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Category Archives: Home and Garden

Pool Ready for Winter

Winter means cold temperatures and cold temperatures mean freezing water. If you have standing water in pipes or fixtures of a pool and it freezes it could damage the fixtures so it’s important that all pipes leading in and out of the pool are empty for winter. Even those pipes that are underground can freeze so you want to use a high powered air compressor or shop vac to chase that water away.

If your pool has tiles you need to make sure that the water level of the pool through the winter is lower than the tiles. Tiles can crack and break once water freezes and expands onto them and this means a big mess come summer. Lower the water in the pool to below the tile line. If you have a liner, you won’t need to lower the water too much as the more water left inside means the better the cover will protect the pool all winter. Too much dip in the cover means that water can collect and freeze on top of it and it may cause damage over time.

Of course, you can’t close a pool without using some mix of winterizing chemicals. Most experts say that a concentrated shock treatment with winter algaecide and stain treatment product will get the job done. You should also adjust the pH and the alkalinity in the remaining water. If you are using granular chemicals mix them up in a bucket before putting them in the pool so you don’t have issues with them staining the bottom of the pool.

It’s also a good idea to fully label totes or boxes where you will store skimmers and pipes for the pool through the winter, and to keep all little clips, stoppers and clamps together so you don’t go looking everywhere for them come summer. Keeping the pool things warm and dry through the winter will give them longer life and keep your pool running well.

Garden Gazebo

These days almost anyone can own a garden gazebo, and assemble a garden gazebo in the backyard, garden gazebo kits offer the beauty of a wooden gazebo, many gazebos are available in a huge variety of shapes and sizes, ranging from Victorian and Amish styles to small to party size in diameter. Garden owners can purchase a garden gazebo kit and build their own gazebo by themselves, the kits can range in price and in quality, but the concept of DIY and the average low price allows almost anyone to experiment and enjoy his own garden gazebo.

Garden gazebo kits differ not only in price but also in the material of which the garden gazebo is made of. These kits range in price depending on type of wood, which is generally either pine or one of a variety of types of cedar, and size. Each wood has its own benefits for your garden gazebo and once you have finished constructing the gazebo, you can choose to paint it, stain it or let it sit out and absorb the elements, allowing it to change to its naturally weathered color which is usually a light shade of grey. After you have decided on which wood to use for construction of your garden gazebo, you should figure what you need in terms of size.

Once you set your mind of actually getting a garden gazebo, you will need think about the material and the weather in your area, these will have a significant effect on your gazebo and what you can expect of it. Most garden gazebos are made of wood, pine or cedar or the most popular ones, but there are many different gazebo kits out there, and it is common to find metal gazebo kits made of vinyl or aluminum.

The huge advantage wood garden gazebos have is that they fit into a garden naturally, adding natural wooden quality that accents and compliments any garden. If you plan on purchasing a wooden garden gazebo, you will probably have to decide between pine or cedar wood. While pine is more affordable, cedar is less prone to rot.

Thanks to the modern design of gazebo kits, constructing your own fashionable backyard structure has never been easier. All you have to do is set out all of the parts the gazebo manufacturer sends to you and then assemble them according to the instructions. Once you have built each of the walls of your garden gazebo, you should bring over some friends to help you tilt up each wall and put on the roof. While it is not incredibly trying work, it will generally take a day or two to complete.

Saving Water for Landscaping

To water our landscaping, we use either some type of automated sprinkler system or a sprinkler that is dragged from spot to spot. Right from the big corporations right down to the homeowner with just a speck of a lawn, most people use or want to use some type of automated watering system. You have probably seen water from automated sprinkler systems running off the grass and running down the street. I don’t know about you, but here in the arid West, when I see this, it makes me quite angry. This even can be seen in droughts where a typical homeowner may have to water his plants with saved waste water from inside his home. This is not exactly an efficient use of water. All around the country there are problems with having clean water. It just doesn’t make sense to waste water.

Yet most landscaping owners use an inefficient and wasteful watering system. Here are a few tips to make watering your landscaping more efficient and less wasteful.

Watering systems for your landscaping vary. Find one that is most efficient for your needs. A good rule of thumb is that the larger the water drop delivered and the closer to the ground the better it is. Using a system that delivers a fine spray up into the air will lose much of the water to evaporation and to wind.

Surprisingly, hand held hose watering was found to be the most water-efficient way to provide moisture to your landscaping. It uses 33% less water than the average household uses to water their plants.

Studies found that of the automated watering systems, in ground sprinkler systems used 35% more and those with automatic timers use 47% more water than places that did not use such automated systems. These timesaving devices aren’t saving you money or water.

Adding rain sensors, or better yet, soil sensors to your automated watering system saves water. You don’t end up with the sprinkler system coming on in the middle of a rainstorm or right after one when the ground is already soaked.

Automated drip irrigation systems were found to be more efficient in the study using only 16% more than used by non-automated watering households. Add the above sensors and you will have an even better system.

Water Features

Fountains

Garden fountains are one of the easiest water features to add to your yard. Most home improvement stores and garden centers will carry do it yourself kits. Choose from a large variety including stand alone fountains and those that hang on your wall. All you have to do to install it is position the fountain, fill it with water and plug in the fountains pump. If you want to get creative, you could even make your own fountain out of new or old pots, a little bit of plastic tubing and a small water pump.

Ponds

Ponds involve a little more work but are still easy to do in the hands of a competent do it yourselfer. Once again, kits are readily available from your home improvement or garden center. To put in a pond you will have to first dig a hole in a suitable location. Ponds are normally only a few feet deep but it is still a lot of work to dig out all of that soil. Next you will either line the hole with a flexible pond liner or insert a formed hard plastic liner. Then add rocks and a pond filtration system. After treating the water, you can then add plant life and even fish if you so desire.

Waterfalls

If you want more than a basic pond, you could try installing a waterfall. This installation is a little more complicated and you might want to consult a professional landscaper. It does take some experience to plan out the flow of water on a waterfall.

Choose a Landscape Contractor

Determine the scope of the project, and which services you’ll expect from the contractor – install plant material, build decks and patio, install retaining walls, install irrigation systems and night lighting are some of the services provided by landscape contractors. You may wish to work on some of these projects yourself…is your contractor agreeable to this?

Thoroughly investigate the company – how long has it been in business? – what levels of expertise and education do the employees have? – Ask for recent references and check these out – visit the jobs. Many states require licensing…inquire about this and other types of certification.

Insurance is a big concern….the nature of much of landscaping work requires comprehensive insurance – both liability and worker’s compensation – ask for proof of insurance. Is the company affiliated with local or national trade organizations? – this *may* indicate a high level of professionalism and quality.

What about the little guy, just starting out? If I hadn’t been given a chance over thirty years ago by my first few clients, I wouldn’t be writing this today. I’m amazed that so many understanding people gave a scruffy looking young man in an old pickup a chance! So you can sometimes find a conscientious young person to provide services at reasonable cost. The main thing is to check references, discuss the project thoroughly and insist on a written contract. If a prospect is enthusiastic and seems to really love the work, you may be on the right path.

Also ask about guarantees…will the landscaper or nursery stand behind a guarantee on plant material? What about hardscape items…if the retaining wall caves in, will it be replaced at no cost? How long is the guarantee in place? A recent trend, especially on larger commercial jobs, is to require the landscaping company to maintain the project for the first year. This way, any serious installation mistakes can be dealt with in a timely manner.

If the installation company will be providing some or all of the maintenance, ask for the maintenance schedule. Basic lawn maintenance should include weekly mowing, seasonal fertilization, weed control if desired and aeration or dethatching services. Ask which chemicals, if any, will be used on your property, and require the contractor to provide the material safety data sheet (MSDS) for each.

Need Weekly Pool Maintenance

One of the big things in pool maintenance is keeping the water level maintained. If you had a big party where a cannonball contest was in full swing or half of the street was in your pool you likely lost quite a bit of water. Conversely, if you had a lot of rain and storms over the weekend you will have too much water. The pool equipment works best if the water level is maintained at all times. Your weekly maintenance people will do that.

They’re also there to skim the leaves and debris that may have fallen into the pool throughout the week, to brush the sides of the pool and to vacuum all the dirt up from the bottom. This keeps the pool looking its best and also clean and comfortable for swimmers.

Weekly maintenance workers will also clean the skimmers, keeping everything operating at its optimum efficiency, check water circulation, check for leaks in drains, filters and strainers, and check the filters for wear. They also maintain the proper chemical balance and shock the pool when needed. They will also test the water each week and alert you to what you need to do to improve the conditions until their next visit.

We all want clean water and an inviting pool. By getting the experts in for a weekly check and the necessary maintenance you are doing yourself and your pool a huge favour. Isn’t it time you invested in a good pool expert for your outdoor oasis?

Landscaping Brick

To transform any backyard into a wonderful entertainment area try adding a brick patio. It’s easy for anyone to build. To construct a patio, all you will need is brick and mortar, patience, and some time. You can decide which way to lay them, perhaps in a row all in the same direction. A basket weave design is also another wonderful idea and will give your project a distinctive creative look. To do this you will need to alternate the brick in a vertical and horizontal way, creating a wonderful design in the pattern.

For many years landscape brick materials have become one of the most commonly used items in gardens. You can utilize them to border your flower garden or to build a small retaining wall around your flowerbed. They are also a big support with water gardens. You can use the brick to encase the area around the water, which will add warmth and increased stability to the water feature.

Crushed brick over time will eventually sink into the ground. To help prevent this from happening line the bottom of the walkway with landscape fabric. You can do the basket weave with this idea as well depending on the other features in this area. You will be sure to get many compliments on your design.

Brick is a great way to line flower beds or any areas that do not have an edge by creating wonderful borders. Try using it on high traffic areas where grass has a tendency to wear out. You want to create visual attention to catch peoples’ eyes. The one advantage it has is that it can be laid flat or even stacked, and is easy to mow over to create that clean finished look.

Landscaping brick can be found at just about any building or garden supply center. Old ones found lying around can be cleaned up to look as good as new by using a brush, some soap and water, and a little effort. This is a wonderful way to save money on your project.

Most Economical Pond Pump

The cost of running a pump is dependent on how may watts it uses as electricity is measured in terms of kilowatt hours, or the quantity of watts, in thousands, used in an hour. The larger the pump the greater the watts it uses, however pumps of the same pumping power can differ considerably in their watt usage. An energy efficient pump that delivers 4200 gallons per hour may run at 550 watts while another that delivers the same volume of water may run at 850 watts.

Does that mean that over time the 550 watt pump will save money? Not necessarily. Pumps are only warrented for one or two or three years, generally. If you live in an area where electricity is cheap and the pumps you are considering are warranted for a year or two, then the added cost of the energy efficient pump, and its replacement, may be greater than the energy costs it will save over the same time period.

If, on the other hand, you live where the cost of electricity is high and you are looking at a pump with a three year warrenty that uses significantly less electricity than the other, then the energy efficient pump may more than pay for its extra up-front cost over the long term.

How to know? A Life Cycle Cost Analysis. Find the cost of electricity in your area, figure how long the pump should last, (generally at least two times the warranty), the number of watts it runs on and do the math. Here’s an example.

Say your pump uses 550 watts/hour and you plan to have it running continuously. It has a warranty of two years, so figure it will last four. 550 watts per hour in one day amounts to 13,200 watts. Divide that by a thousand to get kilowatts; 13.2. Multiply that by 365 days in a year = 4,818. Multiply that by 4 years = 19,272 kilowatts over its lifetime. Multiply that by the cost of electricity in your area, say $.20 = $3,854.

Do the same for the 850 watts/hour pump and the result is $5,957. There is a difference in energy costs of usage over their lifetime between the two pumps of $2,102. The difference in purchase price of the pumps will be in the vicinity of $200.00.

Does this mean the energy efficient pump is the most economical over time? In this scenerio it does, which assumed a twenty cent energy cost, a lifetime of four years and continuous running for all of that four years, yes. If the pump is run half that time, say 12 hours a day or six months of the year the energy differential would drop to $2,901, still a considerable savings. Reduce the life time to two years or run the pump for less often and the difference will be still less. In some areas the cost of electricity is much less so the cost of running the pump will be much less.

Let’s look at the same scenerio as the first example above, but instead of an energy cost of twenty cents per kilowatt, we’ll assume eight cents per kilowatt. We’re looking at a pump that uses 550 watts/hour, running continuously. It has a warranty of two years, so figure it will last four. 550 watts per hour in one day amounts to 13,200 watts. Divided by a thousand to get kilowatts gives us 13.2 per day. We multiply that by 365 days in a year = 4,818, and that by 4 years = 19,272 kilowatts over its lifetime. Now we multiply that by $.08 (eight cents) per kilowatt and we have a total cost over four years of $1,541.76 for the 550 watt pump and plugging in the 850 watt number in place of the 550 we get $2382.00 over four years. A difference of about $840.00. Reduce the life of the pump to two years and you have a difference in running costs over that two years of $427.00.

As you see, the less the pump is run, the cheaper electrical energy is in your area and the shorter the life of the pump, the less is the differential in running costs between energy-efficient and non eneregy-efficient pumps. In some cases, when the pump will not be run continuously, when it is fairly small and doesn’t use a lot of wattage and the up-front cost of the pumps is significant, it may make more sense to go with the less expensive pump, especially if you are trying to reduce up-front costs of building a pond.

Picking up Roses for Landscape

Landscape roses, as they are also known, can be planted anywhere in your garden. The good thing is that they are easy to find, but the drawback they have is the prolific abundance of various types, which sometimes confuses you. To make things easier, here we have classified the most famous types of landscape roses, which can be used according to your preferences.

Depending on your purposes, there are several main types of ornamental landscape roses. The first one that crops up to mind is the tall tea rose. Gardeners who want to decorate a trellis or an archway plant tea roses. Tea roses have the perfect blooming flowers. The rose arch can really make the atmosphere of your garden romantic.

The second type is the climbing rose. It can be used for wall decoration as well as for any other permanent structure. True climbing roses can be trained to wind around in different ways: for example, to reach the top of a building, or grow alongside the walls.

The Polyantha is also known by its modern name Floribunda rose. Due to its prolific growth and extensive life span, this rose type can be planted to produce a long-lasting colorful effect. This rose can burst in furious blooms and provide the background with different colors.

China roses are the perfect choice if you like to plant landscape roses in front of other plants. There exists also the option to plant roses in the shape of shrubs or hedges, for example the types of Shrub roses and Rugosa roses.

But as with every flower type, the question that you first need to consider, is color. What colors do you want your roses to have? This is an important issue. You must be well aware of each type’s specificity in accordance with color and different shades. Roses can be found in such various color combinations that you may choose the most suitable one according to your color scheme and garden planning. White tea roses can be used against red brick wall to produce an artistic effect. Another example: pink roses can be the perfect complement of a marble or stone wall.

You could as well use the whole variety of colors and color shades to enrich your garden outlook. This is a popular trend in gardening: mixing everything together can have positive outcome. Different styles, flowers and colors blended together provide an aesthetic bounty and make you feel optimistic. Roses cannot be excluded from this floral mixture. They can be combined with all types of flowers. They can add a stylish touch to the garden, if combined with other flowers.

Kids Safe With a Pool

We all know that the experts suggest we fence off the pool area and this is great advice. Making the fence slippery and hard to climb (think thin, straight, shiny pieces instead of anything you can easily climb) is the way to go, but also important is the gate. If the gate to the pool area is left open, kids have easy access. If the gate is easy to get open, same thing applies, so what you want is an automatic gate closer. These are easy to put on and easy to maintain and what they do is close the gate, each and every time it gets opened.

An automatic gate closer is great if you are going through with an armload of toys or chemicals. They’re also great if you need to quickly grab something and forget to close the gate after yourself. They are fool proof as they use gravity and swing to get and keep that gate closed. A closed gate means no entry, even for the most enterprising of young ones.

Keeping enticing pool toys away from the pool area when not in use is also a great preventative. Kids can play with their toys away from the pool area in safety. It’s also a great idea to keep anything with wheels as far away from the pool area as possible. No one needs to ride their tricycle around on the deck, it’s just too dangerous.

Talking with your kids about pool safety goes a long way in keeping them safe around water. You will also want to teach them to swim so that they won’t panic as much if they find themselves in water. A little bit of prevention goes a long, long way in keeping kids safe around the pool.