Friday, July 25, 2014

Summer Garden Care Tips - Dealing with Drought

Drought conditions can be a killer for your grass, garden, and trees. So how do you combat nature's heat waves and keep your landscape strong and healthy? Here are some tips and strategies for helping your home's ecosystem stay strong through the harshness of drought.

Trees


Your trees should get your primary attention. Why? Because healthy trees will provide a shaded canopy for your entire lawn, which in turn will keep it cool and less thirsty for water. Also, should your trees struggle or die, they'll be the most expensive things in your landscape to replace. A helpful strategy for strengthening your trees during drought is to drill several holes about 24 to 30 inches deep around the base of the tree and fill them with compost.
Drill slowly and pull back if you hit a root. These holes will allow water to penetrate the ground more easily and reach the tree's roots. You can use a large spade drill bit (about an inch wide) on your household drill for this task. NOTE: This procedure may dull your drill bit.

Lawn


Water is lost from your lawn in two main ways: evaporation (water escaping from your lawn's surface) and transpiration (water "sweating" from the stems and leaves of plants). The more compact the soil in your lawn, the more easily water will evaporate from it, so it's a good idea to aerate from time to time. When you water your lawn, water slowly and with some kind of sprinkler system or sprinkler hose - this will prevent too much water loss through transpiration. It's also important to watch for, and kill, bugs and pests, as they come out into your lawn looking for food during dry conditions.

Plants


The best thing you can do to protect your plants and flowers during drought conditions is to use mulch. Un-mulched soil loses twice as much water as mulched soil, so three to four inches of good organic mulch like shredded bark, rotted sawdust, or compost will lock in moisture, prevent soil compaction, reduce the soil's temperature, and stifle water-stealing weeds. Also, if you are able to water your lawn, water plants slowly and with a sprinkler system, as plants absorb water better when they receive it slowly and steadily - like they do when it rains.

Water Conservation


During hot and dry conditions, it is a good idea to conserve water in any way possible, so here are some general tips for water conservation. Don't go straight for the spigot when it's time to water. Collect roof water from downspouts and use that first. Wet your soil slowly and deeply by using a sprinkler system or sprinkler hose. That way, less water will sit on top of your lawn waiting to evaporate. It's also the best practice to water your lawn and plants in the morning (usually before 9 am) when humidity is high, because you'll lose less water to evaporation.

Friday, July 11, 2014

How to Identify and Deal with Common Lawn Problems


A beautiful lawn has a hard life. Every summer sees it suffer from the stresses of wandering feet, periods of hot weather and a number of diseases that can strike even the best cared-for lawns.

Here is some information on the most common lawn problems and what you can do about them:
Weeds 

Weeds such as dandelions, thistles, clover and weed grasses are one of the most common lawn problems. Large numbers of weeds are normally an indication of a lawn suffering from poor nutrient levels. Sensitive lawn grasses require more nutrients than weeds, which is why weeds spread at the expense of grass in poor quality soils. Low rainfall during the summer months exacerbates the situation, as lawn grasses are far more susceptible to a lack of water than sturdier weeds. Fertilizer is the ideal solution in such cases. Frequent mowing at a low cutting height acts as an additional defense against the growth of weeds by preventing access to the light needed for germination. Using good-quality seed is also a factor that should not be overlooked. Cheap seed often contains a certain proportion of weed seeds and is cultivated to promote rapid growth, having an effect on grass density. Carrying out regular and deep scarifying is an effective method of preventing weeds from invading in the first place. Digging weeds out which have taken hold remains the best and often only solution. 

Moss

Moss is a major headache for any lawn enthusiast. Moss will only move in where the lawn has retreated – it will not displace healthy grass. Approaches that destroy the moss alone will therefore not provide a lasting solution. Cutting weak lawn grass too short provides the ideal conditions for moss to thrive; these conditions can be combated by raising the cutting height and ensuring sufficient fertilization. Damp soils in shaded areas, such as under trees, must be improved, which generally means re-sowing with a good grass seed mixture and targeted fertilization. Moss will also flourish in over-acidic soils that are often characterized by water-logged, compacted ground conditions with an absence of air. Improved drainage will help rectify these conditions.
Fungal diseases

Fungi are yet another scourge of a well-kept lawn and affect its appearance. There are many types of fungi that can infect lawns, but only a few are really damaging. The following conditions help promote the growth of fungi:
  • Extremely compact turf
  • Thick lawn thatch
  • High humidity
  • Incorrect pH
  • Over fertilization
  • Thick layer of leaves in winter
A well-kept and healthy lawn is the ideal defense against fungal diseases. Where fungi do occur, the best solution is to seek out the services of a lawncare specialist.
Discoloration

Yellow spots in a rich sea of green is often a gardening enthusiast's nightmare. Discoloration such as this can have a number of causes. Here, we have put together some tips regarding the most common problems.
Yellow spots in lawns

Yellow tips and pale green grass indicate a deficiency in iron and nitrogen. Such spots can be removed by direct application of an iron fertilizer. An improvement is normally noticeable within just a few days.
Speckled grass in combination with water accumulation

Rainwater that fails to seep away properly and grass that appears speckled with color are hallmarks of excessively compacted ground. Fungal infection and cyanobacteria are often unsightly consequences. The ground has to be broken up and loosened to allow the excess water to drain away.
Speckled discoloration after winter

Spots and mildew are unwelcome side effects of the onset of winter. To prevent their appearance, lawns should be fertilized in August or September to improve resistance. With a combination of an application of lime in September or October and increasing the cutting height, your lawn will be left better prepared to see out the winter months.
To help maintain a healthy lawn, STIHL recommends:

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Go Independent for Fourth of July

By: Bill Brunelle, Independent We Stand

What better way to celebrate Independence Day than by appreciating the true independents among us? From sea to shining sea, local businesses like STIHL dealerships bring independence and prosperity to local communities. They return money to local economies, create local jobs and support local causes, making our communities more vibrant places to live. This Fourth of July, let’s celebrate the independent businesses that keep our country running, one vibrant community at a time.

 If you are a small business owner, you can celebrate American independence by showing your indie pride. Consumers understand the benefits that small businesses bring to their communities, so make sure they know that you’re an independent. Download and share Independent We Stand’s free marketing materials to promote your independence. When you meet new customers, tell them your Main Street story – how your business got started, why you’re passionate about being locally owned and what sets your store apart. By turning passion into success, every small business is a version of the American dream, so make sure customers hear your story this Independence Day. Check out the Real Indie Stories on the Independent We Stand blog then share your own indie story with us!.

As a consumer, make sure that you’re buying local for all your Fourth of July needs. Looking for outdoor power equipment to get your backyard barbeque-ready? Stop by your local STIHL dealer. Stocking up on fresh fruits and veggies for the perfect cookout snack? Head to your local farmers’ market. You already know that independent businesses are the backbone of the American economy, so now it’s time to make sure that you’re celebrating them for all that they do. Download Independent We Stand’s free mobile app to find all the local businesses in your community, even while you’re out running last-minute errands before your celebration.

The United States is the land of the free, the home of the brave, and a culture of vibrant communities. This Fourth of July, celebrate your local community by supporting all things independent. Show your indie pride and discover a new local business – and let Independent We Stand help along the way. 


Friday, June 27, 2014

Create Your Ideal Outdoor Living Space

By Brittany Worrell Boyce, Homes.com

Now that the unofficial kickoff to summertime is here, it’s time to get your outdoor space ready so you can enjoy the warm weather! From easy projects like dusting off your patio furniture to more challenging feats like building a new deck, there is always something you can do to improve your outdoor living experience. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Prep Your Outdoor Furniture. If you’re bringing out your existing furnishings for another season, be sure to clean all the pieces thoroughly. Also, consider buying new cushions and pillows to refresh your decor and gain a new look without breaking the bank. If it’s time to buy a new furnishings, think about the layout and look that you’re trying to achieve before shopping around for that perfect patio set.

Put Your Gardening Skills to the Test. When it comes to gardening, you don’t have to overdo it. Anything from a few potted plants to a container garden to an elaborate flower bed will beautify your outdoor space! Be sure that you read the labels and instructions when you choose your plants to ensure that they will get adequate sunlight where you intend to plant them. Flowers are always a great choice, but vegetable and herb plants are eye-catching, too, and they’ll provide fresh produce for you to use all summer long!

Build a Deck or Patio. If your current outdoor space is a little on the plain side, consider constructing a nice patio or building a deck - both of which will provide long-lasting enjoyment! A patio may be a little quicker to create, as you can purchase brick pavers to easily DIY the project. Building a deck might be a little more time-intensive, but the end result is well worth the hard work! Whichever option you prefer, you’re sure to reap the benefits of having a nice space to relax on a warm summer day.

Add Some Ambiance. Summer nights are perfect for enjoying your outdoor space, so place some candles, string lighting or lanterns around to liven up the area with warm, soft light. Use citronella candles to do double-duty, as the scent wards off mosquitoes and other pesky insects. Solar-powered lights or lanterns are a cost-effective way to light up your space, and the best part is, you’ll never have to remember to turn them on or off!

Gather Around the Fire Pit. Whether you purchase a fire pit or DIY your own, bringing your family together around the warm fire to chat and make s’mores is a quintessential summer activity. If this is one backyard item that you’re missing, it’s very easy to build your own fire pit and begin enjoying it this season!


Hopefully you’ve been inspired to spruce up your outdoor space for summer with these tips. After all, there’s no better time than now to get outside and begin enjoying the warm, sunny weather! For more ideas on how to maximize your outdoor living spaces, visit the Homes.com Idea Gallery today.