Category: Lawn & Garden


Don’t Forget to Fertilize Your Lawn This Fall!

Spring may be the season of growth and renewal, but if you're serious about cultivating healthy and beautiful grass, it's what you do in fall that makes or breaks next year's lawn.

How to Fertilize Lawn in Fall - Spreader

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Autumn is generally seen as the season of winding down before winter dormancy. But when it comes to lawn care, fall is a busy time. What you do now goes a long way toward safeguarding the health your grass, not only for the immediate future, but also for the next growing season. While on the surface your fall lawn may look a bit bedraggled, the roots below ground are still hard at work, storing up the reserves they’ll need to survive the winter and to thrive come springtime.

Though at other times of year there are reasons to choose a fast-acting liquid fertilizer, in autumn—about a week after you mow the lawn for the last time—it’s best to apply a slow-release granular fertilizer. While the liquid stuff delivers a sudden jolt of nutrients, the granular variety feeds grass slowly over time. In most parts of the country, that’s exactly what you want. In very cold regions, pick a fertilizer specially formulated for winter protection, one that’s high in nitrogen. If you’re lucky enough to live somewhere warm, you already know that fertilizing is a year-round affair. For you, fall isn’t so critical. (Boy, you’ve got it made!)

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How to Fertilize Lawn in Fall - Loading

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Theoretically, you could spread granular fertilizer over the lawn by hand. The reality is, however, that doing the job manually leaves too much room for error. While underfertilizing isn’t a catastrophe, overfertilizing is a real concern, and it’s easy to apply fertilizer too abundantly if you’re totally winging it.

Indeed, there’s a reason why professional landscapers use walk-behind spreaders. These outdoor tools include a flow-rate lever, which enables the user to set the precise amount of fertilizer to be dispersed per square foot of lawn area. If you’re serious about lawn care, a spreader is a tool worth buying.

You’ll notice that on your purchased package of fertilizer, the manufacturer lists the ideal number of granules to be applied per square foot. You can set the spreader to output precisely that amount, but here’s a superior method: Set the spreader to disperse half of the recommended volume, run the spreader over the lawn in one direction, then take it in the reverse direction, hitting the areas you initially missed. Because the effects of fertilizer are confined to the area immediately surrounding the spot where the granule hits the ground, the key to success is even dispersion. But when in doubt, underfertilize.

Once you’ve completed the work, clean the spreader before storing it away. Otherwise, the metal components might rust over the course of the off-season. If you’re left with a partially full bag of fertilizer, seal it airtight and keep it in a dry place. Exposed to the air, fertilizer hardens up and becomes unusable.

Additional Tips
• Fill the spreader in the driveway, not the lawn, to avoid spilling and overfertilizing one particular area.

• For the spreader to operate correctly, both the tool and the fertilizer granules must be dry.

• Wearing gloves is a sensible precaution to take when you’re handling fertilizer granules.


What Would Bob Do? Solving a Yard Drainage Crisis

Does your lawn turn into a swampy mess every time it rains hard? If so, pursue one of these yard drainage solutions, not only to allay your aesthetic concerns, but also because standing water can pose serious problems.

Yard Drainage Solutions

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Please help. My yard stays wet when it rains. I live in a subdivision with flat terrain. Is there a solution that does not cost a lot of money?

You have a few options, but none of them are cheap. First, I would invite a full-service landscaping company to examine your property, diagnose the problem, and submit an estimate. Even if you opt not to hire the company, the consultation would help you to understand the cause (and potential consequences) of the problem. Knowing only the basics of your situation, I can offer some general info on yard drainage solutions, but you really should talk to a pro in your area.

Poor yard drainage isn’t only an aesthetic issue. For one thing, standing water seriously jeopardizes the health of your lawn and landscape plantings. Another frustration: When your property is a swamp, you simply cannot enjoy it. Meanwhile, standing water can actually be a health hazard, as it gives rise to mosquitoes and other pests. Not to mention, excess storm water may ultimately find its way into your basement, where it creates a host of other costly-to-fix issues.

Usually, there’s a solution to yard drainage problems. Topography is the key thing to consider. A well-draining property slopes gently and gradually away from the house, descending six inches over the initial ten feet surrounding the foundation (with another foot of slope over the next 100 feet). If that’s not true in your case—if, say, your property actually sits below that of the neighbors’ and the street—re-grading the terrain is the logical step, but it’s not a do-it-yourself job.

After an abnormally heavy rainfall, any yard can be expected to be a bit swampy, but if yours consistently hosts standing water, then you’re right to pursue yard drainage solutions. Each of these are designed to divert excess water from where it poses a problem to an area where it can more freely seep into the soil.

Yard Drainage Solutions - Curtain

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Curtain Drain. This won’t work if your property has a lower elevation than all of the land surrounding it, but if the street or an adjacent woodland are below the grade of your flooded yard, you’re in luck. You can set a perforated pipe into the ground, running from the problem area to the safe zone. The pipe draws in water through its holes and by the power of gravity, carries water away from your home.

Drywell. If there’s nowhere it would make sense to drain the storm water, your best bet might be to install a dry well. Basically, a dry well is a holding tank for excess runoff. The container fills during a storm, then in the hours and days afterward, it drains into the soil beneath and next to the well adjacent. One advantage is that a gravel-filled dry well may be covered over with soil and grass.

Sump Pump. If you’re willing to throw money at the problem, go for a sump pump (like that used to keep a wet basement dry). A sump pump corrals excess runoff and pumps it away. That means it can deposit the water somewhere that’s uphill from your property. The catch? A sump pump isn’t cheap: There are not only installation costs to weigh, but also the ongoing costs of running the machine.

As mentioned, a full-service landscaping company would have a great deal of experience handling situations such as the one you’ve described. But it’s important to note that if you believe municipal engineers are in any way responsible for the issue you’re facing, then your local government may be willing—or legally obligated—to solve it. Talk to your neighbors. If they too are experiencing drainage problems, approach city hall as a group to maximize chances of your voice being heard.


Bob Vila Radio: Homemade Remedies for Driveway Oil Spots

The next time your car drips oil onto your otherwise pristine asphalt driveway, try one of these reportedly effective cleaning methods—unlikely though they may sound.

Oil spots on asphalt driveways certainly don’t add to a home’s curb appeal. Ask ten people what remedies they recommend for removing oil stains from concrete, and you’re likely to get ten different answers.

How to Remove Oil Stains from Concrete

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Listen to BOB VILA ON CLEANING ASPHALT STAINS or read the text below:

Here are some of the most popular ways to remove oil stains from concrete:

• Granulated cat litter gets a lot of thumbs up. It’s especially effective if you cover the stain while it’s still fresh.

• Powdered laundry detergent mixed into a paste seems to work well if you spread it over the stain, let it sit for awhile, then scrub with a broom and rinse.

• Grease-cutting dish detergents coupled with a stiff broom are another strategy.

• Other people swear by full-strength bleach.

• Still others douse the stain with soda.

Lots of companies tout commercial asphalt cleaning products, but reviews are mixed. In many cases, they don’t seem to perform any better than the household remedies. And forget about using a driveway sealer to hide oil spots; the oil will just eat its way back to the surface.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 60 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.


Bob Vila Radio: Mower Air Filters

You're not the only one working hard these days. Your lawn mower has been busy, too. To improve its performance and extend its life, remember to clean the machine's air filter.

With all the turf you’ve been trimming this summer, now’s a good time to give your mower some well-deserved TLC. That includes servicing the air filter. Clogged filters drastically reduce your mower’s efficiency and if neglected long enough, can damage the engine.

Cleaning Lawn Mower Air Filters

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Listen to BOB VILA ON MOWER AIR FILTERS or read the text below:

Air filters are usually located in square-ish compartments mounted to either the top or the side of the engine. There are two main types—foam and pleated paper. Foam filters can be cleaned; paper filters need to be replaced.

To clean a foam filter, first pull the wire off your spark plug, then unscrew the cover of the filter compartment and remove the foam. Give it a bath in kerosene, then soak it in clean engine oil. Squeeze out the excess oil and reposition the foam in the filter compartment, before finally screwing the cover back on.

Paper filters are even easier. Just remove the cover, toss the filter, and replace it with a new one.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 60 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.


Bob Vila Radio: Help Your Lawn Thrive This Sweltering Summer

Here's how you can help your lawn rise to the challenge of not only surviving the summer, but thriving despite the heat and drought conditions.

Summertime is great for beaches, boating, and barbecues. But it’s not so great for turf grasses. They tend to take a beating in hot, dry weather. Here are some ways you can help your lawn get through the stressful summer months.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON HOT WEATHER LAWN CARE, or read text below:

First, water wisely. Treating your turf to thorough soakings, spaced a couple days apart, is better than light, daily sprinklings. Most lawns do best on at least an inch of water per week (more, if temperatures are really soaring).

Use a rain gauge—or just a short, empty can—to help keep track of  how much you’re watering. Cut your grass often, but not too short. It’s best to raise your mower blade, so you’re trimming your turf at about three inches high. That’ll encourage healthy root growth.

One other tip: Make sure your mower blade is sharp. That way you’ll be cutting the grass cleanly rather than shredding it. Shredding is an extra stress your turf doesn’t need, especially this time of year!

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 60 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.


Bob Vila Radio: How to Relocate a Young Tree

You're having second thoughts about the placement of a sapling. No worries. So long as it's still relatively small, you can move a tree to a new spot on your property. Here's how.

Ever come to the frustrating conclusion that you’ve planted a young tree in exactly the wrong place? Here are some tips on how to move it without losing it.

How to Move a Tree

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Listen to BOB VILA ON RELOCATING A TREE or read the text below:

Prep the new location first. The hole should be about twice the width of the root ball. Depth should be about grade level. As you’re digging out the bottom of the hole, you’ll want to resist the urge to loosen the soil. Loose soil can cause the tree to sink too low over time, and that can lead to rotting.

Next, remove the tree by starting with your shovel about three feet from the trunk. If you have to cut roots, use sharp pruners. When you’ve managed to get the root ball loose, hoist the tree up onto a tarp and drag it to the new location.

Lower the tree into the new hole and gradually add soil and water. Create a wide berm around the tree and add a couple inches of mulch. Then get your hose going. The tree will need plenty of water until it’s settled into the new spot.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 75 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.


Transform and Protect Your Deck in a Single Coat

Improving the looks and longevity of your wood deck has never been easier for the weekend do-it-yourselfer, thanks to a new product from Thompson's WaterSeal.

Thompsons Waterproofing Stain - Finished Deck

Photo: thompsonswaterseal.com

Your deck was no small investment: If you haven’t been taking good care of it, now’s the time to give your deck the care it needs to look great and last long. If exposure to the elements has caused your deck to turn gray or acquire mildew, or if the boards have begun to crack and split, you’re in luck. A new Waterproofing Stain from industry leader Thompson’s WaterSeal can not only protect your deck from further damage, but also add rich, beautiful color.

Thompsons Waterproofing Stain - Finishing Process

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It’s a one-step product. That means a single coat provides the superior waterproofing for which Thompson’s WaterSeal is known, along with a stain to transform the appearance of your deck. Choose from five popular colors: Acorn Brown, Harvest Gold, Maple Brown, Sequoia Red or Woodland Cedar. Then select your preferred level of opacity—transparent, semi-transparent, or solid. Stains with more pigment will last longer, but show less of the natural wood grain. Transparent stain is guaranteed for three years, semi-transparent stain is guaranteed for four years, and the solid stain is guaranteed for five years.

Preparation and application are easy. Clean the deck thoroughly first. A ready-to-use deck cleaner makes this step pretty painless. Simply apply the cleaner, allow it to work for about 10 or 15 minutes, then scrub and rinse. Normally, you’d need to wait for the deck to dry out completely, but not with this product.

The next step is to measure the square footage of your deck. That determines how many gallons of stain are required (each gallon covers up to 400 square feet). You can buy it and be on your way. Thanks to its pigment-suspension technology, there’s no need to wait for the Waterpoofing Stain to have its turn in the paint shaker. Open up the can on any day with a temperature between 50 and 90 degrees, and the finish is ready to for application via brush, roller, or pad.

If you’ve ever painted outdoors before, you know that clean-up can be a hassle, but that’s not the case here. The Waterproofing Stain is latex-based, which means it washes off with nothing more than soap and water. Drying time for the stain varies depending on the weather. But in normal conditions, it takes only a couple of hours. Leave it overnight, and the next day your deck will appear as though brand-new, and it will be totally ready for you to start enjoying it!

This post has been brought to you by Thompson’s Waterseal. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.


Weekend Projects: 5 Creative Ways to Build a Garden Trellis

In the backyard, a simple (or simply brilliant) DIY trellis provides visual interest at eye level, while serving as scaffolding for plants that love to go vertical.

You can buy a trellis, sure—but where’s the fun in that? With no sacrifice in function, a unique DIY trellis separates your garden from the others on your block. And you get to choose the design, customizing the structure to your exact specifications. From free-standing trellises to ones that integrate with the house, there are countless projects, ranging from sophisticated woodworking to quick and easy repurposing. Scroll down to see five of our favorite ways to create a DIY trellis.

 

1. BREAK WITH TRADITION

DIY Trellis - Chevron

Photo: smileandwave.typepad.com

Foregoing the traditional square pattern, Rachel at Smile and Wave based her DIY trellis on a chevron pattern that zigzags across five tall stakes. The diagonal members are actually repurposed wood shims, each cut with a hack saw and nailed into place. To finish, Rachel painted the trellis a crisp, eye-catching white.

 

2. TURN THE CORNER

DIY Trellis - Corner

Photo: especiallycreativebroad.wordpress.com

Defy gravity with a DIY trellis modeled on this wonderful construction from Especially Creative Broad. It goes up and over the garage door, not only providing ample room for climbing plants to thrive, but also adding decorative detail to a primarily utilitarian and typically characterless part of the home.

 

3. REWORK A RACK

DIY Trellis - Painted

Photo: sybilalfano.com

Artist Sybil Alfano found the perfect way to grow vines in a container. It starts with an inexpensive accordion-style peg rack. Next, embellish the rack with a series of pencils, both to disguise the original purpose of the rack and to lend more support to climbing plants. Finally, paint the DIY trellis in a bold color of your choice.

 

4. STUDY STRING THEORY

Photo: fortheloveofskinny.com

For this unconventional DIY trellis, courtesy of Morgan at For the Love of Skinny, you need only a handful of materials: two bike tires, gardening string, a threaded metal rod and matching nuts. While the tire spokes add decorative flair, the string guides the growth of plants upward—in this case, sweet peas.

 

5. EAMES MADE EASY

Photo: JoAnn Moser, curbly.com

Inspired by the work of Charles and Ray Eames—in particular, a color-studded coat rack the couple designed and made world-famous—this DIY trellis project (from the good folks at Curbly) lets you take your love of modernism into the backyard. If you were seeking out a summery woodworking project, look no further!


Bob Vila Radio: Planting Ground Cover

For all of its rewards, lawn maintenance can become a loathsome chore. If you're sick and tired of mowing and watering, why not ditch the grass and plant ground covers instead?

If you’ve grown a bit weary of spending your weekends wedded to your lawn mower, perhaps it’s time to replace some of your sod with low-maintenance ground covers.

How to Plant Ground Cover

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Listen to BOB VILA ON GROUND COVERS or read the text below:

Here’s what you’ll need to do: First, use a rototiller or a sod-stripping machine to clear your intended plot of grass and weeds. Next, water the area, then cover it with clear plastic for several weeks. The sun will heat the soil and boost its potential to support the new plants.

Once you’ve removed the plastic, cover the area again, this time with a water-permeable landscaping fabric to discourage weeds. Cut small holes in the fabric, fold back the flaps, and plant your plants.

There are literally hundreds of plant varieties that work well as ground covers. They spread quickly, need little  maintenance, are drought-resistant and lend an elegant touch to your landscaping. As you would with any other landscaping effort, keep the climate in mind when you’re choosing what to plant.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 75 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.


Weekend Projects: 5 Summery DIY Porch Swings

I’m not sure, I haven’t researched it, but sitting—no, swaying—on a porch swing might be the most relaxing of all the ways a person could spend a summer afternoon. Of course, there’s a big difference between enjoying a porch swing and actually (successfully) building one. In fact, the work involved in making a DIY porch swing probably sounds to you like the very antithesis of relaxation. But though the prospect may at first seem daunting, it’s more than attainable. Scroll down now to see five DIY porch swings, any of which could be a permanent fixture of your outdoor living area before the sun rises on Monday morning.

 

1. SWING SIMPLY

Photo: shanty-2-chic.com

Compact in size and elegantly simple in shape, a no-frills modern look characterizes this stylish DIY porch swing. It’s built almost entirely of 2×4 and 1×6 lumber, so if you have intermediate woodworking experience, go ahead and set up your saw. Then visit Shanty 2 Chic for clear and simple step-by-step project directions.

 

2. HANG OUT

Photo: abeautifulmess.com

A couple yards of canvas, a length of polypropylene rope, and a wooden dowel all combine to create a unique hammock swing. Install yours indoors or out. Though sewing is required, you can most definitely complete the project within the space of a weekend, even if you’re a novice when it comes to needle and thread.

 

3. DREAM OF DAYBEDS 

Photo: club.conservationgardenpark.org

Large enough to accommodate a twin-size mattress, this oversized DIY porch swing might more accurately be described as a hanging daybed—hat luxury! To be certain the bed remains safely suspended, and that you don’t tip over once you climb in, be sure to hang something like this from four (sturdy) points, not two.

 

4. HACK A HEADBOARD

Photo: therusticpig.com

If you’re looking forward to catching some Z’s on your new porch swing, there would be a certain poetic justice to repurposing a headboard as part of the swing’s construction. Don’t have an extra headboard in your attic or basement? Try your local thrift store. Once you’ve got one, see The Rustic Pig for all the DIY details.

 

5. RESTORE A DOOR 

Photo: huckleberrylanefurniture.blogspot.com

From Huckleberry Lane Furniture, here’s a DIY porch swing involving an old door and the remnants of a falling-apart antique table. It goes to show that scrap wood comes in many forms and that, for a functional and beautiful result, money spent at your local lumber yard is by no means a prerequisite.