Category: Lawn & Garden

Fenway Park’s Groundskeeper Shares His Secrets to a Lush, Green Lawn

If you want a lawn as rich and beautiful as a major league ball field, check out these strategies for seeding, feeding, mowing, and more from the man responsible for the turf at one of the most gorgeous parks in the game!

How to Make Grass Green - Fenway Park

Photo: Courtesy of the Boston Red Sox

David Mellor was on his way to an athletic scholarship and a promising pitching career when tragedy struck: He got hit by a car, sidelining his dream. Yet, Mellor still made it to the majors, turning his love of baseball into a horticultural art form—today he’s director of grounds for the Boston Red Sox. His amazing “striping” patterns give venerable Fenway Park its flawless look and feel, and he’s equally discriminating as a homeowner. “Your lawn makes that first impression of your property, so attention to detail matters for curb appeal,” Mellor says. Here, the author of Picture Perfect: Mowing Techniques for Lawns, Landscapes, and Sports and The Lawn Bible: How to Keep It Green, Groomed, and Growing Every Season of the Year gives you his five keys to home-turf advantage.

How to Make Grass Green - Fenway Park Head Groundskeeper David Mellor

Photo: Courtesy of the Boston Red Sox

1. Seed Like a Star
If your lawn is looking sparse, now’s the perfect time to fill it out by overseeding. “Fall gives the best root growth,” Mellor says, “because soil is warm, and while morning dew keeps it moist, that bit of frost will kill weed seed.” Start by buying quality seed appropriate for your site and growing zone; you’ll get better cultivars that are less disease susceptible. Next, Mellor advises roughing up the area with a hard-tooth rake. “Roots grow in the pores of soil, so loosening it up allows roots to reach down into the crevices,” he says. Toss seed as if you’re feeding chickens, or use a dimpled seeder to create, “a random pattern so grass won’t look like cornrows,” Mellor says. “Then, for all-important seed-soil contact, step on it or drive over it with the mower. This ensures seed won’t blow away, dry out, or get eaten by birds.”

2. Fertilize Strategically
The key to Fenway’s gorgeous turf is the potent combination of iron and manganese. “It gives us a dark green color without a flush of growth, which helps enhance striping,” Mellor reveals. Yet, while feeding your grass keeps it growing actively, every lawn has unique needs—and that’s where a soil test comes in. “Your grass is only as good as the soil below. Testing provides a nutrient and pH analysis, as well as recommendations for treating it,” says Mellor.

Search online for your county extension agent or go through a local university’s agriculture department to obtain this vital, inexpensive diagnostic. “Some folks think if a little bit’s good a lot must be better,” Mellor cautions, “but too much fertilizer makes your lawn disease-prone and can harm the environment.” Follow directions to the letter, keep your drop spreader functioning properly, and never allow fertilizer to run off, where it can get into the sewer system. Mellor’s tip: To ensure that product doesn’t drip, shut the unit off as you near the end of a row, then flip it back on after you turn around.

3. Time Your Watering Right
“The most common mistake people make is coming home from work and turning on the sprinkler,” Mellor observes. “Letting grass sit wet all night exacerbates dew-point conditions and sets you up for disease and mildew.” Mellor notes that the ideal watering time is between 2 a.m. and 7 a.m.

“If you don’t have an irrigation system, get a timer that hooks to your spigot to turn the sprinkler on and off,” he suggests. The average lawn needs an inch of water a week (a bit more if soil is sandy), so measure your sprinkler output with this easy trick: Space several coffee cups across your lawn every few feet, crank the water for 10 minutes, then check the cups. The amount collected will help you determine how long to keep your sprinklers running in future for optimal watering.

Also bear in mind that different lawn locations may have different requirements. “Water a shaded area too much, and you open the door to disease, injury, and insects,” Mellor says. While a moisture meter monitors conditions at Fenway, he suggests homeowners simply dig into the lawn here and there with a small spade to get a feel for it.

How to Make Grass Green - Fenway Park on Game Day

Photo: Courtesy of the Boston Red Sox

4. Treat Weeds with Tolerance
In a shocking twist, Mellor says his favorite flower is the dandelion. “I once wanted a lawn like a pool table,” he admits. “Then I had two daughters, who taught me how beautiful dandelions are by how much fun they had picking bouquets and chasing each other while blowing the fluff.” While Mellor advises an easygoing attitude toward “out-of-place” plants, he still understands the desire for seamless green. “A healthy, actively growing lawn is your first line of defense against weeds,” he says. If they do pop up, he suggests digging them up, spot spraying, or pouring on some hot water and vinegar. “You don’t have to broadcast a chemical arsenal all over your lawn to get rid of a few weeds.”

5. Mow for Major Impact
For ideal conditions at Fenway, Mellor keeps the grass height at about an inch and a quarter. Home lawns should be longer, he advises, at two to two and a half inches tall. When mowing, never cut off more than one-third at a time. “With the one-third rule, you’ll never look like you’re baling hay out there,” Mellor says. “And it’s a myth that clippings cause thatch. At Fenway we collect them only around the edges of the infield, letting the majority recycle back into the field. Clippings keep your lawn from drying out, biodegrade into soil, and provide nitrogen for the grass.”

It’s also crucial for homeowners, who are bound to encounter the gamut from twigs to acorns to dog toys, to maintain sharp blades. “You wouldn’t shave with a dull razor,” Mellor reasons. “Dull blades fray the ends, making grass turn brown, stringy, and susceptible to disease.” Depending on lawn conditions, you may have to sharpen blades monthly or even weekly. Mellor’s tip for a little less work: “Consider investing in two or three sets of extra blades so you can leapfrog.”

DIY Kids: Build a Backyard Tire Swing

Up your backyard's game with an outdoor classic: the DIY tire swing. Follow these easy instructions to create seasons' worth of family fun, all in less than an hour.

DIY Tire Swing


There’s something so incredibly appealing about a simple tire swing. Whether it’s the freeing feeling of soaring through the air or the satisfaction of transforming an old, utilitarian hunk of rubber into backyard fun, kids and adults alike can’t help but be drawn to it. So then why not involve your little ones when setting up your own version? Materials for this project total somewhere between $60 to $100, depending on the length of chain you need and the type of hardware you buy, but rest assured: The many seasons of enjoyment to come will be well worth the cost.

This tire swing is a simple assembly project, so kids of all ages can help! The hardest part is ensuring all the hardware fits together properly: that the quick connector links you choose can accommodate the chains and swivel hardware that you want, and so on. If you buy pieces at more than one store, take whatever you can with you to test out how it connects with other supplies before purchasing—or be prepared to possibly exchange parts later for different sizes.


DIY Tire Swing - Project Supplies


- Sturdy tree branch
- Tire
- Drill with a bit that matches your eye bolt size (we used 5/16ths)
- Tape measure
- Chalk
- 3 eye bolts
- 6 nuts
- 6 lock washers
- 6 fender washers
- Pliers
- Adjustable wrench
- 3 4-foot lengths of swing set chain, vinyl coated to keep little fingers safe
- 4 quick connector links
- 1 swivel hook
- 1 steel snap
- 26-inch bicycle inner tube
- Scissors
- 12-foot steel-hardened chain (or less, depending on your tree height)

A note about hardware: Make sure all of your steel hardware is grade 5 or higher and has an appropriate working load limit (WLL). The hardware and chain we used were rated for between 260 and 1,700 pounds. To determine the load your hanging chain and hardware need to bear, add the total weight of the entire swing assembly (tire, eyebolts, swing set chain, and connectors) and the estimated weight of the children who will be using it.



DIY Tire Swing - Project Step Step 1


Plan to hang your swing on a sturdy tree branch that is, ideally, 8 to 12 feet off of the ground. The higher the branch, the higher the swing can go—and the further it will travel. Walk the space to make sure the swing, at its highest arc, has at least a 30-inch clearance from both the tree trunk and any other obstructions.



DIY Tire Swing - Step 2


Drill several drainage holes in one of the tire’s sidewalls (this will be the swing’s bottom) in order to allow rainwater to escape—you don’t want to create a breeding ground for mosquitoes after a storm or shower. Then flip the tire over to work with the swing’s top. Measure and mark with chalk three equidistant points in the sidewall where you will attach the eye bolts. Drill a hole in each of those chalk marks.



DIY Tire Swing - Step 3


In each of the three holes, insert an eye bolt with a nut, lock washer, and fender washer through the top of the tire sidewall. Thread a fender washer, lock washer, and nut onto the bottom half of the bolt (where it comes out inside the tire), and tighten it all up using pliers and an adjustable wrench.



DIY Tire Swing - Step 4


Now, attach each of the three swing set chains to an eye bolt using a quick connector link.



DIY Tire Swing - Project Step 5


Connect the top of those three chains together with another quick connector link, and then attach the swivel hook. By including a hook here, this swing assembly can be easily taken down and hung up for use only when there is adult supervision.

My connector links did not open up far enough to accommodate the swivel hook I chose, and the swivel hook was too large to accommodate the links of the hanging chain on its own, so I needed to add a snap hook to the top of the assembly—you may or may not need this. This part of the assembly is a bit of a puzzle that will be informed by the size of your chains and steel hardware (which further depend on the weight you want them to carry).



DIY Tire Swing - Project Step 6


Cut open the bicycle inner tube at the valve (which can be chopped off completely) so that it is one long piece. Then, thread the chain through the inner tube. This sheathing will serve to protect the tree branch once you hang it.



DIY Tire Swing - Step 7


Hang the chain over the tree branch, utilizing any knots in the branch to help it stay in place. You may also want to wrap the chain around the branch once, as we did. Be sure the chain hangs down exactly the same length on each side.



DIY Tire Swing - Step 8


Finally, attach the swing assembly to two ends of the hanging chain. In under an hour, it’s ready for a test drive! As they swing off into the sunset, your kids will love it all the more knowing that they had a hand in making it.

DIY Tire Swing - Swing Completed


Weekend Projects: 5 Simple Designs for a DIY Plant Stand

Windowsill gardens are so last season. Build any of these handmade plant stand designs, and you'll show off both your green thumb and your craftsmanship.


‘Tis the season to celebrate your green thumb! If you enjoy afternoons tending colorful blooms, then you understand how limiting it can be to find indoor spots to display your floral favorites. Oftentimes they end up stashed in an unseen area or hiding on a windowsill behind a cafe curtain. But this weekend you can make all of that change with a simple-to-build DIY plant stand that puts your gardening goods front and center. With any of these five easy designs, you can devote a step, a corner, or a whole vignette to your potted greenery and take delight in it week after week.



DIY Plant Stand - Mid-Century Modern Style


For throwback style that you can make in a day, try this midcentury modern-inspired stand from A Beautiful Mess. It’s seriously simple to assemble: First, find or cut a wood round sized 4 to 5 inches larger in diameter than the base of the pot you’re looking to support. Stain, seal, and screw on a few tapered furniture legs picked up from any home improvement store, and your perch is ready to welcome its plant.



DIY Plant Stand - Outdoor Potted Plants


One foolproof way to bolster curb appeal in any home—whether it’s soon to be on the market or simply preparing to greet guests—is to highlight cheerful hues. And nothing brightens like fresh flowers! Take a cue from the blogger at Shanty 2 Chic and introduce colorful buds on either side of your entrance with two 30-inch-tall stands constructed from the already-popular landscaping materials, cedar fence rail posts.



DIY Plant Stand - Marble and Copper


While a single slice of marble as a kitchen countertop or bathroom vanity can cost a pretty penny, securing a single square of porcelain floor tile for a luxe-looking living room DIY leans much more wallet-friendly. Here, the crafters at Foxtail and Moss affixed this opulent material to three legs of copper pipe and caps to create an industrial-chic stand.



DIY Plant Stand - Hanging Design


Not restricted to available floor space, this natural beauty from Brepurposed fits just about anywhere throughout the home! Simply affix a curved bracket meant for hanging flowering baskets to any wall; this time, instead of stringing up a standard woven planter, thread a couple of suede strips through the holes in a raw wood slice and hang the project to serve as your in-air plant stand.



DIY Plant Stand - Corner Stand


We all have those awkward, empty corners. Fortunately, a skinny stand design from the Crafty Sisters can fill blank spaces with a fresh crop of foliage. And while ornamental around the edges, its simple construction consists of only medium-density fiberboard, chair molding, and planks of 2×2 and 1×2 lumber. Just remember that where you place the project after completion will determine which plants thrive; shade-loving plants will do fine along interior walls, while sun-loving sprouts should sit closer to the windows.

Pet-Proof Your Yard with 5 Tips from a Pro Trainer

Now your furry family members can enjoy your outdoor space—without making a mess of your hard yard work. Victoria Stilwell of Animal Planet’s It’s Me or the Dog is here to teach you some new tricks for making your lawn and garden pet-friendly.

Puppy Proofing - Dog-Friendly Backyard


The great outdoors is great for everyone, particularly your four-pawed pals. “The home can get boring for pets,” says trainer extraordinaire and Animal Planet star Victoria Stilwell, “so being outside is important for both physical exercise and stimulation of the senses, which lends emotional stability.” But with the fresh air also comes the potential for those cold, wet noses to get into trouble. Left alone, your lawn could endanger your furry friend—or your pet might undo hours of yard work. Avoid these issues and more when you follow Stilwell’s five key guidelines to creating a fun, safe animal Eden that will always look groomed, even if you’ve got the friskiest pet on the block.

1. Install the best boundary.
To ensure that animal companions won’t get lost or run off, the right yard enclosure is crucial. For canines, Stilwell approves of any “good, solid fence,” be it wood, metal, vinyl, whatever. But as a big believer that kindness—not dominance—is the key to positive pet parenting (hence her website,, she vehemently opposes invisible electric fences for the pain and anxiety they cause. “Even a single shock can rewire a dog’s brain,” she explains, “making him fearful or aggressive.”

Because cats are such skillful climbers, corralling them gets trickier. “Roller bar attachments that jut out a bit on top of your fence work well,” says Stilwell, whereas other fence-toppers like spikes or wire netting (which a cat could get tangled in) may inadvertently wound your animal. Stilwell’s favorite option: sturdy kitty enclosures, either ready-made or assembled from a DIY kit. Just make sure yours is long enough to offer some running space, high enough to hold a cat tree, and walled with feline-safe screens.

Puppy Proofing - Pet-Friendly Garden


2. Plant with pets in mind.
Sturdy vegetation with soft foliage—artemisia, canna, and lilac, to name a few—will stand up to roughhousing. But stay away from azalea, rhododendron, foxglove, and lily of the valley, which are all unsafe for an animal to digest. Stilwell also notes that grass should be for rolling in, not munching on. “Some varieties can be difficult to digest,” she explains. While catnip is indeed a healthy habit for felines, she knows of no canine equivalent. “Some trainers use anise because dogs like the smell, but I don’t see them going crazy for it,” she says.

But it’s not just the plants’ toxicity you should worry about when planning your landscape; also watch what you spread around in the garden. “Cocoa Mulch, a by-product of chocolate, contains theobromine, a compound toxic to cats and dogs—and its sweet smell can be irresistible,” Stilwell warns. “Once, we took our Chihuahua to a neighbor’s home, and he ate the pellets they used to get rid of gophers!” The little guy is fine, thanks to emergency medical care, but Stilwell now knows to ask friends about potential yard hazards before bringing her pups for a visit.

3. Minimize messes.
“Pets are naturally inquisitive, so to keep them from wreaking havoc among your flowerbeds, don’t leave them up to their own devices,” Stilwell says. Her go-to for occupying any pooch is a treat-packed Kong toy (available on Amazon), as long as you monitor him lest the toy roll somewhere you’d rather he didn’t romp. Got a digger on your hands? Consider installing a sandpit where he can burrow to his heart’s content. Above all, Stilwell says, “Play with your pets! That’s the number one way to bond with them while supervising their behavior.”

On a more delicate note, should you hope to prevent pets from doing their business on your turf, “Walk your dog and be sure he ‘goes’ before letting him in the yard,” Stilwell suggests. “Likewise, cats should use the litter box prior to an outing.” Stilwell concedes that some animals tend to “mark” their territory, even after they’ve been neutered, as the behavior is habitual as well as biological. Try a sculptural piece of driftwood to serve as a marking post-cum-lawn ornament.

4. Watch out for wildlife.
“Dogs and cats are natural predators, and, even though we’ve bred the desire to kill out of dogs, they’re still predisposed to chasing,” Stilwell explains. Pets could get hurt tussling with a raccoon, squirrel, even a possum, while hawks and owls could potentially take off with your little buddy. “You can’t count on vaccinations to protect against everything,” she adds. To safeguard Rufus and Roxy, have them stay inside at dawn, dusk, and overnight, when most wildlife feeds. And on the flip side, keep kitty from littering the lawn with songbirds by trying the clownish, brightly colored anti-predation collars made by Birdsbesafe.

5. Be a good neighbor.
It’s not just you and your pets on the planet. “Not everyone likes cats or dogs, and you must respect that even if you don’t understand it—especially in regard to their property,” Stilwell says. “Letting pets roam loose is reckless and irresponsible, not to mention against the law.” If a pet does happen into a neighbor’s garden, respond calmly and clean up promptly.

Barking is another large concern, especially as it’s one of the worst noise pollutants in a neighborhood. “A dog that barks relentlessly is either bored, lonely, or hungry, so it’s negligent to leave him chained up outside unattended.” If your dog is barking, see to him immediately—and if a neighbor practices poor pet ownership in that regard, alert your block association, the police, or animal control.

Quick Tip: This Simple Trick Helps Plants Water Themselves

DIY Self-Watering Panter

Photo: via kriste3582

There are lots of household chores to take care of before going on a vacation: board the dog, clean the fridge, empty the trash, and so on. Yet another must, at least during the gardening months, is asking a friend or family member to water your plants—there’s nothing more discouraging than nurturing blooms all season long just to have them wither while you’re away. But now, with this DIY self-watering system, you can cross that one off your to-do list. Sound complicated? Not in the least. All it takes is a capped bottle and some good old-fashioned H20.

DIY Self-Water Planter - Terra Cotta Container


Before you can begin, you’ll need to saturate the soil in all of your planters. Next, gather your bottles: You can use virtually any bottle with a cap, keeping in mind that 8- to 12-ounce bottles work well for smaller-size pots, while a wine bottle will better quench the thirst of larger planters. Make a small hole in the cap or cork by hammering a nail all the way through. Fill your bottle to the top with water and place the cap back on. Then flip the bottle upside down and bury it about two inches into the soil. As the soil dries out from your last watering, fluid will slowly drip from the bottle into your soil, ensuring that your plant receives just the moisture it needs to thrive.

A standard-size bottle should last about three days in a small- to medium-size planter, but if your trip is a bit lengthier, consider adding a second bottle on the opposite side. Once the system is in place, all that’s left to do is enjoy your time jet-setting!

Bob Vila Radio: What Is a Rain Garden?

Expressly designed to capture rain before it enters the local sewer system, rain gardens are a smart, attractive, and environmentally responsible means of managing stormwater runoff.


Rain gardens are essentially natural or man-made depressions on the property, which the homeowner fills with a variety of hardy plants that don’t need a lot of painstaking care.

What Is a Rain Garden?


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Not only does a rain garden add an extra layer of visual interest to the landscape, but it also helps the environment. Instead of rainwater gushing down storm drains and flowing, unfiltered, into nearby lakes and streams, rain gardens collect the run-off from roofs, driveways, and walkways, slowly absorbing and naturally filtering the water through the roots and soil.

Most rain gardens include gravel to aid in the absorption process. And since they’re more tolerant to local soil and moisture conditions, native plants are normally chosen. For help selecting suitable plants, ask around at your garden supply store or extension office.

Bob Vila Radio is a 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day carried on more than 186 stations in 75 markets around the country. Click here to subscribe, so you can automatically receive each new episode as it arrives—absolutely free!

Do Less Yard Work with 4 Smart Strategies

Gardens can do great things for your outdoor decor, but the general upkeep can be tedious. Try these tricks to make time spent tending your favorite florals easier and more efficient.

How to Garden


Whether it’s the colorful buds that line your front walkway or the blooming beds out back, incorporating a lush garden into your landscape can pay off in spades. While time spent sowing seeds is well worth the effort, it tends to be more enjoyable when you can minimize the hours stuck toiling in the hot sun. Try these four strategies to help eliminate gardening growing pains and make your outdoor experiences that much more rewarding.

How to Garden - Water Efficiently


1. Choose Plants Wisely
You’ll want to start by researching plant varieties that are in line with your USDA hardiness zone, as well as species that are disease-resistant. If flowers that require little upkeep are more your speed, consider annuals like lobelia, impatiens, or fibrous begonias, that continue to bloom without requiring constant deadheading.

Also, beware of “fertile myrtles,” annuals like calendulas or cleome that reseed if you don’t get rid of the spent blooms come fall. If you’re interested in keeping them in your garden design, let them self-sow; but if not, deadhead to stop them from taking over.

2. Plan Out Your Arrangement
Group the thirstiest plants in one spot. This will improve watering efficiency, as you can tend to these high-maintenance varieties all at once, rather than making multiple trips around the garden. Next, save yourself hours you would have spent staking and prop up floppy, more delicate plants simply by placing stiff, bulky varieties in front of them.

Lawn work is easily one of the most tedious yard tasks. Make things easier on yourself by eschewing grass on sloped areas and swapping in ground covers instead so that you don’t find yourself pushing a mower uphill. It’s also wise to pass on turf grass in areas that don’t have strong drainage solutions.

And don’t overlook the importance of convenient tool storage: Consider purchasing a decorative container that you can tote along with you while tending the garden, so that you don’t have to trek to the shed or garage every time you need something. Buy tools with brightly colored handles, as these will easily catch your eye if left behind.

3. Upgrade Your Water Routine
Investing in a timed system is well worth the cost. Soaker hoses with tiny pores that run the length of the tube are smarter than your standard hose or sprinkler, resulting in no run-off, less evaporation, and the luxury of being able to relax or complete other tasks while they go to work. Schedule the system to start in the early morning for best results.

On days you mow the lawn, leave the clippings out instead of cleaning them up. This trick doesn’t make you lazy! More than saving you extra effort, it also helps shade the grass and conserve water.

4. Eliminate Weeds
To start, plant densely and mulch freely around your flowerbeds to discourage uninvited weeds, but wage war on existing species when the soil is moist. While you can try to pull the weeds out by the roots, another simple solution is to cut them and let them wither. If they’re joining forces to form a thick mat, use a sharp shovel to slice the ground beneath them, then flip the weeds over to bury them. This will ensure your flowers’ safety and also nourish the soil when the weeds decompose.

Bob Vila Radio: Give Your Mower a Tune-Up

It doesn't take much to keep your lawn mower in top condition, and it's well worth the effort. With proper maintenance, you can safeguard peak performance and extend the useful lifespan of your equipment.


With the summer season nearing its peak, chances are that your lawn mower would benefit from a bit of mid-season TLC.

Lawn Mower Care Tips


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Start by giving it a good rinse with your hose. To reach the underside of the deck, consider using a long-handled hose attachment. That way, you can clean the area around the blade without needing to tip the mower more than a few inches onto its side.

Also, remember that lawn mower engines live on gasoline and air. If yours came with a paper filter, check whether it’s clogged. If so, swap in a new paper filter in the appropriate size. If your mower features a foam air filter, wash it out with soapy water and, before reinstalling, give the dry foam a light coating of oil.

You may also want to change the spark plug or sharpen the blade. Now, your mower ought to be ready for the remainder of the summer’s dog days.

Bob Vila Radio is a 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day carried on more than 186 stations in 75 markets around the country. Click here to subscribe, so you can automatically receive each new episode as it arrives—absolutely free!

Genius! Make a Mini Greenhouse with Dollar-Store Photo Frames

Looking for a way to bring your limp houseplants back to life? Try this dollar-store DIY to get your greenery back in shape.

DIY Indoor Greenhouse


Sure, your indoor plants might be doing just fine on their own with your current watering schedule and carefully selected locations. But what if we told you that they could be doing better—in, say, their own custom-built greenhouse? An indoor greenhouse isn’t just for show, although it does pack plenty of style into its tiny structure. For starters, it keeps temperatures stable, boosts humidity, and increases carbon dioxide levels inside the enclosure for quicker-growing plants. Sheltering your greenery also keeps pests out and reduces the risk of disease. A simple glass box creates an optimal environment for your plants, guaranteed to take your gardening game to the next level. And with this idea from The Wicker House, making your own requires just a trip to the dollar store and a little creative repurposing. This blogger’s smart substitute for glass window panes? Emptied photo frames.

That’s right: To create her indoor garden, she picked up a total of eight picture frames and removed the backs, cardboard padding, and any prints inside them. While there are some things you probably shouldn’t ever buy at the dollar store—fresh produce, pregnancy tests, and hair gel, for instance—it turns out that it can be the perfect source for basic DIY supplies. Cheap, lightweight frames work best here so that they can be assembled with only hot glue and some duct tape. The resourceful crafter selected two 8″ x 10″ frames for the sides of the greenhouse, two 5″ x 7″ frames for the ends, and four 4″ x 6″ ones to create the slanted roof, all spray-painted white to visually unify the mismatched collection. The end result: a cheap yet chic tabletop structure that offers the consistent environment houseplants need to truly thrive. Follow The Wicker House’s full tutorial, and you may be surprised at just how quickly your plants put down roots—and settle in for the long term.

FOR MORE: The Wicker House

DIY Indoor Greenhouse - Painted Frames


Are You Spending Way Too Much to Operate Your Swimming Pool?

This summer, take a serious look at the cost of operating and maintaining your pool. You may find that a pump upgrade could provide as much relief to your wallet as your pool provides to your family's comfort and happiness.



For those who are lucky enough to own a swimming pool, this is the best time of year. But as you soak in the sun, your pool’s impact on your household budget may be more than you bargained for. The alarming fact is that if you have a conventional pool pump, you are very likely paying too much—much too much—in monthly operating costs.

Data shows that in homes with pools, the pump typically ranks only behind heating and cooling in terms of overall energy consumption. You’ve probably noticed that your energy bills rise during those months when your family enjoys the pool. What you may not have realized is that in a given year those costs add up to $460, on average. Well, that figure might make anyone consider cutting their losses, but don’t drain the pool just yet! According to ENERGY STAR, the solution is simple. Ditch the outmoded pump and replace it with a high-efficiency model. ENERGY STAR pool pumps are independently certified to save energy and money – they typically use about 70 percent less energy, saving the average household between $280 and $340 annually.

“Replacing your old pool pump with one that has earned the ENERGY STAR has obvious financial benefits for families across the country,” says ENERGY STAR Labeling Branch Chief Ann Bailey. “But it also has a big-picture impact for the environment. If all pool pumps sold in the U.S. were ENERGY STAR certified, the energy cost savings would grow to about $165 million each year, and three billion pounds of annual greenhouse gas emissions would be prevented, equivalent to the emissions from nearly 280,000 vehicles.”


Why do conventional pool pumps waste so much energy? The answer is simple: They run at only one speed. That wouldn’t be a problem if pool pumps performed only one role, but standard setups put the pump in charge of multiple functions, each of which calls for a different flow rate. For instance, filtration can often be accomplished with half the flow rate needed for vacuuming. Though the different functions have different requirements, a single-speed pump would apply the same flow rate in both cases. For vacuuming, the flow rate would probably be appropriate, but for filtration, it would definitely be overkill—expensive overkill. That’s why only those pumps that run at two or more speeds earn the ENERGY STAR. With these newer and more sophisticated pumps, you can be sure that the pump always responds with just enough—but not more than enough—power to accomplish the desired function. After installing a variable-speed pool pump, you shouldn’t notice a difference in water clarity, but when you open your utility bill at the end of the month, you should notice what a big difference a little energy efficiency makes.

Even in today’s energy-conscious world, many pool contractors do not assume the homeowner wants a variable-speed pump — which cost roughly $550 more than their single-speed cousins. While it’s certainly true that high-efficiency pool pumps aren’t cheap, an ENERGY STAR-certified unit can pay for its additional upfront cost in less than two years. From that point on, for the lifespan of the product, savings go right into your pocket on average. Tom Cucinotta, owner of Cucinotta’s Pool Service in Boynton Beach, Florida, regularly installs variable-speed pumps and attests to their return on customer investment. “Here in Florida, energy costs are approximately 15 cents per kilowatt hour. If your pumps run on 1-1/2-horsepower, 10 hours a day, it’s going to cost about $1,232 a year. With a variable-speed pump cutting as much as 91 percent off that energy bill, it would cost about $125 a year. Huge savings.” Cucinotta also points out that if you have two conventional pumps, both single-speed, you can replace both with just one variable-speed unit.

Pool pump lifespans range pretty widely, as a number of variables come into play. But eventually, any pool pump must be replaced. Of course, if the unit doesn’t start, that’s obviously a problem—but there are much subtler signs that you need a new pool pump. For instance, if the unit hums, buzzes, or otherwise makes a racket, repair or replacement may be in order. You might also notice the pump starting slowly and operating at low power. Another bad sign is for the pump to get hot and shut down. In any of these situations, the time might be right for an upgrade to a variable-speed, ENERGY STAR-certified pump. Your local home center or pool supply store probably stocks a range of efficient options from leading manufacturers Pentair, Hayward, and Jandy. In stores and online, you can also find models made by Blue Torrent Pool Products, Speck Pumps, and Waterway. No matter your chosen product, it’s well worth mentioning that if you install a high-efficiency pump, you may be eligible for state or local utility rebates. To view the available incentives, check out the ENERGY STAR Rebate Finder.

In Cucinotta’s experience, “a variable-speed pump saves money every time,” but he points out that there are indeed additional ways to minimize pool maintenance and operation costs. A pool cover, for instance, helps reduce nighttime heat loss, which would mean lower costs if you run a pool heater. Meanwhile, keeping the intake grates and drains clear of debris also goes a long way toward benefiting overall system performance. But if your monthly pool costs really seem to have spun out of control, don’t hesitate to investigate the cause or causes. “I urge homeowners to do an energy audit on their pool,” says Cucinotta. Since upgrading to an ENERGY STAR-certified pump may already require a visit from a pool specialist, consider inviting yours to suggest additional tweaks to your system—a different filter perhaps, or a programmable pump timer. But,in the end, replacing a single-speed pump is likely to make the biggest difference of all. As Cucinotta sums up, “Many people with older pool pumps are just tossing money away.” Want more information? Visit ENERGY STAR today.


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