Category: Lawn & Garden


Bob Vila Radio: Day Lily Care

Day lilies are a favorite among gardeners, in part because these colorful summer bloomers require little care. Follow these simple steps in order to keep this much-beloved perennial going strong, year after year.

There are few flowering plants as satisfying as day lilies—they bloom in late spring and early summer, just as the spring flowers are fading, and provide color for many weeks into the summer. These perennials come back year after year with only minimal care. Here’s what you need to know to keep your day lilies going strong.

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Day Lily Care

Photo: shutterstock.com

First, be sure to plant them in full sun, or at least where they will get several hours of sun every day. Day lilies look especially beautiful along a fence or walkway, where the showy flowers provide a dramatic border, and their full green foliage keeps weeds to a minimum.

If you choose cultivars that bloom at slightly different times, you can extend your blooming season and enjoy the different colors that emerge as the weeks go by. After each flower blooms, its stalk will dry out and turn brown; keep your plants looking tidy by removing the brown stalks with a gentle tug. Don’t worry—new blooms will keep coming.

At the end of the season, the green foliage will turn brown. It’s best to leave it in place for the winter to provide protection from the cold. Finally, clear away the dead foliage in the spring, when new green shoots appear.

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 Ways to Make Your Own Hammock

One of summer's great pleasures is lazing in a hammock, just sleeping, reading, or doing nothing at all. But first, you need a hammock. Here are some great DIY ideas for creating a beautiful, relaxing hammock of your very own.

What else says summer like a hammock gently swaying in the afternoon breeze? If you do not love the styles—or the prices—of the hammocks you’ve seen for sale in stores, or if you’re looking for a productive way to earn your nap time, consider getting this season into full swing by constructing your own DIY hammock. Scroll down to check out five inviting designs, each one easy to achieve with a set of basic tools and only a small quantity of readily available materials.

 

1. DROP IN

DIY Hammock - Drop Cloth

Photo: marthastewart.com

We normally think of drop cloths as hardworking, durable, and unabashedly simple. As it turns out, those same qualities make a drop cloth perfect for reuse in a DIY hammock. Visit Martha Stewart to see how you can transform a 6′ x 9′ sheet of canvas, together with grommets and rope, into a lovely backyard lounger.

 

2. SAIL AWAY

DIY Hammock - Sail Rope

Photo: design-milk.com

To put a modern spin on the classic hammock design, opt to use rope in two colors. A list of the needed supplies can be found over at Design Milk, along with detailed instructions. We think that when it comes to de-stressing, the process of weaving a DIY hammock actually rivals the simple pleasure of lying on one.

 

3. FLOAT ON

DIY Hammock - Muslin

Photo: camillestyles.com

From Camille Styles, here’s a romantically ethereal DIY hammock comprising a combination of airy, breathable muslin and sturdy canvas. Clothesline and simple chains do the work of suspending the hammock from adjacent trees, but it can be made even more elegant with optional lace or fringe embellishments.

 

4. RIP IT

DIY Hammock - Nylon

Photo: instructables.com

Ripstop nylon shows up in pants, parachutes, and a variety of other everyday applications. Light as a feather yet strong as a bull, it’s ideal stuff from which to craft a DIY hammock. To re-create this one, drop by Instructables for details on sewing together sections of nylon and forming the channels for the twin suspension cords.

 

5. BECKON THE BEACH

DIY Hammock - Cotton Towels

Photo: designsponge.com

Comfortable and completely customizable, this creative DIY hammock ingeniously incorporates a bright beach towel made of plush cotton. To start on yours, the first step is to choose an oversize towel (at least 40″ x 80″) in your favorite summery color or pattern. Then head on over to Design Sponge to get the project tutorial.


Bob Vila Radio: Lilac Pruning

Pruning lilacs too late in the season can endanger next year's blooms. Observe the following maintenance practices in order to ensure beautiful displays of seasonal color year after year.

If you didn’t prune your lilacs right after they bloomed, you still have a little time left, but don’t delay: Pruning them too late can take off next year’s blooms. Here’s what you need to know about pruning lilacs.

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Lilac Pruning

Photo: shutterstock.com.com

Lilacs flower on old wood, not on the new growth in spring. That’s why you can’t prune them once summer begins, at which point next year’s buds are developing. Prune now for best results next year. You should prune off about a third of the branches and clip any shoots around the stem, right at ground level. Lilacs put out prodigious quantities of new shoots, but you want only a handful of main stems coming out of the ground.

Reach deep inside the lilac to do your pruning; the one-third you remove needs to come from the interior to allow light into the plant. Keep the plant’s overall height in mind as you prune; unless you want all the blooms over your head, you’ll want to trim the plant back to no more than six feet tall.

If a lilac has become completely overgrown and unwieldy, you can cut the entire plant back to within inches of the ground and wait a few years for it to bloom again. Regular maintenance, however, should keep you from having to take such a radical step.

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.


How To: Prune a Tree

An occasional pruning will keep your trees healthy, safe, and pleasing to the eye. Follow these instructions on how to prune a tree to make sure that your cuts are effective and kind.

How to Prune a Tree

Photo: shutterstock.com

Sometimes a homeowner prunes a tree for aesthetic reasons, trying to keep the landscaping neat and tidy. Other times, tree pruning is a matter of safety—perhaps a branch has perilously crossed paths with a power line or grown too close to a window. The last but not least reason to prune a tree is for its own good. There are many instances in which pruning goes a long way toward promoting tree health. Rather than calling in a service every time a tree on your property needs a bit of attention, you can learn the basics of tree pruning—it’s well within your capabilities!—and consequently save the considerable cost of hiring a professional.

How to Prune a Tree - Detail Pruning

Photo: shutterstock.com

Before you begin, look closely to identify the main branches that define the structure of the tree. Except in cases of severe damage, you should never remove these primary branches, because they are critical to the tree’s overall health. Another important rule of thumb: If possible, avoid pruning during the heart of the growing season; it’s better to wait until late fall, after the tree has dropped all its leaves. Also, to avoid shocking the tree, you shouldn’t trim off any more than a quarter of its crown during any one season.

Damage Control
The branches that are the likeliest candidates for trimming are those that have been damaged by storms. Choose a tool that’s appropriate given the size of the branch in question. Pruning shears work fine to remove slim branches, but for thicker growth, use a tree saw; failing that, reach for a simple handsaw.

Cut into the underside of the branch, no more than halfway through its diameter. Next, cut through the top side of the branch, being sure that your second cut aligns with your initial one. Severing the branch in two stages instead of one works to prevent the branch from tearing away part of the trunk.

Position your cuts at least a few inches from the trunk so that when you’ve finished, a protruding stub remains. It’s probably safe to reduce that stub somewhat, but do not disturb the stem collar, the thick growth that occurs where the branch met the trunk. It’s needed to help the tree heal.

Thinning Out
For healthy growth, tree branches require the free flow of air on all sides. Dense patches of foliage leave the tree vulnerable to fungi that could eventually compromise its health. For that reason, it’s recommended that you thin out the very thickest parts of the crown, but you must do so in a specific way.

In general, the best branches to remove in the course of thinning are the ones growing toward the center of the tree. Using pruning shears, cut these branches on a bias, at a point just beyond where they fork away from parts of the tree that are more obviously growing in an outward direction.

Giving Shape
Having removed all damaged branches and thinned out the overly dense sections of the tree, it’s time to consider pruning for purely elective, appearance-enhancing reasons. Don’t get too carried away. As mentioned, it’s bad for the tree if in a single season you trim more than a quarter of its crown. But if you identify any small branches that are sticking out too far or growing at unsightly angles, feel free to prune them. All the while, bear in mind that every tree has a natural shape. It’s a mistake to try fighting against a tree’s innate tendencies. Instead, prune the tree in such a way that you are helping it assume the shape that it “wants” to take.


Bob Vila Radio: What Is the Cooperative Extension Service?

Begun over a hundred years ago, the Cooperative Extension Service remains a valuable resource for farmers and backyard gardeners alike.

I’m sure you’ve read articles that suggested contacting your local Cooperative Extension Office for services like soil testing, but have you ever wondered exactly what Cooperative Extension is? Here’s the scoop.

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Cooperative Extension

Photo: shutterstock.com

The Cooperative Extension Service was set up about a hundred years ago as a partnership between land-grant universities and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Its purpose was to spread the knowledge gleaned from university research out to farmers, where it could have practical benefits. Other Extension initiatives included the World War Two-era Victory Gardens and 4-H clubs, which continue to this day.

When the system was founded, about 30 percent of the U.S. workforce was engaged in farming; today that figure is less than 2 percent. But the service still has much to offer. Extension Offices provide guides to plants that grow well in your area, solutions to common lawn problems, and other subjects of interest to backyard gardeners. In New York, the Extension Office is at Cornell University; in New Jersey, it’s at Rutgers; in Connecticut, it’s at UConn. All have web sites with further information and instructions for contacting them.

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.


How To: Choose the Right Materials for Your Outdoor Project

You’ve already got enough work to do maintaining your yard. When you're installing a deck or fence, be sure to choose low-maintenance materials so that your project adds to your enjoyment—rather than your to-do list!

WeatherShield Red Brown Pressure-Treated Decking

WeatherShield Pressure-Treated Decking at The Home Depot

Thinking of building a fence? Looking to add a deck? Both projects will be subjected to the whims of Mother Nature, so choosing the right materials can mean the difference between a deck or fence that lasts for years and one that seems to deteriorate right before your eyes. Luckily, there are a variety of superstrong weather-resistant materials available to help you build with confidence, and they’re all as close as your nearest Home Depot. Here are three you should consider.

PRESSURE-TREATED LUMBER
The most affordable option for constructing your deck, pressure-treated lumber can also be one of the most durable if properly cared for. In creating pressure-treated lumber, manufacturers put boards and posts into pressure chambers and infuse them with chemical preservatives, making them insect- and rot-resistant.

One of the smarter choices in pressure-treated lumber is the WeatherShield brand. In addition to offering the usual rot and insect protection, these products are less corrosive to nails, screws, and other fasteners. Plus, they come treated with a factory-applied water repellant, which means you can skip the sealing process that you usually have to do with pressure-treated lumber about six weeks after the deck is built. WeatherShield won’t need resealing for two full years.

The lumber is also pretreated with a wood stabilizer that reduces splitting, cracking, warping, and swelling. You can choose boards and posts in either premium grade, which has fewer knots, or standard grade. In either case, all WeatherShield products carry a lifetime warranty.

ArmorGuard Composite Decking from Home Depot

ArmorGuard Composite Decking at The Home Depot

COMPOSITE DECKING
Composite deck boards are typically made from a plastic polymer bonded with wood fibers. Boards are created in such a way that they mimic the look and grain of real wood, but because of the synthetic nature of the product, it can last practically forever with very little maintenance. Boards won’t splinter or rot, for instance, and they don’t need staining or sealing—meaning that on a deck made from composite boards, you’ll be able to truly relax for years to come.

Veranda ArmorGuard Composite Decking, available exclusively at The Home Depot, makes a fine choice for your next deck-building project. It’s available in a variety of rich natural wood tones and is mold- and mildew-resistant, which means all it’ll ever take to keep it clean is a little soap and water. It also can be installed with hidden fasteners, which means there are no screws on the surface of the boards. Plus, when you’re relaxing on a deck built with ArmorGuard, you can do so with confidence, knowing that the stain-, fade-, scratch-, and mold-resistant boards are backed by a 20-year limited warranty.

Linden Pro Vinyl Privacy Fence Kit at The Home Depot

Linden Pro Vinyl Privacy Fence Kit at The Home Depot

VINYL FENCING
Wood fences need to be stained and treated in order to last a long time. And even if they’re well cared for, there’s still the chance that some will eventually split, crack, or warp, which means that slats in the fence will someday need to be replaced.

Vinyl fencing avoids these problems while providing an attractive and extremely durable solution for decorative or privacy barriers around your home’s property. There’s no need to ever paint them and there’s also no worry about rot or insect infestation.

One of the more recent evolutions in vinyl fencing is the Veranda SlideLock bracket system. This new bracket system can speed up installation time by up to 50 percent and provides a cleaner look with no visible screws. It’s a true win-win for the homeowner or the contractor—less time with a better-looking end product!

 

This post has been brought to you by The Home Depot. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.


How To: Keep Deer Out of Your Garden

While enchanting to look at, deer are the nemesis of the home gardener. If you are wondering how to keep deer out of your garden this summer, consider one—or more—of the recommendations detailed here.

How to Keep Deer Out of a Garden

Photo: shutterstock.com

Though deer look innocent, home gardeners know they can be a menace to plants and trees. Gardeners also know that barring Bambi from the backyard is never an open-and-shut case. For one thing, deer are talented jumpers, able to surmount any fence less than eight feet tall. Through the years, however, savvy green thumbs have figured out a variety of effective ways to keep deer out of the garden. One—or a combination—of these tricks may be the solution you’ve been seeking.

Plant Selection
Yes, deer have favorite foods. In particular, they love fruit trees, ivy, and high-protein crops like peas and beans. So one way to keep deer out of the garden is not to grow any of the species they like to snack on. But if you truly love and wish to grow any of the same plants that deer love and wish to eat, then position those varieties closer to the protection provided by your house. At garden borders, aromatics like lavender, mint, or garlic can help mask the scent of the sought-after plants in your beds. Also, note that deer dislike picking their way through bushes with thorns, so consider lining the perimeter of your yard with prickly vegetation.

Barrier Construction
For many homeowners, building an eight-foot fence around the property to deter deer likely seems like overkill. But if you have other reasons to consider a fence of such size, be it privacy or security or both, then the side benefit of wildlife deterrence might make the construction worth it. Bear in mind that ideally the fence should be opaque, so deer cannot glimpse the treats beyond the barrier. If you have a smaller fence, you can make it a better deer deterrent by attaching chicken wire to the top and tilting the mesh at a 45-degree angle in the direction from which the deer would be coming. Of course, it’s not strictly necessary to fence off your entire property. Netting (or another equally manageable obstacle) can go a long way toward preventing deer from disrupting your vegetable patches or young, delicate seedlings. Also worth considering are motion-sensitive sprinklers; deer don’t like this sort of surprise! At night, motion-activated lights are effective for the same reason.

How to Keep Deer Out of a Garden - Detail

Photo: shutterstock.com

Repellents
The least expensive, most hands-on methods of keeping deer out of the garden involve homemade or store-bought deterrents, applied either directly or very near to the plants in need of protection. Regularly rotate the repellents used, as deer are quick to learn but wary of the unfamiliar. Try any or all of the following:

• Because deer are not fond of hot spices, you can bring safety to your plants by treating them with a homemade chili spray. Simmer a pinch of red pepper flakes in a pan of water, then strain the liquid into a spray bottle.

• At your local home center, keep an eye out for repellents containing, among other things, the urine of wolves, coyotes, or any other natural predators of deer. Be sure to follow the spray manufacturer’s instructions closely.

• Scatter human hair near your plants, or stuff an old sock with hair and hang it from a fence post. Deer are naturally shy and leery of dangerous situations, so they’re unlikely to approach if they sense people are nearby.

• If you own a dog, let him out into the yard as often as possible. The pet’s scent, which lingers long after it’s gone back indoors, can usually be counted on to keep even the most reckless deer at bay.

Keeping out deer is not an exact science. An approach that works wonders for one homeowner might fail miserably for another. Try several of the possibilities outlined above and determine which are most effective in your area, then remember to mix up your chosen strategies, keeping the deer on their toes and out of your garden!


How To: Get Rid of Crabgrass

Clumps of crabgrass can make even the most velvety, lush lawn look ratty. Here's how to put a stop to marauding crabgrass before it even gets started.

How to Get Rid of Crabgrass

Photo: shutterstock.com

If you are one of the many homeowners who labor in pursuit of the perfect lawn, then you know what a menace crabgrass can be. A true bully, crabgrass grows more quickly than—and subsequently crowds out—the Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, or tall fescue into which you’ve invested time, money, and no small amount of sweat. It’s no easy feat, but there are proactive steps you can take to prevent crabgrass from taking hold. The most important? Applying herbicide.

To get rid of crabgrass and ensure that it doesn’t return, the best offense is a strong defense. Early in the spring, when the crabgrass has all died back over the course of winter, apply a preemergent herbicide, which contains chemicals that are designed to kill weed seeds before they even sprout. Be careful, though. Some products of this ilk kill not only weed seeds, but all seeds. Take the time to be certain you are purchasing a product that accommodates your lawn-care plans.

How to Get Rid of Crabgrass - Herbicide

Photo: shutterstock.com

To be absolutely sure that you’re using the most effective means of controlling crabgrass, consult your local garden supply store. Carefully explain what exactly you’re trying to achieve—specifically mention crabgrass—and ask someone at the store for the best recommendation for your situation.

While preemergent herbicides address the problem of crabgrass in a direct way, you can successfully minimize weeds simply by growing the fullest, healthiest lawn that’s within your power to cultivate. Crabgrass cannot take root on a lawn where it literally has no room to grow. That said, it’s virtually impossible to eliminate lawn weeds entirely, so if you wish to supplement your application of preemergent herbicide, try any—or a combination—of the following methods:

• Being that crabgrass has shallow roots, its growth can be curtailed by watering the lawn deeply but infrequently.

• Close-cropping the lawn leaves it vulnerable to weeds of all types; set your mower blades a few inches higher.

• There’s nothing wrong with old-fashioned weeding; make it easier on yourself by watering the lawn first.

• If crabgrass grows despite your best efforts, spray the weeds directly with a post-emergence herbicide.

If you regularly care for your lawn and give it extra attention at certain pivotal times of year, then you can maintain beautiful green grass with a minimum of imperfections. Imagine the joy you’ll feel as you proudly survey your picture-perfect lawn, the best in the neighborhood. Now quit daydreaming, and get to work!


How To: Clean a Grill

Keeping your barbecue clean will help prevent flare-ups and ensure that you're serving up tasty, succulent morsels instead of burned, ash-speckled messes.

How to Clean a Grill

Photo: shutterstock.com

For some of us, summer doesn’t mean sunbathing on the beach or hiking along a mountain trail—it means grilling burgers, hot dogs, steak, fish, and vegetables on the backyard grill. While barbecue lovers argue passionately about the secrets of perfect grilling, there’s one thing everyone agrees on: To produce great-tasting food, a gas or charcoal grill must be clean, not greasy and overrun with char. The more often you clean the grill, the less residue you’ll have to deal with, so the task will only get easier. Follow these simple steps to clean a grill quickly and effectively, using common household items that you probably already have on hand.

STEP 1
If it’s been a while since you last had a chance to clean the grill, start the process by filling two large buckets—or an even larger plastic or metal basin—with warm, soapy water. Remove the cooking grates from the grill and submerge them in the water, leaving them to soak for a spell. If yours is a charcoal grill, it’s not a bad idea also to remove and soak the ash catcher and the grate that holds the briquettes. Finally, remove and set aside any other parts, such as the drip pan, that easily come free.

How to Clean a Grill - Detail

Photo: shutterstock.com

STEP 2
Next, use a rag to clear out all the loose dust and ash from within the grill. Follow up with a stiff wire-bristled brush; intermittently dip it into a bath of soapy water and use the tool to scrub off all the caked-on residue. With a gas grill, take extra care here not to disturb any of the connections to the propane tank.

STEP 3
Turn your attention to the grill grates that have been soaking in soapy water. The grease and caked-on residue should be looser now than at first, but it’s still probably going to take some elbow grease to get satisfying results.

STEP 4
Allow enough time for all the newly cleaned parts of the grill to dry completely. Once they have done so, reassemble the grill. You’re all done—unless you’ve got a gas grill, in which case it’s recommended that you take a moment to confirm that the burner is working properly and that the flame shield is in the right place.

Get into the habit of cleaning the grill after each use; the longer charred food remains on the grates, the more difficult it becomes to get off. Let the grates cool, then spray them with vegetable oil and scrub with a wire brush. Lastly, wipe down the grates with a paper towel. By regularly following the regimen described above, you can avoid the hassle of having to give your grill a time-consuming and laborious cleaning. Now, who’s hungry?


Bob Vila Radio: USDA Zone Maps

USDA zone maps divide the country into growing regions based on typical winter minimums. Find out everything you need to know about your zone and what plants to grow accordingly.

Farmers and gardeners alike are familiar with the USDA plant hardiness zone map, which divides the country into growing regions based on their typical winter minimums. Simply put, if you live in a zone where the temperature is likely to hit zero some nights, you can’t expect the same plants to survive as you could in places where nighttime lows never dip below freezing. The map considers topography as well as geography. Depending on where you live in the New York area, for example, you may be in zones 5, 6, or 7.

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USDA Zone Maps

Photo: fieldsofgreen.com

Zone maps have been around since at least the 1930s, and the USDA published its first edition in 1960. The American Horticultural Society publishes an alternate zone map that takes maximum temperatures into consideration as well. That makes sense, since plants that need cooler temperatures to thrive won’t do well in intense heat. There’s also the National Gardening Zone Map, which takes rainfall and humidity into consideration. For many, though, the USDA zone map has become the standard.

There were significant updates to the USDA map in 1990 and again in 2012, adding more details and additional sub-zones, and reflecting some changes in weather conditions. Hardiness zones have generally shifted northward, reflecting warmer temperatures across the country.

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.