Do You Really Need to Rake? 8 Steps for Autumn Yard Cleanup

Your fall chore list might be lighter than you think. Check out these 8 steps for autumn yard cleanup.

Bad news: It’s time to get your act together and clean up your garden before winter makes the task more difficult. But the good news is, fall garden chores don’t have to be a pain. You might find you enjoy picking up branches or raking leaves in the brisk autumn air.

Whether you love or hate fall chores, here is a checklist of tasks and ways to make them easier.

Make a compost bin

Composting sounds like a lot of hard work, but it’s actually a perfect solution for lazy gardeners. Have a bunch of weeds, grass clippings and branches to get rid of? Don’t bother bagging it up and hauling it to the curb — just throw it in a pile and mix it up every month or so. Then surround the pile with landscape timbers or chicken wire to keep everything from blowing all over the place.

While you can make composting as complicated as you want, it doesn’t have to be.

Rake leaves — or don’t

That’s right, raking the leaves isn’t always necessary. But before you proudly share this news with your significant other to try getting out of your chores, here’s the full story.

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Leaves in the front lawn are not desirable, especially when they blow into neighboring lawns. Leaves in the garden, on the other hand, are totally desirable, and act as free mulch to protect roots and conserve moisture.

Another caveat: The soil around rose bushes and other plants that are sensitive to diseases like powdery mildew should be kept clean to prevent infection.

Collect fallen debris

We’ve all had a so-called ‘trash tree’ at some point. You know, the Bradford pear that drops branches at the drop of a hat — or the Osage orange that bombs unsuspecting passersby with rock-hard fruits.

If you’re one of the unfortunate souls with a messy tree, now is the time to collect all that debris for the year. Collect sticks and twigs, too, but once you’ve gathered them, leave them in the garden to serve as perches and homes for wildlife.

Mow the lawn

Cut the grass one last time, and mow it short to prevent diseases from spreading. Collect the grass clippings and add them to your compost pile.

Now is also a good time to complete your edging and string-trimming chores.

When you’re done mowing, winterize your mower and other outdoor power tools by draining the gasoline so it doesn’t become stale and gunk up your equipment for next year.shutterstock_203668357

Prune damaged branches

Fall is about using the anvil pruners rather than the hedge trimmers. Prune out any branches that are diseased, damaged or dead so they won’t succumb to winds or the weight of snow and ice.

If any arm-width branches meet those criteria, use a saw. If any large limbs or trees look as if they’ll break when loaded with ice, call a tree surgeon.

Look at it this way: If there’s anything that you think might fall to the ground on its own accord over the winter, remove it now.

Pull weeds

The last thing you want is a bunch of weeds spreading their seeds and taking over your garden in spring. Pull weeds on a pleasant day when it’s above freezing and the soil is a little moist so the weeds will come up more easily.

Since weeds have a tendency to shed their progeny all over the place, throw them on the compost pile or put them in trash bags.

Collect dead leaves

When cleaning and picking up indoors, you’d ideally leave things spotless. This is not the case in the garden, however, since seedpods, flowerheads and fruits add winter interest and provide food and shelter for wildlife.

Still, any dead leaves or other less-useful debris can be collected and composted.

Mulch beds

Mulching isn’t necessarily a cleanup task, but it is necessary nonetheless because it protects the plants’ roots over the winter and conserves moisture.

All of those raked leaves you saved will make an excellent mulch for your flowerbeds, or you can purchase the bagged stuff. Use a 1-  to 2-inch-deep layer of mulch, and resist the temptation to use landscaping fabric. Doing so might prevent weeds, but it will also prevent the soil around your plants from accessing rainfall or beneficial organisms.

Source: zillow.com ~ By: STEVE ASBELL

Reduce Your Homeownership Expenses With These Tips

Homes cost money.

Not just the mortgage and the taxes, or even the down payment, but all the myriad things—from the heating to the gutters—that sap your savings.

Aside from careful money management, how can you reduce your daily home expenses?

Think big

Your biggest regular expense is likely your mortgage. You may be able to shrink it, with and without the bank’s help.

  • Refinance to take advantage of low interest rates
  • Cut the time left on your mortgage. Consider taking on a 15-year option. You’ll save on interest over the long term.
  • Pay half of your monthly mortgage every two weeks. Doing so will also help you save on interest.
  • Reduce your private mortgage insurance. If you made only a small down payment, you may be able to drop some (or all) of the insurance after you pay down your mortgage to about 80%  of the principal, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Save on utilities

Your parents might have nagged you to turn off the lights when you weren’t using them. Now that you’re paying the bills, you get it. You don’t have to replace every appliance in your home to cut the bill, though—a few simple steps can help.

  • Keep the thermostat level, and make sure it works properly. If your house feels cold but you’ve jacked up the thermostat, you’ll want to figure out why quickly.
  • Set the thermostat no higher than 68 degrees in winter and no lower than 78 in summer.
  • Consider high-tech solutions. Some thermostats can be programmed to lower during times when no one is home. Set your lights on timers.
  • Close blinds in summer, and weatherproof windows in winter.
  • Monitor your fridge—keep your freezer full and clean the appliance’s coils regularly.
  • Run loads back-to-back in your clothes dryer so that the dryer will remain warm from the previous cycle.

Save on water

  • Bathroom: Fix any leaking toilets or faucets and install flow-restricting showerheads.
  • Kitchen: Run full loads in your dishwasher and let the dishes air-dry.
  • Laundry: Wash full loads as they use less water than multiple small loads.

Elsewhere, lower the temperature of your water heater to 120 degrees. While most are factory-set to 140 degrees, you could lower the setting on yours and save up to 5% on your electricity bill.

Learn to DIY

Many large hardware stores, including chains such as Home Depot and Lowe’s, offer free home improvement courses such as repairing drywall or updating a dimmer switch—projects that would typically cost $50 an hour if done by a pro.

Some other projects you could learn to do yourself:

  • Curtains: They’re simple to sew if their design involves straight lines.
  • Cabinets: If you aren’t looking to replace your cabinets but want a simple update, try refinishing or repainting them yourself.
  • Gutters: If your gutters are easy to reach, it takes only a small amount of time to clear them of debris. Do this regularly, and you could spare yourself a significant headache down the road.

When times become flush for you, you could hire professionals to tackle these chores. But if your priority is keeping costs down, investing a little time now can pay off in the long run.

Source: Realtor.com ~ By: Anne Miller

Pool Care Basics

To keep your pool’s water sparkling clean, a few basic maintenance steps are required. Find information on the usage of products, care and how to test your water for easy pool maintenance in this section.

The Role of the Pump

The center of the circulation system is the pump. It moves water from the pool and sends it through the filter for removal of any dust, dirt and debris prior to sending it back to the pool.

How long should you run your pump? Piping size, pool size, swimmer load and the actual pump size all play a role in determining how long you should run your pump. For the proper time consult your pool professional. They can determine, based upon your specific pool, the proper amount of time required to keep your pool clear and clean. A good rule of thumb is to run your pump about 1 hour for every 10º of temperature.

If your pump is not running, the water from your pool is not being properly circulated or filtered. Running the pump and circulating the water is the best way to help prevent problems.

The Filtration System

The job of the filtration system is to remove any undissolved dirt and debris from the pool water. While the skimmer basket and the hair and lint basket in the pump all play a role in the filtering of the pool water, the primary element of the system is the filter itself. If you backwash sand or DE filters too often, the filter cannot reach its cleaning potential and you are wasting water. Most filters require back washing when the pressure gauge rises 8-10 psi from clean. Consult your pool professional to understand the role that the skimmer and pump basket play in keeping your pool clean. Always consult your owner’s manual for specifics related to the type of filter you have.

Filter Types

There are three types of filters that are used in swimming pools to remove dirt and debris that enter the water through swimmers and the environment.

  1. Sand Filters – Dirt is removed from a sand filter by “backwashing” or reversing the water flow. The filter should be backwashed when the pressure gauge indicates a 7-10 lbs. increase over normal operating pressure. This is the pressure indicated on the pressure gauge when the filter is completely clean. Sand filters are more efficient when they are slightly dirty; consequently they should only be backwashed when required by the increase in pressure. Sand filters should be cleaned at least every season with a filter cleaner.
  2. Cartridge Filters – Dirt needs to be removed from a cartridge filter when the pressure gauge indicates an increase of 7-10 lbs. over normal operation pressure. Remove the cartridge(s) from the filter and hose off all loose dirt and debris. Then soak the element(s) in filter cleaner for at least 12 hours. This will remove all oils and greases imbedded in the filter element. After soaking, remove the cartridge(s) and rinse thoroughly with fresh water. Peak filter efficiency is achieved if you allow the filter element(s) to dry prior to reinstalling in the filter. To avoid any “down time” for the circulation or filtration systems, it is advisable to purchase a second set of cartridge elements so they may be interchanged on a regular basis with the first set.
  3. Diatomaceous Earth Filters – Like sand, the DE filter is cleaned by backwashing the filter when pressure increases 7-10 lbs. However, once the filter has been backwashed, new DE must be added to coat the grids in the filter. This is accomplished by pouring DE through the skimmer. To cut oils and other natural oil build-up, DE filter grids should be cleaned at least once every season using filter cleaner.  Also, at least once a year the entire DE filter should be disassembled and cleaned thoroughly as well as being inspected for tears or rips in the grids.

Testing Your Pool

Testing your pool 2-3 times a week during the summer and once a week during the winter is important to maintain adequate water balance and sanitizer levels plus to insure swimmer comfort. Test strips are a quick way to test the pool for adequate sanitizer levels as well as pH and total alkalinity. Proper testing also ensures that calcium levels are maintained and that there are no metals present in the pool water. These tests can be completed by you or your pool professional. In order to prevent scaling or corrosive action and to achieve maximum swimmer comfort, the pool water should be balanced to the following levels:

Balancing pH

pH is the measure of acid and base in the pool water. The pH of the pool should be tested and adjusted, if necessary, on a weekly basis. If the pH of the pool water drifts to the acid side of the scale, corrosion of pool surfaces and equipment can occur. If the pH of the pool water drifts to the base side – scaling, deposits, and cloudy water can occur. Use a pH increaser to increase the pH of the pool. At 8.5, chlorine is only about 10% active. At 7.0, chlorine is about 73% active. If you maintain pH around 7.5, the chlorine will be 50-60% active. Keeping the pH in check will allow you to use the full potential of the chlorine that is already in the pool. To lower the pH of the pool, use a pH decreaser. Follow the label directions for the proper amount of the products to add based upon test results and pool size. Take a sample of water to your pool professional dealer every 2-3 weeks for complete test and analysis.

NOTE: Always follow label directions when adding any pool maintenance products to the pool. Never mix products together. If unsure how products are to be used, contact your local pool professional.

Calcium Hardness

Calcium Hardness is the amount of dissolved calcium in the pool water. Low calcium hardness levels can cause plaster finish etching and shorten the life of vinyl liners. High calcium levels can result in calcium deposits on the pool surfaces as well as equipment. The proper range for calcium hardness in pool water is 200- 250 ppm (parts per million) for concrete pools and 175-225 ppm for vinyl pools. Your pool professional can advise you of the best method for treating your pool if you encounter high calcium hardness. If tests indicate that you have extremely high calcium levels in your pool, take a sample of your fill water (water used to fill the pool) to your pool professional for analysis as well.

Total Alkalinity

To prevent the pH varying up and down, the proper amount of acid buffers, or total alkalinity, must be maintained in the pool. The pool should be tested weekly with a total alkalinity of 1 20-150 ppm (parts per million) maintained. Low total alkalinity can not only result in pH bounce and fluctuations, but corrosiveness and the possibility of staining increase. High total alkalinity also can cause the pH to fluctuate as well as cause cloudy pools along with possible scaling. To lower total alkalinity, follow the directions from your pool professional. To raise total alkalinity, an alkalinity booster is recommended.

Metals

There should not be any metals present in your swimming pool water. Metals can cause staining in the pool and cause the pool to turn colors. The most common types of metals that appear in pool water are copper, iron, and manganese. If metals are present in the pool, a stain and scale remover should be used on a regular basis to prevent staining. You should determine the source of the metals and remove if possible.

Sanitize with Chlorine

Stabilized chlorine products sanitize your pool water and kill bacteria. Stabilized chlorine products are protected from sun light degradation and are an ideal means to keep your pool clear and clean. Most stabilized chlorine products are available in a variety of forms:

  • Chlorinated Tablets 3”
  • Chlorinated Tablets 1”
  • Skimmer Sticks
  • Multi-functional Chlorinating Granules

Your pool professional can determine the best form and type of sanitization program for your particular needs. A free chlorine level of 1-3 ppm should be maintained in the pool at all times.

NOTE: You will get more out of chemicals if you add them after the sun has set.

Sanitize with Bromine

You may want to use bromine instead of chlorine to sanitize your pool. Bromine tablets provide a reliable method for killing bacteria and keeping your pool clear and clean. To utilize bromine effectively, an automatic brominator should be installed in your pool.

Shock

Shocking the pool on a regular basis is an important element in keeping the pool clear and clean. Swimmers and the environment add waste to the pool that must be eliminated on a regular basis in order to prevent problems such as algae and cloudy water.

Algaecide

Preventing algae is the key to an enjoyable pool. Algaecides act as a backup to your normal sanitization program and prevent algae from starting and growing in the pool. Algaecide should be added after every shock treatment.

Source: swimmingpool.com ~ Toll Free Number: 888.476.7665