpful. Read on to find out which and why.

5 Essential Fall Tools

1. Wood Chipper: Besides making mulch, wood chips can be used for several other purposes. A brilliant use of wood chips would be as fuel. It is a good source of biomass fuel, making it environment friendly, as well as energy efficient. If you are using it in your homes, you could use the chips in place of firewood. They can be lit up in much the same way and you can add bigger quantities of the chips to ensure your fire burns for a longer time.

Another interesting use of wood chips is for decoration. A large number of interior designers are now incorporating them into their designs to create wood chip paintings, murals and even furniture, which can be done by mixing other organic substances with it.

2. Stump Cutter: Now is also an ideal time to consider which rotten old trees to cut down, and with that, any old stumps from trees you’ve already cut. Stump cutters provide an easy and efficient method for shaving down old tree stumps – essentially grinding them down to dust. Getting rid of old tree stumps makes a huge difference on your lawn’s appearance and the overall health.

3. Log Splitter: Speaking of chopping down old, rotting, unwanted trees, once you yell timber, you’re left with some large tree trunks to clean up. And what better way of eliminating that mess, but to split them into firewood? Then you can start your winter stockpile. Log splitters may seem fairly hefty, but they are strong and reliable, so if you rented one you could finish all your log splitting in a day.

4. Post Hole Digger: In addition to chopping down trees, fall is also the perfect time to consider planting new trees, such as oaks and evergreens. However, you’ll want to get started on this sooner rather than later, meaning you’ll need a post hole digger to make room for your tree’s roots to grow down deep. Read this post to learn how to plant new trees.

A post hole digger is also the ideal tool for replacing old, rotten fence posts or deck/porch posts that need reinforced. You can rent a heavy-duty auger for either of these tasks, a post hole digger that attaches to a dingo or a simple handheld post hole digger.

5. Tree Pruner: Lastly, tree pruning is a popular to-do for this time of year. With all this arbor talk, it goes without saying that trees still alive and kicking probably need a good trim to prepare their healthy branches for the harsh winter weather fast approaching. For a few pruning tips, check out this post: How to Hedge and Trim Your Garden Greens.

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Increase the Energy Efficiency of Your Home by Insulating the Garage

How-To Insulate Your GarageA garage that’s attached to your home not only protects your cars, it serves as a multi-functional storage space and creative place, otherwise known as the Man Cave! It goes without saying that today’s American family needs to treat their garage just like any other important room in the house, insulating for energy efficiency, and more…

  • To keep it warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer
  • To help control the temperature in rooms above the garage
  • To tinker or work on man cave projects in a comfortable environment
  • To cut down on noise pollution associated with power tools
  • To prevent potentially harmful gases or chemicals from entering living spaces
  • To create a safer living environment for your family

Types of Insulation for Your Garage

For garages where the walls have studs and no drywall, 15″ wide R13 fiberglass blanket insulation is the most common and cost efficient. However, blanket insulation comes in different widths to accommodate various studding and depth. Rock wool insulation is made from volcanic rock and used for fire prevention, which is good for the garage wall that’s attached to your home. Loose-fill and sprayed foam insulation are easier to install in walls that already have drywall installed.

Based on your local climate, the effectiveness of insulation is determined by an R-value, which measures the resistance of the insulation to heat flow. A higher R-value or number means a greater ability to insulate. Consult a hardware center specialist for the best garage R-value in your area.

Like most rooms in the house, it’s a good idea to insulate garage walls and the attic, if your garage has one, as well as air sealing the wall cavities between the garage and walls directly connected to the living spaces, caulking windows and running weather stripping along the garage door. Here’s a checklist:

  • Look for any obvious holes, gaps and cracks in garage walls and seal them with spray foam. Remember to check around electrical wires and plumbing fixtures and plug with spray foam or silicone caulk.
  • To avoid any fumes from seeping underneath the walls into the house, run a bead of silicone caulk along the bottom of the wall that’s attached to your home.
  • When insulating the garage wall that’s attached to your home, place fiberglass blanket insulation so the kraft facing, or vapor retarder, is facing inward toward the living spaces, with the fuzzy stuff exposed to the garage space.
  • For all other garage walls, install the fiberglass blanket with vapor retarder facing out, into the room.
  • If the walls in your garage already have drywall installed, blow in loose-fill fiberglass or cellulose insulation by hose through a hole you cut into the drywall.
  • Insulate a garage attic like you would any other attic in your home. For more on this, read our blog post, How to Effectively and Easily Insulate Your Attic
  • Cover and protect blanket insulation with 2×4’s, plywood or drywall
    • Nail 2×4’s over the top of blanket insulation between the studs in a secure pattern,
    • Or, secure plywood to the walls using screws with the A-grade side facing out,
    • Or drywall can be used in place of plywood; tape and mud as necessary.
    • For loose-fill and spray foam insulation, repair the access hole in the drywall.
  • Measure the space between the garage door and concrete floor, then cut a piece of weather stripping to fill the gap, securing the weather stripping to the door with glue and screws.
  • Caulk around the outside of the garage door, using silicone bead.

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you plan your next winterizing project. From safety glasses and gloves to insulation vacuums and blowers, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-tos, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

Categories: DIY Projects, How-To's, Restore and Renovate | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

3 More Ways to Prepare Your Home for Winter

Getting your home ready for winter’s weather is a priority for most homeowners, especially in the fall, before the cold stuff starts to fly. We’ve put together three more ways to protect your home and property – then you can cross “winterizing” off your to-do list. Don’t delay!

3 Ways to Prepare Your Home for Winter

1. Tune-Up Your Home Heating System

In addition to preparing your home to keep heat in for the winter (consider linking to part 1 of this blog series), keeping your furnace and other heating equipment clean and in good running condition, helps ensure proper heat output, reducing energy use and heating costs.

  • Check if your utility company offers free or discounted annual checkups of your home’s heating system by qualified technicians, and call early to avoid the rush. Another resource to try is furnace manufacturers or dealers that offer free or discounted inspections.
  • If your furnace needs a new part, by all means get it replaced now – it will not only save your money, but perhaps a little heartache, if the furnace decides to poop out during a winter storm. Plus it’s a lot more cost efficient to replace a part rather than replace the entire furnace.
  • Consider upgrading to a new energy efficient furnace to not only save money, but also increase the value of your home. Typically you’ll save 50% or more and you could qualify for federal tax credit.
  • Clean or replace furnace filters now before the heating season begins and once a month during the heating season. A regular filter maintenance schedule can help increase the need for more energy due to dirty filters, which restrict the airflow.
  • Switching to a permanent or HEPA filter can reduce waste and keep the spread of illness-causing bacteria, mold, viruses and pollen in check.

While you’re at it … if you have ceiling fans installed in the house, get out the ladder and switch the direction of the blades to winter mode, or a clockwise direction, which moves warm air near the ceiling down through the living space.

2. Maintain Your Water Heater

As with any other main system in your house, doing a check-up on your water heater before the winter season can save you time, money and frustration.

  • Turn down the water heater from the factory – set 140 degrees F to 120 degrees or lower, reducing energy costs and preventing any potential scalding or water burns.
  • Flush the tank by turning off power from the fuse box and turning the thermostat to “pilot.” Turn off the cold water supply and attach a hose to the valve drain at the bottom of the heater, running the hose to a bucket or trough. Open the drain value and allow water to flow for five to seven minutes. Let the water stand in the bucket and check for mineral deposits. Continue draining until the water is clear, adding cold water to the heater, if needed. Unhook the hose, close the drain valve, turn on the water supply and let the tank re-fill. Remember to bleed air by opening up the hot water faucet in the house. Once the water is hot, it’s safe to turn the power back on from the fuse box.
  • Replacing a tanked water heater with a tankless water heater can save you this step, save money, and can also qualify you for a tax credit.

3. Get the Fireplace Ready

Whether you have a fuel-burning stove or an insert, make sure your fireplace is in running condition.

  • Examine the doors and gaskets of the wood stove or fireplace insert for a tight seal.
  • Have the chimney cleaned by a professional chimney sweep.
  • Buy wood or fuel in bulk, a supply for at least half of the winter season, if not more.
  • Check grates for damage and replace if needed.
  • Check the pilot and natural gas supply on inserts.

While you’re at it … get out those sweaters and dress warmer for the colder weather. “Personal heaters” such as fleece vests and jackets, long-sleeved shirts and cozy wool or cotton sweaters can add up to four degrees of warmth directly where it’s needed. Who knew?

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you plan your next winterizing project. From heaters to hoses and everything in-between, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-tos, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

Categories: Fall Checklist, How-To's, Restore and Renovate | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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