Lawn Care, How To Cut Your Lawn

Mowing your lawn is as essential to good lawn health as watering and feeding it. The real trick here is to know when to mow. Its not as hard as you might think, but it does require a little forethought.

Angled cutEvery time you mow your lawn your cutting the blades of grass. When the blades are cut the root system will stop growing temporarily. This limits the amount of nutrients and water they can absorb. If your grass is cut to short the root system will be weakened. A weakened root system makes your lawn more likely to develop weeds, disease, and suffer badly from drought.

So how do you know how short to cut your lawn? The general rule is one-third of the total height should be cut when you mow your lawn. Cutting more than one-third of the grass plant severely shocks the plant and inhibits its ability to support its root growth. If your type of grass is best at a 2 inch height, you should cut it when it reaches 3 inches high. If its best at 3 inches, cut it at 4 1/2 inches. Once you figure out how high your lawn needs to be and when it needs to be cut, devise an easy system that will tell you it’s time to mow. The system I use is by remembering where the tip of the grass blades hit my shoe, that lets me know it’s time to mow.

Below is a list of the most common grasses and the optimum heights to be maintained:

Cool-season grasses

Kentucky bluegrass………………2 to 3 in.

Perennial rye grass………………..2 to 3 in.

Fescue, fine…………………………2-1/2 to 3-1/2 in.

Fescue, tall………………………….2-1/2 to 3-1/2 in.

Creeping bent grass……………..1/4 to 3/4 in.

Warm-season grasses

Bermuda grass……………………..1/2 to 1 in.

Buffalo grass………………………..2 to 3 in.

When your grass is healthy and growing, cut it to the lower height recommended. But if the grass is stressed by drought, disease, shade, pests or traffic, you will want to cut it to the higher recommended height.

When cutting your grass, never cut it when it’s wet and definitely not in the heat of the day. Your grass willTorn grass blade be stressed enough due to the cutting, don’t add heat to the list. You should also alternate the pattern in which you mow your lawn. Mow at a 45 or 90 degree angle from the last mowing. So if you mowed from say the street to the house the last time, mow from side to side this time. It also helps to alternate with the 45 degree angle as well. This alternating patter will help avoid ruts from forming and get your grass to grow straight up instead of at an angle. You should also overlap each pass by 2 to 3 inches to make sure you get complete coverage.

Your lawn mower is the essential tool for keeping your lawn looking neat and trim, so keep it maintained. Make sure that the blade is sharp. A dull blade will tear the grass blades instead of cutting them. This tearing action causes more of a shock to the blades of grass than a nice clean cut. To know if your mower blade is to dull, just look at the ends of the grass you mowed the last time you mowed it. If it is ragged and split looking, the mower blade needs sharpening. Also, use a water hose to clean the underside of your mower each time you mow. This will remove loose grass and debris which will build up over time and reduce your mowers efficiency if it is not removed.

For a really in depth look at lawn care try Lawn Care Ebook

Have fun with you home improvement projects.

Lawn Care, How To Feed Your Lawn

It’s important to realize that a great looking lawn needs nutrients to grow strong and beautiful. Believe it or not, there are 16 different elements your lawn needs in order to be healthy. Lucky for us most are trace elements in very small amounts that we don’t need to be to concerned with.

Carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen are the “big three” for a healthy lawn. Fortunately for us they are also the most abundant ones as well. These elements come form the air and water, so if your watering your lawn properly your getting enough of these for your lawn.Fertilizer Coding

Nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium are next on our list. Nitrogen is the most important of these because it aids in rapid growth and keeps your lawn a health, rich green. If your lawn doesn’t have enough of it it will turn yellow and wither. But, nitrogen leaches through the soil easily. Water runoff containing nitrogen that has not been absorbed by your lawn could contaminate the groundwater or nearby lakes and streams. So use it sparingly. Phosphorus is necessary for root and shoot growth. The soil usually contains enough of it to support good growth, but may need to be supplemented on occasion. Potassium is necessary to keep your lawn resistant to weeds and disease and to promote overall health. It is the all in one health booster and helps your lawn better withstand heat and cold, drought and wear. If you read the label on a bag of fertilizer you will see a number on it like 15-5-10. This number represents the ratio of nitrogen – phosphorus – potassium by weight. In order to know what amount of these elements you lawn needs you should test your lawn. Soil test kits are relatively inexpensive and well worth the price for a healthy lawn.

Calcium, magnesium, and sulfur are next. They are usually found in sufficient quantities for your lawn. Just check your soils pH level with a simple test kit. Calcium and magnesium will raise your pH level while sulfur will lower it.

Generally, prepackaged lawn fertilizer is well balanced for most lawns. If you encounter a problem use the soil tests to identify the lack of one of the necessary elements we have already discussed. Remember, that when it comes to prepackaged lawn fertilizers, you get what you pay for. So be careful and very selective when choosing a fertilizer. Read the label closely.

LawnsWhen feeding you lawn, do it when the grass is dry. It is possible that if you fertilize it when the grass is wet, the fertilizer will stick to the blades where they remain when the grass dries. This can burn the grass in the hot sun. After feeding your lawn it’s always a good ideal to water it in order to knock the fertilizer off the blades of grass and put it into the soil.

Deciding when to fertilize your lawn can be tricky. The one, and only, rule to fertilizing your lawn is to do it before your grass enters its period of active growth. For cool season grasses, this is usually in the spring and fall. Warm season grasses will benefit from a feeding in the late spring through the summer. How often is up to you, once a year is necessary to keep your lawn alive. Twice a year is usually good if you need more growth, once in the spring and once in the fall.

For a really in depth look at lawn care try Lawn Care Ebook

Check back for my next issue on Lawn Care, How To Cut Your Lawn.

Have fun with you home improvement projects.

Lawn Care, When To Water Your Lawn

\We’ve all seen those fantastic lawns that we catch our eye and make us wish it was ours. But you can achieve a beautiful lawn too. All you have to do is follow some basic rules for caring for your lawn and provide the nutrients that your lawn needs in order to thrive. In this edition we’ll look at watering your lawn.

Water is important for any plant, and most lawns are neglected when it comes to this essential care. When to water your lawn depends on several factors. The soil has a direct impact on the frequency you’ll have to water it. Sandy soil drains water away faster then Clay Soil. Also temperature and humidity as well as wind will determine how long, or how fast, it takes the moisture in your lawn to evaporate. The best indicator that you need to water your lawn is the grass itself. The leaves of your grass will curl lengthwise to conserve moisture, this has the effect of changing the color of your lawn from a lustrous green to a dull blue green color. It will also loose it’s ability to bounce back when stepped on, which means it shows foot prints easily. It may even develop brown patches. All of these are signs that your lawn needs watering.

The best time to water your lawn is in the morning. The temperatures in the morning are likely to be the coolest time of day which provides more time for the water to soak in. There tends to be less wind in the morning hours as well which reduces evaporation. In addition, the grass will have more time for the leaves to dry before nightfall which will reduce the chance of disease. Grass that is growing underneath trees needs to be watched closely, the roots of a tree drains moisture out of the soil and away from your grass. The leaves of the tree can also shelter the grass from rain fall, especially when the rain is very light.

The last thing you need to now about watering your lawn is how much water it needs. The roots of yourPoor Growth grass is the heart of your lawn. If you water your lawn frequently, and just a little, the roots will develop shallow growth because that’s where most of the water will be. This causes poor root development and leaves your lawn ripe for ugly brown patches during drought and disease prone. If you over water your lawn, the water will go much deeper than the roots of the grass can reach, which will only waste water. In addition, over watering leads to less oxygen in the soil that the roots need which can kill the grass.

You want to water your lawn so that the soil is moist down to 6 to 8 inches. This will encourage good root development and enable the root system to extract moisture from deep within the soil during the drier months. You can test how deeply you are watering your grass by simply pushing a screw driver into the soil, it should go in easily in moist soil and hard in the dryer layers of the soil. If your using a sprinkler to water your lawn, make sure you overlap the areas you water. Sprinklers water the grass less the farther away from the sprinkler you get.

Your lawn needs water when it needs it, not on a rigid time schedule. So check it for when it needs to be watered. You’ll have a much healthier and better looking lawn, and waste less water too.

For a really in depth look at lawn care try Lawn Care Ebook

Check back for my next issue on Lawn Care, How To Feed Your Lawn.

Have fun with you home improvement projects.

Home Improvement, Add a Ceiling Fan

Ceiling FanIn our modern era some people might view a ceiling fan as a thing of the past, but that’s just not so. In fact, many contractors are adding ceiling fans in new construction. Lets look at the benefits of having a ceiling fan.

A Ceiling Fan has multiple uses. First, which is obvious, they move air. The downdraft of a ceiling fan has a cooling effect that is very noticeable in the summer heat. This can be especially nice in older homes that do not have central air conditioning. Depending on where you live, a house without AC may not be all that uncommon. In addition to moving the air for you, many models also incorporate lighting as well. We won’t go into all the styles that are available, but there are numerous ones to choose from. Lets consider a home with central air. The thermostat is most likely located on a wall at about shoulder height. This means that the temperature measured is from the center of the room. Since hot air rises, and cold air sinks, your room will have an uneven temperature. With the use of a ceiling fan, the air is circulated to help provide an even temperature which in turn helps to reduce the load on your central air conditioning. What does that mean to you, simply lower energy use which also means fewer dollars spent on cooling. That’s got to be an incentive for anyone to install one.

Ever think that a ceiling fan could help heat your home? Well, it can. Most new ceiling fans have a reversing switch which allows you to run the fan in the opposite direction. During the cooler months when you have the heat on, this feature helps to circulate all that hot air trapped at the ceiling back down along the walls of the room to mix with the colder air sitting on the floor. As with most people, when my feet are cold I want to turn up the heat. By keeping the heat evenly distributed in the room we maintain a more comfortable space, which in turn allows us to turn down the thermostat. Once again, less energy used equals less money spent on heating bills.Ceiling Fan

Believe it or not, a ceiling fan can help you outdoors too. Have you tried to sit on your porch during the summer in the late evening only to have it spoiled by mosquitoes? Mosquitoes love it when it’s humid and very little wind. By installing a ceiling fan on your porch you can create a nice breeze that will deter these pesky insects form lighting on you. Many manufactures offer units that are for outdoor use. They are specially designed to resist moisture and stand up well in the relatively unprotected area of a porch or covered patio.

Installing a ceiling fan is as easy as replacing a light fixture. Any fan that you buy will have detailed instructions on how to install the unit and how to operate it. As with any electrical work, make sure that the electricity is turned off at it’s source (the homes breaker box) before attempting the installation. Just turning off the light switch for the ceiling light you are replacing with the ceiling fan is not good enough. The switch only breaks the electrical circuit on one wire, which means that power is still present at the light fixture. To check to see if the power (electricity) is off, turn on the light switch and then locate the right breaker in the homes electrical service breaker box and turn it off. Check to see that the light is out before continuing with your ceiling fan installation.

Follow the manufactures installation instructions for a trouble free home improvement that you can enjoy year round. Have fun with you home improvement project.

Home Improvement, A Family Affair

Home Improvement Projects impact the entire family, make sure you include everyone in the household inHelping Hands your project. Family members are a great source for new ideas and different points of view.

Have a little family meeting and discuss what you have in mind. You’ll be surprised at the response you’ll get. Just start simple and let everyone express their ideas on the project and what they see the final result might be. Remember that two heads are better than one, and the more people that are involved in the beginning the better thought out your project will be. These insights will help you to incorporate their input into the most crucial stage of your project, the planning stage.

It’s a lot easier to change a plan than it is to modify a project after it has begun. Depending on how far along you are with construction, changing the plan could cost you more money. That’s something that you want to avoid.

Another benefit to involving the whole family is that they are more likely to be willing participants in the project when they have been included in it from the beginning. You’ll need help along the way and it’s always nice to have someone there that wants to help.

Remember that the final result is to have a home improvement project that will benefit the entire family, one which all can enjoy.

Have fun with your project.

Basic Electrical, Replacing an Outlet

There are several reasons that you might need to replace an electrical outlet. You may have just painted a room and need to coordinate the color of your outlets and switches to match, or maybe your upgrading from old worn out ones, whatever the reason, here is how you can do it yourself.

Circuit TesterThe first thing that you want to do is make sure that you have cut off the power to the outlet before you begin. Electricity has no sympathy for an honest mistake, so be sure the power is off on the circuit that your working on. It’s easy to do, just use a circuit tester like the one in the picture, or plug a lamp into the outlet and turn it on. Then go to your breaker box and locate the right switch for the outlet circuit and turn it off. Be aware that not all circuit breakers are marked correctly, if at all in some homes, that’s were the circuit tester or lamp comes in. After you’ve turned off the circuit, check to see if the tester or lamp is off, if so your ready to continue, if not, try a different circuit until you get it turned off. Never attempt to change an outlet or switch with the power on.

You only need 2 tools to install a new outlet, a pair of wire strippers and a screwdriver like I have picturedStrippers and Screwdriver here. I like a multi-screwdriver with reversible tips. That way I have the right screwdriver for nearly any screw. The wire strippers I have pictured allow you to trim back wire insulation if you need to, and have a nice plier type tip to assist you in bending the wire if needed as well.

Start by removing the center screw in the cover plate and removing the plate. It might be stuck to the wall from old paint, just pry it loose and it’ll come right off. There are 2 screws that hold the outlet to the wall box, one at the top and one at the bottom, just crew these out to allow you to pull the outlet out of the wall box. Now you can see the wiring. Some older homes only have two wires, a black one (hot wire) and a white one (the neutral). In a newer home you should have a bare ground wire to.

Remove the wires form the old outlet by loosening the screws that secure them to the outlet. When wiring up the new outlet be sure to put the black wire on the gold colored screw and the white wire on the silver screw. These screws are also marked on the back of the outlet so you can’t get them mixed up. This ensures that the polarity is correct for the outlet. The bare wire goes on the green screw (ground). When making these connections, you want to make a hook with the end of the wire (like in the picture) to go around the screw, then tighten the screw. Make sure that all wires are connected correctly and all screws are tight, even the screws that don’t have wires on them should be run all the way in.

Push the outlet back into the wall box and secure with the top and bottom mounting screws and install your new cover plate.

It’s a good ideal at this point to have a circuit tester, so when you turn the power on you can check to see if the connections are correct. The tester has a legend on it so that you can easily see if your outlet has the right polarity and ground. It’s a good idea to to check all outlets in your home, this can indicate a potential problem with your wiring if your outlets don’t test good.

And that’s all there is to it. Remember to be safe when dealing with electricity, and have fun with your home improvement projects.

GARDENING, Know Your Soil

Ever think that you have a brown thumb instead of a green thumb? It might not be your thumb at all, it could be your soil. Just because the weeds like your soil doesn’t mean that what you want to plant will like it. In this post we will take a look at types of soil and what you can do to improve it. So lets get started.

Clay soil looks just like it’s name sake, it’s a heavy and usually fertile soil, but it’s sticky and clumps together. Clay is difficult to work, it has tiny compact particles with hardly any air pockets and it can’t drain freely. It is also easily compacted when walked on. This leaves it to wet in the spring and when it dries out later in the year it cracks and forms solid clumps. This condition is bad for establishing root growth.

Sandy soil has larger particles that are irregularly shaped. This means that the soil resists being packed together and freely drains water away. There are plenty of air pockets. This means that water can wash through it taking with it nutrients that plants need.

Silt soil falls roughly between clay and sand and is usually fertile. But, like clay, it is easily compacted.

Loamy soil is a combination soil. It contains both clay and sand as well as silt. What this means is that it will drain excess water, maintain nutrients, and retain it’s shape longer (less washout).

The other essential factor of your soil that will affect the plants you can grow is acidity or alkalinity. This is measured on a pH scale, the mid point of which is 7. 7 means that the soil is neutral. Acidity increases as the number gets lower than 7, and alkaline increases as the number gets higher than 7.

You can obtain a meter (like the one shown in picture above) from any garden supply store. It only costs a few Soil Tester Kitdollars and is well worth your investment. A few plants, such as azaleas, need acidic conditions to thrive. Others, such as lilacs, prefer slightly alkaline soils. You can reduce the acidity of your soil by adding lime, but you should do this a few weeks before planting.

To access your soils drainage, dig a few holes randomly in your garden about 12 inches deep, and about 4 feet apart. Fill the holes with water and see how fast it drains. If the water disappears withing 24 hours, you have good draining soil. If not, you may have a drainage problem. You can correct this by digging deeply and adding plenty of well rotted organic matter and grit (like sand) to the soil.

You also should test your soil for nutrient content. You can get soil test kits from your garden suppliers as well. Just follow the instructions on the kit to determine your soil nutrient levels. There are a lot of ways to increase the nutrient level in your garden. Some include using fertilizers, but keep in mind that to much processed fertilizer can actually harm your garden, the ideal natural fertalizer is manure or compost. Natural organic fertilizer will add more nutrients to your soil without any of the harmful side affects of chemical ones.

Check your soil, and have fun with your gardening.